Peer Review by lizbadiz (United States)

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A Note For You

By: kitkatfanning


FREE WRITING

My beautiful Grace sat at the piano as she always did. She played sweet melodies that I loved to listen to. Her tender touch painted precious stories for hours on end.
“How can you do that so much?” I asked
“I don’t know.” she said, still playing the ivory keys.
“Do you ever do anything else?”
“Of course.”  She flipped the page.
“Could you maybe look at me when you talk, I mean you’ve been playing almost three hours now.” She finally looked up from the piano.
“Well now that I’m looking at you, you’ve stopped talking.” She said.
“Maybe spend some time with me, we are dating after all.”
“But dearest,” her voice was sarcastic “I’m in love with the music.”
“Maybe you could be in love with me.”
“How am I supposed to become a professional if I don’t practice?”
“You have practiced, but now it’s my turn.” I pulled her from the bench and spun her around. “How about a night in the town, Grace, I could take you out to dinner.”
“Alex Brighton,” she said, almost annoyed, “You always take Me out, so this time I’m going to take You ice skating.”
I laughed “Fine by me. I’ll go warm up the car.”
    We gathered some warm things and headed to the car. Grace hated driving because she wasn’t able to “appreciate the glowing city”, so I alway drove. This was hard for me most of the time because I loved to watch her smile. As she fell in love with the lights, I fell more in love with her, which I didn’t think possible, but somehow it always happened. My favorite part was when we passed the concert hall and she would turn to me just to say, “That’s where I will be tomorrow.” She had this dream of being a famous concert pianist, I honestly don’t know why she wasn’t already. I pulled up to the ice rink and went around the car to open the door for her.
    “Thank you, kind Sir.” she said in a terrible British accent.
    I smiled at her “You know I don’t like sir.”
    “Fine,” she said, but she gave me a look that meant: You know I won’t stop calling you that. “Let’s go in, I wanna race you.” Grace had this competitive nature that led to many races or heated game nights. I usually let her win, but she didn’t know that. I didn’t care much to win, but I did care to see her jump up and down from beating me yet again. The only times I did beat her was when I thought she was getting haughty, then I would laugh at the way she would brush off the loss, saying winning didn’t matter anyways.
    “Alex,” she said quietly “I forgot my wallet.”
    “It’s ok, I have mine. I’ll pay.”
    “No, you can’t! I was supposed to take you out tonight, we should just go home.” Grace started sobbing. Poor girl, so emotional, though she didn’t like to admit it. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to my chest. I ran my hands through her hair and lightly brushed her cheek.
    “Grace,” I whispered, “I have an idea of where to go.”
    “You can’t take me anywhere,” she mumbled through sobs “I was supposed to pay for you.”
    “But what if we didn’t have to pay where we’re going?” She lifted her eyes just a bit, I could tell she was curious.
    “Where would that be?” She asked.
    I gave her a sly smile. “Well why don’t we get back in the car and you can see.”
She wiggled out from my arms and excitedly jumped into the car. I hopped back in the driver's seat and we left the ice rink. I drove until we reached the concert hall, which was surrounded by blooming gardens illuminated by fairy lights.
    “Let’s go for a walk.” I stepped out of the car and moved to the other side to open the door for her, but when I got there she was already out waiting.
    “This is the perfect date.” She said. Her smile was wide and her eyes lit up like a child’s, but she still didn’t know about the ring in my pocket. She grabbed my hand and we walked around the garden, sometimes stopping to look at flower or to sit on a bench. As we turned a corner to the back side of the hall my heart began to race. This is it, I was going to ask her to marry me.
    I pointed at a flower to divert her attention while I fished the ring from my pocket. I got to one knee and waited patiently for her to turn around.
    “Alex I don’t see what you’re pointing at.” She said, her head still turned.
    “Oh,” my voice was shaking, “maybe I was just imagining it, but check out this thing over here.” She turned around and her eyes grew wide. “Grace Elaine Fischer, will you marry -”
    “Yes!” She screamed before I could finish. I stood up and slid the ring onto her finger, a perfect fit. She jumped into my arms and let joy filled tears roll down her cheeks, which of course made me cry too. For a long moment, there we stood in each others arms, a hot mess of sobs, excitement, and pure joy and happiness. I pulled back from the tangle of emotions and checked my watch; 11:58. A little late, but the clubs hadn’t closed yet, so it was still a safer time to drive.
    “We should probably head home soon, it’s getting late.”
