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Will You Not Dance?


by extreme_fj0rd

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Snow fell on Neopia Central Park. The trees gained a layer of white frosting, and the fountain was frosted over with ice. The benches scattered around the center of the park were dismal sights; most held only snow, a light, thin blanket of it on the wooden planks of the seat. Only one had something other than snow on it.

      "Mommy," a young Kougra cub said, "why's that man always here?"

      His mother glanced over at the Blumaroo sitting wrapped around his guitar. His paws worked out a gentle, lilting melody; despite the beauty and simple grace of the piece, the felt cap near his feet held only a few coins.

      She sighed. "He's just... very sad," she said, and hurried her son on.

      When they were gone, the Blumaroo looked up. He smiled wistfully, his paws plucking the strings of the guitar unhurriedly. The song he was playing came to an end, and he began another. It was sad; his songs were always sad now.

      He'd once played happy songs, and indeed once those were all he knew. Now, though, the joyful ones were gone. All he had left were the sad ones. It would sorrow her, if she knew. If she knew he was playing for an audience of snowflakes, playing only for the occasional Neopoint or two. If she knew that he couldn't sing songs or call out to passersby, only set out a hat and hope for money.

      His voice had been gone, now, for many years. But all the sad days melted into one long one-- fall, spring, summer and winter compacted into twenty-four hours --and so it seemed like that horrible day was just yesterday.

      He'd once been Court Musician for all of Meridell, and on that particular day he decided to walk in the gardens. Even before he lost his voice, he didn't speak much, preferring to talk through songs and gestures, and so he did not invite others to walk with him. Instead he slowly trod through the gardens, occasionally cupping a flower in his paws and smelling it with an expression of bliss spreading itself across his face.

      Eventually his paws led him to the center of the garden, which held a fountain not unlike the one in Neopia Central Park. That day, though, it was summer, and the fountain's water burbled merrily. He smiled and sat on a bench, unstrapping his guitar from his back. He began to play, working out a song that went with the rhythm of the falling water. He was happy most of the time--he had food, a home, friends--but he was happiest when out in the gardens, working on songs or simply singing the old ones. He didn't like to play for a large crowd, preferring to stay in the gardens and play for the roses and the lilies.

      A young Skeith girl, around ten years of age, danced out of the door that led from the castle to the gardens. Skarl's own daughter, Breana. She was purple in colour; her dress floated out when she spun, a circle of light blue silk around her waist.

      She made her way along the paths, skipping a step or two, humming a melody. When she got in earshot of the fountain, she heard it and the Blumaroo's music at the same time. She paused, smiled, and danced along the path, fitting her dance to the music he played.

      He glanced up as she emerged from behind a curtain of roses, arms held high, spinning. He smiled and kept playing. She spun once more and stopped in front of him, arms outstretched.

      The Blumaroo shook his head as he played. Breana was always trying to get him to dance; her efforts were always in vain. It had become a sort of joke between them.

      She sighed and shook her head back at him, her brown hair hanging down around her face as she looked at him with mock gravity. "Will you not dance?"

      For answer, he kept playing, changing his tune to a light, sprightly dance number.

      Breana clicked her tongue at him and took a few dancing steps, spreading her skirts wide in a curtsey. She sprang up from the curtsey and danced around the fountain, spinning and jumping, cavorting madly in time to the music. The Blumaroo watched, and smiled. Breana loved to dance.

      She paused as she neared him again and laughed. "You are sure?" she asked teasingly. The Blumaroo smiled, shook his head.

      Breana took a step back; her paw slipped and slid. The fountain's falling water wet the stone around the basin, making the stones slick. The Skeith hadn't been paying attention to where she danced.

      She fell, hard, and did not get up. In desperation, he kept playing, hoping she would rise up, laughing, and tease him again about not wishing to dance.

      Skarl found them there several hours later. In his rage, he broke the Blumaroo's guitar, flinging it across the hall.

      "You should have been there!" he shouted into the musician's face. "You should have been there to catch her. You should have given your life for hers." Filled with fury, the king grabbed the Blumaroo by the throat, shaking him violently. "You should have been there for her!"

      The Blumaroo did not say anything, and would never again. Even had he retained the power of speech, he would not have said anything, for there was nothing to say. Yes. He should have been there. He should have warned her. He should not have let her dance alone.

      The cheerful songs had vanished from his memory that day, as if he'd never known any. His songs were slower now, more melancholy.

      The jingle of coins woke him from his reverie. He started at the sudden noise; then he gave a nod of thanks, expecting the kind soul to walk away at once. A few snowflakes drifted down, and still whoever it was did not walk away.

      He kept playing, his paws moving slowly, sadly, across his guitar. The guitar he'd mended carefully, strenuously, with love and care and almost no wood.

      The person had to have gone away by now, he thought. He risked a glance upwards.

      A purple Skeith stood there, dressed in blue silk. She smiled and held out her paws. "Will you not dance?" Breana asked, tilting her head so her brown curls fell across her face becomingly.

      He stared. Under his paws, the guitar shifted, becoming more of the shape it had been before Skarl broke it. He wasn't really surprised to find that, while he'd been lost in memories, the scenery of Neopia Central Park had been replaced by Skarl's garden--roses, lilies and all.

      The snowflakes on the bench melted quickly; it was summer, and the fountain flowed freely. The Blumaroo's paws lost their music, clasping the guitar loosely. Breana smiled and said again, "Will you not dance?"

      He set aside his guitar and picked up his cap. The snow on it had melted; it was still slightly damp, but drying swiftly. The money had vanished, but he didn't feel alarm at that fact. He stood slowly and bowed to her, his hat clasped tightly in one paw. Then he slid it onto his head and nodded, placing his paws in hers. She smiled and clasped them tightly, smiling at him as she had on the day she died.

      They danced.

The End

 
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