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Molly Tooher-Rudd 13

Eliza’s Song Dad looked at Henry and raised his eyebrow. Even though he knew he was in trouble, Henry still wished he could raise his eyebrows like that. It was impressive. "I thought I was quite clear. You are not to go into the attic. Grandpas house is old and it could be dangerous," Dad said sternly. Henry looked up earnestly. "But we heard music" Dad suddenly stopped looking cross. In fact he looked very very excited. "What sort of music?" He asked, his eyes twinkling. Henry pondered this eager question for a minute before replying carefully, "It was almost an echo, a piano playing I think, but it didn't last long so I can't be sure" Dad became slightly disappointed and the hopeful excitement faded. " So probably not any of my old records?" Henry shook his head. Dad was cross again " Anyway, you are still in trouble,don't forget that" From down stairs Henry could smell the appetizing fragrance of freshly cooked pasta and herbs and then he heard his mother calling them to lunch. " Saved by Lunch", Henry joked. The family sat round the small square table and chatted aimlessly." So Henry, whats all this about the attic?" Mum asked. Henry threw an angry look at his Dad. "I heard some music up there." " Did you?" Mum asked, " and did Lily hear this music too?" Lily was Henrys older sister. She was 15 and in Henrys opinion did nothing. His sister always had her ipod plugged in, off in her own world which consisted of only fashion, boys and celebrities. Nothing else. Lily glanced up at the mention of her name then looked at Henry acidly. “ Course I didn’t hear any music, Henrys a liar and he’s just using it as an excuse” After her accusing speech, Lily returned too her critical scan from her glossy magazine she concealed from her parents under the table. “ Lily was listening to her ipod, how could she have heard it anyway.” Henry protested defensively. Dad shook his head “ Henry please don’t lie to us. Don’t be difficult.” Henry covered his ears in an attempt to block out his family, turned his back and stormed from the room. Henry threw himself onto his grandpas old armchair pushing his face into the tread bare cushions to suppress his angry sobs of anguish. Dust swirled up from the furniture like leaves caught in a storm. The musty, warm, familiar smell of his grandfather still lingered in the air and comforted the weeping boy. Henry wished that grandpa was still here. He had been the only one who ever understood Henry. The kind old man had always trusted Henrys stories and believed in him. Henry had dyslexia. Mum and Dad had told him that it meant that he learnt things in a different way to others and that he would find it harder to understand everything his friends did. Grandpa told him that it meant he was special and that one day people would realize that. Henry got frustrated and angry about his reading and writing and that he was always behind, but he had always had his Grandpa to turn to. He didn’t anymore. People who have dyslexia often find something they can do really well, something they can just adapt to. Henry knew he had already found his talent. From a young age, Henry had become an accomplished musician. He had been able to work simple notes into a perfect melody. Henry loved to play the piano most of all and treasured the old creaky instrument his family owned. Henrys dream was to be a pianist. Grandpa had told him this as well. But Grandpa wasn’t here anymore. There was no one to confide special and exciting secrets to. Grandpa had died a few months before. Now the family was clearing out the house. Why was Henry up in the attic in the first place? Because it had hurt him too see all of grandpas cherished and loved things being thrown carelessly into the readied skips and choking plastic bags like rubbish. Henrys retreat had been the attic. Lily had followed him in her boredom, to the attic, and had begun to search through the clustered boxes and draws that caught her interest. Henry was leafing mindlessly through photo albums when he heard the music. He had expected the echo to be a song played on Lily’s ipod and turned to tell her to turn down the volume. Then he realized that the music was real, it was too soft and sweet to be the

