Music While You Work
It’s time to move on in this engaging complete story by Rebecca Holmes.
SAM had been in the market hall hundreds of times, but he had never before heard a piano being played there. His f irst thought was that someone must be selling musical instruments. The idea wasn’t as surprising as it might seem.
The town’s market was the best for miles, selling almost everything, from clothes to vinyl records, with a dedicated cheese stall, a café and even a “pre-loved” china stall.
There was something haunting about the notes, echoing into the heights of the old stone building, that made him forget his problems and Saturday morning errands for a moment and drew him to the area where the music was coming from.
He wasn’t the only curious one. A small crowd had gathered around an elderly upright piano with intricate wood carving on the front. Sitting there, playing the instrument as if was the most natural thing in the world, was George, owner of the adjacent fruit and vegetable stall.
His large, work-gnarled hands that normally weighed out potatoes and carrots moved gracefully over the keys. If Sam hadn’t seen the sight with his own eyes, he’d never have believed it.
The same applied to the huge smile of the young woman standing next to the piano. She looked so happy, even on this cold, drizzly morning, her hands shoved deep into the pockets of her duffel coat and her shoulder-length blonde hair tucked behind her ears.
Every aspect of her appearance was as different from Rowan’s dark features as it was possible to be.
The thought of Rowan plunged him back into his gloom. It took him a minute to realise the music had stopped and George was standing up and taking a bow, looking uncharacteristically bashful as people congratulated him.
“You dark horse,” one of them commented. “We never knew you could play the piano.”
“I learned as a lad, so I couldn’t resist having a go. That’s the beauty of a street piano. You can’t go far wrong with a bit of ‘Für Elise’. That’s by Beethoven, you know,” he added. “You should thank this young lady’s grandmother for contributing such a beauty.” He rubbed his hands together. “Now, back to business. We’ve got the best cauliflowers this morning. Who’s f irst?”
Although there were several takers for George’s f ield-fresh vegetables, no-one else seemed willing to try out the piano.
The young woman, still standing by it, frowned as her eyes searched round the building. After the miserable time he’d been having lately, Sam wasn’t feeling talkative. Even so, it seemed wrong to say nothing and leave her there by herself. “Nice piano,” he ventured. Her gaze flickered and settled on him. “Thanks.” Her smile reached her light blue eyes. “Who’d have thought George could play like that? I wish someone else would try it. It would be a shame if Gran’s piano was here only to be ignored.”
Part of Sam was ready to leave. On the other hand, it wasn’t as though he had much else to do that day.
“I could have a go at playing ‘Chopsticks’.” He shrugged. “You never know, my atrocious effort might get someone who actually can play so scandalised they’ll push me out of the way and play something.” To his surprise, she nodded. With the calls of market traders ringing in the background, Sam sat down on the piano stool and made a show of shuffling into position and flexing his f ingers. He was actually trying to work out where he should start.
“I think you’ll f ind that’s Middle C.” The piano girl pressed her index finger on to a white note just below two black ones. “Shove up and I’ll accompany you, if you like.”
Between them, they made a reasonable job, in Sam’s opinion, probably thanks to Piano Girl doing most of the work. He’d certainly never have managed on his own. Just as he started to relax, the piano girl stopped playing and sat back.
“I think we’ve entertained the shoppers enough for one day. We seem to have reawakened interest.”
A few people were standing round, smiling, which was a good sign. As they got up, two girls in their early teens took their place and started picking out a tune he’d heard on the radio earlier in the week.
“Sorry I wasn’t very good,” he said. “I’ve never learned to play. I only know ‘Chopsticks’ from mucking about in the music room at school. You were loads better. I bet you can play real music.” She blushed. “I’m not brave enough to try it here. Gran taught me the basics, then I had lessons for a while. I kept at it for long enough to massacre ‘Moonlight Sonata’, but it got harder to f it in the practising.”
“That’s still more than most people,” Sam said, though he couldn’t have commented on the difficulty of the piece she’d referred to.
“Maybe. It’s surprising how many do play. Look at George, for example.” She paused. “Well, I’m sure we both have things to be getting on with,” she continued, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen. “Keep playing ‘Chopsticks’ and we might make a pianist out of you yet.”
“Why didn’t you invite her for a coffee?” Sam’s colleague and friend, Paul, asked at the office on Monday, as they chatted during their break. “Or at least f ind out her name? You can’t keep calling her Piano Girl.”
“I don’t know.” Sam sighed. “I wanted to, but it’s too soon since me and Rowan.