Title: An Ear To Listen
Rating: G, though it has one very small swear word
Disclaimers: not mine, don't sue.
Notes: Just what the summary says. I have a few others ideas for the fandom, which I may or may not write… I haven't decided. Nonetheless, enjoy this, please. It's my first for this movie. My thanks to Blue Raven for reading through this even though she's not familiar with the film.
Summary: Nothing much; just a nice, small scene that I thought the movie needed.
The Los Angeles, California sunlight was just beginning to dim into sunset as Terri Fletcher finally pulled herself away from the multitude of goodbyes to the friends she had made while at Bristoll Hillman Music Conservatory. She had a handful of small paper scraps, each one scrawled across with phone numbers, email addresses, and snail mail addresses. Three different ways to keep in touch with people who changed her life over the course of three weeks. She looked around for a specific dark head and, not seeing it, turned to her father.
"Can we hang out here for just a little while longer?"
"Terri," her father started, already starting to do a negative shake of his head.
"It won't be long, I promise, Dad." She pouted slightly, the most defiance against him that she usually showed. "It's really important to me."
"Let her go, Simon. Terri has been running around the campus for the last three weeks and she has done just fine. I'm sure a few more minutes won't hurt much."
Nodding his reluctant acquiescence, he braced himself as Terri flung herself at him before rushing past the thinning crowds and into the building.
The halls were strangely deserted, the rooms empty as she passed them and looked in through the windowed doors. There were no students practicing, talking, or laughing. There were no teachers making their way through the corridors to look for mischief or problems. The only music was drifting in from outside, a low eerie haunting, an echo of the life that Terri had known there previously. Hurrying through them, uncomfortable being there when it was so quiet, she quickly made her way to the music room that she had spent the majority of her time working in.
She was in luck; the person she was looking for was in there.
"Ms. Fletcher. Come in." He stopped packing up the belongings he was taking with him that evening and turned to lean against the desk. "And to what do I owe the pleasure? I thought it'd be a year before I saw you again."
She moved forward before stopping halfway to his desk and bit her lower lip slightly. "That DVD you kept mentioning…"
"What about it?"
"What do you guys do with all the submission materials?"
"The ones from those people that got into the summer music program, we save them. Just in case, any of you guys become rich and famous. We want our props, after all."
Terri laughed and shook her head at the total and complete oddness of her music teacher.
"Why are you asking, Terri?"
"I was hoping that I could get it… or a copy?"
Mr. Torvald nodded and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I'll give it to you on one condition."
She looked around and shrugged. "What?"
"That you tell me what happened to the girl on the DVD and why it's so important to you."
Terri took a deep breath. She should have known that knowledge was the condition the teacher would make. "Why?"
"I don't like having a student floundering in class. I don't like having a student with problems that I don't know and can't help them with, no matter how badly she needs it or I want to." He shrugged back at her. "Call me crazy."
She laughed then, the slightly watery laugh proving what was just below the surface. "A lot of people do, you know."
He chuckled and moved over to one of the desks that were still set up from class. "Yeah, but I'm still the cool teacher," he answered, drawing out the cool as he gestured to the desk next to him and then turned his own so he was facing her. "Now, are you going to keep your end of the bargain?"
Terri took a deep breath and nodded, not entirely sure where to begin. She had told Jay what happened, at least some of it, but that was different from telling Mr. Torvald. He was an adult, a teacher. He wasn't a friend with the potential to be more.
"I didn't know there was a DVD until you told me," she finally told him.
"I got that before, when I showed it to you."
"My brother, Paul, he's the one who put it together and sent it in."
Mr. Torvald nodded. "The one you dedicated your song this afternoon to."
"Yeah; he's my only brother." She stopped talking for a few minutes. Instead of asking questions, jumping in with comments, or the hundred other things that people had been doing to her for months… he stayed silent, just patiently waiting for her to be ready to say what she needed to say. "Do you remember when I asked you if you ever lost anyone?"
He nodded. "Vincent Van Gogh," he reminded her with a self-deprecating smile.
"My brother was in a car accident at the beginning of the summer."
"Oh, Terri…" he trailed off, but reached out to grab hold of one of her hands in his.
"It was the night he graduated from high school." She stopped and took a deep breath, hoping against all hope that she could finish this without beginning to sob, as she really wanted to. "He sent that DVD in that night, before the accident. I know, because he's wearing the same clothes."
"Terri…" he trailed off, unsure of what to really say to the young woman that was hurting so badly.
"It was my fault. Jay, he says that it isn't, that some drunk driver ran a red light and I couldn't possibly have known." She sucked in a shuddering breath and wiped her eyes.
"He's right. It's not your fault at all."
"But we were in the car because of me. Paul was grounded, because of me; he wasn't allowed to go out at all…. but I got him tickets to a concert as a present. So, we snuck out to go to it. It was my idea. I was the reason we were out there instead of safe at home."
