Chapter six: A foul chord
In which we stand on shaky ground.
In the laundry room, I slept without worry.
It’s quite nice not having windows, sure you can’t see outside and the light is yellow and sickly but I haven’t seen or heard anything from my duplicate in the days I’ve slept here.
Since I can’t go to piano lessons with hurt hands I’m just here all day and all night. Sitting on my bed, sometimes I feel adventurous and I look around the room for treasures. Especially now my hands don’t really hurt much at all and boredom creeps in I like to push boxes aside and see what’s behind them.
The long and short of it is a lot of washing line, chemicals I’m not allowed to touch and folded-up laundry.
Prim came in here a whole once for sheets, and I still have to go downstairs for food and hygiene.
But it’s nice in here.
When I want to sleep I just put a chair underneath the doorknob and I haven’t had anyone try to break in.
Maybe she really will leave me alone now?
I sure hope that’s the case.
Because I can hear the glass setters talking and working downstairs.
And I don’t want her breaking two windows.
“Serenity, will you come down for a second?” aunt Fortuna’s thunders through the small house.
I pull my day dress over my night shift, it’s easier than going through all the proper layers.
I skip down the steps.
“Serenity dear how are you feeling?” Aunt Fortuna asks looking at my hands.
I hold them up to her “Look it’s still clean, and it doesn’t hurt anymore either.”
“Then I think it’s time to remove the bandages. Wouldn’t that be nice the window and the hands fixed in one day and then we can pretend none of it really happened.”
I can hear in her voice she’s still upset I didn’t explain the window situation but she will have forgotten all about it in a few weeks. I nod in response and we sit down at the table where I offer her my hands. As the bandages get peeled back I shiver against the cold air. My hands are clammy and soft like the skin on a pudding, although hopefully not as fragile and where the cuts were deep there are thin lines still visible on the skin.
“The scars will stay.” Aunt explains “Hopefully they’ll be a reminder not too reckless again.”
I nod, then jump off the chair “can I go to mister Dandelion today?”
“That eager to get back into it?”
“Very well then, but I didn’t tell him you’re better yet so if he has other students you’ll have to wait your turn.”
“I will, thank you, aunt Fortuna.” I want to rush to the door but my aunt tells me “Hold on there, little grasshopper, you still need to eat breakfast.”
One rushed breakfast later I’m running to mister Dandelions house.
I’m running for two reasons. The first reason is that I’m genuinely excited to play again. The second reason is that it’s roughly half an hour earlier than normal, and should my copy still be following me, then by the time she expects me to leave I’ll already be at the teacher’s house. And if she’s following me now…it doesn’t hurt to run.
I won’t look back though.
It’ll only slow me down.
And I don’t even want to know.
The rabbit’s house is a sight for sore eyes and a very parched throat.
I ring the brass bell, then hear a surprised “I’m coming.” From the other side.
“Mister Dandelion, it’s me Serenity!” I shout.
There’s the rattle of keys and then the sigh of a door opening “So you are, you’re earlier than normal.”
“Just excited to get started.”
“Well I’m still on my morning tea, would you like a cup?”
“I would love a cup, thank you.”
I follow him inside and sit down at this little alcove with a fluffy pillow inside.
Mister Dandelion hands me a bowl and sits down next to me.
We drink in silence for a bit, him lapping at his tea in a polite fashion while I gulp it back eagerly.
I set the bowl down again and sigh contently.
It’s good to be back, the sights, the sounds, even the smells were sorely missed.
For a few moments, I’m just soaking up the bliss, until mister Dandelion puts his bowl next to mine and asks “Shall we?”
We head to the piano together and I find the score is already open and waiting for me.
Am I the only student at the moment? Surely that’s not the case. Oh but it’s open at a later page than were we left off, so I guess aunt Fortuna called mister Dandelion while I was away and he set the book up for me on the page he wants me to play.
It surely explains why he wasn’t surprised to see I’m better.
I sit down and look at the page number, number seven, we must have skipped ahead a song?
Oh well, I put my fingers down on the keys and start to play. It’s a much trickier song than the overture, it’s much faster, has fewer repetitions and I’m having a hard time reading along while making the changes.
I press the wrong key, grunt, start over then press the wrong key again in the exact same spot.
“Are you okay?” mister Dandelion asks “You seem distracted.”
“No it’s the song, it changes up too much.”
“Why that’s strange, you had no issues playing it yesterday.”
My hands slam down on the keys, a harsh, foul sound erupting from the piano.
“Sorry, I’m sorry I’m just a bit frustrated, can we maybe do a different song?”
“If you want.”
I pull the book off the stand and start flipping through it in an attempt to calm down.
