Morning came with the crow of a rooster and work began on the farm. Lily was already awake and dressed when she turned to her with a smile.
“Morning. Let’s go bring in breakfast.” she said and skipped down the stairs. Tara dressed quickly in a dress that was hung over a chair, waiting for her. It was a pretty rose color and pink blouse that was much softer than her dress. When she came down, Beatrice clapped happily.
“I just knew it would fit you and you look very pretty.” she said, looking vibrant for so early in the morning.
“Thank you for the dress. It’s better than my dress.” Tara said softly in awe of the soft fabric that draped against her. Beatrice came to her and held her gently by the shoulders. Her brown eyes took her attention.
“I was happy to do it and I hope one day you can feel that we are your family. Your mama, your daddy and your sister already love you, Tara.”
Tara heard the words that rang a bell of truth and was glad that the joy she felt last night didn’t run away.
She joined Lily to collect the eggs and milk for breakfast as well as give the animals theirs. When they returned, Matthew sat at the table and delicious smells wafted around the room. They said grace and ate with a comfortable hunger and contentment.
The rest of day wore on with an easy feeling of adjusting to the demands of a farm.
Tara found that if she used the part of her where the pain and hurt laid, she could endure the most strenuous work. It gave her a superhuman feeling when the task was done, but it brought concern from Matthew.
“You don’t have to do the work by yourself anymore, Tara. We help each other.” he said softly. His blue eyes didn’t show pity, but care that Tara didn’t think she would ever really get used to. She felt as if she had failed and looked down at her worn shoes.
He took her hand and gave her a kind smile.
“Nothing to be sorry about. You got something in you, we just need to figure out how to get that into something you like to do.”
Tara nodded, but not feeling better. She knew what was inside her and now she wondering what was going to happen to it if she couldn’t do what made her feel better. It was bigger and deeper than just anger, it was heavy and even with all the love and acceptance that Beatrice and Matthew gave her, she didn’t know if it would ever go away. She knew she would wait a long time for the guilt to pass, the gnawing reenactment of that day and all the things she could’ve done. She could have fought more, she could have screamed more, maybe scratch or bite him. It didn’t do any good but feed the anger until it felt like one of those scary monster stories. She was screaming against the enormous and powerful terror, a helpless victim. Damaged.
Yet here were people who accepted her ruined soul and even loved her. She had to learn from them, then maybe she could beat the monster that haunted her.
Lily took her to school in the morning but Tara could not go in. Lily pulled at her arms and even dropped her books in the dirt.
“Come on, Tara. We have to go inside or we will be late.” she said as she pulled Tara’s sleeve. Tara couldn’t move as she stared at the schoolhouse. It was nearly the same, right down to floorboards and slats of wood on the roof. The day came flashing back and sealed her down. She glanced at Lily and picked up her books and dusted them off.
“Here, you better go. I’ll be at home.” she handed her the books and turned away.
“What? Why? Don’t you feel well?” she asked and showed a childish concern that Tara felt through her pain. She shook her head before walking away.
“No, I don’t”
She could hear Matthew’s robust playing in the air and she followed it home. Part of her wanted to stay outside and enjoy it, but she was almost pulled in.
She opened the door slowly and the music stopped. He sat there waiting for the visitor to appear and he smiled at her from the bench.
He looked at her as if to say, ‘Hard day at school?’, Tara could only nod. He patted the space next to him and she obeyed. Together they faced the black and white keys and Matthew went through the scale of notes. Tara was struck by how they lingered so heavy in the air. She knew then that she was in love with music and the instrument that brought her into another world.
Matthew taught her first the notes, then he taught her how to read music and finally he tried to test her with small songs. After a short time of teaching, she surprised him by gracefully and confidently completing each one flawlessly.
They practiced together for the rest of the week and Tara only improved.
At the end of one session, he turned to her with a look of excitement on his face, but a bit skeptical.
He gave her a challanging Mozart piece.
“You never played the piano before?” he asked. Tara shook her head. She wished she had, then maybe she would have done better. She enjoyed his encourgment and his praise, but she loved the music that came out through her fingers. There she sat, painting the air with invisible beautiful sounds and a deep throb that came from deep in her belly. Soon she would close her eyes and sway with the heavy and deep, the fast and light.
“That is unbelivable, Tara. You play like you knew all the notes. Practice this one tomorrow and you will play by yourself, I won’t be there to guide you. What do think?”
She nodded without hesitation and intended to start practicing every day right after her chores.
Beatrice hummed along, but she came alive after dinner with Matthew at the piano. They made a lovely pair, just a shade apart but entwined somehow. She probably would never know what it felt like, but at least she knew what it looked like. It wasn’t bad, at all.
She and Lily would line up to say good night to them and Beatrice hugged Tara firmly. Her eyes searched her face carefully.
“We can get books for you to learn here at home. You are learning, that’s what important.”
Grateful, Tara gave her a small smile and nodded.
“Thank you,” she paused and held Beatrice’s gaze. “Mama.” Tara exhaled. Tears brimmed with a sting in her eyes, but she was lost in the exquiste release of saying those words. It rendered Beatrice speechless for a moment and then she laughed happily.
“You are welcome, my daughter.”
Tara gave her all in her last practice before she played for Matthew that night. Beatrice would knit while she played and would play anything they had. She had her favorites, but she loved the uplifting music that made you want to stand on your tip toes and try to touch Heaven. After her chores and a lesson, she played the piece that Matthew had given her. He waited patiently in his chair after dinner to hear her play. Beatrice sat next to him and Lily crept up between them and laid on the floor.
Tara sat confident at the piano and started to play. Her fingers danced across the keys and putting out a ribbon of music that surrounded them and kept them in a cocoon. Matthew and Beatrice held hands and smiled at her proudly, Lily hummed along until the last rich note.
They applauded and hugged her. Tara went to sleep that night filled with a contentment she had never known.
Julia Manuel on Poem #4 ingridfalconi on Poem #4 Julia Manuel on Poem #4