The Wooden Heart – Episode 41

Gabrielle was sitting in her lounge, lost to music.

“Rat’s whiskers!” she snapped when the doorbell rang.

Reluctantly, she headed for the door, wakening Franz, who realised there were guard-dog duties to perform.

She left him barking. A Border terrier’s frenzied yelping could be useful if there was someone undesirable at the door.

It was Ailish standing there.

Had she forgotten about a lesson, Gabrielle wondered, panicking.

Then she remembered that the final lessons had been given, and Ailish was as ready as she would ever be for her advanced exams. Which were this morning, she realised.

“How did you get on, Ailish?” she exclaimed.

A beaming smile lit up the girl’s face.

“I passed with distinction. I caught the first bus from Gala to come and tell you.”

Before she could stop herself, Gabrielle hugged the girl. Clearly this was a team game, and the whole team had to share in the glory.

“Wonderful! Come through and tell me everything.” Gabrielle smiled.

When they entered the lounge, the girl stopped, transfixed.

“What’s that?” she asked. “The music playing?”

“Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto, with Cho-Liang Lin the soloist. Listen to how he makes the violin sing in this Adagio. How silky smooth it sounds.”

Ailish stood entranced, one hand absent-mindedly ruffling Franz’s ears as he stood against her leg, tail wagging furiously.

When the music ended, and Gabrielle switched off the record player, she turned to her.

“I’ve never heard anything so beautiful,” Ailish whispered.

Gabrielle smiled.

“A lot of work lies behind that level of performance, but the magic ingredient is always the same. You have to pour yourself into the violin, to make it and the music come to life. Now, tell me what happened this morning, from start to finish.”

Ailish excitedly described her recent ordeal.

“I knew you could do it! I’m so proud of you,” Gabrielle said. “But what are you going to do now that you’ve run out of exam grades?”

Ailish blushed.

“Can I study further?” she asked hesitantly. “Could you give me more lessons?”

“Of course,” Gabrielle said softly. “We’ve only just started to tap into your talent. But it means a lot of hard work and a life dedicated to learning.”

“I would practise so hard.” Ailish’s eyes were suddenly intense. “But I still have school to finish, then my mum wants me to go to university.”

“University is in the future,” Gabrielle told her. “I can work with you until then. If you outgrow me, there’s a school for young musicians in Edinburgh, where you do both school lessons and get specialist music tuition.

“That way, you could take all the school subjects you need to get into university, while developing your violin playing. Then you can decide whether to go to university or the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.”

Ailish stared.

“A special music school? How much would it cost?”

“That depends,” Gabrielle admitted. “They have scholarships, and they have bursaries, too. But first let’s see where your ability takes you.

“If it’s good enough, and you’re willing to work, you could possibly become a professional musician.”

Ailish’s eyes shone.

“Can I tell my mum that?” she asked.

“Of course.” Gabrielle smiled. “Be sure to tell her that you would be working with me for another year at least, so that we can make sure that you pass any scholarship test.”

She paused.

“Don’t expect everybody to be as excited about it as you. It’s your parents’ job to worry whether you can find the time to do music and school subjects together.”

How do you tell any parent that their ugly duckling has the potential to be a glorious and beautiful swan, she wondered.

“I’ll come and help you break the news,” she offered.

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.