author's notes at the end.

con grazia

"Time signature?"

"Alla breve."

"Key signature?"

"Six sharps; F sharp major."


"Treble switching to bass in measures twenty-two to twenty-nine."

"The meaning of con grazia?"

"With grace."

"You may begin."

Lumina takes a deep breath and her fingers press down. Lovely music emits from the old piano, her fingers weaving sound after sound after beauty. The metronome above her ticks away, acting as her conductor, her master, her guardian.

Tick (F sharp), tick (polychords, don't mess up this time), tick (quintuplet coming up, be ready), tick (switching clefs, don't mess up the syncopation), tick (it's about to end, hit the right notes, it's just a trill, watch the mordent, come on, come on, F sharp…)

An ill-sounding F natural peels out of the piano. Romana, her grandmother, cringes in disgust. "No, no!" she barks, slamming her palm against the side of the piano. "That's too flat! Get it right! F sharp! Sharp! There is nothing more simple than a sharp!"

Lumina listens to the lecture she's heard all too many time with glazed eyes. She looks down at the keyboard and her long, spindly fingers, and wonders why she can't hit the right note. There is no point in a good beginning if there isn't a good finish. There just isn't.

"Repeat from measure sixty-one," Romana says sourly at length.

Another breath. She tries to wipe the glaze from her eyes -- they're not tears, just misty frustration. She looks down at the keys. She needs to be agile, precise, con grazia -- with grace.

She plays.

Gustafa is tuning his guitar. He's never taken lessons, can't name each string or note or whatever this all is, and he doesn't care. He likes the sounds his instrument makes. He likes the free and easy feeling of thrumming his pick (a smooth rock or a piece of bark or his fingers, it doesn't matter to him) against the gentle strings.

He doesn't need to be good, but he is. The sounds come to him. The music yearns for him to play, and his fingers yearn to fulfill its wish.

It's a new song that's coming out this time. Lower than usual, slower as well. He stares out at the ebbing waves as he plays; they roll gently into the shore, like they're exhausted after coming back from a long journey -- they've been a long way, after all. The waves are dark and blue and beautiful, the sun casting milky orange beams through the ocean surface as it sets in the distant sky. It's a deep colour of orange and gold and cream, like caramel gushing from heavens.

Gustafa continues to play, merely repeating the unwritten chorus this time. He doesn't need to write this down; it's muscle memory. But even if he did, who cares? He likes to play. He likes to sing.

A strange sound that is definitely not the incoming tide or his playing or his voice sounds and he stops. His long, crooked nose wrinkles as he turns his head.

A girl is crying on the beach.

This is frustration, nothing more.

She's not crying. She's just….

Whatever. She isn't crying.

Lumina cradles her head in her arms as she sits on the sandy shore. Her grandmother is not going to be happy when she comes home with sand-wrought clothes, but right now she doesn't care.

The waves sound comforting and harsh as they devour the shore -- two-faced. They represent all her inhibitions: whenever they get somewhere, they just end up coming back to the same place. Starting at the beginning, ending at the beginning, getting nowhere. A treadmill.

It's frustrating.

"Excuse me, Miss?"

She jumps at the abrupt and unfamiliar voice that must be referring to her. She looks up, squinting as the tangerine sun flits to hinder her sight.

A man is standing a few feet away from her. He has a funny hat on, tall and crooked and the colour of clovers. He's wearing little sunglasses even though the light coming from the sun is hardly blinding, but that's not what catches her attention.

He has a guitar.

He plays.

He understands.

"Yes?" she says in a polite, tight voice, probably what wants to be a smile stretching her lips slightly.

"Are you alright?" He crouches down next to her, and this surprises her. However, he doesn't move another inch as he brushes his fingers down his guitar like a delicate fur coat.

"I'm fine," she answers after a moment's deliberation. A drop of liquid hits her leg and she looks up wildly because it didn't seem like it would rain -- but it isn't. She is crying. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't…"

"Sorry? There's nothing to apologize for." He folds himself behind her, collapsing into a comfortable position -- flat against his back. She's in awe. "Was that you playing that piano music earlier?"

