[[REQUIEM]]

The sun was actually shining with warmth, rather than its browbeating heat. The cool breeze brushed the freshly mowed grasses and shook the bright green leaves of the stodgy trees with their thick and twisting trunks. The extensive branches provided a comfortable shade while the chirping birds completed this picturesque scenery.

However, these were gone unnoticed by him who was staring straight ahead, stomach angry with acid trepidation and hands clutching a small poorly wrapped present. What he saw was him putting his left foot before his right until he found himself standing at the familiar red brick house.

After pressing the doorbell with cold fingers, he smoothed his shirt and pants. Was his hair messed up? Was his shirt presentable? Was his collar properly folded? Damn, this new cologne was too pungent! Was he presentable enough not to offend that person he wanted to impress? He combed his fingers through his hair. No, he does not want to look cute or adorable. He wanted to look dashing!

Unfortunately, the angry father opened the gate, scorched him with a suspicious look before looming over him, like Madame La Guillotine. The white brows was raised superciliously with the classic hands folded in front. Cold sweat ran down at the back of his neck. He suddenly felt like a stupid eight-year old holding some drooping hand-picked flowers from the neighbor's garden for his Mom.

"Uhh." He who was able to perform in operas, hailed as one of the promising young musicians was reduced to incoherent one-liners. Mr Confident just went down the drain. He cleared his throat again and looked at the older man in the eye. He that brow rose imperiously with that telling twitch of the mouth.

"Is she here?" He managed to squeeze out some words before he could come up for more air or sound more stupid.

"She does not need you." The tone was cold. Terrified of the old man for he was strict, talented and overprotective. However, since he was decided on his course, he plowed on.

"But this is important." He thought of his gift—poorly wrapped but he tried his best to those folding papers. He sacrificed his perfect hands and his dignity as Mr Perfection when he finished his handiwork. No doubt that blasted woman would laugh.

He dearly wanted to hear that music again.

As he waited for her in their living room, he saw no odd paint spatter on the floor or walls. He remembered painting one of his own but he could not see for photos were already crammed at the space. There was no new flower painting near the window. The books were neatly lined, like tiny soldiers. It was so unlike the times when he spent the time at this house. Finding no remnants of his friend, he suddenly felt uncertain about his visit. Maybe, after all this time, she decided to ditch him for after all, he was the worst to leave her like that. However, he still did not know what he did for her to actually ditch her like that.

"James?"

The husky and quiet voice had him turning and smiling at the source.

"Laura." His mouth and lips were still familiar with her name. His eyes absorbed the details and his skin basked in her presence. She was thinner the last time he saw her and paler. Her clothes—long and sizes too big for her slender frame made her look breakable with the merest application of pressure. Her gold curls were now pulled into a lacklustre tight bun that made her older and tired. There was more in those blue eyes, panic that was quickly shielded when her father settled on an empty sofa.

As she sat in front of him, she smiled. He tried to look at her but it was painful to see it not reach her once-vibrant blue eyes.

"Stop being stiff." She ordered, some semblance of the Laura he knew resurfaced. Her father unfortunately frowned at both of them. How on earth was a guy supposed to confess if the father was hanging on to his every word—like an angry bulldog?

"Dad, it's fine." He saw her father frown fractionally at them and saw it relax after Laura explained. It seemed bulldog was the apt description, nice words managed to calm the beast down. However, he could still imagine her father going for his blood. Was his dignity, sacrificed at the altar they called love, not enough? Giving himself a mental shake, he reminded himself that he was supposed to be courting her and not her father.

"Oh," he said, and handed her the gift. When put into her delicate hands, his efforts were too poor to properly convey his feelings.

"Were you ambushed on your way?" She grinned at the uneven folding and the tape. It brightened her eyes. He suddenly felt great, screw Mr Perfection.

"The dog chewed it half-way."

"I thought it always preferred your assignments?"

"The dog decided to be a more adventurous predator." He grinned. He saw incomprehension and a half-hearted grin from her. Her father scowled and her grin was quickly extinguished. He desperately wanted her to smile. Was that too hard to ask?

"Well, open it up." He gestured at the gift. He winced as he saw struggle with opening the gift—brute force rather than the elegance he wanted to achieve. It was a camera, black and sleek. She fiddled with the small thing and played the only file after her father stood up to fix some coffee and tea. The quiet place was suddenly filled with clapping and the starting strains of the violins. The familiar notes reverberated through the walls. From a distance, he heard the sudden clattering of glasses. He turned to Laura only to see tears fall as she watched the small screen.

She was suddenly pulled back into the times when they labored over her mother's piece. That piece, amidst the angst, survived—it was her only inheritance from the woman who was too busy to look after her and whose absence at the table was gradually accepted as time went on. Her mother's lawyer gave it to her after her sudden death. It was a pity, that such a gifted artist was plunged into obscurity since the world did not want what she offered. She had wanted to hear, at least in its glory what her mother wanted to say—after all those years of anger and silence. She remembered, sitting beside James, turning the pages, convincing him to jam his fingers on the keys of a barely tuned instrument. They were always finished too soon when her father came home from work.

She remembered the fights they had, the lengths she had to go to convince him of his gift. It was not as turbulent as the waves crashing against rocks but like the river slowly and indubitably shaping the mountains to make way for its path.

After finishing their school work, they sneaked into the music room. There, he grinned at her and began to play while she stood there at the center of the empty room, too caught up in the moment as the first bars filled her ears.

Delicate notes first filled the room as his fingers skilfully played the piano. It was as if a flower was slowly blooming—fragile and fresh. His fingers descended on the ivory keys, feeling its solidness and pliancy at the same time. His trepidation was slowly replaced by confidence as the notes and melody took over his senses. His heart beat fast and blood rushed through his veins. Then, slowly, it build up, she too was swept by the sweetness of the notes, fast, then slow, flirting in synchronized tempo. After sometime, it settled to a distinct rhythm, surprised at its ordinariness, forcing the listener to a semblance of boredom. It then gradually climbed down the scale then gained momentum, increasing its power, sending her to the zenith and then suddenly plunging down.

She held her breath as he held onto to that note and then gradually gained speed. It wrapped her senses with power—until he suddenly stopped.

Complete silence enveloped them as both reach different conclusions: he of his potential as a prodigy, her of her mother and her unsung cry for help rather than attention.

She shivered in fear and shed some tears that day, for the music was too powerful—it spoke volumes. It spoke of love and then hate, finally resignation in its silence, those un-played notes, still it was unfinished, like it was waiting and breathing.

"James, I want you to go far away after this. Please." She said quietly.

"I don't understand." He was getting angry. Why is she speaking like some damned textbook in literature? "I played great!"

Maybe too well, she thought. Her mind was racing with possibilities, endless for she was far too worried of the consequences. The notes perfectly encompassed each human emotion with such feeling—it was so real. A shiver passed through her as she mulled over things. The barely tuned piano, the silence and isolation in the heart of the city. It was far too perfect— and far too delicate.

When James left that day, she went to her father.

"That piece, it was not written by Mom."

The man who raised her up stopped fixing the dishes and turned to her with enigmatic eyes and a bland expression.

"I was wondering when it will be finished."

"You can ask your friend about that."