Disclaimer: I do not own Soul Eater or any other media mentioned in this work of fiction.
by. Poisoned Scarlett
one, two, buckle my shoe
She see's him a lot during the week. It's nothing unusual, however, there seems to be an unspoken agreement between her coworkers and her that no one but Kid and Black Star are allowed to serve him. There is no one else who tries, and Maka has never been one to step out of her comfort zone simply to prove something so pointless, unlike Black Star, who seemed to relish such challenges.
He drops by fairly late into the evening on most days. Her shift nearly finishes by the time he enters through those glass doors and takes seat near the far back, huddled in the loneliest corner he could find. The folder he brings religiously, a thick folder haphazardly stuffed with stray papers that makes her curious, is always tucked under his arm when he saunters in; hands jammed in his black leather jackets pockets, looking more at ease than anyone she knows. The black headband, keeping his wild snow colored hair in check, and flat expression only increases the melancholic and dark aura that hangs around him like a black cloud.
Although, Maka is probably most apprehensive of him because of his eyes.
The rose red of his eyes.
So intense, so bright, so piercing.
Pools of freshly split blood on the pavement, she had once described morbidly to herself, remembering the time she had struck an assaulter in the face and accidentally broke his nose. The way it sprayed on the floor, so luminous and thick, reminded her of his eyes although there wasn't any negative feelings associated with the comparison...since they made eye contact every time he entered the cafe.
It's something no one else knows about, their silent greetings that is. Not even Kid, who comes quite close to being like a brother to her sometimes, knows. It began a few days after she started working in the small corner cafe. She had been cleaning a table when he walked in, in all his dark cool glory, and her eyes had accidentally caught his own when she looked up to cheerfully welcome another customer. The cheerful greeting had caught in her throat, forever to be silenced.
They stared at each other for a while, both not knowing what to do, before he flashed his eyes away and she hastily continued to wipe down tables; uncomfortably aware that he sat somewhere behind her. She could have sworn she felt his eyes on her but eventually she decided it wasn't true, because when she turned to look at him, he was immersed in his work like nothing had ever happened.
It was nearly a week later that she discovered what he worked on so vigorously.
A music sheet.
More specifically, for the piano.
"Who, Soul?" Black Star grinned widely. "He's a freakin' music genius! I haven't heard him play or anything but the great Black Star knows genius when he see's it! Of course, I can probably do better—!"
"Black Star, quiet down!" Kid scolded, returning to meticulously cleaning one of the many cafe tables. It was usually his job to clean although he waited tables when necessary; mostly because of the hoards of girls that'd visit and slit their eyes at Maka whenever she tried to take their orders. "Might I remind you that Soul is not very fond of people exploiting his hobby?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know!" Black Star waved off. "Whatever – he's an awesome musician. Not as great as me, though. So there." He crossed his arms and nodded firmly.
"That's weird..." Maka murmured to herself. Kid caught her statement.
Maka looked up at him, that ponderous expression still on her face. "Why would you want to hide something like that? Usually people like to gloat about their talents. If he's such a talented pianist then why doesn't he just come out with it?"
Kid studied her for a second, apprehensive. "Soul...he is—"
"'Cause he's a wussy, that's why!" Black Star boldly shouted, his trademark laugh following. "His brothers a dick so Soul thinks he can't match up to him or somethin—!"
"BLACK STAR!" Kid gasped, aghast the boy had let something so important loose.
The boys eyes widened. "Oops."
"Brother?" Maka blinked. "That shouldn't matter! Talent to some might be rubbish to others! Letting someone else put down your musical expertise just because they don't like it shouldn't be a reason for hiding it in the first place!" Maka firmly stated, Kid and Black Star staring at her with something close to surprise. "He's probably just jealous of him, anyway! Isn't rivalry common between siblings?" Maka muttered as an afterthought, sketchy on the subject since she didn't have any brothers of her own.
Unless her papa was keeping a bastard child to himself somewhere...
"Ya' know, no ones really defended him like that since I, of course. I have to look after my followers, after all." Black Star grinned a little, waggling his brows at her. "Do ya' got a crush on Soul—!"
"WHY ARE MY DICIPLES CUTTING ME OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF MY SENTENCES?" Black Star shrieked, holding his throbbing head tenderly. "I demand respect! RESPECT!"
