Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Portrait of Words: Challenge #1 - Helena's Song

Jeff B over at A Word in Edgewise is offering a very challenging writing meme called Portrait of Words. Jeff has provided us with a collection of pictures, each with an assigned description, which must be incorporated into the story. That's an awful explanation. Sorry. I'm having as much trouble with the introduction to this post as I had writing the story. We got a month to think about this daunting task and then all participants were asked to post their stories between the September 15 and 17th. I am just squeaking in here under the wire and as I typed this realized that I failed the test because I used all three wild cards but forgot the "item". I thought about trying to rewrite but I barely got this far, so I'm just going to go with what I've done and hope to do better next time. At least I tried. So I'm going to stop trying to explain and just post the pictures and my response and go read the wonderful stories of the other participants who probably all did it right. Sigh.


Music had been everything to Helena from the time she was a small child. At three she had sat at the piano and started playing and she had never stopped. A prodigy. A modern day Mozart. A genius. She had become the center not only of her parents’ universe but of a wider musical circle. Everyone wanted to be “know” her, in hopes, she imagined that they could tap into the endless reservoir of sound that flowed from her as water flowed from a broken tap. She had not minded. She had been rather oblivious actually. It was all she had ever known. Nothing but the music had mattered to her. Nothing else had been real to her.

Until the day in last August when her agent had decided they should travel to Europe by ship. Less concern with terrorism, he had said. And she had agreed. She would play concerts on the passage and they would travel for free. Her agent had forced her to buy a bathing suit and sunglasses and had hoped too that maybe being at sea would force her to rest. And it had. Unable to pratice her usual seven hours each day, she had begun pacing the decks and eventually – after much coaxing by the aforementioned manager – had gone to sit by the pool and even put her toe in at one point before settling back onto a lounge chair to practice in her head.

Initially, she was irritated when a deep male voice disturbed her focus and then when she opened her eyes handed her chilly glass with the words.

“You’re way to beautiful to be sitting here alone. May I join you?”

She had not answered, hoping he would go away – but much to her own surprise – hoping also that he wouldn’t. This was such a totally new experience for her that she absentmindedly took a sip from the glass in her hand to calm her nerves.

Another new experience. This wasn’t water, nor was it the cranberry juice she normally drank. It was bubbly and had an odd taste. “What is this?” she asked. “I think I like it.”

“What’s your name, beautiful?” he asked in that amazing musical voice. “My name is Jean-Paul Le Beau. Oh… and your drink is a gin and tonic.”

“Gin and tonic,” she muttered. “Very good. Thank you.”

“You are welcome. Is your name a secret?”

“Secret? No. Everybody knows my name. It’s Helena Franklin.”

“Are you an actress then?”

Baffled, by his question, she looked at him for the first time and felt her heart flutter. He was very handsome. She didn’t know quite how she knew this, but she did. “I’m a pianist,” she responded finally.

“Ah,” he replied. “I’ll bet you’re a good one. Would you like to go for a swim?”

And suddenly for the first time in her life, Helena realized that there was something else besides music. For the first time in her life she looked around and saw the rest of the world. For the first time in her life she felt empty. “I would,” she replied, “but I don’t know how.

All I’ve ever known is music.”

“Well, we must fix that,” he replied.

And that was how it began. A love that was as deep and passionate and forever as her music. Jean Paul taught her to swim, he awoke her to food, to art and color and the beauty of nature. He bought her sneakers and awoke her to the movements and mysteries of her body. But he never pushed her, only guided her gently where her curiosity took her. For all the attention she had receive her whole life, she felt as though no one had ever actually seen her before. But how could they have? She had never seen herself. She had only seen and heard the music.

So when Jean Paul – this man who had in a way given her life beyond her music - asked her to marry him, she said yes without a moment’s hesitation, without really knowing anything about him.

But who was this Jean-Paul, this man who was, in the eyes of some, too good to be true? For not everyone was delighted by Helena’s awakening to a fuller life. Her parents and her agent had thrived both financially and psychologically on her gift. She had made them rich and she had made the reflected glow of her genius had made them feel important. For the denizens of the music world, she had like a magical toy they could play with and study. This was not because they were bad people. They had been as swept away by her gift as she herself had been. But while the awakening Jean Paul had brought to her life expanded her world, others felt robbed and angry. “He’s a fortune hunter,” they had asserted. “You wait.“

But sometimes the Universe protects the innocent and for all her lack of worldliness, Helena had good instincts. Jean-Paul, it turned out, was anything but a fortune hunter. He was one of the richest men in France, a count whose family estate remained in tact. He too had spent much of his life being seen only as a fragment of himself, being courted for what rather than who he was. As he had introduced Helena to her greater self, so she had opened his heart and shown him his own deeper aspects. He was truly in love.

And when he took her home after their wedding it was a fairy tale continued - a vast stone estate with long sun-lit corridors, high windows, a huge canopy bed where they made love and rested in each others arms. And then he showed her the grounds – beautiful woodlands and fields where magical sturdy horses with great fluffy ankles danced like unicorns. She was truly happy.

And lest you fear that Jean-Paul stole the music from her, you would be wrong again. The estate had a vast conservatory and a grand piano where she could not only practice to her heart’s content, but give performances. She still went on the road from time to time. And those who had thought her genius complete discovered that she played now with an even greater depth.

Over time, as her children came, she taught them to play and sing – and also to laugh and live and enjoy the fullness of life. What was best of all – was that those who told her she would have to choose between music and a full life were proven wrong. She had chosen with her heart and her heart had guided her wisely. Her music and her life now carried the magic of love. And love – as we all know – multiplies all things.

And that my friends, is Helena’s song, which started out as a haunting melody and grew into a wonderful polyphonic symphony of joy. May your life too be a rich, harmonic song and may you live it with as open and joyful a heart as Helena and Jean-Paul.


Jeff B said...

Your intro to the writing challenge had me laughing, and your story had me smiling! Very uplifting. A real pleasure to read.

I'm amazed how that sheet of music and/or the ballroom brought a piano into just about every story. Even with that, they are all so different.

So glad you joined in.

Jeff B said...

I forgot to mention. Mr Linky is back from hiding, so I added your name.

Carletta said...

This was glorious!
I thought a time or two about doing the challenge; but I couldn't have done it this kind of justice - I've told you before - you are amazing.

Akelamalu said...

Ah a love story, I'm a sucker for a love story! Great stuff Raven and if you hadn't told me I wouldn't have noticed about the camera!

Cath said...

I love a love story, especially one with a happy ending.
Beautifully put together - never mind the categories - it worked! Great stuff.

The intro was funny... (you're as bad as me for getting in a knot!)

I also have looked all over this blog and spent ages here - it is a FABULOUS blog.

j said...

Before I even read the story, let me say that I was HOPING that you would participate. I saw your comment at Jeff's and I was pulling for you!! Going to read now.

j said...

Raven it was perfect! A completely joyfull story and just what I needed to read.

I hope that you have a lovely day.


Cherie said...

How lovely. And who wouldn't want to be swept away by a rich Frenchman on a cruise, who, just as a bonus, happens to be a decent sort as well. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Dr.John said...

I loved the story. It certainly beats mine. I just love happy endings. So you left the camera out, whose checking. The story is what counts.
On Saturday I'll use your ten words to add to my 012 story.

Travis Cody said...

I enjoyed your story. Sometimes a story just needs a happy ending.

Dianne said...

sorry I'm late but first I had to finish my own, then I had to read the others in order lol

a bit odd you say ;)

I loved the part of feeling not no one has seen you becasue you haven't seen yourself. that struck me

and I'm so glad that they lived happily ever after

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