Amazing Kids! Magazine

Clara’s Piano

By Swatilekha Ahmed, age 15, Sydney, Australia


“Ah, what beautiful piano our princess plays, it really helps me do my work,” sighed the plump lady-in-waiting Lady Rosenmont.

“Yes, yes indeed, the Princess is indeed a fine pianist,” chorused the gaggle of younger ladies- in-waiting.

But they were right, for Princess Clara was one of the finest pianists in the entire kingdom of Never-the-Less Kingdom. The whole court was very proud of her, and they would waste no chance in annoying all the people who came to visit from the neighbouring kingdoms to tell them how wonderfully and exquisitely her highness, Princess Clara played her lovely grand piano. She could play the most marvellous tunes on the piano, and it was a joy to hear the laughing, bouncing notes of the piano float through the empty hallways and fade into the gurgling fountain in the courtyard. And you could always find the courtiers and maids and ladies-in-waiting flocking there when they had no royal duties on hand.

She was a joy to see too, for she would sit most famously on the ivory stool; her back would be very straight, and her long slender fingers would gently float over the keys. And when the occasion demanded, they would dance in a little waltz, maybe having a little competition between themselves to see who was the fastest. However, no one ever really saw her play, for she absolutely detested anyone coming and staring at her while she was playing. She would make mistakes and stop playing eventually, and sit there stubbornly until the offender left the room with burning ears, evidently in confusion over what crime he had committed in wanting to watch her play the piano.

Now you would think, such a talented princess would have many friends, and people would want to talk to her, and children would want to play with her, right?

Wrong! For Clara had only one friend in her life – her piano. She would spend hours and hours in the music room. She never got bored or unhappy there. However, when her parents, the king and queen wanted to have her play with the other princes and princesses of around her age, she would refuse.

This was the sorrow of the entire court. They spoke in hushed tones about this chronic lack of social skill among themselves. But, no one understood that Clara was not lonely at all. Everyone oohed and aahed over the piano-playing through the hallway, but no one stopped and actually listened through the crack in the huge, ornate doors of the music room. No one heard Clara talk to some unknown being as she played.

It was a morning like any other, and Clara, after finishing her painting lesson, went to the music room to play. And as she did, she spoke, “Yes, I know I’m a bit quiet today. I went to paint my rabbit, you know, Silverspring, but he wouldn’t sit still! Then I tried to calm him but I was holding my paintbrush that was wet with blue paint, and it touched him, and his fur got a blue spot!”

“…..”

“Don’t be ridiculous! Of course I needed blue paint, for even though Silverspring is black and white I need to paint the sky blue, right?”

“……”

“Well, then Silverspring made this most frightful gesture with his paws and bounded off onto the garden path, and Leslie was walking by with the milk, and Silverspring scared her and she jumped, and spilled the milk and apparently it was all my fault!”

“……?”

“Yes, the stableboy found Silverspring in Old Bessie’s stall covered with blue paint, milk and straw and smelling of horse dung…yuck!”

She finished playing a few more songs, then left. She got up, pulled the curtains closed, walked out and shut the door, leaving the music room in darkness. But she had forgotten to close the piano lid.

After she had walked out, the piano lid gently slipped shut without a single sound, by itself.

Back in her chambers upstairs, the princess was being dressed by her attendants. The moon had an unusually blue tint. She looked back into the room.

The dress was an orchestral black and white dress. The bodice was of white silk and the full skirt was satin with double layers of tulle over the top. It was a décolleté design, and black lace edged the neckline. The maid Lydia tied a midnight black sash around her waist carelessly, and the princess almost choked because it was too tight.

“Now now, Your Highness, some pains must be taken to maintain a presentable appearance as the princess of this kingdom!”

Clara had heard all this before. She tired of the choreography that would follow, consisting of meeting and curtseying to numerous important guests that her parents evidently wanted her to get to know. But to her they were merely nameless and faceless people. Dancing was merely spinning around in circles to her, and it rarely failed to make her dizzy and nauseous.

Tonight was going to be no different, she thought to herself with a sinking feeling in her stomach as she climbed down with a smile pasted on her face as a rule of thumb. A round, man looking like a colorful ball came walking (rolling) towards them with an equally rotund pair of twins lagging in tow behind him.

“Ach, may I extend my respects to Your Majesties. Children, bow and curtsey like I taught you!”

The girl and boy did so, like clockwork dolls, thought Clara with an inward grin to herself. Maybe they even had keys on their backs that made them work!

“And how the Princess has grown! Do you remember Cordelia and Derrick? No, from the look on your face you don’t,” he laughed nervously, a high whinny. The queen looked distraught but expertly masked it and said, “Okay, Clara, you may stroll along and meet some people now.”

