Georgiana didn't understand why Sophie was suddenly looking at Ronnie as if he'd personally done her harm. She thought it best to distract her from him before she took it into her head to smack him or something, because she knew Ronnie never did anything to anybody!
“So...Sophie, can I sing now so you can tell me how I sound?” Georgiana asked.
Sophie turned away from Ronnie's sleeping form and smiled. “Okay, what ya got?” she said motioning her to stand up. “You always sing better standing up, you know.”
“Really?” Georgiana said. “Ronnie never told me that.”
They switched places; Sophie sat on the bench and Georgiana stood by the piano. Sophie listened carefully while Georgiana sang some vaguely familiar song, one she recalled hearing once or twice. She didn't like it at all. The song, that is; Georgiana had a nice voice for a little kid.
“What did I do wrong?” Georgiana asked, stopping in the middle of the song.
“What makes you think you did anything wrong?” Sophie asked.
“You made a face. Ronnie does that, too, mostly when he doesn't like a song, but I think he does it when I do something wrong, too, but he never wants to tell me what I did. I think he doesn't want to hurt my feelings, but I wanna do it right, so, please tell me.”
Sophie smiled. “Well, it's not really that you're doing anything wrong...um... I don't know this song very well so...”
“Wait...you don't know Let it go? ” Georgiana said, shocked to her toes.
“Uh...no. Should I? Not the kinda stuff we usually do,” Sophie said.
Georgiana stared at her, aghast. “It's from Frozen. It's the best song ever!”
Sophie tried not to laugh. “I doubt that, but anyway, I can still tell you what you're doing wrong.”
Georgiana wasn't convinced of that. How could she trust the opinion of someone who didn't know Let it go???
“So the thing is you're just running out of air too soon, before you reach the end of a natural break. Like you're pausing to breathe in the wrong places which makes the song sound choppy. It's probably cuz you don't have enough air in your lungs to begin with,” Sophie said. “Before I'm about to sing I spend lots of time taking deep breaths, filling my lungs so that I'm almost hyper-ventilating and...”
“Um...like filling your lungs with so much air that you feel like you're gonna pop,” Sophie said, but at the horrified expression on Georgiana's face, quickly added, “But you can't really pop, you know! It just feels like you have lots of air inside...cuz you do. That helps you hold long notes better and... I'm just confusing you, huh?”
“A little,” Georgiana said, a wary expression on her face. “Can you show me what you mean?”
“Okay, just watch when I pause to take in air and... Um...” Sophie paused, then added, “You know Adele, right?”
Georgiana rolled her eyes. “Of course, who doesn't?”
Sophie grinned and turned to the piano playing a few notes until she got the right tune.
“Hey, you just said you didn't know how to play!” Georgiana said.
“It's the only one I know cuz it's really easy. John taught me how to play it,” Sophie said.
“One of my bandmates. John plays keyboards—very talented! I told him how much I wanted to learn when I was a kid, so he tried to teach me. Elian tried to show me the drums but that was a complete disaster...fun, though. You can take out all your aggression out on drums!” Sophie said, laughing. “Bug is trying to teach me guitar but...”
“Bug?” Georgiana said, making a face reminiscent of Violet.
“His real name is Laurence, but he hates it so...”
“Laurence is better than bug!” Georgiana said.
Sophie laughed again. “I'll tell him you said so. So, are ya ready? I want you to sing along with me and watch when I take in air and you do the same. Okay?”
Georgiana nodded and listened to the slightly awkward first notes and then followed along as Sophie sang.
Just like Ronnie often did, Sophie closed her eyes after a minute and sang as if she were the only person left in the world. Perhaps she thought she was on another planet, because she seemed to forget that Georgiana was even there.
A mesmerized Georgiana stopped singing to listen. Sophie really did sing remarkably well, with such strong emotions that it almost hurt to hear it. It obviously caused some pain to Sophie, Georgiana observed, because a tear fell from the corner of Sophie's eye and rolled down her cheek.
