The Long Way Back

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Chapter 15

In the midst of the tumultuous chaos of school going on around me, I found refuge in the security of the one cramped and dingy music room our school owned.

I sat at the keys of the piano by myself, for the first time in what could’ve easily been years. Least to say, a very long time.

My fingers moved of their own accord and began in a beautifully elegant dance across the keys, as though they belong there.

After all, maybe they did.

Melody after melody arose around me, dispersing from depths of my mind long forgotten.

Harmonies built, chord after chord found it’s own rightful place in the bass of my self made ensemble.

On and on I played, eyes closed to everything around me.

It was just me and a piano.

Me encased in my sanctuary of music, for what felt like hours.

I felt at peace, at home, everything stopped but the ever-growing movement of my fingers over the keys.

I felt like myself by the piano, not all the broken pieces of myself scattered from one part of my life to another. I was complete.

I played and played, louder and louder until I reached the peak of my crescendo.

And I stopped.

Right on the brink, the very edge… I stopped. A piece unfinished, imperfect.

——

Applause awoke me from my self-imposed trance. “Melanie, that was phenomenal.” Mr Edwards praised, somewhat of an awestruck tone laced his voice.

The realisation that somebody else heard my playing, somebody else judged my playing, nearly broke me out in a cold sweat.

My panic came on so fast it was like it rushed over me bringing in a tsunami of memories. Bad memories.

I froze, I tensed up as though I were a statue.

No, no, no, just don't turn around.

You’re not good enough Mellie, you’ll never be good enough.’ Chorused on and on in my head like a broken record.

“Melanie?” Mr Edwards once again drew me from my thoughts.

“Melanie, are you okay?” He asked, seemingly aware of my current state of distress.

Warily, I turned around to face him.

I may as well face my fears, here it comes.

“S-sorry… I-I didn’t know anybody was in here,” I lowered my eyes to the floor, unwilling to face the scrutiny.

You’ll never be good enough.

“No, no don’t apologise. There wasn’t anybody else here, I just heard you playing and wanted to see who it was. Your extremely talented Melanie.

Untrue. I learned that a long time ago.

“I, I- I’m really not.” I replied. “But thank you.”

I gently smiled so as to not appear rude. Mr Edwards strode towards the piano I sat at and faced me head on, “Honestly Melanie. I’ve never quite heard talent like that at your age. Flip, any age. It’s unbelievable.” He looked down at me with a face meant to reassure me I’m sure, when it in fact had the opposite effect.

Praise made me uncomfortable, because I knew they were always just being polite.

They never told the truth.

A blush took residence upon my cheeks. I never did know what to do with the rare praise I received.

Mr Edward must have noted what I assumed looked to him as shyness, for he stepped away from me.

“Well, I’ll leave you to it then. Feel free to use the practise rooms whenever you like. Nobody else really avails of them, it's a shame. We could use some more musical talent like yours around here. It brightens up the place.”

“Okay… I just might, thank you.”

He turned and walked back towards the door before spinning back around, “was that your own composition by the way?” He asked.

“Yeah I umm.. I was just messing around with a melody I came up with a while back.”

“Wow.” He breathed. “If that's your improvisation, I can't wait to see your actual compositions for this year.”

“A* for sure.” He winked.

“Ahah.” I laughed under my breath, “Maybe.” I mumbled, still useless at replying to praise.

And so I was once again left to my own playing, surrounded by multitudinous new melodies suddenly flourishing under the hopeless praise of a teacher.

————-

“Hey Mel!” Blake called. “Where were you?” He stressed, running up the music corridor I had just emerged from.

He looked worried, really worried.

“I was just, I was playing for a bit.” I mumbled, I felt terrible for worrying him.

As if I hadn’t done that enough already.

As soon as I said I had been playing the piano again though, all expression of annoyance or worry was wiped clean off his face. Blank. He was speechless.

To be honest if I was anyone else hearing it, I would be as well.

“You’re, wait WHAT?! “You’re playing again?” Blake asked eyes wide as though he’d just been told he was getting a new puppy.

I nodded timidly, I was almost afraid to admit it. As though saying it out loud would make it true.

“Really?” He asked, almost in disbelief. His smile was spread wide from ear to ear.

He ran over and quickly closed the distance between us in a massive bear hug.

“You’re playing again! You’re really playing again!” He shouted over my shoulder, still holding me firmly in an unwavering embrace.

“Yeah.” I laughed. “I mean i didn't plan to or anything, it kinda just happened.”