"Black Star, just be quiet and go take those customers' orders." Kid sighed out but not before throwing her a look of curiosity and returning to polishing the tables.
She never told anyone.
Black Star had a big mouth but she knew the only reason he had blurted it out to her was because they were on good terms and he'd grown too comfortable with her. To be on good terms with someone as arrogant and egocentric as Black Star was saying something, too, as nearly no one could bear the blue-haired boy's rants of his godliness. No one took the time or liberty to understand the boy under the guise of a god, the strong but weak boy who thrust forward such high expectations in order to overcome an internal conflict of his own.
Maka guessed it had something to do with his family, a notoriously known clan of hit-men and bosses that controlled most parts of Death City. But she can't be sure since Black Star never let on that something was wrong, what with that loud laugh of his and sparkling eyes, and Maka wasn't one to pry into someone's life like that when she had secrets of her own...
Regardless, their silent greeting of eye contact only became more frequent and warming. She eventually started smiling, her smile growing little by little until she could throw him a friendly beam of greeting before going back to her work. Soul smiled back sometimes, nodded at others. But mostly she received a crooked smirk or, if he was in a good mood, which was often rare unless he was speaking to Black Star or Kid whenever they served him, shot her a grin that showed off rows of neat sharp teeth.
But she still never attended him.
She didn't think he'd like it by the way he secluded himself in the back; a simple black coffee steaming far away from his work, a pencil in his hand as he studied the sheets below him. Sometimes he became frustrated, shown in the way his brows creased and lips pursed and he mussed his hair in thought, and sometimes his hand raced across the page furiously. She liked him better when he was on a roll: he always shot her an appreciative look of farewell, which made her flustered but glad.
But today was not a good day for Maka; and it would not get better if he grinned at her.
She came late to her shift, juggling her backpack in one hand and a thick folder of notes in the other. She's silently grateful that she had not taken Instruments or else she would have to lug around an instrument that she knows she'd never get around to playing, too. It would make things even worse for her. It would lower her GPA appalling simply because she didn't have the talent to play such instruments, at least not without years of practice; years she wasn't willing to invest in an instrument.
Maka doesn't like music – or, to her irritation, she doesn't understand it like everyone else seemed to. In a sense, she does, but her understanding runs fairly shallow. Whenever her teacher goes off on a tangent about pouring your heart into a song, she loses interest and, for the most part, understanding. It's just a bunch of notes on a paper to her! Pretty words compiled to form meaning, like a poem. Sure, sometimes she thought a song described a certain situation in her life but she never got overly emotional; it's just a song, just another rhyme, in her mind. She often thought poems held more meaning than generic, overused, songs and beats.
But, according to her teacher, it runs deeper than just piecing together a bunch of notes and that is what Maka cannot understand - especially when it involved instrumentals. Or movie-music, as Maka flatly called it.
It's a Tuesday today and Tuesday's are relatively slow both at school and in her workplace. She's glad for this because she has recently been transferred into the music theory class (she had missed two weeks due to scheduling difficulties) and she's way behind, despite Mr. Law's, her teacher, cheerful words of: "we didn't get so far ahead! You just have to learn how to read between the lines! Oh, and how to read music notes. We went over the basics during the second week!" And it is the 'read between the lines' bit that befuddles her.
She can dissect a song – English has always been a favourite subject of hers and taking apart a songs lyrics to understand its meaning is almost insultingly simple for her. But it isn't song lyrics their picking apart, not yet at least, it's the melody itself.
But what makes a melody a melody? What makes a song a song? The lyrics, the articulation of notes, or the 'soul' you pour into creating it? Maka thinks it's the articulation of notes and creative usage of words. Her teacher, however, merely shook his head with a strange smile on his face.
"Maka, haven't you heard the saying that food tastes better with a little love in it?"
"Yes, but, it's really just the person whose good at making the food. Some people are just not cut out to cook. Some measure and know exactly what condiments go well with each other..." She stopped when she saw the spark of sad realization in his eyes.
"Maka, here." He said suddenly. She looked at the sheet music in confusion, frowning when she noticed she didn't understand a single thing on it. It looked like a bunch of weird scribbles to her, all those musical notes. He should know she's still catching up... "When you finish learning how to read notes, I want you to tell me the meaning of this score."
"What type of instrument plays it?" Maka asked curiously, taking the sheet and studying it quietly.
