Aleksei and I walked to the music room. I gently tuned Rosalinde and prepared to play my version of Solveig’s song for Aleksei.
I was anxious. I wondered what Rosalinde would sound like. The second my bow touched the string, a deep melancholic sound emanated from her body. It was much deeper and more profound than the sound of my own cello. I felt like she was almost guiding me to the notes I needed to play. Suddenly a few notes of Aleksei snapped me out of that trance. “Focus, you need to keep in control, or she will take you for a run. She has a strong personality.”
Was this what it was like to play one of those ancient priceless instruments? I continued the piece, with new vigor, this time taking the lead. At the end of the main theme, the room turned dark and suddenly I saw myself playing the cello from a distance. I could not hear anything, and if I looked closer, it seemed like time had stopped in the room where Aleksei and I were.
A young girl around 14 years old, stood in front of me in a magnificent red 19th-century Victorian dress and said “You truly are an interesting one… You have the talent and know-how to do it without me, yet you still seek me out.”
“What is this place?” I asked a bit baffled.
“We are in limbo of course.” She answered, while thoroughly checking me out. She was looking at me with big inquisitive eyes.
“You know that you would be cuter if you grew your hair out? Short hair does not fit your type.”
That insult snapped me out of my initial fear of this weird situation. I just reacted on an impulse “Did you just call me here to insult me?”
The girl started to giggle. “I did not mean it that way. I was just giving you some friendly advice.”
“You’re cute when you pout.” She made a quick dance around me at a speed that gave me a really hard time following.
“More importantly who and what are you?”
“I am Rosalinde. I am the one who brought you here. Don’t worry I will send you back. I just wanted to check my new master out in person.”
“You only answered one of my questions.”
She sighed. “Don’t be such a square. You know how long it has been since I talked to someone?”
“Then just explain to me who and what you are. This is seriously weird.”
“As I said, I am Rosalinde. My soul was bound to this cello. I was engaged to be married to Helmond. He was a violin maker, but then I got ill and died of tuberculosis. He could not take it and in the end, he brought back my soul and bound it to this instrument.”
“Then where is he? Shouldn’t the two of you be together forever?”
Suddenly Rosalinde looked really sad. “After binding me to the instrument, he changed... The instrument had a much higher quality of sound than any of the others he had made. My soul was making his instrument shine and he became obsessed with the fame he got through playing me. Soon he no longer talked to me or visited me. He didn’t even release me before his death so we could be together in the afterlife. He cared more about his legacy.”
Then she became furious. “I was so angry at him I refused almost anyone that tried to play me. Only a few of which I thought they might possess the capability of setting me free, I gave the power. But they all got blinded by the success they got after playing me and betrayed me in the end. They never set me free.”
Then she looked intensely into my eyes.
“You have that same capability. I want to make a pact with you.”
“I want you to release me once you reach your goal. It has been almost 2 centuries. I want to be able to cross to the other side.”
She seemed really desperate. I could see she was suffering, so I said “I would promise. I’d even release you now if I could. I feel sorry for you. but I want to be honest with you. I do not know how to do that. I do not even understand what is happening right now.”
She smiled. “I like your honesty. You are the first one that is so honest. Don’t worry about that. When the time is right, you will know what needs to be done. Now please tell me what you want from me.”
“I want nothing from you. I did not even know you existed. I just want Lise. She promised me…”
Tears started pouring down my eyes. The grief and sadness that came over me while the memories of the accident flashed before my eyes were extreme. It was as if I became 100% grief-struck in a second. This was nothing like the usual sort of feelings I felt.
“Don’t worry. It’s because you are in your spirit form. All your feelings are pure right now.”
While I was suffering this attack of pure grief, Rosalinde moved her hand toward my face, picked up a tear, and licked it up. Suddenly her eyes reflected my memories like they were replayed in a quick movie.
“Is that possible between two girls?!”
“Why not if you like each other. Lise is the only one for me.” I said defensively.
“Times sure have changed. Interesting… I’m excited now. This going to be so awesome!” She made a little swirl as if she was dancing with an imaginary partner.
She continued watching my memories for a while longer before she suddenly shuddered and threw them out of her like they were something filthy.
“That is terrible… To watch something like that happen at such a young age… You really are different from the others…” She then took another of my tears and went back to scan my memories. “Ah, so that was her promise… I will help her keep it. I will do my best to give her a chance to make you happy. When she does, I expect you to remember your end of the bargain too.”
The darkness that had overtaken the room started spinning and before I knew it, it was all gone, and I was back in the room staring dazed and confused at the score of Solveig’s song.
“What are you doing spacing out all of the sudden! Again, from the start!” Aleksei shouted. I shook my head. Did that just happen or was it just a daydream?
I quickly apologized and started playing again from the start. Only this time, Rosalinde was complying to my will and followed me where I took her, only occasionally nudging me to play even deeper into the string. She seemed to love those romantic wide deep vibrato tones. While I played, I suddenly noticed there were several people with us in the room. Some of them weren’t familiar but then I spotted dad’s ghosts watching and listening to me with a smile on his face.
