CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE HORROR OF IT ALL
She met him in the hallway looking cheerful and contended.
“Any good news, sir?”
“Except seeing you, none as yet” he answered, charmingly.
“That’s so sweet of you. And I want to thank you for the other day when you saved us all. It was so humiliating to stand there gaping desperately at her and not knowing what to do”.
“You go by her face value. She puts on such a harsh exterior for it’s part of a facade that everyone puts on. There’s what we think about ourselves and what we want others to think about us. And by nature, she’s of the reserved sort”.
“You too were reserved when I first met you” she told him, teasingly.
“But no one can remain like that for long with you around, can they? They talk or their ears bleed” he replied promptly, joking her.
“Do you have classes now?” she asked him and he looked down at his watch.
“No, I suppose not, a teacher has asked for my period so I am free at present. Why, Jennifer, do you want to speak to me?”
“I do, sir. I have heard you play the piano at times. On the other day, I even saw you” she told him eagerly but before she could continue, he burst out laughing.
“You saw me playing?” he asked her dubiously.
“Yes, I did, your silhouette. You were sitting on the grand piano in the chapel the other day. It was well lit and I saw your shadow from outside”.
“Well, my dear Jennifer. What does me playing the piano have to do with what you say?” he asked her in his piquant manner.
“Why, I’ve always wanted to play too, sir. I would simply love to play. To move my fingers gracefully along the black and white keys of the piano, to know that music is being created. It looks such a lovely thing, doesn’t it” she continued undaunted.
“You’re quite sure about that?” he asked her, cocking his head to one side and look at her mischievously.
“Yes, I am, sir. I like the posture as you sit playing it and the shape and grandeur of the wonderful instrument.”
“Again, I ask you, are you sure about this?”
“Why, don’t you believe me?” she asked with pretended offence.
“All right, all right then, madam. Shall we go to the chapel, I fancy you’ll find something very interesting there” he told her still in his taunting fashion
“Of course” she replied and they started to walk together down the way to the chapel. It was another beautiful day. There was the scent of mud mixed with fresh air and a mild sun showing all along the way.
“It all smells so fresh and happy, doesn’t it”? She asked him delightedly.
“Yes, yes, of course. Let’s hope it stays that way” he told her mysteriously, throwing her a sideway glance.
“You aren’t planning something, are you? There seems to be so many dark implications in your speech today” she asked him, suddenly startled by his continued slyness.
In answer, he just grinned and glanced away. She decided to let it rest, since anyway she was going to learn the piano from her favourite teacher.
Halfway along the way, they met Mr. Christian Shannon and the two teachers cordially shook hands and greeted each other. Jennifer instinctively stiffened out of shyness, this person was the musical maestro all over Madurai and the American College. He was the eminent, renowned choir master and pianist of the college and a legend to everyone that lived in Madurai. Much of these remarkable people like Miss Pearl Laurent and Mr. Christian Shannon were brilliant scholars and perfectionist and were splendid at all they did, but were a holy terror wherever they went, in regard to their eccentricities. Jennifer subtly tried to dodge her way around the two and leave but with a loud exclamation praising her, her companion introduced her to Mr. Shannon. Jennifer gasped as if she knew intuitively what was going to happen next and with a look of utter disbelief and horror, she stared up at him, her betrayer, her traitor and he smiled back down at her.
“My dear Jennifer, didn’t you just tell me how much you’d love to play the piano. Well, Mr. Christian Shannon is almost music personified throughout Madurai, who better to learn from than him” he proclaimed and Mr. Shannon gave a shy, flattered laugh looking warily at Jennifer.
“Just the other day, he was telling me about the lack of enthusiasm and aestheticism in students in fields like music and here you are, telling me you want to learn the piano. I am a very poor player, my dear, though, Mr. Shannon was the one who taught me, I was never musically talented, so if you liked my playing, how much more would you love his” he said, with a devilish smile.
Jennifer gave a disconcerted stare at him.
“So, Miss. Jennifer. I expect a certain amount of discipline and respect in all my students both for me and for my art, so if you plan on joining my piano classes, you should know beforehand you are not excepted from either” Mr. Shannon told her firmly and she nodded to him, finding no other way out of this.
“Jennifer, I am sure you’ll have a wonderful time. And what’s more, you can even join the choir, I’ve heard how well you sing, I am sure you’ll receive valuable training and have an enjoyable time singing for the college choir” her teacher told her solemnly.
She nodded and stood, helplessly looking down. The two started to exchange pleasantries again and turning away, she gave a gulp and stared with wide, horrified eyes at the passers-by.