Peer Review by Bellbell0307 (United States)

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It's Not Fine

By: korra4life

My fingers are frozen. My heart is beating terribly fast. Out of habit, my leg starts bouncing up and down. I want to scream or cry or probably both but instead, I stay still. There is silence throughout the auditorium. I refuse to look at the audience. I know what I will see. I hear a noise and glance behind me. I see four classmates and my teacher. She looks frightened and gestures for me to continue. I look back at the piano and take a shuddering breath. 
"You can do it, honey. Just tap the keys. Tap... tap... tap. There you go!" mom instructed, holding her hands over mine. I still frowned. It was hard. I looked up at her. 
"I can't. It sounds good because you're holding my hand. Promise you won't let go?" I whispered. I felt mom stiffen but she still sounded happy when she responded. 
"Of course. I promise." 

She lied. She let go. I blink and look up at the girl that I am accompanying. I don't know her that well. But I do know that she's talented. Her eyes are closed and it looks like she's dancing across the stage even though I know very well that she isn't. In her arms is a cello. She isn't sitting on the chair that's behind her and is instead standing. Her red hair is pulled up into a bun above her head but I don't look at her face. I can't bring myself to. I know what I'll see. 
Instead, I stare at the keys. I imagine myself playing them. I know I can play them. I had only a month to prepare for this but I know the notes better than I know my address. I can play the notes backwards or forwards. I don't even have to look at the sheet music in front of me. My mom called it a gift. She lied. It's not a gift. 
I look up again and see the girl, her eyes on me. She smiles and gives a subtle nod before closing her eyes again. I don't know what she means but I don't need to. I lift my hands and place them in the correct position on the piano. I hear the next part before I start playing. It is easy and effortless. I don't look at the keys and I don't look at the girl. I know what I will see. 
As soon as I finish, the audience is in an uproar. I see the girl looking at me, waiting for me to join her in the center of the stage. I don't. I stand and walk away from the piano and into the sidelines. My teacher looks surprised and reaches out to me but I ignore her. I don't want to hear it. 
I enter the practice room that we were given and pick up my backpack. I knew I shouldn't have done this. I told my teacher so. I even told the girl that. But no one ever listens to me. Because they apparently know best. I forget to change out of my tight dress and instead walk out of the building in it. There are no people with bouquets and balloons in the lobby waiting for me. There's no smiling or familiar faces. Just a crowd of shadows. I make my way through the throng and am out soon enough. 
"What in the world was that? You know full well, Mira, that you have talent. But you do this every time. Stop hiding behind that--" my teacher yells but I tune her out. I really don't care for what she has to say. I don't even take a piano class at school. 
"I'm leaving" I mutter and walk out the classroom before she can say anything else. I hate it when she keeps me after school to talk about how many opportunities I'm missing out on. I don't see them as opportunities. I see them as curses. I see them as anchors and chains to things I want no part of. 
I sit outside on one of the benches. Heve and Gia want to take me to a party today. I told them that I was sick but since they saw me here at school, they knew I lied to them. Gia was at lacrosse practice and Heve was probably with the chess team. I cross my legs out of habit and open my backpack. I already finished my homework for the day but I might as well work ahead. 
As soon as I take my laptop out, a shadow falls over my lap. I look up to see a girl with bright red hair. She stares at me for a long time before sitting down next to me. I push my backpack off of the bench and scoot to the far end. "Why did you run off of the stage?" I don't respond. It's safe to assume that she's speaking to someone else. But she's talking to me. I feel her tap my shoulder but I don't look. 
"Are you the girl I was accompanying?" I mutter and open my assignments for tomorrow. The list is too long. But I don't mind. It gives me something to do. 
"We spent days together and you don't recognize me? Do you even know my name?" she asks, obviously surprised. I shrug and continue to observe my assignments. I'm not sure which one I should do yet. 
"I suppose not. Do you need anything?" My voice sounds foreign to me but that's okay. I knew it would. I never sound right in my ears. I feel the girl stiffen and there's a few precious moments of silence. 
"You ran off of the stage. You were supposed to bow with me," she whispers. I don't respond. There's no point. "You did good, you know? I guess it was just nerves but you made a good comeback in the end. That's all that matters. If you stayed, you would have found out that we won. First place. I have your trophy at my house. Want to come over so I can give it to you?" I'm saved from answering. Gia bounces over, waving at the girl. She grabs my arms and pulls me to my feet. I pick up my laptop and put it into my bag. 
"Let's go!" she squeals. I nod and don't say anything to the girl. I never say goodbye. There's no point. There is no such thing as a good bye. All bye's are painful. We meet Heve at the car. He just smiles at me and guns the car too quickly. I'm thrown back against the seat. Gia laughs but I don't. 
The party is already in full swing by the time we get there. Gia makes me leave my backpack in the car. She and Heve both drag me inside. I don't like it. There's so many people all yelling to be heard over the other. The music is deafening and has no rhythm. Gia disappears first, probably finding some familiar face. Heve made sure that I was sitting down by some "nice" people before he leaves. The "nice" people are screaming at each other, angry at this game they're playing on their phones. 
