Behind the Music: Part One
"Where is it?" a slender, green Lenny ran his fingers through
a blue handbag. He felt everything that he didn't need - fingernail clippers,
his sister's file, cotton swabs, and various other bottles of who-knows-what.
Removing his hand without success, he closed the case with a frustrated sigh and
entered his bathroom. It had to be somewhere in here. Things like that
didn't just disappear! He opened the sliding cupboard doors and peered inside.
Nothing. Why did this always happen to him when he needed something immediately?
Nothing ever seemed to go right for him, no matter how carefully he had planned
Next came his sister's bathroom, then her purse,
then the hall bathroom and the linen closet. No success. Where could it be?
he wondered. He went back through and checked everything again, then double
checked. Zero. He knew he would need it today, unless, of course, he wanted
to be laughed at when he made his appearance at the Neopian Rehabilitation Center.
That was the place the roughest of Neopians were sent for counseling and discipline.
Thundering down the stairs, the Lenny saw his
sister, a cloud Peophin, sitting on their living room couch reading the comic
section of the Neopian Times. "Poe, where did you put the tweezers?"
"I dunno," POE said without looking up. "Did
you check the bathroom?"
"Yes - three times."
"Well, that's the only place I know it would
be. Go check again." She turned around on the sofa with her back towards her
brother, indicating she was "occupied".
With a grumble, the Lenny mounted the stairs
again. He knew the tweezers weren't in any of the bathrooms or the other semi-normal
places a pair of tweezers would be kept. Maybe he should check his room again.
Frustrated and disgruntled, the Lenny entered his room and stopped short. There,
lying on his dresser, were the tweezers he had so diligently been searching
for, right where he left them last night. Clenching a fist and resisting the
urge to shout, the Lenny held his breath for a few moments, then let it out
slowly. He picked up the tweezers and turned on a bright light to remove the
splinter he had acquired earlier that morning.
The Lenny let himself sink into his bed. How
could he have been so forgetful? 'Nervousness' was the first word that
popped into his head. It wasn't every day a classical violinist was invited
to play anywhere, let alone at a place set-aside for the not-so-nice Neopians.
The Lenny jolted upright, not wanting to dwell on the thought for long. He reached
over the side of his bed and lifted a hard, black case to his lap. Opening it,
he smiled at the sight of his beloved, well-worn violin. He had been playing
the instrument since he was about nine years old, and mastering the instrument
had become his lifelong passion. Not for a moment did he regret all the missed
Gormball games or Meerca Chase championships, for he was of the opinion he had
acquired a skill whose worth far outweighed being able to beat others in competitions
of strength. Smiling ever so slightly, the Lenny lifted his violin out of the
case and positioned it on his shoulder and under his chin, then raised the bow
and began practicing the musical piece he would be performing that afternoon.
Barely two minutes later, his sister knocked
on his door. "Miroslav! Have you eaten anything yet?"
Miroslav rolled his eyes at the interruption
and lowered his bow, "No . . ."
"Well, come on! I've got some food on the table
"Who needs to eat when they could be playing?"
Miroslav grumbled, but did as he was told. He carefully replaced the violin
in the case and snapped it shut. He carried his violin with him down the stairs,
this time descending the stairs quietly. He entered the kitchen silently and
sat down at the table. Somehow POE had managed to wrench herself from the comics
and dig out some half-eaten omelettes and Neocola from the cupboard and set
them out on the table in a halfway orderly fashion. "Wow, this is a balanced
breakfast!" Miroslav teased.
POE looked at him harshly, "Let's see you do
better, dearie. Ever since Mom-"
"I know . . ." Miroslav interrupted. "I don't
want to talk about it."
"Well, we need to, Miro," POE said. "You can't
live in denial forever - and you certainly can't count on your violin to hide
you from reality."
Miroslav's eyes shot to hers. A look of regret
passed over her face. It was obvious she had hit a nerve. "I am not hiding!"
Miroslav spat. "I . . ." he felt a lump form in his throat and refused to speak
POE touched his hand, "Miro, I'm sorry." The
last thing she wanted to see was her brother burst into tears. "I'm just . .
. I'm just tired of feeling like I'm doing everything by myself." She withdrew
her hoof and stared at her plate.
A few moments later, Miroslav spoke, "You know
you're not, don't you? I mean, you may feel like you are, but you're not. Gelrelt's
family has been helping."
POE nodded, thinking of the Darigan Moehog and
his family down the street. "I know. But I wish you would do more. Gelrelt
can't help forever. I need to know you're going to be here for me. Lately all
you've been doing is playing your violin . . . I need you."
"I know." Miroslav wished POE would look at him.
He realized she hadn't eaten anything yet. "Hey, sis," he called, trying to
get her to look up from her plate.
She glanced up.
"I love you, POE I just . . . I just need to
learn how to deal with this - to adjust." He struggled for the right words,
"I'm here for you, okay?"
POE shook her head and fidgeted with her omelette.
"Okay," she whispered.
The rest of breakfast was an awkward ritual.
They ate slowly and deliberately, then washed the dishes in silence. Shortly
afterward, Miroslav picked up his violin case. "I need to go practice, okay?"
A look of disappointment came over POE, but she
nodded despite her frustration.
