May This Noise Startle You Awake
By Wanda Perez
My fingers slide across the ivory keys of the piano. The sky is overcast, the perfect mood for practicing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Outside an oak tree branch relentlessly scratches against the glass of the bay window in front of the grand piano.
I can hear my mom walking around the house.
Click. Click. Click. Pause.
Click. Click. Pause.
I press on the keys, my body moving as I play. Strands of sandy hair fall around my face but I refuse to pause and tie my hair into a ponytail. I haven’t ever played this song all the way through and I’m determined for this to be the first.
“Andria?” My mother pipes from the dining room. “That is positively morbid. Please choose another tune to practice. Maybe Mozart’s Sonata 10 in C major?”
“But mother, please can’t I just finish?” I protest even though I know it isn’t a suggestion. She is so controlling.
“Mozart, now Andria.”
With a sigh I get up from the piano and smooth out my white dress. I smooth out the ruffles and puff the sleeves of the dress, knowing that if I didn’t my mother would. The dress is absolutely hideous. I look like an eight year old instead of a sixteen year old teenager.
I creep up the stairs at a snail’s pace, hoping to be away from my tyrant as long as possible. The stairs groan as I head upstairs. Just because she wants to have friends over I have to give up my fun.
As I enter my room my cell phone starts to ring. I take it off the charger and place it to my ear. Hip hop music blasts from the other end of the phone.
“It’s still a no on the party Trace.” I yell into the phone.
“Ugh, why is your mother so …her?” Tracey says with a sigh.
Always so articulate, I think with a laugh. “I know, I know. But maybe next time.”
“Yeah right.” She snorts. “Well have fun with the creep.”
I shudder thinking about the creep… In the small town that we live in everyone knows everyone, meaning everyone knows James McBride, the multi-millionaire who recently became obsessed with my mother. Although she doesn’t see it that way. No, to her it’s a compliment that such a wealthy man would have set his eyes on her. She refuses to acknowledge the fact that he’s probably just lonely after Claire, his late wife's passing.
Getting up from my bed I cross the room to my desk and search until I find the right sheet music.
“Mozart sonata 10.” I mimic my mom’s high pitched voice. “Ugh, so annoying.”
Half way down the spiral stair case I hear the door bell.
Taking that as my queue, I make my way down the stairs in double speed and take my place at the piano. I smooth out my dress one more time.
I hear murmurs from the foyer and I cringe.
James enters the living room with his hands in his black slacks. His skin is a sickly pale and his red lips stand out dramatically against the pale background.
“Andria.” He drawls, holding out both hands towards me. Taking tentative steps I advance toward him and place my hands in his. I try my best not to vomit.
“Glad to have you Mr. McBride. My mother has prepared an amazing dinner.”
I slip my hands from his and head toward the dining room. I stand behind my designated chair at the table.
“Please, Norah let me help you in the kitchen.” James stares down at my mother and gently caresses her face. My mother is positively glowing and I’m two seconds away from walking out of the house.
“Oh no James, it’s okay. Sit and let Andria enjoy your company.” With that she walks away and disappears behind a door.
James, being a gentleman, makes his way around the table and pulls out my chair. As I sit his fingers brush against my arms and I flinch. With a bit too much force he pushes my chair in, causing me to be pinned between the table and chair.
The air seems oppressive as I watch James sit at the head of the table. He places his elbow on the table, rubbing his fingers with his thumb, while the other hand rests against his leg. His posture makes me shrink back in my seat.
“Do I scare you Andria?” His tone is meant to be light, but there’s a glare in his eyes.
“Of course not.” I swallow
A nervous laugh escapes my mouth. “Did I? I didn’t even notice.”
He cuts his cold gaze from me to the door where my mother walked through.
“Why aren’t you out?” His voice raises an octave and he cocks his head to the side. His eyes have yet to leave the door.
“I wasn’t allowed to go out today.”
He jerks his head towards me and then back to the door. “Not a problem.” His words slither out so low that I don’t believe he’s said them.
A silence follows and I begin to fiddle around in my seat.
With a smile, James turns to me. “I’ll go help your mother.” The sound of the chair scraping against the floor bounces off the walls.
Alone I feel like I can finally breathe. I imagine myself finishing the Toccata and Fugue piece.
I place my hands on the table and picture the keys of the piano in front of me. I close my eyes and start to play. In my head I hear the lovely sounds that would float out of the piano if I was playing.
A scream erupts from the kitchen.
I stand so quickly that the chair falls to the floor.
I burst through the kitchen door. Everything happens too fast.
My mother’s screams are cut off mid-way and suddenly my dress is covered in blood. Small drops splat onto my face.
“No!” I yell so loud that a dull ache forms in my throat.
My mother crumbles to the floor, blood spurting from a knife slash in her throat. James stands over her, a kitchen knife lying on the counter next to him.
I take the few steps to my mother and she clings to my dress. The fear in her eyes is telling me to run, to get away from this monster. But I can’t. I’m in too much shock. I watch as her eyes cloud over, her lips part.
“What have you done!?” I screech at James.
He shakes his head. “She ... she wasn’t Claire.”