Vivaldi's Spring

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

A wordless revelation.

I had sat next to Alison Percy during orchestra practice for three months. She was a girl of remarkedly few words, and her position as my ‘seating buddy’ had not been decided by either one of us. Instead of becoming acquainted with me, she spent the entire hour of orchestra practice becoming acquainted with the metal brackets cemented to her teeth, running her tongue along them incessantly as she made a point of avoiding any human interaction. 

The person responsible for this seating arrangement was Mr. Fitzwilliams, the orchestra conductor. He was a small man with legs that seemed to take up only the bottom third of his body, staggering under the weight of his ballooning stomach . He was fond of a novelty tie, and was known for always having a browning banana on his desk that he replaced once per fortnight. 

As he flopped his hands around in front of middle school musicians sat in blue plastic chairs, he would tilt his chin to the ceiling and close his eyes. This, some may imagine, was a display of sheer joy at the music reverberating through the school hall. I imagined it was so he could pretend that he was anywhere other than here. Conducting 32 sweaty state-school teenagers, present only because their parents had paid for lessons at the start of the term, was likely not the scene that had filled his boyhood dreams. 

I would turn the pages for Alison and I. When Alison tried to do it, she'd miss beats and then I'd hear her furiously sucking spit through the rivets of her braces as she tried to catch up. I hated that sound. Not just because it was stomach-turning, but because it showed how much she cared. Without ever having exchanged a word with Alison, I knew that there was nothing more important to her in the world than this hour, sat on these plastic chairs, getting the notes right whilst everyone else got them wrong. 

On the evening of our winter showcase, Allison called in sick. The typical pre-Christmas vomiting bug was going around, and so there were a few empty plastic chairs. Mr. Fitzwilliams looked at the one next to mine and grimaced.

“Oliver, move seats”. 

Oliver, slumped in hischair at the very opposite corner of the stage, made no attempt to move. He was intently reading a book.

“Oliver, now!”

Without raising his gaze, and still holding the book out in front of him, he slowly slid through the chairs and dropped himself down next to me. We didn’t have any classes together, but of course I knew that he had only joined the school last term. People said that he moved here from Norway. Apparently he spoke French. For our school, sat in the middle of a cluster of villages that people were born in, lived in, died in, a French speaking Norwegian was incomprehensibly exotic. I don’t think he had many friends. 

Subtly, I observed him. For some reason, the front cover of his book was completely ripped off and I could see the orange-edged pages inside. His tie was loose and his sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing his veiny arms underneath. 

The stage lights were blazingly hot. I started to sweat in my school jumper. My hair suddenly felt lank and my lips stuck to my gums. 

“Right, here we go everybody,” panted Mr. Fitzwilliams, “let’s get this show on the road!”.

Oliver slammed his book shut, picked up his violin, and rested back into his seat. A thud reverberated through the metal of my chair. I raised my own violin to my chin. 

The curtains rose to reveal the blank faces of our parents. Dad was in the audience; he always took the winter concert. Mum took the spring ones when she couldn’t think of an excuse. Both of my parents had attended this school, as had their own parents before them. I wondered what my dad felt when he came back to this hall once a year. Did the smell of floor polish and stale lunchtime-chips vinegar jab him in the stomach, asking where forty years had gone?

With a swish of his baton, Mr. Fitzwilliams stirred us into action with a creaking rendition ofVivaldi’s Spring. I had been learning the violin for seven years, but, quite honestly, I couldn’t tell you why. I think I started because the lessons meant you could stay inside on a Monday lunchtime instead of being turfed out onto the playground. That seemed appealing during the grey winter months and now, after all this time, I still showed up to my weekly lesson. It had been years since I’d taken my violin home to practice, but Mr. Grindleton didn’t seem to notice or care.

The song creaked on and, out of instinct, I reached to turn the pages of the sheet music. Once I’d turned the page a second time, I felt Oliver put down his violin and stare at me. 

I leaned forward again to adjust the music, but my fingers never touched the page. In one swift movement, Oliver picked up his bow, speared the paper with its pointed end, and flung the music off the stage. 

I heard gasps from behind us, but the song continued as I lowered my violin. I turned to look at Oliver. Maintaining eye contact, and without altering his expression, he dramatically settled his violin under his chin as though he had been invited to play for a royal audience. He started to push and pull his bow against the strings in long, rhythmless, sweeping strokes. 

For a few seconds I paused, and then I tucked my own violin under my chin and started to play. Feeling the bow bite against the strings as I pushed and pulled harder, the muddled notes screeched out increasingly ferociously. The others around us tried to continue, but it was no use; the song was beyond saving. I could see Mr .Fitzwilliams, face red, stomach heaving, wildly surveying the disarray before him.

My heart thudded in my chest and I felt myself laughing, the peels of it swept up into the roaring chaos of the music. 

Submitted: June 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Emilia Dylan. All rights reserved.

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Serge Wlodarski

Good story.

Mon, June 1st, 2020 3:44pm

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