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Willful

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When Emily can't sleep, she plays.

She throws the covers off, shivers in her nightgown, and reaches for a robe. When she stubs her toe against a chair, she tells herself it's dark, and anyone would have stubbed their toe in the dark. It's not just her. She tells herself she isn't turning the lights on because she doesn't want to wake anyone.

The bench is heavy, and she pulls it out slowly, so as not to squeak against the floor. The wood is cool even through the cloth swathing her legs, but she knows it will warm, eventually.

She lifts the lid, runs her fingers over the keys. Catalogues the dips and rises like familiar landmarks. There's a notch on one key, the faintest impression of a scar.

The flash is like sustained lightning, illuminating and terrifying at once. She's transfixed, even when she knows she should run.

She starts with scales. Simply, quietly. C major. D major. F major. Fingers arched, thumb sliding under and up, down, like she's done for the past ten years.

There's a moment of bliss, when the light expands, engulfs her entire body, and she feels like she's floating. She wants to feel like this forever, stay languid and weightless for the rest of her life.

Then she shifts her fingers, switches to minor keys. Her hands amble over the keys smoothly, until she recalls what they looked like, before. Her fingers trip against each other, catch awkwardly and stumble, and it all ends in a discordant thrum.

The light fades. Disappears. She sinks to her knees, whimpering.

It's only later she realizes there isn't any light at all.

Or ever again.

She growls softly, wants to slam her hands against the keys, staccato, forte, and let the piano feel what she feels.

Instead, she breathes. Listens for footsteps, for the soft murmurs of concern. Are you all right? Can I get something for you? Do you want to talk?

There's only silence, and the piano's anticipation.

She slides her hands over the keys again. Thinks.

Something by Bach. Simple, melodic. Peaceful.

And she plays.