Sara and Terra

Autumn

Sara walked down the sidewalk as she glowered up at the sky. A nasty fall had torn that long, beloved skirt and broken those expensive glasses. There were spare glasses in the house, but it was still a block or so away. Today is turning out just dandy, she thought to herself. It'll get better, I guess. It can't be all bad. Then it began to drizzle. Pace was quickened. Within a few seconds, it began to pour, and a sprint broke out.

It came into view, its old, grey roof becoming soaked. The roof was missing shingles. They would have to fix some places with leaks. The paint on the baroque house was peeling in several areas, the original forest green chipping away to reveal the boards. High, black, pointed metal fencing prevented her from running across the overgrown lawn to the front door. A lock with numbered gears in its side prevented passage through the gate, but the combination was simple enough and the chain came undone and put back in place without too much effort. Bounding up the walkway and steps leading to the awning, it was horribly cold and wet. It should have been a cool Autumn day, the leaves beginning to turn. The tops of the few trees in the yard were turning fiery shades of orange, yellow, and red. But no, it had to be depressing and dreary.

A Corinthian column supporting the outcropping overhead provided something to lean on. Being out of that horrible rain felt great. Well, that's one upside, I suppose, she thought. It could be worse. The door could be locked and I might have no key and no awning. Chilling moisture was everywhere on everything, the house drenched, the trees losing dying leaves to the hard rain.

The large double doors to the house were as old and unique as the rest of it. Knobs that had been artfully crafted. Worn, floral patterns that had been expertly carved. The key was made of iron and looked antique. Like a key from the nineteenth century, she noted while opening the door with it. The house looked much smaller on the outside than it was on the inside. Getting over the effect was difficult while being stared down by the huge, spacious, empty room where echoes abounded. The room consisted of blank, dark grey walls and brown floorboards, doors on all of the walls, a staircase in the far right corner from Sara. The white ceiling that slanted towards the door also added a strange effect, making the room grow outward and larger.

The first door on the right was the destination. Its door opened to reveal a well-stocked personal library. It had faded, blue walls with shelves covering them, the shelves filled to the brim with countless books. A green shag carpet adorned the floor, courtesy of her older brother, Mike. The carpet was covered with stacks of books and chairs and piano benches. Collecting books was a hobby of the previous proprietor of the house. Sara made admirable contributions to the collection. Also, the ceiling was even in this room, which was a welcomed addition.

Looking for a particular book was difficult. Maneuvering through and around the stacks of volumes and clutter proved tricky, stopping on that certain book, reading the cover lovingly, satisfied. The cover was astonishing: A red horse being skewered by a spear or sharp object of some sort. Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger. An all-time favorite. The spare glasses were on top of an adjacent stack. It was 3:45 P.M. A few more minutes until Terra would arrive. An hour and fifteen minutes before Mike would call. Good, she thought to herself, sitting down on a piano bench and reading.

Putting the book away was difficult. Lost in the novel, the sounds of the front door opening were a shock. Every day, Sara and Terra met in the old house after school. For an hour, they would work, and then read and listen to each other's work and critique it. Terra had an affinity for the piano, and loved complex melodies, but loved composing and playing them even more. Sara had an affinity for English, and loved books and stories, but loved writing them even more. That house was one of the only places where she felt free to write and present her work.

Terra was a year older than her, a junior in high school. She attended Winston academy, a prestigious private school down town. Blunt honesty and a sharp tongue proved to be a severe social handicap there. Smart as a whip and serious, too, she felt as if most of her peers were beneath her intellectually, knowing this was untrue, but unable to help the feelings. After their meeting, Terra would hurry off to work in her car after dropping Sara off. Too independent to tolerate an allowance or free money, a job at the local Sonic was chosen. Riding on roller blades to deliver food and such had given nice tips. Acting a certain way around some customers and rubbing them the right way earned worth-while tips as well (these customers were almost always men), often feeling the need to take a shower after work.

"What's up?" Terra asked, stepping into the library. It was the obvious place to look for Sara.

"Oh, nothing, just reading a bit before you arrived," Sara said as she closed the book, turned around and smiled at Terra, who smiled back, straight white teeth against pale skin showing. Terra was small, skinny, pale, and short-haired.

"Cool. I finished a new piece. Go upstairs so I can practice."

