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A short story of Amelia the mousy husk : how the piano eventually became her voice
"Right, thank you," the Principal, Mr William's voice reverberated around the room monotonously. A group of teachers were at a meeting in the school's staffroom to discuss the upcoming musical to be staged in a short two weeks. Last minute scheduling and details were still being finalized, and teachers on the committee that was to oversee its staging we're being asked to throw out ideas that would make the musical engaging.
Amelia Lee, the school's music teacher, dreaded her turn. She hated these presentations because no one ever paid any attention to what she said. They either ignored her and continued chatting or simply clapped politely, with an air of indifference. She knew that she was on the committee simply because she had some musical background.
When it came to her turn, the usual happened. The other teachers ignored the skinny, mousy haired husk named Amelia standing before them and simply continued chatting. She stuttered, "W..well, we could have a p.piano recital. It's.....it's good to....good to...give new talents a chance." She finished amidst the other teacher's loud chatter and quickly sat down.
Dave Gomez, one of the most vocal of the school's staff members, chortled heartily. "It would be pretty boring for the parents and students, isn't it? Who cares about some nut job whacking some keys?" Although a bit taken aback by his brash remarks, the others laughed all too heartily. Amelia sighed. it was to be expected. She was too used to being ignored.
"Right, times up, that's all for today. I will come over to check on the rehearsal tomorrow. Amelia, you're the music teacher, please take charge," Mr.Williams eyed her meaningfully. Amelia groaned. She did not feel that she could pull this off. Dave Gomez was her "partner" in running the concert, with the other teachers just making sure that the other student groups involved were doing their jobs. The fellow's middle name was arrogance. She knew at once that she would be overwhelmed.
Amelia dragged herself into the music room, the only place where she felt at home. Frustrated by the events of the meeting, she whipped the school's grand piano open and banged the keys with a repertoire ranging from Mozart to modern day Lady Gaga.
The music soon filled the air, drifting over to the classrooms. Curious students soon began to wonder who was playing the piano. They had never heard Amelia play throughout her lessons, for she basically just taught a bit of music theory in a pedantic manner. Some gathered outside the music room, but could not see Amelia's face.
Mr Williams, who happened to pass by, looked into the window of the music room. He nodded his head and returned stoically to his office, much to the ignorance of Amelia, now in her own world.
Amelia stopped venting on the piano glad to have relieved the morning's humiliation. It was time for another boring lesson with one of her dreaded classes. They just talked and continued talking as if Amelia was transparent. She knew that music theory was absolutely meaningless to them.
On this occasion, two girls in that class were talking so loudly that Amelia stopped her lesson and questioned them. All they did was giggle. One of the pair was even more daring. "Look at you. You dress bad, your hair's untidy and your lesson boring. Who is going to listen to you anyway?" They giggled and continued talking. Not wanting a confrontation, Amelia struggled to explain the meaning of crotchets and minims to youngsters who would not be interested in them.
Amelia was glad when class was over. She banged the piano cover shut, sat down on the piano seat and cried.
Just the way you are : Billy Joel
The next day did not give Amelia much comfort, either. Rehearsals were not going well, with restless student groups waiting for their turn to go on stage and Dave trying to claim more than his fair share of presence.
Amelia brought a microphone up to the podium and Dave quite belligerently snatched it away from her. He constantly criticized the choir she had tried so hard to train, calling them a "bunch of useless misfits."
Amelia did not counter Dave's impolite remarks and actions. She was simply too frightened of a conflict to stand up to him. She did not want trouble.
Mr Williams, who popped in halfway through the rehearsal, left and shook his head.
Gauge your own confidence level.
How confident do you think you are?
Amelia turned the doorknob of Mr.Williams' office nervously. She wondered what the principal would want with her.
"Amelia," he began, his tone almost fatherly. "Why do you think I have called you here?"
Amelia thought of the delays and almost-fiasco at the rehearsal the day before. She hung her head. "I don't know."
Mr. Williams smiled. "Amelia, you're a fine pianist, though not a really effective teacher. I believe you know that yourself."
Amelia nodded her head sadly.
"It's all about you believing in yourself a little more," he smiled and continued. "There will be the Daves out there, waiting to take advantage of every situation," he caught her eye to make his point.
Amelia leaned forward, her interest aroused. Mr. Williams seemed to be on her side.
"Amelia, I heard you play the piano. You know what you can do. You do not need anyone to tell you that," the principal spread his hands slightly.
Amelia nodded. He had her full attention now.
"You are running that concert. You don't have to conform to the expectations of Dave and the others when they try to force their way. If you want a recital, have a recital. Do it yourself. You'll surprise everyone. I know you only teach theory. Why don't you put it into practice?"
Amelia nodded again.
"If you don't assert yourself, you'll have the Daves of the world to contend with. The kids will find it hard to respect you too."
Amelia hopped out of her chair. "Right, we'll have a recital, Dave or no Dave." The Principal nodded his head and smiled. She had gotten the point.
Amelia hopped out of the room, a skip in her step.
Amelia, donned in a tight little black dress, had asked a nearby hairdresser to dye her hair for the recital. Initially afraid that the colors would be too much, she was pleased at the copper and mahogany mixture. Ok, so the lady knew what she was doing.
When it came for her recital (which Dave reluctantly allowed), she went onstage, overcome by the all too familiar nervousness. She pressed the keys, and immediately flubbed a few notes. The audience giggled. No, they CHORTLED.
Amelia felt tears rolling down her cheeks. She had created a disaster. Again.
Amelia abruptly caught her reflection in the piano before her. She looked beautiful; she was a pianist. She remembered Mr. Williams' words - she knew what she could do. And should do.
Getting up from the piano seat, she grabbed a microphone. "Look, all of you," the laughing audience suddenly quietened. "Some of you students heard me. You know I can play the piano. What's more important, I know I can play the piano. So please shut your mouths, sit back and enjoy the recital."
The audience, too shocked to speak, could only obey.
Just the way you are : Bruno Mars
Amelia played beautifully, her hands moving deftly over the keys and reproducing the chirpy Allegro of Mozart with ease. She surprised the young audience with her rendition of Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are.
They greeted the performance with rapturous applause. As she came down the stage,the two girls who had been rude to her before apologized. "Sorry, Miss Lee," they said contritely. "We didn't know." Amelia just nodded and gave them the signal to move on.
Dave approached her. "Er...great performance." He eyed her in her little black dress. "Would you be free for coffee or something?"
Amelia grinned. "You know what, Dave?" she replied, eyeing him in his blue shirt as well. "No. I"m not free. By the way, blue doesn't suit you, just to let you know.It doesn't like loudness."
With that, she left the hall, leaving a nonplussed and open-mouthed Dave behind.
Copyright (C) by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
No part of this work is to be reproduced without prior consent of the author.
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