Tamzen had a piano which sat in one sunny corner of the receiving hall. It was a thing of beauty, curves like waves that met with the firm angles of the keyboard so that the whole thing looked like an ocean breaking itself against a cliff face.
When she was younger, before it had been hers, she had sat for hours and imagined that it might sing like an ocean too, if it was played correctly. Her mother had played slow, somber things on it, and formal things, and never anything so sweet as a waterside breeze or lively as wave foam. Tamzen sat beside her, when her fingers were still too small and her hands too careless to be allowed to touch the keys, and she watched. She learned the sounds. She memorized each tone as her mother coaxed it from the piano, and sorted out her favorites.
Once, just once, in the dark of midnight, she crept down and pressed them. Just her favorites. One after the other, then two at a time to see how they sounded together, then three or four in rapid rolling motions to make them hum against each other. The sound echoed in the quiet house, and her heartbeat hammered and her fingers shook, and she looked over her shoulder every few seconds, certain her mother would hear her. After just a few minutes, she ran back upstairs. She never crept down again.
When she was old enough, her mother taught her to play. She smiled at her favorite sounds, tapped accidentally in the middle of her mother’s favorite songs. She learned the lessons as well as she could, and played her mother’s songs back perfectly. Then when practice was over, she ran her fingers back over the sounds she loved back.
One after the other, two at a time, three and four until they hummed.
It took her a long time, to find the sand and the sunshine, the hush of a wave inside the striking tone of a piano. She played for years, putting the quiet pieces together, never playing the same thing, because none of it sounded right two days in a row. The ocean did not sing the same song two days in a row.
She played, and she played, and she liked the search of it just as much as the sound.
When the piano was finally hers, she moved it to her house, and she set it in the corner, and she rolled idly through her favorite sounds. One of her boys crawled up beside her, and pushed one too-small finger on a high-tone key, slow, then sharp, once, twice. A bird cawing over her waves and sunshine, perfectly set in the hush and roll.
He looked up at her, smiling. She almost laughed, breathless.