It was just after the new year, and Miracle hadn’t gotten any closer to finding Chance. In October she had gone to Green Valley, not in the same car as Elijah but at the same time. He introduced her to his family and to his father who had been the one to find the note. She spent a couple nights there, going into the graveyard when it was dark but there was nothing else she could do–or even people she could ask, since she couldn’t see other ghosts to ask them if they’ve seen her stupid brother. Elijah took her around to all the graveyards nearby and spent some nights with her, the two of them wrapped in blankets and sitting in graveyards, sharing hot coffee and stories.
Miracle wondered why he was doing this, and did her best not to trust him. She realized way too late how stupid it had been to tell him Chance was a ghost but… all she could do was hope for the best, really. And he didn’t seem to want to do any harm. None of his family did. They were all nice. Very nice. Miracle had been offered an extra room in the house, which she declined, and then was offered multiple meals. She ate there most the time she was in Green Valley and rather liked the Bairds. Except for Elijah, who was a jerk and an idiot and who just got on her nerves. Even when she lost her temper at him, which was often, he was patient and pretended to be understanding.
When she got a call from her aunts, asking her to come home since her Grandpa was sick, she gladly wiped her feet of Elijah. Though once she did get back to Sunset Valley she found herself thinking about him more often than she’d like. He wasn’t all bad, really. She wound up e-mailing him when Hal got out of the hospital, since he had been worried when she left. He e-mailed back, and she responded with the decision she’d not e-mail him again. Except she did. Then she called him and they talked for a while. She told him what was going on in her family, he told her what was going on in his.
Miracle hung around Sunset Valley for a while then returned to Green Valley. To look for Chance. That was where she needed to continue. To look for Chance. She visited with the Bairds for a while then headed West. Elijah went with her, just smiling when she cussed and grumbled and scowled. He just laughed and told her that the way her forehead wrinkled when she was mad looked really cute–which just pissed her off even more. They contacted someone who was ‘in touch’ with the spiritual world and began to go to séances and spiritual advisers. They kept telling Miracle that Chance was in a better place, that he was happy now.
“Con artists,” she snorted after they left yet another ‘happier place’ person. “I’m beginning to worry…”
“Don’t worry, please.” Elijah stopped and put his hand on hers. “We’ll find Chance, eventually. He left that letter because he doesn’t want to lose contact with those he loves.”
She stared up at him then back down. Elijah was right. But she didn’t want to give up the search so she kept looking and kept going to con artists. She also kept talking to Elijah and sometimes visiting him, or he visited her. It was a shame Green and Sunset were so far apart… Around Christmas she thought what it’d be like to move there. It was a nice place. Quiet. Nice folks there. Elijah… well… he was still an idiot.
One time, the two of them went swimming in an indoor pool–at the hotel she was staying at–and she stared in disbelief. She knew he had a tattoo on his wrist, but he also had one on his back. And he was a lot more… muscular than she expected him to be. He caught her staring and she looked away, trying not to blush. “The tattoo?” he asked pleasantly.
“I didn’t expect an assistant pastor to have tattoos and… muscles.” She stuck her nose in the air, determined not to let him get to her.
“You seem to have a lot of ideas about what people are like based on their choices in life,” he said simply. “You know, I know someone who wouldn’t believe your aunts are lesbians because of how they act, and that all gay men are just flamboyant predators.”
“That’s RIDICULOUS!” she sputtered.
Elijah laughed. “I agree. Some people would say, because you’re a college dropout that you’re as dumb as a post and gonna be saying ‘do you want fries with that’ for the rest of your life. Others would say because you’re blonde, you’re just a dumb slut.”
She hit him at that, or tried to. He caught her wrist in his hand easily. “Don’t you ever call me that,” she hissed.
“I didn’t. I don’t believe you’re any of those things. I don’t believe the color of ones hair predetermines how one is going to act. I don’t believe dropping out of college is an indicator of intelligence. I don’t believe sexual preferences means you have to act a certain way. And I don’t believe,” and here he leaned in rather close almost as if he was going to kiss her, “that the choice of ones profession should dictate completely how one looks. Now, that’s not completely true.” He let go of her wrist and slid into the water. “Models must look a certain way. Rock stars tend to dress particularly. Those in the military usually wear their hair differently than those who play sports.”
“You’re a jerk,” she sniffled.
“Mmm. The water’s nice.”
She glowered at him then cannonballed into the water. He was so FRUSTRATING and ANNOYING and STUPID and… nothing else. Just a jerk. She refused to think of him any other way even if–well, how many people would put up with her temper? Surely that indicated what a moron he was. Not even happy-go-lucky, smiles-all-the-time Chance put up with her temper 24/7. This was just an act on Eli’s behalf. It had to be. For some reason. Because otherwise… well, no, there was no otherwise.
