Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #1792204
A young woman is given a special gift from her ailing grandmother.
Her Rhapsody’s Finale
“Be it known that I, Rosalyn DaCapo, being of sound mind and memory, do hereby declare this document to be my last will and testament. I revoke all prior wills and codicils…”
It’s bitter business really, thought the young woman sitting amongst her family members in the fancy office of her late grandmother’s attorney, listening but not really paying attention to him as he covered the preliminary declarations of her will before beginning to state who was to inherit what. Not that her china set, furniture, car, or quaint little house really mattered. She knew everyone was here to find out who would take home her most valuable possession; a Stradivarius violin, made in the year 1716 by the famous instrument maker himself, valued at over two million dollars. The grand prize, she thought dimly.
Glancing around the polished mahogany table, she noted the faces of her relatives, and how beneath a veneer of sorrow, there was something more. Anxiousness perhaps? She had only just been speaking with a few of them at the funeral just days ago, and overheard some of them murmuring to each other when they had all met up outside of the up-scale office building before heading into this room together. Is that a bead of sweat on uncle Marty’s forehead? she wondered as she watched him listen so intently. He had mentioned to cousin Henry his plans to sell the instrument in order to pay back his many debts if Rosie were to give it to him.
Marty’s daughter Olivia, who was sitting next to him, appeared rather composed as she sat calmly with her hands folded in her lap. Being that she worked in a small museum, she had been speaking to some of the others about what a great attraction a genuine Stradivarius would be, and how it might draw in more visitors if she were to inherit it and put it on display. Yeah right, the girl thought as she raised an eyebrow. That item would get her a nifty little promotion to curator if she doesn’t give it to her father first or sell it for herself. I know Livvie way too well.
Across from Olivia, sat Nicholas, another one of her many cousins who reclined comfortably next to his parents, his eyes quickly caught her staring through his tinted glasses, and he smiled before looking away. Although they had been closer as children, she hadn’t seen him in a long time since he traveled a lot and went to a different university, studying music, while she had gone to study medicine. She did know that he had been expressing to her mother his wishes to inherit the instrument, since he was also a musician, inspired by Rosie herself. He wanted the violin to play, as well as the esteem and fame that came along with owning such an item.
The young woman knew that the rest all wanted the violin due to its monetary worth as well. How could she blame them? By selling such a rare item, they would be able to live very comfortable lives from the income. It would be like winning the lottery. She doubted those who were not as closely related thought they would even be considered to have it given to them, since most were from her father’s side and not close to her grandmother in the least. They all knew that if anyone were to inherit it, it would most likely be her mother, Grace, who was Rosie’s only child. The resentment her extended family emanated towards them both was suffocating though not entirely obvious to the naked eye.
“Cadence!” Grace whispered sharply as she quietly stepped on her daughter’s foot. “Please try to pay attention.” The young woman shot her a sidelong glare.
“But Mom, why do we have to endure this whole song and dance, anyway? We should be grieving now, but they’re all waiting to cash in. It makes me sick,” Cadence scowled back. “Anyway, Grandma told you long ago that she would be willing her house to you, and she even gave me some money for college, which she didn’t have to do.”
“Everyone loved your grandmother very much honey, and it’s a formality I suppose,” Grace replied quietly. “Plus, you get to see your family after all these years, despite the circumstances being what they are.”
“I suppose…” Cadence’s train of thought trailed off. Truth be told, Rosie had already given her something very special just before she passed away, something that the violin could not come close to in comparison. However, it would have made no difference if she had given her anything, for Cadence had so many wonderful memories of the woman, that they were all she would have needed to remember her by.
“I give my property, which was my residence at the time of death, to my daughter, Grace Allen…”
Grace sighed, and Cadence knew that her mother didn’t want to be here just as much as she did. At least it was nice of grandma to give mom her house, she thought, especially since dad died. A collective sigh resounded around the room, as the violin was still up for grabs. It’s just really sad that they all seemed to have loved her so much, yet they are so willing to take her stuff… almost like vultures.