"Sure," Sara replied, smiling while gathering her possessions and left the room, seeing the vast, empty main room. The stairs were wooden and splintering, but held. Upstairs was a collaboration of hallways and doors, a maze. The previous owners had the upper floors built in this manner during a stroke of paranoia, realizing how nice the house was turning out to be. Gray paint covered the walls here, too. One could become lost in the upper floors without knowing the area, landmark paintings now gone, ferns and coffee tables once throughout the halls, now vanished. The hall went straight and had two corridors on its left and one on its right.

The right corridor had four corridors branching off of it, two on each side, a single door in between each, and two on opposite walls at the end, all illuminated by a window with a soft vale of a curtain. If memory served, the last room on the left had the desk and chair. It did. Soft, yellow cushions adorned the baroque-like chair. It was more comfortable than some beds, and even nicer to work in. The desk itself was simple, having been repaired and brought in from Sara's school. The room was above the first room to the left of the main entrance. The piano room was the last door to the right of the main entrance. A perfect distance. With walls, ceiling, and doors between them, nothing was audible from one to the other. It's a wonderful room, she thought, opening the computer and pressing the on button, its screen flashing.

The previous owners had been kind enough to buy it for her, along with the piano for Terra. Sara's grandparents had always been the best of souls, loving her and Mike unconditionally, also fond of Terra and her music. When her grandfather passed, Sara was shaken. The kindest, most caring man ever, gone. She would run to the house to be alone with her grandmother. When Terra began to meet her there as a regular ritual, they both grew to love the house. That was the point at which Sara's grandmother decided to set aside a large sum of money to accommodate it for the two girls after her passing. It would last for years if they were lucky. With the passing of her grandmother, the house was given to the two girls. It was even stated in her grandmother's will, but they were unable to claim it fully until their eighteenth birthday. They could still, however, use the facilities.

For thirty minutes, tapping sounded through the room and words appeared on the screen at mach speed. The keyboard looked as if it had pale spiders dancing upon it. Thirty minutes passed, and seven hundred words in about two pages was the final draft of the new passage of the work. The first draft of the final draft, at least. Terra gave in-depth critiques, helping Sara's work greatly. No single turn of prose went unnoticed or unanalyzed. Her honesty helped as well.

The phone in the skirt's pocket vibrated. The new message said "ready". The screen went black as the computer powered down and closed. It was easy to lift and take. Unfortunately, the chair was unable to accompany Sara downstairs. It was almost unbearable to leave its comfort; one could fall asleep in it. Creaking filled the room and hallway as the door opened. Grey walls and white doors rushed by once again, hurrying to get to the music room to hear Terra's new piece, almost falling down the stairs. Her music was wondrous and lovely.

The wooden floor clacked and banged beneath quick, excited feet, running to the right of the stairs, where the white music room lay. Again, creaking filled the place as the door opened. A black piano sat in the center facing the door, a violin case leaning against the right wall, various brass instruments on the floor behind the piano, tools and other accessories such as tuners and oil. Terra's main item of trade was the piano, but she sometimes dabbled with other instruments. The only problem being that Terra was an awful singer.

"You're eager, as always," she said, sitting behind the piano with a grin on her face. "Contrary to popular belief, everything would still be here if you walked."

"I know, I just, um, like your music," Sara said with a blush. Her heart fluttered slightly. Terra chuckled a bit.

"I can see that. Now get a spare bench to sit on. There's one behind you." "Right."

Splinters poked out and hurt, causing slight pain, but the bench itself was light and wobbly when exposed to weight.

"Okay, I'm ready," she said, smiling with warmth. "Hit me."

Music cascaded from the piano as soon as the words were spoken, spinning and weaving melodies in a fast tempo. Notes rushed out, but none were pounded or hurried. Each sounded crafted. Then, slowly they came, with care and feeling. It became simple, expressing in low volume, then building. And then, an explosion of musicality. Next, calming, still sewing and dashing a quick melody line. After that, quiet. The piece was over. Nonexistent heat had occupied the space.

"Well?" Terra asked expectantly. A sign of apprehension; she was, in reality, sensitive as a thumb in saltwater at that moment.

"That was… Absolutely splendid, as usual," Sara said, her face burning.

"Thank you. Now you go," she said and stood up. "Give me the laptop."

