Midnight was the time when she woke up, looking outside of the window at the star-speckled sky. Nothing could ease the heaviness she felt in her heart, as the music on her iPod played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Violet knew that it was of no use, thinking that she would be as great a pianist as Alexander Kafka. She sniffled back, trying to fight back the tears, hearing her mother's discouraging voice in her head.
Mom is right, Violet thought. I'll never ever be as good as Alexander, no matter how hard I try. I can't even play at a level one.
Violet continued staring up at the starry night, imagining that she herself was Beethoven, composing Moonlight Sonata for the first time. When she closed her eyes, she felt her heart fluttering. Opening her eyes again, she turned around and walked away from the window. Sitting at the desk, Violet leaned back in her chair and let herself be transported into another world — another time, another place where nothing but music mattered. The notes, though slow, were continuous and steady.
In her mind, as she walked through the doorway, she saw herself sitting on a chair, drinking a cup of tea while looking out of the window. On the other side of the room, was a man, poring over books, his cup of tea untouched. The small black poodle remained by his side, eagerly looking up at him, pawing at his leg. A woman, elegantly dressed, reading a book. A woman that strongly resembled her mother. Everything about her reminded Violet of her mother. The music playing on the gramophone near Violet increased in intensity as if the player was Beethoven himself, raw and full of passion. Violet, full of desperation, walked to the gramophone, seeing herself still sitting at the table, drinking tea. Everything about this moment seemed so real. As if she could walk up to the girl sitting down and touch her with one simple gesture. The music was fading now. And the more the music died, the less Violet was losing touch with this place in her mind.
Then she opened her eyes. She was back in her room. There was the desk, the window, and her bed. The movie posters on her wall. The fluffy, pink rug underneath her feet. Though she was back from that strange moment, that strange dream, she felt herself longing to go back to it. She tried turning her iPod back on, but it was dead. She wasn't going to be able to listen to Moonlight Sonata again.
Violet heard clanking. Narrowing her eyes, she dashed out of her room. Walking down the stairs, the noise was coming from the kitchen and was growing louder with intensity. When she walked in, she was happy to see her father. He was putting the dishes from dinner away and a pot of coffee was brewing. The heavy, woodsy aroma of her father's favorite blend wafted around the room. It reminded Violet of the mornings she used to talk to him about her schoolwork.
"Dad!" she said, smiling. "You're back!"
He turned around and extended his arms, bringing her close to him. She loved the feeling of his warmth. This moment, she realized how much she had missed him.
"How was your trip?" she asked, walking away from him to sit on the island's barstool. "I hope it was good?"
"Boring. I hated being away from you and your mother."
"Mom hated it too," Violet said, fiddling with the cookie jar lid. "She really missed you a lot."
"I know," he said, frowning. His shoulders sunk as he looked at Violet. "I missed her too."
Her father was at a literature convention in England that had been going on for two weeks. It was a necessity for him, being a college English professor like Violet's mother. Her father walked away and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Why are you drinking coffee so late? You should be going to bed."
"Jet lag," he said, raking a hand through his hair after he drank from his cup. "In England, it's around 5 AM. You know, the time I usually get up. I'm just not used to the time change yet."
"What's jet lag?" she asked.
"You know when you go somewhere where the time zone is much different than what you're used to? England is about six hours ahead of us."
"I still don't know why you had to go all the way over to England..." Violet pouted.
"You know how important the convention was. It's important for my career, but enough of that. You should go to bed."
"Okay," Violet said. "I will. I just heard noises in the kitchen. I didn't know what it was. Night, Daddy! I'll see you in the morning."
The next day, Violet noticed that her father was still sleeping in the bedroom after her mother gave her breakfast.
The time change must have really gotten to him, Violet thought after finishing her cup of orange juice.
"Okay, Vi. You should go now. You don't want to miss your bus."
The truth was that all Violet could think about was her first piano lesson. She was going to ask the music teacher at Barenheim's, Ms. Paulson, if she could learn Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. After accidentally stumbling upon the song, she felt that if she could learn that, then it would be a sort of validation for her. It would give her more purpose and she would know that she was indeed a talented pianist.
"Don't forget that my first—"
"Violet, I know," her mother said. "You've mentioned it a million times already. I won't forget about your lesson with Ms. Paulson."
This was the moment she had been waiting for. Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the doors to Barenheim's Music Store and inched her way past the pianos. She made her way past the guitars and there it was. The stairs that led to the second level — where all the teachers were. Her heart thundered violently against her chest. She had the book in her hand. Level One for Adults. That was the book that Ms. Paulson recommended that Violet get. Violet's breathing quickened as she held onto the rails of the stairs.
On the second level, she heard all sorts of music, a cacophony of sorts. Everything combined together. Flutes, trumpets, pianos, and guitars. Even the sound of drums coming from one end. It all sounded awful. She tried to remember the number of the room where Ms. Paulson taught, but everything looked like a maze to her.
