Disclaimer: Sorry I've been under the radar, but I hope you enjoy this. Companion to One For The Road. Kinda short, just so you're aware.
The old piano keys bent and bowed beneath the gentle fingers, the hammers drumming softly, emitting a smooth sort of sound. The house was quiet save for that music, yielding to the noises of the world outside the living room; of cars and neighbors, barking dogs and playful children. Pale digits traded friendly places on the keys of ivory and ebony, pale digits that turned into pale hands, pale arms, pale shoulders, and a pale neck. But her cheeks, the cheeks of that blonde were red – not pale – red from embarrassment and happiness.
Her already flaming cheeks grew Hell Fire hot when her flawed fingers stumbled over themselves and straight into a false note. These long, thin, agile fingers used to be so accomplished; she realized in a moment of weakness with a strangled sigh. They were accomplished and skilled and talented and practiced and –
Stilling on the patient chords, Olga Pataki looked at her hands in a new light. Were these the same hands that won her more than a dozen school awards? That got her that spot in Julliard she turned down to be closer to her baby sister? That her parents were so proud of? That she was so proud of?
A sudden crash from the kitchen pulled her melancholy thoughts from her pathetic hands, and all was quiet.
"Dan . . .?" she called with almost a trace of hesitancy when the silence lasted longer than she deemed safe.
" . . . Yeah?" he replied with just as much of a pause, and she knew that whatever it was, she didn't want to know.
"Are you alright, dear?" In the interest of public safety – knowing her boyfriend – she should make sure that he didn't find some container filled with his three month old Chinese take-out, or stepping all over the broken shards of a bowl he was going to use to sneak some ice cream, or –
" . . . Yep. I'm fine, everything's fine. Great, just – oh balls – great. Why dontcha go back to playing? You play so beautifully." Instantaneously, she knew he was doing something he shouldn't, and was trying to cover it up by sweet talking her. She also knew that if he would stoop so low as to call her playing beautiful, she really didn't want to know what he was getting into.
"Alright, dear, just clean up when you're done."
And with that she began again, watching her hands more than her sheet music. Swaying with the tune, forward and back, forward and back, she couldn't help smile at her no longer perfect fingers. Graceless and flawed though now they were, she could only barely hold in her uncharacteristic smirk. The irony of it all, that the thing which was supposed to make her the happiest when perfect, was best when erroneous. That instead of faultless, the world should aim for evolution. Progress, not perfection: or maybe progress is perfection. And perhaps that was the punch line she should – or shouldn't have – figured out.
Another false note.
Dan let loose the baited breath he seemed to be holding for far too long. The cookie jar that sat precariously atop the fridge – a cute black and white kitten with a pink bow around its neck – was now shattered into a million pieces around his feet. That was the forgivable part; while Olga loved that jar, she kept saying it was time for a change, and he desperately wanted to break out the Darth Vader one he got in college after a Star Wars convention and had stored in the garage since moving in with his girlfriend.
But what had forced him to hold his breath was not the mêlée of glass around his feet, but the small purple plastic ring in the middle of it all. Okay, so maybe hiding it in the cookie jar had seemed kind of ballsy, but that was why he was moving it – how was he suppose to know last time he went raiding it at three in the morning he had placed it a little closer to the edge than normal? That little plastic ring which he bravely won in the dreaded "Claw" at the local arcade glared at him malevolently from the green and white linoleum floor even long after he heard her begin to play again.
The music soothed his savage soul before he bent over and swiped it up, ignoring the burning sensation in his palm, and later his jeans pocket where he viciously stuffed it. Reaching behind the quiet roaring fridge, Dan fumbled around blindly before gripping the wooden handle of the broom, and began sweeping up his mess, shaking his hips comically every now and again to Olga's accurate and only slightly chopped version of Werewolves of London, albeit much slower. He really did love her playing, and the fact that she accepted her fading skill with an almost pride made him love it all the more, and a partial reason why he knew she would gladly take his plastic loaner ring for a engagement symbol until he earned enough money to buy her a real ring.
A ring worthy of putting on her graceful, agile, talented, perfect finger.
The sound coming from the living room turned more somber suddenly, an achingly haunted tune echoing and reverberating throughout their small house. He found himself stopping, just so he could give his complete attention to the simplicity of the single piano with no accompaniment, save the occasional lyric his beautiful Olga would mutter. She thought he couldn't hear her. He could.
Another false note.
Her little sister and her boyfriend had been gone not fifteen minutes, and she was already back at that old piano, rusty fingers slowly but surely settling back into the routine of practicing every day at least once. The translucent purple ring didn't sparkle and glitter in the late afternoon sun as she played, didn't catch her eye as she reach up to turn the pages. Helga had, in the privacy Dan and Arnold would offer the girls once they started the conversation of wedding plans, told Olga that she was glad the coward had finally popped the question.
If he took any longer, I was going to come down here and ask myself. She laughed after informing her surprised older sister that Dan had, in fact, asked Helga her permission for him to marry her sister some four and a half months back. Olga laughed as well, and twirled the ring on her thin digit once as she felt a stronger bond to both her fiancé, and her sister.
A pair of arms suddenly wrapped around her waist as she lingered on a particularly interesting chord of C, E flat and F, and she smiled as Dan romantically kissed her neck. Or tried, before he unromantically fell off the back of the piano bench with a ceremonious Oumph. And then he laughed at the stupidity of it all, and she couldn't stop herself from joining because in truth, the lead in to the joke could be just as funny as the end. He could be a moron, and she could be too detail oriented, but they would progress through that, and they would be happy because really, that's more fun.
Perfection's overrated anyway.
With a content smile on her face, she slid her fingers along the keys, ignoring her fiancé who was still on the floor and trying to pull her down behind a mask of assistance.
Another false note joined in the laughter of youth.