    “Ok.” Her smile was the biggest I’d ever seen and I felt myself fall more in love. We started our walk back to the car. Grace had a tendency to wear bad shoes, so not long after did she complain about her feet hurting. I gave a loving sigh and bent down just a bit so she could jump on my back. This happened so often it was routine at this point, but I still felt blood rush to my face when she nuzzled her nose into the back of my neck. I could feel her falling asleep, and I held tighter as her arms started to slip. I turned the last corner of the concert hall and found my car in the empty parking lot. With Grace still on my back, I opened the passenger door and then slid her into the seat. I made sure to buckle her too, I knew she wasn’t going to remember. I shut the door carefully then walked around to the other side. Once I started the car I sat to look at Grace for just a moment more. This precious, sleeping girl was going to be my wife. Once I pulled out of the parking lot I took a left. Sure it would have been faster to go right, and sure she was asleep, but it was Grace’s favorite road to take home. The road was fairly calm at this time of the night, so much so that I probably could ignore the traffic signals, but I wasn’t going to do that. I got caught at a lot of red lights, but I didn’t mind, it just meant I could look at Grace some more.
    I was at the second stop light from home when it happened. When that drunk driver hit the car, when my beautiful Grace was slammed into at 96 miles an hour. Why did they have to hit the passengers side? After the black in my vision faded I fumbled for my phone through broken glass, paying no attention my own injuries, but instead looking at Grace’s contorted body and bleeding head. I punched 911 as quick as I could and did my best to explain the scene. I got myself out of the crushed car, but Grace’s door was stuck. So I reached my hand through the shattered window, lightly touching my fiance's face. Her eyes blinked frantically, but I don’t think she knew what was going on. Moments later help arrived, they pulled me away from the side of the car and treated me for shock as I watch them rip the car door off to get Grace out. They moved her limp body onto the stretcher, I was afraid she didn’t make it, but relieved when she moved her arm, even just a little. I watched as they hoisted her into the ambulance, my eyes wide and full of fear.
    “You don’t have major injuries, would you like to go with her?” My hearing was muffled. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the actual accident or the shock from it. The EMT repeated himself. “Would you like to go with her?”
    Without moving my head I let out a soft “Yes, yes please.” They helped my shaking body into the ambulance and sat me down on the bench next to her. “What’s the time?” I asked. The EMT looked at his watch.
    “12:46.” Less than an hour ago, I asked her to marry me.
    The ambulance sped to the emergency room. When we got there they swung the doors open and rushed Grace inside. They took me to go get some things checked. All I left with was a minor concussion and a sprained wrist. I was released with a note excusing me from work, then I walked down to the waiting room. I waited for a long time. My heart raced, not for the crash, but for Grace. I wasn’t the religious sort, but I prayed. I wished to God that my Grace would be strong. That she would heal and be healthy and that she would never have to go through a trial like this again. She was in there an awful long time. I watched probably five other people come in and leave before the doctors came to talk to me.
    “She is not going to make it,” he said, “but she is barely conscious. If you wish, you can go back to say a few last words.”
    Last words. That comment stung my heart, and I felt tears build up in my eyes. I was speechless, so I gave a half nod and the doctor showed me back. I was sickened by the sight of all the tubes striking and running through my Grace. She was stuck with a thousand needles  connected to a thousand more medical machines barely keeping her alive. Then came the tears, I couldn’t hold back. “Grace,” I whispered through quiet sobs, “Grace I’m here, I’m here.” Her eyes blinked once, but she didn’t say anything. I couldn’t bear to see her this way. “Grace can you hold on for me?” I panicked. I know I couldn’t convince her to live but I still felt as if I had to try. She looked at me with tired eyes that seemed glossed over and unattentive. “Grace, we’re going to get married, you’re going to be my wife.” What else, what else could I say to her. “Grace,” the tears were falling harder “remember the concert hall, that’s where you’ll be. You’ll be a profound concert pianist. Tomorrow,” I said “that’s where you’ll be tomorrow.”
She opened her mouth, and let out a hoarse whisper “I’m sorry.” That was the last thing she said. Medical instruments shrieked and doctors rushed in. They removed me from her room and calmly shut down all of the equipment. They told me they would be transporting her to the morgue and asked if she had family I would like them to call.
“No,’ I said “I was all she had left.”
The next few days I spent grieving. I refused to make funeral plans because that would mean she was gone. She was really gone. The two of us only had a couple close friends, who I was blessed to have in this dark time. They comforted me, took some weight off my shoulders, but in the end I still had one thing to face. The funeral.
