The evening was filled with music, the first Klaus or any of the Baudelaires had heard in a very long time. A storm had come the night before, washing assorted detritus up and onto their tiny island home. He, Violet, Sunny, and Beatrice had been safe in the belly of the tree that was their sanctuary, and in the morning when the intense winds and buffeting rain had ceased to shake the arbor above them they had emerged to see what treasures the storm had brought.
Standing the shin-deep water of the coastal shelf and thoroughly enjoying the cloudless sunshine that last night's squalls had given way to, Klaus was disappointed to see that it was not much. Broken pieces of asphalt made up the majority of the bright morning's bounty, fractured slabs piling high in the shallow water. He idly imagined where it all could have come from, a terrible image forming in his mind of a great highway being pulled apart and dashed into the sea.
"I'm not really certain we can make anything useful out of all this." Violet admitted, carefully adjusting three-month-old Bea in the sling on her chest. Her delicate brows were furrowed in irritation at the lack of innovative possibility in the dull gray rocks. "Conkur!" Agreed Sunny with a bob of her head, causing her blonde curls to bounce slightly as she sat atop Klaus' shoulders. Not wanting to be ungrateful or whiny, none of them mentioned the disappointment that settled heavily upon them. Mornings after storms had become one of the bright patches of their lives on the island, each time finding something to fix up and add to their cozy tree home to make it feel just a little bit more theirs.
Turning back towards the island, a glimmer caught Klaus' eye. It was rather distant, but the gleam was unmistakably metallic. A thrill of possibility among piles of useless gray rubble. He made sure that Sunny was holding securely to his head, then started towards it. "Where are you.." Violet cut off as she saw it too, then followed.
On first inspection, it looked almost as if a large brass flower was poking up through the surface of the water. It looked old, the petals covered with a patina of tarnish. With a closer look, however, Klaus realized that it was not. The center was too conical, not the typical bell-shape of a blossom. His eyes followed the center of the flower down below the surface of the water, to a wooden box covered in sand and recognition of what it really was dawned only a millisecond before Violet voiced it.
"It's a phonograph!" She said excitedly, bending down to carefully move some of the fine white sand from around the bottom. Indeed it was a rather impressive one at that. The horn was large and unbent from its journey across the ocean, and as Klaus lifted it out of the sand and water, he exposed an intricate carved wooden base, along with a small pile of records still in their soggy sleeves.
The machine was heavy, but not unbearably so as the Baudelaires (though more technically, Klaus, as he was the one actually carrying it) brought it back to their tree, setting it on the table that served as Violet's workbench. Klaus' shirt was dripping wet, but as excited as he was about the possibility of real music, he didn't even notice it.
The record player was obviously old, but in very good condition for having been through a storm at sea. The needle arm moved fluidly, not rusted at any points, and the crank on the side turned well. Sunny made lunch while Klaus held Beatrice and watched Violet inspect the old phonograph. She was lit up with the joy of tinkering, a small smile played on the edge of her lips and in her eyes. It was rare to see her so carefree, so lost in the satisfaction of creation. After all they had been through, Klaus felt that she deserved as many of these moments as they could possibly wrest from the world.
She tied her long hair back as she fiddled with some of the inner workings of the machine, taking occasional bites of the sandwich Sunny had prepared for her. Klaus sat in one of the plush chairs and ate his own carefully, not wanting to drop any crumbs onto Bea, who slept in his arms. Many other teenage boys would have been bored sitting in an armchair and watching their sister repair an old gramophone, but Klaus was contented. In fact, he would have been perfectly satisfied with doing nothing, his standard of happiness having long since been reduced to simply having his family together and safe.
Hours later, as sunset approached the island and Bea had been settled into her small wooden cot, Violet stood from her workbench. "It should be in perfect working order." She said proudly, displaying the dried and cleaned up fruit of her labor with an excited gesture of her arms. "Music?" Sunny asked keenly, looking up from the recipe for french braised lamb laid across her small knees.
Violet nodded, selecting a record from the small cabinet under the phonograph's bell. "There's not much but classical." She said almost apologetically. Klaus rose to inspect the records alongside his sister. "Classical is good. Any Tchaikovsky?" He inquired,
"No Tchaikovsky, but there is Chopin." The expression on her face puzzled him. She had enjoyed his compositions before, but she seemed oddly hesitant to hand over the disk. She looked as though she were waging an internal battle. Finally, her mouth set resolutely and she gave it over to him. He placed the record onto the turntable and turned the crank. True to Violet's words, the machine worked perfectly, Chopin's Nocturnes, Op 9 rang out across the warm room.