She turns bright red and bitter at the memory. FLAT; too flat! Play it right or don't play at all! You know what con grazia means, don't you? Then where is your grace? She flinches at the same time as the tide slinks away. "Yes."

"It was gorgeous."

She doesn't turn to face the bespectacled man because she doesn't want him staring up her nostrils. "No, I kept messing up," she murmured in correction. "It wasn't good at all."

"You make it sound like one little mistake makes the rest of the piece invalid. One wrong note doesn't mean it's in the end of the world -- or the song." He takes a deep breath through his nose, and she realizes he's smelling the salty ocean air. "Amazing." She doesn't know what he is referring to.

"Well, you can't really make mistakes when you're playing the piano," she finds herself saying, like it is elementary knowledge. "It won't cut it. It's not enough." For some reason, she is growing angry with herself.

"That's not true." His voice is abruptly harsh and hard. "It's not what's being played that matters. It's how it's played."

"How it's played…?" Lumina frowns; she doesn't understand. "But…"

"Forced." She blinks. "You can't be forced. You can't be stiff. Let yourself go, let yourself breathe. Release your inhibitions. Let yourself play."

A silence. And waves.

"F sharp, huh?"

She stands up brusquely. "I must go. Grandmother will wonder where I am." Liar.

But the strange man continues to lie there as if he hasn't even noticed she's stood up. "Gustafa."

"Pardon me?"

"My name is Gustafa. If you ever want to talk, you can find me here or at my tent."

Her grandmother would frown upon this -- spending time with a man who lived in a tent. And Gustafa, what an odd name…

Instead of giving him her name in return, she simply nods and pivots. Flakes of sand cascade around her as she walks, and luscious caramel has transformed into a gunmetal dome above her.

His candidly intelligent words irk her.

He doesn't understand.

Gustafa is troubled as he lays in his low hammock that night. The ceiling is high above him, the stars pirouetting motionlessly in the careful enterprise of the night sky beyond.

That girl has potential. She has talent.

She doesn't know what she's doing.

He reaches out and grabs his guitar, which is leaning wistfully against the tent wall. He strums once and a miserable sound plays; he puts it back down.

He doesn't know what he's doing.

He falls asleep.

Lumina is alone the next morning. Her grandmother has gone to Dr. Hardy's, which is a rare event -- usually he comes to see her, but this time he requested her visitation. Strange. And lucky.

She sits pensively at the piano, ignoring the pages of sheet music on the stand and the metronome that has engraved its ticks into her mind. The piano is an opulent chestnut brown, smooth and perfectly tuned and glossy. The ivory keys are polished, each containing its own rich sound. In a nutshell, it's flawless.

She can see her reflection in the piano and how strange she looks: slouched, blank, lost.

She sits up and blinks a few times and starts flipping through the pages. For some reason, Gustafa's voice is in her head, instructing her firmly.

"You make it sound like one little mistake makes the rest of the piece invalid."

She begins to play, slower than usual, broader. This isn't grace that sings from the piano, it's deliberateness, a moral that grasps to find its conclusion.

She hits a flat instead of a double flat and almost stops. Instead she keeps going, forgetting the flat in all its mediocrity, and moves onto the slur: smooth, drop-roll effect, note the articulation…

No. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's not smooth enough. It's not soft enough. It's wrong. It's all wrong.

"One wrong note doesn't mean it's in the end of the world -- or the song."

Fact, or benefit of the doubt?

She plays one more measure and then she's sick of it. She doesn't want to play anymore. She gets up.

She leaves.

It's the next day and Gustafa is still troubled. He ambles out of his tent with his guitar in his hand and he sits on a hard, comfortable log.

His long, blistered fingers rake the strings. At first it sounds horrible, wrong, nothing like a song at all. He reaches up and tunes the guitar a little, makes some adjustments, and begins playing again.

It's beautiful. This is music. This is real.

