Monday, May 15, 2017

#9- Ringing Bells

So Banks told me she could hear my playing through the walls. I'd been playing less frequently, saying it was so she could have quiet. 
I stared out the window, of my apartment, considering moving. Going back to my old life. I don't know. The Ikea scare had reminded me of something I had tried so hard to forget. 
I wasn't going to get away from my past, not really. 
My phone ringed. I continued to stare out the window. Maybe I could go school again. Study music. I laughed. No. I'd stay here. I'd get to know the people I'd been ignoring. 
My phone beeped. 
"Hey, Michael, it's your mother. Your father and I were wondering...."
I tuned out the voicemail. I stared at the girl running across the street. She hadn't even looked both ways. At least she was easily noticeable, and it wasn't dark. The car would be able to see her in time.
The phone beeped marking the message's end, but the sound disappeared into the bells. Ringing bells. My gaze turned back to the running girl, my heart sinking, hoping it wasn't her. 

But the car didn't stop.

Friday, April 28, 2017

#8- Ikea and Late Apologies

Dyeing my hair actually had taken three simple steps, but it had also reminded me of something else from a year ago.

I was standing in front of 308. After receiving no answer to my knocking, I glanced at the janitor, who was making his way down the hallway to the staircase.

“Who lives in this apartment?” I pointed to the door neighboring mine.

He squinted. “Banks Avery. I think.”

I smiled “Thanks.” I pounded on the door. “Miss Avery, I-”

The door jerked open, and the young woman who lived next door definitely looked different. The dark circles under her eyes and the puffy redness around them made me forget why I had knocked on her door.

“Are you okay?” I asked, slowly lowering my raised arm.

She glared at me. “I’m fine. What do you want?”

I blinked a few times. “Right. So I’ve been a bit distracted, but I realized I needed to apologize for being a jerk about the sock thing.” I laughed nervously. She didn’t look like someone who was okay. “That was like a year ago….”

“Thanks. Apology accepted. You’re still a jerk. Is that’s all?” She moved to close the door, and I put my hand out.

“Wait.” I racked my brain for something better. “I... propose a trip to Ikea. As a better apology. They’re having a sale. Anything you want, I’ll pay for.”

I was fairly certain she was going to strangle me. Ha. Wouldn’t that be a great way to die after my monotonous life?

“If I say no, will you leave me alone?” Annoyance overlapped with defeat.

Hearing those words, I realized how they sounded every time I had said them in high school. And I had said them enough times to know what they meant.

“Miss Avery, with respect, I would not. I would continue to knock on your door even if you slammed it in my face.”

She continued to glare at me, probably wondering if she could call the police about a weird neighbor banging on the door.

“One hour at Ikea.” She said. “I don’t want to hear anything from you unless I ask.”

“Of course.” I agreed.  “This is my apology for you, Miss Avery.”

She glared at me. “And stop, stop calling me that.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#7-The Re-decision to Use Hair Dye.

I pulled a leaf out of my sock. The backpack was killing my shoulders. Why had I decided to walk into the woods? Because Kaiti wanted to walk into the woods to find a rainbow. I didn't care about the rainbow. I just wanted my job back, and she was refusing to give it to me. Because of all the miscellaneous things I have had to do as an apology for not showing up for two weeks, I should probably ask for some sort of pay. Not that I needed it.
"They found that body." She stopped, checking a map with her compass. 
I dropped the backpack on the ground. At least the trees were shading us as it got closer to noon. "Are we looking for the end of a rainbow, because that's not actually possible. Science-"
"What do you think happened with the body?"
"I don't know." I rolled my shoulders. It had been what six months? Longer? When... had I stopped counting? It was enough time that I was near fluent in Russian again. "Could I get my job back. Maybe a paycheck? I don't-"
"Like walks in the woods? I think you'd prefer them if you had the right clothes. You always look ready for a formal evening." 
That reminded me of the least formal thing I owned. "Do you want a pair of pink socks? I mean, I-"
She held up her hand. "We're continuing. Pick up the bag."
I groaned.
"No complaining, Michael. Here you don't have to be worried about your roots showing."
My grip tightened around the shoulder straps, freezing. "What?"
"Oh, you just keep your hair so well cut, but I guess you hadn't noticed." She was smiling, hiding a light laugh. "That your blond hair was growing out."
No, I definitely had not noticed.... Maybe that was a good thing. I had finally forgotten who I was even with the occasional journalist. Still, I couldn't let my blond hair grow out to it's natural black, the press would jump on that faster than the murder party, so I would need to-
That blue hair dye was still sitting on my counter.
Grinning, I pulled the bag onto my shoulder. 
"We're going to find the end of that rainbow?" 
"Yes, Michael." Kaiti nodded. "Then I suggest you mop the floor of the laundromat tomorrow."

So I got my job

and a little show of change
with an opened box.

Monday, January 23, 2017

#6- Sonata

I was leaving Rose Records, listening to the voicemail again, checking one more time, before I made the short trek back to Winthrop place, that I had gotten the right CD.

