Death Waltz
Author: Dalek Cruccibul

Chapter 9
David

The skyscrapers loomed all around. The streets were filled with the traffic of cars, and the sidewalks filled with the traffic of people. Charles wandered about the bustling city with a glimmer in his eye. This is where the prestigious academy he had dreamed of would be. He would walk in there and... well, what would he do? He hasn't quite thought of that part. A year of dreaming, and he hadn't anticipated this moment in his mind. He had only thought about playing piano. If he applied to this academy, what trouble might he be in? He was a teen without a legal guardian. If he tried applying for the academy, he might be tracked back to his father. In that moment, Charles felt like a wanted criminal. In that moment, Charles felt a surge of hopelessness over his being.

Walking down a crowded sidewalk, Charles walked through the door of a café and slumped himself down in the nearest seat. What was he to do now? If only he hadn't been so distracted by Jesse. She seemed to be the root of his problem. Rather than planning for what he would do to ensure his future, he had been thinking about what to do to ensure their future. She had distracted him from what mattered to him. Girls have a tendency to do that, he agreed silently.

Suddenly, lifting from his inner thoughts, Charles was beckoned by a comforting sound. He looked about the café to see a piano standing in the corner. Was it fate that had brought him here in a time of inner turmoil? He made his way towards the piano, where he could see that the corner was now empty.

Who had played the note earlier? Just another person passing by the instrument, Charles supposed. He sat himself down on the piano keys and felt along the board. It had felt like years since he had played a piano.

His fingers moved along on their own, pressing down on each little note. One came after another, as both of his hands began to carry away with the tidings of the harmonious tune. This tune, in particular, was one that brought Charles back to a better time. This tune was one he hadn't visited in a while.

 

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Now you play it, Charles,” her voice comforted him.

He placed one hand upon the keyboard, and played back the notes. E-A-B-C-B-A, E-A-B-C-B A. The notes were soft and comforting, just like his mother’s voice. Even in times of anguish, the notes would diffuse tension. The notes cleanse the mind and the body of all that imposed hurt. The notes were his mother's.

Good job. You're really getting the hang of this. Remember Charles, the song is in 12/8th time. Just focus on dividing the notes.”

He shut his eyes and thought of the notes. E-A-B-C-B-A. One two three four one two, in 4/4 time.

Then he took those notes and divided them into three parts each. One-and-a-Two-and-a-Three-and-a-Four- and-a, in 12/8 time. Then he tapped the notes back down on the keyboard. Each note was an 8th note, and each measure repeated the notes two times. Now he was understanding. So, then, he started to play...

 

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Charles thought back in these times, as the music carried him back. He closed his eyes and drifted away with the music. E-A-B-C-B-A. His mother's hands held onto his, tapping out those first notes. But then there were others, all forming together. The notes became more and more, and soon they began to grow and grow. And they grew louder and louder, and more and more of them. The tree of notes extended its long branches out and tickled the ears of the simple crowd. Like a moth to a flame, the crowd gathered in the presence of the young prodigy and his audible gifts. But Charles did not notice. He carried on with the music. He danced along with every note. He cleared his mind and his body of all worries, as his mother's soothing touch brought him back to a simpler existence. And as soon as it had arrived, the memory faded into the vastness of time. Charles opened his eyes to soon be greeted by warm smiles and clapping. He hadn't meant to stir up a crowd, but it was apparent that he had. This, too, had not been thought out in the heat of the moment.

“What is happening out here?” a voice called from the back counter. Some faces turned to see a young man dressed in a buttoned black polo. His dark complexion bore a face that was not all too happy with what it was seeing.

“Hey, kid! What are you doing over there?” he asked Charles with an assertive tone.

Charles got up promptly, responding with, “I was just playing this piano.” He got out from behind the counter and approached Charles in quiet the manner.

“Are you here looking for a quick reward, are you? Playing this piano here, gathering this crowd.”, the man asked.

“No sir. I didn't mean to gather a crowd. I only wanted to play the piano. I haven't played in so long, and I was just itching to get on the keyboard.” Charles coughed up.

“Ah, well, it's common courtesy to ask before you go prancing on other's property. No harm was done,

I suppose. You might want to watch out next time, though. Not everybody in this city is quiet as friendly as me.”, the man replied. Charles made his way towards the door when the man followed him out.

Charles started to make his way back down the street when the man grabbed his shoulder with a calm grip.

“Relax, kid. I didn't mean any offense to you. I... I'm sorry for getting so worked up so fast. Come on back. You can keep playing that piano in there. My customers certainly don't mind.”

Charles shuffled the thought about in his head. He didn't feel like drawing any more attention, even if this man here was fine with it in the end. The song had certainly eased away his tension, but he couldn't help but feel that staying amongst the crowd of people would somehow reveal his true identity. As if his father would swoop out from the crowd and drag him back home. Irrational as it was, Charles felt like he was steeping on glass. But he just couldn't resist the temptation. What would it be to play another song?

