"Beethoven…HA!" she said. "That's all you care about! You don't care anything about love."

The music stopped, and she looked around as she realized that he was going to react this time. He looked up, and the storm was definitely rising in his eyes. She shivered a little.

"Love…HA!" he said. "All you care about is YOURSELF!"

She felt the muscles in her face tighten. He was about to say something she definitely didn't want to hear.

"'How much money do piano players make, Schroeder?'" he shot back at her. "'Why don't you buy me presents, Schroeder? Tell me I'm beautiful, Schroeder.' You don't care anything about me and my music! You just want me to flatter you and buy you things! It's sickening!"

Her face reddened with indignation, but denial didn't seem an option, when she knew she really had said all those things, repeatedly. And thrown back at her from such a lofty position, they did appear kind of sickening. Hot tears began to sting her eyes, but she was nothing if not a fighter.

"That's NOT FAIR!" she burst out. "You KNOW how hard I've tried to understand the whole Beethoven thing! You KNOW I think your playing is beautiful, I've TOLD you so plenty of times!"

"I'm sorry I said anything," he said quickly, wincing. Whether he was affected by her words, or daunted by the tone and volume of her voice, or just enough of a gentleman to be deflated by her tears, she couldn't tell. But there was no satisfaction in his backing down.

"SO WHAT if I like to dream about being rich someday?" she went on, pressing the advantage, whatever it was. "Normal people do! That doesn't mean it's all I care about. And SO WHAT if I would rather have presents and nice words instead of indifference and insults all the time? WHO WOULDN'T? But if that were all I cared about, I obviously wouldn't hang around here!"

He huffed a little, but a flicker of self-aware amusement went through his eyes at her last barb.

"Well, you sure do talk about that stuff a lot," he said, more evenly.

"I'm just trying to get a REACTION from you!" she told him.

"And I'm just trying to practice," he answered, firmly, but without hostility now. She knew that was the unvarnished truth. His ignoring her wasn't really a challenge, though it was so hard for her not to take it that way. He lowered his head, and notes began to spill from the piano again. She settled back and let her eyes go slightly out of focus as her thoughts began to surge once more against the music.