Gently clutching the viola’s case, Melody glared at the shop’s sign. The music shop’s sign indicated that this was the exact place that she needed to be right now.
Swallowing the bile in her throat, she yanked open the door. The bell jingled harshly, and she turned her glare up as if it was the cause of it all. Sighing, she shook her head, frowning that she was acting like a child losing their favourite toy, and inched her way inside unwillingly.
“Can I help you with anything, my dear?”
Jumping in surprise, Melody spun around, gripping the case ready to swing if needed to be. Relaxing when she saw a middle-aged woman sitting at the counter, Melody felt her cheeks heat up in embarrassment.
Tilting her head, Melody rubbed the back of her neck. “Um, yeah, I think you can. I was hoping to sell my viola here.”
Smiling warmly, the woman beckoned her over. “Then you are in the right place, dear. Let me see this viola of yours.”
Now Melody faltered as uncertainty hit her. Shaking her head to gather her wits, she took in a deep breath and stepped forward. Carefully placing the instrument case on the counter, Melody opened it up, staring longingly at the viola inside.
An itch to start playing was there, but she shoved it down. Forcing herself to look at the woman, she asked politely, “How much can I sell this for?”
Pride flooded her when she saw the woman’s mouth fall open in surprise and couldn’t help but add, “This viola is 16. 5 inches and my parents got it for me when I was seven. I had been playing on a borrowed viola since I was five. When they went on a trip to some town in Germany, they found her and bought it for me. It’s in excellent condition and I’ve always kept it up in repairs. She deserves a good home to go to.”
Chuckling, the woman scrutinized the viola, muttering to herself as she went, “Oh my. It’s rare to find a viola so well taken care of! They usually come in mediocre or good at the best. To be in such excellent care for someone so young says a lot about you, my dear.”
Flushing at the praise, Melody pushed, “So...how much would you be willing to sell her for?”
Glancing up, the woman asked carefully, “Are you sure you wish to sell this voila, my dear? I can see that you have a strong attachment to it. It’d be a shame to see you give this up when it’s clear that you must have talent playing.”
“Um, yeah…” Melody murmured, hands moving forward to snatch the viola back. Curling them in fists, she shook her head and repeated firmly, “Yeah, I’m sure. I need the money from this.”
Studying the young girl in front of her, the woman nodded briskly, “If you are sure then. As I said this viola is in excellent care. I can give you...let’s say…$700 for the viola plus another $50 for the case and bow.”
Sucking in a breath, Melody immediately wanted to call off the sale. She wanted to grab her viola, rush out of here, just head home and play. But I’m doing this for them. It will be worth it to see them truly happy for once. God knows they deserve it.
Holding out her hand, Melody jutted her chin out stubbornly. “Deal. $750 for everything.”
Smiling, the woman returned the handshake and said pleasantly, “It was nice doing business with you, my dear.”
With that done, and feeling empty inside, Melody sighed to herself. Shoving the money inside her sweater, she thought, heading down the opposite way she’d come, Time to go to the travel place. Let’s see where exactly I can get them to for seven hundred and fifty dollars plus what I saved up from work.
“Hey, guys! I’m home!” Melody shouted, slamming the door behind her.
“Don’t slam the door, Mel! I can’t deal with anything else breaking right now,” Aiden warned his sister from the kitchen.
Rolling her eyes, Melody stuck her tongue out at him knowing he couldn’t see her. Kicking her shoes off, she gripped the tickets that she had shoved into the front of her sweater and made her way to the kitchen.
Leaning against the doorframe, she apologized, “Sorry, Aid. Didn’t mean too. I’m just excited is all.”
Wiping his hands off, Aiden shrugged and asked, “It’s okay, Mel. What’s got you so excited? When you left earlier you were madder than a bull.”
Excitement bubbling up, Melody practically skipped into the kitchen. Looking around, she replied, “Well...I want to tell both you and Noah at the same time. And it’s a surprise! So no trying to get it out of me cause I won’t say a thing.”
Grinning, Aiden couldn’t help but tease, “No? Not even for your favourite older brother?”
Sticking out her tongue, Melody shot back, “What if Noah is my favourite brother? He buys me ice cream and all kinds of desserts all the time.”
Laughing, Aiden pressed a hand to his heart, pretending to be hurt. “Oh, Mel! You’ve broken my heart! And after everything I’ve done for you!”.
Giggling, Melody squished down the tiny bit of guilt and threw her arms around Aiden. “You’re my second favourite brother then. I love you both equally, you know that, right? Especially after everything you’ve both done for me.” She mumbled honestly.
