Jessica’s little legs hung off the side of the hospital bed as she sat alone with her mother. Looking directly into her mother’s eyes, Jessica used all her energy to not cry and seemed unaware that her left heel rapidly tapped against the side of the bed.
Just before her last breath, Jessica’s mom told her, “Make sure and practice for me, okay? Your dad loves that piano.”
After the funeral Nick tucked Jessica into bed and leaving the lights off, poured himself a drink.
The next morning a sloppy and slow rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” aroused him to the full force of a hangover.
“Just stop, Jessica,” he groaned.
Slowing and softening just a bit, she pretended not to hear.
“I said stop!” he roared.
Confused and unused to him yelling, she pulled her delicate hands from the keys and as he rapidly approached instinctively raised them to protect herself from the blow that never came. The sound of the piano’s keylid slamming shut opened her clenched eyes just in time to see him turn towards her. She stared right back at him. Embarrassed, ashamed, and now uncertain of what he was capable of, he hurriedly walked away. She turned back to the piano, lifted the keylid, and began to practice.
As he whirled around in disbelief, he felt an unnatural warmness come over his head. He raced to the bathroom. She heard him try to cover up his sickness with coughing. His head pounded as he walked from the flushing toilet to where she was in the living room.
“What did I tell you?” he barked.
This time as he reached for the keylid, the little girl was ready. Matching his determination but not his strength, she pushed back against it with both hands, arms locked.
He let off long enough for her to remove her hands but still closed the lid.
“I don’t want to hear that piano ever again,” he said.
Her face always flushed red before the tears came and this time was no different.
“But mommy told me to practice!” she said as she lifted the lid and, again, began to practice.