"Piano." Law smiled, a little warily. "You're the type of person I encounter every year. Don't worry, though, I'll get you in touch with your inner musician in no time!"
Maka doesn't think much of it but the piles of homework he leaves is still killer.
She sits on a tall stool behind the cash register, staring holes into the assignment she dreads to do. Kid and Black Star are off with their group of friends: twins by the name of Liz and Patty and a pretty Asian girl who goes by Tsubaki. Sometimes, Maka speaks to them but today she cannot: she's too immersed in combating her weakness to pay heed to their calls, which eventually fade with a few shrugs of their shoulders.
She doesn't even notice Soul enter the cafe, glance at her in his usual way and raise a brow when he notices the work set out in front of her. He just sits in his usual corner when she doesn't look up and Kid attends him instantly.
Maka vaguely hears Kid sob something about Soul's totally asymmetrical hairstyle...
Okay. I get how to read notes... kinda'. Maka warily glances at the score her teacher handed to her. Did he expect her to sit before a piano and play it or something? There was a reason why Maka preferred to sit back and watch rather than be the one to do it: she was terrible. Her own taste in music was a little skewed, too, although she did have a few good artists here and there, but overall she was the dumbest one in the class, something which burned her with resentment and shame.
The top student at Shibusen High and she couldn't even understand a couple of dumb music notes...
"HEY! Maka!" Black Star lands in front of her, tone laced with hope. "I need you to take my shift."
"No way." She deadpans, not even looking up from her work.
"EH?" Black Star gawks, panic flooding his face. "Do you dare reject your gods request?" At her dark look, Black Star switches tactics. "C'mon, Maka! I'll pay you back, I swear! Just this one time, it's really, really important!"
"What's so important that I have to stay until closing hours?" Maka arches a brow. The cafe closes late, at nine pm, which was dangerous for her even though she lived four blocks away.
Her neighborhood was not the safest haven in Death City.
In fact, it was probably the worst place for a single, sixteen year old, girl to live in by herself...
"Tsubaki, of course!" He scoffs, as if he expected nothing else. "I finally scored a date with her! YAHOO!" He slaps a hand over his mouth, adding in a whisper: "So? C'mon, Maka, you can keep working on your dumb homework and stuff! Just this one night? Accept this gods request...!" He whined.
Maka releases a deep sigh. She did feel rather comfortable, sitting in a well-lit room than her own dim one, which was currently severely under-furnished because she had moved out of her papa's apartment a year ago and had yet to compile enough money to go furniture shopping. Bills, necessities and extra fees ate up the money and, honestly, she only needed her bed, desk, TV, microwave, fridge and some plates, silverware and cups to keep her alive.
She sighs. "Fine..."
"YES! YOUR SACRIFICE WILL NOT GO UNREWARDED!" Black Star crows, rushing back to the group of friends who watched with laughing smiles.
Maka merely groans when she realizes she'll have to work on the packet of homework she had been subtly putting off.
She doesn't know how many hours pass, with the one customer here and there, but soon Kid is saying, in his own polite way, "I shall see you tomorrow, Maka. Have a safe trip home and remember not to talk to strangers," and he leaves her all alone after her own goodbye, as another girl who she doesn't know walks in to take Kid's shift...
The girl isn't friendly and Maka notices, with an annoyed frown, that she keeps looking at Soul, who has yet to move from his spot by the corner of the cafe. The business is even more slow after six and Maka is beginning to slowly lose her sanity over this dumb, dumb, dumb piece of paper.
"Damn it, come on!" She growls to herself, digging her fingers into her scalp. It does not settle well, not at all, that she can't understand what the dumb song means. She's deciphered half of it but the sounds make absolutely no sense to her. She's finished a few practice worksheets on notes, even though she's stuck on one because she can't figure out what the hell writing Traids has anything to do with what their learning, but that damn piano score keeps coming back to her; taunting her because she knows how a few notes sound but she can't get anything out of it.
It's just a bunch of numbers and notes to her but there has be a deeper meaning, right?
Maybe he did want her to play it. Maybe playing it will make her understand? Maka doubted it; she could probably tell him exactly what the song meant but somehow still not get it. Maka gazes back at the worksheet she gave up on. Maybe the worksheets will help her...
