AN: Hey everyone! Brand new fic here. Hopefully this one will get as good reviews as my other ones have! Read and review!
This is another Skittery fic- as you can tell, he's my favorite! Kudos to all you Skittery fans out there!
Summary: Skittery has a secret talent that he's never told anyone about- but when that talent is exposed, it opens up brand new doors for him. Will these new opportunities cost him his life when rivals become jealous?
"No, no, no. Stop. You're not concentrating, Skittery."
I pulled my hands back from the keyboard and took a deep breath as Medda sat down beside me on the piano bench, gently taking my hands in hers.
"Your fingers must remain curved. Otherwise the line will not be smooth. The pedal can't keep it legato by itself, you have to work with the pedal. Understand?"
"So try again. More flow, and better crescendo this time."
She stood up and walked to the other side of the piano as I began playing again. I let the power of the song move itself this time- it's harder than it seems when you're trying to concentrate on the technicalities at the same time. The melody soared from my fingertips, and I let my body relax in the sweet harmonies coming from the instrument.
I finished the song and looked up at Medda, who was beaming at me. "Beautiful. Just gorgeous. You have some real talent, kid."
I smiled and checked my pocket watch- it was time to go. My hour was up. I fished a nickel and two pennies out of my pocket, handing it to her in payment for the next week of lessons. I started to walk out, but she stopped me.
"You know, I've been giving you these lessons for ten years now, and I still can't believe how much talent you have. Your mother would be so proud of you."
Well, she'd better be, even if she is in heaven. After all, she's the one who wanted me to keep doing this. "Thanks, Medda. Gotta go sell the afternoon edition, ya know?"
"Of course. But can I ask you one thing?"
"Why won't you perform, just one night on my stage? As a forerunner to my singing? You know how much the audience would enjoy it."
I bit my lip, trying not to let my annoyance shine through. "You know I can't do that."
She looked hurt. She'd asked me that question a million times, and every time my answer was the same, but she always managed to look disappointed. "One more question, before you go." She said, her smile replacing itself on her face. "I have a piano player from Boston coming to play here tonight. Would you come help with concessions and watch the show? He's about your age, and I want you to help me grade him. He wants a critique."
I thought about it a moment, and then decided that I owed her anyway for all the lessons she gave me that I couldn't pay for in the past. It would mean that I'd miss evening edition and have to scrape by on savings for the next week, but I could manage. "Sure, I'll come."
"Great! Come down here at 6:30, and I'll assign you a section of audience to attend to. The show starts at 7."
"Got it. I'll be there."
She pinched my cheek, even though she knew I hated it. "That's my boy. Now go sell your papers."
I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn't expect it to happen today. Somebody finally noticed that for the past month I hadn't been eating lunch with the other guys at Tibby's (Medda used to give me lessons in the morning, but that changed when her show got more popular. Now she only had free time at lunch.).
"Hey, Skittery, where were ya at lunch today?" Racetrack asked very loudly. Figures he'd be the one to notice, I said to myself.
"You ain't been at lunch wit' us for a long time now…what are ya doin'? Finally got yourself a girl?"
I snorted, almost choking on my water. "Yeah, Race. You hit it right on da nose. I been bangin' on a girl every day at lunch." I said sarcastically. Everyone burst out laughing and Race turned an interesting color of red, knowing that I was joking and that I had just made a fool out of him.
"Geez, okay. I won't ask."
The rest of dinner went smoothly, and I left early to make it to the theater on time, telling Dutchy to leave the window unlocked if I wasn't back by curfew. Dutchy was the only one I could ask to do that without playing a game of twenty questions, and I'd do the same for him any day. It was a kind of 'silent agreement' we had.
I entered the back door of the theater, and immediately Medda noticed me. "Skittery! Come on back and I'll talk with you in a second." She said, and I sat down out of the way. The theater was already filling up, and within minutes she had supplied me with a tray of champagne and had sent me out into the audience, handing it out to anyone who cared for it. I got quite a few dirty looks, considering that this was a high-end establishment for tonight and I was dressed in my usual selling clothing- it's not like I had any 'hoity toity' clothes.
I noticed Medda looking awfully nervous in the wings- she wasn't performing tonight, but the boy who was supposed to perform hadn't shown up yet. And when he did walk in the door, I saw why he was late.