The attorney’s voice seemed to drone on regarding jewelry and a car, and then became more like a distant series of monotonous tones, as memories began to overwhelm Cadence, and the reality that her beloved grandmother would no longer be a part of her life truly began to set in. Ever since she was a little girl, it had seemed that there was something magical about the woman. Perhaps it had something to do with her ability to bake the world’s best cookies, whose almost supernatural aroma would cause your taste buds to tingle in an inexplicable and wonderful way before you even took a bite. It also may have been due to the way Rosie could engulf her in the biggest hugs imaginable with just her eyes before her long and slender arms even scooped her up. Then again, there was also the fact that her silvery-grayish hair always gleamed outside in the sunlight as if she had a kind of inner radiance which complemented her glowing smile.
Some of the fondest memories of Cadence’s childhood were of spending time with her. The two would gather a blanket and some snacks, and then head out to the garden for another of their famous picnics amidst a lush blanket of wildflowers which, looking back, seemed to be constantly in bloom. They would bask in the warm sun just beyond the shade of the trees from the woods that lined the boundary of her backyard. They spent hours together chatting, and the elder woman would listen to everything her granddaughter chose to babble about while she pushed her gently back and forth on the garden swing afterward.
And then there was the music. In her day, Rosalyn was a concert violinist and considered a prodigy by many at a very young age. Whenever she played, her violin sang like the spring days that Cadence remembered so well in her backyard. She had also attended many of her concerts, even though Rosie played whenever her granddaughter asked her to, and even tried to teach the girl whenever she showed interest in learning. Even if Rosie hadn’t been a famous and renowned musician, to Cadence, she had been the greatest violinist in the world. Blinking away the tears welling up in her eyes, she was overcome with emotion as she remembered the woman who had so greatly influenced her life.
It seemed like only yesterday that she had gone to visit her grandmother during the last winter break from school. Rosie had been living alone for many years since her husband died. Cadence barely remembered her grandfather since he had passed away when she was only a few years old, but she knew he had been a violin maker- a master craftsman whose trade had been passed down for generations, who Rosie had met in her travels overseas. His old workshop was a converted barn behind the house, which, since his death, had become a storage shed for her gardening tools, riding lawnmower, and the like.
The engine of the rental car had stuttered as the young woman pulled up the winding gravel driveway towards the front of the tiny cottage and came to a stop. The place had always reminded her of a gingerbread house as a child, with its sweeping roofline, eves, and scalloped cedar shingles. Her grandmother had also always painted the shutters different bright colors every year, and hung flower baskets under each window, but now the house and surrounding property seemed gray and lifeless. The paint on the shutters was faded and mostly worn off, perhaps they had been purple or red the last time they were painted, but Cadence couldn’t tell. The old wind chimes hanging from the barren trees were rusty and instead of ringing, clanked in the breeze. She cringed and tensed at the sound, knowing her grandmother wouldn’t have liked it either. I wonder if she can no longer hear very well… she thought, realizing how long it had been since she’d seen her. That would be heartbreaking.
Locking the door of the car out of habit and tucking the keys into her purse, Cadence shivered, pulling her coat more tightly around herself and made her way across the slate stepping stones which formed the front walkway. The sound of dead leaves rustled and crinkled beneath her feet as a few flittered in front of her through the air as she made her way to the house, half expecting to see some tumbleweed blow by. The front steps creaked under her weight as she stepped onto the porch and knocked on the door, brushing her long hair off her face.
There was no answer. A feeling of dread engulfed her and twisting the knob, she found the door to be unlocked. “GRANDMA?” she called, hoping to hear a response, and luckily heard one from the kitchen.
“Cadence?” The old woman had been busy washing some dishes. “You’re here! I’m so sorry, I must not have heard you knock, but I’m so happy to see you!”
Cadence breathed a sigh of relief, but upon seeing her, she began to understand just how her grandmother’s age was finally catching up with her as she shuffled into the room still clad in her pajamas and a bathrobe, despite it being the middle of the day. She was leaning on a walker, and the wheels squeaked slightly as she moved.
Tired eyes still enveloped her in that all-encompassing hug that Cadence had always remembered. “There’s my beautiful granddaughter!” the woman exclaimed, her voice weary, but still as rich as it always had been. Cadence dropped her bags in the doorway and ran to her, practically scooping the woman up in an embrace that rivaled the ones she had received as a child. “My goodness,” Rosie exclaimed happily, then caught her breath. “You are more and more a woman every time I see you.”
“Grandma! It’s great to see you! I’ve missed you so much!”
“I agree, it’s been too long my dear, but come and make yourself at home.” She gestured for the both of them to sit at the kitchen table to catch up. “Just give me a minute to sit down, I’m an old geezer, after all.”
