Sunday, 12/08/2250 – By Rebecca Green.
Like a flowing river, notes spilled from the hairs of her bow, each one fashioned by the tingle of strings that stretched the length of her fingerboard. Even as she played, the swan maiden would reach up and tighten or loosen the pegs that millimeter she could tell was off. Her song briefly halting for each change, but every few beats she did it again.
Aelita had always loved the violin. She poured her heart and soul into the instrument more often than not. She had been learning since she was three, piano a bit earlier. Of course simple stuff then, but quickly Aelita had grown used to playing proper pieces by the time she was seven, and it only had flourished from there. She’d been in the advanced symphony from the moment she became a third year, and first seat violin since fifth.
The wooden instrument meant everything to her and she was good at it, one of the best. She had to be. Her fingers were steady, her arm careful to contain the piece of art in her grasp. Dropping it would have to be her worst nightmare, Aelita couldn’t imagine losing it, not anymore. Not when her father had been the one to pick it out with her when she turned sixteen and had outgrown her last.
He’d always loved to hear her play. See her sway with the music and her face steady with a concentration and silence that she nearly never held otherwise.
Today was a rough day.
Her fingers hit the rocks in her stream of music and every few notes her finger would flutter from the board to pegs. Again and again. It was never perfect enough, and quickly the maiden’s eyebrows furrowed, her feet shuffling toward each other and her finger shaking in a vibrato that she didn’t mean to create.
She closed her eyes tight and she wasn’t sure how long they were closed, but Aelita certainly hadn’t heard the door open.
The girl, Amelia Caverly, stood off to the side, having slipped in the side door of the stage carrying a large black case, holding her own beloved cello. She’d begun up the steps when she noticed the girl, standing perfectly still with her violin in the center of the stage. It was Aelita, everyone knew Aelita. She was the lead of the orchestra and to be the star of their Christmas concert that was coming up. Amelia waited for a moment, sure that Aelita was going to do something. Perhaps she was making considerations for her next piece, as Aelita was well known for practicing in the auditorium at all hours, particularly early in the day. God knew how she functioned getting up at five in the morning, and likely to stay up as late as the night was long.
When Aelita did not move, Amelia’s eyes narrowed. She’d noticed the girl had been quiet in class, not nearly as animated as she had once been, but right then it was as if Aelita were a statue. A far cry from the chatterbox, picture perfect high schooler she had been. Finally, Amelia called out.
The response was instant, Aelita jumped nearly a foot in the air as she swiveled around and now that they were facing each other, Amelia caught a glimpse of reflective tears in Aelita’s eyes.
“Aelita!” She exclaimed, “Are you alright?”
All at once, Aelita was shaking her head, eyes pressed closed once more and raising a hand to rub against the temple of her head. The violin she treasured hung limply at her side. Aelita opened her mouth, but no words came out and she quickly shut it before she began to shake.
Amelia crossed the stage quickly, resting a hand on Aelita’s shoulder and gently tugging, “C’mon Aelita, you look like you’re about to collapse. Sit down.” An order more than anything, but Aelita complied willingly enough. A certain weakness as she sat down and her classmate sat beside her, taking her hand.
“Aelita what’s going on? You’ve been acting off since Thanksgiving- you weren’t too shaken up by the blizzard, were you?” Aelita shook her head, “Then what is it? You’ve been pushing yourself too hard, haven’t you?”
“I’ve just-” Aelita hiccuped, taking in a quick ragged breath as she tore her hand away to rub at her eyes, her violin softly tumbling from her lap to the ground and she quickly picked it back up. Cradling the instrument like a lifeline. “… God, it’s been a lot. A whole lot.” She was shaking her head again, unable to look at Amelia.
The girl wasn’t having it as she leaned forward and grasped Aelita’s shoulder once more, gently tugging her to look at her. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Aelita nodded. They weren’t close… not as close as she and Dora had been, but they had been in the same year since first year and Amelia was a nice girl. She’d call them… friends. But she’d call nearly everyone her friend and Aelita had to admit that it was difficult for her to be able to call anyone really close to her. Not anyone she could talk to, anyway. No one would replace the three that really mattered. Two wouldn’t speak to her, and the third was dead.
“Then talk to me,” Amelia continued to urge, reaching forward to brush a strand of hair that had begun to stick to Aelita’s teary face away. “I know we aren’t besties, but you can talk to me. I can help! But I can’t if you don’t tell me one hundred percent what’s going on.”
“Things… things happened.” Avoiding the topic, even still. It didn’t come naturally to her to talk about her own feelings. She’d been taught to do otherwise and often times her father had been the only one she could speak completely freely to.
Amelia finally pursed her lips, falling back for a moment and the two fell silent. Then Amelia lurched forward, curling a fist around the neck of Aelita’s violin and tore it away, jumping to her feet and skirting away.
Aelita was stumbling to her feet a split second later, wiping her eyes with both hands as she exclaimed, “Hey-!”
“If you want your violin back, Aelita, you’re going to have to talk to me!” Amelia teased by awkwardly raising the violin to her shoulder as she so often saw others do in their orchestra. She hadn’t done so herself more than a handful of times when she’d experimented in her first year of Symphony. Her hand on the bow was abysmal at best, but still she clumsily laid it against the strings.
