Memories can be scars of the mind.
Lilies; the flower of mourning. The smell made Ella remember her mother, the car accident, and her death. Ella was too young to understand what death was but, she was old enough to know that her mother was gone.
After her mother left, Ella's father drifted farther from her and society, and closer to alcohol. Every dream Ella ever had since losing her mother was of playing in the front yard the still rising sun beaming down making her blonde hair gleam and shine. Waiting for her mother to return home from her night shift. Once her mother came into view Ella started to jump up and down trying to flag her down, making her mother’s gaze waver from the road until the honk of a horn coming from another direction. Ella would turn her head towards the sound and see her mother's car swerve off the road into another car.
The smell of gas would burn Ella's nose but she still tried to find her mother. Smoke would fill Ella's lungs causing a burning sensation to start in her throat. No sound would come out of her mouth when screaming for help. A sense of hopelessness would overtake her body leaving her frozen unable to do anything.
The dream never got any further in than that. Ella wouldn't let it. Not if she could stop it. Of course, once in awhile, Ella would see snippets of the cars burning and clawing at her mother's car door with bleeding nails. Watching her mother's motionless body with her head twisted in such a way that it looked like a scene from a horror movie, would bring the dream to maximum terror. It wasn't a horror movie though, it was a childhood memory.
Every time the dream ended with unshed tears in her eyes.
Slipping out of bed Ella would walk four steps, no more no less, and sit on the old white mahogany stool next to her sleek white grand piano. All keys were tuned to perfection making every note coming out of it precise.
Tomorrow would be the first day back after winter break. She would be back at school again with all the drama of who was dating who and guys fawning over her friends. Ella's school was worse than others when it came to drama, seeing as how she went to a school made for the arts, which made the drama ten times worse especially with all the tightly wound students that had just finished exams less than a week earlier.
Ella snorted at the thought of friends.
She had no friends so why would she deal with drama? All time spent at school was in class or in the piano hall. There was no time for friends, Ella needed to keep practicing to keep her scholarship. Since Ella was number one in the entire music program she had been given extra privileges for practicing.
Slowly Ella glided her fingers over all eighty-eight keys of the piano. Ella's mother had taught her how to play and from a young age, she had been categorized as a prodigy. Smiling, Ella remembered her first recital and how her mother cheered for her louder than anyone else in the audience.
Closing the cover of the piano Ella hummed Clair de Lune.
Looking over to her clock she wasn't surprised by the time, 7:14. The same time she always woke only to go back to the same dream. Just like clockwork. Reminding her of what happened at that time around twelve years ago.
Repeating itself over and over again.
Never changing, just like her.
Having to best someone can make you better.
Looking up at the dullish, red, brick building called the music wing a chill made its way through Ella making her shiver slightly and caused her messenger bag to slip off her shoulder a fraction of an inch.
"I'm back," She whispered under her breath while she tugged on her old messenger bag.
Walking up the gray cement stairs to the entrance, a small pit of nervousness dug through her body making her want to go back home, sleep and maybe perhaps push the nervousness out onto her music. Ella couldn't do that anymore, the school took away from her music and made her bottle up her nervousness and put it back on the shelf with the rest of her unwanted and uncontrollable emotions. After all, it was required for all students to be there the first day back after every break.
Ella stood straight trying to look effortlessly confident, as she walked through the building with her shoulders back and a false sense of confidence clouding her exterior. Ella became aware of the eyes that were fixed upon her from all directions. Whispers soon followed the stares.
The hallways were lined with students and their baggage that they took over break. Instruments were pushed against lockers, while a tube of paint seemed to have been squashed by the flood of students and now painted the floor with light purple footprints going every direction. The dreary black and white colored hall mismatched with the light purple making a contrast in colors that some of the wannabe artists from a different wing of the school started to argue about it.
Luckily, she was small enough to slide past them without touching any of the colorful mess and carry onto her destination; the exam scoreboard. The first place Ella would always go to make sure that her fears just stayed that. Fears. Looking at the board she scrolled the board from bottom to top out of habit. Black lines marred the page making it almost unrecognizable. The scribbles looked to be done by a black fine-point Sharpie, looking up the list Ella finally found her name near the top.
