Chapter XXVIII: The Symphony

There are moments one never expects to live in his lifetime. Sometimes people accept this with sorrow and regret, sometimes they just make peace with them it sometimes one just never even has the power to imagine the things that might happen to him.

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For instance, Harwood never expected to have a child of his own but here Billy was, living, breathing and babbling with his head and upper torso barely sticking form his toy box but he was growing every day and now Harwood was sure he would see him go to school, and learn and read and draw, play ball or whatever Billy dreamed of. One thing Harwood couldn’t imagine, even now was that he would also see himself married again, and in his arms, hold his second son as well but that is getting too much ahead of the story for now.

Before all that happened Harwood also lived through something he never thought he would, something he never imagined at all. Harwood got to play with the Twinbrook Symphony for their annual New Year’s concert.

To understand why that might be a big deal to the aging man in the centre of our story we need to go back a little more. We go back to a different Twinbrook and to a little boy, not much older than Billy is today. An only child living with his busy parents, often overlooked and left on his own he creates a world for himself with nothing but his growing imagination. He spends more and more time in that other world, learning to draw and sculpt so he could bring that world closer to this dismal one he is living in right now. Hoping that might somehow make it more real, hoping it would take him away from here, away from those people who barely notice him.

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That is how the boy lives through most of the year. But now on New Year’s Eve. That is the one night his parents don’t work, or aren’t too tired to pay attention. That night they all wear their nicest clothes, even the little boy. His mother helps him pick them out and helps him dress. She even takes some time to comb his unruly hair. And then when they are all ready they hop in father’s car and drive to the theatre. The boy sits in the back and his parents talk to each other and not to him but it doesn’t matter. They are all together and driving and he looks out the window and sees the small town decorated in lights and colour and it is all so pretty and he is happy. He doesn’t even try to memorise it all so he could place it in his world, no that one night he doesn’t travel anywhere else, he is right here and he is happy. His father opens the door for his mother and he jumps out on his own.

There are a lot of people outside, all dressed nicely like the three of them entering the building in front. This building no longer exists, it was torn down after the big flood but it is etched deeply in the boy’s memory, every brick, every light, he drinks it all up amazed even though it is a tradition for them and they go every year he sees it with different eyes every time and is amazed nonetheless. They walk in together, as a family. The father shows the smiling, polite man at the entrance their tickets. He nods and lets them in.  Thy walk the majestically lit hallways where the boy fixes his eyes on the celling and notes the amazing carvings etched there. He can walk and stare upwards at the same time, it is all good, his mother is holding his small hand and pulling him forward. It is all okay.

They sit down in rich and soft armchairs in the brightly lit hall. There is a lot of people there, chatting away their voices resonating trough the hall. The chatter stops when the lights dim. Then the music starts.

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There is a huge stage on which the Twinbrook Symphony performs. There is a lot of instruments as well, different ones, the names of most the boy does not yet know. But it fascinates him what they do with them, the magic they all together create as they play away until the stroke of midnight. He never forgets it.

He would first start playing guitar as an angsty teenager fed up with the life of neglect, with not fitting in, with being ignored by the pretty Twinbrook girls, with his artistic talent ignored and overlooked. He would play the songs he hears on the radio. Sometimes later he would try and make his own. But the magic of the music he hears every New Year’s Eve until his sixteenth birthday would stay with him, it would come back to him every time his fingers strike a chord but he would never attempt to imitate any of the notes he heard because that is way over his head. That music is magic, it is family, it is happiness, it is something otherworldly. He is not worthy of it, he never will be. He is happy to play at the taverns, like the Red, at parties, in Buddy’s living room, on his deck. But not with the Symphony. Never with the Symphony. That is not for the likes of Harwood Clay.

But the year Milly Pidgin died this changes. Harwood was in his studio working or one thing or the other when he gets a call. He picks up even though he doesn’t know the number. And what hears on the other end makes him nearly loose his balance and topple over spilling his eco-friendly paints everyhwere. The woman who called was the Twinbrook Symphony manger, she informed they had an open space for the New Year’s concert. She wants to know if he is interested in playing with them. He wants to know why they called him. She says Milly Pidgin, a friend of the symphony had recommended him a while back, they just never had an opening before. Harwood is stunned beyond words but he somehow mutters a yes.

It is extremely short notice and they email him the music sheets. He spends most of the time practicing. He invites Dilly to come and take Billy but she has memories of the New Year Eve’s concert as well, memories that are too painful now that her mother is dead. He says he understands.

When the night finally comes he feels his finger shaking as he dresses himself.  He feels strange, disconnected, as if all this is happening to someone else and maybe in a way it is. It is happening to that little forgotten boy. Harwood had escaped that little boy, in the end his art and imagination had taken him away but maybe the boy was always there, hiding and waiting, waiting for this very moment.

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Harwood kisses his boy goodbye leaving him in Christie’s able arms. The boy smiles and looks at him with those green eyes. They are so like Harwood’s own eyes, and like that little boy’s eyes. Full of wonder. They wish him good luck, well Christie does but Harwood was sure Billy would too if he could speak.

All the rest is a blur. Until the moment he steps on that stage. It is not the same stage he once saw the Symphony on. That building is gone. They play at the movie theatre now. It is a smaller stage, there are no carvings on the celling, not as much seats and not as much people filling them. Those who come are not so nicely dressed.

But Harwood plays for them. He plays with the Symphony. He plays the songs he never played but never forgot. When he closes his eyes, he feels the magic they create all around him.  The magic that changes, and inspires, and connects, it resonates trough time and space, and for a moment he is not here anymore. He is transported in that larger hall in a town that is no longer the same, and when he opens his eyes they focus on a green-eyed boy in the audience looking amazed and happy. Harwood smiles at him and sends some magic and love his way. He knows he needs it. For Harwood knows what awaits him, he knows his road is not a straight and narrow one, he knows about all the love and happiness that he will find along the way but he also knows about all the pain and heartbreak as well.  But the boy is strong. He will live trough it all. He would achieve his dreams, even those he never knew he had.

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