A few days after her death I began planning, it hurt, but I had to do it. I invited all of our friends, which meant three people. I wanted to invite family, but we each had been disowned. Since I couldn’t afford a cemetery plot, I bought an urn. Made of maple and mahogany, just like her piano. I ordered her favorite flowers; pink peonies, but this time they were white. I took care of eulogy and asked our friends to say a few words. It would be somewhat of a casual gathering since there were so little of us. My friends took care of everything else, I was certainly thankful for that.
The following Saturday; April 27, we met outside the city for the service. April skies were Grace’s favorite, as were the country’s rolling hills. I had arranged to use a small church and asked that it be filled with peonies. My friend had offered to play the piano, but I couldn’t bear it’s sound. The ring of ivory keys reminded me too much of Grace. Instead, my other friend played somber songs on the cello. The small service commenced and I stood to give my eulogy.
“She was my saving Grace. In a time when my family pushed me away, Grace was there to catch me. Before Grace, I had never been loved for me, so I guess before her, I was never loved at all. For years she showed me that it was ok to be different because she would be different with me. She had this contagious smile and it always made me love sick. I found that every day I would fall more and more in love with her.” This is where the tears started. “So I decided that I wanted to love her every day for the rest of my life. On April 22, I took her for a walk around the concert hall, her favorite place. I knew she would play there one day, and play at many others worldwide. Her success was my happiness, so it was a special place for me too. I remember my heart racing as we turned the back corner of the hall. I remember pointing into the distance so I could pull out the ring. I remember her excitement as she cut me off before I could finish the question. I remember, but how could I not? It was only 5 days ago. A few hours later, on April 23, she was gone. Her last words to me were ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t know why, but I do know she had nothing to be sorry for. I read somewhere that white flowers represent innocence so I was certainly drawn to them. But mostly, they were to be used for something else. White roses represent unity within marriage, but since peonies were her favorite, we would use them at our wedding instead. These were supposed to be at the altar on the happiest day of my life. Instead here they mark the most grief stricken I’ve ever been.
Grace Elaine Fischer, there was not a moment in our lives together that I did not love you.” My cries got louder and more slurred. I believe I was the only one that knew what I was saying. “And there will never be a moment that I will not love you. You showed me how to take on the world and be myself. I will never forget your kindness. I will never forget your smile. I will never forget how you changed me. And I promise I will never forget you.” I broke down in tears and trudged back to my seat. I couldn’t very well hear the other’s words, my thoughts were swirling and my mind was elsewhere.
After the service we pulled out a few picnic baskets and celebrated Grace’s life. It was a nice picnic and a beautiful sunset, Grace would have loved it. As nice as it was, come time, I was ready to go home. I drove back to the city, but took the long way home. I didn’t want to pass the concert hall. When I walked in the front door I placed her urn on the piano and closed the doors to the music room. I didn’t want to look because when I did all I could see was Grace sitting there again. But she wasn’t. Grace was gone, and I had to come to terms with that.
    A couple weeks went by and I was back at work again. Supermarket floor manager. It wasn’t a fun job, but it paid the bills. I thought was fine until I started listening to the background music. That’s how I learned almost any song will have piano in it, even if it’s just a note or two. A few days later my boss found me crying in the bathroom and suggested that I take another two weeks leave. It was a nice offer, but I had to decline, I needed to move on with my life. A year later I did just that. I went to work per usual and my day went on. No grieving, no crying, just a regular day.
And it was just a regular day when I decided I could look at the piano again. When I decided that it might need to be dusted. I opened the doors to the music room, and sure enough I was right. While Grace was alive the piano was always clean, but now here it sat with a layer of thick dust. I grabbed a rag and got to work, cleaning the dust off all they keys and crevices. But about halfway through, my hand slipped and slammed into a few keys. It sounded nothing like Grace’s tender playing, but it was still enough to drive me from the room. The note rang with stinging discord and grieving familiarity. I hated the piano, I hated it. I never wanted to hear a note of it again, not unless Grace would play. I slammed the doors shut and walked to my room.