"Dad," she said. "Do you think Ms. Paulson would be upset if we were late?"
He sighed, looking at his daughter with that look in his blue eyes. "Don't tell me you're having second thoughts..."
"You see, Mom and I came here last time but you know, the last time we came here, she remembered where Ms. Paulson's room was. Now I don't know — and I can't find it. I don't remember."
"Is that her room?" He pointed to a door that said 203.
Suddenly, in Violet's mind, everything surrounding her smelled like old cheese that had been regurgitated and left in a dessert for weeks. Her stomach churned and her heart lurched. Taking deep breaths, she looked at the door that looked bigger than herself. What would happen if a collapse in the hallway occurred? That would have definitely been quite embarrassing for her. After a few seconds of gaining composure, her trembling hands knocked on the door. They must have been too timid because there was no sound coming from behind it.
"Violet, try knocking harder. She probably didn't hear you."
She took yet another breath and knocked again, this time with a little more force than before.
"Come in!" a soft feminine voice said from the other side.
Violet looked at her father and smiled.
"Would you like me to come in with you, Vi?"
"No, I should be fine alone. It's alright."
But it wasn't alright. This was the first time she was ever doing anything like this, and quite frankly, she had no idea why she was even here in the first place? What was she thinking enrolling in piano lessons? The teacher was only going to berate her and constantly put her down. She felt that deep within her bones. It was going to happen, so why was she even here, wasting precious time, when she could have been doing other things? Things that were more suited to her?
"You'll do great!" Violet's father patted her on the head. "I know you will.Now you go in there and have a great lesson. I'll be downstairs, alright?"
Violet's breath was stifled as she barely managed to whisper, "Alright."
She opened the door and hesitated for a moment. There was music playing in the room, from a stereo at the far right-hand corner. Ms. Paulson was sitting at her desk, on her computer. Violet inched herway closer, walking slow and steady.
Deep breaths, Violet. Deep breaths. Everything will be alright. Just remember what Daddy said and everything will be okay. Just you see.
"H-Hello," Violet said, feeling more light-headed than ever. "I'm here for my piano lesson."
Ms. Paulson looked directly at her and smiled. "Oh right, Violet Hudson! Am I right?"
Violet smiled and nodded. "Yes, that's right."
"So tell me a little bit about yourself, Violet. What sort of piano experience do you have again? I'm sorry, my memory's a little bad. I don't remember if I suggested Level One or Level Two to you."
"Y-You suggested Level One, ma'am."
The other woman must have noticed the tremble in Violet's voice, for she gestured her to sit down on the sofa that was against the wall. Violet turned to look, noticing that the wallpaper was sheet music. It was rather nice, or so Violet thought. As she stared at it for a brief few more seconds, Violet found the musical notes strangely comforting.
"Oh, wonderful," she said. "Sit down for a moment longer. Do you need some water? I can get you some water if you like."
Water sounded wonderful then. Not realizing that her throat was parched, Violet began craving the feeling of cold water trickling down her throat.
"Yes, thank you."
Ms. Paulson walked out of the room and within a few minutes, was back again. This time, with two cups of water in her hand. Violet quickly drank the water, feeling more refreshed afterwards. Ms. Paulson sat down next to her.
"So, tell me, what brought you here? Why do you want to learn piano?"
Why do I want to learn piano?
"Because... when I first heard the piano being played, I so badly wanted to be like him..."
"Like who?" she asked, her eyes narrow and curious.
"Like Alexander Kafka."
She laughed, her eyes lighting up. "Well, Alexander is definitely someone to aspire to."
Violet gasped. "You know him?"
"Of course, who doesn't? Alexander is the next Rubinstein. But of course, you're so new to all of this, I'm sure you don't know much about him."
"Who is Rubinstein?"
"Oh," she said, chuckling. "Sometimes I forget... I have conversations with people who are pianists like myself. Rubinstein was a very famous pianist. People are already talking about Alexander. They think he's the next Rachmaninov as well. He is the next so many things. Rachmaninov was anoher pianist — also a brilliant composer."
Viole just sat there, nodded and watched Ms. Paulson talk for another five minutes. It got to the point where Violet was almost positive that Ms. Paulson's lips were as a red as a lobster. Violet nearly giggled at the comparison.
"So," Ms. Paulson said when she finally finished. "Shall we begin?"
Violet looked at the piano bench. She couldn't believe that it was finally time. It was finally time to do what she had been waiting for for so long.
"You don't have to be nervous. Remember," Ms. Paulson said, "that the piano is definitely your friend."
But the more she stared at it, the less comfortable she was.
Mom was right. I'll never be as good as Alexander Kafka... What was I thinking?