“Don’t say that, Grandma,” Cadence retorted and helped the frail woman sit down at the table before taking a seat herself. “You’re only as old as you feel.”
Rosie smiled wryly and sat up straight. “I do feel quite old darling, for the first time in my life. And I apologize for not having made cookies. I just haven’t felt up to baking… or doing very much of anything lately.”
“That’s okay grandma, I came to see you. You don’t have to bribe me with cookies to come out here.”
The old woman chuckled briefly, but before she could respond, she began to hack and cough so violently that her body shuddered.
“Grandma! Are you okay?” Cadence asked worriedly, as she darted over to help.
Rosie shuddered and caught her breath again. “Oh, I’m fine, but I won’t be around forever.”
Stunned at the pure bluntness of this statement, Cadence regarded her grandmother solemnly. “What are you trying to say?” She paused, worriedly. “You aren’t… dying… are you grandma?”
Rosie turned and glanced at her granddaughter, her eyes still as lucid as always. “My dear, we all begin to die as soon as we are born. It’s how you choose to live that makes it all worthwhile.”
“I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic, but please don’t speak in riddles,” Cadence retorted as she walked over to the sink, picked up a coffee mug sitting in it, and began to clean it with a sponge. “Ow!” she exclaimed as she felt something sharp and noticed she had cut her finger on a small nick on the lip.
“My goodness, are you okay? I should have warned you about that, but I haven’t thrown it away because I am rather fond of that mug. Let me get you something for that,” the old woman muttered as she attempted to stand, wobbling in the process.
Cadence sighed. Although it still tingled, the bleeding had already stopped. “I’m fine grandma, it’s just a little cut, I’ll be fine- I’m more worried about you. Please don’t get up."
“You don’t still play do you?” Rosie asked, referring to the violin and apparently quite concerned. “If so, you should take care of that immediately. You don’t want anything to happen to your hands.”
I haven’t played in years, grandma. I’ll be fine, but what about that cough of yours?”
Rosie sighed. “I’m very old… much older than you think, dear. These things happen to us old folks.” She paused to gaze out the window, but soon continued. “Listen, I have something very special that I want to give to you while I still can, and I don’t want those harpies, or rather those... distant cousins... of yours, to get their hands on it.”
Cadence raised an eyebrow. “I know dad had a lot of nieces and nephews, but I don’t think they are harpies. Plus, you’ve already given me so much. I don’t need your violin.”
Rosie’s eyes gleamed for a brief moment before she laughed out loud. “Ha ha! I don’t even have the Strad here with me- it’s being appraised at the moment by an old acquaintance of your grandfather’s.”
Cadence lowered her eyes. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have just assumed…”
Rosie smiled. “Well my dear, the violin is a treasure in and of itself. It is beautiful, rare, and has a sound quality that is practically unequalled by duplicates made in more recent times. That is why Stradivarius instruments are so highly prized and desired in the first place. I was lucky to have won it.”
Cadence nodded in agreement, as she continued. “However, Antonio Stradivari did make others, and some still do exist today, as you know. Even though each one is hand-made and thus slightly different from another, they each were made the same way with the same types of materials…” The old woman closed her eyes and hesitated as if gathering her thoughts.
The silence, though brief, seemed a bit awkward, but soon Rosie continued resolutely. “I do have a truly unique treasure that is the only one of its kind in the world.” Her sideways glance could almost have been considered mischievous, and perhaps it was, were it not for the twinkle in her eyes which betrayed nothing. “And I want you to have it, since you are my greatest treasure of all.”
Cadence regarded her grandmother questioningly and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?” she enquired. “Did grandpa come up with a new way to make a special violin for you himself?”
The older woman laughed in such a way that was almost musical, before it was interrupted by another sudden coughing spell and the woman clutched at her chest as she began to heave and wretch again.
“Grandma!” Cadence exclaimed worriedly as she rushed towards the hacking woman and patted her on the back. “Are you okay? Can I get you some water?”
The older woman wheezed before straightening and taking a slow, deep breath. It did not take long before her breathing returned to normal. “Ah…” she said a bit more quietly as she caught her breath. “Thank you darling, but I’m alright. Now, back to more important matters.”