January started and Miracle met with someone who seemed less a con artist than most but was more full of crap than information. Miracle was tired by that point. It had been months since Chance went missing, since he wrote that note. He could be anywhere. She could search the rest of her life and not find him. But did that mean she should give up?
“I dunno Eli,” she said when she got home. She had called him right away to talk, needing his voice and comfort. “Maybe I should let him go like all those psychics are telling me.”
“Don’t let go,” he replied right away.
“There’s a difference between not looking for him and letting go. Letting go… sounds like you’re giving up, and you should not give up. But perhaps it is time to stop looking. For… for a little while. Maybe you should come here. For a little while.”
Miracle bit her bottom lip and felt her cheeks heating up. “Don’t be stupid. I’m going to look for a job here, I need a job.”
“Plenty of jobs in Green Valley. I mean, besides the type like waitressing and stuff.”
“Are you asking me to move there?” Okay, she couldn’t lie to herself anymore. Elijah was attractive and nice, but a complete idiot and annoying. It was tempting to say yes… to go to Green Valley and–and… “I’ll think about it.”
She talked to him a bit more then hung up, curling up on her bed and thinking. Plenty of jobs in Green Valley. And… the Bairds. Elijah. A nice guy. But totally wrong for her. Wasn’t he? Of course he was! But still… plenty of jobs in Green Valley…
I woke up, not exactly sure where I was not that that was an unusual feeling. It took a few seconds to remember I was in an abandoned house. It was day outside and light was coming in through the windows. Whatever the reason, the upstairs windows weren’t boarded up. I slid off the bed and floated over, peering out. Lotsa woods. I went out of the bedroom and over to the big window facing the other direction. I could see the town nearby and tried to remember the name Mary had told me. Walkington City or something like that. It was small and very cozy looking.
I leaned against the glass, smiling. It was a really good view. I liked this a lot. I eventually saw a car go by on the distant road but highly doubted they could see me, they were pretty far away and there were trees and shrubs in between. The house was on a hill and I was on an upper floor so I had the advantage. I waited a while but no other car went by. Good. Not much traffic, at least this time of the day.
I spent the day exploring the house. I had already seen most of it but I did find a little closet with a… a… a… er, an olden times music player. It took me a few hours to figure out how to start it but finally I got it going. I put a giant music disk on it and dropped the needle down (like in the movies), jumping when music floated out. I quickly pulled the needle off and huddled on the floor for a bit. When nothing happened, I began carrying everything to the top floor. I set the, er, old music player down and perched on the piano bench, sorting through the giant disks.
There were some different sorts but nothing I recognized. I wonder who lived here before. Who had kept these. Obviously they were important since they had been put in a box that kept them protected, and everything worked well after–after however long it had been since they lived here. Music must have been real important to the previous inhab… inhabe… in… livers. The previous people living here.
Music is important, I thought, looking over at the player. Things changed and kept changing. Life today was so different from life thousands of years ago. The way Larry lived was so different from the way… he lived. But there was something they had in common: music. Ruth, too, and everyone else I met. There was music somewhere inside everyone. Larry belted out songs of love and freedom, Ruth sang of dancing and good times, the people in the Victorian times hummed opera music… I had met a guy from the 1700s who sang bawdy songs… and… he… sang too. I wondered when music started. Probably when people started. And all over the world was music… I wondered if there was a culture where there wasn’t music.
I set a disk thing down and put the needle on it. Music drifted out of the giant thingamabob. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back, tapping my feet. I remembered, vaguely, Ruth’s expression when I put music and dancing back into her life. I wondered just what it was that music did to people… not all people… but most. I liked music. Not as fun as video games but still I liked it. Hmmm. I twirled on the bench and opened the lid again, touching the piano keys. I pressed one and then another. I wondered what it’d be like to be able to play this instrument, like so many people had throughout the centuries. Er, or however old the piano was.
I pressed a few more keys, giggling a bit. I wondered if I could learn. I had no idea how to read music so the papers in front of me meant nothing but I did know some simple tunes. I tried ‘happy birthday’ but none of the keys sounded right so I gave up. “Da, da, da, DA!” I said and plonked out keys that matched the sound I made. “Da, da, daaaa!” I did it again, lightly hitting the keys until they matched. As the music played out beautiful tunes, out of the music player, I hummed and tried to match the sounds I made.
This is fun. I grinned and kept plonking away, not caring when the keys didn’t sound right. I just did whatever sounded nice in my head and really enjoyed it. When the disk stopped I didn’t even bother starting a new one, I kept moving my fingers along the keys. I wondered how music writers got their inspiration or how they figured out what sounded nice. The words were one thing but the tune was another. I wondered how… errr who was it… the dog. The dog from the movie with the kids. Beethoven. That was it. Beethoven’s… it was a number. DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN that thing. I couldn’t remember, but I knew it was famous and I wondered how Beethoven–the real Beethoven, not the dog–knew to put those four notes together. Well two notes.
