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Broken Key

Pauline couldn't go back.

“Folks I know you're all ready to take off, but the maintenance technician says it's going to be another fifteen minutes or so and then we'll be on our way to Phoenix.” The captain announces through the PA system.

Pauline had her kindle open to the latest Gillian Flynn, so she didn't mind. It also helped that he first time in her life she splurged on business class, so she didn't care if the plane ended up in Phoenix or Finland. 

“Ma'am, would you like a champagne?” The handsome, wide-eyed flight attendant, slim and cleanly shaven asked her, bottle ready.

“Oh, no, I don't drink. Can I have a cranberry juice?” She put a weathered palm up to halt the flight attendant who had to be half her age.

Just a hair younger than her son, Nathan would've been, though he had never been slim. He was 'cornfed' so they said back where she was from in Omaha. 

“Certainly ma'am, and don't worry we will be in the air shortly.” the young man reassured, and now that she looked at him, she swore that he had the same ears that Nathan did, sort of large so he had to buy the biggest clamshell headphones she'd ever seen when he played keyboard.

“Oh, I don't mind. I got time to kill.” She replied, her voice dry as the desert air she was about to live in.

It had taken her seven years, ten months, three weeks and a day to finally sell the family split-level in the nicest suburb of Omaha and start fresh. Everyone thought she didn't want to move because of her book club, her bowling league, and that she was the favorite zumba instructor in the all-women's senior gym in the area.

But after she had found Nathan flat next to the family Yamaha grand piano, foamy-mouthed like he'd just brushed his teeth, her ability to connect with her community went flat too. 

After all was said and done, the coroner told her that it was the bottle Jim Beam she'd pried out of his stiff fingers, and a bottle of Alprazolam. That he most likely was unconscious when he went.

However, the only thing that was on her mind was the broken C key, smashed askew from when he collapsed to the floor.

There was no sheet music on the piano. 

What the last song that Nathan played? 

Was it classical? Bach? He learned on Bach.

Was it more modern? Like something from that band Coldplay? He loved that band.

She'd share a chuckle to herself now and then that it was Aretha Franklin, but that was wishful thinking.

He took a sip of her cranberry juice, and even though she was seven years, seven months, two weeks and a day sober, sometimes she swore she'd taste vodka in things she knew were poured straight. 

The fasten seatbelt indicator flashed on.

The plane lurched back from the gate.

When she finally put the family split-level on the market, she told the agent that she'd clear out the fine china, her personal items, and some of the old ratty furniture, but she'd leave the Yamaha.

She'd never forget the astonished look on the realtor's agent's thin face, like someone had slapped her right across the face.

“Leave the piano?! But...they're so sentimental.” She exclaimed, fumbling with her pen. 

Pauline knew. She'd read biographies of Jewish families who stayed behind in Nazi Germany for fear of leaving their pianos. Her own Yamaha had been passed down a few generations now. Her mother had taught her Fur Elise and Ella Fitzgerald.

It had taken her a while to remember the last song she had played on that piano: I Say a Little Prayer by her girl Aretha. 

“It's got a broken key.” She had replied simply.

It had taken her exactly seven years, ten months, and three weeks to say those words. And that's why she bought a one-way ticket to the only city hot enough to burn her shame away. It was never the people, it was always the piano.

“Alright flight attendant, prepare for takeoff.” the captain announced again over the PA system.

Pauline closed her eyes, prepared to for the altitude gain, and hoped that when she landed, she could muster up the courage to google 'Coldplay sheet music'

Power in Numbers




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