“Your health is the most important matter, grandma!” the girl insisted, as her eyes began to well with tears. “Whatever you have to tell or give me can wait until you’re feeling better. I had no idea you were sick! Mom didn’t mention anything to me about this when she came last. You need to lie down and rest! Let me help you to your room.” Cadence offered her hand, but Rosie did not take it. “What can I get for you?!?”
Rosie sighed. “This came on very quickly, and my dear, there is no time like the present. I don’t know how much longer I’ve got left. Plus, I have one last story to tell you.”
“Please don’t talk like that, grandma.”
“Well it’s the truth,” she said, lowering her voice again. “And I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
“Please don’t start,” she asserted sternly. Her tone was harsh, but not in a punishing way. She softened her voice before she continued. “Though I must admit that your sincere concern is refreshing, as you are probably one of the few of our family members who isn’t secretly wishing for me to croak in hopes of inheriting something. But that’s why I want to give you my most prized possession and keep it from those who wouldn’t truly appreciate it. Do allow an old woman to finish what she started. And believe me, I am very old.”
Frustrated, Cadence attempted to school her roiling emotions into something more manageable, and sat down as her grandmother removed a long wooden box from seemingly nowhere. She handed the box to her granddaughter who regarded it with curiosity.
The box was long and thin, no wider then the length of her hand, made of beautiful polished rosewood. A striking design of carved vines that coiled and twined in lovely curlicues with the occasional flower whose petals were inlaid with mother-of-pearl formed an encircling border along the edges of the top. A very fine leaf pattern that matched the smaller ones budding from the vines adorned the sides of the box, but these leaves were larger and more randomly spaced out. The fine artistry and the tiny details of the design were a testament to whoever created such a beautiful work of art.
“It’s a lovely box. Did grandpa make it?” the younger girl inquired as she ran her fingers over the lines and let them linger over the cooler inlaid flower petals.
The old woman smiled knowingly. “He did, and I suppose I should add that box to the list of one-of-a-kind items that I plan to give you.” She wheezed slightly again, but motioned for her granddaughter to sit back down before she went to get up to help.
“Your grandfather made that very special box a long time ago to house the very special item within it, which he also made. Go ahead and open it, though I have a feeling you know what’s inside.”
Yes, this is a case for a bow, Cadence thought as she opened it and what she saw confirmed her speculation. However, it was like no bow she had ever seen, and she gasped, beside herself. True, it was the same size and shape as any other bow, its stick made from fine Pernambuco wood, the frog of ebony, as was the one she had always seen her grandmother use to play with. However, what made this bow stand out was the hair that it had been strung with. Instead of white horsehair, this hair was silvery and shimmered in the dull light of the room as if it emanated a small degree of its own light. It stood out even more against the navy blue velvet pillowing which held it in place within the case.
“What is this?” Cadence asked, examining the bow and removing it from its container. Her forefinger accidentally brushed a piece of the fine hair-like material near the frog and a warm, pleasant tingle shot up her arm as if she had touched a live wire, though there was no pain. “Ah!” she exclaimed in surprise, and quickly handed it to her grandmother. “It’s beautiful, but I have never seen anything like this before.”
“And nobody else ever will.” Her graceful fingers curved perfectly at the base as she held it up, to keep it balanced and level in front of them. “I have only ever used this bow to play for myself, your grandfather, and for your mother when she was very sick as a child.”
“Mom was sick as a child? I didn’t know that.”
Rosie closed her eyes. “Oh yes, it was terrible. She was diagnosed with leukemia at a very young age, and was given a grim prognosis. Grandpa and I were heartbroken, and it seemed like your mother was always in the hospital. Plus, in those days, they did not have the treatments available today. It soon became clear that your mother was badly suffering, so for some reason I sat by her hospital bed and played to her with this bow. I don’t even remember what I played, as I was so distraught, but the following week she made a complete recovery. I don’t believe she remembers even being in the hospital at all.”
“That’s pretty amazing that mom went into remission that quickly,” Cadence marveled at the information her grandmother had just given her. “I never knew that.”
“Honey, she was completely cured. Her doctors were amazed, and we were elated.”
“Really?” Cadence regarded the bow again questioningly. “That’s an incredible story grandma, but do you really think it was because of the music? And why do you keep the bow hidden away if it supposedly heals people?” the girl asked.
“Yes, I know it was. Plus, the less attention the better, and the fewer questions asked.”
