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Chaconne for Solo Violin

Sioned Curoe

The teen hid in her closet almost every day. He was a frail thing, delicate in the dark in a manner that urged the other boys to bully him. "Good-for-nothing" and "loser" often chased him through the high school halls to her dusty refuge. Still, she watched as the boy peered through the crack between the door and the wall. With fingers trembling he snuck back into the hall, already late for class. Every day was the same story, and she couldn't help but feel a small amount of pity for him. She longed to reach him, to call out, but something held her silent until her wooden body trembled. Before the boy, she'd never even wanted to talk to someone else, too wrapped up in her own misery and a broken dream. Years passed unmarked in her claustrophobic sanctuary as dust settled over her. The janitor rarely visited even to fetch a mop.

          One morning (though she could never tell by the fluorescent light from the hall) the boy hid mere feet from her with bruises on his hands and a look of terror she could discern even through the dim light. Though she hurt to look at him or to listen to the broken sounds emanating from his mouth and heart, she remained quiet. What she saw the next day would have made her stomach turn if she still had one. Things were escalating, though she had no idea why. Blood shone black on his lips in the light seeping through the door – they'd hurt him for real this time.

          She couldn't take it any more – she called to him, softly. The first strains of butchered melody made the boy look up, squinting toward her but seeing nothing. A chord rang out, then another. It took force to work without fingers, without a bow, but the boy's growing curiosity was worth it. Slowly, she saw his wonder start to subjugate his fear, and he took a cautious step toward her, his toes nudging his way through the gloom. His vigilance would have been amusing if it wasn't so heartbreaking. Chords trickled into arpeggios as she urged him just a little closer. His fingers brushed her the same moment his eyes must have adjusted to the dark.

          "A…violin?" his voice was a whisper, wary of the compelling music she knew would reach his mind alone. 

          If she had lips, she would have smiled.

-

For the first time in years, perhaps even decades, she was outside the storage closet. She could admire the boy's cunning – sneaking out a full-length violin beneath the noses of teachers and bullies alike. "Loser" was not a label she would pin on him. In the past hours of solemn observation, she'd learned more about this boy than she would have thought possible. His name was Ger, he was a high school freshman, and his life was going nowhere. Most importantly, he knew nothing about music. That made her sad – no child should live without music in their hearts. Even as she learned about him, his questions about her never stopped.

          "What's your name?"

          "…Rebekah."

          "Are you a ghost?"

          This took some thought on her part. The state of her existence – trapped in her old violin – had stopped seeming important long ago. Still, she answered with an affirmative. She was a ghost, but not, so much a part of the instrument that she'd become more than its possessor. Ger cocked his head, fingers glancing lightly over her strings and scratches with blatant fascination. She could practically hear the unasked why to her answer in his mind, but he didn't voice it and she did not deign to respond. Instead she asked a question in turn.

          "Why aren't you scared?" She expected a boy so afraid of the boys who tormented him for merely existing to be more frightened by a lingering spirit. His hand tightened around her neck at her words, but she had no air to choke on. He looked down at her almost sadly, his drooping eyes half-covered by lanky hair. 

          "Nothing interesting has ever happened to me. I just thought…when something interesting does happen, I should embrace it…or something like that…" The mumbled words were entirely teenager and they brought a color to his cheeks that was particularly endearing. Her strings hummed as indecision rode in her ribs. She was only supposed to feel sorry for this boy, but now she felt as if she wanted to help him – an urge she'd never experienced before.

          "You want your life to be more interesting?" 

Ger nodded, a tad overeager. Her eyeless face took in the boy's posture. The cringing and utter deprecation she saw was saddening, but the boy had no purpose, no ambition to aspire to. Rebekah had had a lovely dream once, many years ago, to become a master soloist; alas, that dream now was naught but wisps and closet dust.

          Perhaps she could give it to Ger.

          A long pause followed this thought, chased by a shudder that raced along her bass bar. If she could find one tiny spark, a hint of something more in the boy, they could change the world.

          She'd finally be free.

          "Let's make a deal." I can give you a purpose.

-

The boy had more than a spark, she soon found. Granted, his fingers were clumsy when she took them the first time, pulling at his muscles to miss sour notes and adjusting his wrist as he held her bow. He took her spiritual manipulation of his body in stride, only gazing in wonder as his own hands drew three sweet notes from her strings. For the first time in decades, Rebekah sensed the heat which radiated from his hands and could feel the texture of her strings through his fingertips as he pressed at her neck. She nearly felt alive again, and the boy's heart was made of music that nearly matched her own in its complexity. He was Bach's chaconne, alternating between the quick rhythms of vive and the slow weight of largo. Why had he not discovered the power of his music before now? Perhaps no one had ever pushed him to it, or even given him the chance. She was too busy showing him the way around her fingerboard to question him.

          That night Rebekah waited impatiently for dawn, unable to rest or pace about the room. Ghosts never slept. If Rebekah could sleep, she would dream of storms and long gray roads. She would see trees thrashing in the wind, praying for mercy from the sky, but pass them too quickly to catch their words. In her dream, she would stop so suddenly she flew into the waiting boughs, wrapped in leaves and shards of glass that brought forth beautiful red that tasted like copper. Her last thought had been to the violin, trapped in its protective case in the trunk of her car.

