Together in Harmony

Chapter 2: I Believe That There'll Come a Day When We Meet Again

By Tsuyunoinochi Koukyo

Halfway to my home, the sunny skies fogged up and began to cry. Overhead, the sun radiated grayness, the yellow rays hiding behind almost black clouds. Sighing in disbelief, I slowed my frantic run to a slow walk and stared at the gray pavement beneath my feet. Even moments after the rain had begun, my dark blonde hair had matted to my face. Raindrops streamed down my face like tears. My chest heaving, I paused at the entrance to the alleyway where my house was tucked away, unable to go in and face everyone—my sisters, my parents, my reflection. Any disappointment in my expression would encourage them, as it always did, to persuade me to go to work with Father, to find a woman and to date her, to settle down and stop having silly dreams in my head. Though dreams of fame and fortune frequented my mind, my family constantly attempted to disembowel these thoughts. They knew it would only be a matter of time before I would give in. After all, I was never going to make it if music meant nothing to me, as that stranger told me not ten minutes ago. I could never forget what he had said—his words would be eternally engrained in my brain. A man with that much talent would never lie about someone else's.

I had to see Ciel.

Ciel—she never put me down. My little sister, Ciel, is the savior of my life. She's barely twelve and she comes up to my chest, but she's indubitably intelligent—and her smile makes my heart sing and it makes all of my sadness and my doubts fly away. Out of my five sisters, she is my favorite, and the only one I will speak to about my problems in life. Ever since she was born we have been attached to one another, and I doubt we will ever part.

My parents told me that when she came out of my mother's womb, Ciel died. I was there with my father, watching the birth, and I began to cry when the new baby stopped moving. I ran into the room, pushed my way past the doctors, and I bent over my little sister and began to pray. One of my tears fell into her little baby mouth, and she suddenly began to cry.

The doctors say it was a miracle. My parents told me it was destined to happen—for my name, after all, means 'rebirth'.

And so Ciel came to me, soaking wet on the side of a busy highway in the middle of the sixth largest city in France. My tears mixed with the rain that fell from the heavens as those words echoed in my head, over and over again until the face and the moving lips were a blur. Without saying a word, her little arms slipped around my sides and she led me, as she liked to do, toward the highway that led to the river Erdre, the center of the small town where we lived.

The wonderful sight of the river had, in the past, inspired many of my musical compositions. The way people moved up and down the streets around its erratical stream was fascinating to me, how the water continued to flow, endlessly, as was its destiny, while the people on its riverbanks unawaredly were motionless in time, destined for a single place for the duration of their entire life. The Erdre was my inspiration, the only hope I had for leaving this town—to flow like the water endlessly, wandering the currents like a crescendo and never stopping.

Today, it only invoked sadness. The water was flowing forward, to join with the waters of the Loire, but the clouds above were taunting the waters—daring it to slow down, daring it to see which could win. The raindrops joined the riverbed and with them, it rose, lapping loudly at the sides of the docks.

"Rene," Ciel caught my sad eyes, one of her small hands wrapped in mine. "Why must you be so sad?"

"You wouldn't understand, love," I replied sadly, my eyes trained on the waves of water that had become slightly fierce. In the dancing riverbed, I saw musical notes—a dizzily frantic scherzo, rising and falling with the waves.

But that stranger, surely he would have seen something else. Surely, he would think seeing musical notation in water was childish. Perhaps that is why he thought my music was bland—because only a child would write out the notes of the water.

"I'm such a…fool," I blurted, allowing my knees to give out. I sank onto my heels and bent over the dock, touching my fingertips to the dancing waters of the most beautiful river in the world.

"A fool? Rene, you cannot dare to say it," Ciel protested, her face tousled in confusion. She bent down next to me, so small in the dark light. "You are the most wonderful person in the world. Everyone else is a fool. And why can't I understand? What happened today? You left dancing… and return crying? There must be a reason."

She would press on and on until I revealed my turmoil—regardless, I could never keep a secret from Ciel. Swirling my hand in the waters of my soul, I pictured his face. "I met someone today. A… musician. I was sitting in the park, reading a book, and I heard this beautiful music coming from a studio nearby—you know, those public ones?"

Ciel nodded, meeting my eyes. She was too young to read my expressions, but I knew she was trying.

"Well, I went inside the studio and I saw this man… very slender and pale, and he seemed American to me. He spoke French, but it was old French… he spoke like you do, Ciel. Anyway, he was playing a… I guess I can call it a rococo style requiem? And it was so beautiful; I've never heard music like it before. He finished playing and we began talking, and, well…" A blush had formed on my face for a reason I could not place. All I could think about was his hand on mine, and then his harsh words echoed in the background. My stomach clenched with anger, but also with a strange kind of happiness. "He asked me to play something for him. So I played 'La Naissance d'une Fleur'—the composition I wrote for you when you fell from the window at your schoolhouse? And he… Ciel, he hated it. He said my timing is off and that I get too lost in the music, and that I try too hard to impress my audience, and… he said that music means nothing to me." A fresh set of tears rose to my eyes when the words spilled from my mouth, for reiterating them only made their wound fresh.