Rubbing her hair gently, he reassured her, “I know you do, Mel. We love you too.” Having enough of the mushy moment, he pushed her back slightly. “Now, tell me, why are you so excited?”
Pouting that her semi-distraction hadn’t worked on Aiden, she sighed and hopped up onto the stool. “I have a surprise for you both.”
“You already said that.”
“What kind of surprise is it?” Aiden asked a bit warily. He loved his sister, but sometimes when she got an idea in her head, she ran with it without even thinking of any other ideas. It certainly made for some exciting times.
“Aiden,” she whined. “It’s not a bad surprise this time. I promise.”
“That’s what you said about your new pet pigeon.” A voice said with humour.
Hanging her head backwards, Melody quickly defended herself. “Noah! I was ten! And I’ll have you know that she enjoyed my company a lot.”
Noah laughed, grinning like a fool at Aiden’s exasperated expression, and tugged playfully on his baby sister’s hair. “Sure, sure. That’s what you say.”
“Melody, Noah,” Aiden warned, knowing that if he didn’t step in now, then a fight probably would break out.
“Aiden! We weren’t going to fight!”
“Oh, come on, bro. Relax. Not every conversation ends with a fight between us.”
Shaking his head, Aiden chuckled softly. “I know. I know,” he said, holding his hands up peacefully. “It’s just that Mel was looking for us. She has a surprise.”
Raising an eyebrow, Noah leaned against the counter, saying without thinking, “A surprise, heh? You aren’t going to tell us that you got knocked up, have you? Cause I’d hope you’d be smarter than to let some guy get in there without-”
“Noah!” Melody screeched. She could feel the heat coming off her face as she glared at Noah with horrified embarrassment.
“Noah!” Aiden reprimanded. “Mel’s smart enough to know not to screw up her future like that, and you know it!”
“Aiden,” Melody whined. “You aren’t helping the situation! Geeze, I thought you guys had more trust in me than that.”
“We do trust you, Mel,” Aiden reassured her. “It’s just that we know how guys think at your age.”
“Yeah,” Noah piped up. “Since dad isn’t here to threaten the boys off, that leaves us to do it.”
Grunting in response, Melody turned her glare to the counter. It seemed like neither of her brothers knew what to say to get rid of the underlying tension. This stupid tension happened whenever anyone brought up at topic remotely reminding them of their parents.
Melody sighed sadly. She barely had any memories of her parents. They had died in a car crash a couple of days after her eighth birthday. Aiden, who had been eighteen for a few months by then, had been quick to fight for custody of his younger siblings. While Noah had been easy for him to get, Melody had been a tough one with being so young. It was only with the promise of their ancient grandparents moving in with them that Aiden had gotten custody of her. Along with the constant visits from child services to make sure everything was in top form.
Sensing the growing tension, Noah was quick to pick up their previous conversation. “So you got a surprise for us, Mel? What’s the special occasion?”
Glad for the change of topic, Melody perked up. Kicking her feet against the stool, she grinned widely at them. Taking out the envelope, she threw it onto the table, exclaiming excitedly, “As payback for everything you two have done for me, I got you guys this. Plane tickets for a trip! It’s not much...only goes to a small fishing town just outside Alaska...but I know you both enjoy fishing and want to travel...so it’s two birds with one stone.”
Swiping up the tickets, Noah grinned wildly, teasing slightly, “Awesome! Knew keeping you around would pay.”
Rolling her eyes, Melody huffed, “Uh-uh. You love me too much not to keep me around. I make your lives more exciting.”
“That you do, kid. That you do.” Noah agreed easily.
Pleased that Noah was happy enough with the gift, Melody turned to Aiden, who’d been quiet since seeing the tickets. “Aid? You okay there?”
“Um, yeah.” He hesitated before asking, “Mel? How exactly did you manage to pay for these two tickets?”
Licking her lips, Melody tried to keep her voice even and decided on a half-truth. One slip up and Aiden would be able to coax the actual truth out of her. “I put part of my paychecks aside into a small pile until it was enough.”
“Really?” Aiden questioned, raising an eyebrow. “You managed to save up enough money to buy two tickets to Alaska? From a part-time job?”
Crossing his arms, Aiden frowned. “Out with the truth, Mel. How’d you pay for the tickets? And don’t tell me it was from saving up.”
“But that’s part of the truth!” Melody protested. “I ain’t lying about that. I did save up some money from work.”
