Anna stood on the corner of the street, waiting for the four o clock bell to strike up its chime. She looked very pretty in her short cotton summer dress and stockings, a look she'd adapted from Wendla, who she liked to think she honoured by wearing garments that the adults all deemed inappropriate. She didn't care. Wendla wouldn't have cared, so neither would she. Now her friend was gone, she had tried to take it upon herself to try and be a little more like the gentle, carefree spirit that had so abruptly left them. Anna sighed, leaning against the corner of number 28. When four came, it was time to leave. She would be patient, though. She would wait. She could wait as long as it took.
Soon enough, though, she heard the faint peal of bells in the distance from the church. She smiled secretively to herself, placed one shoe in front of her, and took a small step, almost like a small ballet movement. Then she began to walk. Her feet took her down the street where she'd been waiting. And then, slowly, softly, another sound joined that of the fading toll. This sound was harsher, more lively, and the notes leapt two and fro, fading and then rising again in a harmonious clamour. It was the sound of a piano playing.
There was a window open at number 14, and this was where Anna stopped. She could hear the song that was being played through the gap between glass and pane. It was a merry little ditty, and the person playing it was playing as if in a frenzy, feverish. She was not contented just to hear, and so she took one silent pace, just enough to be able to see through the gap in the window, but not enough that she couldn't escape if seen there. She saw it then. She saw fingers, long and dry but delicate enough as they contorted gently to press the right keys that would add that perfect note. It was the Java, she recognised it, and the music right went through her, touching underneath her skin, and she had to suppress a shudder as she gazed amorously at her love. He could caress her like he caressed the keys, she knew. They were his two greatest loves, he often said, her and his piano. They shared the same physicality.
She knew that she had to listen. They had precious little time left, her and him. He would be called up, soon enough, for this unholy war. And, of course, they had no need for musicians in battle. But when he came back, and of course he would come back, they would get a house, get married, just like he had promised her. And then he would take his piano and play it for her, and she would stand stretched, transfixed, her breath suspended because he would play it like he had never done before. Oh, for a life that beautiful, Anna would give anything. She took in a breath, and quietly began to hum along to the song. He'd once asked her to dance to it, but she wouldn't. To dance to it would to be to forget the player, and to let the music completely overpower her mind. No, it would be improper to dance. She'd explained this, and he had smiled, and continued his playing.
"Stop! Stop the music!"
The harsh cries of Fraulien Grossebulstenholter ground through the air, and abruptly the music ceased. Anna bit back a cry. How anyone could stop such a rhythm for one barely misplaced note was beyond her imagination.
"Please, Georg, go again. And do try to correct it, this time!"
The playing started again, and Anna peered round a little more to take in the sight. The teacher had her back turned to the window, so she could see him. He was playing with his whole body, she could see, the motion of his head and torso always in time with that of his beautiful, beautiful hands…
"Georg! You've missed it again! Excuse me a moment!"
The Fraulein turned, and left the room, and Anna shrank back for a second so as not to be seen, but then she darted up to the window and stuck her head through.
"Georg!" she whispered, and the boy turned his head towards the window. He was seated at the piano, a small bead of sweat sitting on his upper lip.
"Hello, Anna" he called back, and Anna smiled. He stood up, and made his way over to the window. He leant towards her, and stole a single, small kiss.
"That was beautiful" she said, and a small smile graced his lips.
"Thank you, my darling. She's right, though, I need to practise that part"
"I thought it was flawless"
Georg laughed a little, but then his features turned hard and sad.
"Georg? What's wrong?"
"Anna…" he muttered, not meeting her concerned gaze. He took her hand through the gap, and held it tightly. "I've been called up"
"Oh…" she breathed. "Well, we'll survive, won't we? It's not the end of the world"
"That's just it, though. What if I don't come back? What will you do?"
Anna thought for a moment, and then smiled.
"I will wait for you. And then I shall find another pianist, and I shall ask him to play me the Java. And then I will dance for him, and hope it helps me forget"
Georg laughed, and reached up to stroke her cheek.
"I wrote a song for you" he said. "Do you want to hear it?"
She nodded, and he took his seat at the instrument again. And then he began to play.