Another reason for me to dislike humans: they can only see their point of view. They talk a lot, saying that they are "putting themselves in other people's shoes" and everything. They even have a word for it. Empathy. But they are self absorbed beings, who care for nothing but themselves. Through all the "I feel so bad for you"s and "I can totally imagine your pain"s, it is always, "How is this going to hurt or help me?". It's always "ME ME ME!"
If they took one moment to look at the world, one moment to just think about anything other than themselves, I would say that they lived.
Esme ran into keyboard class 20 minutes late. Quickly calling out an apology to Mr. Oakman and the rest of the class, she took her seat at the front.
"Okay students!" Mr. Oakman called, clapping his hands to gain back everyone's attention. "This term, we'll be doing a pair exercise. I am going to pair you based on your strength and training. You will work on creating a piece for the next three months. I'll need a copy of the sheet music one week before your presentation. I'll announce the exact schedule of performances in a month. If there are no questions, I'll pair you up now."
Mr. Oakman rubbed his hands together and walked into the students, tapping them on the shoulder to pair them up. Everyone watched with cool curiosity as to who their partner may be. As people got paired, they sat at a keyboard together and began to get acquainted.
"Lastly," Mr. Oakman announced. "Esme, you will be working with Galvin Garrison."
She tilted her head. "Galvin? Who's that?"
But Mr. Oakman was already walking away. Still having no clue who that was, Esme turned around. Everyone was paired up, except one boy, who sat on a stool at the back of the room. He was the only boy left.
That's probably him, she thought, walking over. As she got closer, she observed him. Unlike most other boys their age, he had quite a muscular build. It didn't really help that he was wearing a grey T-shirt that hugged his chest. Esme was struck by the deep colour of his hair and his bright green eyes to contrast it.
Come on Esme, a voice in her head chided. Don't intoxicate yourself with plain old looks. Sure, he's hot. But who knows what kind of a jerk hides under that pretty face. You should know, considering your previous... Bitter experiences.
Esme resisted the urge to tense up. Damn her and the stupid voice in her brain. Not every guy was like that. She didn't have to be afraid to go near this one. He wasn't a bad guy. She was safe here. She was safe.
Esme plopped herself down on a stool beside him. "Esme. Hi." She stretched her hand out to him.
He smiled and took her hand. "Hey. Galvin. But please, call me Gal."
She nodded, noting the formality in his tone. "Shall we claim our keyboard?"
He smiled. "I'd love to Esme, but it seems all are occupied."
Esme quickly spun around and noticed that he was right. Darn it.
But then, a brilliant idea popped into mind. "Why don't we use the piano room? It's a quite place. I'm sure we'll get more creative inspiration there. Come on!" With that, she raced off, leaving behind Gal, who was forced to follow her.
She ran into the piano room and shut the door behind her. Gal looked at her quizzically, as if trying to make something out. "Are you sure we don't need Mr. Oakman's permission?"
She laughed. "No, we don't. And if he asks, there were no free keyboards anyway."
She casually walked over and sat down on the bench in front of the grand piano, patting the space next to her, inviting him to sit down. He did.
"So," she said. "Since we don't know each other, and we'll be working together the whole term, maybe we should get to know each other before we get into writing music? I mean, I'm sure understanding each other will help in our writing process right?"
He nodded. "Sure. I'm up for that."
"Alright then." Esme looked him over. "Which school do you go to?"
"I'm actually home schooled."
Esme wrinkled her face. "So that's what it was about you. Ugh. Spoiled brat, rich kid. That's what you are huh?"
He laughed. "That seems to be the common opinion, yes. But it's mostly because we move so often, my parents don't see any point in putting me into a school only to pull me out months later. I don't even complete an academic year in a place. So, I just have an online tutor. But, my dad says this is more permanent. So I'll be joining the local high school. What was it called? Lakeside... Lakeshore... Lakeview?"
"Um," Esme raised her eyebrows. "You mean Lakewood high?"
He snapped his fingers at her. "Yup, yup. That's the one!"
She laughed. "Well, that's where I go. Which would mean we'd be schoolmates. Which year are you in?"
"Year ten," he replied.
"Make that classmates," Esme corrected.
He grinned at her and Esme marvelled at the perfect alignment of his teeth. She bit her tongue to avoid saying anything embarrassing.
"Anyway," Gal said. "You seem to know everything about me and I seem to know nothing about you!"
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Mhm? And whose fault is that?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
"You didn't ask me any questions," Esme elaborated as if explaining to a baby. "That's why you don't know anything. Don't worry. We'll fix that in a few months."
