She was a little girl with little hands, reaching for difficult chords to play, stretching her pinkies and thumbs wide across the keyboard until her palms cramped and pain shot through her wrists, but nothing could make her stop. The workmen were removing the chairs and dining room table. They’d taken the china cabinet and sofa and rugs. And though they’d soon come for the piano, it was hers until then, until the term repossess became a concrete rather than abstract designation brought about by the trouble her mother had keeping up with payments now that her father was gone.

The girl had received news of his passing from her principal at school.

“I’m sorry, dear,” the woman had said, but the girl hadn’t understood.

Until then, she’d existed in an illusory phase of immortality, protected from the world by her parents’ love. There hadn’t been pets for practice, a parakeet to place in a box and bury, a goldfish to flush. Instead, there was this service, with its shiny black casket and plenty of strangers telling her what a great man her father had been. But no one had come forward to help when the money ran out, and her lessons had been one of the first sacrifices.

 Her father used to walk her to her teacher’s studio. The girl had perfect pitch, and her teacher beamed to have such a pupil, but she couldn’t work for free. She’d explained that. During the last lesson, they’d begun “Moonlight Sonata,” and the girl had been playing it ever since, associating its sadness with her father’s absence. Its tempo, in the first section, was slow enough for her to pick out the notes despite her limited span, but as it progressed, the melody became more intricate, harder to navigate. So, she concentrated on the first few bars, playing with all the melancholy she could muster in hopes of making the movers forget what they came for.

She rocked, and the wooden bench squeaked. That squeak might be a defect to whomever owned it next, but to her, it was a joyous sound, one she likened with home. It reminded her of her parents’ footfalls on the stairs at night as she lay under the covers in her bedroom, pretending to be asleep. And she did more than touch the keys. She caressed them, focused on making them work together, solving a puzzle. The plating had come off some of them, so her journey was a braille trek over peaks and valleys, ascents and descents between black and white, and she wondered what it would be like to play a finely-crafted instrument, like the one her teacher played every day. Sometimes, when her parents were sleeping, she’d sneak downstairs and tap in the upper register so gently no one but she could hear. If she came home angry because another kid had picked on her, she’d grind her thumbs into the bass notes, letting them linger in the air. And she used both now to great effect, her left hand providing drama as her right waltzed with the melody. She was putting such attention into her performance that one of the movers startled her when he dropped a dusty canvas cloth on her piano. She flinched and hit a few wrong notes, their dissonance fading into silence, and she watched, as they spread the cover over its surface.

“What was that?” one of the men asked. “It’s pretty.”

But from his cadence, she could tell he didn’t care if she answered. He pulled the tarp to the floor, the spot where she used to sit in the dark and listen to her mother cry.

The man and his partner heaved and groaned and lifted it from the ground, inserting a wheeled cart beneath before pushing it away. When they were gone, she moved from the bench to the floor.

“You have a musician’s hands,” her teacher had told her. “Your fingers are slender. They’ll grow as you grow.”

She stretched them out, gazing at the crescents of nail, the arch of her knuckles, the blue veins beneath. She picked at some of the dust bunnies that had accumulated, pinched and ground them between her fingers and rolled them back and forth. Then she dropped them again, tracing her name across the hardwood in this newly-created vacancy.