I calmly walked to the edge of the cliff looking out at the vast ocean. I smiled as I heard a voice of a girl in my mind.
"One day, I'd walk barefoot in the beach!"
The voice was shaky but enthusiastic. She was like singing as she said those words. I lowered my eyes and looked on as the waves crashed against the cliff face.
"No, you can't walk barefoot here." I answered absent-mindedly.
"Erik?" a voice of a man pulled me out of my thoughts and I turned to him. "We're ready to shoot." He said again as I nodded and walked towards the set.
I was walking through the hallway of the hospital with a bouquet in hand. A friend of mine had just given birth and I only found the time to visit her in my busy schedule. Meetings there and meetings here. I just had gone from one planning for holding an audition to recruit more talents.
My talent agency has just started and I had no time to sit and relax as we have to put everything up, endorse our talents and such. I have never imagined it'd be this stressful. I massaged my throbbing temple.
I had been an artist for more than twenty years and here, I thought running a talent agency would prove to be easier than being an artist. Apparently, I take those words back. Well, no use in regretting what is already here. All I could do now is push through with this business and stick to my promise: "Nurture each potential artist responsibly." And I will do just that.
But as I was drowning in my thoughts, I was stopped in my tracks when I heard a pleasant melody of a piano coming from the other side of the hallway.
Curiously, I followed the sound. And what I found is a young lady in her early twenties playing a tune I have never heard before.
Suddenly, her fingers stopped and scribbled on a piece of paper beside her. She then turned back to the piano and continued to play. Nodding to herself cheerfully, her graceful fingers pressed and slid through the keys making a melancholic melody. I was glued to the ground, waves and waves of different emotions came crashing against my body. My jaw dropped when she started singing. Where was I? This place isn't the hospital anymore. It was like I was transported to a tranquil garden complete with chirping birds and flowering plants everywhere. Every scenery changed with a song. One song, it was lonely. I was put on the shoes of a person longing to see the sea, a person who wanted to get out of a cage. The next song was that of hope. The next is waiting to be found. I blinked. I found her, indeed. And here I am, standing astounded at the talent of this one girl wearing a patient's gown over her sweaters.
I blinked and found myself back in the room with the girl again. She was playing and singing with her eyes closed. She was too immersed in her music to notice me standing right behind her. After a while, she finally turned to my direction and I swore I saw her soul fly out her gaping mouth in surprise. But as quickly as her surprise came, she composed herself and smiled at me.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm sorry I came in without knocking," I answered apologetically. "I was making my way to a friend of mine then I heard you. My name is Erik Rache.' I was taken aback by my own words, I was so stupid for giving her my screen name. Now she's going to freak.
"Oh, nice to meet you." She answered casually. "I'm Raine Sinclair."
"Eh?" I blinked. Nothing? She doesn't know me?
"Um…" she hummed at me awkwardly and I hadn't noticed I was gawking at her.
"Ah, I'm sorry." I smiled and tried to act naturally. "You're such a good pianist, I couldn't help wanting to listen more." She smiled brightly at me and my heart got caught in my throat.
"Thank you." She answered. "I try my best."
"So, what are you…" before I even finished my question, my eyes caught something in her wrist; it's an ID tag for patients. "Are you a patient here?" She nodded, quite cheerfully for someone confined in a hospital. I didn't want to pry further so I didn't ask her why she's confined.
"Were you a music student?" I inquired again.
"Nope, my aunt taught me." She answered. "She taught me a lot of instruments, but the piano is my favorite."
A lot of instruments? Wow, she must be really talented. But if she's such a talent, why haven't I heard of her sooner?
"I was writing a song when you came along."
Now this got a bit more awkward.
"Sorry about that." I apologized again and she smiled the same way she did.
"It's alright, I don't mind. It's not every day I get to have someone watch me play." I, in turn, smiled at her and we chatted a bit longer until she had to go back to her room at the urging of her nurse. She looked sad when she left and it left an impression on me.
I merely shrugged it off and made my way to my friend's room and mentally made a note in my mind, I'd leave my business card for her when she gets discharged, maybe I can get her to audition in the talent agency I'm running and officially make her an artist.
"Her name is Raine Sinclair. A weird name." I scoffed at myself and knocked on the door.
After a few days, I came back to ask her permission to record her song so I can submit it to the recording studio that's affiliated to my company. When I came, I found Raine playing the grand piano in the lobby of the hospital. I smiled at the sight. She was having fun. Her eyes caught me, but she continued playing. I smiled back and watched her until she stopped. I noticed her trying to catch her breath and immediately approached her.
"Maybe we should go back to your room?" I suggested. She nodded and I supported her as she tried to stand up. "Can you walk?"
"Don't worry, I can walk a bit." She answered and started making her way back to her room with my help.
I opened the door to her room and immediately noticed it desolateness, there was no sign of people visiting her. The only things in her room are pens and sheets of paper with musical notes scribbled on them.
Wait, maybe that's why she spends most her time playing the piano. Though she did say she has an aunt.