In all of the commotion, the computer had been forgotten. More warmth was felt as it was remembered and given.

"Oh, um, here you go." "Thank you."

Light flashed on the screen, along with an account name. When it was clicked, a word document appeared on the screen. These few minutes were the most intense. It took a few minutes for the new passage to be read.

"It's good," Terra said and broke the silence.

"R…R-really…?" Sara asked. Unbearable heat and needles were everywhere.

"Yes. Except for this part. That paragraph needs to go there, and that sentence needs to go. You misspelled things. That word is inappropriate there. This is vague," she answered, continuing to show Sara the flaws in her work and giving criticism.

"Thank you very much," Sara said when Terra was finished. Shame helped to better the writing. It caused drive for improvement. Besides, all positive feedback would be unhelpful, Sara thought. So there is that. It's a good thing. "I'll try harder next time."

"Don't be like that. I hate it when you're like that. It was good. You're getting better."

"Thank you."

"What did I just say?" "Sorry."

"Forget about it. What time is it?"

"Fifteen till."

"I have to get to work. Want me to drop you off?"

"No, I'll walk today."

"Okay. Bye."

And with that, Terra left the room, taking her things and coat with her. Before closing the door, she turned.

"And thanks. I mean it," she said. Then she was gone, and the place was empty. Butterflies riffled through everything. Things began to spin. Relief. She was gone. This was one of the reasons the house was so wonderful. Nothing from the outside world mattered while they were together in that place. Everything was fine in that ancient sanctuary, especially when Terra was there.

***

Winter

Freezing wind rushed through the patio. Terra hated the cold. It made things uncomfortable and sparse. At least it was dry today. Cold and wet were dreadful together. Even more uncomfortable, not-so-sparse, but depressing. The trees were the only positive aspect of this kind of weather. Their skeletons and barest pieces were visible. Without leaves, they were so much more interesting. Dead leaves crunched underfoot everywhere, giving the days rhythmic, crunching accompaniments. Breezes made one shiver and become aware. Well, maybe winter wasn't terrible.

No sign of Sara yet. She was late, and the one with the key. Waiting was a pain. Sara was never late. She was always the first one there. Maybe something happened to her? No, Sara could take care of herself. But what if she was in trouble? Unthinkable. If Sara hurt herself? She might have been clumsy enough to do that. That thought froze things. Chills through bones, hastened thoughts. No, no, that was the wind. It must have been.

Then, scurrying down the sidewalk in front of the gate, Sara was in view, overdressed in a heavy coat, scarf, jeans, boots, mittens, and hat. The worrying stopped, replaced by relief and then impatience as she opened the gate and hurried up the walkway to the awning. Once there, panting visible breaths, she began spouting apologies.

"I'm… sorry," she said. "I was… looking for something in the school library… they didn't have it…"

"Of course they didn't," Terra replied. "Schools don't have good taste. They reject things before giving them a chance."

"I know, but I thought they might have it since we didn't the last time I checked," she said, straightening herself while still breathing heavily.

"It doesn't matter. You'd better have remembered the key."

"Oh, yes!" Sara said as she groped in her coat's pocket for it. It was old and rusted as the last time they had seen it. It unlocked the door, opened it, and let them in the same way. And so began the same part of the daily routine. Or, at least, the part of the daily routine that was bearable. Frigid air met them on the inside of the house.

"Check for it," Terra said.

"Excuse me?" Sara asked.

"The book you were looking for. Maybe you weren't looking hard enough."

"Um, right," she said and went to the library. Before closing the door, she spun around. "Are you sure it's fine? I don't want to spoil your music for myself."

"I need to finish the composition. You worry about your writing. You could be making progress."

"Oh, you're right! What should I do?" Sara moaned to herself and tilted her head down to look at the floor and ponder.

"Whichever."

"All right," she decided. "I'll write and then look for it later. Thanks!" Sara exclaimed and proceeded up the stairs.

