The Wooden Heart – Episode 37

Gabrielle was on edge. Unable to sit, she prowled round a house that had been tidied three times already, moving an ornament by a few millimetres, then adjusting a painting on the wall.

If only Stephen were here, but he had taken Franz for a walk so that the dog wouldn’t work himself into a frenzy of barking at the sound of strange voices in the house.

With all her heart, she wished she hadn’t allowed herself to be persuaded to do this.

Her doorbell rang. Gabrielle jumped, then hurried through.

She opened the door to find Calum with a small girl at his side.

“Here’s the child prodigy,” was his introduction. “Galashiels’ answer to Nicola Benedetti.”

Clutching her violin case, his sister swiped sideways at him with her music bag.

Gabrielle’s music case had been a proper leather briefcase; this girl was carrying her music in an old Tesco polybag.

No problem, Gabrielle thought. Until he became famous, the great Caruso had put cardboard soles inside his boots daily to keep out the cold and wet.

“Come in,” she said. “And you’re . . .”


“I’m going for a coffee,” Calum told them. “Ash is meeting me straight from the exhibition. We’ll collect Ailish in an hour.”

Woman and child looked warily at each other.

“Well, I can’t give you violin lessons on the doorstep.” Gabrielle smiled. “The neighbours might complain.”

Her remark brought an instant grin. The girl had the same open face as Calum, Gabrielle thought, ushering her into the house.

“First right,” she said. “That’s where I used to practise.”

The girl hesitated, then walked over to the shelves of music.

“Cool,” she said.

Gabrielle wondered what would happen to the young if that word was taken from their vocabulary.

“Can I see your exam music, please?” she asked.

The girl handed over the sheet music, her eyes wandering along the shelves of records.

Gabrielle glanced through the music. It was pretty much what she’d expected, scales and three test pieces.

She flipped through the test pieces. Old warhorses from the solo violin repertoire: Bach, Haydn and Corelli – simplified a little, but not much, because this was an advanced exam.

“Let’s start with some scales,” she said. “It will loosen up your fingers and get rid of any nerves.”

She watched Ailish take an old violin from its case, set the tuning of the first string by ear, then adjust the other strings to pitch. No tuning fork, no help from a piano, but her tuning was pitch perfect.

She herself had seldom needed any help, unless in a performance hall where every instrument had to be reset to bring the entire orchestra into pitch.

For the next ten minutes, Gabrielle called out scales in a random order: each was performed flawlessly, even the more difficult minor scales.

This child had real talent, she realised. Fluid finger-work and bowing. A nice clean sound.

“A credit to yourself and your teacher,” she said finally. “Well done.”

Ailish blushed furiously.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.