Piano Sonata No. 23.

The cards arrive the first sunday of each month, always tied to the leg of a white dove, and Duck quacks to the dove as if asking for more details. Autor stays a little behind as Fakir dutifully reads each letter, more to the benefit of the duckling than for him.

They're happy: it's the first thing that Fakir always says, and it always makes Duck batt her wings and sigh a little, and it's stopped being weird to Autor, to find this much of a response of an animal. Fakir sits by the window, the dove perching on his shoulder the way birds used to perch on the Prince's shoulder, and Duck fumbles to his lap so that she can see the letter too, if not read it.

Autor keeps on, sitting by the table. Fakir knows nothing of his love for the dark princess and he never will, so Autor must steal whatever information he can.

Through the letters – in which the Prince writes and it's only over the bottom where Fakir's tone changes slightly, in perhaps jealousy, where Rue sends her love to Duck – Autor learns of her fate. There is no kingdom for the Prince but for a cabin by the woods and they're as happy as possible there. Rue has learned to cook, the letters say, and slowly the animals have stopped fearing whatever traces of the Crow that remained on her.

At his piano, Autor tries to write her a sonata and his fingers bleed into an adagio without him noticing. He does his best not to feel bitter: for sixteen years he lived without loving her and he can keep on going because she was never his to begin with. Still, it aches somewhere between his fingertips and his chest.

Perhaps it's because she never believed that he loved her. Perhaps it simply is because she never loved him.

He still plays for her, wherever she is.