Chapter One~Furioso: Demoted
Having to best someone can make you better.
Staring at the dullish, red brick building called the music wing a chill made its way through Ella making her shiver slightly and causing her messenger bag to slip off her shoulder a fraction of an inch. It was barely noticeable, yet made Ella feel if she was weak lifeless piece of flesh.
“I’m back,” Ella whispered under her breath while tugging on her old messenger bag.
Walking up the gray cement stairs to the entrance, a small pit of nervousness dug through her body making Ella stare at her shoes. They were a beaten up pair of grey sneakers she had bought as a birthday present for herself with a piece of the welfare check for her father. Maybe this was a bad day to go to school after all, but the thought of going home to her father didn’t appeal either. All she wanted to do was go home, sleep and perhaps push the nervousness out of to her music. Ella couldn’t do that anymore, winter break was over and school would now take away from her music and make her bottle up her nervousness putting back of the shelf with the rest of her unwanted and uncontrollable emotions. After all, it was required for all students to be there the first day back after every break.
Ella stood straight trying to look effortlessly confident as she walked through the building with her shoulders back and a false sense of confidence clouding her exterior. She soon became aware of the eyes that were fixed upon her from all directions. Whispers soon followed the stares.
The hallways were lined with students and their baggage that they had taken over break. Instruments were pushed against lockers while a tube of paint seemed to have been squashed by the flood of students and now painted the floor with light purple footprints going every direction. The dreary black and white colored hall mismatched with the light purple made a contrast that some of the wannabe artists from the arts wing of the school started to argue about it.
Luckily for Ella her 5’3 height made her just small enough to slide past then without touching any of the colorful mess and carry on to her destination; the exam scoreboard. The first place Ella always went to make sure her fears of losing her place stayed just that. Fears. Looking at the board she scrolled from bottom to top out of habit. Black lines marred the page making it almost unrecognizable. The scribbles looked to be done by a fine-point Sharpie; looking up the list Ella finally found her name.
The nervousness and fear Ella had been holding on to now flashed into anger and confusion.
Ella had gotten second place, she had never gotten lower than first. Looking above her total score she saw the name of the person who had ruined her, Nathan King. His last name made her quickly start a theory of him being the type of person that was talented at piano but was also the type to play around. He was probably cocky and didn’t take piano seriously.
Ella hated that type of person. She quickly understood why people had been whispering about her in the halls, they were laughing at her. Tears threatened to shed, but Ella’s rage held them back.
Whirling her head around the once packed hallway to now see she was alone wallowing in her self-pity and rage only fueled her anger more. The bell had already rung and yet her head was too in the clouds to her to have noticed. This only made Ella feel even more idiotic than she had already felt after her act of confidence turned to shame. No wonder people were whispering about her, the queen of piano and been replaced by an unknown king, a Nathan King to be exact.
After unfocusing and spacing out again for a moment Ella observed that she wasn’t by the scoreboard anymore and instead her legs had brought her over to Mr. Crawley’s office. He was the person in charge of scores for the exam; he was the reason for her placing second and the person responsible for her overwhelming roller coaster of emotions flooding through her at the moment. Taking deep breaths she tried to get a hole of herself and clear her face of emotion leaving a clean slate of nothing. Once believing that she had done a well enough job Ella knocked on the oak door to Crawley’s office.
“Come in.” A rough muffled voice said on the other side if the door.
Pushing open the door swiftly she saw Mr. Crawley starting at stacks of files on his desk with a sort of frown decorating his face. The small cubical of a room had the string aroma of coffee and sweat. Looking up from his files Ella got a closer glance at the man. Mr. Crawley had once been a well renown pianist many years before and had gone by the stage name of Tristan Joueur before a mysterious prodigy by the name of Mason Lykes took over his place leaving a small shell of a man –now Mr. Crawley- behind. The creases of frustration over the years molded on to his skin giving an older look to his already frowning face.
He already looked exhausted with his few peppered grey and white hairs sticking out in miscellaneous directions and it was only the first day back after break. Ella felt no remorse for the tired unkempt man who placed her under another student. The thought of being bested made Ella’s anger spike then settle knowing, and taking a sort of pleasure in his discomfort. Slinking into the chair Ella watched Crawley’s gaze flicker to her and back to the pile of manila colored files on his desk.
Crossing her arms across her chest Ella stared at the almost reflective bald spot on his bent down head.
“Who did better than me on the exam?” Ella asked never looking away from the top of his head; the shine was almost hypnotizing. Crawley sighed pinching the bridge of his nose lifting his black framed glasses up in the process and looked away from his files. “I though you were a smart girl, didn’t you see the name of the boy above you?”
Ella pushed herself up on the chair trying to stand her ground and retorted, “Of course I did, but how is it that a kid I’ve never heard of beats me in an exam I had study weeks for and almost had a perfect score upon?”
Crawley got up from his chair waddling to the other side of the room. His hands started to fidget together while his crystal blue eyes hardened like ice looking at Ella. A silence was shared between them until he finally spoke up.
“Yes, while you did get the highest score on the written part of the exam Nathan King had received a higher score on the actual playing portion of the exam and since the-“ Ella cut him off from his ranting and finished his little speech for him. “Written part of the exam is only worth 1/3 of the playing part he got a higher grade. What I don’t get is how he did better than me, even if he was better in the playing aspect of the exam. I had a perfect score on the written portion and was only a couple points off from perfect on the playing part.
Turning away from Ella Crawley spoke, “You know I’m suppose to keep actual scores private, though one thing I can say is that when told to put you emotion into your playing you flood the piece with too much emotion and drown it ruining the score in some of the more fragile parts.”
Anger seeped off Ella in waves. She couldn’t keep her poker face any longer, standing up quickly her chair tipped over backward. Ella wanted to play the piano. Scratch that, Ella needed to play the piano.
Looking around the halls and seeing no one Ella ran out of Crawley’s office, not waiting to listen to the loud protests coming from behind her. Pushing through the hallways, Ella started to run to the main auditorium where she knew the closest piano was.
Ella’s pain was the piano’s pain and the melody; the painful outcome.