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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: A Heart-Wrenching Talent
By Sara Harricharan
03/12/07


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I close my eyes and take a deep breath as the curtain parts. I know the stage is set for music. They think I am an excellent pianist and extremely talented. They are not seeing past a designer evening gown.

A smile forms on my face. I enter the stage and wave. Polite applause fills the auditorium. I cannot make out a single face.


“You’re sure you want to do this?” Mr. Barlowe asked. I take the pen and painstakingly scrawl my name on the line.

“It’s mom’s piano.” I mutter. “I hate playing, but he could at least have let me play it one last time.”

Mr. Barlowe doesn’t argue as he hands me a copy of the agreement, but looks me straight in the eye. “Jen, we all appreciate what you’re doing. This benefit concert will be a blessing to many families.”

“Yeah. Sure. Whatever.” I snatch the paper and hurry away before he can add more to a wound pickled and salted.


I flex my fingers, walking calmly to the grand piano sitting in the center of the stage.

Mom’s earrings feel heavy and wearing her necklace nearly chokes me. I wish I could throw up. But that would prove dad right.

“No more piano lessons, Jen, isn’t that great?” My dad laughs as I look at him in confusion.

“I don’t have to go to old Mrs. Simmons anymore?” The idea is tempting and I think of how good it feels.

“Never.” Dad says suddenly, he looks at me hard. “You hated playing the piano and I know you can’t play. You only took the stupid lessons to keep your mother happy. She’s gone and took her music with her. Don’t you ever try to bring it back.”

“Never is a long time, Dad.” I say.

“Not long enough.” He pats my shoulder and goes on having torn my world apart. I hate piano. I love mom.


I sit carefully, smoothing the gown as I position myself. The keys are a mass of chocolate and vanilla pudding.

Except for I cannot eat them. Placing my fingers on the keys, I try to look as if I know what I am doing. My mind is blank.

“Practice your piano, Jen!” Mom’s suggestion is softened with “please” and the promise of ice cream later.

“I hate practicing.” I pout, dragging my feet.

“But you love playing.” Mom teases.

“No I don’t. I like watching you play.”

Mom pats my head. “Then someday you’ll play like me.”

“What if I don’t wanna?”

Mom kisses my cheek. “It’s inside of you Jen. Your hands will always know the way to bring your heart to life.”


I think my heart is dead. My eyes close and my fingers caress worn ivory. I can now feel the audience.

Everyone is waiting. I dare not disappoint them.

My hands begin to move, but not of my own accord. Music fills the air but all I can hear is my heart breaking in two.

“I love you Jen and God does too.” Mom says the words with her dying breath. Now I know the meaning of heartbreak.

I don’t know how much time has passed. I stop playing and someone touches my shoulder. I have to open my eyes to see them.

It is Mr. Barlowe giving me a tissue. He wants to know if I am all right, he says I am crying.

I don’t know how to answer that. So I ask him if my father is here. He says that I can stop playing now.

The concert is over. I move stiffly to my feet and see my father standing at the edge of the stage. I am vaguely aware of applause filling my head with pounding intensity.

Dad is crying. I hear him call my name. But I walk past him.

I wonder if God still loves me.

Mr. Barlowe tells me that we have raised a lot of money. Hundreds of people came. He offers me a contract.

I wish I could remember my name.

Dear God, please fix me. I'm broken and I need to hear your music.


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This article has been read 1352 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood03/15/07
A beautiful story! I loved especially the flashbacks, which revealed gradually the nature of the main character's "heart-wrenching" background. This unusual title sparked my curiosity, by the way.

Very moving message. Also great imagery. My favorite line: "The keys were a mass of chocolate and vanilla pudding." What a creative, original description of black and white piano keys!
Julie Arduini03/15/07
This title is just perfect for the story. Moving, great characterization--I could see the whole evening unfold from the dress to the mass of keys, the grief. Very, very well done!
Debbie Roome 03/16/07
Lovely story. You expressed the depth of emotion very well.
Lynda Schultz 03/16/07
What I really liked was the feeling that came through for me that she was kind of dealing with her own "demons" and everyone else was on a different page without really understanding what she was dealing with. It was kind of like there were two stories being told. Good job.
Dolores Stohler03/17/07
This is poignantly beautiful. I'm so glad she played well, putting her heart into the music. Well done, awesome writer.
cindy yarger03/18/07
There were a few bits that were unclear here to me. I think it would have all come out had you been able to expand more on the father/mother/daughter triangle. It was very well written though. Lots of emotion - you portrayed them well.
Jan Ackerson 03/19/07
A bittersweet story, movingly written.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/19/07
A well told story! The last line was the most poignant of all.
Sharlyn Guthrie03/19/07
You filled this with such emotion, that I couldn't stop reading from beginning to end. The last line is perfect.
Jen Davis03/19/07
The emotion of this piece was very powerful. I was captivated all the way through and am left wanting to know more. The title is perfect for this story!
Sheri Gordon03/19/07
I can barely see to type through my tears. This piece hit me hard. My mom was an accomplished pianist, and I feel so inadequate playing her baby grand piano that was left to me way too soon. (My parents died in a car accident.) When I play, I picture my mom playing with me. (And thank God, my dad enjoyed my playing too -- but he really loved listening to my mom.) Thank you for this -- it's another baby step in my healing process.
Linda Watson Owen03/19/07
You so skillfully put the reader into the MC's shoes that I literally had to give myself time to regain my own focus after reading this moving story. I could feel the gown, the piano keys, see the darkened audience area, and I even, though you didn't mention scent, could smell the auditorium because of the strength of your descriptions. Wonderful writing!
Myrna Noyes03/20/07
You clearly portrayed the intense, deep emotional conflict of the main character! This was a very gripping story, and I would have liked to know more about her strained relationship with her father. Excellent writing! :)
Pat Guy 03/20/07
I loved that you did not give this a perfect ending and kept with the compexity of emotions. I really enjoyed this from beginning to end. Very touching.
Loren T. Lowery03/20/07
Wonderful filled with well-written, honest emotions. I particulary liked what your mom said "your hands will know..."

Maybe I missed the reason for the father's bitterness, but hopefully the music helped to heal the rift - I have a good feeling that it did.

Joanne Sher 03/20/07
Amazingly intense and emotional. I was swept away completely, from beginning to end.
Leigh MacKelvey03/20/07
I also liked the ending. Everything doesn't end perfectly or happily ever after. An ending like yours gives us much to ponder, question and make our own predictions. I also liked that she walked right past her father. Not that I condoned it, but it was realistic and was a natural reaction that followed the story line. Great job.
Laurie Glass03/21/07
What a moving and captivating piece. This one touches the reader's heart and to me, that's always a good thing. Great job.
Donna Emery03/21/07
So very lovely and such deeply expressed emotions. I felt her dilemma, and her heartache in your words. Thanks for sharing this
T. F. Chezum03/21/07
A very well written emotional piece. I enjoyed the read, from begining to end. Great job.
Donna Howard03/23/07
Wow! The emotion is still hanging in my room. A heart-wrenching story, beautifully told. Your talent shows.
Donna Howard03/23/07
P.S. Thanks for your comments on my story.
Bonnie Derksen04/13/07
Wow!... double wow!!
I am tucking this in my favorites.
Your writing flowed so smoothly from Jen's thoughts to the concert hall.
I am completely affected by your story.
I picture tears running down Jesus' face as Jen and her father start the healing process through her music.
Thank you for the gift of your story.