Feli sighed softly. Her silky silver fur gleamed in the
late sunlight as she shuffled through the Neopian Bazaar. Few Neopets ran past
her, returning to their families. Feli didn't have one. She'd been abandoned as
a pup, and through her music, she'd earned enough to make a name for herself and
buy a paint brush. No one knew she didn't have an owner, except Joriem.
Joriem owned a small music shop on the far edge
of the Bazaar. He'd lived there for years, helping little known musicians get
a start in the world. He'd sort of adopted Feli as a pup and raised her until
she was ten, then let her go. She'd earned enough Neopoints to go to the fancier
Neopian Music Shop for a while now, but she kept returning to Joriem's shop.
He was as much family as she'd ever had.
Shopkeepers around her were locking their doors
and hurrying home, talking and laughing with their employees as they scurried
past Feli. Her slow gait was sad yet determined. She knew Joriem would have
his shop open for her. He always did. The spry green Zafara knew she hated coming
during the day, so he always left the light on for her, and tonight was no exception.
Feli pushed the smooth oak door open and breathed
deeply of the rich wooden scent that always filled the store, mixing with the
welcoming smells of fresh paper and cinnamon. A cheerful little voice echoed
from behind the counter, "Could you give me a paw with the violin on the top
shelf? I seem to have fallen and can't get up."
Feli smiled and easily lifted the cherry-red
violin off the shelf and, setting it down in the prepared case, helped Joriem
to his feet. "Hello to you too," she murmured as he hugged her. It was rather
hard for such a tiny Zafara to even try to hug her, especially since she was
a silver Lupe, so whatever he did that seemed like a hug, was in fact a hug.
Joriem prodded Feli toward a far corner of the
shop. "I have that new piano ready for you."
Feli's eyes sparkled with pure joy and scampered
through the rows of closely-packed rich wooden violins, silvery clarinets and
flutes, golden saxophones, and the occasional stack of harmonicas, past the
shelves of sheet music and music folders, all the way to the designated corner.
There stood a brilliantly polished black grand piano. Feli ran her paw over
the smooth surface and tested one of the glistening white keys. No resistance,
clear tone. Gingerly sliding onto the bench, she pressed down the pedal and
tried playing a bit of her latest song, Waltz in C Major. Perfect.
She swung around on the bench and smiled broadly
at Joriem, who'd followed her. "It's perfect. Just…completely…"
Joriem squeezed her shoulder. "I know. It'll
do." She stuck her tongue out at his back as he scurried off toward the music
shelves. "I found something in one of the shops I thought you might like." He
hurried back and handed her a notebook.
The front cover was a close-up of piano keys
with a black rose laid across them. The pages inside were staff paper, enough
for twenty perfectly spaced measures on a page.
"My little black rose has grown up since she
fell in love with the most peculiar color of rose," Joriem said warmly.
Feli sniffled a bit and hugged Joriem, but her
face remained expressionless. "I still remember when I was small enough to fit
in your lap, Jory. And that was an even longer time ago."
"Yes," Joriem sighed quietly, "it was." Moments
of companionable silence passed before Joriem broke it with, "Well, I'll get
you some cinnamon rolls and send you home, young lady. You need to get some
sleep before your performance tomorrow."
Before Feli could protest, he was gone, and
she was left to worry about whether she'd tuned her violin. Fiddling with the
notebook, she shuffled to the counter and waited for Joriem. A minute later,
he'd handed her a bag of fresh cinnamon rolls, still warm, hugged her, and sent
her on her way.
The streets were empty and pitch-black except
for the lonely streetlights, casting hazy orange glows on the frosted pavement.
Light snow whirled around her as she ran through the city. The clock in the
town square struck midnight as she unlocked the door of her eight-room Neohome
and flicked on the lights.
Petpets swarmed her as she entered: her second
family. A blue Harris, a Hopso, a Halloween Warf, a Whinny, and the mutant Puppyblew,
her favorite. The house was lit with floor lamps and was snug and cozy even
on the 23rd day of Celebrating. Feli wandered toward the well furnished home
in every shade of silver and black, and many things embossed with her insignia,
the black rose.
She changed into her pajamas and snuggled into
her fluffy bed, flicking off the light. It seemed like any other night to Feli,
except that the symphony in her head that had always lulled her to sleep changed
into something completely different from any of her previous compositions.
The next day, Feli ran to the Neopian Music
Hall and played the violin for an hour and a half. For years afterwards, people
said it was beautiful but lacking in feeling, like all her other music. But
that night, something changed.
It was almost midnight, and Feli was at home
scribbling on a piece of paper. No, not music. Pictures. The childish dreams
she'd once had played out on the paper. Flowers, smiling faces, and rainbows
transformed into wilting roses, anger, and shades of black.
Suddenly, a crash against her door flung her
into the table out of fright and dashing toward the door as desperate banging
continued. Feli whipped the door open to find a panting yellow Kacheek staring
up at her.