“And the rest of it?” Noah spoke up, oddly quiet. “It had to do with why you were angry earlier today, doesn’t it?”
Gulping, Melody looked between her brothers and tried to explain, “Um...I...well...you see...I…”
“Just spit it out, Mel!” Aiden snapped in frustration.
Gripping the sides of her chair, Melody tried not to think of how their reactions were going to be. She knew that they’d be disappointed in her, but she didn’t regret it. So, taking a deep breath, she looked up and told them, “I sold the viola mom and dad got me.”
The silence that followed made Melody wish that either of her brothers would say something. Hell even yell at her. But she only got looks of shock and disbelief. Swallowing, Melody turned her gaze to the floor, unable to look at them any longer.
“You sold your viola?” Aiden repeated.
“Yes,” Melody whispered.
“Why in the hell would you sell your viola?” Noah snapped, hands tightening around his ticket.
Wincing, Melody quickly protested, “Because it was the only way to make enough for your tickets. Besides, I didn’t want to borrow money off of Caitlin. And don’t do that to them, Noah! You’ll ruin them!”
Grunting, Noah glared at her but loosened his grip. “Borrowing money off of Caitlin would have been the better option than selling your viola!”
Anger starting to grow, Melody glared right back, snapping. “Caitlin may have offered to buy your tickets without me paying her back, but that’s not how I wanted to do things! I wanted the tickets to be from me. From my own money that I worked for!”
“Well, you did a damn good job of that, Melody,” Noah replied sarcastically. “Selling the only piece of mom and dad that you had for us?! What in the hell was going through your head?”
“That you guys deserve a break!” Melody yelled, knocking her chair over as she stood up. “You deserve some time to yourselves without having to worry about me! You guys gave everything up for me...to make sure that I had everything I needed before your own. I’m trying to pay you back for everything you’ve ever done to me since mom and dad died!”
“By selling your viola?!” Noah snapped, throwing his tickets down on the table. “Mom and dad gave that to you because you loved that stupid instrument so much. We aren’t worth you selling it -”
“ENOUGH!” Aiden yelled. “Noah, calm down. I’m not exactly happy about this either, but yelling at her isn’t going to do shit. Melody, sit down and explain calmly.”
The two siblings glared at each other before doing what Aiden told them too. Noah took a deep breath and leaned against the counter, watching Melody intensely. Melody picked up the chair she’d knocked over and sat back down.
“Good, you guys can still listen,” Aiden muttered. Running a hand over his face, he asked Melody, “Why did you sell your viola and not something else?”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Melody said defensively, “It was the only thing I have that was worth enough to pay for the rest of the tickets.”
“Mel...you don’t need to get us anything as payback. Having you here with us is enough.” Aiden explained softly.
Lowering her gaze, Melody nodded. “I know. It’s just...you guys deserve a break now that I’m going away to college.”
Pausing, Aiden thought over his next words carefully. “While Noah and I appreciate the thought, Mel, we can’t accept it. I want you to return the tickets and buy back your viola.”
“Yes, thank you!” Noah piped up before turning serious. “Mel...what you did for us...we love the thought of it. But we know you...and we know that losing that viola had to have hurt hard. And seeing you in pain over something like this...it’s not something we like seeing.”
Melody opened her mouth to argue, but Aiden cut her off.
“What Noah means is that we’d rather listen to you play than to have these tickets. The gesture and thought that went into this gift is lovely, but we’d much rather you be happy.” Aiden explained.
Mulling this over, Melody sighed and admitted, “Selling my viola was hard. I won’t say it wasn’t because it was. It felt as if a part of me was being torn out, and I feel kinda empty. But you guys do deserve this trip. Most brothers wouldn’t have thought twice about fighting for me as hard as you did, Aiden. That’s not even touching upon what you both gave up for me afterwards.”
“And I’d do it all over again, Mel. A million times if it meant that I got to see the two of you grow.” Aiden said.
Sliding out of her seat, Melody hugged her oldest brother. Burying her face into his chest, she breathed in a shaky breath. “That’s exactly why I did what I did. I love you guys.”
Neither of her brothers said anything back, but Aiden hugged her harder while Noah ruffled her hair. Feeling like things were going back to normal, Melody took the chance to tell them, “Besides, the tickets are non-refundable.”
Noah and Aiden groaned and sighed simultaneously.
“Guess we have no choice but to go on this trip then,” Aiden sighed but gave her a small smile.
Clapping his hands together, Noah exclaimed, “Then we go on this trip, enjoy ourselves, and when we get back, see if we can repurchase Mel’s viola.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”