"You're happy today," Terra muttered and went to the music room. The piano and other instruments were as they were yesterday and the day before, undisturbed by others, leaning against the white walls and lying on the floor. There was time for finishing and practicing. This piece was rough and different, and would likely be rewritten several times. That was, when it was finished, which would not take long. Ideas had already begun to circulate, and were taking concrete form. Creaks and groans came from the bench, and everything else in the house, it seemed. Paper printed with staffs sat on the piano's stand, dotted with handwritten notes. Different ideas had been neatly drawn out on notebook paper throughout the day. The idea of using a computer to write music was unappealing; it was less personal. The notes were folded up in a pocket amongst pens and pencils. Once the first idea found its way to the lined paper, it began.

Rough, vigorous sounds started the piece. It was meant to sound like that. Not bad to begin with. Midway, it changed to a softer, faster musicality. By the end, it fell apart. Idea number one was a failure. Next, idea number two hit the music. Somewhat better. Idea number three was good. Number four was almost as good, and five was much better. The winner was clear. Idea number five seemed to have the best aspects of the last three ideas. Tempo, chord progression, and melody fit best in that one.

Revisions and rewriting followed. Multiple things, such as accidentals, key changes, dynamics, and tempo markings changed. The bass line was given a complete overhaul in some areas. As soon as the editing process ended, practice began again. Sara being too unassertive to tell that she finished before Terra, thus cutting practice time short, copious amounts of time could be taken for this phase. That would be rude, Terra thought to herself. Sara has to get home. I have to get to work. Sara can make progress in time.

Practicing took some time, but the song became presentable. As usual. The text message got to Sara, who was heard rushing down the stairs and across the main room to the music room. A low moan escaped the doorway as Sara pushed it open, panting with apparent eagerness. Again, as usual.

"You're so desperate," Terra said, grinning at the small, tired thing in front of her.

"I'm sorry," Sara responded.

"Don't. You know I hate that."

"S-s-- I mean…" Sara started to blush.

"Forget it."

"Okay," she said and sat on the spare bench.

"How did it go?"

"It went… fine, I guess."

"Don't guess. Let me see it."

Sara hesitated and gave Terra the laptop. It opened and flashed on, the document covered in words. The novel had made good progress, as predicted. The writing was colorful and somewhat florid, as usual. Some instances of punctuation and spelling resulting in word problems occurred, but less than they normally did. A sentence or two was unnecessary, but other than that, the new passage was solid.

"It's better," Terra said. "Punctuation and spelling need work. The wrong words were used a few times. Better than most."

White to pink to red.

"R-really? I didn't know about this one…. I almost didn't give it to you…" Sara said, her voice wavering a bit.

"Getting better, as usual."

"Th-th-thank you…!"

"It's not bad if you're happy when you do it."

"If I? Oh! So--" she nearly said, but caught herself.

"You're learning. It's my turn."

"Right!" Sara nodded, smiling and still red.

Music flooded the room, the changes and revisions lending power to it, the bass line so new it sounded alien. Everything sounded so different than the beginning. It was better, but sad. What if the idea had flourished in the original way? The song fell soft and fast for a while more than intended. How could that have been overlooked? Sara wouldn't notice, but it was obvious. In the ending of the piece, minimal musical casualties stuck out. The errors drilled and dug, exposing vulnerability and self-consciousness, a bruised ego.

"Absolutely brilliant," Sara said. As expected. Expected, but welcome.

"Thanks," Terra replied, secretly glad for Sara's praise. Something about it sent warmth through her.

"You're welcome," she said perkily.

"What's the time?"

"Five till."

"I can't drive you. I'd be late. Call Mike and tell him you'll be late."

"All right," Sara said. "You can go. I'll just call."

"I'll wait for you."

A silence passed. Sara grew more colorful.

"A…all right. But won't you be late?"

"No. Call him."

With one call, Sara explained herself. The wait as Sara talked with Mike was bearable.

"Well… I guess I'll be, um, seeing you again," Sara said, a slight smile on her face.

"Good. Let's go," Terra said and got up, gathered her things, and went to the door. "Put the computer in the library."

"Okay," Sara responded and rose. Sara followed out the door and to the library, splitting paths. Those old-fashioned doors opened, letting in a gust of the freezing wind. Back into the world of crunching leaves, cold, and forced awareness, as usual. Then again, maybe the usual wasn't so bad. At least, not at the house. Not with Sara.

***

.Spring

Sunshine cascaded upon the scenery. Since the repair job last week, the house looked much better. Mike helped repair some spots on the roof, clean and organize the inside of the house, and begin giving a fresh coat of paint to small areas on the outside. Sara admired the work in progress that was the ancient thing's new face as she walked up the path to the door. It was worlds better than the look it had degraded to by the end of winter.