Georgiana placed a hand on her shoulder as the song ended. “You sing even better than Adele, but maybe you shouldn't sing songs that make you so sad,” she said.
Sophie laughed and sniffed. “You're so cute. Only really good songs do that to me...songs that mean something special to me.”
“Those are the only songs worth singing,” Ronnie said.
“Ronnie!” Georgiana said. “Sorry we woke you.”
He winked at her, stretching his arms over head. “That's okay, Georgie. Nice way to wake up. I shouldn't be sleeping anyway. I'm supposed to be babysitting.”
“We're not babies and you were tired,” she said and needlessly added, “Look who's here, Ronnie. Sophie sings so good.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ronnie said, staring at the back of Sophie's head. “Hey, Sophie. Thanks for taking over the music lesson for me.”
Sophie hastily wiped at her face before facing him. “Hi,” she said, unusually shy, avoiding his eyes and forcing a smile she certainly didn't feel.
Ronnie frowned. “You okay?”
Georgiana went to Ronnie and hugged him. “I love you, Ronnie.” she said.
“Uh...I love you, too,” Ronnie said, laughing until he heard what she really wanted to tell him.
“Sophie's sad cuz of her dad... she was crying,” Georgiana whispered so only he could hear.
“Oh...kay,” he said. “So...how ya doing, Sophie?”
“I was suppose to be showing Georgiana proper breathing while singing, but I got caught up in the song … like usual and...guess I'm not good at teaching.”
“Yes, you are. I was watching and I know what you mean now!” Georgiana said. “I think I can do better. Wanna see?”
“Go for it, Georgie,” Ronnie said, curiously watching Sophie.
Georgiana took his hand and led him to the piano where she forced him to straddle the bench beside Sophie. “Ready?” she asked and when they both nodded she took in several deep breaths and sang her song.
Ronnie loved Georgiana-- really he did-- but right now, he wanted to strangle her. Like it wasn't enough torture to be in the same town with Sophie, now he had to sit so close to her that he could smell the intoxicating scent of orange blossoms from her hair. His fingers itched to touch that silky, honey-colored sheet and his arms ached for wanting to wrap them around her. He nearly moaned aloud when she leaned slightly back, and he thanked God when she straightened away from him again. He could barely breathe.
Sophie was having similar agonized thoughts. Her first instinct had been to lean back and be closer to Ronnie, have him wrap his arms around her, his breath tickling her neck, but a nagging little voice in her ear told her not to do it, so she scooted to the very edge of the bench to keep some distance. God help her, but she could feel the heat from his body on her back. Would it really be so bad to lean back just a tiny bit?
“Not a good idea, Honey,” the voice said.
It was then that she recalled all those other times in the past year or so that she'd heard that same voice. She never gave it much thought before, but now she knew. She recognized the voice as her father. How could she have been so stupid not to have figured out before now?
“What did I do wrong now?” Georgiana whined.
“Huh?” Ronnie said.
“You're both making ugly faces. Is my singing that bad?” Georgiana said.
“No, Georgie, no!” Ronnie said. “I...I was just...thinking of other things. I'm sorry. Finish the song. I'll listen more carefully, okay?”
Georgiana frowned and looked at Sophie's glazed over expression and knew there was no use. She sighed and shrugged. “I think I'll finish the music lesson later. I want to look for some stickers to finish Daddy's present,” she said, turning on her heels and leaving.
“Georgie, come on!” Ronnie shouted after her, ready to beg her to stay and not leave him alone with Sophie.
“Where's she going?” Sophie said, suddenly snapping out of her reverie. “She wasn't finished, was she?”
“For now she is,” Ronnie said, standing and putting his music sheets in order, before stuffing them into a folder.
“You never told me you wrote songs,” she said. “Georgiana told me.”
“Well...not like it came up in conversation,” he retorted.
“Will you play one for me?”
“Why not?” she said.
