One Night

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Chapter 5

Out of all my family members, there was only one person I tolerated and one I actually loved. Emma was the tolerable one.

I kept chanting silently to myself that Emma was excited, that she was the only one who somehow stood by me in the hardest time of my life, when she asked me in our Friday lunch with our father if I could play two pieces of her selection at her engagement party.

“I don’t like Bach,” I told her for what felt like the hundredth time, “and seriously? Pachelbel’s Canon in D major is the best you could come up with? It’s so corny.”

“Blair,” Dad said warningly, giving me a sideway glance. He didn’t like it when I talked “disrespectfully” to my older and much more successful sister. What he didn’t understand, evidently, was that he didn’t like it in general when I made my opinion noticed. For him having an opinion was disobedience or some other bullshit like that.

Emma sighed, and I saw a couple of businessmen who sat at the table nearest to us giving her an inviting look. “It’s find, Dad,” she said in exasperation, “Blair’s entitled to help me with this.”

I made a face. No, I was no entitled to help anyone with anything. But from my the glance Dad sent me again, I zipped my mouth shut.

We were at my father’s favorite restaurant, some posh place at the upper side of the city. Both Dad and Emma seemed to fit right in; Dad, dressed in his usual three-piece suit, looked as neat as ever, with his platinum hair and baby-blue eyes. My sister, the supermodel, looked like the exact replica of him, only younger, a woman, and much more stunning, with white-blonde hair, sliding silkily down her back and the same blue eyes, only maybe a shade lighter. All of us shared the same light skin tone, although my father and sister’s were a shade darker than. Then there was the fact my sister was tall and perfectly trim and my father even taller and still athletically looking even in at his fifties.

Then there was me. It’s not that I wasn’t good-looking myself, but I didn’t have the aura they emitted. Dad had huge charisma that draw people him like moth to a flame, and my sister was the same, only even more so because of her specific occupation. I didn’t have such charisma, and whenever I gave away some sort of aura, it was usually dark and broody. Not very attractive, honestly.

Emma looked at me with a pinch between her brows. “What music do you suggest you can play, then?” she asked, seeming so serious, as though she talked about something much graver than that. Always the dramatic one, my sister was. Although not as dramatic as both Roman and Rosalyn could get.

Stifling a groan, I said, irked, “I don’t want to play at all. You know each of us has her own type of music.” She was the mainstream pop and classical type of girl. I was more into hard, Emo rock.

“We can compromise,” she argued, not letting the subject drop, “play something that you composed. Something that is about four minutes long.”

Yeah, because displaying my own music in such an extravagant event was exactly what I needed in my life. “No,” I said resolutely, no place for that stupid concept of compromising she was trying to attempt in this ridiculous conversation.

“Blair,” Dad pipped up again, this time giving me a full frontal glare, “it’s your sister, older sister’s engagement party. You will play the piano, and you will do it because of this specific reason.”

I’d already gotten used to his harsh tone and tough word choices. Most people claimed that they never got used to their parents’ cruelty. I guess I was the odd one out there too. He couldn’t get to me any longer, even though he tried really, really hard. I was the disgrace of the family, after all. The one who didn’t do something big, something fabulous, like the others did. I liked being the disgrace. It meant I wasn’t one of them.

That was why I wasn’t afraid to speak up anymore. They’d betrayed me so deeply two years ago that no matter what they would ever do or say, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck. So I gave him an arch look and responded, “I’m not a marionette to be manhandled into doing odd jobs. I voted against playing at the engagement party. Since my vote is the only one that counts, I guess this discussion is over.”

Dad’s face was contorting, changing into the angry face he used to give me on a regular basis. I didn’t even need to brace myself anymore. I just waited until he was fully glowering at me. Emma, however, used the more charming method of looking pleadingly at me. “I wouldn’t have asked you to do this if I had no other choice,” she begged, “the violinist bailed on us at the last minute, and we don’t have time until tomorrow. So please. Just this time help me out.”

I looked at her, and I knew that what I was about do was purely out of spite. But my family deserved all the spite I had. Even Emma, whom I tolerated, had done enough to deserve the reminded from time to time. “Did you help me out when I needed you?” I asked her, my voice low, cutting, mean. She visibly flinched. “That’s what I thought.”

“Blair!” this time my father called, almost yelled, and his voice rang in the sudden lull of the restaurant. He gave me his rage look this time. Whoops, I stepped out line. I mentioned the night-which-should-not-be-named. I mentioned the unmentionable. “You will stop this nonsense right now or I’ll cut off your allowance!”

Dad thought that this was a real threat. I was twenty-four, earning my own money, and he still believed in giving a monthly allowance to both me and my sister, who was a multimillionaire by now. Even though money was tight from job, I didn’t touch the bank account into which he’d deposited his own money. I usually didn’t mind people paying for me for stuff – heck, I preferred it. But with my father no amount of money would ever erase what he’d done. And while I played civilized and tried to be above myself by getting included in all familial stuff, despite everything, none of my hatred with him and my entire family would ever go away.