What the hell is a grand staff? He didn't teach us this! Or maybe he did but she tuned him out? Maka groans in frustration, resisting the suicidal urge to go out and pick a fight.
"Hey, can I have another coffee?" A voice startles her from her panicked mulling.
"Huh?" Maka snaps her head up, shoving her papers under a book instantly. Soul is standing before her, hands in pockets, and she briefly remembers that he's a musician from what Kid and Black Star told her. He might be her ticket to getting an A in the class! He—!
No! You're not supposed to know anything, remember? She chides herself, heart falling to her ankles. There goes all hope for understanding the damn class. "Oh, sorry. What will you have?"
"On it." Maka rings him up before pouring him a cup of scalding coffee, face strained from the work she just can't understand. She hands him his coffee silently, going back to the worksheet that's causing her grief. She sits there for a while, just staring at the sheet, oblivious to Soul, whose watching her stare at the paper with amusement because he can see the irritation, despair and hopelessness flash across her face every few seconds.
Suddenly, her head drops on the paper and a loud groan is heard. "I-I-I give up." She chokes, wanting to curl into a small ball and have a fit much like her father does whenever she ignores him. Maka has never had a class she did not understand and it makes her feel useless, totally worthless, that she does not understand this class at all. Where was Blair when she needed her the most, Maka mourns. "I'm never gonna' get this..."
"You're working on distinguishing the voice from the stem, right?"
"Yeah..." Maka pauses. She jerks up, scandalized he has seen her at her lowest. "Wh-what're you still doing here?"
Soul shrugs. "Bored." His eyes brief the page. "You have to remember the soprano and alto are written on the top staff and the tenor and bass on the bottom."
Maka blinks slowly. "... What?"
"Did you pay any attention in your class?"
Maka whimpers. "No, because he's torturing me with this!" She shoves a piano score in his face. "I have to understand it!"
"...This is a pretty average score." Soul comments, raising a brow. "Nothing anyone can't understand."
"I—can't." Maka struggles. She sighs resignedly. "I can't understand music."
"It isn't that hard, you know." He dryly answers.
She shoots him a glare. "No, not like that. I can understand the basics, like writing it and reading it." Maka hesitates. He's a musician, right? Maybe he can help her! "But...I can't understand the emotions behind it. A song is a song to me, there isn't anything else to it. When my teacher asks me to feel the emotions in a song, it sounds dumb to me because there isn't anything else there." Maka frowns. "Is there even supposed to be?"
When she looks up at him for answers, he wears a look of mild surprise. However, it quickly melts into one of amusement. A small smirk crawls up on his face. "So, you're one of them, huh?"
"What the heck does that mean?" Maka scowls. It sounds like an insult. Her fingers itch for the weight of a book so she can smack him and her teacher to the next town. "He called me that, too!"
"It means..." Soul leans against the counter coolly. "You're one of those cold-logic people that can't value basic human emotions."
"I can value basic human emotions!" Maka defends herself. She deflates at his skeptical stare. "Just not how someone can apparently 'pour their soul' into a song." She rests her chin on her palm. "It seems to me they're just talented in the arrangement of notes. Nothing else sticks out to me other than that."
"If you can't understand emotions, you can't understand music or anything else, really." Soul throws her a dark grin that makes her stiff. "The faster you admit it, the faster you can move on with your life. You have to let go of any rational explanations you have for music.. because music isn't based on that. It's based on what comes out of the soul."
"Not this again!" Maka sighs, sharply. "What's so important about the soul? We can't even prove there is a soul—!"
"Let it go." He's up in her face, so close she can clearly see the rings of scarlet and ebony that make up his iris. Her heart grows taut at his next words: "Cold logic will not help you understand music. By feeling the music, he means understand what the musician is trying to convey and taking it to the heart."
Maka, instead of baking down, merely stares back defiantly. "Alright, so let's say music is composed of more than just a bunch if words and notes... and?" His brows shoot up. Maka continues, coldly: "I don't see the point in empathizing with a bunch of sounds. It's just sound. You'll forget about it eventually."
Soul curiously gazes at her, the hardness he can see in her eyes; the fire that alludes the scars. He does not know what has happened to her, what tribulations she has gone through in life, but he tell she's got some issues to deal with. Maybe, he thinks to himself, she might serve as a good distraction from the score he's working night and day on to perfect.