Clara walked through the crowd, smiling and curtseying to the people and occasionally exchanging a few words with some, which ran along the awkward lines of the one above. When she was bored to her wit’s end, she went to the end of the Great Hall to just stand and look at the mass of boring people. People! Bah, who needed them, when she had her piano?

Suddenly, a figure stepped into her range and she turned to see a boy of her own age, dark hair, glasses and all. He smiled shyly, and Clara smiled back as a matter of politeness, although she strained her memory to see if she could recognise this person. But no, try as she might, she had never seen such a character before.

“Do I know you?” She inquired politely.

He spoke softly, as if he didn’t want her to hear anything. “Why, um ye – I mean no, no, we have never been formally introduced.”

At this mention of a formal introduction she groaned inwardly, mentally preparing herself for a series of introductions that she suspected would be something along the lines of ‘His Excellency the Duke of Clarkland’s third eldest son’, she bit her tongue.

“I’m Ludwig”, he said, scratching his head, “and you’re Clara, right?”

She was surprised at the lack of the title before her name, and what was even more odd was that this boy, strange character that he was, had no formal title at all! Usually commoners weren’t invited to such events, and even a commoner would never address her so informally.

But she was pleased. Here was someone who promised to me more interesting than the usual royal ball fare.

“This is your first time at a royal ball?” she asked.

He looked down. “Y-yes, you could say that.”

“So where do you live?”

“Um, near here, it’s not very far away you know.”

“Oh. Is it a castle like this one?”

“Why, yes actually, quite like this one.”

“Well then you should give me the name and then we will come visit! You must have an important family to be invited to a ball here.”

“Ah…yes that can be done if you want, later.”

“Okay, I’ll be looking forward to it!”

Clara peered inquisitively into this strange boy’s face. It was fairly non-descript, and had a stamp of shyness on it. He seemed to be uncomfortable with her questions, and she herself was surprised. It was very rare that she had actually been interested in any human being, and that was only Albert, the piano tuner who came every six months.

She said, “Do you want to take a tour of the ground floor?”

“Yes, if it’s fine with you.”

Clara led Ludwig out of the hall and into the courtyard where the fountain was playing. They walked down the garden and then into the long hallway, stopping by at various rooms, rarely talking save only about the function of the rooms.

At last they ended at the music room.

Clara, wishing to not take Ludwig inside, said, “This is the music room; and now we shall go to the library.”

“Wait, I want to see inside!”

All initial shyness vanishing, Ludwig pushed open the doors, revealing Clara’s beloved piano standing still as ever in the dark.

“Do you know how to play?”

“….yes,” Clara shuffled her feet, waiting for the inevitable question.

“Then play something!”

“Well, I actually never play for anyone, okay?”

“Why?”

“I just don’t!” Silence ensued. In truth, she never played in front of anyone because the piano didn’t talk to her.

“Can I play?”

“No!”

“You won’t play, and you’re not letting me play, then what’s the use of this piano?”

“Shut up! You, stop it!”

Ludwig had started playing some tune or other, and he was a fair pianist. But he wasn’t playing the left hand, the bass line properly. Clara, possessive as she was, rushed and said, “Look, THIS is how we do this part.”

She started playing the bass line, and for a few seconds they played a duet.

And something magical happened.

The curtains billowed gently and some sort of odd silver circle appeared on the lightless floor. The piano was in the middle, and Clara, although stupefied by this turn of events, remained where she was, playing, and Ludwig seemed unshaken. A string of light escaped from the circumference and snaked into the piano strings, and then with a bang it shot out and snaked around the odd character Ludwig’s body. It twirled and turned in time to the music, and cracked under his feet and died out. The circle vanished, and all that was left was the piano and the two people.

“Oh! What just happened?” Clara couldn’t help suspect that this strange character had something to do with this.

“Well, it’s a long story…I’m actually a music sprite. But the tree I was living in got chopped down to make this piano, and my soul was bound to the wood so I had to come live in the piano. I’m the person you talked to. To free me, someone with a true musical ear had to play a duet on this piano with me. But the only time I could venture out from the piano was during a blue moon, like tonight. So…thank you very much – now I can go back to my forest!”

“What? Wait!” Clara was intrigued but shocked that the only friend she had for all her life was leaving. But Ludwig merely waved, and suddenly with a whoosh he vanished into thin air leaving a trail of dust, and a piece of paper.

Clara bent down and picked it up. It was a musical score with the title, “Friends”. She sat down, still looking at it, and began to play hesitantly.

It was the first time she actually felt happy.