I woke late that night because I thought I heard the piano keys. Confused by the sound, I rolled over and told myself I had imagined the ivory keys slam in discord,  but a few minutes later I heard a handful of notes slammed on all at once. In a panic, I made my way slowly to the music room, grabbing a pan for self defense as I passed the kitchen. I pushed the music room doors aside slowly and reached in to flick on the light. To my surprise, I saw the urn on the floor. The mahogany case  must have fallen and hit the keys. I picked it back up and placed it neatly in its spot on the piano. I wanted to turn and leave the room, but instead I found myself sitting on the piano bench instead. I ran my fingers lightly over the keys and softly pressed one down. Grace had such a magical touch when it came to the piano, as for me, I didn’t even know the names of the notes. I hit the key again, and then a few others, trying to compose some kind of song. But I had no musical talent, so it sounded terrible. Still I found myself wanting to play more and more. Not for the sake of my own entertainment, but something about it just felt right. Almost as if Grace wanted me to remember this way.
That night I made the bold decision that I would learn piano. No, not just learn it, I would become a concert pianist. I self taught for a while, looking a few things up online, learning the notes. I ordered a couple teach yourself books, and practiced at any chance I had. About a year after self teaching I realized I wasn’t progressing much, so I asked my friend to teach me some more.  Quickly she ran out of teaching ability, she was always surprised with my dedication. On her last day teaching me she said, “I can play a few hymns, but I know that’s not what you want, so I think it’s time for you to get yourself some real lessons.”
I spent weeks researching and looking for an adult piano teacher. Finally, I found Frau Schulz. She was a short and square german woman with a thick accent and a big smile. Her website even said: I love to teach adults. It’s like finding your inner child again when you approach a new thing with such enthusiasm. I liked Frau Schulz, but her lessons were quite expensive, and to top that, I was attending soloist concerts every Sunday at the concert hall in attempts to learn a thing or two.
I talked to my manager who rose my salary a bit, and Frau Schulz who lowered my lesson costs. I think my motives may have touched their hearts in a way none other has because they seemed happy to change a few things so that I may follow my aspirations.
I loved how the music moved me, and I think I finally understood why Grace loved to play. However, I was nowhere near as good as she was, and nowhere near famous concert pianist level. I was hoping my trip to Europe might change that.
I spent three months touring Europe’s most musical cities, learning about famous composers and concert halls. I immersed myself in the different periods of music and attended a concert every Saturday. On the other days I went to museums or small local concerts. From that trip I learned that if I wanted to be even better, I needed to practice much more. I was already practicing 6 hours a day, 7 days a week, so anything more would almost be impossible.
When I returned I talked to Frau Schulz who upped my lessons to two times a week, but that still wasn’t enough. I talked to my friends and they suggested that I shorten my work days, but I still needed to pay the bills. After a few weeks of thought they came to me saying to shorten my work days to 4 hours and they would help compensate for the money I would not be making. It was a generous offer that they wouldn’t let me turn down. So I did it. At this time I was into my third year of practice and I was progressing fast. Now that my work days were only 4 hours, I practiced for 12 hours a day for 5 days a week, and on the weekends I practiced for 16 hours. However, I left time on Sundays to go see the concert being held at the hall.
By the end of the year Frau Schulz said that I had surpassed her teaching ability, that if I wanted to play for others to hear I better start looking for opportunities to do so. Since she wasn’t able to teach me anymore, I ended my lessons with her, but we still kept in touch. I had saved enough money to quit my job and devote myself to piano for about two years, so I did just that.
For two years I practiced for 16 hours every day. Get up, brush teeth, eat, play piano, shower, brush teeth again, then go to bed. This was my daily routine For a birthday and Christmas gift my friends got me tickets to see the Chopin competition in Europe. When I got there I found a place to get an extra judging sheet so that I could see what the judges were looking for. I learned a lot from that trip and when I got back I worked to perfect every detail outlined on the scoring sheet.
Four months after returning home I got a call from Frau Schulz. “I have for you a position at the concert hall!” She was excited, her accent was thick and she had a tendency to jumble words.
“Frau Schulz,” I asked politely “Can you say that again?”
She slowed down and took a deep breath. “On Sunday there is always concert, yes?”
“At the concert hall, yes.” I said
“Well, the man who was supposed to play tomorrow fell ill, they were looking for someone to play in his place, I said you would. No need  worry about preparing, I have already put together program of your best pieces. All you need to do is stop by my house and pick it up to practice.”