The nervousness and fear she had bottled up earlier now broke and changed to anger and confusion.
Ella got second place, she had never gotten lower than first. Looking above her total score she saw the name of the person who scored better than her, Nathan King. His last name made her quickly start a theory of him being the type of person that was skilled at the piano like Ella but, was the type to play around. He was probably cocky and didn't take things such as piano seriously.
Ella hated that type of person.
Whirling her head around the once packed hallway to now see she was alone wallowing in her self-pity and anger. The bell had already rung and yet her head was too in the clouds for her to have noticed. This only made Ella feel even more idiotic than she already felt after her act of confidence and find out she had placed second, not her usual first place. No wonder people were whispering about her, the queen of piano had been replaced by an unknown king.
After unfocusing and spacing out again for a few seconds Ella observed that she wasn't by the scoreboard anymore and instead her legs had brought her to Mr. Crawley's office. He was the one in charge of scoring the exam, he was also one of the reasons for her placing second, and the person responsible for her overwhelming emotions at the moment. Taking quick breaths she tried to get a hold of herself and clear her face of emotion leaving a clean slate of nothing. Once believing that she did a well enough job Ella knocked on the oak door to his office.
"Come in." A muffled voice said on the other side of the door.
Pushing open the door swiftly she saw Mr. Crawley staring at stacks of files on his desk with a sort of frown decorating his face. The small cubicle of a room had the strong smell of coffee and sweat. Looking up from his files Ella got a closer glance at the man. Mr. Crawley had been a well known pianist many years before and had went by the name of Tristan Joueur before a mysterious prodigy of the name of Mason Lykes took over his place leaving a small shell of a man -now known as Mr. Crawley- behind. The creases of frustration over the years molding into his skin giving an older look to his face.
He looked exhausted with his few hairs left on his head sticking out in miscellaneous directions. It was only the first day back after the break, Ella felt no remorse for the tired unkempt man who placed her under another student. The thought of being best made her anger spike then settle again knowing, and taking a sort of pleasure in his discomfort. Ella slinked into the chair across from him watching his gaze flicker from her then back to the pile of files on his desk.
Crossing her arms across her chest Ella stared at the reflective bald spot on his bent down head.
"Who did better than me on the exam?" Ella asked never looking away from the top of his head
Crawley sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and looked away from his files. "I thought you were a smart girl, didn't you see the name above yours?"
She pushed herself up the chair trying to stand her ground she retorted, "Of course I did, but how is it that a kid I've never heard of beats me in an exam I had studied days for and almost had a perfect score on."
Crawley got up from his chair and stalked to the other side of the room. His hands started to fidget together while his eyes hardened looking at Ella. A silence was shared between them until he finally spoke up.
"Yes, you did get the highest score on the written part of the exam, except Nathan King received a higher score on the actual playing part and since the-" Ella cut him off from his ranting and finished his little speech for him. "Written part of the exam is only worth 2/3 of the playing part. I don't get how he did better than me, even if he was better in the playing aspect of the exam. I had a perfect score on the written part and was only a couple points off from getting a perfect score on the playing part."
He turned away from her, "You know I'm supposed to keep scores private, though one thing I can say is that when told to put your emotion into your playing you flood the piece with too much emotion and make the piece overwhelming, ruining the score in some parts."
Anger seeped off Ella in waves. She couldn't keep her poker face any longer. She stood up quickly making the chair she was sitting in tip over backward. She wanted to play the piano. Scratch that, Ella needed to play the piano.
Looking around the halls and seeing no one Ella ran out of Mr. Crawley's office, not waiting to listen to the loud protests coming from behind her. Pushing through the hallways, Ella started to run to the main auditorium where the closest piano was.
Ella's pain was the piano's pain and the melody; the outcome.
The world is nothing more than a ball of hopes falling into an abyss of despair.
The soft sounds of the piano mixed with Ella's breath causing a rhythm that started to relax her pace to stay in sync with her breath.
