Aiko looked over at the piano sheets in disinterest. She knew everything she had to do. She memorized it all fairly quickly, the notes, the tempo, everything, and yet she still wanted to stop. She wanted to just leave and never come back, to keep all those mindless drones waiting and waiting for a performance that would never come. She wanted to do that, but knew she couldn’t.
She had been practicing this song for a few weeks at this point, and she hated every second of it. The venue was Gosb Theater, a famous and historic part of the city of Redwood. The overall process was grueling. She tried to just get her parents to cancel, but they denied it. And so she sat in her room for hours at a time staring at a piece of paper until she eventually decided to practice. And when she practiced, she found some modicum of peace, but the realization of why she was practicing ruined it all.
And now she was here, preparing to perform this piece in a few minutes.
Aiko lowered her head in defeat, her eyes glancing around the small room she was in. A piano that she hadn’t even touched, a mirror that showed off a person she wasn't.
She hated this. She hated them. She knew it was petty, that the onlookers had nothing to do with this, but it was easier to blame them then to move on.
Ever since she could walk, her parents had treated her more like a prized pet than a daughter. Earning recognition for her talent, forcing her to take up singing, violin, the piano, all to further their own status. At first Aiko hated it, but eventually grew numb. She wanted to make them proud of her, but she soon realized they would only demand more and more. It took so much to make them proud.
She looked at herself in the mirror, wearing an expensive blue dress and wearing makeup that made her look so beautiful. She bit her lip to keep herself from crying. Her eyes stung, her throat began to grow sore as she held back her tears.
Why are you crying?
Aiko closed her eyes, and in her mind’s eye she saw herself.
No, that wouldn't be accurate. It was more like she saw someone else inside her body. Someone else dressed up in a fancy red dress with makeup and earrings. Someone else wearing a jade necklace and an overly expensive watch.
“I don’t want to do this…” Aiko muttered, trying to get those thoughts from her mind. Yet like a parasite they stayed and burrowed their way deeper and deeper into her thoughts.
Mom and Dad already do so much for you. All you have to do is sing and play the piano. They give you so many opportunities! They let you travel the world and gain fame and applause! They buy you expensive things most girls your age would kill to get! They travel and spend money all for you! And you can’t even play the piano?
Aiko could imagine herself driving expensive cars, eating gourmet meals and traveling the world. She’d be dressed beautifully. She’d be taught in history books as someone who revolutionized the art of playing the piano. She’d have people begging for her autograph and rushing to take photos of her. And as they smiled, she’d smile back.
She’d smile back.
Her eyes devoid of life.
She’d smile while dead on the inside, her life ruined by being a pushover. Doing whatever she was told like a good little girl. By never once saying no.
Her heart ached, and she looked up at the mirror. The despair that she saw in her own eyes bore into her soul. She felt like that was meant to be her life: To do something for the sake of others, even if it was something she utterly despised.
“But…I like playing the piano.”
As she uttered those words, those six words, she looked back at herself. “I’ve always liked it…”
She may have hated the forced tutoring and the crowds, but whenever she was in front of a piano alone, Aiko felt in paradise. The crowd would blend into nothingness as she kept on playing, and before she knew it, it was over.
“I don’t want to stop playing, I just want to keep on playing for them.”
The more she spoke, the more her heart began beating, and her eyes gained a flame that only a determined few could muster.
"I wanna play for myself. ”
Aiko took a minute to fix herself up, wiping away her tears and carefully reapplying her makeup, already deciding what she was going to do. She was filled with a rebellious energy that was impossible to contain. She felt as if God himself had come down to bless her with inspiration. That all the angels above sang out for her.
Her heart was beating, her mind was racing, and a smile came upon her lips.
As Aiko left the room, she felt something she had never felt before. She felt confident.
Although her parents brought her into this world, she wasn’t forced to do as they said. She had her own life, her own destiny. As she went on stage and sat down on the piano chair, she took a deep breath.
She placed her fingers on the keys, and began playing.
She played the first few notes from Beginning of the Journey to lure them into a false sense of security. And as she played, she started to deviate, her fingers hitting the keys in more violent, energetic ways. The Beginning morphed into something else entirely, and as the first keys of the new song exploded into the crowded theater, she glanced up, the horrified look on her parent’s faces fueling her even more.
And yet, seeing the look on their faces caused some ache in her heart. Yet despite the strange ache, she continued playing. She used
the thrill of rebellion to further the emotion she was putting into the music.
The song she was playing now was not one of peace, love, joy, or anything of the sort. It was a song of emotion, of anger, of oncoming doom and the Almighty and Righteous Fury of God as he came to punish wrongdoers at the End Times. And now it took on another meaning. For this song, Dies Irae, was now the song of Aiko. Her declaration of her own life, her own path. Away from that of her parents, of forces that only wanted to use her. It was a song of rage and independence, one that was fueled by the entirety of Aiko’s very soul.
And as the theater was wrapped in the violent yet elegant music, she only continued even more fervently, her hand beginning to get sore as she did so. Eventually, she winded down, and came to a stop. When they were sure she was done, the theater erupted in praise and applause, far louder than she ever had received before. And as she basked in it all, she was sure of it now. Of her path.
As she finished, Aiko exhaled. She was spent. She had used up every single emotion she had. Anger, grief, despair, sadness, disappointment, hope. She used it all, and as she came down from her high the reality of what she had dawned on her. She had played a completely different song than what she was scheduled to. Her mind was racing as she looked up at the crowd, and instead of the booing she expected, they erupted in applause. She felt a smile come across her face, and she felt elated, like she could conquer the world. As she looked up and saw her parents, she noticed that they wore an expression she never saw on their faces. Shame. Aiko first thought it was directed at her, but their downcast eyes and sheepish stature were not aimed at her, yet grew the more the crowd cheered.
Aiko figured that it was because they didn't control her, but a smaller, more emotional yet hopeful part of her believed the opposite. That part felt that they were shameful that they never let Aiko play how she wanted. She wanted to believe it, that they truly wanted her success, yet as of now all she could do is bask in the applause. The time for talking would come later.
And so Aiko stood up, bowing before the audience and their applause, her smile never fading.