"Terri, listen to me, okay?" He waited until she raised reddened eyes to look at him. "It wasn't your fault." He squeezed the hand he was holding. "I know that it seems like it is. I know that you even feel like it is. But it wasn't."
"But I do feel like it is. That's what I just can't get past. I killed him."
"I know. You're still raw from it… but it gets better, Terri. I promise."
"Really?" She wasn't sure if the question was looking for confirmation or expressing her disbelief that anyone could ever heal from it.
"Have I ever lied to you before?" He squeezed her hand again when she shook her head. "And I'm not going to." He paused for a moment and took a deep breath, not believing he was really going to open this can of worms. "Listen, Terri, I haven't told a lot of people this…" He trailed off and shook his head. "I'm pretty sure I shouldn't even tell you this, but I'm going to, because I think it'll help you." He paused and took a deep breath. "When I was just a little older then you are I was engaged to a woman named Diana. She was so beautiful and so creative. She couldn't sing worth a damn," he laughed," but she used to dance as if she had wings. She desperately wanted to go to Julliard. Her parents didn't want her to; they said that the city was too dangerous for her. I'm the only one that supported her dream. I told her that she was good enough to go there and that they'd be lucky to have her."
Terri smiled slightly. "Just like Paul and my mom and Aunt Nina."
"Just like them," he agreed. "I got in, too, into their music program. I moved there with her, got an apartment near the school. She was so happy when she started there, but things started to go wrong. Instead of being the best dancer, which she'd always been, the one who got the moves down so easily… she was struggling. She still wasn't bad, but nothing was the way she had dreamed it would be. About 3 months into the new year, she fell while practicing a lift."
"No!" The exclamation was quietly spoken, not interrupting him.
"She wasn't seriously injured, but it was enough to put her out of commission for a good chunk of time. She moved into my apartment with me, and she seemed accepting, but she wasn't. She was brittle, bitter. One night we had a brutal screaming fight, though most of the screaming was coming from her. We both said things we didn't mean, things to hurt each other. She blamed me for supporting her, encouraging her to go to a school she had no chance of succeeding in. She told me that she should've known better, should've listened to her parents. She stormed out of the apartment and she didn't come home for two days."
"Was she okay?"
"She was when she came back. She apologized, told me that it was just harder then she expected and that she hadn't meant to take it out on me. She healed and went back to class, back to dancing. I thought everything was going to be great again."
"But they weren't."
He shook his head and looked down at his hands. "Nope. While she was injured, she got addicted to the mild painkillers the doctor put her on. Mild painkillers turned into some not-so-mild ones from some of her friends and then into a whole lot of other stuff. She ended up OD'ing before the end of the school year."
Terri switched their hands, squeezing his, not knowing what, if anything, she should say to him. Finally, she just blurted it out. "How do you think this'll help me?"
"Well, you see, Terri, for a long time, I blamed myself for Diana's death. Her parents blamed me, too, at the funeral. I was the one who encouraged her to go to school, which is where she got hurt. I'm the one who didn't notice she was doing drugs. I'm the one who put her on the line and then abandoned her."
"But it wasn't your fault, Mr. Torvald! She made her own choices. You aren't responsible for them."
He chuckled again, no amusement in the sound. "You're right. It took me years to figure that out." He cast a wry look over and wiped a thumb down one tear-streaked cheek. "I hope it doesn't take you as long as it took me."
Terri nodded, one hand going to the cross around her neck, grasping the necklace that had become a talisman of her brother. "I hope so, too."
He let go of her and stood up, shaking his head. "Look at us. Here its' been this wonderful day and we're sitting in an empty classroom into a near-deserted school sharing sob stories." He started back to where his computer was set up, beckoning her to follow him. "Let's get you your DVD."
He made short work of copying it after he found it and wrote out what student it was from originally. Filing it and putting the original back into its sleeve, he handed it to her. "One DVD as requested, Ms. Fletcher."
"Thanks, Mr. Torvald." She started to back up, heading for the door. "I better get back. I hope I see you next year."
"I hope I see you, too, Ms. Fletcher. Your brother was right, you definitely have some talent."
Terri was pulling open the door when the teacher called her name, causing her to turn around. He crossed the room unhurriedly and pressed a piece of paper into her hand. "Just in case you need someone to talk to. Don't be afraid to email me."
She left the classroom then, looking back through the windowed door to see that he had gone back to what he was doing before her interruption. She hurried outside, to where her family and friends and their families were waiting for her. She had managed to wheedle a nice dinner out of her father, at a diner her group had taken to frequenting. Everyone would be there: Jay, Denise, Kiwi, and Sloane.
Greeting them and then separating to pile into their cars and meet back up, she looked down at the paper crumpled in her hand before stuffing it into her purse. Watching Bristoll Hillman Music Conservatory as the car started and began to move, she smiled.
Paul was right. She didn't belong in Flagstaff.
Maybe, just maybe, she belonged here.
Reviews are welcome!