With a sigh of relief, Charles said, “Thank you sir.”

 

One song was all that Charles came in to play. But, eventually, he found himself to be the last one in the café.

“Closing time everybody. See everyone tomorrow.” the man boomed from the back counter.

Workers filed out of the building one at a time, taking their time with it. But Charles was, in no hurry to exit, waited for every last man and woman to make their way. The man who had called out on Charles earlier in the day was about to leave, when he noticed that Charles was still in the building.

“Hey, kid, I'm closing up shop. Time to go home back to your parents. I'm sure their awfully worried about you and all. I can even get you a ride home, eh?”

“Oh, no thank you.” Charles began to say as he moved to the exit.

“Oh, come on, it's no trouble at all. After all that piano playing of yours, it's the least a man can do.”

“I don't have anywhere to go. Serves no purpose if I haven't anywhere to go.” Charles slipped in a hint of agitation with each word. He couldn't help but feel annoyed with the man's persistence. The man had gone from upset to optimistic in two seconds flat just earlier today. As long as you were making him money, anybody was welcome here. The man's smile was only a facade.

“Nowhere to go? What about relatives? Don't you have any of them?”

Charles shook his head, not wanting to reveal his true situation. The man gave him a frown. He stood there for a second, thinking Charles over.

“You could come home with me. It's not something I usually do, but I don't see a reason why not.”

“I suppose so. But just for tonight. I've got places I want to be going.”

Charles followed the man out to the car. The man grabbed out his keys and opened the door, unlocking the doors from the inside. Charles hopped on in. The car came to life, light cutting through the darkness outside. The car rumbled along as it headed for home.

“I've got an extra room for you, so you'll feel right at home.” the man said.

“Thank you, sir.”

“I know your just staying the night and all, but you don't need to call me sir. Call me David, that's my name. How about yours?”

“Charles. I'm really sorry for turning down your hospitality, but there are things I've been meaning to do.”

“Things? What kind of things? I can't imagine there would be an awful lot for someone like you to be doing besides staying alive. No offense, but you don't have a home to be going to.”

“I wanted to get into the Music Academy. I don't know how, I suppose, but it's something I want to do.”

“Music Academy? You sure are a good piano player, Charles. Why haven't you got into there by now?”

Charles bit his lip, looking for something to say. What was he going to say?

“Well, I don't have a legal guardian...” Charles stuttered out.

“There are plenty of kids on the street in Adamsula. Don't they have something for that? I guess the bureaucracy that runs this place hasn't gotten around to that quiet yet. I don't think I've ever seen an orphanage in all my time living here.”

“I don't know. I just thought that I couldn't get in without a guardian is all. I guess I ought to find out about that.”

“Well, Charles, I hope you get around to that. Follow your passions, you know. I know I never did.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Oh, I never wanted to get into the food business. I always wanted to be a musician.”

“A musician? Well, why aren't you?”

“It just wasn't practical. I inherited the place from my dad, so I've been running it as a café ever since. I've live in an apartment downtown. When I started up, my buddies Jim, Kate, and Henry helped me keep up with business. I'm glad to have friends like them.”

Charles would have never known that just by looking the guy by his cover. The aura of music that Charles saw in people was dim when he looked at David. Why was that?

“I could teach you.” Charles blurted out before he realizes it.

“Teach me? Nah, I don't have time to learn how to play music. Like I said, kid, I've got a business to run.”

“Don't you have days off? Maybe you could hire some extra staff.”, Charles begun to say slowly,

“Maybe you could hire me?” He didn't know what he was saying. Only a minute ago, had he not wanted to get away from this situation completely?

“I don't have the money to hire you or the new staff. If I work hard enough then I can make it by in life. But that's really all I can do. No time for learning music, just for working.”

Charles felt like he needed to keep persisting. “What about nights like these? Can't you learn tonight?”

Charles already knew what was coming, but he felt the obligation to try. What was he thinking?

“I work early mornings, and I need to get my sleep. Come off it, there is no way you’re going teach me music.”

There was something about David that he wasn't letting off. “I'll work for you for free.”

“What?” David asked baffled, “Now you want to work for me for free? I'm not hiring a kid, much less one I hardly know. I'm sorry if I was coming off as too inviting before, but I was just asking you to come have a place to sleep. We really got off on the wrong foot here.”

Charles was steeping around for footing in the situation. “Think about it, David. I could play piano for you every day. In fact, I could get social with it. Imagine if people came flocking to your café not just for food, but for the love of music. That's what the world runs on, David. Music is what brings all the cultures together. Put some soul into your business David.”

David took a second to think the proposition over. Charles did make a point, after all. The world did run on music.

“I'll take it, kid. I'll put you in charge of getting more business for the place. If things start to take off, then I'll learn a little music. In exchange, I'll let you stay with me as long as you like.”

Charles smiled, “This is going to be great, David.” What had he just started?

 

 

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