My first attempt on femslash.There are some places where things got seriously mixed up.Thanks to BananaIsland (you are so great!) who has helped me often to fix things right. So this is it, hope that you all enjoy it as much as I do!
Chapter 1: The Ballroom
Summary: Samantha is introduced to Katrina, a retired pianist.
There she is standing amid the crowd, shaking hands with the guests of honour. Her lips form courteous greetings, her eyes sparkle with intelligence. Confidence is in her smile. She is Adrienne, Ann to her close friends. She walks further into the hall and looks about the crowd, obviously searching for someone. I nervously pick up a glass of orange juice from a table and walk away from the deserted corner, hopefully out of her sight. I pretend to talk with a group of politicians; their conversation makes no sense to me. But that sensation of being watched is hard to ignore. She steps up and politely leads me away.
'You look comfortable here,' she smiles, flashing her perfect white teeth.
'How can I be comfortable with these royalties?' I make a small gesture towards the crowd. 'No, I don't think so.'
She chuckles. 'You will use to it. Come. Let me introduce you to my friends.' Quietly I follow her around the hall. Her friends are…well, they range from the proudest to the humblest. All of them greet me with a strange smile and a strange expression. Is there something on my face?
Katrina is the only one who seems interested in me.
She raises a curious brow. 'So Samantha, you are a pianist?'
I answer cautiously. 'Yes.'
'How long have you been with Ann?'
'Two months, I think.'
She flashes a mischievous grin. 'What do you think of her? Or rather, what is the reason you befriended her?'
Her questions caught me by surprise. 'Well,' I glanced at Adrienne. Is it proper to ask such a thing? 'She is kind. As a friend, she is very supportive.'
She stares straight into my eyes. 'Only as a friend?'
I stare back at her in confusion. Adrienne mocks a cough. 'I say, is it time for us to move on? There are still many more people I would like to introduce. Excuse us, Katrina!' With that she hurriedly guides me away. I look back at Katrina. But she is lost amid the gathering crowd.
'That is Katrina,' Adrienne explains. 'I have known her for many years. She is never afraid to voice out her thoughts, most of them irrelevant. Many a time she has unknowingly hurt people with her criticisms. Yet she is not born a critic, you see. She hasher own reason. But she is the most trusted friend I have. And you have my word on that.' I give a slight nod of acknowledgement. Yet secretly I make note so to keep myself as far away from her as possible. I feel very…uncomfortable with the way she looks at me.
The hall is expensively decorated, grand is the word, with chandeliers glowing crystal white and blue lighting lights the huge ballroom. And yes, I am in a ballroom. I received a last minute invitation to a dinner. Just three days ago I was brooding in my rented room, wondering what to do next. Now I am here partying with the upper class societies, if partying is the right choice of word.
Guests are escorted to their respective seats. The women set a glamorous mood as they stroll in with their designer outfits and jewellery. Not to be outdone, the men wore their tuxedos and suits to match their partners. Adrienne wears a flowing green flora dress. She has her hair tied up deliberately to display that pair of dazzling earrings. I shift awkwardly in my own gown.
'You look great!' she assures me, catching me worrying on my simple black dress. 'It enhances your wonderful complexion.'
'Is that the way you comfort people?' I ask. I bought it immediately after receiving that invitation letter. It is the only one I can afford with my limited cash. And it has almost caused me an arm.
'Just relax and enjoy the evening,' she smiles. 'Everything is going to be fine.'
Oddly, her smile has a calming effect.
'Yeah, and they told me it is easy said than done.' I mutter.
She shrugs playfully. 'Well there is one that is not present here...' she says thoughtfully.
'Who is it?'
'Nevermind her,' she says. 'She is always busy.'
To my surprise the evening party turns out better than I thought.
Katrina is nowhere to be seen. That serves well for me.
I converse with the famous designers I never dreamt of meeting with. I join in the livid debate between the young philosophers. Eligible bachelors who believe that they have great sense of humour try their best to grab my attention and get close to me, and to whom I unenthusiastically exchange phone numbers.
The party finally ends. And I am still alive. Where is Adrienne?
'There you are, Samantha!' A familiar voice calls.
I look up from my place and spot that woman. I frown. Who is she again? 'Oh, Katrina, isn't it a fabulous party?' say I, forcing a smile. I glance around searching for Adrienne.
