Alright, after some thought, I've decided that this will be my last Penderwick's fanfiction for a while, so thanks for your support, amazing reviews, suggestions, and the stamina to stick with this story until the last sentence. It means more than you know.
Enjoy this chapter, I wrote for my readers.
Skye was absolutely, utterly riveted. No more could she pull her gaze from Jeffrey than she could stop breathing. Moments earlier, the other students had cleared the stage and left Jeffrey alone with a grand piano and a weighty silence. He'd begun softly, carving ribbons of sound into the stillness, building and building and building until it seemed the tension would burst the auditorium into smithereens.
It wasn't a song Skye recognized, either. It was deep and dark, dashing and fiery, electric and gorgeous, and it spiraled through the air, filling her up with its resonance. Occasionally Jeffrey would allow his eyelids to fall shut, and he'd play in his own little darkness.
Rosalind's eyes were glittering with tears, Jane was pale and faintly trembling, Oliver's pen lay abandoned on his lap, Batty's fingers were in her mouth, and Mr. Penderwick smiled fondly at the boy-at-the-piano, remembering.
After an indeterminable length, Jeffrey played a last drifting chord and leaned away from the keys, complete. The lack of music jarred the audience; it stirred, restless, like an animal. Then, beginning with Skye, the applause went up, a roar of approval and appreciation. The Penderwick sisters leaped to their feet, somehow—suddenly—hand in hand, and hollered with joy and pride.
"Spectacular!" shrieked Jane, her curls bobbing madly.
"You did it!" Skye bellowed, knowing full well that Jeffrey could not hear her in the exuberant crowd.
"Beautiful," sighed Rosalind, her breath catching in her throat.
Batty shrieked and waved and jumped enough for eighteen people, until her father lifted her onto his shoulders and Jeffrey saw her, waved at her! Waved at her!
As if all this wasn't exciting enough, Alec pushed through the throngs of people, reaching Jane first and tugging her curls playfully.
"Alec!" she yelped, and flew up to hug him. "Did you hear him?"
"Yes," said Alec, grinning like an idiot. "I saw, I heard…the works. And it was beautiful."
Skye knew that somewhere in the performance hall Dexter and Mrs. T-D lurked, and she hoped they would just slink off without trying to say hello to Jeffrey. Dexter, at least. She turned to Alec and beamed. "Did Jeffrey compose that song himself?"
"Yes, he says it's untitled, as of yet."
Sure enough, a quick look in the program showed Rosalind and Skye this was true.
"Who's this?" asked Alec, curiously looking between Jane and Oliver.
"Er, he's…" Jane was saved from further embarrassment by the elephantine sounds of several hundred music students tramping across the stage.
Alec gave them a last wink and disappeared.
After a brief number with a lot of drums and too much tuba, the red velvet curtain descended upon the stage, muffling the joyous squeals of those backstage. The lights went on around them, and spectators began rising from their seats, chatting good-naturedly with anyone near them.
"That. Was. Epic," said Batty, and everyone burst into laughter.
"Only Jeffrey was epic," said Skye, partially because she was loyal, partially because it was true.
"He can play," Oliver murmured.
Skye grinned wickedly. "You'd better believe it."
"Ooh, now you'll have lots of details for your new character, right?" asked Jane. "The one who plays piano?"
Oliver acknowledged this with a barely detectable nod. "A few."
Mr. Penderwick looked around for Alec, spotted him struggling toward them, and together, the Penderwick's, one Chance and one McGrath advanced on the stage. The stage itself had become a chaos of parents and their children, teachers and students, audience and musicians. Skye bounded onto it in one leap, and was caught from behind.
"How was it?"
"Jeffrey!" Skye turned around and found herself nose to nose with him. "You were fantastic, really, you were."
"I followed your advice, and I can't remember ever playing better than I did today."
"I'm glad I had a hand in helping you on your 'way up.'" She grinned and pointed behind her.
Jeffrey followed her hand with his gaze, and gasped. "Alec's here!"
"He didn't tell you?" Skye raced after the freckle-faced boy, accidentally knocking an ancient teacher flat.
Alec hugged Jeffrey nearly as tightly as he had at Batty's first recital, squeezing and murmuring words only Jeffrey could hear.
The tears Rosalind hadn't yet shed came now, falling softly to the floor. She sniffed, laughing embarrassedly, and checked them on her sleeve. When Alec finally let Jeffrey go, he looked a bit lost, but waved his son off. "Go have fun for a while. You absolutely deserve it."
Skye glanced at her sisters and they smiled at her, then melted into the crowd, leaving her alone with Jeffrey.
"Come on," he said.
Holding hands so as not to lose each other, they wove through the auditorium, out into the sunny corridor, down several hallways, and out into the blinding light of the outdoors. The white marble steps were devoid of people; the only sound around them was the distant rush of cars on the freeway, and a sparrow chirping in a tree.
"Let's sit here," said Jeffrey.
"Let's talk until we can't talk anymore."
"Let's get it all out in the open."
Skye smiled. "And let's make it ours."
And so they did.
...Goodbye for now!