This time, Miroslav left the house completely
to practice his number for later that day. He walked outside and into their
backyard garden, which, unfortunately, had become terribly overgrown since .
. . Miroslav refused to think about it. He sat down beside a Green Techo Gnome,
his favorite thing in the whole garden, and opened the case. Drawing the violin
out once more, he positioned it thoughtfully under his chin and began to play
a delicate, joyful melody, reciting for the umpteenth time what he had planned
to play later that day. By now the whole routine seemed mechanical to him. Much
of the piece had lost its passion, and if he was honest enough to admit that
to himself, he may have selected another song. But, no, he refused to let himself
think the last few weeks had had any effect on his music. On the emotional level,
all Miroslav was in the mood for was sad and melancholy pieces, but right now
he simply refused to allow himself to play anything like that in front of people.
He was afraid of what would happen if he did. Since his mother . . . went away
. . . he had often found himself ending grievous songs in tears rather than
in notes. He couldn't allow people to see that part of himself! He wouldn't
allow people to see his grief.
Soon enough, his practice time came and went.
Miroslav stood up beside the gnome and looked at the sun. Soon, he would need
to start heading for the Rehabilitation Center. He entered his house once more,
finding POE fast asleep on the couch, comics tucked under her arm. He smiled
softly and grabbed a pen and paper to write her a note stating that he was leaving
early for the center and would be back sometime later that afternoon. He knew
he was leaving a long time before he needed to, but Miroslav needed time to
sort out his thoughts before returning to his house. Lately, his thoughts had
been clearest either playing his violin or taking walks around the block. He
had already spent time with his violin, and right now he thought taking a walk
might calm his nerves before the 'show'.
Stepping out from his house, he took a deep breath
of crisp air. The day had turned out to be quite lovely; there were no clouds
to block the sun, and somewhere in the distance a lone bird's song flitted to
Miroslav's ears. He sighed and kept walked, noting the impact of his feet on
the pavement. He stopped for a moment and moved a branch from the road. A dead
leaf clung to his clothing. He brushed it off. A rock was in the road. He kicked
'You're avoiding thinking about it,' a
voice deep inside him whispered. Miroslav knew it was right. He was avoiding
thinking about everything that had happened, at least for the last few weeks.
What could he do about it now anyway? It was over. He couldn't help his mother.
Shoving the thoughts from his mind, Miroslav
stepped into a well-manicured, green garden. Fountains scattered throughout
the enclosure tinkled with the delicate sounds of splashing water. Flowers were
carefully arranged in all sorts of swirling, intricate patterns here and there,
always bordered by some old, robust bush that had begun to bloom. Light green
ferns lined the dirt walkway, standing in their assigned positions like little
guards making sure everyone stayed on the path and didn't trample the fragile
flowers. Miroslav smiled. Other than the gnome in the garden, this was his favorite
place to think things through.
'You should tell POE about the nightmares.'
the voice came again. Miroslav shuddered at the thought. How in Neopia was he
to tell his sister he relived that terrible event almost every night? How could
she possibly understand that was the reason he had become so closed off?
What would she say to him? What if she told him he was weak, that he was just
too emotional about this whole thing? 'You know POE would never make fun
of you for that - she's hurting, too.' Miroslav pushed the voice away; he
could feel that all-too-familiar stinging behind his eyes. "NO! You will not
cry again!" he told himself, grateful the garden was almost completely deserted.
"Stop it! What will they think when you show up looking like a weak baby?" His
hands trembled and his voice dropped to a whisper, "Stop, Miroslav . . . just
Barely able to collect himself before his grief
overcame him, Miroslav walked on for a bit with his eyes closed. He knew it
wasn't the smartest thing to do, and he scolded himself when he smacked his
leg against a post. "Ouch . . ." He rubbed the injury for a moment before glancing
at the sun. He would need to be at the Center soon. Miroslav quickened his pace
and walked on, looking at the hedges of each side of the road, the pavement,
the occasional flower, anything to keep his mind off of events at home. "Focus,
Miro. You'll be there soon."
Despite his self-encouragement, uncontrollable
thoughts about the last few weeks flitted in and out of his mind, causing each
step to become an effort for him, and every breath to become forced as he desperately
tried to maintain his dignity. 'Why did that have to happen?' "NO!" Miroslav
shouted at himself before he could react to his thoughts. He would not
give into his emotions! He would not! No! Miroslav stopped for a moment and
made himself calm down. He was only a block or two away from the Center. When
he got there, he would need to act calm and composed - the typical image of
a classical musician. He had to act like he had it 'all together.' If he didn't,
the residents at the center probably wouldn't listen to him, and he doubted
he would be invited to play there again. No, he had to act above the
residents at the Rehabilitation Center. To identify with them would be a mistake.
Finally composed, Miroslav walked the remaining
distance to the Center. "You'll be okay, Miro," he told himself. "Just get through
this and go home. Just get through this and go home. You'll be okay." He kept
murmuring these singsong phrases to himself until he stopped a few moments later
and looked up at the tall, pillared entrance to the Neopian Rehabilitation Center.
He held his breath for a moment before slowly letting it go. With that, he mounted
the steps, checked his posture in the reflection of the glass doors, and went
To be continued...