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I can only see mom. She's smiling or she's in pain. I open my eyes and hurry from the couch. I don't know where I'm going but I don't care. I am outside before I realize it and sit on the grass, wetting my skirt. My face is in my hands and I suck in a few deep breaths. "I'm fine, honey. Just a bit tired. Why don't you play me something? I always feel better once I hear your music." My hands curl into fists. She lied. Again. She lied so much when she was alive. She never felt better after listening to my music. 
"Here," I look up to see the red-head. She is extending a cup to me. I take it and sniff first before taking a sip. It's just water. She sits next to me and gestures to the party. "It sure is loud in there, isn't it?" I just nod but I am confused. Why is she here?
"No offense, Mira, but there's something wrong with you, isn't there?" My eyes snap to hers in surprise. She was insulting me. I stare at her but she doesn't respond. 
"No" I hiss, about to stand to my feet. She shakes her head. 
"I mean, there's something wrong in your life. You seem so..." she trails off. I glare at her. But I don't really feel angry. She's right. There are plenty of things wrong with me. Gia and Heve tell me that a lot. 
"Different? I know" I shrug and relax into the grass. She stares at me before leaning back onto her elbows. 
"Ms. Trag told me that your mother died when you were eight. You okay?" I want to hit her. I have never felt so violent but she's too blunt. I don't like it. It makes me uncomfortable. 
"Yes. I'm fine" I shrug but I don't know who Ms. Trag is. The girl continues to stare at me. I want her to leave. She takes her phone out and reaches into another pocket for earphones. At first, I feel happy because I think she's finished with talking to me but she isn't. She just plugs one earbud into her ear and gives me the other. 
"I want you to hear this song, okay?" she asks. I want to tell her no but I know that there's no point. She'll end up making me listen to it. I wipe the earbud down just in case there's any dirt or wax on it before putting it in my ear. The sound of a guitar immediately fills my senses and I close my eyes. The words start off slow but I can feel the tension. I find myself rocking slightly. I have only felt this way a few other times. 
"I love you!" I sang, pressing the keys easily. Mom was leaning on the piano and grinned at me. She mouthed it back but dared not to interrupt me. My body was rocking as I played. I loved this feeling. Of when the music flowed through me like I was a canyon and it was a river. I feel the warmth and the rush. It was like a drug. I was addicted to this feeling. This feeling of absolute joy. And it came from my fingertips. 
"Do you want to read the translation? Sorry, I should have warned you about it not being in English" the girl says sheepishly. I open my eyes and nod at her. I am suddenly greedy. Greedy for more. I need to hear it again. My heart feels so warm that I can remember how I used to feel when I played for my mother. The girl gives me her phone as the music starts to play. But this time, I can read the lyrics. "Yeah, you and I are similar but different/Do you feel the same way?/I’m getting my hopes up/When one day, one month, one year passes/Will we be living different lives?" 
The lyrics echo in my mind even though the lines have passed. I'm not sure why those lines spoke to me. But they are so beautiful. "I can’t swallow the words that linger in my mouth/It’s not fine/Ah ah ah ah it’s not fine." I felt such a connection with whoever is singing. I can't get rid of the unspoken words either. I can never even speak. And it isn't fine. I'm glad at least someone knows that. I think the song is over and start to pull out the earbud but another line stops me.
"Between the meaningless jokes, back-and-forth conversations/And all the people, I look like I’m fine/I pretend to be numb and I try to smile/I try to turn around from your shadow." Tears spring from my eyes before I realize it. The girl pulls the earbud out of my ear and places a hand, gently, on my shoulder. I can't help myself. I have not cried in seven years. I have not cried since my mother died. I have not cried since I stared at her corpse in the coffin. 
"I-I-I'm s-sorry" I yell. But I know that the girl isn't upset. She moves and lets me press my face into her shoulder. The tears were darkening her blouse but she doesn't seem to mind. Gia would never let me cry on her. She doesn't like me being anything but passive. Heve gets stressed out that I don't cry; sometimes he would hug me tightly and I know he's waiting for the tears. And when they don't come, he feels as if he did something wrong. 
"You know, I kind of guessed that you would cry from this song," she mumbles. I pull away and wipe my tears roughly. She smiles and tilts her head at me. "I have another competition coming up in a few weeks. I need someone to accompany me and my cello, if you'd like to." 
My hands move on their own but this time, I move with them. I feel my heart leaping inside my chest and I know that I am terrified, but I need this. Ever since that night, I told the girl everything that I could. 
"Don't say anything until I'm done" I grumbled. The girl nodded and leaned her back against the chair. I took a deep breath before wringing my hands together. "I... my mother introduced me to the piano. She loved it. And when she couldn't play anymore, she taught me. I loved it. I loved it when I played for her and so did she. But... she died. I was there when it happened. I was playing her favorite song too. And she died. 
"The doctors say I went into shock but I don't know. Apparently, my brain locked a lot of my memories out because of her death. I can't remember names or faces except for Gia and Heve. I guess it's because I forced myself to remember them. They're family. It couldn't block my memory of her or the piano, though. And since muscles retain memory too, I could still play. I... 
hated playing because she loved it. Playing is my second nature but I never wanted to play anymore." 
"I get it. But... you can still play for my competition, right?" she asked. I nodded and tried to smile but it came out as a grimace. 

