The Music Box

Celebrating my 25th post,  a small milestone, and go with my first crack at fiction (that I’m willing to publish and share!) So with o’ tip of the hat to Diane, Brenda, Kristine and the Professor…

Her laughter was soft, lilting, like dappled sunlight through old lace, drawing his heart to her as she moved lightly about, her feet almost seeming to not even touch the floor. “Music of the Night” played in the background from the music box as she dipped and swirled in time to the tune, stopping only when he stopped to wind the mechanism. Moonlight streamed in the windows and the air was heavy and still, no breeze to move the curtains.

It was his favorite time of day, when everything was sleeping and the world was his alone. The occasional sound of an owl or other night creature hunting for food broke the otherwise still silence of the darkness.

As always she didn’t speak but reached down and took his hand, and as he stood they began to dance. Together they glided soundlessly and effortlessly, feet barely touching the scuffed floor. Without her, trying to dance with anyone else, he felt as clumsy as an ox but when she put her hand on his shoulder it was if magic went through him and he felt alive in a way he never did with anyone, graceful, leading her around and around the floor, dipping, swirling, waltzing around and around. A sensation similar to the feeling of bumping his elbow just right would go through his whole body at her touch, but so faintly he sometimes wondered if he imagined it, that little zsst of energy.

The music box had been his mother’s, given to her by his father when they realized she was first pregnant with him. After their death in “the accident” as it was referred to, it was all that was left of her that he wanted to keep. It happened when he was 9, and he didn’t remember much about the time right before it, bits and pieces really. His mother crying, both of them yelling, slamming doors, several voices, some loud sounds, then they were gone. After that he’d tried to live with his grandmother in her big old house for a little while before they brought him here. “It’s just for a little while”, they said, “it’s for the best”. But a little while had become years now, and he no longer knew who to believe, and sometimes even questioned how much of what he remembered was real. The only reason he thought it must be is that he was still here, otherwise he would be home with his parents, and this would all be a bad dream.

He no longer listened to the music box as much as he used to. For a while it was every night but then he became afraid he would wear out the mechanism, so he had to work to make himself listen to it less and less, until that summer he came to think of as ‘the summer of magic’, when she came into his life. That summer, he was listening to the music and sitting in the window seat, staring at the stars, wondering if his mother were watching him from somewhere up there, when he became aware of someone next to him. Her sudden appearance didn’t frighten him like he knew it should, but him feel more intrigued and excited. She put her index finger to her lips to indicate silence and motioned him toward the middle of the room, and there first danced for him to the music played from the music box.

They never spoke, and he never knew when she would appear but always, she was there when he needed her to be. For a long time she danced alone, as a ballerina, pirouettes and releves, her long hair falling over one shoulder then the other, as she went en pointe. She danced only to the music from the music box, or would sit quietly with him at his side and hold his hand. Eventually, she taught him to dance with her and he found a sense of completeness and peace that he’d never known in his young life.  Near daybreak, they would sit quietly in the window seat, until his eyes grew heavy, and noiselessly she would slip away.She was glad she could ease some of the hurt he felt with the loss of his mother, but it was difficult to not being able to say anything to him, not being able to tell him anything about her secret. If she did, it meant her time here had to end and she wasn’t ready to let go yet. There was a freedom here for her, to share her gift to help those that were mourning and in stasis move on.

Toward the end of summer, she knew that he was closer to not needing her any more. He’d made friends with people his own age, started being away in the evenings, coming back to his room later, sometimes looking a little flushed and happier and she knew he’d met someone special. He didn’t sit by the window as often anymore, didn’t have the look of melancholy on his face. She knew it wouldn’t last, it never did here, and that when it ended it wouldn’t end well and he wouldn’t want her comfort then so perhaps now was as good a time to make the break as any. So even before he knew he would feel his first heartbreak, she went to him for one final dance.

With the moonlight streaming through the window, they twirled around the room, lighter than air, the shafts of light sparkling as if lit with diamonds. Around and around, breathless with the joy of dancing, through the night. As night turned to day, however, he knew something was different when she didn’t leave like she normally did. Gray light filtered in, and slowly shadows began to appear, and with them she looked different, almost as if she were shimmering.  His arms slowly fell to his sides as she moved away from him and toward the music box and as she did so, she seemed to be growing smaller. He was certain he was imagining things, and blinked hard before rubbing his eyes and suddenly he wondered why, after all this time, he hadn’t noticed the dancer wasn’t in it when she was there dancing in the room with him. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again she was no longer in the room, and when he looked at the music box, the ballerina dancer WAS there, looking exactly like his beautiful dancer who had been coming to him all these months, and taking him in her arms to dance during the night. He moved closer, wondering if his mind was playing tricks on him. As he did so, she pressed her fingers to her lips in a kiss goodbye, and resumed her position so quickly he was no longer sure if she’d been there with him in the room at all. He stared until other sounds began to penetrate his awareness – the rattling of keys, muted voices, a telephone, shoes on a tile floor, confused with the improbability of it all even as the orderly spoke his name, beginning another day.

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16 thoughts on “The Music Box

  1. Oh, I see the problem now! I’m so sorry, Beth! My post says hokey cows. What I wrote and missed from autocorrect was HOLEY cows! NOT HOKEY! Holey cows as in perforated bovines. A thinly-disguised attempt at humor that failed miserably, I see.

    A thousand apologies. I would not insult you or hurt your feelings for the world, Beth, and even if I had some critique to offer for your work, I certainly would not do it IN PUBLIC!

    But I will certainly apologize in public! I am so sorry I let that get by me. Please know that I meant no criticism at all. I really do like your story.

    whispering so nobody will overhear…your young man is in an institution…everyone else thinks all that stuff is going on only in his head which is why he is in the institution…but it’s not just in his head…so the joke is on everyone else…and they are the poorer for their lack of understanding…but that’s just me…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And did I just learn something! The BOLD print at the bottom of that last reply was a total accident! I wrote it enclosed in parentheses followed by and ended by two asterisks to indicate whispering. So what was intended as a whisper ends up in bold and a size larger font. That would only happen to me. Figures. 🙂

    Like

  3. haha it’s all good. I wasn’t insulted. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and if we post something publicly, we have to be prepared for whatever is said, right? Truly, no apology needed, and looking back, it’s pretty funny. So we can chuckle and have fun with it, and it’s all downhill now. When I’m on my first book tour, you can buy me a beer 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m just wiping tears away from my eyes.

    Firstly, Beth, that was a GREAT story! I got the impression that the dancer was either a ghost or an angel but was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered who she was, although the clues were there all along. And I love the night, so felt right at home reading this.

    Secondly, GL’s typo had me crying with laughter (sorry, GL!), and unfortunately, the more I read it, the funnier it got… (sorry, both!)… but I have a quirky sense of humour.

    I look forward to reading more of your fiction, Beth – very impressive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Diane! And to the Professor and Tom too, appreciate your perspectives. So when I sat down to write this, there were two things rattling around in my head: Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby”. (Diane’s probably too young for Angie Baby, LOL!) So it’s really a mashup of those two, but my goal was to leave the reader wondering, and it sounds like I did that in a couple of ways. How fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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