“Thank you for extending such an opportunity to me. I appreciate everyone in the team for being so flexible and understanding, and it's amazing how everyone has minimized their sleeping time to make this happen. I especially want to thank my mentor and teacher Kim Kibum for always staying beside me and believing in me.”
The silence was the only companion Baekhyun had, and the only thing he could hear echoing in his ears was his own voice from the past. He was sitting on the hard piano bench in that dim room, not even caring to turn on the lights.
He was standing on the stage, squeezing a flower bouquet against his chest, and the lights were maybe blinding but there were only proud smiles on faces of the people around him. Kibum was sitting on the front row, Park Jeongsu held a mic for him, Kim Jongdae showed his thumbs up when their gazes met.
“Just thank you for everything. From now on, I'll show you my best side so please keep watching me and my playing.”
Baekhyun rubbed his left hand, sliding his right palm over it.
He put some force into his movements and pressed random points against the veins with his fingers. It hurt so Baekhyun had to bite his lower lip in order not to let out a wince.
He was exhausted but satisfied as he flopped down onto back seat. He had achieved one of his biggest goals by winning and now they wanted even more from him, Junmyeon had talked to him shortly before he had left the venue.
His mind kept wandering back to that conversation as the driver revved the engine when they entered the highway, the taillights of other vehicles and raindrops against the windscreen being the only sight.
Junmyeon had envisioned a whole world tour, promising he'd talk to the board on the next day. It wouldn't be only Tokyo and Jakarta but they'd stretch it all the way to London, Paris, Wien, Budapest, Sydney, New York.
Baekhyun's last thought was how to increase the amount of sponsorship before there were nothing but strident sounds of braking, the driver screaming something, himself being thrown over the whole back seat and being smashed against the left door.
There was a popping sound coming from his arm, it didn't hurt at all but the lack of pain was the worst thing as he looked at his limb and it was completely deformed.
Baekhyun's right fingers travelled over his left fingers until he reached the tips. He took a left middle finger between his right fingers, and gave a firm pinch.
”Does this hurt?”
“Can you feel anything?”
”Do you feel anything if I press here with the tip of this key?”
“How about this?”
“Okay, can you feel anything here?”
Baekhyun pinched the middle finger a bit harder, digging his nail into the skin.
”I'm afraid to tell you the sensory nerves in your hand damaged so badly, when your arm got broken, so that's why there's the constant numbness in your fingertips. We've tried everything but once the nerve is damaged, there's not much the modern medicine can do. It's like trying to fix a scratched cd--”
The words coming out were fading away somewhere on the way, even his vision was getting blurred.
“--we can always take aches and pains away. Several types of medications and other treatments can bring you 100% relief, so you don't have to worry about that. We can also offer you of course some physiotherapy--”
He felt the the nausea coming up.
“That doesn't prevent you from keeping your playing, of course! Maybe you could continue it as a nice hobby or maybe you should consider teaching, even many top athletes do that once they retire from their field.
Baekhyun closed his eyes as he gave an experimental pinch for each finger. He could feel his own skin against the fingertips of his right hand but there was no pain, no ticklish feeling, absolutely nothing in his left digits.
”--so due the regulation which you can read from the column number fourteen from our conditions, it's been suggested by the supervising board that we'll terminate the current contract. Therefore, Byun Baekhyun will submit his resignation letter which will also end the sponsorship,” Junmyeon stated as if he was reading all the words from the paper, avoiding eye contact with him.
After all these years working together Kim Junmyeon couldn't even dare to look him in the eye, not bothering to give out some respect, but instead escaping like that like Baekhyun was someone to break. Or worse: someone who was already broken and there was no way to fix him.
“Fair enough,” he answered curtly.
“Byun Baekhyun, we thank you for these years and we appreciate everything you've done for the institute,” Choi Minho continued while taking out some papers from the black case on the table. His face was blank and serious.
“We're wanting to make this as easy as possible for you so just sign here, and here's another paper--”
And his life was crumbling down like that, simply writing down his name in some pieces of paper, but those pieces held everything his life had been all about for the past ten years.
His life was over.
“Is that everything?” Baekhyun asked dryly.
“Oh, one more small thing,” Cho Kyuhyun exclaimed. “By signing this agreement we can arrange the haulage for the next week already.”
“The haulage to move the Steinway grand piano from your apartment, Byun Baekhyun-ssi,” Cho Kyuhyun continued slowly, his gesture of leaving unnecessary weight for every syllable making him sound like he was talking to an idiot. “By terminating the contract you are no longer permitted to use the Steinway the institute bestowed you.”
The lump inside his throat was getting bigger and bigger, but somehow Baekhyun managed to nod.
“Now if you would please sign your name at the bottom here,” Shim Changmin requested.
Baekhyun rubbed his hands together, making a cup with them and blowing some warm air inside before placing his fingers on the keyboard which still felt strange. This keyboard was something alien and totally foreign, which made his mind scream there was something wrong altogether going on.