"It's scientifically proven that the human brain can memorize over a thousand melodies, even if they haven't heard it again in years." Soul deadpans. She glowers at him. He isn't helping at all. "But you really don't get it, huh? You're seeing all the shallow reasons. Do you understand poetry?"
Maka arches a brow. "I own various books, but I'm not a big fan of it anymore."
Maka smiles a little. "If you mean writing as in novels, then yes."
"Mmhmm!" Maka's smile widens. "I love reading!"
Maka's smile falters. He knows he caught her. "Why? What do you mean why?"
Soul casually shrugs. He rests his elbows on the counter, slouching as he clarifies: "I mean, why? Why do you love to read?"
"Because...well," Maka splutters. "Because I love to learn, obviously!"
"You read novels, right? Not just dictionaries and crap like that?"
"It's not crap, you jerk, but yes I do." She glares warningly as he rolls his eyes.
"Then, tell me why you love to read novels so much."
"Because—they tell of life experiences and, um..." She falters, lowering her eyes. It's awkward, as she feels a surge of tangled emotions rise up within her. There are many reasons why she loves to read and most of them are embarrassing to say. Like pretending to be a fictional character because her own life sucks. How lame was that? "They teach lessons and...um..."
An easy grin crosses his face. "You can't tell me, can you? Well, at least you do have a heart."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Maka snaps, thrown in a loop by his words.
"You like reading but you can't tell me why. You know it's not because of those superficial reasons, you've related to the piece of literature and applied it to your life. You just don't trust me enough to tell me that." He shrugs, not really caring. The word trust is dead to her at this point in life, she recalls. "But there's a deeper reason. When you figure it out, come talk to me and I'll help you out with your homework."
He leaves, just like that; document under arm, coffee in his hand, disappearing into the slanted shadows of the night as she stares after him.
He made sense but that's the least of her problems right now.
No one has ever been able to silence her so easily, it almost infuriates her. Is she losing her touch? But something about him only makes her feel hollow because she knows he isn't trying to corner her, but make her gain an understanding of the abstract concept of music. And she knows that, by attacking her deepest love, she will eventually grasp an understanding. He knows she isn't totally heartless but just cynical and jaded. He doesn't know why but it wouldn't take long to find out – he sounds very sharp despite his slacker appearance.
And she's scared because he's hitting too close to home and trusting him, a guy, a cheating, lying guy, with her broken childhood is daunting.
Books are a way of release for her; an escape from reality. The fact that she lives alone, has been for the past few years, makes silence unbearable so books are the noise in her life. She hates it because it's the most horrible feeling in the world, the loneliness she means. The fact that her mother, her precious mama, had divorced her father nearly two years ago and hasn't made but one appearance in her life, makes things a lot more gloomier.
The fact that her papa has probably forgotten all about her because he'd rather hang out at cabarets than figure out what his supposedly 'precious baby girl' is up to ( if the money automatically deducted from his paycheck is keeping her alive; if she isn't being abused, or maybe in danger, because her neighborhood is a sinister place to live in) just makes the pain of having no one all the worse.
She likes to empathize with books.
She likes to pretend she's some heroine in a novel.
She likes to lose herself in the words, the story, and believe she can overcome anything with the right dose of courage and love and all those stupid emotions that make humans, human. But reality isn't like that – you need more than just courage to get by. You need knowledge, skill, money. Life isn't a bunch of pretty sounds wrapped into one beautiful song, it's a screeching violin that harmonizes with the scratch of nails against a chalkboard.
Suddenly, she understands why so many people cherish music.
It's just like her and her books.
She wonders why she never saw it before.
A/N: Because I'm infamous for my one-shots...
No, this is not a one-shot. This is a true-to-its-definition story, not just a snapshot in time. Yay! I'm growing up lol
Truth be told, I haven't finished this story. I've got a bunch of chapters already edited and ready for posting, but I've still got a few more to go before I can brand a complete sign to this. Thus, updates will be weekly at most. School will also be consuming more of my time, mainly because after being trained to work on a 8 period schedule and suddenly switching to a 6 period did not bode well with me...
But procrastination is my best friend, so you will get updates. Even if I have to put off that awfully boring report for Government, which I am currently doing, actually :P
AND HAPPY (early...) BIRTHDAY LACROW! BE HAPPY, GODDAMMIT! xD