He closes his eyes, feeling a soft breeze engulf him and birds twitter above him. His blisters feel good, satisfied, like they deserve to be there.

He makes a mistake.

He keeps playing.

Why… Lumina stares at Gustafa from the main path, where she can see him, but he can't see her. Why can't I do that?

The piece is whimsical, harmonic, genuine, absolutely lovely. Gustafa is stroking the pick lightly against the guitar, his head rocking and the wind surrounding him, staring up at the sky with his sunglasses on.

Is he even trying?

It's a stupid question, really. Why wouldn't he be trying?

Did this mean Lumina wasn't trying…?

No, no, it couldn't. She was trying so hard. So inhumanly hard and not even her grandmother could argue with that. She bites her lip bitterly and listens to the effortless and perfect song that she doesn't know hasn't even been written down.

The music stops suddenly. Gustafa turns around to look at her -- she's caught. She gives him a brief, friendly wave and then walks away.

Back to the beginning.

A week passes.

Gustafa is still troubled.

He continues to make music, but something feels wrong, physically and mentally. He strums, but the sound is off.

He tunes his guitar and strums again.

It's wrong.

He rubs his eyes, which are searing. His blisters suddenly sting.

He puts the guitar down and goes to the beach.

He's been ten feet away from her for the last five minutes and hasn't said a word, and Lumina is perplexed and admittedly a little worried. There has to be something wrong, but his eyes are covered with those unnecessary sunglasses again.

"Excuse me, Mister?" she calls in a cautious voice.

His head turns reflexively. "Oh, hello." His voice is neutral: a mezzo forte quarter note set, she observes.

"Is something troubling you?" she asks, tilting her head. She is sitting in a cups-and-saucers position, her hands in her lap, mirroring him.

From afar he looks perfectly at ease, but up close, she can see his eyebrows stitched together, his darkly bespectacled eyes set on nowhere.

"Hmm…" He seems to be thinking, as if it hasn't even occurred to him that he's troubled. "You could say, yes."

"May I ask what the matter is?" Always so polite, she was.

He takes a moment before responding. "It's…difficult to explain."

"I'm good at understanding things," Lumina assures him before she can stop herself.

He seems to consider this. "Imagine a square," he commands.

"Um…okay." Her ladylike façade slips and she's a little girl again as she closes her eyes and envisions the elementary shape.

"Describe the square in your mind for me." The waves crash as he speaks.

"Um…it's small and a reddish colour…like apples?" she offers, confused. She fills in more details as he begins to shake his head; she hates being wrong. "The angles are sharp and well-pronounced --"

"No, no, no." He sighs, looking agitated. "Imagine an enormous square, a tremendous one, large enough to envelop the entire sky and still have more room. It's a stark white colour, glaring white, yet foggy, like a misty cloud..."

"…Alright. Now what?" She blinks, a clear image in her head.

"Now nothing." He leans back, sighing again. He looks so…vulnerable. It doesn't suit him. "That's what I see. That's all I see. A block. Literally and figuratively."

"That's it?" Lumina frowns.

His mouth opens. "What do you mean?"

"Why not just get rid of the block? Think about something else. If you keep concentrating on it, it won't go away," she states without hesitation, the words coming from a corner in her mind she does not operate.

Gustafa's mouth is sealed. He looks like he would say "it's not that easy" or "it doesn't work that simply", or something vague and mysterious like that.

Instead, "You're right" leaves his lips.

At that, Lumina is oddly flattered. As strange as it sounds, she is almost never right.

"Thank you," they both say at the same time.

There is an awkward silence, and to accommodate it, Lumina lets out a tiny awkward giggle. Gustafa smirks and the giggling grows louder, mixing tunes with the low chuckle that escapes the man. They start laughing in harmony, a beautiful sound, a chorus that contrasts and blends altogether.

"What did you say your name was, Miss?" he questions as the laughter dies down and they both look in the direction of the purpling horizon.

She doesn't hesitate. "Lumina. I play the piano."

"Beautiful," he murmurs, and a sad breath escapes him. "I've been having difficulty finding my muse lately. That big block isn't letting me make up any new songs."