"Hey, Michael, this is Emma. I was wondering if you could record yourself playing the following three songs by Beethoven: Für Elise, Moonlight Sonata, and Appassionata. I need them for a project assigned by my dance instructor. Obviously, I have the music, but..." she tripped over her words a little bit here. "Just when you play Beethoven, it's better. You know? Anyway, let me know and what not. And, Anna wanted me to tell you that she is disappointed that your hair is neither spiked nor blue." Someone shouted something away from the phone. "SHUT UP, ANNA. I'M NOT GOING TO SAY THAT." The voicemail ended.

I peeked in the bag from Rose Records. Für Elise, Moonlight Sonata, and Appassionata. The CD had a few other songs on there, but as long as I got the three she’d mentioned, it’d be fine. No matter what I did, Emma would notice that they weren't mine, even if I replaced the CD cover with my own. She'll probably be mad. I shrugged, and put my phone back in my pocket.

Ever since the press had found out where I lived, I had set my music aside, and I wasn't going to start again anytime soon. I didn't need anyone figuring out my apartment number based on sound.

I had relaxed, though, since I'd taken the time to breathe, and my parents had shut down the whole fiasco with the stranger in the football field-- they were always better with the press than I was. The world still knew the town I lived in and the building, but unless I was kissing people or involved in murders not many people really cared about a classical pianist that wasn't performing anymore. Even the press from the kissing photo wasn't as bad as middle school when I got caught doing-

I stopped and couldn’t help but smile at the small space just between Rose Records and Raphael Heights Elementary. I set the bag down and stepped into the alleyway. I knelt on the ground and just smiled at the tiny village.

Doll clothes, shoes, and brushes were arranged around the town like gifts to whoever lived there. There were lights strung up in the alleyway through the town. The attention to detail in the buildings was incredible. They were made of twigs but they looked like someone could almost live in them.

I gently tugged on one of the doors, to see if it would open. It did. Functioning doors? Charles would like this. I leaned back. Charles would really like this. Anna would love the visual too. This was brilliant. Someone in this dreary town had made this little alleyway into something beautiful.

"You should leave something"

I jumped and looked over my shoulder. A boy held a single piece of bread he was crumbling in his hand.

"For who?"

"The fairies. You probably didn't know. Have part of my bread." He put half of his bread into my open hand, and he started thoughtfully scattering his crumbs. "That's our job." The child beamed. "We give them things."

"I suppose that makes-" I stopped and stared at the boy. Job. Job? JOB.

I handed the bread back to the boy. My mind was racing, trying to figure out many days I hadn't shown up to work. "Here, you can give this to them for me. Thanks."

I stood up, barely remembering to grab the bag with Emma's CD. I smiled at the boy, and then dashed out of the alleyway.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

#5- The Return of the Hunters

I pulled the comb through my hair; I had given up spiking my hair. For two weeks, I hadn't even glanced at the unopened box of blue hair dye on my counter, because my appearance mattered now.

The murder attracted journalists, and some lousy journalist had gotten their hands on a guest list.

"Numerous residents of Winthrop Place apartments were in attendance, including the famous Michael Hay."

I checked my teeth in the mirror, focusing on the cap over my right eye tooth. It looked fine. I looked fine...

When I had finished my meticulous morning routine, I curled up in an armchair and stared at the opened box I had kicked across the room last night. I had gotten a pair of neon pink wool socks from an anonymous sender. It told me that someone knew where I lived, and if I was going to start getting appreciation mail, it was only a matter of time before I started getting-

I buried my face in my arms. It was a single gift, probably only a practical joke from Anna. There was no reason to panic....

Unfolding myself from the armchair, I grabbed a coat and pulled it around my shoulders. I grabbed the wool socks out of the box on the floor and pulled open the door to my apartment.

I knocked on apartment 308. Did someone even live here?

A young woman opened the door. I had probably seen her at the party two weeks ago, but I didn't have a name for her face.

"What," she asked.

"Take the socks." I shoved them towards her.

"Excuse me?"

"They're causing me a great deal of stress. Take the socks."

"No 'happy holidays'?"

Of course, she would want to elongate this conversation. "Are you going to take the socks?"

She smiled, "Keep them. They look like wool, and it's getting colder around here." Then she closed the door in my face.

I stared at the brass number marking the apartment. I deserved that.

I hadn't acted like that since... I shook my head. The past didn't need to come up for any reason.

After a beat, I knelt down and placed the socks in front of her door, for her to get later. Or maybe the janitor. Whoever.

Air would do me good. For the rest of the day, I would just... walk around town. I took deep breaths, repeating to myself that I looked fine, that everything was fine.
At the end of the evening, I found myself in the football field just behind the abandoned park. The field had a surprising lack of security, and I had just walked out on the turf.

On the field it was quiet. It was dark; you could see the stars. I leaned against the goal post and closed my eyes. After the crazy things I'd seen around town on my long walk, this was a perfect change of pace.

"It's an odd place for mistletoe."

My calm heart had decided to try jumping out of my throat. I jerked my eyes open.  An unfamiliar man stood in front of me in the darkness.