"Hurry up. I need to work," Terra urged. She wasn't one for pleasantries that day.

"S-- Okay," Sara said, smiling back at Terra and hastening her pace.

"Thanks."

When they reached the door, Sara felt for the key in the pocket of her loose jeans. It was there, and allowed them to enter the house without difficulties.

"The usual?" Terra asked, nodding towards the steps.

"Actually, I thought I might show you something," Sara answered. "I've found a book that you might like."

"Okay. When?"

"After you finish, of course. I wrote some things at home so I could find it again for you. I'm so stupid I can't remember where I put it," Sara said and laughed a bit, blushing, feeling more exposed.

"Give me the computer now so I can practice," Terra said.

"Oh, sure," Sara said, still blushing and taking off her backpack, unzipping it, and emerging with the laptop and handing it to Terra, who held it under her arm. Taking the laptop home and writing caused less and less self-conscience as time had passed. "But shouldn't I go upstairs? Won't I hear you?"

"Doesn't matter. It's the same piece. It needs work," Terra reassured her as she took the computer. "I can't do much with this. You're getting good."

"Please?" Sara begged.

"Fine. Go look for it."

"Th--okay!" she exclaimed, pivoted, and went for the library. It was less cluttered than usual, courtesy of Mike. This should be easy, she thought. Upon further inspection, things were much worse than they were before cleaning. Mike had put random books in random places, changed the location of some, and made it impossible to find others. Well, at least the floor was less cluttered.

I can work around this, right? Sara asked herself, discouraged at the sight before her. How would she ever find the book now? What about the other books she was reading? Everything was in disarray. The nearest stack held nothing of importance. Moving the books over and into other stacks for fear of damaging books slowed the process further. Still nothing. Once the penultimate stack had been sorted, a knock sounded at the door.

"Yes?" Sara called from her kneeling position on the floor.

"Found it yet?" Terra called back.

"No, not yet. Mike changed everything."

"Damn. Keep going. I'll practice. I looked at it."

"Thanks. Let's go over it together after you play."

"Sure," Terra said as she turned and walked back towards the music room. Now to check the individual spines of the books on the wall. It wasn't as bad as Mike's usual screw-ups, but it proved a hindrance. Some of the order remained, but was irrelevant to what Sara read. Music filtered into the room, muffled by walls and space. Calling Mike and asking him seemed to be the only way to get an idea. Pulling the cell phone out and turning, there it was, sitting alone on the floor. The cover torn and battered, the pages yellowed and curled. Catcher in the Rye. It can be our book, Sara thought. That idea sent shivers down her spine for some reason.

The book was aged but strong. A scratched, beaten, black hardback with faded, gold lettering. It seemed to be something Terra might like, so why not? Superb writing and superb characters. Good themes with good morals. Perfect. It was heavy and still laden with some dust, but the volume itself had an air of respectability. Dust flew through the air as the pages fell and turned rapidly. As the door opened, music could be heard in the main room. Terra's improvement made itself apparent.

The music room the same as always, its atmosphere sterile, relaxed, proper, and artistic all at the same time. Refinery came from the room, but also from Terra. She always sat erect and conducted herself with respect. Seated on the piano bench, playing away at the piano, producing note upon note after note. Once Terra looked up and noticed the doorway, she beckoned for Sara to sit, a grin splitting her face.

"Hey," Sara said, the blush setting in.

"Hey," Terra greeted as well. "It's sad."

"What is?"

"It's almost finished."

"With the novel? Yeah. I'm pretty proud," Sara said, hope, pride, accomplishment, and happiness swelling in her chest. All of that work was beginning to pay off.

"A few errors. Nothing serious. Spelling and things."

"I need to work on that."

"Some, yeah."

"What about you? Finished practicing? I bought the book."

"Just finished. I thought we agreed on after I played."

"Oh, we did, didn't we? So-- I mean, I'm so forgetful," Sara said, the blush intensifying. One slipup around Terra seemed to make everything tense and awkward.

"It's fine. Let me play then look at it."