"That's horrible," Lumina says, genuinely concerned.

"Yes." He nods once. "I need some inspiration, some new opinions and perspectives…"

"Would you like me to help?"

Gustafa smiles. "That would be lovely."

Lumina notes the darkening sky. "When should I come back?"

The smile on his face falls. "Do you need to be somewhere right now?"

"Well, it's getting late, and my grandmother usually wants me to be home before dark. I'll come back when I can, though," she assures him gratifyingly.

Gustafa looks around like he's only just noticed. "Oh, of course. Silly me, my head's in the clouds." He fidgets with his hands, for the first time barren of a guitar. "Whenever you can, really."

"Alright. I'll come." Lumina stands up.

"I'll be waiting."

Lumina stops by two days later and Gustafa is sitting on his log again, tuning his guitar. He looks up as her footfalls crunch on the fallen leaves, a peaceful smile on his face.

"Hello." He nods at her. "How are you?"

"Great," she breathes, and the genuine joyful sigh that leaves her is comforting to his ears. "I got it."

"Got what?"

"The F sharp. I got the F sharp." She collapses onto the log across from him, clapping her hands together exuberantly. "Tell me how I can help."

Gustafa smiles. "Tell me about yourself."

"Huh?" He never fails to confuse her.

"No, no, not like that. You see, I play from inspiration. Inspiration is beauty. Music is beauty." Gustafa strums once. "You see?"

"But I'm not a very…I'm not a very inspiring person." Lumina blushes at the sad fact. "Maybe if you could be more specific…"

"Tell me anything," he narrows it down a little, but that's not saying much.

Lumina thinks for a few moments. "Well…I practise the piano everyday. My grandmother is my teacher. She is very…" She searches for the right word. "…Strict. The way she teaches is very…" Again, she can't find what she wants to say, so she just trails off. "Her method is hard to understand because she doesn't tell you what to do. She just says to improve or do this or that and she expects you to do it."

"And you don't think it's fair?" Gustafa surmises understandingly.

"I never said that --" she begins, but he cuts her off.

"You never had to."

She nods slowly. "Yeah," she admits. "I mean…I wish she would be on my level of understanding. I wish she would see things how I do. I'm scared to make a mistake. I'm afraid of being yelled at or looked down upon or…" She pulls her legs up and hugs them to her chest. "I hate being wrong."

Gustafa nods, encouraging her. "Just let it out," he soothes her. "Say what you feel, not what you think you should say."

The words soak into her flesh, her mind. "Okay. Yeah, okay. I'll do that." She gulps, never so unladylike in her life. "She…annoys me. Her stupid high-pitched voice. It's like…a drill. It drills into my head! It drives me insane!" Her voice cracks but she keeps going. "It pisses me off that she doesn't even consider my feelings! It's so pressuring, being stared at like a hawk! I'm sick of it! When I was little and not taking lessons, just playing what I wanted when I felt like it, I loved it! And then I started being…constantly berated by her and I can't stand it! I hate it! I hate her!"

There is a silence. Gustafa feels sorry for her; she's held so much in.

But Lumina looks horrified. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled. I shouldn't have said that… I don't really hate her, I-I… That wasn't what you wanted me to do…"

"Actually…" Gustafa pulls his guitar into his lap, looking concentrated. "That was better than what I wanted." He starts to play, his fingers flitting elegantly from string to string. He speaks in the rests and rifts. "Sorrow, inhibitions, pressure. These things shouldn't be held back. They're not good for you."

It's a song now, a beautiful and intricate song. "Don't you see?" Gustafa speaks. "Music is only background. It's just details. You are the main idea."

"Music is only…?"

"There is no music without feeling, without desire, without WILL. Then it's just sound. Useless, broken…" He strums too hard at undesired notes and Lumina flinches. "…sound."

Lumina wipes at her misty eyes as he continues to play, not just sounds, but music.

"Thank you."

Lumina begins to stop at the beach or at Gustafa's hut everyday after practise.