He raised his eyebrows at her. "Bossy aren't you?"
She grinned and shrugged. "Wouldn't wanna argue with you boss."
He chuckled. "Now, miss bossy. Let me tell you what all I found out about you without asking any questions whatsoever. One is, you're a year ten student. Two, you don't like home schooled kids, cause we're big brats, which I warn you, I am not."
"Hold up," Esme interrupted and he stopped counting off on his fingers. "Which kid that you know is gonna outright go and agree when someone calls them a brat?"
He titled his head, considering the question. "Fair point. But, if I was a homeschooled brat, I would probably beat you up for calling me that. Or, in case I was considerate enough to think of the fact that you're a girl, I would call you something that would hurt your self esteem terribly."
Esme scoffed. "Please, you're treating me like I'm one of those pretty, petty ass girls. My self esteem would never be hurt by a guy telling me that my lips are not nearly glossy enough."
Gal raised an eyebrow. "So you're accusing me of stereotyping?" She nodded, a superior look on her face. "And what exactly have you been doing, with the whole 'homeschooled brat' thing?"
That caught her off guard. She hadn't seen the conversation taking a turn. He smirked, knowing that he'd caught her this time.
She smiled at him. "You're smarter than you look."
"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"
And she was back, shrugging nonchalantly, an almost bored expression on her face. "Whatever you want it to be dear. Now, why don't you carry on? I'd like to know what else you know about me."
"Oh right. Let's continue then. Well, you study in Lakewood high and you've been learning from Mr. Oakman for the past 5 years."
Her face scrunched up in confusion. "How did you know the last part? Are you psychic?"
He laughed. "I may have had a chat with Mr. Oakman right before class. We were talking since it's my first class here. You came up when I mentioned to him that I had been training for a while myself too. Clearly, he thinks we're of the same level."
Esme clapped. "That, my friend, was the first bit of voluntery information you've given me all day."
He smirked. "Not so hopeless now, am I?"
She clapped a little harder this time. "Wow! The first question too, all in the span of a minute! Maybe you're not so hopeless after all."
He gave her a pleased smile, one that looked like he had just achieved the greatest feat. Esme felt her stomach roll over.
What the hell was that?
"So, now that we know this much, why don't we start with our piece?" Gal asked.
She nodded, not really paying attention to what he was saying. The same question mulled over in her head as she followed his lead.
Esme pinned the flower placed on her dressing table in her hair and turned to look at herself in the full length mirror. She quite liked how she looked. Her black full length dress was very elite and sophisticated. It clung to her figure perfectly, highlighting her womanliness (yes, I did say that) and it matched the pair of hoops she had picked out perfectly. If she had pulled off this look on any other day, she would be jumping for joy. Not today though.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped out of her room and joined her mom in the lounge. She stood looking at Esme's father's picture with tears in her eyes.
Esme placed her hand gently on her mother's shoulder. She turned quickly, attempting to hide her pain from her daughter. She wiped her tears forcefully, shaking her head.
Esme engulfed her in a hug from behind her. "It's okay mom. It's all gonna be okay."
Her mom turned around, placing her head on Esme's shoulder. "I just miss him so much, sweetheart."
"I know," Esme whispered, stopping herself from saying anything more in the fear that her voice would break. She held back her tears with all her will. She had to be strong. If not for anyone else, at least for the sake of her mother.
Her mom pulled away, plastering a smile on her face. Someone who hadn't known her all their life would have bought that smile too. "Come on. The cab's waiting outside."
Esme followed her mom as she turned around and walked towards the door, holding herself more stiff than usual to hide her shaking shoulders.
Zac stood behind the trees, looking out at the graveyard. She would be here any minute. She wouldn't miss her father's first death anniversary, not for anything in the world. He was certain of that much at least.
Just as he thought this, he saw two people enter the yard. Moving a little closer, pushing the leaves out of his way, he stared at Esme. She had her dark brown hair in a bun, with just a few strands escaping. Her plain black dress highlighted her pale skin tone all the more, and of course he didn't fail to notice how it clung to her figure.
As they stopped in front of her dad's headstone, he saw her deeply set eyes. He saw the resolution to remain strong, even when she was probably breaking inside. After observing those eyes for years, Zac had decided they were a dark, dark brown, which at first sight could be mistaken for black.
Right now, they were clouded with tears she was holding back. Zac felt the sudden urge to be the one to comfort her, the one to wipe those tears away.
