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Breathe Again

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Sophie never forgot him. Keith. The man who had managed to break her nearly as much as the death of her uncle had. It had been 7 years since she had fallen in love with Keith and endured the subsequent disaster as a result of it. Now a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a professional pianist, Sophie was no longer the naïve girl she once was. It had taken the swift drop to rock bottom for Sophie to finally be free of the ghosts of her past. A mother she never knew, a father who didn’t know how to be, and an uncle who put her on the path of music and then left her to follow it alone.

After disaster followed her on her runaway trip to New York, leaving everyone she encountered nearly as broken as she was, she just kept on running. For an entire year Sophie travelled the world in search of that special something that she knew she wanted but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. All throughout the states, South America and even Australia, Sophie searched for what was just out of reach. Looking back, she realized she was searching for herself.

When she first started playing the piano, she played for her Uncle. He was her only support, her parental figure and he was someone she thought would never leave her. After he passed, she lost all will to play until she met Keith. For all of 12 hours, Sophie’s path in life became crystal clear. She loved to play and she loved him and that’s all that mattered. It was her year on the run that made her realize that she had always relied on someone else to allow her to play. It was a small town in Oregon where she stayed for 4 months without a piano, and only a waitressing job to keep her afloat when she realized that she didn’t need anyone to justify who she was. Her existence wasn’t just defined through others, and her will to play was not because of her Uncle’s presence, it was the love that he introduced her to the minute she first played those keys. It was feelings of love and contentedness that embraced her when she played. Her uncle didn’t teach her how to play so she could play for him. He was giving her a world of opportunity, an outlet as well as a true love. With this gradual self-realization, Sophie grew up.

Taking her time to finish her travels and discover what she truly wanted out of life, Sophie finally decided to apply to Juilliard and Berklee. She had considered returning home to England but realized that without her uncle there, it was no longer home. Needing a fresh start, Sophie decided to initiate the next phase of her life in Boston. The four years spent studying the subject she loved were some of the very best. Being surrounded by music nearly every second of every day, Sophie wondered how she had ever stopped playing in the first place. She met lots of new people, people with passion for music like her, friends who cared about her, even a boyfriend or two.

Through all of this, as much as she tried not to, she still couldn’t stop thinking of Keith. She tried for about a year to convince herself it was just a little childhood crush. She was grieving her uncle when she met him, so obviously she just latched onto Keith to solve her issue with father figures. After a while she finally accepted that maybe her eighteen-year-old self really did fall for him, and that possibly some of those feelings lingered. She could never determine if the emotions that would flood her every time he crossed her mind were feelings of anger or longing. The thought of him was like a tiny lead weight in her heart, as soon as her thoughts tipped over into him her heart would sink. It wasn’t the same heart-shattering feeling that was present in the first months after he left her, but it still left a mark. She would sometimes almost forget about him entirely, that is until she saw leaves blowing in the wind, heard the soft moans of a cello, or tasted beer on her lips.

The few men she had dated since had been welcome distractions, and while the physical side of things was never an issue with them, it just took one look in their eyes to see what they lacked. They didn’t stare at her as though they could see right into her very soul and still liked what they saw. They couldn’t hold eye contact for minutes on end, silently communicating in a way no one else could understand. She knew he would always be a part of her, but she also knew better than to hope that she would ever see him again. Then again, even if she did see him, she wouldn’t know whether to cry, slap him, or kiss him senseless.

Keith tried to go back to normal. The panic of almost losing his only child had made him momentarily forget Sophie just enough to try to go back to his usual life. The panic faded eventually, but her place in his thoughts and heart never did. After his life-changing mistake, he could only beg for the forgiveness of his daughter, and in order to do that, he needed to earn the forgiveness of his wife. He tried for an entire year to go back to the doting husband, father and teacher that he had been for the last 17 years, but it all felt so superficial. Megan never really let go of the fact that he had nearly left her to runaway with a woman he had only just met, but she slowly became more civil. After a year of trying to look after her every need to earn her forgiveness, they decided that there wasn’t even a marriage left to salvage. Despite the mess that was their marriage, they split on relatively amicable terms (especially considering their history), and still spend holidays together with Lauren. He thought that the loss of his marriage would break him, but he found himself more relieved than anything once it was finally over.

His relationship with Lauren was the one that broke his heart. It took the better part of 4 years before he no longer saw the look of betrayal and lost trust in her eyes when she looked at him. When she almost died, he had vowed to himself that his number one priority from that moment forward would always be her. After taking a year off after her graduation, Lauren eventually earned a swimming scholarship to the University of California and he never missed a meet. She refused to see him after her meets for the entirety of her first year, but he understood her actions and just kept trying to bridge the gap between them. The realization that your parents aren’t who you thought they were is a tough pill to swallow. Eventually she came around, and now, even though she’s never the same around him as she once was, Keith likes to think that they have a good relationship.

She’s now working as a school Counselor in California; a job Keith thinks she is perfect at, and they talk at least twice a week on the phone.

He not only failed at returning to his marriage, but also failed at returning to teaching. Every time he stepped into the classroom, he could only see hazel eyes and hear a soft lilt of “one day you’ll be free.” Once he realized there was no salvaging his marriage, he also figured he no longer needed to teach so he quickly tried to get as many auditions as he could find. The New York Symphony Orchestra eventually took him back after he explained why he turned down the chair 2 years previous (leaving out a few key details of course). Finally following his passion, Keith knew it was all thanks to her.

After his divorce, Keith remained single. He was happy spending all his time and energy into salvaging his relationship with his daughter. While he never fully admitted it to himself, he knew that no one could ever match up to her. Every time she crossed his mind, he would feel the oddest mix of both longing for her and disgust with himself. He knew he had made a mistake pursuing her; she was only 18 years old and 20 years younger than him, but she was the first person in years to see him for who he truly was and aspired to be. She saw his consuming love for music and was heartbroken for him to see it being squandered in the classroom. When he looked into Sophie’s eyes he knew that no one could ever see him the way she did; as though with a glance she captured his soul. Now a man of 45, he never forgot the sound of her playing the piano, the stubborn look she got in her eye when he made her play in front of the class, and the feeling of her next to him as they ran in the rain. He knew that even if he saw her again, she would never forgive him for the way he left her.