I felt conflicted to see dad. He was the one who separated me from Lise after all. The fury and anger came out and my playing became a lot more intense. But gradually the old familiar sight of seeing him smile while listening to me started getting to me. Tears were rolling from my eyes.
“There there, master. I just wanted to show you that they are here. Even though you can’t interact with them right now, I am only helping you to see who is here, watching over you.” Rosalinde’s voice suddenly resounded in my head. That was really a weird experience. I almost slipped up a note because of it.
Instead of just sadness, gratitude started emanating from my play. Suddenly, dad walked up to me and then pointed behind me clearly trying to show me something. I turned my head and Lise sat there behind the grand piano, looking at me with tears of sorrow.
“L-Lise?” I stopped playing. In an instant, all the ghosts disappeared.
“I told you that I could just show you. You can’t interact with them. I can only show you while you play. If you want to interact with her, you need to find her sign. Those are the rules.” Rosalinde said inside of my head again.
I was still staring at the place where Lise was. “What happened? You were playing majestically and then you stopped.” Aleksei suddenly pulled me out of my trance. Coming back to my senses the room filled with just the two of us felt empty.
“They were here. A lot of ghosts were here in the room with us. They were watching me play. She showed me. Rosalinde showed me.”
Aleksei looked at me with big eyes before suddenly getting really intense and grabbing me by my shoulders. “Was he here too? Sergei, my son. was he here?”
“I don’t know… I could not talk to them. I noticed my father and Lise. But there were other people too.” I said with a hint of fear in my voice. It was as if madness just possessed him.
He grabbed me even harder and shook me a little as if he was trying to squeeze something out of me. “Try to remember what they looked like!”
“P-Please stop! Let go of me!” I screamed.
I could see the look in his eyes change back to normal, and then sadness takes over. “I-I’m sorry. It’s just this is the closest I got to a breakthrough in ages.” Tears were rolling from his eyes. He released me and moved back to his own chair.
“I was right to stay clear from him. Hmmph!” Rosalinde commented in my head on what just happened.
Was she now able to talk to me like this the entire time?
“Only when our bodies are touching.”
You, can read my thoughts?
“Mhm. As long you are touching my body or my case. Hey, what are you suddenly thinking of? I did not even know such things were possible between girls. You perv!”
“I am not thinking of anything, and you know it!” I suddenly shouted out loud, my face had completely gone red.
Rosalinde was giggling inside of my head. She certainly was a tease. My relationship with her sure was going to be a troublesome one, wasn’t it?
“What are you talking about? You aren’t making any sense.” Aleksei said confused.
“Don’t tell him that you can talk to me. Consider that part of our pact. He would only trouble me with an obsessed barrage of questions.”
I instantly needed to make something up. Since Rosalinde was the road toward being reunited with Lise.
“Sorry I was going in my head over my third piece. Sometimes I get into an argument with myself. Hehehe.”
“Well, it was to be expected a freak like you would have a few crazy quirks. I can’t believe that cello picked her over me.” Aleksei mumbled to himself.
“Hey, I can hear you, you know!”
Aleksei looked up and gave me a look like I just said something insignificant. “This lesson is over. I am no longer in the mood. We will continue next week” He then said. “I trust you will find your way out?”
He then got up and left the room.
I packed Rosalinde back in her case. In comparison to my modern lightweight case, this one was rather heavy and there were no straps to put it on my back. Maybe I should switch the two of them around, once I get home…’
“No, you can’t! I can only follow what is going on If I am in this one! I look forward to seeing what is happening in the world. It has been ages since I went outside.”
“Then at least allow me to put straps on it.”
“Gulp, I-I didn’t realize you were in that kind of play…”
“Stop misinterpreting things!”
Rosalinde was giggling again inside my head.
“Who were you talking to?”
I looked up at Nastya who had appeared in the doorway. She was staring at me with cold eyes.
“Remember our pact. Don’t mention me.”
“N-nobody. I just talk to myself when I am alone.” What the hell was I saying. What would she think of me now?
“Oh, that’s right. He said you were a bit of a freak.” Her words felt like she just stabbed me. While her ice-cold stare was piercing me.
Then, her eyes fell on the instrument that I was packing.
“I can’t believe it. Not only is he teaching you, but he is even letting you play her.”
The contrast between our instrumental conversation and this real-life interaction was immense. I could see nothing of the blushing girl from earlier. Remembering that intimate duet, I started to feel nervous. I could feel my cheeks redden.
“I-It’s a great honor. I’m really grateful for that." Why did I suddenly need to start tripping over my words?
“Don’t think you will beat my score on the entrance exam. I will show the world that the only way is staying true to the original scores!” She turned around and walked away with a loud “Hmph!”.
I stood there baffled. Did she just make me her rival?
“I also think she is cute, just try to keep your thoughts a little in check next time. I didn’t need all that imagery while you were ogling her.”
“What are you saying! I didn’t…” I could hear Rosalinde giggling again. I started to feel angry at these constant teases. “I only ever liked one person that way and that person is Lise. Stop insulting my love for her!”
“Sure, whatever you say.”