          Alas, she had no brain with which to dream, no tongue to taste blood in her mouth, and no eyes to quietly cry during the night as Ger slept and she stood in her corner, alone, remembering her death.

          Events went on in this manner for nearly two weeks.

          His mother noticed the change, eventually. Ger hadn't been particularly careful about refraining from his practice or lessons from Rebekah when his mother was home or awake enough to pay attention. It started with remarks on Ger's sudden interest in classical music – she though he was listening to music on his computer – but one day his mother inevitably walked into his sparsely decorated bedroom without knocking, as some mothers are prone to do. Rather than showing shock at the sight of her unmotivated son playing an extremely complicated instrument, she raised an eyebrow and heaved her load of laundry on the bed. The woman had a plain face riddled with light frown lines and lanky hair pulled into a messy ponytail, but otherwise she looked nothing like Ger.  She was not at all what Rebekah expected.

          "Where did you get that?" It was a sensible question, but it left Ger stuttering until Rebekah whispered a few quiet explanations.

          "Um, I borrowed it from school. They, uh, had a bad spare and said I could learn on it." Silence filled the space for a moment as she eyed both the boy and the violin critically. Then she shrugged, overturning the basket on Ger's bed for him to fold and put away.

          "Alright, just don't stay up late, okay?" She kissed him on the forehead, picked up the empty basket, and walked out of the room. If Rebekah had a mouth, it would have gaped. She could now understand where Ger had gotten his lackadaisical attitude, but when she mentioned such, the boy flicked her strings in a manner rather painful to the ear.

          "Mom's always been like that. It's not a big deal."

          "But-" Rebekah tried to interject.

          "I don't really want to talk about it. She's been worse since Dad died," he muttered in an undertone. Silenced, she conceded to the pleading look in his eyes and was content to fall back into the music with him. His mother never mentioned the violin again.

-

It wasn't long before something else changed. In the space between Ger going to school and running back home to practice with her, Rebekah lay on his bed, sunning her wood and playing music to herself. Mostly she would feel content, but some days she was the very definition of a restless spirit. She ached to rise from the wood and feel the sun on her true face. The melancholy only lasted until Ger came tromping in, backpack and a violin case in tow. By this point, it was just better not to ask where the boy had procured the case. Over the past few weeks, the ghost had come to realize that the human had many more mysterious secrets than she.

"I talked to the orchestra director today." Ger's grin practically lit up the room. He placed a hand on her neck to hear her response.

"Oh? What about?" She was generally curious, because from what she knew Ger never went out of his way to talk to anyone.

"He said since I was learning violin, I could, um, play in the orchestra if I wanted." His voice took on a nervous tinge, but he was still clearly happy. 

"You're going to play in an orchestra?" She didn't know if she felt sad or proud. She hadn't thought the point where he would move on without her would come so early. Her tone made Ger falter for a moment.

"No," he picked her up, tucking her under his chin for a moment before his hand found the bow. "We are going to play in an orchestra."

-

Years passed in a flurry as they played together, with others and alone.

They had become one. In every aspect they played as a single unit, pushing the music and pulled by it. In her twenty years of life before death, she'd never reached this level; this comfort with her art or with another human being. 

Ger grew a little taller, his hair longer, his fingers more graceful as they danced over her strings. Their partnership was no longer about her pity or his desperation for a purpose. Now it was only about the music and them.

-

Six years after they came together, Rebekah knew she had to leave.

The stage on which they stood was bright enough that if she were human she would have to shade her eyes. As it was, the faces before her were naught but dark blurs and whispers. Ger's grip on her neck tightened. 

This moment had been in the making for years – since even before the boy, no, the man she played with was even born. They were not sheltered by an orchestra, not accompanying or accompanied by anyone. The stage contained only Ger, her violin, and a small wooden stool. Neither of them had any need for written music; no sheets occupied a music stand, just a small handwritten list to remind Ger of the song order. 

The man pressed his face close to her body and set her bow at the ready. The crowd's whispers died into breathless anticipation of their first notes. She reached to Ger, no longer guiding his movements, but moving with him. Their music was a dance. 

After each song the applause grew louder, and Rebekah's heart grew quieter, bit by bit. My time is up, she realized. The thought hurt, but came as no great shock. On the last song, she let him have his hands to play alone. Though she could see the shock of it nearly mess up his timing, he recovered well. Ger's eyes looked down at the violin, then finally turned to see her for the first time as she stood before him, invisible to everyone else. His eyes widened, and she knew he understood, implicitly, what was happening.

"Don't leave…don't leave me," he whispered, chin tucked against the violin as if holding on to a lifeline. 

"I have to," she replied softly. "I can't stay here anymore." We both found our purpose. Mine was to teach you.

"But I need you." Ger closed his eyes, and she saw rather than felt his hand tighten around the bow.

"Not anymore. This is your life now. I ought to let you live it," she said, and he had no reply, though protestations roiled in his expression.

Rebekah smiled and kissed his forehead with his cheeks between her translucent palms. Her goodbye rang out in the final notes of the chaconne for solo violin as Ger made one last draw with the bow before his hands dropped amidst applause, too numb to even look up. 

Later, the audience would wonder why the violin maestro ended his performance in tears.

All that Ger wondered at were her final words: "Live this life, love. We'll play together when I see you again."