Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)
TITLE: The final music
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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There is too much sorrow in these eyes, too many shared secrets, too much grief that would haunt her well into her adult years. She is wearing a starched pink party dress with a prim and proper bow and the obligatory black curt shoes and white socks.
She stands like a miniature statue beside the grand piano, very stiff and unmoving, her eyes sunken and ageless. She just turned eight and today, they are burying her twin sister who was…who had been her mirror image. Two years ago, she'd also stood like this, as she and her sister made solemn music as they buried their father.
Her eyes turn to where the guitar stands. Vickie's guitar. Vickie of the endless humour, mischievous laughter and silly jokes. Vickie who never could stop talking about how famous they would be. Vickie who now lay in the little black box.
"Are you okay?"
Katie turns to the voice, to the ravaged face of her mother, the only person she has in the world now. Her eyes fill with a million drops of tears and she squeezes them shut, against the pain, against the loss, against the emptiness that rages inside of her.
"No mama. Did she have to die?"
There is no suitable or sensible reply, so she gets none. All she gets is a gentle squeeze and eyes that shine with love and sadness at the same time.
They'd never had much money but when their dad was alive, theirs had been a loving family whose only excess had been music. They couldn’t afford to send the kids to posh schools but they had scrapped together to buy a grand piano and an accompanying guitar. Vickie instantly took to the guitar and swore she'd always love it, which left Katie no choice but to adopt the piano. And thus began many nights of passion-filled music. Nights of love, laughter and gaiety.
Then that terrible night when the man of the house woke up with terrible pains. There'd been no prophecy, no indication that he had cancer of the colon. Six hours later, he had bled to death.
The pastor begins the sermon, a very brief and hopeful one. But all Katie can think of is Vickie's pale face, her trembling lips, and her quivering limbs as she struggled to make her final breath stretch longer. But the leukaemia had been too strong, too swift, too final.
Katie bites her lips to keep from crying but the tears would not stop flooding her face. She bends over, unaware that several eyes are watching concernedly.
"Now we'll have Katie play us some music."
Someone nudges her and leads her to her gleaming piano. It takes a while to realize it is her mother that holds her by the shoulder. She sits, bows her head for the briefest of seconds and gathers courage.
As she closes her eyes, she envisions Vickie beside her, holding on to her beloved guitar and urging her to play. She then delicately touches a finger to the keys and taps out the first stanza of <i>Amazing grace</i>. As she plays, someone begins to sing. She loses herself in the music she's playing and tries desperately to think of Vickie in heaven, hand in hand with Jesus, as the tears clouds her face and wets her hands.
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