She sneaks him a few pages of her sheet music for guitar that she found at the bottom of a dusty drawer, and is extremely surprised when Gustafa tells her he can't read music.

"Who taught you how to play, then? Did you teach yourself? How did you teach yourself?" Lumina barrages him with questions.

Gustafa laughs shortly. "I guess I never learned."

Lumina falls back on a tree trunk. "I wish I had that kind of talent."

"But you do."

There is a silence, and Lumina doesn't bother to argue. Instead, she cocks her head at him and says to him in a teasing tone she's never used with him before, "Hey, Gustafa, who do you like?"

For the first time, Gustafa's cheeks tighten and he looks dazed. "N-no one, really…"

"Noo, you can tell me." She feels like a little girl again, pestering this man who must be at least ten years older than her but still on her wavelength. "Please?"

"Well, there's this redhead that stays at the inn but…I'm not saying anymore," he mutters as Lumina lets out a small squeal.

"Nami? You have to be talking about Nami! I didn't think she was your type, but now that I think about it, opposites do attract…" Lumina laughs.

She's never felt so peaceful in her life.

"Can I ask you some more questions? I'm curious," she says, more honest than she's ever been in her life.

He nods. "Go ahead."

"Um…what do you think is the meaning of life?"

He pauses thoughtfully before answering. "Life is how one perceives it, not how the majority wants to control it."

She doesn't really understand, but she accepts it anyway. "What would you do if the world ended?"

"Nothing; I wouldn't be here."

His answers are all so candid, yet flawless. It intrigues her.

"Hey, Gustafa…what's your favourite colour?"

She expects him to say green or blue or something generic like that, but instead he answers, "Purple."

"Why purple?" She tilts her head.

He smiles vaguely. "Well, how often do you see purple?"

She laughs. "You're right." For the first time in a while, she feels released. Relaxed. She's happy.

This happiness can't last.

"No. Stop. Stop."

Lumina stops, her hands frozen above a chord. Her gaze drifts over to meet her grandmother's, which is cold and staring into her soul.

"Where is your head? What are you playing?"

She doesn't speak. It's a rhetorical question… But she was doing better, wasn't she? She'd been trying so hard, trying to be natural…

"Answer me. You don't normally play this rubbish. You're distracted," Romana accuses her in an icy tone.

"I…" Her throat is blocked. But she was trying. She was honestly trying…

"You're seeing someone, aren't you?"

Lumina is horrified. "No!" she reacts quickly to the false accusation, standing up. "I'm not!"

"Then what is wrong with you?!" Romana shrieks as if Lumina has just jumped from a roof in nothing but skivvies.

"There is nothing wrong with me." Her jaw sets. "I am going to play music, not sound."


"I'm sick of you controlling me, Grandmother!" This was it. The moment. Lumina wasn't holding back; she takes a steady step forward, but inside she's trembling all over the place. "I am me. I'll play what I want to play. So stop screaming at me. Stop acting like it's the end of the world when I play the wrong note. It's called practise. There will be bumps along the way."

"Lumina, what are you saying?" The fury is gone, replaced by… Lumina doesn't know the words. She's disconnected.

"I'm done, Grandma. I'm done with your lessons."

The manor door swings shut as she leaves, her feet pounding as hard as her heartbeat.

Gustafa has felt many things: inspiration, monotony, excitement, sadness.

But he hardly feels fear.

He grasps his sunglasses in his hands, blinking wildly. He's shaking and he's weak and vulnerable and he hates it…

Not even music could make this feeling beautiful.

He didn't want to notice it before and he doesn't want to believe it now.

He is so scared.

Lumina is running.

Gustafa isn't in his tent. He isn't at the beach. It's night and she can't find him -- not that the Valley is dangerous, but still…

What if he got bored of this place? What if his lack of inspiration drove him away…?

She has so much to ask him: about his philosophical views, his favourite animal, his favourite food… Now that she thinks about it, she's never even seen the colour of his eyes…

She's never had a friend like him.

She is so scared.

