The momentary flash of light shed a golden beam across his disheveled hair. He looked up from the ivory keys that had been the solitary focus of his attention. The driver of the car whose headlights had so rudely awakened him from his meditation now broke the silence by laying on the horn. He glanced at the old oak clock on the mantle. He didn't need to. He could tell by the dimness of the room that the sun had set some time ago and that he had been engrossed in the piano for far longer than any healthy young man of seventeen should be. He rose to open the door and found his mother already unloading the groceries from the back of the old blue station wagon.

"For heaven's sakes Charles, at least turn on the porch light," his mother said in the manner that only mothers can. "How can you see your way around the house in this darkness?"

Charlie dismissed his mother's chastising remarks with a grunt and turned on the lights in the sitting room. The black polished baby grand Steinway stood out in the small room. It was obviously the most prized possession in the house. But to Charlie it was a curse. He loathed the thing. If he could, he would turn the lights off again just to avoid looking at it. But he knew this would only bring further scolding from his mother. The piano was the only remnant of their previous life. His mother had made the costly arrangement of having it shipped from Boston when they moved to the small town. From his earliest memories Charlie had always loved the piano. He remembers vividly sitting on his father's lap idly playing with the keys and hearing the encouraging words of the man behind him, always spoken through a broad smile.

Looking at the piano now, a memory which had been all but forgotten found its way to the front of his mind. It was the first song he had written. He must have been eight, maybe nine. Of course the first person he played it for was his father. He remembered the look on his father's face when he glanced up from the keys after nervously playing the short composition. It wasn't the broad smile he had expected. It was something different. Something he had never seen in his father before. It was some unnamed emotion between wonder and pride. His bearded jaw hung unconsciously open and his eyes were moist with unshed tears. "Was it good Papa?" he said expectantly. His father replied in a hushed whisper, "You have a gift my boy, you have a gift."

All his life Charlie Denson had been told he had a gift. He had boxes full of trophies, plaques, and certificates from competitions and recitals some of which he couldn't even remember. His mother still speaks fondly of the recital at the Wang Theater in Boston where at the age of five he had brought the entire audience to their feet after impeccably playing Chopin's opus 28. In a newspaper interview after the recital he was asked what he thought of the piece to which he replied, "I think Chopin must have been very sad." It was that connection, that fusing of music and the inner-most feelings of the soul that gave Charlie such hardship. How he wished he could play the piano as if it was nothing more than a complicated piece of furniture. He had seen other people do it. But he knew that to him, it was a piece of his being. He couldn't play it without pouring his soul into it, and right now he wasn't ready to let that happen. He hadn't touched the piano since his father's untimely death nearly two years ago. Sure he had spent many an evening letting his minds eye wander over the keys. He could hear every note as true as if they were struck by the hammers but whenever he saw his slender hands poised on the keys he saw his father's hands and he could never bring himself to play. So he was content to stare at the shinny black beast that plagued him as he was doing now.

"Don't just stand their, get the groceries out of the car." His mother's words brought him sharply out of his contemplative thoughts. He went silently to the car and grabbed a handful of grocery bags. Silently was how Charlie did most things in this small mountain town.

Charlie and his mother had moved to Ashton Grove nearly six months ago but everything about the town still seemed foreign and novel. In a way, Charlie didn't mind. The secluded slow-moving nature of the little town made it easier for him to withdraw into the dim recesses of his mind. Sometimes he would spend entire days without saying a word to another human being. He knew his mother was worried. Hew knew his hermetic behavior was far from normal for a fit young teenager, and was certainly nothing like the social, outgoing, charismatic kid he had been before the accident. To Charlie, his life in Boston felt like a vague memory, like a movie he had seen once a long time ago. It just didn't seem real anymore. This was reality. This old dingy cabin felt more like a cage every day.

It was summer. He was supposed to be out chasing girls, or getting into trouble. But here he was; holed up in this small secluded house with nothing but his memories to keep him company. His self-pity was almost palpable. He would spend entire days indoors. Watching whatever mindless daytime programs that were offered on the three TV stations they could get. It would have continued that way had it not been for sheer circumstance. Or was it fate?