She scanned the room she spent the majority of her childhood in, yet hadn’t stepped foot in for several years. She could barely recognize it with the towers of boxes lining the perimeter, the result of the tiresome work of packing up her late mother’s life. Her eyes fell on the striking piano in the center of the far wall; it was truly a stunning instrument and a bit strange, a fitting symbol of its previous owner. Like all upright pianos, this one sat snug against the wall, but unlike the common boxy types, this one had an exotic asymmetrical soundboard that curled up the wall like ivy, the beautiful woodwork cut into elegant angles giving it the appearance of the lovechild between a harp and a piano. She traced her fingers along its gold embellishments, the leaves and coiling flourishes in gaudy art nouveau style. As she moved the bench to take a seat, she unconsciously tensed and flexed her fingers before running them admiringly along the keys.
When her old friend entered the room then, he didn’t have to make his presence known for her to realize he was standing behind her; some people are just more acutely aware of the synaptic transmissions of others. That innate ability to pick up on even the slightest change one can make on the atmosphere—the thrum of a pulse, a rise in temperature, pheromones—whatever it was, some people have it, others don’t, but she always had, especially with him. She beckoned him by sliding slightly to her right to make enough room for the two of them to share the bench. The warm look on his face when he sat was a reprieve from that sorrowful look of pity from everybody else during the funeral.
She watched him as he looked over the magnificent instrument with the same adoration as she had. He then spread his fingers and hovered his hands above the keys to indicate he was about to begin that quaint piano piece meant for two, Heart and Soul. Since she didn’t make a motion to decline, he began the piece at a slow pace, watching to see if she’d indeed join in. After a couple of eight-counts she lifted her index finger above the key it would strike thrice to begin her half of the duet, while her fingers running through air the motions they were about the perform.
When she went to play, the key failed to produce a sound. She tried a second time but experienced the same disappointing silence—the sunken key was a lifeless reminder of the tragedy which finally brought her home after so many years. He continued for another minute, waiting for her to join in before realizing that she’d started quietly sobbing. He stopped playing and pulled her next to him, holding her with one arm while she finally cried.