He pointed upwards at the goal post, my gaze followed his gesture. There was a tuft of something hanging from the goal post, but whether or not it was mistletoe was hard to tell-

Before I could even react to the man touching my face, I was forced into an action that I hadn't done since seventh grade. My muscles didn't react to my mind screaming to push the stranger kissing me away because I saw a flash in the stands. My eyes fixed to that location, and when I saw the second flash a millisecond later, my heart stopped racing.

I wasn't even sure it was still beating.

I shoved the stranger off of me, and I ran.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#4- One Dead Man at a Murder Party

I remembered a bit of Russian from my Russian performance a few years back, which turned out to be a good thing. Kaiti, the woman who runs the Laundromat, only spoke Russian. I’m not even sure why she hired me if we wouldn't be able to properly communicate.

When she hired me to help her clean. I almost told her that I only knew how to clean instruments, but something gave me the impression that she already knew that.

My third day working for her I found the invitation on the floor of my apartment. I was leaning towards locking myself in my apartment and frankly not going.

"An invitation to a murder mystery party. Who would go to a party like that?" I mumbled to myself as I pushed the mop forward on the tile floor.

Kaiti glared at the floor. "I don't need _____ my ______ boy. This  ___ isn't a black _______. Don't work so hard."

I stared at her, processing what she'd said, and nodded when I thought I understood. I relaxed my hands on the mop.

"And you ____ like____. I know_____ you don't ______. I _____ you go to _______ Michael. It _____ good for you_____ people."

I narrowed my eyes staring at the floor. Not understanding, I simply nodded and continued working.
Remembering Kaiti's statement, when I got back to the apartment, I turned on my computer. After the internet had spat back the translation of Kaiti’s words, I made up my mind. I was going to the party.

'You look like a vampire. I know you don't ever get out. I say that you go to the mysterious party, Michael. It would be good for you to see people.'

I laughed the entire time that I wrote my RSVP.
I glanced around the table, eyeing the food placed in front of me. Black tie affair in a storage closet? The boxes piled up against the wall were such a strong contrast to the formal dining table, I wasn't sure any of it was real.

I shifted in my seat and studied the people who had come. A few people were acting out what they thought was meant to be happening.

When was this going to actually start? I checked my watch. 9:30. This event was supposed to start at seven.

A low toned bell sounded in the distance, and I jerked my head up. A church bell had never rung in this city as long as I'd been there.

No one else seemed bothered by the unknown music, and I knew exactly why. Standing, pushing my chair back, I moved towards the door. I wasn't going to stay here any longer. This wasn't going to be a play murder.

The lights shut off. I froze. Someone screamed.

The lights came back on.

The ring master's partner was lying face down in a bowl of soup.

"Do something, you're a doctor."

"I'm not an-."

I tuned them out, as someone checked the pulse of the man.

The bells had stopped ringing. I mouthed the words before anyone said them out loud.

"He's dead."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

#3- A Reporter, An Old Friend, and An Unemployed Musician

"Why did I have to come to this forum?" Michael glanced around The Bar. Only a few hours before Michael had come home to his apartment with his high school friend sitting on the sofa. Charles had announced that the two of them were going to the environmental forum and waved Michael's invitation around.

"Because," Charles said, "it was invitation only and the only people that got invitations were the people in Winthrop. I don't live in Winthrop, so I'm your plus one."

"Okay," Michael turned to look at his friend. "Then why do you want to be here?"

Charles gestured around the entire mostly empty room. "Michael, this is where you come to meet characters."  

"We're here so you can get inspiration for a book?" Michael sunk lower in his chair. It was all he could do to get Charles to sit in the back.

"Come on, it won't be horrible. Plus, you might learn something."

Glaring at Charles, Michael crossed his arms. "I suppose."

"I couldn't help but notice that I haven't seen you around before." A man sat down next to Charles. Michael sat up in his chair, correcting his posture.

Charles nodded. "I don't live around here. I'm just visiting."

"How are you liking Winthrop?" The stranger asked.

Michael remained silent and pretended to be looking for someone as if that ruse would work here. There was practically no one at the forum. It was getting closer to starting time, anyway. The man wouldn’t continue the small talk for too long.

After having a brief conversation with Charles, the stranger stood up and returned to his original chair.

"That was Paul. He's a reporter." Charles nudged Michael.

Michael remembered every interview he had ever done with a reporter and shivered, trying to make himself small again.  

"He's a reporter for Winthrop Weekly not Channel 5. Apparently, it's a very important distinction... I like that. A reporter who is often mistaken for another person who works for a rival company." Charles pulled out a notebook and started jotting his idea down.

Michael tuned Charles out, glancing at the reporter a few rows up. He was sitting next to another man, with a dog between them. A few minutes later a girl joined them. Michael saw this without processing it.

A reporter...

The last reporter Michael had ever spoken with had asked him what Michael did every day.
Michael's response had been so easy then. Music, he had said. I practice an instrument every day.

Now he didn't even do that, not really. His music didn't matter anymore; it was simply the illusion of productivity, and he was near enough finished unpacking.

Michael needed something to do every day. Michael needed something... like a job.

"Charles, I think I'm going to get a job." Michael stared at the empty stage.

"Thought you would." Charles finished what he was writing in his notebook. "There was a Help Wanted sign at the laundromat next to your apartment building."