He had not understood her hesitation earlier, but at once the reason was made clear. Klaus had seen the label, had known what was going to play, but he had not expected such an intense wave of emotion to crash over him at the sound. Violet placed a hand on his shoulder, holding tightly as the same swell rose around her. Together, their minds were transported back to their childhood, before all of the mess with Very Fancy Doilies and sinister diving helmets. They found themselves in the beautiful study of the since-decimated Baudelaire mansion, practicing dutifully for their mother. Their parents had both adored classical music, and many evenings were spent listening to the stereo as a family. Dance was a talent they shared, and their mother had instructed them keenly.
Klaus' heart ached with the memory playing out so vividly in his mind's eye. He longed desperately to return to that moment, to the warmly lit study and soft carpeted floors and to the innocence and joy that their family had shared. So he did the closest thing, reaching out his hand towards Violet. "Dance?" He proposed simply.
"Of course." She said, taking his hand in her right and placing the other on his shoulder.
It had been a long time since they had practiced, but they fell so naturally back into the rhythms and steps that it was like it had been no time at all. All of the physical sensations were the same, There was no awkward stumbling, no accidental trodding upon the other's foot. They were perfectly matched in skill, and the familiarity of the activity was comforting. Violet's hand was as warm in his now as it had been then, and neither the steps nor the tempo had changed.
Klaus closed his eyes, attempting to fall deeper into the memory, to the simplicity and fearlessness of their shared past. The music carried them, and Klaus lost himself to it. They were waltzing to the very same music, and he could remember his mother and father happily sitting side by side on the study couch. In that time, the elder Baudelaires had known beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were loved. They had no idea of the great evil that surrounded them in the world, thoroughly sheltered. Violet had never had to force her shaking left hand to sign a marriage license, and evil had just been a concept, a challenge to be overcome by the brave heroes in his books.
The music stopped, pulling both him and Violet out of their reverie. They didn't break their rhythm though, far too afraid to let go of their remaining connection to the glorious memories. Klaus needed desperately to return to a few seconds ago, to return to the joy and the innocence and the warmth. But he knew that could not be, and so when the memory became too hazy to focus on, no longer sharpened by the familiar melody Klaus opened his eyes, meeting Violet's back in reality.
Her eyes were older now, sadder, but also wiser and more beautiful. A painful squeeze of his heart reminded him that she had grown up during their time as refugees from the world, they both had. They had the truth now, with all the responsibilities and privileges thereof. He knew that they could not stay in their childhood forever, but right then more than anything else in the world he wished to return to that miraculous bliss. To not have to see the hard-earned strength in Violet's eyes, and to restore his feelings to the simple, uncomplicated joy he had felt while dancing with her to the music that still echoed faintly in his ears.
"Missem." Sunny said quietly from her spot on the floor. Violet and Klaus understood her words to mean "I wish we were back with Mom and Dad, in our house again." The crack in her voice was enough to plunge Klaus' mind into the painful reality. He and Violet were needed in the present, probably more than either of them would ever understand. Sunny had done far more growing up of her own than was fair, but the truth was that she was still a child, and they were all she had. She couldn't afford to lose them to their daydreams.
He and Violet sat down on either side of the small child and pulled her between them, wrapping their arms around her and each other. When Bea stirred with a whimper she was pulled into the group as well. Surrounding his family protectively, Klaus was surprised to feel the same warmth as from his memories swelling in his chest. Their parents, their innocence, and their home were gone; but they were still happy. He and Violet were parents now, as well as Sunny's guardians. They had each other, and they had the truth. They had found purpose in their lives, meaning which had never been before. On top of that, they had music again.
The gramophone had long since silenced, but embracing their small family Violet and Klaus heard the music as clear as day in their minds. It wouldn't be a symbol of the idyllic life they had lost anymore, or a portal to a simpler time with far less responsibility or pain. They would make it a reminder of the family and independence they had fought tooth and nail for and won, and a call to the duty to press forward.
Holding tightly to his three girls, Klaus no longer felt the urge to go back. There was far too much for him in the present.