Cadence chuckled. “Well yes, if what you say is true, then something like this would tend to warrant a lot of questions…”
Rosie chuckled back. “You really do take after me, darling. I keep it hidden in order to protect an old friend, though I’m not sure it’s necessary at this point.”
Cadence raised an eyebrow quizzically. “An old friend?” She paused. “Well, I see that you are just full of secrets then, grandma. But if what you say is true, why didn’t you use it when grandpa died?”
Rosie looked sullen. “As you know, your grandfather was killed instantly in a horrible car accident. The bow only heals. It doesn’t resurrect.”
“Ah.” Cadence knew about the accident, but wished she remembered him a little more than she did. “So what did grandpa use to string it with that makes it work?” she inquired, gesturing to the shimmering hair-like material. She whispered, “Was it stolen?”
Cadence could have sworn she almost heard the older woman smile. “Would you believe me if I said it was unicorn hair?”
The girl would have laughed or chuckled at the least, but her grandmother’s face and tone made her swallow and stop before she started. “Yeah right grandma, what is it really?” she enquired, rolling her eyes as a smirk ghosted across the corners of her mouth. “I’m not five years old anymore. You can tell me.”
“I’m serious my dear.”
“Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”
Rosie surveyed her granddaughter with scrutinizing eyes. “Hmm. Let me tell you the story then,” the woman said, closing her eyes as she remembered. Her granddaughter sighed and sat down next to her as she began. “Many years ago, when I was much younger, I still lived in this very house. One day I was out walking in the woods and heard a rustling in the branches. When I looked to see what was there, I saw a buck that was missing an antler, struggling to walk. The end of an arrow was sticking out of his shoulder, which was bleeding very badly.
I slowly approached, thinking I would most likely scare it away, and it did jump swiftly aside, but I could tell it was weakened because it stumbled a little when it landed and its legs were quivering as it stood watching me from a distance. For some reason I felt an incredible urge to help the creature, but it wouldn’t come near me.”
“Poor thing,” Cadence agreed.
“Yes,” continued Rosie. “So I went back to the house and picked up my violin, hoping to soothe the creature with some music at the very least, and perhaps get it to trust me. It was all I could think to do, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was thinking or if it would even work. However, it was gone when I went back anyway.”
“So what does an injured deer have to do with a bow strung with unicorn hair?” the younger girl asked, rolling her eyes.
“Well let me tell you,” Rosie stated matter-of-factly. “I started playing anyway, figuring the deer couldn’t have gone far, and sure enough, I soon noticed those dark eyes staring at me again from behind a large patch of brush. What compelled me to play, I’ll never know, but it hadn’t made a sound coming back. It just stared at me, almost eerily, as I began to play Edvard Grieg’s ‘Morning.’”
“Oh, I love that song!” Cadence blurted out. “It’s so beautiful, but isn’t the melody played on a flute?”
“Well usually… but I played it on the violin instead. I always found it very calming and soothing, so I played the melody, and sure enough the deer came a little closer. I assumed it was listening, though it was unusual behavior for a deer, which I figured might just run away again at the sound anyway. But it didn’t, and kept inching closer, so I kept at it. I just had a feeling it was the right thing to do.
Finally it had come close enough that I could touch it if I took a step forward. The poor thing was still shaking, but I didn’t move and just kept playing. It was bleeding a lot and my heart just went out to it. Finally, it took the final step, but collapsed right there on the ground.”
“What did you do?” the girl asked, suddenly enraptured by the story.
“Well I tried to help. I also called for your grandfather who came and helped me bring him to the workshop. He was a relatively small animal, and we probably could have carried him together, but we ended up using blankets to support him. He tried to jump up and stand, so with the blankets slung under him, we held him up as he hobbled and we guided him to the workshop. We made some room inside and spread those blankets for him to lie on. Then once we were settled, your grandfather managed to take the arrow out very carefully using some of his tools. He was so gentle, and although the buck jumped when he finally got it out, he seemed to know we were helping him. I then bandaged him up with some cloth. In those days we didn’t have sterile gauze or anything like that at hand, but what we had worked.”
“That’s amazing that it didn’t go crazy with fright and run around, ruining everything grandpa was working on in there,” the girl mused.