“Oh my god, I can't believe it. You’re actually playing again.” He screamed.

“Blakeee.” I whined. “Shhhush, you don't need to tell the whole blooming school.” I covered my hand over his mouth in a feeble attempt to get him to shut up.

Which of course didn’t work. Blake just laughed around it and then licked my hand like the idiot he was, making me pull my hand away in disgust.

Blake looked as though he couldn’t control himself anymore at all. He was fuelled by pure, uncontainable excitement.

And boy was his happiness contagious.

I couldn’t keep a smile off my face because of his reaction.

He lifted me up like I weighed nothing but a feather and spun me around excitedly till I couldn't see straight.

Suddenly he pulled away, holding me by the shoulders firmly, “oh my god, wait till mum and dad hear.”

Just then saving me from Blake’s over excitement the bell rang, beckoning us back to class.

———-

Sitting in class my thoughts ran rampant around my head.

I didn't know why I wanted to play again. All I knew was that I wanted a break from the people around me. I felt suffocated by the constant company and to be honest my feet just led me to the music rooms because I knew they were always empty, especially at lunch.

If I had known Mr Edwards would still be there I definitely wouldn’t have gone. Nevermind played.

I always told myself that the piano was a part of my past long gone. A part of me I had moved on from, left behind with every new place we travelled to.

I think I willed myself to believe it, I never truly did.

I didn’t need it, nor did I want to need it.

Maybe, it was our new start, maybe it was my ever blossoming confidence brought on by Colby. Whatever it was that willed me to bring music back into my life, i didn't know.

But I was glad it was back.

It was like I could see color once again for the first time in years.

I knew without a hesitation of a doubt that I was glad my playing was back.

Not everything had been taken from me on that dreadful day. For that I was beyond thankful.

I think describing playing an instrument to someone who cant would be so extremely difficult to put into words.

The piano was my way of describing my emotions, saying what I wanted to say without never needing to utter a word. It was my way of dealing with my emotions, be that sad or elated.

I didn't do it for others, I didn't do it for it to sound pretty. In fact I’m sure most of my songs sounded beyond depressing.

For whose innermost emotions and thoughts weren’t sad most of the time?

Isn’t that the reason we hid them, so nobody else was privy to them.

That’s what music was to me, my own way of expression.

For me. It was mine and it had been taken. Tainted.

I think I was still far off playing for others again, if I ever could. The thought of a performance still sent me into a panic.

Piano could be my sanctuary once again, for me and me only. Of that I was adamant.

Knowing Blake, the whole family would know by tonight. Not that i didn't love him for his excitement and support for me, I really didn't want to make a big deal out of it.

I hated the spotlight on me. Detested it.

The one person close to me I knew wouldn’t make a big deal about this was Colby. (Mainly due to the fact that he was clueless of my past experiences and trauma)

Something i didn't want to change anytime soon. Ignorance was bliss.

He wouldn’t know I once played at Julliard, nor the fact or horrid reason I no longer did.

Colby was the one person who wouldn’t look at me like I was fragile, like I was broken.

I didn't want him to stop looking at me the way he always did, with big, wide, hazel eyes, plastered in unworthy admiration.

If I ever told him the truth, that would stop. He would see the true me.

The unfixable one.

Well, I would never, I could never open his eyes to see that me.

And so I would smile.

I would smile and laugh and be completely fine. So much so that hopefully after a while it would no longer seem like an act.

For that's what it all is, isn’t it?

I smile, day after day to convince the people around me that I’m okay. Perhaps the happiest person they know, a ray of sunshine.

As long as they saw what I wanted them to see, they wouldn’t ever question it. They never did. I didn't know If I’d even want them to.

Sometimes I thought If we actually asked the question, ‘are you okay?’ And meant it, the world would be a completely different place.

Maybe worse, maybe better.

I think the world would fall apart. We as a society are not equipped to deal with honesty. The world thrives on lies, ignorance, false smiles, fake friends.

When someone asks another person if they’re okay, they never truly want to know.

People are all just looking for that little sense of self-gratification they gain from being polite, acting how society says they are supposed to in order to be a ‘good’ person.

I think the world is a fake place.

One driven by lies.

Perhaps we are all a little broken, even when we believe we aren’t. After all they say denial is a powerful force.

Perhaps a little honestly would fix us all.

Or perhaps it was simply easier to live in the bliss of a lie. A fake smile was much easier to wear than a real one.

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