Crystal Haligon lived in a completely different part of town. The main streets houses were built almost lopsided from crumbling stones, some whitewashed but so long ago the walls were a dirty cream. Here the houses were built of neat-cut blocks of dark stone and grey cement, the windows checked with strips of lead. Instead of an overhanging storey, the house had only an upstairs and downstairs and was built straight and square, with a small triangular roof over the ivy-green painted front doors. There was a strip of faded grass along the sides in front of the houses. Without the upper storeys hanging over this street was much brighter, though the brightness was more silver-grey from the wintry clouds.

Crystal observed the empty street from her upstairs window. She lived here with her parents, her father a mildly successful musician and her mother an ex-dancer from London, a famous city far far away. Crystal was good at piano, singing and dancing which was what her father had her tutored in. Mathematics and sciences were not as important to him, but somehow Crystal was clever at those too. Though it was improper for girls to do sports Crystal was also a very fast runner.

She wished she had a chance to try at those things more often but her parents wouldn’t hear of it.

They would still be asleep at this hour. She put out the fat coloured candles resting on plates all around her room, but the scent of lavender, jasmine and roses lingered in the air. Crystal had bought them from a gypsy and her mother hated them, complaining that the smell gave her headaches.

She crossed her room to a huge oak wood dresser almost twice her size, nearly reaching to the ceiling. All of its twenty-one drawers held her clothes and things. It took her five minutes to fetch a stool and locate the dress she wanted to wear that day.

It was a long-sleeved grey dress overlaid with silver silk, with a silver braided belt around the waist to attach the purse to, which was the fashion for girls these days. It matched the silver pendant she wore. It was shaped like a heart but Crystal had never tried to open the clasp, believing it to be empty. The chain had been given to her by a dead grandmother in the will. As she had been on the poor side there was some suspicion about where it came from.

It didn’t take long to tie back her honey blonde hair with a silver clasp and slide her feet into grey slippers made from an animal skin which was very comfortable. They were good for practising her running. Crystal often sneaked out to do this in the mornings, along the farmer’s fields and back. She was careful not to be seen or she would be shamed and beaten.

Today it was a market day and the village would be so busy that Crystal would likely be spotted. She sighed and went downstairs. Every morning before breakfast Crystal had a piano lesson.

Her tutor was a hunched old man with grey whiskers who smelt of brandy and could only play a few tunes, but he could play them well. His name was Mr Blythe and he never seemed to change his clothes. Crystal hadn’t liked him very much, but she had still felt guilty when last night over dinner her parents had explained that she would be getting a new tutor because Mr Blythe was too much of a drinker. Crystal had complained about this so she was worried for a while about where Mr Blythe would go.

“Most likely the Horse & Rider Inn,” her mother had snorted and Crystal had tried hard not to smile.

Now she slowly went down the stairs towards the music room at the back of the house. Today she would meet her new tutor, a mysterious Mr Roberts who had been recommended to her father by a friend of his. Mr Blythe had been a friend of her fathers before he started drinking. This Mr Roberts couldnt be worse.

The music room was her father’s pride. It was a small square room with a large window framed by gold-embroidered white curtains. There was a polished black grand piano in the centre of the mock-marble stone floor and her father’s collected instruments in mahogany glass-front display cases around the cream-papered walls. He had many instruments from many places over the world. Crystal only knew his guitar, violin, ukulele, a trumpet and some hand-played bongo drums. She had had a lot of fun with them when she was younger.

Crystal heard music playing softly as she approached the door which had been left open just a crack. She recognised the music as Beethoven’s Fur Elise. It was played beautifully without stopping.

She pushed open the door, forgetting to knock in her haste to see who was playing. There was someone sat on the black leather stool, his elegant fingers flying over the keys as he played the melody.

The End

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