I spent the rest of my weekend catching up on homework and practicing the piano. I had no idea what to expect with my new teacher, but knowing that some of her students had been accepted into Juilliard was more than a little intimidating. I wanted to be sure I made a good impression on my new teacher so I pulled out my books and practiced until my mom started to complain and Bills started howling.
Things at school on Monday were pretty much back to normal, the excitement of homecoming had passed and everyone was back at school with their typical “I hate Mondays” attitude. The day passed smoothly enough, though Matt’s exuberant attention toward me at lunch was more than a bit discouraging. I had hoped that once the dance was over, he’d let things go back to the way they were, but it seemed that was going to be out of the question. I knew I was going to have to do something, and soon, I just had no idea what or how.
I decided that I’d better come up with an idea quick when Matt cornered me after school and asked if I’d like to watch him practice.
“I can’t,” I told him reluctantly, hoping my rejection wouldn’t hurt his feelings.
“Work?” he asked, obviously unshaken by my answer.
“That’s alright,” Matt grinned, “maybe next time.”
“We’ll see,” I sighed as I started for my car, Matt strolling happily by my side.
I really hoped that Maggie or Yuuki would catch up with us before we got to the parking lot, but neither one of them did and Matt ended up walking me to my car, obviously pleased to have a couple of minutes together alone. I was less than thrilled by Matt’s attentions and even more so when we passed Ian and his buddies in the parking lot. Matt, oblivious to the world, paid no attention to Ian and his friends, but I couldn’t ignore the icy look on Ian’s face as we passed. I wondered what that look was all about, but as I only caught a glimpse of it in passing, I let it go. Ian had given me so many looks like that, since the beginning of school that they were beginning to lose their effect on me…well, at least a little.
Matt tried to hang around after he’d walked me to my car but I told him I really needed to go so he left, saying he’d see me tomorrow. I spent the drive home trying to figure out how to make Matt see that I wasn’t interested in him, at all, but I kept coming up blank. Frustrated, I turned to my sketch book, the second I got home, and spent the next two hours lost in my drawings. It wasn’t until Bills came in, begging for his walk, that I realized what time it was. Shocked to see that it was already a quarter after five, I ran through the house, frantically grabbing my books and the address my mom had left hanging on the fridge before running out the door.
I had to do a double take when I looked at the address, but since I was running late, I didn’t have time to be amazed. The address was one I knew fairly well, though not from any personal connections; it was simply one of the houses in a subdivision my mom and I liked to drive through around Christmas, to admire the lights. The subdivision itself was really nothing more than a single street, ending in a cul-de-sac, but the houses that lined the street were truly incredible; each one a beautiful multi-story combination of stone, wood, and glass, each with a perfectly landscaped yard and red brick drives. It wasn’t until I actually pulled up in front of the house on the left side of the cul-de-sac that I took a moment to let reality sink in. As I sat in my car, I suddenly felt very nervous.
I told myself to get a grip as I stepped out of the car and started to walk up the drive. I hadn’t been sure where I was supposed to park and had decided that parking on the street was probably the best. The walk up the drive gave me enough time to collect myself and by the time I rang the doorbell I was feeling almost normal. The second I rang the doorbell I lost my nerve again, I suddenly remembered that at Mrs. Hamilton’s house I’d always walked right in, so as not to disturb the lesson going on before mine. I felt like such an idiot as I stood there, debating whether or not I should walk in or just wait. I decided that since I’d already rung the bell, I might as well wait until someone answered. A second later the door opened and Ian Wallace stood there in all his frosty glory.
“What do you want?” Ian asked, cooly.
“I’m here for my piano lesson,” I answered, shocked and flustered.
Ian just glared at me as I answered, his icy blue eyes met mine, leaving me weak in the knees, and then suddenly he was gone, the door left open behind him. It took me a second to recover from the shock of meeting Ian at the door but I did the best I could as I stepped inside and shut the door behind me.
“Hello,” a warm, friendly voice called from the adjacent room as I took in my surroundings, “you must be Lyla.”
“Lyla Andrews,” I answered as I offered my hand to the beautiful, smiling woman who suddenly appeared beside me.
“I’m Marian Wallace and I’m very pleased to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you,” I answered as I tried to process my current situation.
I was standing in Ian’s house, his mother was my new piano teacher and nothing in the world could have prepared me for the shock of it all. I never, in a million years, would have guessed that Marian was Ian’s mother, they were so completely different. Mrs. Wallace was tall, thin and amazingly graceful, with long, blonde hair which cascaded down her back in a thousand curls. Her smile was warm and inviting, which was completely different from any look her son had ever given me, in fact the only similarity in mother and son were their bright blue eyes, though Marian’s sparkled with warmth and delight while Ian’s eyes were always so cold. She was dressed casually enough, in a pair of wide leg, white corduroys and a light blue sweater, though it was obvious her clothes were from designer labels; I felt very frumpy, in comparison, wearing my faded jeans, a Beatles t-shirt, Chucks and my black and white polka-dotted hoodie.