“Well he was worried about that, but we both wanted to try to help anyway. Plus we both had a strange feeling that he wouldn’t do anything. We figured it best to keep an eye on him overnight for this very reason and to make sure he was okay. I sat with him that evening and played him music all night. Your grandfather thought it was silly, but the deer eventually fell asleep.”
“Wow, that’s so unusual for a wild animal to behave so well,” Cadence thought aloud, pouring herself a glass of water and regarding the cut on her finger mindlessly.
“Yes, but I must have fallen asleep to at some point because in the morning when I woke up, he was gone and the doors of the workshop were open. I could have sworn the doors were closed overnight, so I went outside and saw something that I would never have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes.”
“Let me guess. It was... a unicorn?” Cadence presumed aloud, skeptically.
“Good guess,” Rosie beamed. “But it wasn’t like the creature of our legends, and it most certainly didn’t resemble a pretty little horse or pony at all, save for having four legs, a head, and a mane and tail- though it was beautiful in its own way- the most beautiful animal I have ever seen.” Rosie sighed as she remembered, the corners of her mouth arcing into a distant smile as she continued.
“He was ferociously wild, and he pawed the ground before me with his cloven hooves. He then reared, and his hooves cracked like thunder when he came down before standing perfectly still. His dark gaze pierced my very soul as he just… looked at me. He had completely healed, and just standing before him seemed surreal as his silvery mane and tail seemed to catch the breeze and dance with it, making it seem like he was a part of the very wind that gusted around us. Plus, the horn that jutted from his forehead was not golden as in the legends or those gift-shop statuettes, but rather long compared to his head, and not perfectly straight either, more like a gnarled branch that tapered to a very sharp point. It was also practically transparent, like crystal or glass, with a pearly sheen when the light hit it at just the right angle.”
“You seem to remember this well,” the girl added incredulously, playing along in her own way. “Weren’t you scared?”
“Well it was a rather memorable moment!” Rosie exclaimed. “You know, I wasn’t frightened at all. I was more awestruck than anything.” Her eyes glinted. “And then he lowered his head and let me pet his face- it was like touching snow.” Cadence still looked rather skeptical. “Would you believe that when I touched him, I could read his thoughts?”
Cadence regarded her grandmother cynically as her story seemed to get more and more outrageous as she went. “Oookaaayyy Grandma... I think your medication may have been too high a dose for you,” Cadence said blankly. “I think you’re starting to hallucinate. Maybe you have been for a while and I should have stopped it earl…”
She was cut off when she felt Rosie suddenly grab her arm with a grip that seemed stronger than the old woman should have been able to muster. “LISTEN!” she snapped, a momentary bite in her tone. “He spoke to me not in words, but in feelings that I understood just as well, if not more so. Sure enough, he had been disguised as the deer, for it seems that unicorns are rather masterful at the art of magically concealing their true identities in a world full of people who would hunt them. However, he was grateful for our care and wanted to offer a gift in thanks. Apparently he was rather enamored with my music and offered me some of his hair, which he allowed me to cut off with a carving knife that your grandfather used to shape his violins. It tingled then too, when I held the tuft that I had been offered. And then… he was gone.”
“Just like that?”
“Yes, just like that. I didn’t even see him leave, it was as if he simply winked out of existence. And he did not tell me what to do with his gift, but your grandfather and I later could think of only one thing; make a very special bow, befitting of such a unique present. Maybe that was his intention all along.”
Not sure whether or not to consult the doctor about her grandmother’s medication dosages, Cadence raised an eyebrow but kept her thoughts to herself and decided to play along with the absurd story. I’ll have to look up synthetic bow fibers on Google when I get home, she thought. “So grandma, does the ‘magical’ hair make it sound any different when you play?”
Rosie chuckled, holding the bow in front of her, twisting the screw which caused the hairs to become taught and then rubbed a small block of rosin quickly and purposefully back and forth across the strings. “Allow me to demonstrate, but first, let’s go outside.” She rose and headed towards the door, balancing carefully on her walker, the wheels squeaking slightly with the movement before she stopped and looked back. “Oh, would you mind bringing along the violin in the music room? I’ll meet you out back.”
“Um, sure grandma…” Cadence hesitated, but complied. Being that her grandfather had made the instruments for a living, her grandmother had many violins in the house and often used that particular one to practice on when she wasn’t playing the Strad. Making a quick trip there and back, the girl emerged with the instrument and joined her grandmother in the backyard of the house, facing the woods. Together, the two were alone, the crisp winter air nipping at their skin, and Cadence shivered. Rosie however, did not. “Do you want me to bring you a jacket, grandma?”