It doesn’t help much and my brain screams ‘she was here! That evil girl was here with mister Dandelion! She’s trying to take your place!’.
There goes my idle hope of it being over.
Looks like it’s only just beginning.
“How was piano lessons?”
“It was all right,” I tell aunt Fortuna over dinner. I try my best not to sound angry.
“You were so excited to start lessons again and now you’re pulling a long face, what happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
She huffs “You don’t want to talk about anything.”
“You’re not my mom.” The words slip from my mouth before I realize how harsh those words must sound.
The cling of metal on porcelain is chilling.
“No, I’m not your mother, I’m just the woman giving you clothes and shelter and hot meals two times a day and treating your wounds and paying for your piano lessons instead of your actual mother who couldn’t care less if you lived or died.”
“Liar,” I grumble under my breath.
“What’s that now?”
“I said you’re a liar, mum loves me! You just keep me here and pay for my piano lessons so I can be ‘properly raised’ and be your ‘goldmine’ later on!”
“What are you talking about!?”
“I heard you! I heard you talking to madam Ditty so there’s no use pretending! You hate my mother and you took me away from her!”
“So you eavesdrop on me first and then purport moral high ground! Your mother is in no state to raise you and I didn’t tell you because you’re too young to understand.”
“I had a right to know!”
“Don’t talk to me about rights! You’re a child and you’ll listen to me not the other way around. Now sit down and eat your supper.”
“No!” I throw my fork down on my plate and run to my room, slamming the door behind me.
I hate her! I hate her I hate her I hate her!
Everything is ruined.
I’m not even sure I can fix it still.
I look at the window, I look at the door.
Stuck in the middle.
That’s just great.
But I can’t give up.
Not without a fight first.
That night I wait till my aunt goes upstairs to sleep.
I slowly push open the door and head to the kitchen.
I look around me, then slide open the cutlery drawer and pull out a big, sharp knife.
“And what are you planning to do with that young miss?”
My shoulders jump, I turn around at the voice, knife still in my hand “Prim I- I was hungry and I wanted to eat an apple so…”
The maid shakes her head at me and takes the knife from my hand “You have perfectly good teeth Serenity, you don’t need a knife to eat an apple.” She puts the knife back, plucks a green apple from the fruit dish and hands it to me asking “Are you okay miss? I saw you didn’t eat dinner, no wonder you’re hungry.”
I’m definitely not okay, “I’m fine, just tired, hungry and a little cranky.”
She smiles, pats my head “All right then, off to bed you go them, it’s already close to the witching hour.” She makes grabby motions with her fingers, it makes me giggle out of pure nervousness.
Then I head back to my room.
And listen carefully.
While Prim is still downstairs doing chores I pull the sheets off my bed.
I’ll need the washing line, that’s going to be a challenge since I’d have to go upstairs for that, I’d also like nails and a hammer but I doubt I can use them in the middle of the night without waking everyone up so that idea is scrapped.
The moment I hear footsteps on the stairs I feel a tingle up my spine. I rush to the door on my tippy toes and listen carefully.
She’s gone now?
I think so…
I open the door just a smidge and look out, no one on the other side.
I sneak out barefooted and head to the kitchen.
The drawer opens up with the tiniest creak and I freeze till the nerves have died down again. All sounds are louder in silence and never has the sound of a cutlery drawer given me this much fear.
I carefully extract the knife from the pile, keeping the clank of metal on metal to a minimum.
The knife feels dangerous in my hands, even more so since I’m not allowed to have it.
But I take it with me up the stairs, in search of some washing line.
The stairs feel like a mountain so great because these stairs creak, they creak so loud I can hear it from my room, so loud I’m convinced the others can hear it from theirs if I am not extremely careful.
Keeping to the side should help right? I grab the handrail, try to put as much of my weight onto that instead of the step, and step onto the first step. There’s a soft creak, like a crackling whisper but if I’m lucky that’s not going to give me away.
I take another step and another, my arms carrying most of the weight, my feet providing balance. My ears are piqued for any sound.
I freeze when I hear Prim in the attic, if she comes down now it’s all over, why did I go and take the knife first? I’d have so much to explain! I feel like an idiot, looking around for places I could potentially hide the knife, maybe I should drop it? But then someone could stand on it and hurt themselves, I could hold it behind my back but adults have this nasty habit of wanting to see your hands.
But then I realize I haven’t heard anything of Prim since that first sound.
Guess she’s not coming down then.
I take the final steps quickly and deliberately, then quickly snatch the stuff before rushing back down using the same tactic.
I’m giddy by the time I’m back in my room. I look at my haul, a ball of the washing line, a knife, I even got some pegs, these should come in handy.
I get to work.