Gustafa walks into Lumina two minutes after he's left Dr. Hardy's house. They both sprawl across the paved path, his glasses flying off his face, his crooked clover hat squished beneath him him.

"Gustafa!!" Lumina springs to her feet, and she looks so inept, so different. Her face is glowing and tear-streaked.

"Lumina." He pulls his hat on and stands up, leaving the sunglasses be. He is the exact opposite: stone-faced, numb.

"W-what's the matter…?" The excitement has vanished from her face. "Gustafa, where were you? What happened?"

"I was just at Dr. Hardy's. I've been having trouble discerning physical things lately, and so…" He bites his lip. "Lumina, have you ever looked into my eyes?"

She seizes his gaze at that moment, blinking hard. "They're…they're blue," she says in amazement, as if it is a wonder that they are blue. "You have beautiful eyes, Gustafa…I know it sounds silly, but I've always imagined them to be brown. A deep chestnut brown. But I like them now, I mean, I just didn't expect it, and they're so clear and blue and they remind me of the ocean…"

"Lumina, I'm blind."

Every word she has ever wanted to speak dies, every note that she's ever desired to play disappears. "No," she whispers, the realization blaring. "No."

At that moment, Sebastian, the personal butler of Lumina's grandma comes running. He ignores Gustafa and grips her by the shoulders frantically. "Miss Lumina!"

Lumina can't speak; the shock hasn't died down just yet. She stares at nothing.

"Miss Lumina!" he sobs, squeezing her harder.

Gustafa takes control. "What happened?" he demands, his voice so controlled that Lumina can't stand it. Why can't he ever show his weakness? Why can't he cry, too? Why was Lumina so weak and the rest of the world so strong?

Sebastian sobs his response. "Miss Romana, there's something wrong with her -- she's at Dr. Hardy's..."

"Grandma…?" Lumina breathes, the halves of her heart breaking apart and floating away like mounds of ice.

Sebastian chokes. "I don't think she'll make it."

Lumina is running again, but it's different this time.

She can hear and feel her heart pounding but nothing else. All she hears is thump, thump, thump, and it's in deeper than that metronome, deeper than anything anyone's ever said, deeper than her own thoughts.

She throws the door of Dr. Hardy's house open and collapses against it, the tears streaming from her cheeks and her nose running and she knows she's a mess. She takes a wobbly step forward when someone grabs her arm roughly.

"Lumina," Gustafa says.

"Don't touch me," she whimpers, the power that should be in her voice not present.

"Listen to me." Gustafa squeezes her so hard she thinks she may bruise. "There are times when you must act and when you must think. You've done your part. You've played your music." He sets both his hands on her shoulders but he's staring right through her, and Lumina wants to scream. "Now is the time to think. You can't blindly walk in there. You'll lose everything."


"Don't let her leave this world without anything to remember. Don't let your weakness swallow everything you've ever desired to be." He lets go of her. "That's it. Go on."

She nods and pushes past the curtain. The sight of her grandmother lying there, hooked up to machines and hardly breathing sends an arrow through her heart. She walks up and lightly grasps her hand. "Grandmother."

Her eyes flutter, sharp brown and once full of judgment and now deterred and squinting up at her. "…Lumina."

She can't do this, she can't. Her grandmother's voice is so weak, so small and powerless and…

Don't let her leave this world without anything to remember.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she whispers.

"I couldn't. It would hurt you so much." Romana squeezes her eyes shut. It breaks her. "That fellow in the other room. He's a good man, I can tell."

"Grandma, he's been teaching me all sorts of things, helping me. He taught me what music is." Lumina doesn't know where she's going with this, but she doesn't want to stop; she can't. "It's not the sound, it's the feeling -- it's not what you play, it's how you play it -- Grandma…" Her voice cracks and she breaks down. "I'm so sorry."

"What an intelligent young man," she chuckles breathlessly. "Lumina…please let me speak to him."

She's confused. "What?"

"Gustafa…" She wheezes horribly. "Please, there isn't much time."