I was bursting with joy, and excitement. I grabbed my keys as I ran out the door. Once in the car, I had to keep from speeding all the way to Frau Schulz’s house. This mood didn’t last long. I picked up the music and went home. When I got home I went from excited to mortified. I had never played in front of an audience before, especially not one of hundreds. The nerves took over, I felt like I was going to be sick. None the less, I sat at the piano and pulled out the score. Frau Schulz had done a wonderful job picking the program. Sitting before me were songs I had perfected a thousand times over, but my hands shook and didn’t seem to want to hit the correct notes at all. Still I played through. It was a short program, only about an hour. I finished one time through, mortified of all the mistakes I had made. The nerves were too much, I couldn’t do it. My stomach was turning, I was gonna throw up. I ran to the bathroom. I sat on the floor for what felt like an eternity choking on sobbs. I couldn’t do this, why did I ever think I could? I pulled my phone out to call Frau Schulz, to tell her to cancel the show. They needed to find someone else.
I started dialing the numbers when the keys were smashed in the other room. I lifted my weak body from the floor and walked back to the music room, where I found Grace’s urn lying on the floor.
“What do you want from me!” I screamed. “I can’t play like you!” I stared at the urn as if expecting an answer. What would Grace say? I picked up the urn and placed it back on the piano. I sat myself down and remembered when Grace made mistakes.
    “Just try again, you’ll get it right.” she told herself. “It just needs some practice.”
Just try again.
    I ran my hand over the keys once more. Shakily I began to play. I practiced non-stop, playing through every mistake, every mishap, every wrong note. Each round was played with more emotion than the last. Each round more perfect than before. Just try again. I felt the notes flow through me. It just needs practice. I remembered Grace. You’ll get it right. For Grace, my thoughts cried! For her memory!
    As I played the last note I swear I could hear her in the doorway and hear her sweet voice say to me. “You’re ready.”
    I turned my head fast to find no one there. Tears ran down my face. Not tears of mourning or sadness, but tears of joy. Tears that knew, through me, Grace would live on.
    The next evening I prepared myself to go on stage. No nerves clouded my thoughts, no sickness pushed me back. The lights flickered on the stage and I made my way to the piano right in the center. “You’re ready.”
    I played with more confidence than ever before. Hit every note with precision. Made no mistakes. As if to say “Look Grace, this is for you.”
    I played my last note and the audience erupted with applause. A standing ovation from every seat.
    When I got backstage the managers were awestruck and later worked hard to make me known. I went on to play concert halls around the world, and record with many other groups. I soon became one of the most famous concert pianists worldwide, inspiring many.
    Not long after my fame began to rise, I started doing interviews. My favorite interview was with a writer for BBC Music Magazine. I remember only one question she asked. “Alexandria, what inspired you to become such a profound concert pianist?”
    The answer was simple “Grace.”
    My answer was heard around the world, and my story was told. I caught the attention of an unexpected group, her family.
    I had never told Grace’s parents of her death, so they came to me when they heard. Instead of chewing me out and being angry, they embraced me. They pulled me close and her father said he was proud of me, and appreciated that I was carrying Grace’s memory on.
And her mother, choked on tears as she said to me “If only we opened up sooner.”
My parents were nowhere to be seen during this time, I assumed they were still ashamed to call me family, but that didn’t matter. I now had the support of Grace’s family, which to me, was worth so much more

A note for you was written with the intent of sparking inspiration. Often it is our own personal duty to turn our trials into success stories, and thought they may not be as large as Alex Brighton’s, any success to from a trial deserves recognition and congratulations.

Message to Readers

Any form a feed back is greatly appreciated. The only way to improve is from careful constructive criticism.


Peer Review

This was so sad! But also really powerful...it reminded me a lot of a great feel-good movie with a beautiful piano (of course!) soundtrack.


You spend a lot of time reporting what happened after Grace's death. I know that it's a lot happening over a long period of time, but try to delve into specific moments and give us a feel for what happened, rather than skimming over it all.


Reviewer Comments

A few notes....Work on the mechanics of dialogue. It takes a while to get the hang of, but your writing will improve immensely once you figure it out.
Also, try to show, not tell. Don't tell us the character's feelings, show us actions that display them.
Thirdly-to keep from having run-on sentences....try to start a new sentence whenever the subject changes. Same goes for paragraphs.
To make your writing easier to read, you should also alternate the length of your sentences. It will flow so much better when you can do this.
Good job! With some revision you'll have people reaching for their Kleenex to sob their hearts out.