The pigeons outnumbered the dark grey paving slabs. Matilda sat near a circular pool in the inner section of the plaza, enjoying the spray of recycled water that emerged from the lips of a busty stone mermaid. It seemed so out of place, compared to the buzz and noise of city traffic. Matilda knew her mother detested her leaving home. Her fingers fumbled over a crinkled letter she’d been composing for the last couple of days. Countless folds and creases decorated the pale cream sheet. Her sprawled scribbles reflected her frustrated deliberation. You don’t understand. Music was a part of my life, my old life. You need to accept that it isn’t me anymore. I want to explore other pathways. I have to. When she had first arrived, her matching orange knit and mitts, handmade by her mother, had set her apart from the stark monochromatic backdrop. Her unique attire hadn’t been rewarded with employment. Checking her watch, she folded up the letter into her pocket, and moved towards the traffic lights on the corner, the click of her black-heeled shoes drowned by a discordant symphony of car horns. Matilda felt pulled along by the dark grey current of black suits and office skirts, until she was forced to an abrupt stop. Like a pillar of sunlight in a dark attic, a haunting strain cut through the dirge of the urban soundscape. Familiar chords and scales lifted from the delicate picking of steel strings, carried on the smog filled air. There he stood. Still, amongst the swarm of bees and the buzzing of cars. The old worn guitar case sat in front of his feet, with a mere couple of dollars resting inside. His fingers flowed over the strings, articulately plucking each to create the most melodious sound, like picking budding flowers to create a delicate scent. His fingers were those of a true guitarist- worn, dirty, and a permanent indentation from the steel strings. Just like Matilda’s. The gentle refrain of the guitar spoke a musical language that she understood fluently. She leant in to every accent and perfect fifth. Instinctively, the music began tracing itself in her mind. The decrescendo transitioning the harmonic arpeggio. Her pale skin was the sheet music, with each black crotchet and quaver imprinting itself. For so long, she realized she had craved that strumming tone with its hypnotic, soothing qualities. The hands skillfully descended from each fret of the neck, like a journey into a new world. It was just her, and the busker, whose music soared, taking with it her and only her. The city was consumed. It devoured the monotony that had stifled her, pulsing through her arteries like water flooding into dry rivulets. ~~~ Their laughter filled the warm night air. Between spontaneous giggles and harmonious duets, they grabbed their picks and started again. “Come on we have to get this right,” Matilda playfully reprimanded her mother. Sharps complimented flats and a harmony lifted from the instruments. Her lack of experience was evident as her fingers fumbled the arpeggios of sound, yet did not detract from the ambience as her mother dominated the song with every graceful strum and flawless tune. She paused, eager to learn from her mother’s masterful control of her Grandfather’s beloved guitar. The mahogany frame, rich with varying tones of chestnut and deep maroon, was a result of decades of his loving caress. Dents decorated the guitar body, echoes of rugged journeys made from town to town, pub to pub. ~~~ In haste to escape the simple life she had lived, Matilda had instinctually grabbed the essentials. There were some other things that she knew weren’t necessities, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave them behind. Packed securely in the box, she coated it in layers of thick tape, so sure that this part of her life held no value in the bustling city that had awaited her. The room was empty, all but for the sheet music that littered across the sparse carpet, like white, bodiless wings with the emptied cardboard box that had contained them. She could easily picture her mother there, sitting amongst the paper, cross legged, guitar nestled in her lap and her concentration painted face, as she always had. ~~~ Matilda relished in the way her mother would completely immerse herself in the emotion of the moment. The deep furrow between her eyebrows would appear like a ravine eroded from running water. A dark curl of hair would wave over her tense face, as she shook in rhythm to the song. “Do you think I’ll be able to play like you one day?” Matilda asked as they tucked sheets of music into folders. “Of course, Tilly. It’s in your blood.” Without another word, she pressed a chipped green pick into Matilda’s palm and gestured with a nodding head. It’s yours. ~~~ The night fog pressed its curious face against the single, tiny window in her cold apartment. She grabbed a notepad and drew four lines parallel above each other. Slowly the crotchets and quavers appeared like the filtered rays of dawn sunlight. A song began to take shape. Her worn hands rested on her pocket, feeling the letter that was once heavy with her frustration. She crumpled it up, aiming it in the bin and with it her previous certainty that music and her mother were in the past. Her hands grappled with the bottom of her sticky-taped box, searching for the familiar plastic teardrop. She had forgotten how comfortably it sat between her fingertips, like a natural extension of her body – a part of herself that she could no longer conceal.

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