“Cuz...cuz they're just... I was just goofing around. They're nothing, not even... no,” he said.
“Simon really did a number on you, didn't he?” she said, resentfully. “You shouldn't listen to him, you know.”
He smirked. “And I should listen to you, I suppose?”
“Yes, you should. Unlike your brother, I have your best interest at heart,” she said.
“I think he does too...in his own way. He doesn't want me chasing a fruitless dream,” Ronnie said.
“Fruitless dream,” she said, venomously. “What the hell does he know about that?”
“Sophie...” Ronnie said.
Without warning she burst into tears, covering her face with her hands.
“Shit,” he mumbled, straddling the bench again. He went to touch her, but pulled back. He had to keep his distance, for his own sanity if nothing else.
“I'm sorry,” she sniffed, wiping at her eyes, thankful that she wore waterproof mascara. “I'm not usually so...weepy.”
“Georgiana said you were sad about your dad,” he said. “Wanna talk about it?”
She started to shake her head, then she looked up at him. “Maybe I should.”
Ronnie shrugged. “I'm a good listener...just told my dad the same thing today...although I couldn't get him to open up.”
She stared at him, wanting so much to be held, at least for a little while.
“Sweetheart, you know you shouldn't. It's counterproductive,” Richard whispered to her.
“Please stop looking at me like that, Sophie,” Ronnie said, clenching his fists to keep himself from grabbing her and never letting go.
“How...how am I looking at you?” she said, turning away, staring at the piano keys instead.
He drew a deep breath, shook his head, and ignored the question. “What's bothering you, Sophie? Maybe I can help.”
She licked her lips, then bit down on them as she reached up to touch the keys. After a minute she cleared her throat and said, “You were right, Ronnie.”
Ronnie looked his confusion. “What about him?”
“Don't you remember? I got mad at you for saying he was haunting my mom, but...but you were right. He really is a ghost and he really is haunting my mom. I saw him last night," she said, sounding half fearful, half exasperated. "He's...he's probably right here right now...watching us. Whispering in my ear, telling me what to do... and not to do.”
Ronnie gaped at her, then slowly looked around the living room as if expecting his now-deceased, former b-ball coach to suddenly appear. “Um...how do you know that?” he whispered.
She looked up at him. “You... you don't seem surprised. You don't think I'm crazy or something or making this up?”
He shook his head, looking deadly serious.
She stared at him, astonished. “I was kinda hoping you would tell me I was nuts, cuz... this is like totally freaking me out!” she said.
“Before you freak out...you're sure it wasn't just a dream?” he asked gently.
“No, it was not a dream!” she said, then frowning she added, “But it could be all in my head.”
“Just like Dumbledore said,” he muttered. “Okay, why don't you tell me exactly what happened.”
“I was sleeping and he just...he walked through the wall, woke me out of a sound sleep and he talked to me,” she said, staring into space for a moment. She suddenly shook her head and turned on the bench bumping knees with Ronnie. She grabbed his arm and squeezed.
“Ronnie, it was so real... like you and me right here right now. He wasn't transparent or anything. He was solid. I could touch him just like I'm touching you. He talked to me. He put my hair in a ponytail using my teddy bear's ribbon and I woke up with the ribbon still in my hair-- and I never put my hair in a ponytail! I hate them. Oh, Ronnie, he held me so tight and we talked and...” She covered her mouth with her hand as tears welled in her eyes again.
“What did he say?” Ronnie asked, curiously.
She opened her mouth, then shut it again and turned away to look down at the piano keys. “He said I was being very selfish.”
“Selfish?” Ronnie said, bewildered.
“He said he was disappointed in me because I was putting my own desires ahead of what was good for my mother.”
“And what did he say was good for your mom?” Ronnie asked, his heart suddenly beating uncomfortably fast in his chest.
Sophie looked up at him and sighed. “He wants your dad to marry my mom.”
Ronnie's jaw dropped.
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