I looked at the keys and pushed them until I heard one that sounded right, and then a second one. Dun, dun, dun, dunnnnn. I repeated those notes over and over. I wondered how he knew to put it together like that. I also wondered what came next.
Hmmm. I got up and searched the disks. I thought I had seen… errr… I couldn’t find it. I went through them again, squinting at all the names untilll… YES! Wait, Beethoven was spelled like that? I had been thinking it was ‘batoven’. Ah well. “Symp… sym…phony. Number 3,” I read out loud. Maybe that was it. I put it on and right away knew it wasn’t the right one so I looked again. Symphony number 9. I put it on and it wasn’t right either but it sounded real familiar so I knelt on the ground and listened.
I actually listened. To the whole thing. And when it was over I put #3 in and listened to all of it. It wasn’t anything really like I imagined. I wrapped my arms around my knees and listened to all of it and it was so interesting, all the different instruments moving together and playing together and it was amazing. And no words! I knew music didn’t need to have words but… I always thought that those were like, music in the background for movies or video games. Words belonged in music you properly listened to–or so I thought. I thought of Ruth and William and Larry and Miracle and all the music they sang and listened to. But it was all nothing compared to this… this… beauty.
I went through the disks and found another Beethoven one and put it on and listened to all of it. I had no idea which ones were this kind of music. The kind without words. But I did find a couple more Beethoven. I put them aside then went through the floors, down to the closet. There were more boxes and chests with disks in them and I spent quite a while dragging them upstairs. I found several Beethoven and put them carefully in a stack and then found ones I knew had words–like, I knew Sinatra was a singer–and put them in a stack, and was left with a giant stack of ones to go through.
I spent the day doing that. When I’d find one with words I’d go through and find anything else with the same singer and put them aside. When I found ones without words I put them with the Beethoven. Names I knew I wasn’t pronouncing right but I put them there anyway. Mozart and Chopin and Liszt (how the hell was THAT pronounced?!) and Vivaldi and Schubert and Brahms (which had music that Aunt Emma would sing with words to Alyssa at night, I remembered, but the music didn’t have words with it) and Schumann and Bach and Hadyn and Wagner and Handel and–and–and a name that I couldn’t even read or even begin to pronounce. Tch… ai… kov… sky. What the hell kind of name was that and how on earth did anyone pronounce it? The only part I could say were the final three letters, ‘sky’ like the sky overhead… right? But I recognized THAT music like crazy. Christmas music. I remembered Aunt Kaylee and Emma playing this music at Christmas and I never paid any attention to it then, I was fighting with Miracle or playing video games or avoiding schoolwork.
I worked all through the day and well into the night. I now had two piles and put the undesired pile back into boxes, carting them down to the closet. Then I carefully–very carefully–put the nice ones in boxes and kept them upstairs. I put Beethoven #5 on since that was the DUN DUN DUN DUNNN one, and listened.
How could people put music together like this and make me feel stuff like this without words? I didn’t understand. I really didn’t. It was like magic. Without words I didn’t think I could… react this way to music. I could feel love without words saying it was about love, and sadness without it saying it was sadness, happiness, longing, intense feelings and–oh, it was just magic, and I loved it and felt so horribly stupid for never really listening before, when the Nutcracker music was playing at home or whenever I heard music like this. It had always just been background stuff. But it wasn’t. I felt strange listening to this. Was this how Ruth felt about the music she listened to? I felt as though it was filling me up inside and taking over me and… and…
I wanted to know more, too. I wanted to be able to make this sort of music. But I’d never learn… it was so fast and I only had a piano… some of the music sounded like it was just a piano but it just went by so fast I didn’t think I could learn just by listening. I tried and my fingers kept tangling up in themselves so I learned to just make my fingertips solid and my actual fingers not solid so I could move my hands through one another. I practiced the symphonies and sonatas and nocturnes. I practiced the waltzes and concertos and rhapsodies. I practiced everything and even though none sounded right, I didn’t stop.
The days went by without me even noticing, really. I’d spend a lot of time listening to music and then attempting to play it on my own. I listened to the ‘minute waltz’ a lot. I spent my asleep time dreaming that I could play that fast and that beautifully. I’d wake up and find my fingers twitching all over the place from dreaming of playing. When I finally was able to play parts of Schubert’s trout piece–slowly and not very well–I flailed around for ages, so happy and ecstatic. I played it over and over, the keys plonking loud and purposefully. It wasn’t as easy and pretty as the people could play, and definitely not as fast, but I could do it, and I was happier than I could ever remember being.