As I went backstage for more glasses, he stumbled in. That's right- stumbled. He was as drunk as they come. And as I walked back out into the audience, he passed out right there.
I continued passing out glasses, snickering to myself as I wondered how Medda was going to handle this one. Medda was a resourceful woman, but this was a no-win situation. But as I saw her walking through the audience toward me, my blood froze.
She wouldn't. She would not do this to me!
"No! Are you out of your mind?" I hissed, and this exchange began to catch the ears of the closest audience members, who began to listen intently.
"Please! I had no idea this was going to happen! These people paid good money to see a performance," she suddenly grabbed my chin in her hand and forced my eyes to meet hers, "and your performance would be worth every penny of that. Can you imagine how these people would react if I told them the show was cancelled, right here and now?"
I felt panic rising in my throat as she let go of my chin. "Medda, don't make me do this."
"I wouldn't make you if there were any other way. I'll even give you free lessons for the next year if you'd just go up there and play for them! It's only one half hour!"
I swallowed hard. I'd never preformed on a stage in my life, and I hadn't planned on ever doing so. But this was Medda, practically a mother to me, and she was in big trouble if these people didn't see a show.
"Alright, fine. I'll do it. Just this once. And I reserve the right to soak the guy who was supposed to play."
"Thank you! Thank you so much!" she said, and then she jumped up onto the stage. It was time for the show to start, and the audience knew it.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" she began, and the house fell silent. I noticed the people who had been close enough to overhear were snickering, as if they knew how nervous I was. Medda cleared her throat, and then continued. "We were supposed to have the prestigious Andrew Lundsworth with us today to play. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, he is unable to appear."
A spark of conversation ran through the audience, and I set down the champagne tray onto an empty table, my hands trembling. What are you thinking, you idiot? You aren't good enough to perform for these people! You can't do this! I yelled at myself as Medda continued.
"But in replacement, we are fortunate to have in our midst one of my very own students, who has been studying piano for many years. Please give a warm welcome to Michael O'Konnor!"
I shuddered at the use of my real name- she was one of the very few people who knew it. I slowly climbed up onto the stage, and amidst the polite applause, I made my way to the piano.
You've been playing piano your whole life. You can do this. Just relax, I said to myself as I got closer and closer. I sat down on the bench, and as the applause began to fade, I gave myself one more rousing cheer.
Idiot. Idiot, idiot idiot. How did you get yourself into this mess?
Then I let my heart take over. I decided on a first song and let the melody soar, suddenly forgetting that there was an audience in the room. I even caught myself playing with my eyes closed a few times, a bad habit that I try to avoid. I let my hands flow from song to song, and nothing else mattered except for the music.
It didn't matter that they were probably making fun of my clothes, being the rich folks they were. It didn't matter that Medda was in the wing, biting her fingernails. It didn't matter that the audience members could be walking out right now, and I wouldn't have noticed. All that mattered was the music.
I finally became conscious enough to notice that Medda was giving me thumbs up, which meant that this was the last song. I saw a clock out of the corner of my eye, and realized that I'd been playing for almost an hour.
It felt like five minutes.
I finished up the song, and complete silence followed. I half expected to see no audience when I looked up, but then I heard one person applauding. Then another. Then another. And as I looked up, the whole audience- every single person was still there- on their feet in a standing ovation. Smiling, whistling, clapping, toasting their champagne to me…I suddenly felt sick. Had I really done that well?
Medda ran out on stage as I stood up and gave me a huge hug, and then motioned for me to take my bow. I took a small step forward and gave a miniscule bow- practically a nod of the head- before practically sprinting offstage.
I felt like I couldn't breathe. I leaned against a piece of scenery, gulping air as if I had been underwater for the past hour. This was crazy. This was some type of joke. I wasn't that good of a piano player. At least…I thought I wasn't.
I couldn't take this. I had to get out of there before Medda found me again. We'd talk this through at my lesson tomorrow, straighten things out. And everything would go back to normal. Despite cries of protest from stagehands, I raced out the back door and sprinted all the way back to the lodging house, stopping one time to throw up in an alley. It had just been too much, and my mind couldn't handle this, let alone my body.
I made it back long before curfew, but I mumbled something to Kloppman about not feeling well and I went straight to sleep. Little did I know the chain reaction my candid performance had set off.
AN: Ah hah, the suspense! I have lots of things in store for Skittery, good and bad. So keep reading and reviewing!