"Thank you." She said and sat on her bed. "I'm glad to see you again, Mr. Rache."
"I'm glad you remember me." I answered and stood in front of her. "Do you need anything? Water? Something to eat?"
"No, I just need to rest." She answered. "Thank you for helping me back here, Mr. Rache."
"Please, just call me Erik." I said and she mouthed an "oh, okay". She heaved a breath and laid on her bed.
"Maybe this is a bad time to visit…" I started but she cut me off mid-sentence.
"It's okay, I'm happy someone came to see me." She beamed at me. I raised an eyebrow.
"How long has she been here exactly?" I asked myself.
"What can I help you with?" her question made me remember the purpose of my visit.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you that I'm the president of a talent agency…" I started and I can see her eyes glow. "And I came to you today to ask if I can record one of your songs to submit to a recording studio?" No beating around the bush huh, Erik? You just had to be that frank?
"A recording studio? My songs?" she asked. "You want to record my songs?" I nodded and smiled. "But why?"
"I saw a potential in your work." I answered. "Your talent would cater to what the audience wants to hear."
"Really?" she glowed brighter. "You think the people would love my music?"
"Yeah, I really think so." I answered, smiling reassuringly at her. "So, if I may, and when you feel better, may I have your permission to record your work?"
"Of course, I'd love to!" Wow, that was fast. Just like that she agreed. We signed the necessary contracts, reviewed everything and worked on recording her songs in the hospital since she was not allowed to leave—scratch that, the doctor never allowed her to leave. That was the first hurdle for us and for her, we had to ask the hospital to lend us a conference hall where we can set up our things, luckily they're more than cooperative. And throughout the process, she was lively— energetic, as I may say so myself. The doctor said it was a good sign for her and I was feeling good about what we were doing. She loved writing songs and she loved writing her own music, so she was motivated.
And I stood inside the studio waiting for the sound engineer to finish tweaking in his controls and listening to the song. I was confident about the song, it's going to be big hit.
For a few weeks, I went around and got through the necessary paperwork to release the song and get it to play on the airwaves, and not long after, I've been hearing her songs everywhere. We received positive reviews and the people are talking about who this Raine Sinclair was. My hunch was spot on. That one song was a hit. Maybe we can push it further and release the rest of what we recorded? I smirked to myself. I really found an exceptional talent.
I was having coffee at a café, going through the papers my secretary had given me, when I stopped to listen carefully to the music she made.
I sighed a deep sigh of relief. This one saved me a ton of work and time.
But then I stopped to think.
The lyrics that she wrote are mostly one of the person wanting to be remembered. I shuffled through my luggage to review the lyrics that she wrote.
I was right.
Her lyrics, though of different tempos and melodies all tell the listener one thing.
"Remember me through my music"
I was so stupid. Why hadn't I noticed before?
No wonder why she was openly ready to let me record her songs.
I packed my things and checked my watch: 17:40. The hospital should still be accepting visits for their patients.
Without minding the crumpled papers I stuffed in my bag, I rushed to hail a taxi to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
I literally feel my heart beating in my throat. I've never been this worked up before. My hands suddenly felt cold, I was actually worried for Raine. I rushed inside the hospital and to the floor where the conference room is. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator, I heard the sound of a piano reverberating through the hallway and I sighed. It was like a heavy load was lifted from my shoulders. I walked towards the conference room and saw her small figure sitting in front of the piano, her skillful fingers gracing the keys and making melodies that make one want to shed either tears of joy or tears of sadness upon hearing. For me? I definitely detect sadness in her music. But I couldn't pinpoint where and what or why. Which is why I came.
"Raine." I called her gently so I wouldn't surprise her. She stopped playing and turned to me, smiling.
"Hello, Erik." She greeted me. It's been a few weeks since we last met and she has lost weight. "How are you doing?"
"Ah," I was caught by surprise. "I'm good. You?" I took a chair and sat down in front of her and she nodded, telling me that she's fine.
"What can I help you with?"
Eh? Oh, I just realized I always came to her when I need some sort of help in the music department. I smiled a bit and breathed deeply.
"Raine, mind if I ask you something personal?" I asked. Really? You really didn't bother making your words a bit gentler, Erik? Really?
"Sure." She answered.
Oh. Oh, okay. This is going to be a long chat.
"Alright, first I wanted to ask why you're confined here."
"Spinocerebellar ataxia." She answered straightforwardly.
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked again. This medical jargon never got to me, not even once.
She chuckled and repeated what she has said and finally caught the word.
"It's a disease that causes me to lose coordination in everything I do." She explained. "At first, I kept falling over and kept injuring myself. It slowly progresses from my feet up until my body shuts down."
Body shuts down. Meaning she'd die from this disease? She's slowly dying?
"As of now, I'm finding it hard to walk straight." She continued. "My knees won't bend the way I want them to."
I see. In time, she'd lose the ability to play the piano. Which is why she writes songs in her spare time. Wait, in this modern day and age there has to be a cure.
