The music for this chapter: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4qpkfeI3E9ZhAqCuFzEssj?si=2464080f7c244600
(copy pastable version in the comments)
After taking a few deep breaths, calming myself down to the maximum, I braced myself for impact as I pressed the doorbell of Aleksei’s house for my weekly lesson. I wondered how many seconds he could last today without insulting me. Even before he picked up the receiver, my blood was already starting to boil as I was remembering his insult barrage from last week. I quickly took another deep breath to calm down again before putting my finger on the bell.
Aleksei picked up the receiver with an irritated “Yes?!”
“It’s Fleure.” Silence… Had he forgotten my name again, or was he just starting to get senile? “You told me to come on Fridays. You said you would help me.” I added with a little doubt sounding in my voice. I wasn’t good at talking with others, and that damned Aleksei wasn't making it any easier for me.
The buzzer went off. Once I opened the door, I could hear the sound of a beautiful violin melody. A few seconds later I once again found myself in the beautiful courtyard garden. In the middle of it, a beautiful dark-haired girl was playing the adagio from Brahm’s* Third Violin Sonata with her eyes closed. I recognized her immediately. Nastya Fjodorov. She was playing an enchantingly beautiful melody that fit this garden perfectly. However, I felt something was missing. She was being way too rigid.
I sat down on the chair and listened for a bit. But after a few moments, I could no longer take this. Everything about this was correct and faithful to the scores, but at the same time, it was all wrong.
It remembered me of the time Lise and I started to play together. Only back then I was the one playing everything way too exact. It was Lise that had helped me to loosen up back then with a few jokes and all the variations she put in the accompaniment just to make me change the way I was playing
“I’m sorry Lise, but I think I can help her. I hope you’ll forgive me.” I whispered to myself. I had played an adaptation of this sonata and knew it by heart. I took my cello out of its case, and I just played a few bound notes to release her out of the bind. She was restricting herself way too much with the rules.
As she went over into the presto, our tune slowly changed into more of a conversation. I did my best to create an atmosphere where she needed to take charge herself. Not just following the scores. Answering what I was trying to do, she pressed down on me. Her response was hard. She wasn’t about to be just guided somewhere. I felt like I had just been kabedonned and gulped. She was clearly not having it. So, to turn the tables on her, I played the main theme of the presto together with her, also faithful to the scores, but packed with completely different emotions. I was showing her that the world is a bigger place. The melody quickly evolved into an intimate back and forward where you could no longer tell who was on top.
After we played the last note, she opened her eyes turned around, and looked at me with a deep blush on her face. I felt my cheeks were red too. It felt like we had just done something highly inappropriate. Then her eyes turned bigger, and she exclaimed “Y-You’re a girl?!”
“But you played so fiercely…”
She started fidgeting with her violin and turned around with her back toward me. I heard her mumble “A-a girl made me feel like this?” while holding her violin to her heart.
Aleksei arrived in the courtyard while clapping. “I did not know you had it in you Nastya. That was the best I ever heard of you so far. Do you understand now what I mean with communicating your feelings while you play, and surpassing the score?”
She turned back around; I could see her demeanor had completely changed she seemed ice cold now. “That was just a little bit of fun. There was no value in that. Nothing surpasses the original score! We both know where foolish beliefs like that will lead you. You know where it led dad.”
Aleksei looked guiltily toward the floor while Nastya took off with a big “Hmph!” Although I had the feeling, she wavered a little while she passed me.
“Did I do something I should not have done?”
“You did nothing wrong. It is my fault she closed her heart to true music. If anything, I am grateful that you managed to open it, even if it was only for a very short while. I was arrogant back then and refused to help her father.” Back then? I wondered what he was like back then… It’s not like he was projecting the image of modesty right now…
“She wants me to teach her, but she does not want to recognize that music is a language. She claims music is the beauty of mathematics. She is right that there is the danger of losing yourself in music. She doesn’t want to understand that if you want to act, you must first put yourself on the line. It’s like that with everything in life, and it is like that with music. In order to be loved, you have to take the risk to be hurt.”
“Strange…” I thought it was peculiar that someone that saw music as pure mathematics was able to play as intensely as that with me. I could feel she was holding back, but only that little nudge unleashed a torrent that made my heart skip a serious beat. It was as if all those emotions were safely locked in a box waiting for someone to open it. I had never felt a connection like that while playing with someone else than Lise.
“Please forgive her rude behavior.” Aleksei then said.
“It’s fine. I just hope she is okay.”
“You’re a lot nicer than you look, you know that?”
Aleksei looked at me like he had just given me a compliment, but I caught on to the insult! It had been a few sentences without insult. In a second, I felt my blood starting to boil. What did he even mean by worrying about her rude behavior? He should start with himself!
He must have noticed my mood changing because he quickly changed the subject.
“Did you pick a second piece?”
I nodded. “About that…”
I started explaining to him everything that had happened and how I brought mom back for a little while after adapting Solveig’s song to what mom used to sing. Aleksei looked at me with big eyes and started asking me questions.
I told him everything mom had said, hoping to find more explanations for what happened. There was the part where she looked away like someone called her, and there was the part where she said she did not have much time and would leave for good now…
Aleksei sighed. “You were lucky that is all that happened. I had not expected you to progress this fast. I had not yet told you, but encountering the dead is not without danger. Whatever you do, don’t follow them. They do not always realize what is in this and their world and they might try to bring you over to their side, only… if you go there, there is no way back.”
I could feel the sadness in his voice. I deduced from this, that something similar happened to his son.
“Remember your promise to me! At all times! You belong to this world. You have a connection to people on this side too.”
I nodded while looking to the ground. He was being way too intense.
If he had told me this like that last week, I would have laughed at him. But now I could feel that I did not want to hurt Aunt Christina or Sara. The idea that I wanted to play music with Nastya again sprang to my mind too. Even though we never really talked, I did feel a connection through music. Aleksei was right that I had made some connections however I was not 100% sure I would choose them if an offer of spending eternity with Lise was on the table.
Aleksei looked at me approvingly and said, “Maybe you are ready for her… Follow me.”
He made me follow him to his attic all the way to the fourth floor of the building, where he opened a cello case in front of me.
Inside was a beautiful dark cello made from rosewood. I could see in the bat of an eye that this was an ancient instrument.
“This is Rosalinde. She was made in 1807. This is a family heirloom of mine. I think you should take care of her. She needs someone of your level to keep her intact. She has been played by many musicians that tried to do what you want to achieve.”
I had read that some cello and violin players get to borrow a priceless instrument to play, but I had never in my wildest imagination hoped to receive such an honor.
“Rosalinde the capricious she is called. She is known to be quite whimsical at times, so I think the two of you will be perfect for each other.
Even though Aleksei had just thrown one of his insults, I just ignored him. I could only see the instrument. There was some kind of attraction that made me want to play this instrument. I thought I could see some sort of hazy shine go through the instrument, so I reached out my hand and picked it up by the neck. Just holding this cello was a different experience from my own instrument. This instrument was asking, no, begging me to play her.
“She wants to be played,” I said out loud.
“So, the legends were true.” I looked back at Aleksei questioningly.
“It’s written in my great-grandfather’s diary that she picks her own master. She is called capricious because she won’t listen to anyone else but the one, she considers her master. I tried, but I can’t play this instrument.” He said with a sad tone in his voice.
I could tell by the tone in his voice that he wanted this instrument for himself, so I asked him “Is it really okay for me to play this instrument?”
Aleksei started laughing. “That question is not up to me to answer. Rosalinde gave you an answer to that question herself. I can see that you are eager, so let’s move to the music room.”