A Good Ear

I don't think I've ever played like that since, so easily and so fluently. It reminded me of the piano, where every note I played came out exactly how I intended it to, although by all laws of probability it shouldn't have been so easy, and I was suspicious. Anna was impressed, I could see that.

"You play the piano, don't you?" she said, her voice high with excitement Was I her most talented pupil? The title seemed preposterous but I guessed it must be so, for she didn't sound like the type to be so easily pleased. "You've learned things by ear before. That would explain it..." But somehow I knew she was slightly frightened, like she couldn't quite believe what she had heard.

I nodded. "Yes, I've played the piano. I never had lessons, though, but my father played it for me and I would play it back. We were learning together. It was ... fun." That was all I could say about it. Productive? No, not really. Would it get me very far? Probably not, but I enjoyed it anyway. "It's not usually this easily. We usually go things several times before I get it."

"You've got a good ear." She took the violin from me and adjusted the tuning. It was a good violin and, from what I'd gathered, not one of these new ones that comes off the production line like nobody's business. About sixty years old, she told me, which seemed like ancient until she mentioned that hers was from the eighteenth century. However, the strings were new and hadn't yet stretched. My intensive practice had helped a little but they still needed tuning regularly.

"Thank you," I told Anna. Being good at something was a rare feeling - a nice feeling, one that I'd never had because it had always been 'You can't do this unless you can see' or 'You're not included because we can't come with your lack of ability.' All through my life that impossible-to-escape disadvantage.

There was a long pause before she returned Elenora to my eager waiting arms and went back over to the piano. I heard the piano bench creak as she sat down. "I'll play you something else, a little longer this time. Let's see if you can learn it." Perhaps if I had known what notes I was trying to play it would have been a little harder, but apart from my estimates - that one sounded like a B, that one an A - I didn't have a clue, so I was just judging by the intervals.

She played the tune and I played it back to her, swiftly catching the melody. It was pleasing to be able to make a real music, something that someone else had written, yet I longed for a challenge. "Can I have something even harder?" I said, after about ten minutes. Time was ticking away and I was still at the beginner exercises stage, though I was desperate to move on.

"Yes, I'll give you one last piece. I've put a CD into the pocket of your violin case. It should come in useful - it's got all of the things we did today and some slightly harder ones, though in truth I didn't dream that you'd be quite so good when I compiled the collection." I wondered if she was smiling or if she was frightened.

"I appreciate it anyway," I told her, and played the last piece as she accompanied me on the piano, the notes slipping between each other easily enough, as though we'd been playing together all of our lives. Well, I could dream. I wasn't a maestro yet but I was damned if I wasn't going to try and get there.

The End

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