"Are you Feli? You need to come. It's Joriem."
"What?" Feli shrieked and shoved past the Kacheek.
Hurtling down the street, she screamed noiselessly in fear. What if...
She collapsed next to a slender green Gelert
kneeling next to the still form of Joriem on the floor of his shop. "Joriem?"
she whispered, panicked.
His eyes fluttered open. "Feli...you came..."
"It's gonna be okay, Jory. Right, doctor?" Her
voice rose. "Right??"
The doctor shook his head slowly. "I'll leave
you two alone," he murmured and slipped out of the room.
"Feli.."Joriem whispered. The silver Lupe bent
down so she could catch his faint words as her tears began to flow. "I'm leaving...everything
to you. Don't sell the...shop. Please..."
"I won't. Promise." Feli sobbed.
"I love you, my little rose. There's something...for
you on the counter. It was your...Christmas present. I...love...you..."
Slowly, his breathing stopped. Finally, when
his breath came no more, the tears shattered her emotional wall as they fell
like rain onto Joriem's still form. The Gelert doctor helped her home, promising
to lock the shop for her, not that she cared.
Days passed. Feli took no notice. Her tears
gradually stopped, replaced by an emotionless face once more. She still did
no concerts; she didn't touch any of her instruments; she ate nothing until
her mutant Puppyblew shoved some food toward her with his tiny nose. She didn't
leave the house; she spoke to no one; she wrote no music.
Feli's only friend left in the world, Rorir,
knocked on her door about month after Joriem...was no more, and brought order
to her life.
The electrically hyperactive orange Lupe stormed
through the house, cleaning the furniture and feeding anything that looked hungry.
He forced Feli to start playing her instruments again and go outside. And slowly,
she began to heal. But something within just wouldn't stop paining her. Something
just wouldn't heal.
One day, Feli was wandering through the park
surrounding the rainbow pool. She heard screams of pets as they played in its
water, the squeals of newly painted pets and their ecstatic owners, and the
chirps of colorful petpets. The sun glittered on the rainbow water, casting
glittering rays all over the lush grass. Her mind felt pressured by so many
people nearby, so she hurried to the trees surrounding the pool and curled up
against a thick oak tree.
The rainbow pool had been one of Joriem's favorite
places. He always said that it was ten times better than Faerieland could ever
be, but Feli had never seen what he saw in it. Too crowded, too loud, too happy
for the black rose. It had memories attached to it now. Joriem...his love of
spending hours here…the Day of Giving...his shop! Feli leapt to her feet and
charged across the lawn toward the far edge of the Bazaar. The shop was shut
and locked, for no one had been in it since that fateful day. It looked forlorn
in the sunlight.
She unlocked the door and shoved it open, squeaking
on now-rusty hinges. She didn't bother turning on the lights and made her careful
way through the rows until she came to the counter. On it sat a lone package,
about the size of two milk cartons. It was brightly wrapped and had a card taped
to the top of it.
Feli slowly retreated toward the pool, curling
back up at the foot of the tree she'd been at moments before. No one seemed
to notice her return, so she ripped the bright green and red wrapping off the
Inside lay a pen. It was silver, the cap imprinted
with a black rose. Tiny gold script on the end made her weep again: "For my
little black rose, Feli, on the Day of Giving in the Year 5."
She hugged the pen to her and tore open the
envelope. There was no card inside, just a note. Joriem had never liked buying
one of the store cards, packed with cheap sentiment.
"Dearest Feli," the Lupe whispered, running
her paw across the crisp page.
I am growing old. You know that, and I now admit
it, but you must admit it like I have. I am no writer, and I would've explained
this to you in person, but it would've been too much for you, black rose. You
must never sell the shop when I'm gone, but keep it open for all amateur musicians.
There are others out there that cannot afford to buy the equipment their talent
deserves since the Neopian Music Shop charges so much. You have a life to live,
little one. Don't let the memory of this old musician drown you in sorrow, but
rather in hope for the future...
There was much more, but I will not repeat the
things a loving father said to his daughter, for they were almost that. Some
things should remain private. Feli was crying by the end of the letter and couldn't
There was so much of her life gone, a whole
piece that had just vanished, and no way to bring it back.
Suddenly, Feli had an idea. She grabbed her
notebook, flipped to the first page, and scribbled down notes with the new pen.
She wove warm cinnamon rolls, piano keys, screaming children, brilliant colors,
laughter, and grief into one piece. Her pen flew over the pages.
Just as dusk was falling, Feli wrote the last
note. The piece covered every page in the notebook, the most extensive thing
she'd ever composed. Now, for a title.
As Feli walked home, small pets scampered past
her fearlessly. And as she turned the corner onto her street, she smiled freely
for the first time.
"Cinnamon Musician," she giggled, opened the
door to her house, and stepped out of the shadows into the light.
Music can bring healing to the most broken