"Between the meaningless jokes, back-and-forth conversations/And all the people, I look like I’m fine/I pretend to be numb and I try to smile/I try to turn around from your shadow." Yes, mother, I am pretending. I am pretending to be numb and as if nothing affects me anymore. I am smiling. I am speaking and joking like we used to. But I am not fine. And I might never be. But... I think that I'll get there. I am going to have to turn from your shadow, okay? That doesn't mean I'll forget you. You're the one thing that I'll always remember. Oh... and I forgive you for letting go. I don't think I ever really needed you to hold my hand. 
I look up and see the girl smiling at me. She winks and stops playing. I close my eyes and feel the music flowing through my veins like blood. The chords and notes come to me like a flood but I play through it. I ignore the pain and the hurt and just play. Maybe it's the song, but I think of Taeyeon. After listening to "Fine," I had listened to all of her other songs. I may not understand the lyrics themselves but I feel like I can understand all of her songs. They were all so amazing! She has a beautiful and adaptable voice that could work with any genre. And, the emotion that she conveys is completely real. The first song she released as a solo artist, "I," almost made me cry as much as "Fine." "I" was very emotional for me. And I suppose that the line, "Flower petals wilt/I had difficult times, but followed a small light/Distant day, let it go far, faraway" really soothed something in me.
My thoughts return to the keys and I keep playing, my soul swelling. I had been going through difficult times, like Taeyeon has, but I suppose that the girl was my light. I let out a soft breath. Yes, she is my light. So is Taeyeon, though she doesn't know it yet. I smile slightly and let my hands dictate the rest of my body.  And at the last chorus, I hear the strings of the girl's cello. 
"It's not fine," I whisper, in tune with the last line of the song. I stop, hesitating for just a moment before standing and facing the crowd. There was silence and then thunderous applause. I smile brightly and meet the girl in the center of the stage. She takes my hand and we bow. As soon as we straighten, she raises an eyebrow at me. I give her a bright smile. "It's fine, now. I promise." 

Okay, so I think that Tom Petty says it best, "Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There's not some trick involved with it. It's pure and it's real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things." This story was kind of hard for me to write because I had to write my own personal feelings. I don't think that there are any actual words to describe them, though, but I tried anyway. 
Once you listen to music and you really understand it, that's when the real magic happens. When I heard "Fine," I was overcome by the emotion that Taeyeon put into her song. I actually didn't read the lyrics until I started to write this because I wasn't sure what song I was going to choose. After reading that bridge, I knew that this was the song. It was perfect. And I am so happy that you guys are reading this with me. 
Kim Taeyeon is a South Korean artist so her songs are not in English. I received the translation from this website:

Message to Readers

So... this story is not exactly what the others are like. I've checked the submitted stories but... they're not stories. They're all essays. Which makes me kind of nervous. I'll be honest, I wanted to do something different. The genre of this story was "Review," not "Essay." I wanted to be unique and this is what I came up with. Go ahead and review it honestly. Please, write comments about the actual story AND how it relates to the prompt. Thanks!

Peer Review

The author clearly shows how meaningful this album is by writing a wonderful story about how this artist might have impacted someone in their life.

It was clear to me because they added the English translation. The author had added the information in the Footnotes, that the artist is from a different culture.

Yes, the author's voice is TOTALLY original because they decided to write a story instead of a review. Isn't that what we're supposed to do as writers, write a story that draws the reader in?

Well, first of all... IT FRICKING KPOP! I love Kpop so I'll totally listen to it.

You are sooooooooooo good! I can't wait to read more of your jaw-dropping pieces!

Reviewer Comments

I love your style of writing and how much work/emotion you put into your writing.