Ciel took a moment, her eyes fluttering to the pavement. She shook her head, her grip on my t-shirt tightening. "Why do you take his stupid words so seriously, Rene? He is a stranger." She shook her head in anger. "Your music is amazing. You play piano with more talent than even Chopin could have reflected."

As always, I couldn't help but grin. She was such an earnest little girl, so grown up and so childish at the same time, so thoughtful and selfless. She was my savior now, as I had been hers at birth.

I raised a hand to my tiny savior's silky blonde locks and ruffled them. She met my smiling gaze and held a palm out to me, gesturing down the rainy sidewalks to a little café just a block away with her other hand. Lifting her to her feet, we set off side by side to our favorite café to discuss something else, anything else, other than that stranger. I didn't want to talk about him anymore.

But even as her little pink lips were moving in happiness as she gratefully consumed her baguette, I couldn't help but picture that stranger's face again, laughing at me endlessly.

He had been so angry. Even though I had no idea who he was, and he certainly hadn't known me, there was some kind of viciousness behind his steel grey eyes directed at and completely meant for me, and me alone.

How could a person hate someone without knowing who they were?

Ah, the sweet smell of freshly baked French bread! It permeated my nostrils on a sunny Sunday morning, causing a smile to erupt on my sleeping countenance even as my father's loud voice rose up the stairs: "Breakfast time!"

Though my family struggled to maintain our middle class lifestyle, since my parents were pastry makers, breakfast never failed to be a delicious and somewhat elaborate affair. It was never a sad morning in my household, especially with these luscious scents in the air.

Needless to say, breakfast was my favorite meal. And since it was mine, it was Ciel's too.

I heard padded footsteps scrambling outside my door and then a series of frantic knocks, with Ciel's high-pitched squeals following shortly after in a childish serenade. "Rene!" her tiny voice called. "Rene, Father made pains au chocolat!"

In less than a minute I was tugging on a pair of grey sweatpants and a shirt, running my hands through my hair to coax it down before throwing the door open to the delicate features of my favorite little sister.

"Good morning," I greeted cheerfully, pausing to ruffle her silky blonde locks before racing down the stairs and seating myself at our large dining table. My father was already there, newspaper in hand. The other six chairs were empty—my other sisters were still upstairs, and my mother was probably finishing the food preparations in the kitchen. My father glanced up as I pulled my seat closer to the table.

"Good morning Rene," he said cheerily enough, raising his eyes from the newspaper to meet mine. I nodded cordially in reply and glanced at the doors to the kitchen, tasting the chocolate and licking my lips hungrily in mental response. "How did you sleep?"

"Restlessly," I laughed, shaking my head at the odd dream that had plagued my slumber that night. I'd been at that studio again, only this time it was empty. I was walking through each room, searching, but I had no idea for what I was searching. Strange, eerie music began to play from a keyboard in the room I occupied at the time, only no one was there to play that music. As I walked closer and closer to it, the melody got louder—and when my fingers ran across the delicate keys, the music stopped. I heard something behind me and when I turned around, there was that stranger standing mere inches away from me. He said something—I saw his lips moving, but only piano notes came out. Then he was slowly leaning toward me, and that silver lip ring was softly pressing against my lips.

Dreams like this one were frequent, though they had never involved strangers before—just guys in my school, and occasionally—I shamefully admit—some of my younger, very attractive teachers. It was thanks to these dreams that I had discovered my sexual orientation of choice, though it hadn't shocked me. In the back of my head, I think I'd always known.

It was this realization, early in my teenaged life, that brought a little sorrow to my everyday thoughts. I could never produce the heir to my family's name, as I knew they wished me to. I could never see myself settling down with a woman for the rest of my life, hiding who I really was. I would not live a lie to make anyone happy—maybe, someday my family would see that.

"You seem distracted," my father remarked, trailing his eyes slowly in my direction. I blushed in embarrassment and shook my head in denial, choosing to watch my mother excitedly as she entered the room with two trays of the most delicious breakfast in France instead of answering his open ended question. Clapping my hands together like a child, I licked my lips and let the smallest squeal escape from my throat. My father looked in my direction again, but this time it was with a scowl. He didn't like my childish, carefree attitude—he was always quick to remind me that boys should always act like men, no matter their age.

Noticing the lack of my other four sisters, my mother set the trays down onto our cheap little dining table and looked at Ciel, who had been patiently sitting next to me with her hands clasped in her lap. My mother asked her to grab my other siblings and once everyone was gathered around our modest table, we prayed. Instead of choosing to follow their own ritual—thanking God for the food and our blessed life—I chose to make my own, private prayer today. I prayed for my family's acceptance one day when they realized I could never, and would never, be able to carry on their name in the face of my children.

