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A Sweet Song

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One, two, three, one, two, three, Omori kept counting in his head. With a swift motion, he started bowing and the sound of his violin filled the room. He was practicing for Mari's and his recital, by himself since he didn't want to waste any more of her time. That and he couldn't deal with the pressure right now.

Mari was always perfect. Her playing was beautiful and effortless and, even if she didn't tell it to his face, she knew that Sunny still had a lot of room to improve, even with a simple piece. In the beginning, she encouraged him gently, but the longer it took and the more they practiced together, the more she'd push him on. Of course, Sunny loved Mari, and he would never want someone else for his sister, but when they were practicing in the piano room, it was like she turned into another person. Her remarks were almost vicious.

The worst thing about it was that she never was wrong. Sunny should be playing a lot better than he is, especially with how much time he's been putting in. And for their first recital, Sunny should do nothing but give his very best. He owed it not only to Mari but also their friends, who'd generously gifted him the violin.

Sunny cursed as he reached the high F and completely messed up his intonation. Anger was boiling inside him, and he felt like he should throw his instrument against the wall and have it shatter into a thousand pieces. No, he couldn't do that. He chastised himself for even thinking that.

Practice makes perfect, Mari always said that. So he picked up from the beginning.

Even when his playing worsened just by the sheer exhaustion from practicing without break, he didn't stop. He rarely took breaks when he was by himself. But his practice was disturbed by a chime. He hadn't expected any visitors and was home alone. He put down his violin and went to open the door.

It was Kel. Sunny greeted him with a timid voice and Kel responded with all of his energy.

"G'evening!" Kel stepped through the door as Sunny stepped aside. His big smile and his jovial zest already lessened some of his prior frustrations.

"My parents aren't home. Mari isn't here, either," Sunny stated in his monotone voice, though it was no reason for Kel not to visit him. It was more of an invitation, even if Sunny wanted to practice by himself. He shouldn't let himself get distracted, no matter how much he wanted to escape practicing.

"I know, I know; Mari's with Hero. I came over to see just you."

Sunny was happy Kel was looking for him, though I wasn't unusual. Something seemed different about him today, usually, Aubrey and Basil would have tagged along. "What's up with Aubrey?"

"Can't we spend some time together? It feels like you're always at home practicing. I think lately Mari's been more at our house than you have. "

"I was just practicing before you disturbed." Ah, he worded it wrong. Disturbed was a bit too harsh, though Kel had thick skin, unlike Sunny himself. He felt guilty, now that Kel laid it out before him that Sunny spending too much time practicing.

"Let me watch!" Kel dragged the words out, almost begging to spend time with Sunny. 

Sunny was a bit hesitant; he didn't feel up to it. "Shouldn't you wait for the recital? I was just practicing because I'm still not good enough."

"There's no way you're bad. Let me watch, please?" Kel begged, "It could be our secret."

Secret? Kel was pushing it just a bit, though Sunny couldn't refuse with Kel smiling like that. So he conceded rather quickly and started guiding him to the piano room. "Fine."

Kel had pulled the piano bench to the side while Sunny stood in front, his gaze shifting between the sheet music and Kel. Kel was smiling, which should have been reassuring, but Sunny felt pressure weighing on him once more.

He started playing like he did many times before, but with Kel's eyes on him, it was different. Sunny feared he might be disappointed, feeling that his part felt empty if he played it by himself. Taking his eyes off the sheet music and turning to face Kel, Sunny saw Kel gazing at him with wide eyes. Kel was nodding, encouraging Sunny to continue.

It felt nice, a lot better than practicing by himself, and in a sense, it felt better than practicing with Mari. Sunny gave a smile, one Kel would've called "cute", and closed his eyes as he put his heart into his performance for Kel.

He hadn't changed his playing consciously, but the notes were warmer and their sound filled the room as if reflecting Sunny's enthusiasm. When he reached the end of the piece, instead of stopping, he started over, this time improvising and decorating the melody. He can't remember the last time he had this much fun playing the violin.

After that, the room fell silent once again, though not uncomfortably so. The silence was quickly broken by Kel praising Sunny.

"You were amazing!"

"It was fine," Sunny tried to deflect the compliment, but it was genuine and he genuinely felt happy. Mari didn't compliment him when he was practicing. "I think I'm about done for today."

"Aw, but you were so good already!"

Unlike the other days he practiced, he actually felt pretty decent. Having someone around, or more specifically having Kel around, made him play for them instead of at the wall, who never seemed to enjoy, or hate for that matter, his playing. Sunny could make this a habit. "Are you free tomorrow?"

"Yes!" Kel beamed. "I'll come over tomorrow, after school."

Sunny opened his violin case and, after slacking the bow and removing the shoulder rest, packed them all in neatly. Looking at the violin in its case brings back memories of Christmas when he had received it. It made him smile before covering it with a blanket and closing it.

"Do you want to eat something first? We have leftovers in the kitchen..."

"Sure!"

And so they did warm up and eat some leftovers, having some of Mari's cookies as dessert. Even cold, they were still better than any other cookies ever made.