“Shall we?” Mrs. Wallace asked as she motioned for me to follow her into the next room.
I followed Mrs. Wallace into what could have been a sitting room or a living room, but was, in fact, a music room. I was shocked to find a Steinway standing prominently in the middle of the room and was even more shocked when Mrs. Wallace invited me to sit down in front of it.
“I know it’s not what you’re used to,” she apologized with a warm smile, “but it’s my personal favorite.”
“It’s beautiful,” I sighed as I lightly ran my fingers over the ivory keys, intimidated, once again, by the grandeur of the Wallace’s home.
“Thank you,” she smiled, “now before we begin, I’d like to start by asking you a few questions. If find that by getting to know a little bit about you and you, in turn, knowing a little about me, makes transitions such as these go a bit more smoothly. So if you don’t mind my asking, how long have you been playing?”
“Twelve years,” I answered, amazed that it had really been that long.
“And Mrs. Hamilton was your teacher?”
“Only once I moved to Boulder. Before that my teacher was one of the music professors from Columbia College in Chicago.”
“Really?” she asked, sounding somewhat impressed by my former teacher, “So, what do you like playing the most?”
“Anything really, I like trying new pieces and I really love a challenge.”
“And who are your favorite composers?”
“Gershwin, Beethoven and Debussy.”
“Interesting. Your mother said you were hoping to perform in the scholarship recital this spring. Have you given any thought as to what you’d like to play?”
“I’ve thought about it, but I’m not sure if what I’d like to play and what I can play are the same.”
“And why is that?”
“Well, for one thing, I’m not sure my selections are appropriate for the recital and for another, I’m not sure I can actually pull them off.”
“And what is it you’d like to play?”
“Claire de Lune and Rhapsody in Blue.”
“Ambitious,” Mrs. Wallace smiled warmly, her eyes dancing with delight. “I think you and I are going to get along just fine.”
“So you think I can pull it off?”
“I think I need to hear you play before I can honestly answer that question. Why don’t you show me what you were working on with Mrs. Hamilton.”
Obligingly I pulled my books out, without hesitation, and began playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. When I had finished, Mrs. Wallace asked me to play more and so I went on to play Mozart’s Turkish March and Debussy’s Reverie. When I had finished she congratulated me with another of her warm smiles.
“You play very well.”
“Thank you,” I smiled back, relieved to have made such an impression.
“I think now I can say your choices are appropriate, though I’m not sure how well we can do with them both. You seem to prefer the slower, more dramatic pieces so I think Claire de Lune would be the better choice.”
“Don’t I need more than one piece for the recital?”
“You do, which is why I think you ought to give Rachmaninoff a try. Prelude in G minor, Opus 23, number 5 is a very nice piece and I think it’ll work well for you. Are you at all familiar with the piece?”
“Not really,” I admitted.
“Then perhaps I shall give you a demonstration?”
“Yes, please,” I insisted as I got up from the piano bench and Mrs. Wallace took my place.
The instant her fingers touched the keys I was transported into another world. Never, in all my life, had I heard someone plays with such perfection, beauty and passion. It seemed such a pity when the music stopped and Mrs. Wallace once again took her seat beside the piano.
“That was incredible,” I sighed as she motioned for me to resume my place on the bench.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“Do you really think I can play that?”
“I have no doubt, though I have to warn you, it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to practice, a lot, but if you’re willing to work hard, we can have you ready for the recital this spring.”
“Then let’s get started,” I grinned, excited by the challenge that lay before me.
The rest of the lesson was spent looking over the pieces I was going to be spending the next few months working on. I had to admit, looking them over was a bit overwhelming. I knew the pieces were both beautiful and difficult and I really wondered if I could play them as well as they deserved to be played. Before my lesson ended, Mrs. Wallace took a little time to introduce herself to me. It really didn’t come as much of a surprise when she told me that she was a graduate of Juilliard and that she had played in more than her fair share of concerts before meeting her husband, Dr. Colin Wallace, and settling down. Once again I felt slightly intimidated by my new teacher, but her warm smile and genuine friendliness were enough to make me forget my worries. When my lesson ended, Mrs. Wallace walked me to the door and told me she was already looking forward to my next lesson. I was a little shocked to admit it, but the fact was so was I; Mrs. Wallace was an incredible teacher and for the first time, in a long time, I felt that I had a piano teacher from whom I could actually learn.
It wasn’t until I started driving home that I realized Ian had been there, somewhere in that huge house, during my lesson. The thought of Ian listening to me play was a more than a little unsettling, after all, his mother was a Juilliard alumna and a former concert pianist. How could my playing ever compare? I hated the idea of Ian sitting in his room cringing as I worked my way through the pieces I was going to play for the recital; he already had enough reasons to cringe around me, I hated to give him any more. Still, I wasn’t going to regret having his mother for my new teacher, she was great and I felt confident that with her help, I might actually have a shot at that scholarship.