"O-okay." She doesn't want to know there isn't much time. She wants to know what's going on. She wants her grandma to live.

"Gustafa!" Lumina cries; he is standing against the doorway, blinking at the ground. He looks up at the sound of her voice. "My grandmother wants to see you."

He hurries past her and into the room, and she's left all by her lonesome. Her tears are pouring out of her eyes but it's not the same as crying. She wipes her weakness away, breathing hard.

She remembers everything her grandmother has ever said, all the life lessons Gustafa has had to teach her. How is it possible that she can lose the two most important people to her in such a short instant?

But you're not losing Gustafa.

Lumina's been so blind this whole time, both literally and figuratively, mentally and physically. She hasn't been appreciating how she's able to view the sunset, the ocean, the ivory keys. She hasn't been realizing how every word that's been coming out of her mouth has been textbook, words she didn't mean but had been raised to believe, playing sounds that were foreign to her and yet were so deeply engraved into her mind.

She closes her eyes. She is the opposite of Gustafa: she is a different kind of blind.

When she opens her eyes, in both ways, she sees a man leaving the room. He is no longer a quirky guitarist with a weird hat and blind blue eyes. He is a man with his own struggles, his own weaknesses, and his own kind of sight. His favourite colour is purple.

They both stand there, closing their eyes. This is how they communicate; it isn't always about hugs and awkward staring contests.

It isn't always what everyone wants.

One month later, Lumina is sitting at the beach. The sky is not a remarkable colour of caramel, nor an explosion of violet and sun.

It's blue. That's all.

Her life has been kind of blank for the past month. She's been all alone with her thoughts, her routine ripped out of the pages, her heart placed on a careful platter for her to analyze.

Her grandmother has passed and for some reason, Gustafa had to be transferred to a large hospital in the city.

One week ago, she received a letter in the mail, which she holds in her hand in the present. She unfolds it, rereading what she already memorizes.

Meet me at the beach in exactly one week. -Gustafa.

The printing is generic, readable. She imaged his writing to be exotic and unusual and loopy. This may not be his writing at all -- he may not even know how to write. Does it matter?

It's been the hardest month of her life.

Lumina starts when someone sits down beside her, just because she is Lumina and no death or destruction will ever change that. She is still staring ahead into the endless blue, afraid to look to her side. "Gustafa," she greets him formally.

"How have you been?" And she starts again. His voice hits her with a tang of nostalgia, and instantly she reminisces.

This was like the first time they'd met. Lumina was a desolate figure on the beach, and Gustafa was empathizing with her calmly from the sidelines.

The lack of change was notable, but the thing was, she'd changed.

"…Good," is her delayed response, because what else is she supposed to say? "How are you?"

"I am quite good myself."

The tide crashes in, and the sky is still so damn blue. There is nothing brilliant about the setting. But this isn't some cliché novel.

Casually, Gustafa comments, "The sky is so beautiful."

Lumina wonders if he's mocking her. She's angry that he's joking about something that's troubled her for the past month. Before she can control it, her head snaps in his direction, mouth furled, ready to retort something at him.

And then she sees those brown, warm eyes she's been looking into since she was just a small child, and suddenly everything falls into place.

He smiles, and so does she, because this is how they communicate and nothing more.

Life is how one perceives it, not how the majority wants to control it.

A/N: This had originally been an entry to a writing contest themed "music", but halfway through, I lost inspiration and the deadline passed.

This story is just a summary of how I've been feeling recently: blind. And I don't want to be blind forever. I don't want the majority to control me.

It's never too late to open your eyes is basically what I'm trying to say, but I won't make this author's note into a novel.

If you didn't understand it, Gustafa has Romana's eyes. I didn't necessarily research the procedure and I don't know how long such a complicated surgery would take to heal, but that's irrelevant.

The idea was inspired by the movie Seven Pounds, the aforementioned "music" theme, stories without cliches, the piano, which I've been taking lessons for for over eight years and still fail horribly at playing, and my grandmother, who has cancer.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and feel free to inform me of any technical errors.