A Different Song

by Brianna G. Harte

Peering through the crack that his uncle mindlessly left open, Xen saw the old man bent over his work table, furiously writing as always. Crumpled up paper lay strewn across the floor, entirely missing the recycling bin; that is, if that was his aim. Mumbled words slid through his yellowing teeth as he scratched his balding head. As his uncle threw another wad, another voice, deep and melodious, spoke. Xen shook his head, sure that he had heard wrong. No static surrounded the words the other man spoke, so there was no possibility of the old television being on.

Xen tried to change his angle to see who it was, but the efforts were in vain. Frustrated by the setback, he attempted to press his ear close enough to the opening. The words he heard almost gave him away as he fell forward slightly.

“Nothing’s coming out right, Alfanser,” his uncle cried out softly. “It’s an utter disaster!” His head slammed against the table with a short boom reverberating about the room.

A black-gloved hand stretched across his back. “Don’t give up now, Tarres,” the beautiful voice came. “When you put your heart into it, she will be moved.”

“Easy for you to say,” Xen’s uncle grumbled. “You’re actually a songwriter. I’m just . . . a lousy construction worker.”

“A worker with a heart,” Alfanser corrected. “You have set your mind to giving her something special, don’t you?”

Xen couldn’t believe his ears. Only a couple days had passed since breath last fell from his wife’s lips. He had loved her til that very day arrived, and no doubt in his mind said that he didn’t still love her. Every time he saw her, his worries seemed to melt away under the heat of their passion.

“Of course,” his uncle said sullenly.

“Then there’s nothing to worry about. Just let your feelings write themselves on the page. Find the strength in yourself to do it, and you will see results. I promise.” Alfanser paused. “Would you like me to help?”

“It wouldn’t be coming from me if the words came from another.”

“How about your nephew? He seems to be a bright, young lad by the way you talk about him. Perhaps he could offer insight.”

Xen’s uncle rubbed his neck deeply. “No, I don’t want him to get involved in all this. It’s too delicate. . .” His voice softened.

Xen started to lean too far into the door as he strained to hear the next words. The door creaked as it flew open, landing Xen on the floor with several pieces of paper as his cushion.

“Xen? Why are you here?” his uncle asked. Xen couldn’t tell what he was thinking. The expression on his face was far too confused to be discernable.

“Who’re you writing to? Why haven’t you told me about her?” Xen cried out.

Alfanser stepped forward in his long, brown overcoat. His face was gentle and his voice matched. “It’s okay, lad. Please calm down. Your uncle has had a rough day.”

“No! He’s like my father! He should tell me if he’s in love with someone else!” Xen was on the brink of tears and blinked back what he could.

“Xen, my boy,” his uncle said in an unusual frail voice, “You don’t understand. I still love your Aunty Sue very much. No one can replace her. Not in a million years.”

“Then why are you writing a love letter?” Xen demanded.

His uncle sighed, his chest dropping further than it had before. “It’s not a love letter. Those days are over. It’s a regret letter. Your grandmother does not yet know about Susan. She’s been away for a while and hasn’t been in contact. I’d rather tell her myself, not the police or television. Alfanser is helping me write a song for her, so I can sing it for her, showing her that my heart’s in it, and not just words. Please understand, Xen.”

Copyright © 2015 Brianna G. Harte. All rights reserved.


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