Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 186,904,169 Issue: 196 | 24th day of Relaxing, Y7
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Cinnamon Musician


by hmlanden

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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 present.

      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.

      Dearest Feli,

      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 stop.

      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 heart.

The End

 
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