The tiny mew was a perfect D note when Scott first heard it. Just below 1175 Hertz, and as soft as the snow the kitten was nearly buried under. He had not heard a note so in tune for twenty years.
It mewed again, sounding slightly annoyed at the lack of attention; this time, it was a distressed G note. Scott knelt down while yanking off one glove and stretched out his hand, fingertips up, to the cat. The kitten sniffed him cautiously, but it seemed more protocol than suspicion, as it quickly began nuzzling the warm tips, ignoring the calluses.
A low purr; B flat.
‘Kittens are far superior to birds.’ A nostalgic voice said. Scott flinched at the memory. ‘Birds are not the most musical pets. Any fool can whistle; but it takes skill to be able to hold a note for so long.”
"You're a musical little kitten, aren't you?" Scott asked the cat whose tail flickered in agreement. He brushed the snow off the oversized ears, and stroked the affectionate animal. “Do you have a home?”
It mewed. A curious E note.
Tugging his glove back on, Scott picked up the animal by the scruff and wrapped it in his scarf. There was no collar; it was a stray then. Scott watched the tail flick in perfect tempo, as steady as a metronome.
“You need a name,” Scott chewed on the inside of his cheek. Was it right to give it this name though? Another perfectly in tune mew. D flat, just like how it was before. “Lucien. You’ll be my Lucien.”
‘Thank you,’ his memory whispered as he pushed to door to his apartment open.
“It’s not very much though, is it?”
Lucien let out another mew, his blue eyes fixated on the can of tuna Scott had left for on the counter for a casserole. A hungry F sharp. Complementary to the rusty noise of the can opener. It’s been so long since a duet happened.
For the first time in twenty years, Scott pulled out the old, loosely bound music and set it on the counter. The violin case was cracked open beside the book, and the right corner of Scott’s lips twitched as his fingers trembled on the tuning pegs. “I think it’s a good night for Sibelius, don’t you, Lucien?”
Lucien said nothing back.
“They say that D is the saddest note; D-minor, by association, is the saddest scale. Fitting, isn’t it?”
There was the piercing cry of the E string as it was pulled taut across the bridge. Lucien looked up from his food to glare up at him in pure annoyance. His oversized ears drooped down again, and growled a low G note.
“Concerto in D Minor then. Lucien—no, not you, the other Lucien—used to love this. As much as he loved kittens, and chocolate, and...”
The first sorrowful note erupted from the instrument with the same pained vibrato as twenty years ago. It was the sound of regret—exactly twenty years’ worth of regret tonight—in soft echos and forgotten chords.
“I love you.” The words on Lucien’s tongue had never been so sweet nor so broken.
“I’m in love with nothing but my music,” Scott brushed him off. “And I’m not gay.”
Was it a crime if he was? No. But it would have been criminal for him to admit it.
Just as it was criminal for him to not report the gun he had seen in Lucien’s room. Just as it was for him to pretend he had not seen Lucien before he was found with his brains splattered across the wall.
The sheets of music told him Allegro Ma non Tanto, not overly fast, but Scott’s bow struggled to drag out the notes. Then a tiny voice appeared, inserting itself masterfully into the broken cords; a warm, furry mass tangled itself between Scott’s ankles as the music smoothed out.
It was a perfect D note.
Seven Lakes High School
Katy, TX 77494
Educator(s): Rudy Dela Rosa
Awards: Flash Fiction
Gold Medal, 2014