E Flat Minor of Platform 24
I would like to say that I returned to him, or that he returned to me, or that we met again on happier terms. Unfortunately, this was not the way things turned out.
Naturally, I couldn't avoid the subway. I had to take it home, and so I was constantly reminded of our correspondence on the wall. I tried my best not to look. I wondered if he was still writing and if he would one day sell his music for profit. I knew that I would sell it, had I the talent. I was still disappointed that he was unable to share his musical talent with me. I wondered where he lived and what his name was. I would soon find out.
I was standing on the platform when I saw him again. He was sitting on the bench I usually sat on, staring at a discarded beer bottle on the floor. I wasn't sure he knew who I was, but for some reason, I had an urge to approach him. I did.
"E flat minor," I said. He looked up.
"Nat," he replied. He didn't look happy or disappointed to see me. I sat down next to him. He looked over to me slowly.
"I can teach you," he said softly. I blinked.
"I can teach you how," he said. "I want to teach you how." He raised his gloved hands slowly, pausing in front of my face. He gave me a look.
"Sure, go ahead," I said cautiously. He gently placed both hands over my eyes, effectively blinding me. We waited.
"What exactly is this supp—" I started, but I heard him hush me and I hushed.
"Listen to me," he said quietly. I listened. He stayed silent. I couldn't hear anything but the rumble of the station and the hissing of the rain.
"You aren't saying anything!" I protested, but I heard him hush me again. I shut my mouth and listened as hard as I could.
"Listen to me and only me," he whispered. I listened.
I heard it. It was sudden and quiet, but I heard it.
It was a little song. Quiet and similar to the one he'd composed for me. I listened for other little songs. I heard a tune from the walls, from the rain. I heard a song from the beer bottle on the floor.
"What is that?" I asked, and the music went away. There was nothing but the whisper of the rain and the quiet breath of the train station.
"That is how I compose music," E Flat Minor replied. He withdrew his hands and stood up.
"So um… where do you live? Why do you write on the subway walls? Don't you have like… paper or something?" I asked, watching him as he crossed the platform and stood by the bright yellow strip of plastic at the edge of it. He turned back to me.
"Will you swear not to tell?"
"Who would I tell?"
"Nat, please swear not to." He had a pleading look on his face. I shrugged.
"I guess. I mean…" I couldn't promise it. I couldn't make a promise to anyone.
"Nat," E Flat Minor started. "I can't… describe this feeling…"
"I don't know if what I feel is love," he said. "But I know that… you've become… important." He bowed his head, clenching his fists. I stared at him, clutching the hem of my skirt. I swallowed hard.
How had I fallen for him so quickly? I had only met him once before, but as soon as his voice molded the word love from its rich undertones I knew I had been taken. How could someone as self-centered as me fall in love? And how could he love me back? I didn't deserve him, and he didn't deserve someone as horrid as I was. But as selfish as it was, I wanted to scream my love for him.
"I live in the tunnels of the subway," he said. "My mother was killed in a car accident and my father is gravely ill. My only living relative is my uncle and he is in a nursing home." I was shaking now. Who was this boy who lived under the subway? I didn't even want to know anymore. He could be dangerous, crazy, or some sort of serial killer or rapist. I backed away.
"Get away from me," I whispered. My heart was throbbing. It felt as though it were bleeding it hurt so much. Despite what my brain told me, my heart was screaming for just the opposite. E Flat Minor stared at me with his mismatched eyes. He squinted, as though trying hard to see me. He took a step forward, but when he saw me tense up, he hung back.
"It was nice knowing you, Natalie," he said. He turned and jumped onto the tracks, walking into the blackness of the tunnel. It was the first time he'd said my real name. How did he know?
I took the next train and got off at my station. Did I really want to abandon him and the music? I nodded to myself, mounted the escalator, and let it take me out into the torrential rain.
It had been a year since I last saw the mysterious E Flat Minor. I was finishing up my senior year of high school.
The train station was empty when I walked down from a hot, humid day. I sat down on the bench, letting my tired muscles relax.
Ever since that day I'd pushed him away, something was missing. I'd selfishly kept the music, but no matter how I played it, it never sounded right. The chords were not as beautiful as they once were, and the notes, once round and full, were empty and flat. I missed the fulfilling feeling of playing the music, but I could never bring myself to try and find him and apologize.