“No need,” Rosie replied, and without further explanation, sat down on the old wooden bench leaving her walker off to the side. She then took the violin from her granddaughter, held it up, and began to play.
Granted, her grandmother was a renowned concert violinist, one of the best in the world no less in her prime, but the music that emanated from the violin was like nothing Cadence had ever heard her play, even with the famous Strad. The sound seemed to pierce her very soul, the building weeping melody washed over her, and she found herself practically swimming while standing still, surrounded in unexplainable waves of pure sound. As she listened, the music continually enveloped her to the point where she could almost physically touch it, and it swirled and blanketed around her as if it were a palpable breeze that she could grab and hold onto if she had wanted, and pull it close. Tears began to well up uncontrollably in the corners of her eyes before she wiped them away.
Suddenly Cadence realized that she felt warm and comfortable despite the chill. The sensation clashed with the dark gray sky and looming clouds, the shadows of which highlighted a very barren winter landscape despite the lack of snow. A pleasant shiver ran down her spine, and as the song became lighter and more upbeat, she felt her heart begin to do so as well. She turned towards her grandmother, and noticed that her eyes were closed, and she was smiling as she played, her body rocking back and forth as she did so.
The music was not only beautiful, but since Rosie had begun playing, it now had become a part of Cadence as well. It ran through her veins, pulsing with every beat of her heart, as she inhaled and exhaled it. She hoped it wouldn’t stop, because she feared she would stop breathing if it did. Her grandmother straightened, then slowly stood. Her frail and slender form looked as if the slightest gust of wind might blow her over, but astonishingly, she began to dance slowly while she continued to play. Cadence felt a sudden urge to stop her in fear that she might hurt herself, but she somehow had the feeling that she shouldn’t and just watched instead, the urge to dance too, growing. The woman was delicate, but the longer she played, the more her movements became astonishingly airy.
Rosie skipped along as she played a quick staccato bit which crescendoed into a Celtic-sounding melody emphasized with tiny trills and syncopated rhythms. She dipped and twirled as she continued, making up the music as she went, feeling it, the style changing to fiddle, to classical, to modern, and so on, her own sonata as she imagined it in her head was becoming a reality as she went.
Cadence’s eyes widened as she began to notice that where she danced, the grass began to turn green as opposed to the shriveled brown that it was due to the season. The ‘greening’ slowly spread from where the music was emanating, faster when the tempo increased, the blades growing taller as well, and slower when the music slowed. When it reached the closest tree, the leaves of it began to sprout almost instantly from its empty branches, a thick blanket of green filling the gaps between them. Wildflowers sprouted and bloomed around them as well, as the clouds parted and the formerly gray sky became bright and blue. The surrounding trees followed suit, blooming and flowering, as if the music was calling forth an early spring.
Cadence stared in awe, realizing that the music wasn’t just affecting her, but everything around them. Almost forgetting to breathe, she noticed that the beauty of the music seemed to attract all kinds of birds as well, which began flocking towards them from above. They spiraled around Rosie, practically glistening in a fluid, graceful glissade before they dispersed and settled down in the branches of the trees as if they were listening. Squirrels, foxes, and all manners of native rodents, in addition to a number of stray dogs and cats seemed to appear from out of the woods, and sat, as if listening too, in an almost perfect circle around the dancing woman playing the violin. Butterflies and insects swirled around her after the birds had ceased doing so, as if they were riding on the sound waves that the enchanted bow was creating in the hands of the master musician. Rosie poured her heart and soul into the music as she played it.
Her grandmother. Yes, the girl was watching her again, but she didn’t seem the same. She had drifted farther away as she danced, but Cadence could tell she was no longer the old woman who had been there minutes ago. Long blond hair flowed around her now flawless face, as a young woman twirled, her white nightgown now better fit her youthful body, and it appeared as if she were wearing a beautiful flowing dress that accentuated her movements.
She bent down, intensifying the music in resonating long bow strokes, her use of vibrato practically willing and beckoning the plants to grow and bloom, which they did. Cadence wiped away another set of tears as she joined her grandmother dancing; the now young woman looked up briefly and smiled, pausing her song. Cadence reached for her, wanting to touch her face, to verify that what she was seeing was not an illusion, and as she did so, the young girl noticed that the cut on her hand from earlier was completely gone.
