Quiet, Nora. Try not to lose your temper. Put the bow to your violin – it's such a pretty violin, isn't it? It should be. It's a Contavalli. Cost fifteen grand. I try not to understand the number. That's the difference between him and me. He cares about figures, cares about value, cares about money. I don't.
I rework the first note on the the theme of Schindler's List. God, I hate this piece. But he asked me to play it, so I have to play it. The sound draws out, controlled, a sweet shriek, the scream of a string. It sounds perfect to me. Not to Dad.
I can feel it now, my face becoming hot with anger. Embarrassment too, even though there is no one else in the room. I don't look at my father sitting on the white couch to my left, his hand stretched over the back, one leg cocked to ankle the other's knee. We're in the study, a room that is both intimidating and charming at the same time – like him. Varnished maple desks, Moroccan rugs, skinny white grid windows twice my height, and books, all sorts of books from dictionaries to biology guides to World History. Suitably, I feel no connection to it, but this is where I've always taken my violin lessons, where I've always practised. Normally, he leaves me alone, but once in a while, he gets the egoistic urge to look in on me and comment on my progress. Like tonight.
I grip the bow, the string beginning to slice my palm. If I bled, and I told him, would he care? I look at him, but he's just waiting. He looks like he's getting impatient. I loosen my grip. Last try. I don't get what was wrong with the note though. If I can't see a problem, why should I care?
I concentrate hard as I try again. My body is tight as I pass over the notes and move on, sweeping through the bar. I did it. I must have. It all sounded right to me. It sounded like some of my best work, in fact. Mrs. Sun, my teacher, would probably be happy. So what if my arm hurts and I can't relax my shoulders? I showed him I could do it, didn't I?
I turn, smiling – OK, a little cockily, I'll admit – to face my father. My mood drops. He's frowning. In disapproval. He looks even more annoyed and disappointed than before. He sighs as he gets to his feet. For a moment, he keeps a glance on me. I don't know how to describe it, but it's as if I am a stranger, or even lower, like some animal, some useless pet he doesn't even know what to do with. "I'm going to have another talk with Mrs. Sun."
Again. Are you going to fire her too? What is she – my eighth teacher now?
Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I actually spoke to him that way. I never do … or I never did, so far. I guess it's partly because he doesn't give me much chance to in the first place. At the end of that little thought, he's already out the door, the foulness trailing behind him.
Five minutes. I'm still standing here.
I hate him. I hate this Contavalli. Mrs. Sun is so nice. I hate him.
I threw it. I threw my violin at the window. The glass looked very solid, and I didn't really think it would break, but it did. I expected only the violin to become smashed, but they both did. Good. Two-for-one deal, I say.
I can hear something. Someone's coming this way. They're running. It must be him.
I turn, a black hair sticking to my lip. I lick the end, pushing it away with my tongue. A man comes in, but he's not my father. Six feet over, lanky, with light brown hair. His smile is a smirk. His eyes have a two-point spectrum, sleepy or cheeky, nothing in between. They're sleepy now as they look at me, then at the broken Contavalli center-stage in a shard artwork. He half-frowns, that is, he pulls only one brow down, as he gazes at me. I tip my shoulders up a little. I act innocent. I act like a babystander, a watcher, an out-of-body observer.
"Nor, that thing cost – "
" – fifteen-thousand dollars."
" – a lot of money."
This is one of the things I like about Wes, or Wesley Rivers, who works for my father. Wes doesn't care about money either. I like to tell myself this over and over, because if he doesn't care about money, but he likes me, a rich man's daughter, then that must mean he likes me for something only I have, something that's mine. Something inherent, a word my father taught me. I only wonder what that something inherent in me is that Wes possibly likes, so that I could focus on it. And blow it up. Infinite times.
"Why isn't he coming?"
Wes in on the floor now, inspecting the broken pieces. He shakes his head and tries to pick up the Contavalli, a piece of its neck dangling from his fingers. He looks like a doctor after the death of his patient. What did he do? What didn't he do? What went wrong?
"Why isn't he coming?" I have to repeat. His thoughts seem to have taken him away from me.
Finally, Dr. Rivers pauses. He stays on his knee, but tilts his head up to look at me. I don't know why, but something about his position, about the fact that he isn't standing way over me but is level with my bare knees for once, kind of excites me. "He left."
"What?" It comes out so low, so small, more dazed than disbelieving.
"He got a call. Someone was asking to see him."
He's not in the house. I broke my fifteen-thousand-dollar violin, and a who-knows-the-cost window, and he's not even in the house, but probably on the road, listening to stupid classical junk. He doesn't know. He will, of course, eventually, but for now, he's as far away as he can get from me. He's disconnected, unattached, ho-hum oblivious.
"Tell me this was an accident," Wes pleads with me.
"It was an accident."
"And mean it."
I shut my mouth. This time, he shakes his head at me, but not because I'm a patient rigor mortis, or post-finit. This time, I'm more like the smoker who won't quit. The obese man who sneaks in all the wrong foods. But if he thinks I don't feel bad, he's wrong. I do. Because it's different when my father, Slimeball Sullivan, is disappointed with me, and when Wes is disappointed with me. It's like Wes's eyes – a two-point spectrum.
Wes gets to his feet, beating me again with about nine inches of lean body. "Why, Nor?"
"It doesn't matter. Not when he's not even here."
We set to cleaning up, and without a word from me, Wes starts skimming the phone book, marking window shops and music stores. When I look back into the study, there's a bit of a breeze coming in through the gap, stirring the curtains. Cool. The floor is clean. But the perfection is still cracked.