1 - Once More
Anne picked up 'Solfegietto no. 2 in C minor' by Bach and placed it on the music stand. She tucked her skirt underneath her as she settled into the familiar padded seat. She skimmed her eyes over the flurry of notes on the page, and fixed the tempo in her head. Her hands hovered over the keys. Anne clocked her mother's expectant glare out of the corner of her eye just before she began. She took a deep breath, and started to play.
Furiously fast notes escaped from the baby grand and filled the high-ceilinged drawing room. The air trembled with a single passionate melody. Anne's long, slender fingers flew up and down the keys, tapping out particular, articulated notes. She let the music fill her, let it rock her sideways and pull her into the instrument she was caressing the music out of. She put all her effort into producing the exact sound she wanted.
The song drew to a close quite soon after it had started - it was only a short piece. Anne sat back, arms falling limp to her sides. The piano became inanimate once more. The air grew quiet with anticipation. The show wasn't over yet. Anne didn't dare let out the breath she was holding. She slowly turned towards her mother and awaited her response.
Paula was a slim woman with a long, thin face, that - when she wasn't careful - could sometimes resemble that of a horse's. As she sat there masking her thoughts, this was the image that Anne couldn't help thinking of. Somehow, its comic nature didn't bring Anne any relief.
"It was fine," Paula stated briskly. Anne's face fell. Fine. That was all she got for her efforts. A measly fine. However, she wasn't surprised. She quickly swallowed the catch in her throat and held her mother's cool gaze.
"Your posture was poor," Paula continued with a clipped voice. "You could have rounded your hands more, and your tempo wavered in the middle section."
Paula made her daughter sit in the silence, letting her words sink in.
"Please may I finish for the day?" Anne asked politely, evenly. It was the summer holidays, after all. Most kids weren't forced to practice the piano for two hours every day, never mind be expected to actually do anything.
"Once more," Paula instructed, easily brushing aside Anne's request. Anne said nothing - only righted herself, and started again.
"Here, what about this one?" Jess suggested, holding out a small piece of material to Anne. It was later on in the evening, and Anne was sleeping over at her best friend Jess's house. They were going to watch a movie with popcorn, then have a hot chocolate and get into bed. Well, this is what Anne had told her parents earlier on in the day. The lie had rolled easily off her tongue, which worried Anne somewhat. But her parents didn't even consider their wonderful daughter could be lying to them. They wouldn't have let her go to Jess's if they knew what the girls were really going to get up to that night.
"Oh my God that thing is tiny!" Anne exclaimed, holding up the gold-studded black bralet which zipped up together at the front. Its straps were spindly and the material was thin. "My mother would die if she saw me in this!"
Jess grinned. "And that's why we aren't going to tell her," she explained, as if to a child. She slid over the bed and helped Anne get it on. "Hold still, Anne. And stop trying to cover yourself up - this top is supposed to show off your figure."
After many protests and flapping hands, Jess managed to get the top on. She took a step back and whistled. "Damn, girl. Look at yourself," she said, and turned Anne around to face the full length mirror on the back of the door. Anne's lips parted in shock. The top stopped just above her bellybutton - showing off her flat stomach and slender, toned arms. The gentle curve of her narrow waist caught the eye's attention, and her subtle hip lines looked inviting. She'd never felt so naked in all her life.
"You look amazing," Jess whispered, smiling.
"I look like a slut," Anne whispered, horrified. Her hands crept up to her mouth. Jess laughed. Sometimes her best friend was too much of a precious little girl to be true.
"Hey, don't take it off!" Jess protested. "That one's my favourite!"
"No, I can't wear this, Jess, I'm sorry. What about that one, over there?" Anne pointed to an alternative choice. Jess picked it off the floor from amongst the heaps of other clothes they'd tried on earlier, and held it up. She sighed.
"Anne, this is a hoodie."
Jess threw it to the floor. "Come on Anne, you've got to wear this one!" Jess whined, grasping the straps on Anne's bare shoulders. "Pretty pretty pretty please!"
"If you don't wear this you'll regret it," Jess warned. "You'll stick out like a sore thumb and no one will want to sit with you."
Anne looked into Jess's heart-shaped face and felt how badly Jess wanted her to wear that top. And deep down, Anne knew that she wanted to wear that top too. There was a tiny smidgen of her mind that wanted to rise against her parents and their strict rules, and just be like any other normal teenager. She wanted to have fun, and if that meant dress like a slut, then she wanted to do it.
But the most part of her knew what her parents would say. She knew what they would do. She knew they wouldn't want her to wear anything so provocative. She knew she shouldn't dare. She really shouldn't...
But Jess's big round eyes were so pleading...
Anne bit her lip, stuck in two minds about what to do.
"Anne..." Jess whimpered.
"Okay..." she relented eventually. Jess leapt up and down and clapped her hands together, squealing like a child.
"Great! And you've got some skinnies, haven't you?"
"Yes," Anne grumbled reluctantly.
"Wear them. I've got some heels you can borrow as well," Jess babbled. She grabbed Anne's hand and dragged her over to her dressing table.
"Let's get our faces on, then," she said. "And afterwards, I've got a little pre party treat for us!"
Jess reached under her bed and pulled out a bottle of coke mixed with vodka. She laughed when she saw how nervous and unsure Anne was.
"Come on, Princess," Jess pouted. Anne decidedly ignored Jess's comment and picked up some eyeliner. Jess couldn't help laughing.
After the girls had applied their makeup, they got substantially drunk in Jess's bedroom. They were throwing themselves about and giggling like mad. All Anne's worries about her parents' rules were conveniently forgotten. Why should she listen to them anyway? Jess stashed the empty bottle under her bed again, and the two climbed out of the bedroom window and made off into the darkness, chatty and excited, and ready for a good night.