It didn’t matter. She had given her soul to the piano, but it had given her nothing back.


I’ll admit. This one ran a little away from me. Whenever I hear the word insurmountable, instead of making me feel all depressed and helpless, it instead makes me feel like I want to try surmounting it anyway, just to prove the word wrong. I feel like insurmountable is never a permanent term. It’s a word aimed at discouraging some, but I never want to be part of that some. I want to try trying too. (-:


Between Black and White

Insurmountable (adj): too great to be overcome

From the moment of her birth, Emilia’s little sister, Maybelline, had been faultless. They were a year apart. The difference was barely perceivable to all except their parents who were still convinced that Maybelline was the baby of the family.

Emilia hated feeling jealous. She wanted to be a good older sister, but it had always been apparent to her that Maybelline didn’t need an older sister.

It felt like the moment Maybelline had walked into the picture, Emilia had become a shadow.

Whatever Emilia lacked, Maybelline seemed to have. It was like she had gotten all the lucky draws of genetics.

For a while, Emilia consigned herself to constant comparisons, reprimands, and her parent’s disgust at her apparent envy. Until she discovered music.

Music was hers. She knew it from the moment her (at the time) little fingers had slid across the white gossamer keys and produced a sound that seemed to strike at her soul. Maybelline had been too young and immature. Otherwise, her parents would have definitely started their lessons at the same time. As it was, Emilia had two years of uninhibited practice time on the upright piano her parents had bought.

She wasn’t exceptionally talented, but hard work had to be enough. Maybe it would take longer. Maybe it would be harder. But there was nothing she couldn’t achieve if she was just willing to put in the work.

Emilia learned to live in the moments when the perfume of music wrapped around her. When her soul belonged to the music and the music belonged to her soul until they were interlaced into a veil of resonating notes that seemed to express her emotions far better than she ever could with her words.

She had pleaded to the piano gods many times. She didn’t care if Maybelline was better at everything else. Just let music be hers. Surely it was okay if she had one thing that wasn’t also Maybelline’s? Surely that wasn’t being selfish?

She had made an awkward plea to her parents right before Maybelline started her lessons. She had tried to tell them that she didn’t want Maybelline to learn how to play. That she wanted something for herself. All they had gotten out of the conversation was that Emilia was inexcusably jealous of May. And then they had decided to start Maybelline’s lessons earlier than originally planned in order to make some sort of point that Emilia couldn’t hope to understand.

She felt the gnawing sense of betrayal eating away at her frozen heart. But truthfully, it was inadequacy. She could never be enough because she was not Maybelline. Maybelline who only had to open her mouth to have people smiling and laughing. Maybelline who had only to sit on the piano bench to hear raptures of her playing. Maybelline who only had to ask to receive.

Maybelline, who was loved.

Emilia could never progress past a certain point because she didn’t have talent. She wasn’t complimented on her effort because effort didn’t matter. She only had what she had built up. How could she compete with someone who was a natural? Someone who didn’t need hours of practice and hard work? Someone who didn’t need to build from the ground up, but only refine what they already had?

The answer: She couldn’t.

The piano gods had cruelly cast her away.

So she would relinquish them.

If there was a wall she couldn’t climb, then she would just have to go find somewhere else to walk.

<<Are you really content with that?>>

It didn’t matter. She had given her soul to the piano, but it had given her nothing back.

She was done. She wasn’t going to try anymore.

A sense of bitter relief overtook her. If she could never be better than May, why bother?

She started walking home, streaks of rain splashing onto the cold concrete.

As she walked past a small alleyway, she heard a tiny bark from a cardboard box. Apprehensive, she knelt next to the container and peeked into it.

It was a drenched little puppy, who’s soggy box was overflowing with dirty rain water. The poor thing was trying to escape before it drowned in the place it had been abandoned. It was desperately clawing the sides of the box, barking up a storm, and sounding so pitiful Emilia’s heart went out to it.

Why didn’t it just give up? Wouldn’t it be easier?

Emilia lifted up the puppy from the box and held it close. It howled and buried itself into her side. “I’ve got you,” she whispered. “It’s okay now.”

The puppy’s rough sandpaper tongue brushed against her cheek.

Through the brooding air, a sound welled up from beyond the curtain of the deluge. There was a piano shop next door, Emilia realized.

The music seemed to float around her, warming her heart. Emilia rubbed away at the salty droplets streaming down her cheek that wasn’t exactly rain.

It felt like she was waking up from a very long dream.

Her feet followed the sound. The puppy, now snuggled into her large raincoat pocket was silent except for the occasional sniffle.

There was a boy, playing her soul on the shop’s piano.

She felt the music fill the air in between them, and unwittingly sighed.

It felt like being greeted by an old friend.

How could she have ever thought of giving this up?

It would be denying a part of herself.

Why did she play the piano?

A myriad of fragments came to her mind, but they couldn’t form a whole picture.

But that was okay.

She had a lifetime to figure it out, after all.

The boy turned around, looking curiously at her.

“You smell like wet dog,” he said mercilessly.

“Sorry,” she replied instinctively, a sheepish smile playing on her lips.

“Do you play?”

Emilia looked at the dark sky outside. The rain wasn’t going to stop for a while.

She looked back at the boy. He had out one of her favorite duets.

He was looking at her as though she was some kind of puzzle to figure out.

She thought for a moment before replying.


<<She wanted to try trying a little longer.>>

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