The wobbly bench – 3/3

My fingers brushed over the closed lid. The mahogany was dusty and I left streaks through the thin layer. I lay both hands on the lip and let out a deep, breath. It hadn’t been played in years. I hadn’t played in years. Notes started to fill my mind. My eyes closed and I drifted back to where my smaller fingers navigated the white and black keys. I could smell the new pages of the music book that was nestled in the small stand before my eyes. My hands felt the coolness of the keys and my skin warmed as the distant tempo rose and my fingers moved to meet it.

I could feel the presence of my tutor at my side, watching silently as I plodded through the notes and struggled through the hard combinations. As I got to the highest cord, the keys dulled and the note soured by a frayed line. I felt Mrs. Sanders gray framed brow frown, her wrinkles sinking into the heavy makeup she constantly had plastered to her face.

She shouted out to John, her husband who always came with her when she gave lessons. The sound of his paper folding rustled through my memories and the smell of his cologne filled my nose.

As we slid off of the bench it creaked and wobbled as the small bit of folded cardboard sagged. Mrs. Sanders motioned me over to the window as John started on the piano. She talked about rhythm and the scales but I looked around her curious to watch as the inside of the instrument was exposed. She could see my attention was far from her words and she guided me back over.

John started to explain what lay inside. He pointed at the hammers and cords and showed me what really happened when I pressed the keys to play each note. With his tools held comfortably in his calloused hands, he went to work, tuning and ensuring each note was crystal and clear. He offered once more to fix the wobbly bench but Mrs. Sanders shooed him on so that the lesson could continue. It had only taken a few moments to fix the single key and return my little self back into place.

The scents and sounds faded and my eyes opened once more. I looked down at the closed lid beneath my still hands. My fingers began to tingle with an old joy. I dusted off the feeling as I wiped the cover clear and lifted it open. The hinges groaned, arguing against being used after years of being abandoned. The keys seemed to glow as they enjoyed a bath in light once more. My fingertips brushed against the surface and finally still above the first cord I had ever learned. My chest filled with a nervous breath as I pressed down.

The sour sound that filled the air broke a barrier of nervous tension that had been hanging on my shoulders. Maybe I couldn’t play like I used to, but neither could the piano. I could see Mrs. Sanders frown and the hallway behind me echoed with John’s slow step. I’d have to find someone to fix it if I was going to really use the instrument. I didn’t think I could find anyone like John. I sagged down onto the bench. It took me a moment to realize what was missing. It didn’t wobble.

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