2. Ten Years Later
Lai sometimes dreams of lightning. She isn’t quite sure why; she isn’t particularly fascinated by thunderstorms, and she has researched recurring dreams, so she knows that lightning cannot be categorized along with “falling” and “taking a test while nude.” And besides, the lightning in her dreams doesn’t seem to be imagery from any storm she’s ever seen. It is silver, spidery, fantastical. The lightning dream always fills her with a peculiar thrilling sensation upon awakening.
She is not rising from it on this morning, but the fog of sleep still peels back from her mind quickly, as it always does. After all, she is an imp, and imps cannot allow tiredness to interfere with their work schedules.
She is in a surprisingly pleasant mood today; perhaps she will play her keyboard a bit before heading off to Pristine Labs. She adores her keyboard, which has become an outlet for her creativity and emotions, no matter what sort of a mood she is in. Felix bought it for her a few years ago. Most owners probably wouldn’t have wasted their money on something as frivolous as a musical instrument, but Felix has plenty of money to spare, and he thinks that it is a novelty to have a keyboardist in the household. Felix often seems to think that Lai herself is a novelty. She doesn’t mind. She knows that he doesn’t mean any harm by it.
Lai pulls on her gray dress with the too-long sleeves, rinses out her mouth with Tooth Wash liquid, and tries to make her charcoal-colored bangs lie flat against her forehead. Then she takes a seat at her keyboard bench, allowing her slender fingers to roam over the instrument as she tries to decide what she will play. Her hands are small, but all of her practicing has made them flexible. There’s hardly a chord in the musical language that she isn’t able to play.
There is no sheet music currently projected onto the keyboard’s built-in music display screen, but her fingers automatically begin to outline the notes of her special song. The melody is lilting, the harmonies delicate and tenuous. She remembers how the tune popped into her head one day, an odd experience that she wasn’t at all accustomed to, and how she had spent weeks refining the piece and adjusting it until everything sounded right to her. Whenever she wanted to play her keyboard and didn’t have a specific song in mind, she would start in on this piece, which seemed to be a peculiar sort of instinct.
She calls it the December Lullaby.
Lai hears the first stirrings of movement emanating from the bedrooms on either side of hers. She smiles, imagining Ema, Cade, Alec, and Felix injecting a bit more speed into their morning routines, subconsciously enlightened by her music. Felix is probably especially in need of a pick-up; her sharp imp ears detect the sounds of him bumbling around in the kitchen sleepily, most likely trying to acquire a cup of coffee from the cafeteria grate. He’s never fully awake during this time of day.
But he always appreciates her music. Most imps don’t have many interests that are unrelated to their jobs, and as almost none of them have particularly artistic occupations, a flair for creativity is rare. By most standards, Lai is an outcast, a deviation from the norm. But all of Felix’s imps are a little bit quirky or different in some way. She fits right into this little family.
Playing the keyboard will be the high point of her day, she knows. Work will not be unpleasant, but it will certainly be dull. It always is. So for now, she continues to play her December Lullaby, relishing this little escape from reality.