That was when he paused, really thinking about what he had been doing all day. He had woken up, gotten dressed and rushed to the cemetery he knew Esme would be coming to. What was he thinking?
He braced himself against the tree next to him. After the other day, he was done with Esme. All this time he had spent, his mind always thinking about her, was over. He would no longer kiss another girl and wonder whether Esme tasted like her or not. He would never again watch her as she wrote an algebra test, her eyebrows scrunching in concentration. He had gotten her out of his system the other day. She was gone from his mind.
But then, why was he here today?
Did... Did he still care?
Esme stared as her mom placed a rose in front of the headstone. She read the words written there through her unshed tears.
Rest In Peace James Anderson
A loving and loyal husband, a caring father and a true man. You shall always be remembered.
There was so much more to say, Esme thought. He was so, so much more.
She watched her mother stand up, and turn to place a hand on Esme's shoulder. "I'll be waiting in the car. You can have a moment. Come back when you're ready."
Esme nodded, trying to tell herself that it didn't mean her mom didn't love her dad anymore just because she was leaving. It didn't mean he didn't matter. Her mom squeezed her shoulder and left, looking very much like she couldn't wait to get as far away from him as possible. Esme felt a wave of disgust, which she pushed aside, turning back to her dad's headstone.
She waited for a moment, until she could hear nothing but the trees shaking in the wind. She took a shaky breath before she began to speak.
"Hey dad," she started, soft as ever. "It's been a while. I remember times when I couldn't stay without talking to you for more than eight hours. I remember calling your desk at work the moment I found out you would be late, just to hear your voice, to hear you call me 'precious' again." She laughed softly. But it soon died. "But that day. The day we got the call saying you were involved in a car accident, that you were in a critical condition by the time you were in the hospital, we were scared to death. We raced to the hospital, only to hear that the Doctor could do nothing to save you... Do you know that feeling dad? Do you know how we died a little on the inside? We were shattered. I stayed home for two weeks, not talking to anyone, only thinking about the fact that you wouldn't be walking through those doors ever again. Realizing that even if I called your desk, you wouldn't pick up, cause this time you weren't late from work. You were gone. And never coming back. God... And mom. She was a mess. I couldn't recognize her anymore. None of us could.
"But family and friends helped a lot. Your family especially. Grandma and Grandpa... They never once left mom's side. I know you were their son but they treated mom as if she were their own daughter. They helped me come out of the room I was holed up in and you know, see the world again. I don't know where we'd be without them. They helped so much...
"But I don't think that hole in our hearts will ever be filled, not really. At first, I was angry. Why would you leave me? Why would you put a full stop to our daddy-daughter story? Then, I blamed myself. I did this. You didn't want to be with me anymore so you left. And I was the reason mom was always crying and refused to eat her meals. It was all because of me.
"Then, I was hollow. Empty. No one would make me laugh the way you did. No one would tell me crazy stories. No one would run back into the house so I could jump into their arms and be engulfed in their warmth. No one would make me scream in disgust as they kissed mom passionately, maybe even only to tease me." She paused, wiping a tear that managed to escape, as all the memories came flooding back. The first time she travelled with him, him chasing her around as she learnt how to ride a bike, first day of school, when she clung to him and he whispered in her ear that everything would be alright, annual days, when he was such a proud father even when she was just a girl singing among so many others, birthdays, when the three of them stood together and he always video recorder the cake cutting with his terrible singing being the only thing heard.
All of that was over. None of it was ever coming back.
Esme shook her head, wiping the tear that had manage to escape away hastily.
"But, after a year now, I am starting to believe that we are going to be okay. Mom smiles now, just like she used to. I'm back at school, doing everything to the best of my ability, just the way you always taught me to. And I'm happy. We're happy. So I think we'll be okay. Ya, we will.
"So if you're up there, or somewhere, listening to me, then I'm telling you to not worry about us. You be happy where you are and we will be too. But just remember this: there isn't a day we go without thinking about you, missing you and loving you so,so much." Her voice cracked on the last word. She fell to her knees and placed her head on her father's grave, finally letting the tears fall. She sat there for a long moment, not controlling herself, not stopping the pain for anyone. She just let herself grieve.
Finally, when there were no tears left to fall, she gathered herself and stood up. Looking at the stone for a moment more, she said her goodbyes. Then, she turned around but stopped when she heard a rustle in the trees. She gave them a curious glance. Was there someone watching her?
Shaking her head, deciding that she was being delusional, she walked off to the car. But I believe she wasn't wrong. For even though Zac was one person watching her, I believe her father was too, from somewhere up above.