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At first Lucy didn’t hear her mother’s knock. She had her laptop hooked up to the good speakers, blasting a little Holst - decent homework-doing music. In the middle of a decrescendo, the knocking came through loud and clear.
She turned down the music and opened the door. Somehow her mother looked as perfect and beautiful as she had in the car that morning, nearly fourteen hours ago.
The playlist jumped to Mussorgsky, and it sounded ominous as her mother came into the room. “I
want to talk about yesterday,” her mother said. “Can you tell me exactly what happened?”
     “I told you.” Lucy sat at her desk and stopped the music, to type a few words into her English paper.
“Tell me again. Maybe I missed something.”
Her mother went over to the bed and perched on the edge of it, forcing Lucy to turn in                                                                                                                                               her chair, away from the laptop.
What was there to miss? Temnikova died.
Still, Lucy rerecited the facts, from Gus calling out to the moment the paramedics showed up. Wh
Fo;
“How long before Gus actually dialled nine-one-one?” “Was she breathing at that point?”
“Did she say anything?”
“Like what?” Lucy asked.
“Anything, Lucy. Anything at all.”
She would have loved to be able to tell her mother something she wanted to hear for a change. That Temnikova had meaningful dying words about Gus or had thanked the Beck-Moreaus for changing her life.
“No, Mom. She died. It was fast.”
“It seems like if you’d called nine-one-one a few minutes sooner…”
“Mom. They said there was nothing anyone could have done.” Probably. “Why didn’t you call me right away?”
“I don’t know,” Lucy said.
“Did you even think about it?”
Like you thought about calling me about Grandma? Like that? “She was dead. And whether you found out right away or later, she’d still be dead.”
Her mother nodded and dropped her hand on top of the pile of Lucy’s blankets. “I wish you’d
 

make your bed. The whole room looks neater when the bed is made.”
     “So I’ve been told.” She turned back to her homework.
“Grandpa wants to start the process of hiring a new teacher as soon as possible. To keep Gus on
track for the showcase and the Swanner. I’m tempted to call Grace Chang, but I know Grandpa would
have a fit.”
Lucy stopped typing. “You can’t call Grace.” It would be like inviting an ex-boyfriend over to maybe date someone else in the family.
Grace had been her Temnikova. Only not sour and scary. She was a mentor, teacher, guide, and sort of like a cool aunt. A cool aunt Lucy’d abandoned.
“Call someone at the Academy,” she said.
Lucy and her mother locked eyes. They both knew that would never happen. Grandpa Beck had an ancient feud with the Symphony Academy having to do with the performing career Lucy’s mother was supposed to have had when she was Gus’s age and never did. Grandpa blamed the Academy, her mother’s teachers there, the system, anti-Beck bias, the seventies, and of course her mother -
everything and everyone but himself.
“We’ll find somebody.” Her mother stood. On her way out, she stopped to touch Lucy’s head. “You should dry your hair before you get in bed.”
“I like it natural.”
“It would look so much better with—”
“I like it natural.” Lucy jerked her head away and rolled her chair back. Her mother’s arm dropped. “Don’t stay up too late.”
“I have a lot to do,” Lucy mumbled.
Her mother opened her mouth, closed it. Then folded her arms and paused in front of the picture that hung by Lucy’s door: Lucy, age thirteen, getting her fifth-place prize at the Loretta Himmelman International. Excellent placement.
The whole week, actually, had been a dream. They’d gone to Utah for the competition, a Komp.
Lucy’d made instant friends with another girl in the competition, Madchen. She’d come all the way from Bavaria, and her English wasn’t great, but the two of them had run around the hotel together between events. One night they’d had a sleepover in Madchen’s room, and Madchen’s mother let them take the bed while she slept on a roll-away mattress and talked them to sleep. Her voice had been hypnotic, precise, musical, speaking low as Lucy and Madchen drifted away, the hotel pillows smelling faintly of bleach.
It was probably the last time she felt happy at one of those things. Maybe her happiness had come from the family being together without Grandpa’s anxiety over every little detail, and the way he’d never let anyone forget the competitive aspect. Or maybe it was that Lucy loved the programme she’d prepared, especially the Brahms. The Rhapsody in B Minor. Her mother had wanted her to do something showier, and Grandpa nearly fired Grace Chang over it, but Lucy and Grace wanted to prove she could be expressive as well as technical.
Madchen and her mother had come to hear Lucy play and smiled through it even though Madchen’s piece that morning hadn’t gone well.
Maybe it was all of those things.
Her mother stopped staring at the picture, and before leaving said, “Try the silk pillowcase I bought you. It helps with the frizz.”

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