Katrina rolls her eyes. 'Adrienne has gone back to the studio.'
'How do you know?'
'She left me a message just now,' she explains. 'She says that she has urgent projects to work on. She asks me to fetch you home.' Adrienne is a composer and a producer. She has all the while been a genius composing great works since younger age. So what is it that is so urgent?
'No thanks, I can hail a cab.' I am slightly disappointed to hear that she left without informing me. Isn't she the one who sent me that invitation letter?
Katrina shakes her head in disapproval. 'No, you can't. It is my duty to see you safely back into your house.'
Does she mean my rented room? 'You don't have to. My place is really far from here.' What if she discovers that I am not rich?
Impatiently she waves a hand. 'Nah, distance is not a problem.' Just then a limousine stops in front of us. A uniform clad driver comes out and opens the back seat door. I can only stare wide-eyed.
'What are you waiting for?' She shoves me into the car, practically.
The journey home is awkward, at least for me. I told the driver my address. He merely nodded and started driving. I look out of the window, pretending to be fascinated by the empty city streets which are normally jammed with vehicles. My mind is utterly blank. Then questions after question come floating in my mind. Why is it that the person I most wanted to ignore comes always so close? Adrienne told me that she can be trusted. But to me I don't see the reason to. Is Katrina telling the truth? Why have I believed everything she says? Stealthily I glance at Katrina who is sitting beside me, ideally drumming her manicured fingers on her lap. They are long and slender, those fingers. So is she a pianist too?
'What are you staring at?'
'Oh, nothing…' Hastily I answer, returning my attention to the empty streets. I can undoubtfully feel her intense gaze on me. After about two uneasy minutes I sigh in my defeat and turn back to her. She raised a brow waiting for me to break the ice.
'I am wondering,' say I. 'If you are a pianist.'
'Yes, I am. But I am retired.'
'You don't look too old to me.' I blurt it out accidentally.
'You are right.' She says after a long pause. 'I am still too young to think of retiring.' She looks away to the scenery outside.
'So you have stopped performing?'
'Don't you miss it?'
'Not at all,' she answers. 'It gives me a sense of freedom instead…'
I wait patiently for her to continue. Then: 'Why do you think of that way?'
'That's none of your business.' She snaps.
'Since you admit that you are a pianist I have the right to know.' I retort. 'I am a pianist too and I will help if I can. I can't bear to see a musician goes to waste.'
She looks hard at me. 'You say you are Adrienne's friend?'
'Yes, I am.'
'Did she tell you anything about me?'
'Apart from that you are a hardcore critic, nothing else.'
She sighs. 'Forget about it, then.'
The limousine slows down and turns into a housing lot. It is darker here. The few street lamps are set in a wider distance. Most of the houses are in a sorry condition. I look out and recognize the area. Uncontrollably my heart beats faster. Honestly I do not like Katrina, and I don't want her to know that I am a poor music student staying in this miserable place.
It stops in front of a house.
Katrina frowns. 'You live here?'
'If it humours you,' I answer. 'Yes, I rent a room here.'
The driver climbs out of the limousine and opens the door. I step out into the cold night air. I wonder if the neighbour is still up and sees us. The driver closes the door, walks around the limousine and into the driver's place.
I turn around. Katrina has wound down the window. 'Yes, what is it?'
'I am sorry I did that.'
This is the first time I hear sincerity in her voice.
'It is alright,' I sigh. 'I did that sometimes too.'
We look at each other in silence, surprised at ourselves.
She clears her throat. 'Well, good night.'
'Good night.' I answer half-heartedly.
The limousine drives away and I walk back into my room.
What am I thinking? Didn't I hate her? She embarrassed me in front of Adrienne…she even knows where I live! Yes, I hate her very much. But there is other part of me that wish to get closer to her, to understand her, to break pass that defensive wall so to reach her inner world…
I shrug away that thought. Why am I thinking these? I hate her and that is final.
Carefully I take off my new dress and hang it in my make-shift closet. After taking a quick bath, I change into my pyjamas. I hit my bed with a yawn – partying can be so damn exhausting. Curiously, before I lose consciousness, my thought strays back to those slender fingers. I wonder what kind of sound quality it will produce if provided with a piano. Yes, those are a pianist's fingers, just like mine.