ipod. When the echo died Henry strained to hear the melody again but he heard only the distant creak of floorboards way below him and his parents as they looked for Lily and Henry. Lily hadn’t heard the music but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any. How could there not have been? As Henry sat in the armchair he suddenly felt a surge of defiance. He would go back up to the attic and he would find where the music had been played from. If he was quick, no-one would notice he was gone. Only a few thin strips of light escaped through the grimy attic windows. Henry scoured the boxes searching for anything that might have caused the music to play. An old record player stood on a skimpy table but it was rusted and beyond use. Stuffed into the darker corner of the room were a pile of shabby coats. Stepping carefully over the crowded floor, Henry pulled on the sleeve of the coat nearest him. The coat fell back to reveal a door, hidden from view. Yanking back the remaining coats, Henry gently eased the door open and stooped to squeeze through the door and into the room beyond. What Henry saw made him gasp in astonishment and joy. The ebony wood was smooth and shining, curving beautifully down towards the Ivory keys. A grand piano stood in all its glories alone in the empty room. Henry sat eagerly on the stool that stood invitingly before the piano. The mystified boy stroked each key in turn and in his touch he could feel the memories and secrets the piano held. When Henry played the notes they spoke crisply but somehow the tune was dulled. Lifting the lid Henry peered inside to check what was wrong. The piano was a network of taught strings and bars that fit together like a complicated maths puzzle. Balanced upon the strings was a small box coated with a thick layer of undisturbed dust and age. Henry Knew that now was not a good time to discover the contents of this box but tomorrow he knew he would discover the mystery that both the piano and the little package held. Henry was up in the attic the next morning jittery with exitement. The box was once agin concealed between the strings. Henry was careful as he took the lid off the box but his nerves got the better of him and Henry hurriedly spread the contents onto the floor. A thick leather bound book, two certificates, birth and death, a photo of a young, fairly pretty woman and a sheet of music. Henry felt suddenly very disappointed. He didn’t know what he had expected but somehow this wasn’t it. Henry was curious though and decided to have a better look at the artifacts. The Birth Certificate said in big, grand font: Eliza Benter, May 10, 1858 Daughter of Mary Benter and Scott Wilson. Eliza was born late this evening. It was a difficult birth and sadly her mother passed away. The baby girl is weak, but alive and should become stronger. Her father however is married to another woman and she is born a bastard, and Scott refuses to take in his infant child. She is to be taken in by Scott Wilson in the coming months but for now she is to be sent to a nurse until she is weaned. Henry discovered that italics were harder to read than usual and his head ached with the effort of it. The story of Eliza Benter anyhow had intrigued him and he felt an urge to find out more. He picked up the little leather bound book and brushed the dust from it. The dust came away and Henry saw that it was not a book but a diary. In thick gold writing the date 1877 was imprinted into the marine leather. Henry flicked through the yellowed pages and found that the diary was empty. Except for two pages. May 10 1877 Dear diary, Hello. I’ve never written to you before. Father bought me this diary for christmas. He said as I opened it “So that you can become a proper woman”. But its May now and I have never written in it until today. There is nothing to write about, until today. Today is my 18th birthday, a day I have waited for for many many long and miserable years. Really, for the rest of the family, today is an ordinary day, no different to any other but then my birthdays have never been and never will be celebrated. See my father, he despises me. I have never been wanted by him because I am a bastard, my mother is dead and she was never his wife. Now he tells me I am not a true woman because I indulge in unwomanly habits - such as music. He said to me that people who can’t make their minds up don’t belong. Maybe I don’t. Tomas, my fiance is away in Paris so he will not be here for me. Tomas is an artist. He is an impressionist. Today he is hanging his work up in an exhibition, ‘Salon de Refuses’, which means the paintings that have been refused from the ‘Salon de Paris’. The exhibition has been set up by Emperor Napoleon 111, he appreciates their work. Of course Tomas’s painting is stunning and his hand can create wonders but in the modern day his work cannot be accepted because it does not follow the classical style. Father has banished me from seeing the paintings in the gallery because he does not believe that the Impressionists are real painters. My Father is a very strict, harsh man and will not stand down from what he believes is right. I myself am very low in his opinion due to my love of music. He believes women should be seen and not heard as children should. He tells me I should spend more time on my sewing and weaving. He told me that my passion for song was ugly, that my love of the music I played

was worthless. He struck me when I fought back and scolded my tears. But how can I forget the sweet symphonies my piano composes. My only joy is the music I play. I cannot live without it. I will not. May 22nd 1877 Dear diary, Pity me, for this is the second and last time my pen will touch your paper. The fever has taken over. My hand is tiring, The pen is heavy, as are my eyelids and head. My body aches and my head is screaming. Typhus fever has killed many before and now it is taking me into its realm. Today is my last. But my dear, I cannot leave without your promise. Someday, someone will find you and awake you from a long sleep. He will read my words and he will feel as though he knows me. When I am gone I will take only one thing with me to heaven and that is my music. Guide him to the old piano, let him hear the echos of the past. He will work the keys into song as I have done and music will be reborn. Promise me this, I will not be forgotten entirely, ever. Let the music speak my past. I must go now, fall to sleep fall into blackness. I know people will not miss me and I am glad to die. Tomas, I am sorry, but you will find another lover someday. Goodbye. Henry stared at the diary. His mind was unclear yet his heart knew the way. Eliza had died, and she had left what was the most precious to her, to him. Henry felt that it was him who she had meant because, in musical terms, He felt the same way as Eliza had done. Henry noticed the certificate of death still lay on the floor, beside the photo and the sheet music. He picked up the certificate and saw again the grand lettering stating Eliza’s death. Eliza Benter born 10th May 1858, died 22nd May 1877 at the age of18 Eliza Benter died of Typhus this morning. She passed away in her sleep and seemed to be peaceful. She has left no will so therefore all her possessions will be left to the family. R.I.P Now Henry looked at the photo he held. It was faded and misty, and Henry could only make out the young, fresh face of a girl, standing by a piano, the grand piano. A wave of sadness passed over Henry and he felt a longing to talk to Eliza, to tell her he understood how she felt. Henry placed everything back in the box, then took the sheet of music back out. Henry sat at the stool and scanned the notes. It was hand written. When Henry began to play he could hear Eliza talking to him, he could feel something deep inside him soar and he knew that he could never do anything else. Henry was a born musician. 15 YEARS LATER The crowed roared their approval. The young man at the piano stool stood up smiling and took a graceful bow. He coughed into the microphone to attract the audiences attention. “ Thank you for being here tonight. I will finish now with a song I have not written myself but have learnt from a friend I never met, the person who truly inspired my music.This is Eliza’s song”

Eliza's Song  
Eliza's Song  

Winning entry in the London Philharmonic Orchestra's short story competition, November 2010. Eliza's Song by Molly Tooher-Rudd