Like other Catholic families, we attended church for several hours this Sunday morning—and any other morning, I wouldn't have minded. However, as the pastor spoke of the many temptations in the world and how we should avoid them at any cost, I found my mind drifting toward the door, down the road a few blocks, and into a little recording studio where I'd heard the most beautiful music of my life not a week ago. Try as I might, those melodious sounds wouldn't leave my head—there was something about the somberness, the loneliness, the pure madness of the composition that was driving me wild. I needed to hear it again.

"I need to go to the bathroom… I'm feeling sick," I lied, putting on the best sickly face I could manage. My mother's face melted with sympathy as she rested a slender hand on my forehead. "I think I ate too many pains au chocolat."

"Can you make it to the bathroom on your own?" she asked quietly, darting her eyes to the front of the church to check if the pastor was glancing in her direction. He hadn't even noticed that she and I weren't paying him any attention.

"I am going to go home," I said, barely waiting for her vague nod before climbing excitedly out of my chair, nearly tripping over the legs of my eldest sister, Brigitte, on my exit from the aisle. Glaring at me angrily, she rubbed her very pregnant stomach in a reassuring gesture, then turned her attention to the man preaching in an increasingly loud tone at the front of the room. Her husband, Christièn, grinned knowingly at me as I almost tripped over his extended legs as well.

Bursting through the large church doors into the bright sunlight, I took a moment to dance in the bright yellow beams, turning in emphatic circles with my arms spread out widely. Passersby gave me interesting looks but today, of all days, I didn't care. I was going to see that stranger again. I was going to hear that music again. I was going to make him tell me why he was so cruel to me that day, and then I was going to convince him that I was destined to play music, just like he was.

Just like before, the studio was empty. My humming echoed off the empty walls as I wandered through the whitewashed walls, peeking in each empty room with growing anticipation, expecting that eerie music to begin any moment…

I went through the entire building with no luck, coming from the open doorway into the sunlight. Hanging my head, I waltzed to the tree I'd been reading at the other day and sat at the base of it, running several of my long fingers through my hair and sighing. I wanted Ciel here with me; I wanted her to help me face this inner anguish that was twisting my heart like a sudden rapid decrescendo. I wanted to banish these painful memories of the cruel stranger who had turned my sunny world into painful memories at the utterance of a few short sentences.

I looked up from my sorrowful daze toward the open mouth of the studio one last time and, to my surprise, met those emotionless grey eyes for the second time. Gasping, I jumped from the ground in a new bout of energy and ran toward him, shouting, "YOU THERE!"

His face fell when he set eyes on me, and a look of recognition flashed over his face. He knew exactly who I was. For a moment, I was flattered.

"I've been looking for you!" I announced loudly in a childish voice. Staring blankly through me with those horrifyingly devoid eyes, he didn't move a muscle. Behind him, someone coughed. A short, slightly stocky—a muscular sort of stocky—brunette male with a lip ring and a nose ring stepped out behind from the stranger's exiguous form, his lips pursed in annoyance. Save for his height, he was actually very attractive, with glossy blue-black hair that fell boyishly to his nose in a fashion that looked messy, but clean at the same time. He had this dangerous expression on his face too—a smile that said 'stay far away' but begged me to come closer, too.

"How do you know him?" he inquired in a typical nasal French, standing protectively in front of the black leather trenchcoat clad musical genius. "Not just anyone can talk to Liphe Anderson, you know."

Anderson. So this stranger was most likely a foreigner, which would explain his odd French accent. A shiver rippled through me when the thought that he could be an American passed through my mind. Maybe he would whisk me away to his country, like I'd always dreamed, and together we would make the most beautiful music in the world and we would be famous and happy forever.

"Julian, this is him," Liphe said in his strange French accent, evenly meeting my gaze for the briefest moment. My legs felt like jelly.

"Oh," the name named Julian nodded as if this were the most important information in the entire world. "Liphe, would you like me to…?"

"Do you even need to ask?" he cut Julian off in an irritated voice, turning away from both of us and sauntering up an alleyway, his long trenchcoat flapping behind his graceful legs. Just before he disappeared behind a brick wall, he turned once more to us. "Tonight."

He was gone.

"Okay…" Julian sighed, shaking his head with a little smile etched onto his glossy lips. He turned to me, looking excited and a little breathless. "For reasons that will certainly become more obvious in the next few hours, you have been invited to an exclusive underground concert featuring the talented Liphe Anderson." He held out a bright red ticket to me. Without a second thought, I snatched it and held it to the light that surrounded me, eyeing it like some sort of prize.

When I looked away from the small paper object, Julian had vanished. Giggling to myself, I carefully stowed the ticket in my pocket and turned in the direction of my home.

I was going to meet the man that had plagued my dreams and nightmares since I'd laid eyes on him days ago. I was going to make him tell me why he'd been so cruel to me that day, and then I would make him teach me how to play the piano with such emotion, such sorrow.

And maybe, if I was lucky, I could figure out why something about him provoked such a sexual stir in my body.