"All right…"

Without further pause, Terra began. It was a beautiful but sad melody, the tempo starting largo and moving to andante, unchanging from that point forward. It became slightly more refined as it progressed. At points it would become happier and higher, then settling back into its normal sound: Stiff, beautiful, proper, and expressive in its own way. The music faded and ended. Intensity and consciousness hung in the air.

"It's different," Sara said. "But I still love it. Absolutely wonderful."

"Thanks," Terra said. All the heaviness disappeared.

"What was the inspiration?"

"What?"

"The inspiration. May I know about it?" Sara asked, tension and heat returning.

"It's… difficult to explain."

"Please?"

Something about the piece haunted. It caused worry for unknown reasons.

"No," Terra snapped.

"Oh. I see," Sara said, her eyes gazing at the floor and her mood dropping. Terra panicked.

"It's hard," she rectified. "For me."

"Okay."

Snapping at Sara felt awful. Disappointment and regret washed over everything.

"Sorry."

"It's fine," Sara said, her head still hanging, her face burning and her body tingling. Having Terra angry withered any remaining happiness in the room.

"Need a ride?" Terra asked, hating herself, hoping to fix the situation. It was falling apart.

"No. It's fine. I'll walk," Sara said. I hope she's not too mad at me, she thought, pitying herself. The words, which always came easily to her, were lost.

"All right," Terra accepted, the urge for the right words rushing to her. No words came. Without them, fear kept the apology from escaping. It was all so wrong.

"Well, bye," Sara said, gathering her things and the laptop, her head bowed in shame. This wasn't the right thing to do. It couldn't be allowed. The want to scream built up, but never gathered enough courage. One step through the door was so painful.

Before Terra could stop her, she left.

"Sorry," Terra managed to say a moment too late, dumbfounded, ashamed, and regretful. Self-loathing and blankness entered the atmosphere. "I'm sorry."

***

A breeze rolled through the awning. Yesterday had shaken Sara. Thoughts of talking to Terra about it aroused nervousness. Why did I have to ask that? She thought to herself. I only made her mad at me. While waiting, the breeze seemed slow, the time stretched, the sunlight still, and the nerve built. It was unbearable. The Corinthian column felt nice and cool to lean against and think the time away.

"Hey."

Sara swirled around and was startled to find Terra standing next to her.

"Oh, uh, hi," Sara said, her face reddened.

"What's up?" Terra asked, the tenseness resulting from yesterday becoming palpable.

"Um, nothing."

"Cool."

"Would you like to…?" she asked, going towards the door.

"Yeah," Terra said, feeling foolish for not apologizing as soon as she spoke to Sara.

It would be hard, but she forced herself.

"I'm sorry," she said, her gaze hitting the floorboards of the porch.

Sara turned her head.

"E-excuse me?" Sara asked, her eyes wide.

"I'm sorry for yesterday," Terra said, still looking at the floor.

Sara was unsure of how to respond. After all, wasn't she supposed to be the one to apologize and hope to avoid being scolded? Wasn't she supposed to be nervous?

"I shouldn't have snapped," Terra continued, feeling an unusual heat building. Before Sara could interject, she said something else. "Don't say you're sorry. You're not at fault. And don't disagree."

"But I--" Sara tried to argue, but was cut short.

"Don't," Terra cut in, smiling with one corner of her mouth. "It's fine. Forget it."

"I--Okay," Sara agreed, smiling and facing Terra, then hugging her, much to Terra's surprise. "Thanks. Apology accepted, even though I'm--"

"Don't," Terra interrupted, grinning and hugging back lightly.

When the hug released, Sara smiled.

"I've still got the book I wanted to show you."

"Great," Terra replied, smiling too.

***

Summer

Heat flowed through and from every direction, causing waves and ripples in the air. Sara wore short sleeves and a skirt that cut below her knees. School would be over soon, and Summer would begin. Luscious, green grass covered the now-mowed lawn, Making the house seem more kempt. Its awning remained the same as always, a constant for the house's exterior because it aged well throughout the years. The awning's floor, however, needed repair thanks to a tragic lawn mower incident involving hitting an especially large and solid rock and the mower flipping, a blade flying and crashing into the floor of the porch. Despite that, Mike did a splendid job.

Terra walked up the walkway to the house, hurrying up the steps and into the shade.

"Hey," she said, seeming unsure of something and staring at Sara, panting.

