“No.” Celia eyed the two men in her kitchen wearily.
“But… Miss Martins...”
“Not happening.” She wished they would just leave her alone already.
“Now, listen...” Mr. Taki tried again.
“I said, No.”
“Please, just listen to us!” The young man with him was impatient and it showed.
“I believe I told you... the answer is no.” Celia looked at the two Japanese men that sat at her kitchen bar for a moment before turning back to the stove.
“We understand your reservations.” Mr. Taki spoke again. “ After all, the distance is quite considerable, but...”
“It is not the distance that concerns me,” Celia informed them, refusing to glance their way again. “I am simply not qualified for the task you are asking of me.”
She had met the two gentlemen three weeks ago when they had entered her classroom unannounced one morning and since then, she regretted not kicking them out immediately. They were causing her nothing but grief. If she knew then, what she knew now, she would have.
“Good morning, Miss Martins.” Celia turned to see her superintendent walk into her classroom with two men following close behind.
She gave her superintendent a nod, ignored the two gentlemen altogether and continued on with her class.
“Measure 13 again, please. We will stop at measure 26. Please add the accent on beat four of measure 16 and the crescendo starts in measure 24 and ends in measure 26, not before.” She raised her baton and they picked up their instruments to play, not a word was spoken, all eyes glancing towards the superintendent and the strangers before turning their focus to the music before them.
Celia turned and placed a fake smile on her face, not dropping her hands. “Yes, Ms. Shields?”
“May these men observe you for a while?” Ms. Shields returned her fake smile with one of her own. It was well known that she and Ms. Shields did not care for each other, but they did try to pretend in front of the students.
Celia nodded and tilted her head to the corner of her room where the extra chairs were located. “If you would like to stay, the chairs are over there. Help yourselves.” She gestured to the chairs, not bothering with politeness. She had limited time with her students as it was and they were wasting it.
“Thank you.” The older man with silver hair and a nicely fitted suit gave her a bow and sat with a smile.
The second man, broad shoulder, hair neatly tied back and though not dressed in a suit, still looked good in his dress slacks and shirt merely gave her a slight nod of his head before sitting down and pulling out a laptop, wasting no time in putting it to use. She noted his eyes had a hard, guarded look to them and she took an immediate dislike to him. It was apparent to her that he appeared to be a rather arrogant man and she disliked that quality in people, herself included. People may call her many things, and they did, but arrogance would never be one of them.
She turned her focus back onto her students, the sound of typing already getting on her nerves.
“Anything else?” She asked over her shoulder to her superintendent, attempting to keep the disdain from her voice.
“No. Thank you.”
“No problem.” Celia went back to work without another thought to the men watching her. People were always watching her, it was part of her job.
She finished her last class of the morning, three hours later and finally turned her attention to the two men that were right where she had left them. She had rather hoped that they would have disappeared long before now, but it seems that there was no such luck for her.
With a sigh, she approached the two men.“I am heading to lunch now. It is only school food, but you are welcome to join me?” She cringed inwardly at the invitation. She did not want to spend any more time under their watchful gazes. Surely they had had their fill of her?
“No, thank you.” Taki was the one to speak again. “We already have a previous engagement. Perhaps tomorrow?” His English was impeccable. “That is if you will allow us to visit you again?”
Three weeks later, Celia still wished she had refused him, but she had not.
“If you wish. I will not object.” She replied with an impersonal smile. She was already struggling with the administration; she did not need more to argue with them about whether or not they wished to watch her again tomorrow. Besides, it was not like she had a say in the matter. Ms. Shields would do as she wished and there was nothing that Celia could do to change that.
“We will see ourselves out then.” The two gentlemen gave her a bow, once more, Taki speaking for them both. “We do not want you to give up any more of your time for us. Until tomorrow?”
She watched them leave with a sigh. What was going on here? She asked herself. She made a mental note to have a chat with Ms. Shields at the first opportunity.
The following morning the two gentlemen appeared before her just as the students began entering the classroom and took their place in the corner, Taki watching her and the younger man typing away at his computer. Her curiosity peaked, she refused to give in, instead, she kept her focus on her students.
The day flew by, as all of her days did, and after the last morning bell had rung, she sank into her desk chair with a sigh. She sat there for a few moments, twirling her in her chair, debating whether she should just skip her daily practice session. Did she really want them to critique her playing too? It was the only time she had to practice today though. What to do? Her fingers itched to play, but she was not comfortable practicing with them in the room either. Decisions, decisions?
After a few moments of uncertainty, Celia shook her head, disgusted with herself. She would not change her schedule just because they were here. If they did not like it, they could leave. She needed her practice time and they would just have to deal. Besides, she always had an audience, whether it was a performance or a practice, it did not matter either way. Her mind made up, she stood and moved towards her beloved piano.
“If the noise is bothersome, feel free to step out of the room. I will be practicing now and it is not always a pretty sound.” She spoke as she settled herself on the piano bench and waited for their response.
“We will stay.”
“Of course.” Celia took a breath in and held it for a moment before releasing it as she started her warm-ups and continued for the next hour, moving from one piece to the next, playing for enjoyment on one and then spending a few moments on a small section of another. As she immersed herself into the rhythm, tone, touch, and feel of the sounds that she created, any and all awareness of all else fell away, lost in a void beyond the bubble that she had created for herself and the music that was a balm to her frazzled soul.
If she had been aware of what was around her, she would have noticed that the irritating typing had stopped and that two pairs of eyes had settled upon her for the last hour, not one.
“Are you ready for lunch?” She asked the two gentlemen once she had reemerged from her world.
“It would be our pleasure.” Taki immediately stood and approached while the younger of the two took a moment to finish whatever was so important on his computer before he too stood, signaling he was ready to go.
Celia turned and rolled her eyes at his arrogant conceitedness. What an egotistical jerk, she thought to herself as she led the way to the cafeteria, deciding that she should have skipped lunch altogether if this was how it was going to be between the three of them.