“I-” Aelita stumbled in her words, both arms finally crossing in front of her as she stood rigidly. Both eyes on her violin before looking down at her feet. “I- I told Dora I loved her and…” Her words quickened, a flurry of confessions that spilled out of her mouth with none of the grace that the notes did from her violin. “She must hate me! I completely ruined our friendship and Gwen still won’t talk to me since our dad died- she thinks it’s my fault because we both had hemophilia but now he’s gone and I won’t ever speak to him again, and probably never to my sister because she hates me too. Now I can’t even play my violin right I keep messing up and-”
Amelia raised both hands halfway through Aelita’s outburst, the violin and bow dangling in her grasp as she finally interrupted. “Woah, okay, that’s a lot.” She hesitated before going on, “You’re still a great violin player. And you’re a straight A student, aren’t you?”
Aelita nodded, but she was gloomy as she replied. “I’m almost at a B in English though… I was late on one assignment and Gryph wouldn’t give me an extension and we completely bombed that presentation.” She looked miserable at the thought.
“Okay well- I don’t know what to say, honestly. You don’t need all A’s, y’know? I’ve heard you come here every morning at five to practice your violin and dancing and piano, and God knows how much later you stay up doing homework after how much socializing you do. You’re working yourself to death, Aelita. You can’t overwork yourself on top of all that stress. Midterms are just in a week, the concert is this week. Go to your dorm and take a good long nap, okay?”
Aelita looked stricken at the girl’s words. Unsure of how to respond, and in all honesty they weren’t particularly helpful, but Amelia wasn’t done.
“You need to talk to me, Aelita. Or if not me, than someone. I know Dora wouldn’t ever hate you, you’re her best friend even if she doesn’t love you like that. You’re miserable without her and you room with her so I’m sure that doesn’t help you at all with relaxing. Why don’t you talk to her?”
“I can’t.” Aelita insisted, “I just can’t. It hurts to look at her and I know she must feel awkward talking to me. I should have known better than to push that onto her, I knew she wasn’t comfortable with relationships just yet, least of all with a girl. I just- convinced myself it was okay. After my dad and Gwen-”
“I heard about that.” Amelia interrupted once more, intent on keeping Aelita from digging herself into another pit. “Your father. I’m sorry about that. I know what it’s like to have a rough family life, but… I don’t know, I can’t give you much advice. Me and my brother kinda have it rough too, y’know? But I still love the ass. I know that Gwen won’t hold it against you for too long. She’s just younger. She’ll talk to you again, she still loves you.”
“My mom told me over text.” Aelita blurted out, “She texted me that my dad had died.”
Amelia blinked, “Wow.” She shifted, tucking the violin under her arm. “That’s kinda low. I see where you get your whole not-talking-about-feelings thing. Has she always been like that?”
“Yeah.” Aelita looked off into the distance for a moment before back down at her shoes. “I can’t remember the last time she said she loved me.”
Amelia waited a moment, but in the silence she was moving forward. Her arms wrapping around the swan maiden in a tight hug, carefully holding the violin as she did. “I’m sorry.”
She pulled back after a minute, but she smiled at the swan maiden as she did. “I don’t know what to say but, it’s going to get better, y’know? Just don’t worry about getting one B in your perfect record. I’m sure you could talk to Gryph about your presentation, he’ll understand if you tell him about your father. I know that you and Nessa weren’t really the best of partnerships.” The two working together had been an absolute disaster, and Amelia had been glad to have Laleh as her own partner. “But, go.” Amelia held the violin out in front of her, pushing it into the girl’s arms. “Go take a nap.”
Aelita blinked at her, carefully taking the instrument back into her own grasp. “I can’t-”
“Yes you can.” Amelia retorted, putting both hands on her hips and glaring. “Go, don’t argue with me. You might have that whole Mama Eagle thing going on, but you need a mother and clearly yours isn’t too hot right now.”
Aelita held still for a moment, but then she nodded. “Okay.” Her reply was quiet, but Amelia nodded happily.
“Good, here-” She reached down and carefully picked up Aelita’s case, “Here’s your violin case. Put it away and don’t touch it for at least a full thirty-six hours. You need a break, and even Professor Marquart says you can’t play your life away.” The suggestion brought a look of near horror on the girl’s face. “It won’t kill you. Go on, go take a nap, try and talk to Dora, and get your minimal homework done. Talk to Gryph tomorrow in class.”
Aelita only nodded, not replying and instead taking Amelia’s advice to heart. Amelia leaned forward and gave her another quick hug as Aelita clicked the latches of her case shut and held it at her side. Aelita gingerly returned the hug and when Amelia pulled away, Aelita gave a smile. A little forced, but at least there.
“Of course!” Amelia replied, a large grin and upbeat, “You go have fun now!” Aelita followed her instructions, hopping down from the stage and heading toward the door, turning to give a quick wave before disappearing down the hall. She didn’t feel a whole lot better, but she wasn’t crying and maybe a good nap was exactly what she needed.