My fingers glide over the piano keys, the sound overwhelmingly beautiful in the otherwise silent house. I press the keys to a song I’ve played so many times before that I’ve reached the point of perfection. Sheet music isn’t necessary, nor do I need to see the lyrics of the song. It’s become so natural to me that I no longer have to think about it. It’s just me and the music, connecting like the end pieces to a necklace: two halves coming together.
The words flow out of me like a river gracefully coursing downstream, and before I know it my voice has swelled so loud that the only thing that can be heard along with it is the piano. With voice still singing and fingers still floating over the keys, I take a look around the room to see the expressions of everyone else watching me.
I stop playing.
The twenty or thirty people that Mom and Dad invited over are staring at me, unmoving and unblinking. Just...staring. Not talking anymore, not sipping their drinks, it’s like they’re completely frozen. Not this again.
“Stop it,” I say. They continue to watch me, like they’re waiting for something. “Stop staring at me," I repeat.
It’s like I flipped a switch. They all turn to each other and start conversing again like nothing happened. Mom and Dad do too. I sit there for a moment just watching them before I get up and race past them all, running up the stairs and into my bedroom. I ignore my parent's calls.
I don’t understand why this keeps happening. Mom and Dad always ask me to play for their friends, or whoever these people are, and then this always happens. When I ask them about it, they act confused like it never happened.
I grab my black and white stuffed dog, Zoe, and tighten her to my chest, wondering why everyone seems to be in on the joke except me. Frustrated tears run down my face and drip onto Zoe, and I decide that this is the last time I’m singing in front of anyone.
“Rachel,” a voice whispers above me. It jolts me awake and out of my dream. Or, more accurately, my memory. “Rachel, wake up.” My eyes fling open to find a dark figure hovering over me. I flinch and almost lash out and them until I see the person’s face. Parker.
“Parker, what are you doing in my house?” My racing heart begins to slow down and I feel like I can breath again. My dream is only a part of of it; Parker standing over me in the middle of the night is the other.
“I found something that I wanted to show you.” I sigh, knowing that he’s not going to leave until I let him show me what it is. It’s almost endearing. “Do you have a light?” he whispers.
I sit up, rubbing my eyes. “There’s a lamp next to me on the nightstand. Be–” I hear a fumbling sound, then the sound of glass falling to the ground and shattering. I cringe though I know he can’t see me. “Did you just break my lamp?”
I sigh again, then drag my feet over the side of the bed. “Watch out, I’m getting up.” I feel dizzy as I pull myself up, stumbling through the darkness to try to find the cord hanging from my fan. Somehow I end up stepping on Parker’s foot and falling into him.
“Sorry,” he hisses. I wave my hand around in the air, glad that it’s too dark in here for him to see me, and eventually my hand lands on the cord and I get the light on.
“Ahh,” we groan in unison. I shield my eyes from what feels like the sun, still squinting as my hand drops. Parker’s hair sticks up in multiple directions and he wears the same clothes he had on earlier like he has yet to go to bed. His eyes are wild, darting around as if he’s running on caffeine.
“How did you even get in here?” I ask, still blinking away the remnants of sleep from my eyes.
“Your back door was unlocked. Seriously though, you should probably start locking that.”
“I’ll remember to do that next time. That way you won’t be lurking around my house in the middle of the night.”
“Good idea,” he agrees. His eyes linger on mine a moment too long. I look away and clear my throat.
“Anyway, what did you want to show me?”
“Oh, yeah!” I now notice that he has a large book in his hand, which he opens up and starts flipping through pages. The faded blue cover is worn down so that if it ever had a title on the front, it’s unidentifiable now. “I went to the library after that thingy you did in the car. You know, the singy thingy–hey, that rhymed. Anyway, I went to the library and was looking at some mythology books and I found this.” He spins the book around so I can see it.
“Mermaids?” He furrows his brow and takes another look at it before flipping one more page. I take it from him, this time finding a page on some kind of half-bird, half-woman creature. A Siren.
“Parker, I don’t think I’m half-bird,” I say.
“Well, no, but read it. It says that they used to lure sailors to their deaths with their voices. They would sing, like you did, and anyone who heard it would just be so captivated that they would shipwreck on the little rocky coast thing that the Sirens were on. Plus, according to this book, they basically created illusions by singing. Like, whenever they sang they looked incredibly beautiful, more so than normal and no one saw their wings or anything. And whenever you were singing you had that glow around you and stuff and.... yeah. What do you think?”
“I...I don’t know. This just doesn’t seem real. And ain’t this picture of Odysseus?” The picture next to the page Parker pointed out shows what I’m assuming is a painting of the Sirens attacking Odysseus on a ship. I recall seeing it in our English class from a few years ago, and I definitely do not look like those Sirens do.
“Yeah, but that’s besides the point,” he says. “This has got to be what you are! Now we know what you can do and what you can work on. This is great.” I hand the book back to him and he shuts it. “Did you try to do that singing thing again like you said earlier?”
“No, not yet. I’m gonna ask Luke to do it tomorrow,” I say. “Then...I guess we can go tell Matt about it.” Even if I had wanted to tell Matt earlier, I couldn’t have. He wasn’t there when we showed up and then I remembered that we weren't even supposed to meet up then. So I have to go over there again tomorrow anyway. Or, I guess, it's actually later today, since it's past midnight.
“Oh, good,” he says. He scratches at the side of his head and looks down at the black carpet. “Well, sorry for waking you. I just got really excited when I found this. Hopefully, I didn’t wake up your parents or anything.”
“Yeah, no worries there,” I scoff. “They’re extra busy this year working on a political campaign so they’re gone all the time.”
“Oh,” he says. He shifts around on his feet. “Well, I guess I’ll be leaving if there’s nothing else you want to talk about. You can go back to sleep now. I'll lock the door on my way out.”
“Oh, no, it’s too late for that,” I say. “I’m up for the night now. Which means it’s your job to stay here so I don’t die of boredom. Just don’t break anything else.”
He smiles brightly and I take note of how his eyes wrinkle at the corners. “Okay. But if I’m staying, I have to fix this. It’s been driving me insane.” I tense up as his hand reaches over my head and flips some of my hair to the opposite side. It must’ve been out of place from me sleeping, which I'd rather not go back to in case I have another dream like the earlier one. That's why I want Parker to stay, so I won't fall asleep again. Or at least, that's what I tell myself. I can remember the other times that that event with me singing has happened now that I’ve relived the memory, and I’d prefer not to see it again. My younger self didn’t take a liking to having a bunch of strangers gaze at me like I’m Cleopatra.
Parker’s hand drops away from me though his eyes refuse to. My heart thuds loud enough in my chest that I’m afraid he can hear it so I clear my throat loudly and glance away again. I search for something to do before it gets too uncomfortable. My eyes land on the dvd resting on my nightstand and I pick it up.
“Star Wars?” I ask, holding the dvd up for him to see.
A smile lights up his face. "Sure."