Slower and slower she played until the piano stopped altogether. Ella was finally clear of all her problematic emotions and that was how she wanted to stay. Nothing at all held her back from just staying in the auditorium and not going to class.
One of the perks of being at the top, or at least near the top for Ella was being able to skip class. The only difference between being first or second was truly the title but for Ella, it meant a world of a difference. And that boy, the unknown good for nothing new kid took away her place.
After her mother's death, Ella could only find solace in piano seeing as how her father was too drunk to be there for her. In the end, everyone was alone. That was something Ella knew from a young age, and she reveled in it.
While others were out with their parents and friends doing trivial things, Ella stayed inside perfecting the one thing that was there for her, piano.
Looking down at the glossy keys Ella started to play again. The keys were a symbol of life reminding her that for every good thing there was something bad. Life was one thing that stayed by her side after all this time even with all its downfalls, but then again so did death.
Always waiting for his next victim, waiting silently for a moment of weakness then taking the chance to strike. Ella's mom was an example. Taking her eyes off the road in front of her to watch Ella on the front lawn. The sound of soft clapping brought Ella out of the memories that wouldn't say hidden. The past was just that, memories. And yet they didn't understand that they were always coming back to her just like her emotions. Taunting her, telling her there was no escape. Emotions or memories, either way, it made no difference for Ella both slowly chipped away at her heart, killing her inside.
Sighing Ella slowly closed the lid of the piano and turned to the intruder of her session. On the top of the ugly gray flooring, five rows up from the front was a boy leaning against one of the chairs still softly clapping as if waiting for more entertainment to waltz in and give him more of a show. Instead, it was just Ella. Plain old Ella, the girl that everyone knew yet doesn't converse with.
The boy was dressed like one of the artisan students in the next wing over in his stylish clothes that looked to be made for him and only him. His hair was a light brown with darker highlights making it stand out. The way he stood told Ella that he wasn't an art student but rather a music student. He didn't hold his head up and act like he knew everyone's secret while unable to keep his own. He looked very modest other than his clothes. Everything about him still seemed to make him good-looking. His eyes, though, were the thing that caught Ella's attention.
A bluish color that looked closer to light green in the glaring light bouncing off the shiny black floor of the stage.
"You're quite good, are you a music student here?" The boy asks walking down the stairs closer to Ella. She scoffed and the stupidity of his question. Why else would she be here? To clean?
Instead of speaking her mind Ella doesn't speak.
"Are you deaf? Sorry, I don't know sign language. Ever need me for French though and I'm your man, I probably even then I might kinda suck." He said with a shrug still walking toward Ella who was now standing next to the piano rubbing the paint of the piano with the tips of her fingers.
Deciding that it would be easier to give the boy the conversation he wants Ella finally spoke,"I'm not deaf."
The boy stopped opening his mouth slightly in surprise.
"Sorry, I jumped to conclusions. It's just," He pauses leaving off as if not wanting to finish his sentence.
"Just what?" Ella asks crossing her arms around her chest glaring at the boy.
"You have the basics down, but your style it's chaotic. Going up and down over and over again, just like a heartbeat." The boy whispers the last part probably now understanding why Ella's playing style was so different.
He was right on one thing though, not that it was chaotic. No, it was like a heartbeat, her heartbeat.
A shrill sound of a bell sounded telling everyone that it was time for next hour. This was Ella's chance. Standing up Ella walked off the stage to the boy and held her hand out for him to shake. She nodded for him to start the greeting. And he complied.
"Hello, I'm Nathan King." The boy said nervously
Ella felt a rage come over her making her want to let go of the boy Nathan's hand. This boy took the only thing she had and told her that her piano playing was not up to par with what he had heard before.
Gripping Nathan's hand tighter Ella responded,"I'm Ella, the girl who will make you regret coming to this school, Nathan." She spat out with disgust thick in her tone and stormed out the next to her next class of the history of composers.
Rage was still coursing throughout her body making her speed even faster to class trying to burn it off. No matter, it still was there, rage that now made Ella want revenge.