"I haven't memorized the pentatonic scale yet," Georg might tell Thea. "But I know the opening by heart, my fingers just know it. I sit down at the piano and they dance, without even my thinking. It's mesmerizing, actually. But I need to practice the second part, which is more difficult. I'm trying very hard, though. I'll play the whole song for you once I have it down. You like music, don't you?"

Thea does like music, and she might like Georg. She might come by his home and tap her fingers on the glass window by the front door. And if she did, he would open it and let her in so he could play Study in C Sharp Minor for her. And Thea would sit in the tattered silk armchair by the parlour, sipping sugary tea while he delicately fingered arpeggios.

He remembers seeing her in the spring rain- barefoot, and her skinny legs in the mud. Dancing. There soft pale hairs on her legs, and her toes were dainty. She was twirling in the grey-blue storm.

Georg could not twirl in the mud, because he was awkward and heavy, and his shoes were stiff leather. So he watched her from forest's edge and did not join her. She was a sight, in her dampened dress and smiling widely, her form blurring in the raindrops. Like a muddy ballerina. His white shirt was soaking through and he almost ran home.

"I should tell you what my other song sounds like. It's a minuet. Very pretty, like your braids." Her braids were shiny and well kept, always. "It's in the key of D Major. I'd love to play it for you, and you might sing to it and we could harmonize. It's easy. I'll teach you."

But what if she leaned against his shoulder when he played? And she watched the curling sheet music, and he would not, because her bony shoulders and skin might be warm?

Her eyes are brown and lined with thick eyelashes. Georg has never noticed eyelashes before- not until now. His father's are thin and grey, his mother's straight and dark. But Thea's are thick and lovely and her eyes are round. Georg might look straight into them if only he could find the confidence.

Thea and Anna, Anna and Thea. They played together almost constantly. When they were younger, it was with rag dolls and dented tin pitchers from the tinsmith that had rusted over. Now they giggled together, looking quite like pixies underneath the tree. Anna's eyes shone and she would whisper to Thea. What were they murmuring about?

Anna had lumpy woollen stocking and dry frizz over her hair. Her mischievous smile was exciting, but Anna did not play piano. And Georg is perversely happy that she does not, though he shouldn't be, because Anna and Thea have been playmates since they were wearing bonnets and baby smocks. And yet, the elm trees whisper to the two of them, shady and secretive. Thea might know the language, but Anna is fluent. Lying lazily against the scarred bark, the girls gossip quietly. And Thea is rosy and grinning beneath the leaves.

"You have a very pure high voice, a soprano. So perhaps we could perform a duet! And we might play and sing so that the room quivers with sound. Don't you ever feel as if the air just rings with the tone?"

Georg chases the notes up and down the ivory keys, trying to capture the music without concentrating too hard. But he cannot concentrate at all, not on the minuet or on the study. The black keys jut out at him, dark and thin. His piano teacher will come tomorrow. He will set pansies in the cut-glass vase just for her and they she will guide his clumsy hands over the piano keys. And for that moment, he will not think about the fairy whirling in rainy mist.