The affair had destroyed my social life, as well. My friends had shied away from me once I became self-absorbed and obsessed with the music. Despite having many boys approach me and attempt to start a relationship, I simply could not bring my aching heart to love another. It was as though my heart was in chains.
My grandmother recovered, but my introverted behavior continued long after she was well. The guidance counselor seemed to lose hope in me since I wouldn't open up about anything.
I had to admit, my life was lonely. Since I'd pushed E Flat Minor away, my mind always seemed to be empty and bored. But as much as I wanted to try and find him, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't have to.
I was standing on the platform waiting for my train. I peered into the tunnel, hoping to see the bright headlights, but was met with a strangely pleasant surprise.
E Flat Minor was standing just beyond the reach of the light from the station in a school uniform. He appeared as though he had been watching me for a few minutes.
"You… you're going to school now?" I asked quietly when I mustered up the courage to speak. He nodded.
"My father died," he said. "He left me enough money to sustain myself until I go to college." I nodded subconsciously. A few moments of awkward silence passed. Then:
"Why did you come back?" I asked. "Why are you here?"
"Because I can't stop thinking about you," he said with a twinge of guilt in his voice. "I know it's selfish of me, Nat, but I just can't. You have been the only person in my life that I could… rely on."
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. E Flat Minor began walking out of the tunnel, slowly, one foot at a time.
"You're like the trains," he explained. "You come at the same time everyday. You're the same person every time I meet you." He stepped forward again. I felt a pang of fear in my stomach.
"I'm afraid," I said.
I couldn't answer. I closed my eyes. I heard the train coming. He did, too.
I'm afraid that I love you.
"Go," I commanded quietly. "Just… go."
Without saying anything, he melted back into the shadows as the train's glimmering headlights came into view.
I stared out the window at the sea of taxis. My mother just had to insist on driving to the graduation ceremony, so we were stuck in traffic. As we inched along, we soon saw the source of the jam.
There was a row of at least five police cars near the entrance to the subway. There was an ambulance, too.
I felt a twinge in my chest. I unclipped my seatbelt and opened the door. My mother called out to me, but I didn't hear her. I was running.
All I could hear was the beating of my heart in my ears. I couldn't think of anything. Not of the awards I would be winning, not of the diploma, not of graduation at all. I couldn't feel the strap of my shoes digging into my heel as I ran toward the subway entrance.
I charged past the police, who were all yelling at me. I dashed down the stairs and onto Platform 24.
The train was stopped at the platform. There were police officers and paramedics everywhere. I slowly approached the tracks.
The front of the train was spattered with glistening jewels of red. I closed my eyes. I didn't need to see it. I felt my legs bend beneath me until I was squatted on the dirty subway floor in my best black dress. I could hear my own sobs, but I couldn't feel them.
A police officer approached me. He touched my shoulder.
"Did you know him? We need an ID."
I shook my head.
"I didn't know him," I said quietly. "It was an accident?" I hadn't meant it to come out as a question.
"…We're investigating," the officer said. "But we think it's a suicide." I shook my head. It couldn't be.
"I'm sorry, I can't help you," I said. I blotted my face with my hand and stood. I gave him a watery smile. "No one can. No one knows him."
The police officer gave me a questioning look, but I just shook my head again. I hobbled over to the pay phone where I pretended to make a call as I gazed at our hidden correspondence.
There, right under his last note requesting that I meet him, was a new set of notes and a small message.
I took out a napkin and a pen from my purse. I scribbled down the music. Then, I read the writing.
I apologize for scaring you. I don't want you to be afraid anymore. My last wish is that you… enjoy the last bit of my song. Perhaps in the future, our paths will meet again. Your grateful and humble composer, Oliver Harlow
I took the pen and scribbled a note on the wall, right underneath his.
Though we never will meet again, I thought you might like to know… I love you.
I smiled through my tears and left the subway. I put the napkin and pen back in my purse. I closed my eyes. His name flashed across my mind and rang through my ears.
I didn't even need to play the notes to hear the song.
Thank you all for reading! I hope you like my attempt at a short story. Thank you to all of my fantastic reviewers - you guys are so encouraging. :) 'Til next time!