by Pam Sears
Do you hear the music when no one’s there?
|Selene listened intently, holding her breath to try to hear if anyone was nearby. Not locating anyone she snuck into the music room and crept over to the upright piano near the back, sitting carefully on the bench seat. It creaked beneath her slight weight, causing her to wince and hold her breath, waiting for someone to appear and demand to know what she was doing. When no one did she blew out a relieved breath and turned her attention back to the intimidating instrument.
Her cousin Mina played, although she was still struggling to learn the basics. Of course, Mina was only eight. Her next oldest cousin, Thomas, was fourteen and preferred the violin much to her dismay. The boy was not skilled in his play and the agonized squawks produced by the instrument grated on her sensitive ears. It was all she could do to keep a pleasant look on her face whenever his mother invited people
to one of his “recitals”.
Selene carefully touched the keys of the piano, their smooth coolness barely felt under the soft graze of her fingertips. She used to play the piano. She sighed quietly. Of course, it was a very long time ago. And she hadn’t the advantage of the teachers available to Mina. When you were the youngest daughter of the local Parson in a small village you made your own advantages where you could.
Listening carefully once more to be certain no one was sneaking up or hiding nearby, Selene gently pressed down on the keys. And winced at the jangle produced. No, no. That was most assuredly not right. Taking a moment she slowly ran her fingers over the keys, playing individual notes until she found the one she was listening for.
Pleased, she rearranged her fingers and tried again. This time the notes were pleasing, harmonious, the chords producing a warm tone. Smiling she changed the chords several times then, pausing to listen once more, she began to play the song Mina had been struggling over for the last week.
Selene had wanted to weep whenever Mina played. She knew how that song was supposed to sound but no one believed she could play, not having had a “suitable” teacher. Gently, lightly, keeping her fingers curved and her wrists neutral, she played the song the way it was meant to be played. It was such a relief!
She lost herself in the playing, unaware of the passing of time or the room around her. She hadn’t been able to play a piano for the last year. She’d fallen ill with a raging fever and it had taken her eyesight from her. For some reason people seemed to think her brain went right along with her vision. She had to sneak into the music room if she wanted to play the piano. She tried to be considerate about it and not play at night (people needed to sleep after all) or when there was company (how do you explain the poor, blind relative to guests?) but that left precious little time for her stealthy musical forays.
“What are you doing?”
The curious little voice startled her and once again the notes jangled discordantly. Turning her head toward where the voice had come from Selene smiled sweetly.
“Good afternoon, Arabella.” She greeted her youngest cousin, only six. “How did you escape Teacher? I’m sure your mother believes you are having your lessons right now.”
Arabella giggled. “Missus Alvin is talking to that new footman. She thinks he’s a right hansom’ ‘un.” Selene winced at the slang. “I snuck out while she was giggling at him. What are you doing?” She repeated her earlier question.
Hoping to distract her Selene rose from the piano bench and moved carefully toward one of the chairs along the wall. “So if Miss Alvin is missing you, she will be along shortly to take you back to your lessons.”
Arabella’s dress rustled slightly. “Nuh uh. She won’t think to look in the Music Room. She doesn’t like it. She thinks it’s haunted.” The little girl confided.
“Oh, she does?”
“Yup. She says she always hears music coming from the room when she knows no one is supposed to be in here. What does “haunted” mean, Cousin Selene?”
Selene considered her answer carefully. She tried to always be honest with people yet she didn’t want to frighten the youngster.
“Well, there are some people who believe those who have… passed away… still stay here with us. And that, sometimes, they do things to try to get our attention. That thought can scare some people.”
“Passed away.” Arabella repeated thoughtfully. “You mean died? Like my kitten did?”
Selene nodded carefully, waiting to see what her cousin’s reaction would be.
“Can we see those that stay behind?” She wanted to know.
“There are those who believe you can.” Selene agreed.
“What do they look like?”
A smile tilted Selene’s lips. Arabella was all about satisfying her curiosity, not about being afraid of the unknown. To her, the unknown was just something she hadn’t figured out, yet, and nothing to be scared of.
“Well, I’ve never met one that I’m aware of.” Selene began. “But I would imagine they would still look like they did when alive. Except you can’t touch them.”
“As I understand it they are spirits, or what some refer to as ghosts. They say our inner spirit is a reflection of our outer body so I imagine they would look as they did while alive. But they no longer have a living body so they can’t be touched. You can see them, maybe. Even hear them, maybe. But touching isn’t possible.” Selene explained.
Arabella seemed to consider this for long moments then had another question. “Do they know they’re dead?”
That stumped Selene. “Well, I…” she paused, shaking her head. “That is a very good question, dear. I don’t know. As I said, I’ve never met one. Nor has anyone I know met one.”
“Well, when I meet one, I shall ask them if they know they are dead.” Arabella decided.
A distant voice could be heard calling Arabella’s name and Selene tilted her head, listening. “It sounds as if Miss Alvin is looking for you, dear. You should go. It isn’t nice to hide from your teacher. She could get into trouble if your mother thought Miss Alvin had lost you.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later?” The little girl’s voice inquired sweetly.
“I’m sure you will, dear. Remember? I live here, now.” Selene smiled, face turned in the little girl’s direction as her feet pattered toward the door.
Selene heard the door open then a pause before Arabella spoke again, sending chills down her cousin’s spine.
“Cousin Selene? Did you know you were dead?” She asked before the door quietly snicked shut.