E, B, E, D, E, B, E, E, B, E, A, F#, D, F#, E …
I sang the notes under my breath as I paced up and down at the bus stop, restless and uneasy. Drowsy Maggie. One of the first tunes I had learned, if I was remembering rightly. That was – how long? Three or four years ago at least, by now. The time had passed quickly, but it still seemed like forever.
It had taken me weeks to learn it. I would watch the same video over and over again on the internet to try and get the technique right. Perhaps not a conventional way of learning, but my south-east London town was hardly a place bursting with Irish musicians, all ready to teach me. By the time I had learned it, the notes were imprinted forever on my brain.
E, B, E, D, E, B, E …
But I was interrupted in my softly sung tune by a gentle hand on my shoulder, warning me of another presence in the area. It was unsettling to realise that I did not know how long they had been there. It could have been any number of minutes, and I wouldn’t have noticed. Slowly I turned, to see who had joined me in such a secluded place.
“Lost?” It was a boy I did not recognise. He carried a blue, oblong fiddle case, slung over one shoulder, and a pair of white headphones dangled loosely from one of the pockets in his school blazer. A student, then. That was some comfort: it could have been anyone, for all I knew.
“I’m barely five minutes walk from school. Why would I be lost?” My response was quiet, because loud words seemed out of place on this empty, grey street. “I know exactly where I am.” My hand strayed to my pocket, to fiddle with a paperclip there. It was a bad habit of mine: I never could stay still, always had to be playing with something while I talked.
On my back, my violin nestle snugly in its smart, professional case, which had been a Christmas present to me from my parents and grandparents. Almost two years ago. Wow – time had passed. For a moment, I wished that I could sleep in such luxury, surrounded by velvet and silk.
“You seemed … restless.” He had a pleasant voice, I decided. It didn’t sound as if he meant me harm. After all, surely he would have made a move by now? Besides, he played the fiddle. How bad could he be?