Slow and quiet the music poured into the silent room. Her fingers moved, coaxing beauty from the keys. One hand crossed the other to touch lightly, giving precisely the right weight to a grace note.
The room closed in until there was only the music and her gentle swaying.
The music slowed, the final notes hanging in the air. She lifted her hands from the keys and the last note faded to silence.
"That is so beautiful", she said. "So beautiful."
"It should be," he said. "I wrote it for you the night you were born."
"I've played it very often but tonight it seems entirely new."
"It's you who are new. After tonight everything changes for you."
Her face clouded over and she looked away.
"There's so much to look forward to. This concert. It's what you've been working towards for so long."
She made a face.
"He will be there. And she'll be there with him."
He sighed, a soft breath on the air.
"Yes he will. And she will. It's as it should be."
"Don't. Your face will get stuck that way", he said as he used to when she was a little girl.
"She left us. She left you."
He shook his head sadly.
"Haven't you got that a little backwards?"
She looked at him sharply.
"It's not like you had a choice. She did."
"And she chose life, to go forward. As you have to."
Now it was her turn to shake her head.
"I don't see why she had to go. And I don't see why I have to be part of it. I'm doing fine by myself. I have you, your music. That's all I need."
He sighed again.
"The music, yes. Me, no. And you've done very well getting where you are now. But, she's your mother and it's her life."
"She left us. She left you."
"No. She hasn't left you. A parent can't leave a child." He smiled. "I'm here, aren't I?"
She almost smiled even as her eyes moistened with unshed tears.
"I am still here. I will always be here. In my music, in your playing, when you need me most. But, you're not fine."
He held up a finger. She fell silent.
"I know everything you know. I feel everything you feel. You're not fine. And you need to be."
She opened her mouth to speak again.
"I'm not finished. You need to be. For your music. For your mother. And for yourself."
Her unshed tears spilled over.
"I miss you."
"I know you do. I know you do. And she misses you. Very much. And she needs you."
"She has him."
"Yes, she does. And she needs him. And he her, just as I needed her. And she needs you."
"Why did you have to go?"
"As you said, it's not the choice I would have made."
Her voice broke.
"I really miss you."
"I know. It's hardest for those left behind. Though," - a wry smile - "the leaving wasn't much of a picnic either."
Tears welled up in her eyes again.
"Hush now. It was a long time ago. It's over. Now you need to think of yourself. And your mother. It's time for you to move on too."
She hung her head and there was silence in the room. Slowly she lifted her hands again to the keys. The notes were tentative at first, then stronger, more confident.
"That's it. Yes. Pour your loss, your pain, your love into the music. Let it flow through you."
The young woman kept her eyes closed, her hands moving smoothly over the keyboard, her fingers drawing pain and then joy from the heart of the nocturne.
The music swelled and filled the room as she sat alone at the piano, remembering her father.