“Even if I became homeless, I wouldn’t touch your filthy money,” I murmured darkly, giving him my own Satanic look. Two could play this game, and while my father was a formidable foe, he taught me well, and I could return in kind.

“Please stop,” Emma whispered and when I glanced at her, I saw tears shimmering in her eyes. The drama queen was back. “I can’t stand it when you fight.”

Dad, who actually did respect Emma, gave me one last angry look before settling down in his seat. I was nowhere near done with this fight, but seeing that Emma was about to cause a scene – and an apoplexy for the two poor men at the nearby table who kept staring at her as if some celestial force would make her look back at them – I dropped it.

But Emma’s soulful eyes were now turned to me and she whispered, “Please, Blair. The engagement party is tomorrow.”

I wasn’t a cruel human being, or at least I didn’t think of myself as one. If it was anyone else asking me to play the piano at their engagement party, my answer would’ve still been a resounding no. But Emma did stand by me back then, even though no thoroughly, and that was more than anyone in my close family had done. Of course, gran would’ve protected me like a lioness, but she hadn’t been here when it all went to shit. Emma had. And Emma probably thought she’d done all she could. Maybe that was true. Maybe not. Still.

“Only one piece,” I said, giving her a warning look when her face began to shine with hope, I almost got blinded. “Four minutes. That’s all.”

She nodded, and now her eyes shone with happy tears. I wanted to kick God and spit on His grave.

Once the disastrous lunch was over, I was more than eager to get back home and away from my emotional sister and even more emotional father. Back in my apartment, I got dressed to work. Usually I worked as the pianist of an expensive high-class restaurant downtown, but today I had a gig at a fancy hotel by the sea. It was a branch of Hilton hotel, which meant a lot of money ran there. Usually they had a thirty-year-old woman as the pianist, but today she’d called in sick and I stepped up to take her place. Good for me.

I owned two formal dressed. One was a maxi black and elegant satin dress I reserved for tomorrow night, and the other, a dark red one reach just above my knees, was the one I put on tonight, with matching black Mary Jane heels. I combed my hair, which turned it from curly to wavy gold, and braided it Chinese style. Then I applied some light makeup – thin black eyeliner, mascara, and a soft red lipstick – and all I had left to do was grab my purse and get going.

It was six in the evening when I arrived the grand lobby. There weren’t many people tonight; it might’ve been Friday evening, but since it was a hotel that hosted mostly tourists, they were all probably exploring the city and not staying in. Especially since it was the middle of June and the air was fantastic. Personally, I preferred Winter.

The black grand piano waited for me next to long, wide windows that showed the hotel’s beach as a view. The lobby had a few people sitting around, drinking coffee and grabbing something to eat. I didn’t bother checking them out as I made my way to the piano, opened the case, and settled down on the cushioned chair. Wriggling my fingers a bit and releasing the slight tension in my shoulders and neck, I focused on the keyboard, placed my hands, closed my eyes, and let the compositions pour out of me.

I cannot describe how I came up with these pieces of mine. Some days I just sat at the piano and played some classical and classical-modern pieces of familiar and anonymous composers. Other days I composed myself, simply letting my fingers trail a melody on the keyboard. I used that method whenever I went to work.

Some of the compositions I did write down and made a sheet-music out of them in Sibelius. Others, however, were partially improvised, as I knew the main theme, just added little new ornaments in between the usual notes. My melodies, my compositions, were not professional, since I hadn’t learned composition anywhere before, but they were harmonic and melodic and soothed the ear, I guess.

As I played, I felt the familiar prickle of eyes on me. I didn’t care much; I was used it. Sometimes people who had no life just stared at me as though I was working magic or something. I wasn’t. I just knew how to play the piano, and that was because I’d been taught for seventeen years.

But when the prickling grew a little irritating, I discretely opened one eye and glanced sideways. The lobby was dim, and while I could make the shapes of about two or three men sitting there, all I could see was their silhouette. Continuing playing, I closed my eye back and acted like they weren’t there.

I felt their eyes on me all three hours I played in that lobby. I didn’t hear anything besides my playing, but they must’ve been doing something, like, I don’t know, talking, while I was playing. At least I hoped so. The last thing I needed right now was three creepers passing their free time by staring at me for three hours straight.

Eventually, when it was my time to leave, I let the final note ring in the air, then rose, closed the piano, and looked forward at the lobby. However, I was too late to catch the watchers.

No one was in the lobby. It was just me, the piano, and a few receptionists who clapped politely alongside the guard.

In one simple scene such as this, my life was described perfectly. Giving them a weak smile, I left the hotel, and returned home. Tomorrow another scene would describe my life and how pathetic of a life it was.

But there was still time until tomorrow. Time to down the other half of that Jack Daniels bottle I opened.

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