"There's a cure for your disease, right?" I asked but she shook her head. No way. She knew. She's dying and she knows.
"I play the piano and write down the songs in the hope that I'd gather courage to face what is to come. And to tell people that this disease exists; that people like me exists."
Wow, that's deep.
Who knew this girl was thinking about that? She looked at me and smiled. That smile showed me her resolve; that behind that sweet smile, is a strong woman. I couldn't help but admire her courage. She's already courageous, that much I know. While I was deep in my thoughts, she continued: "Thank you so much Erik for everything."
Alright, that did it. I felt my eyes getting wet. Then I remembered I had other things to ask her.
"How long have you been here?" I asked again.
"Hmmm," she paused in thought. "Two years, I think?"
Two years? In this hospital? Two years in confinement? I was astounded.
Now, I'm breaching my own policy of never getting emotionally attached to my talents. This is all your fault, Erik! Why did you have to ask her that?!
"I'm sorry to hear that…" I murmured hanging my head low. I was actually guilty of having to ask her that, it must be a terrible thing. No, that's an understatement. I looked at her and it seemed like she's already made up her mind and accepted what is going to happen to her. Unconsciously, I clenched my fists. This is unfair. Why is this life unfair to her? I looked at her again, there's no turning back. I already gotten this close to her, more than any of my talents.
"You said you had an aunt, right?" I asked again. "Where is she?"
"She went to the States after I got confined," she answered. "She married her American boyfriend and left me here. I have no other relatives left."
"And your parents?"
"They're gone. They died in a car crash."
So she's alone. No wonder why her room is so desolate. No one comes to visit her.
"Let me help you." I said.
"You've already done enough for me, Erik." She answered, smiling at me. "You helped me get my message across many people. That alone is enough for me."
Is she talking about a legacy? If that's so, then I won't accept it.
"Stop talking like you're going to die!" I shouted exasperatedly. Her eyes widened in surprise at me. I was surprised myself. As I said, I never got this worried and angry before. My fists are clenched so tightly that my hands start to hurt.
I think I heard her call my name but I missed it.
"Don't talk like that! It's not the end!" I raised my voice, not minding if anyone heard me or if I get banned from getting inside this hospital. I wanted to make a point.
She's not alone.
She won't be alone.
"I'm here." I finally said. "I'm here now, I won't leave you."
Wow, this feels cliché. And I sound cheesy. My face suddenly felt hot like I've walked several miles under the summer heat. Her eyes trembled, I can see that she's close to tears for I can see the tears welling up.
"Why?" she asked. "I'm only a stranger. We only met a few weeks ago."
"That's true," I couldn't explain why I care so much either. I was hoping she'd answer it for me. I was quite disappointed that she didn't have the answer too. "But you're not a stranger to me, not anymore." Am I right? "We're no longer strangers to each other, are we?"
She sniffed and tears start falling down her cheeks.
Is this the part where I hug her? This is getting even more cliché but I don't care anymore, I just wrapped my arms around her. She stiffened at first but as a few seconds passed, she relaxed and let me embrace her. I started patting her shoulder to calm her down and she did calm down after a while.
"Feeling better?" I asked after I felt that she stopped crying. She nodded and moved back and into her seat. She heaved a sigh and looked at me.
"How unsightly," she said. "I'm so sorry you had to see that."
Seriously? She's apologizing? I thought that was my line.
"No, it is I who was unsightly." I interrupted her. "It was unbecoming of me as an artist. Forgive me." Wow, really? I said that? I've been told that I was prideful before, now I know why they said that to me. "I'm sorry. I'm stressing you out. Shall I help you back to your room?" she wordlessly nodded at me and we went back to her room.
"Erik, I…" she called. I looked at her and sighed.
"I'm really sorry for raising my voice at you." It was a really bad move of me. I have always been one to lose my temper easily and it has always been a thorn at my side and people have called me out for it. But let's be honest; I can't help it. And I'll be honest, this is the first time I apologized without a hint of bitterness in my mouth. She simply smiled at me.
"I'm sorry if I…said anything wrong." She finally said.
"No, I was the one who should be sorry. I asked you about it, so…yeah." I said awkwardly. "Please don't make me apologize again."
She got me.
"Alright, I won't. I'm sorry." I can't believe it. She was teasing me and she read me like a book! I turned away exasperatedly, but hey, I was a bit upset. I looked at her as she climbed up her bed and tucked herself in. "Thanks for your help Erik."
Ah, right. It's almost time for me to leave.
"Thank you for answering my questions." I smacked myself mentally. "Ah, I mean…I…" I stammered. Me? I stammered? An actor stammered in his words? I must be losing a few screws. I shook my head and found the words. I found them, but it came out differently. "I got the sales for your song."
"Oh." She blinked and I took out the envelope. "Oh, please you can donate it to some charity out there."
"But this is yours." I said and she shoved the envelope my direction, as if she's telling me to keep it. I may have a bad temper but it's not my hobby to keep someone else's hard-earned money even if they asked me to. No, not going happen. She's going to keep it whether she likes it or not!