"Um, hey," Sara said with a smile at Terra having joined her. "Do you want to…?" she asked, nodding at the door.

"I… Yeah, sure," Terra said, an uneasiness about her.

The doors accepted the old key and opened, showing the same room as always. Terra was thankful for something like that.

"Any new pieces?" Sara asked.

"The same one," Terra said.

"Why that same one?"

"I want to get it right today."

"All right. I guess I'll be upstairs, then," Sara said and walked away and up the steps. Something was amiss. Terra didn't seem right. She seemed hurried and bothered by something. Did she have to work earlier today? Maybe. Though something pointed to another fact, unknown as it might have been. Whatever it was, it was unimportant at the moment. Those same old, welcoming hallways and corridors splayed, their maze solved by memory. The writing room had its exact feel, the computer opening and turning on, exposing a long, almost finished document. Another few hundred words or so.

It ended bitter-sweetly. Elena had to leave the paradise she loved so much. The person she'd do anything for, who begged her to leave and be with her art. They would say, "You always put me first, and it broke my heart." At the same time, Elena had a lifetime to perfect her art. Tragic, but happy in its own way. Some proofreading and self-editing, and then completion. Everything came together, and sure took long enough. Another tragedy was that it was finished. Something that became lifeblood and a cherished, expressive part of daily routine for so long, finished. Pride and confidence, hope for finding a publisher, dreams of the future, and a sense of greatness all flowed and danced. Several minutes later, Terra was ready.

That mad dash through the halls calmed and lessened into a walk, for some reason wanting to draw out the time. Something felt wrong. Then, it was clear. Something felt final, as if never to be seen again. As soon as this came to realization, the mad dash revived itself. Stairs moaned and pounded, floors creaked and groaned, warmth and redness filled and warmed cheeks. The music room's door seemed an impenetrable barrier, but it had to be breached somehow. A shaky hand, a nervous pant, an unsteady breathing, an unstable stare. All of them helped bore through and open the door, composing themselves as they helped enter the room and sit down. What was this feeling exactly?

"Hey," Terra said, a sincere and modest smile on her face, sitting behind the piano.

"Hey," Sara said, eyes searching Terra's face while trying to remain normal.

"I'll go first."

"Okay," Sara said, redirecting her gaze to the floor. Everything felt so calm, so nice, yet so sad for some reason. Terra began to play. It was wonderfully happy at first, intriguing, but strained. Then, the music appeared to unravel. Coming back together and brimming with hope, it built towards the climax. Bitter-sweet, like leaving some beloved something. Or someone. But it felt that it or they thought it was right. Slowing, and fading into a beautiful and serene sound, the music stopped. And it dawned. That song, it sounded better than anything Terra played before. It reflected something so lovingly, something like a hobby or a part of life, maybe even a person. It was Sara. It was Sara and her novel. Terra understood how much love, effort, and care went into it, and that it would be finished that day. The beautiful, heart-felt tribute left them speechless.

"I…" Sara began to say, but never finished as Terra rose, gingerly retrieving the laptop and opening it. Moments of silence passed between them, staring up at Terra, who read the text on the screen.

"Amazing. Ended flawlessly," Terra said and closed the computer, setting it on the piano and leaning inward for a hug. Warmth, emotion, tenderness, and loving care muted the world. Terra's body felt comforting and perfect. All as it should have been.

"Thank you," Sara said and closed her eyes, her cheeks flaming and her mind content. The moment should have been frozen forever.

"I've got to tell you," Terra whispered into Sara's ear. If she ever intended to let Sara know the news she'd withheld for so long, this was it. Everything fell together. Now, she thought, speak this time. Say something meaningful. Don't use that stupid, short, meaningless stuff you say. Tell her how you feel for once. "I'm graduating early. I'll go to college out of state. I'll write to you. I'll send you recordings of my music. They'll be better than the crap I've played for you. I'll be wonderful and express myself. You don't have to be happy. Don't lie to me."

How could this be responded to? The feelings confirmed themselves, and the moment presented itself. It was good-bye, but not. It might not have been the best day or the best time or the best way, but it happened, and it was for the best. The hug tightened, and Sara cried quietly, happy and hopeful. Terra would be there for another week or so. They would make the best of those several days any way they could.