“I believe you.”
Rosie winked and resumed her melody. It wasn’t long before the entire yard and surrounding forest was bursting with life. When Rosie finally stopped playing, Cadence couldn’t help but think the finale was somewhat anticlimactic. True, it had been beautiful like the rest, but there was no so-called ‘canon fire’ or intricate finger work that she would have expected from the woman, and that she had been known for. It was a simple ending that brought the melody simply and cleanly to completion. That was all, and it was perfect.
Cadence was at a loss of words as the young woman across from her turned, fixing her deep blue gaze on her granddaughter, though now they seemed to be about the same age. Cadence felt out of breath despite the fact that she had not been playing, yet energized and cleansed in a way she had never felt before and couldn’t quite describe. Tears streamed her face, as she was feeling both ecstatic and yet a sense of extreme loss at the cessation of the music. Her racing mind finally slowed down enough for her mouth to form coherent words. “G..gr..grandma?”
Rosie turned. “Yes my dear, it’s me.”
Cadence broke down into tears. “I believe you!” she sobbed, embracing the woman looking back at her before calming down and taking a breath. “Oh grandma, I have so many questions!”
“I wish I had more time to spend with you to answer them, but I am afraid a part of life is finding the answers for yourself.”
The younger girl’s eyes flashed in shock. “What do you mean …” She was interrupted by a rustling of the underbrush behind her in the woods. She turned quickly as the other smaller animals around them scurried back, and found herself gazing into a pair abysmally dark and captivating eyes. Cadence gasped and jumped back, losing her balance, but catching herself before she actually fell to the ground. She stared in awe at the pure white creature before her, as it practically glided towards Rosie; to say he ‘walked’ would have been an insult. The way he moved was more graceful than any creature she had ever seen.
“Hello my friend, it’s been a while,” Rosie said as she reached to stroke his long, slender neck and ran her fingers through his mane. The tip of his horn caught a glint of sunlight, which made it briefly illuminate and almost glow as if it were a ray of the setting sun. “Did you like the music?”
The unicorn smiled and nodded his head.
“I knew you’d come. You know it’s taken me my entire life to manage to call you back,” Rosie told him, then turned, gesturing to the other young woman. “This is my granddaughter, Cadence.”
The unicorn approached the younger girl, and laid his head in her wavering hands. A fitting name, my dear. It’s a pleasure. Cadence gasped. He had not spoken to her, but she had definitely felt what he meant to say as if he had spoken directly to her. It was a very odd sensation. “L-likewise,” she thought back.
The unicorn smiled and placed his head on Rosie’s shoulder. “It’s time.”
“Thank you, I’m ready” Rosie replied, handing her granddaughter the violin and the bow, who received it with trembling hands. “Cadence, we trust you’ll take good care of this.”
Tears were streaking the girl’s face. “D…don… don’t leave me grandma!” she sobbed as she held the woman’s perfect, youthful hand.
Rosie smiled and embraced her granddaughter. “As long as you keep the music in your heart, I never will.”
Cadence crushed a half-sob and nodded, her voice suddenly having left her. And then both her grandmother and the unicorn were gone. The surrounding yard and woods were once again barren, gray, and cold. A crow cawed in the distance, but all else was silent.
Cadence shivered and wiped the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her free arm. She regarded her gift as the golden sun glinted off the fibers, making them glow even more than they already were. “I promise,” she whispered.
* * *
“Can we get on with this?” a woman who Cadence had never met personally whined irritatingly a few chairs over from where she and her mother were sitting. Cadence snapped back to the present upon the woman’s rather rude comment and realized that the attorney was getting close to finishing. She admitted to herself that she actually was somewhat interested in who would end up getting the violin, so she sat up and paid closer attention.
The attorney glanced at the woman without saying a word, and continued at the same pace he had been slowly reading before.
My final provision is in regards to my Stradivarius violin.
A hushed silence filled the room, and he smirked.
I have arranged to auction it off, the proceeds of which will go to the National Association for the Treatment of Leukemia and Lymphoma (NATLAL), as well as the other charitable organizations which I have listed below…
Cadence and Grace couldn’t help but chuckle aloud as he read the rest, the flushed and flustered faces of the others left little doubt as to what they were thinking. Leave it to Rosie.