It wasn't his grand piano, it was designed for someone else, someone who would maybe attend a matinée every once in a while and played for fun. As a hobby.
His Steinway's white keys had darkened due hard practicing within the years, while black ones had also been a bit worn out, but that had been the familiarity that had always brought him the needed confidence when he had been playing. It had brought him the warmth that was gone forever now.
”I'm sorry, Baekhyun,” Kibum started, uneasiness being obvious as he scratched his neck. “I know we've gone the long way together and I'm proud of everything we've managed to achieve but we should also finally face the reality.”
“What reality? What do you mean?”
He hadn't come to meet Kibum for this.
“Do I really have to say it aloud?”
“Yes, because I have no idea what you're talking about!”
“It won't be the same, Baekhyun! Your hand won't magically cure and we both know that. Everyone knows that. You remember what the doctors told you. You've lost the somatosensory system from the fingertips of your left hand forever. If the nerve has been cut, then it's cut and there's nothing we can do for it.”
“So what are you trying to say here, are you like leaving or something?”
Kibum stayed silent, only watching him sadly.
“So you are leaving,” Baekhyun said. It wasn't a question any longer.
“They offered me a position as a music theory lecturer in Warsaw. I haven't signed anything yet because I wanted to see you before making it official. But since you're not playing at the institute anymore and you've been the only player for me to mentor, and the conditions they're offering are really good--”
“You are leaving.”
Kibum sighed. “I didn't want us to separate like this. From the beginning you were the best student I ever had and I didn't want to end our team like this.”
“Well guess what, I didn't want this either! I didn't choose some reckless driver to fuck up my hand like this! I didn't sign up for one fucking accident destroying everything I ever had in my life!” His tone kept raising threateningly but he couldn't help that anymore. The way Kibum looked at him hurt like a bitch but it couldn't be even compared to how much the burning pain inside him hurt him.
“I'm sorry, Baekhyun. I really am.”
His mind remembered exactly which keys to push as he started playing.
Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat major. Opus 9. Number 2.
For a short extend he could trick his body like that, he could create the music even though there was no feeling of hard ivory against half of his fingers. Baekhyun still and all remembered how much pressure he needed to have for each finger, and the beautiful flowing melody filled up the room like making the whole space alive.
”Have you ever thought that maybe you could start teaching?” Junmyeon questioned carefully.
Baekhyun remained silent.
“The whole institute misses you. You have the talent and the technique and you shouldn't throw it away. Think about how someone could make a use of that. Maybe not someone better than you but maybe someone who will eventually be as good as you.”
“I've always been an artist, not a--”
“I didn't tell you to make your decision right now. Just think about it.”
Baekhyun missed a note as his left hand slipped, and then there was nothing but silence again.
“Aren't you going to pick that up?”
Baekhyun uttered a sigh, with an obvious frustration in it, and made no gesture whatsoever for his phone ringing on the table.
“It's the people from the institute again. I already know what they're asking, it remains the same question over and over again. And the answer remains no. No, I'm not going to start teaching. Not over my dead body.”
“Baekhyun, I know it's been hard but thinking that you could have died and that makes me sad when you're even half-jokingly talking like that,” Kyungsoo stated and started putting ingredients into the fridge. He grimaced as he noticed the carrots he had brought last week were already covered with mold.
Baekhyun grunted. “It was just a small crash.”
“And I'm very glad it stayed like that.”
“I couldn't have even died. Wasn't even close.”
“And that's good.”
“But sometimes I wish I had died.”
Baekhyun rolled his eyes.
“Besides,” Kyungsoo continued, throwing the old carrot bag into the trash can. “It's been three months since the physiotherapy started. Three months. You know, you're my friend but at some point this needs to stop seriously.”
“I don't understand what you're trying to say.”
“This, for heaven's sake,” Kyungsoo gave him a sharp glance, spreading his arms to address the dirty kitchen around him. He usually didn't raise his voice but he sounded more agitated than normally.
“And don't even try to tell me you're doing fine enough and this is everything you could ask from life. Let's be honest: your apartment looks like shit, you look like shit, you do nothing but sleep during days, mope at nights, keep talking about wanting to die, keep staring at your hand and rubbing it like you're waiting for a miracle. It's been hard for you, I know, but it's time to get grip on yourself and slowly go back to the real life.”
“I don't care. How many times do I have to tell you I'm an artist, not a teacher.”
“--an artist who has a rent to pay like everyone else.”
“Did you even hear what I said?! I'm an artist, Kyungsoo, for fuck's sake! A performer. I didn't start playing in the first place just to teach some enthusiastic kids with sweaty fingers how to master Für Elise.”
“I know. But you do realize that some day you need to move on, get over it. Continue your life.”
“Teaching is not what I'd call life.”
Kyungsoo frowned. “Maybe you should try out a different kind of attitude, Baekhyun. It doesn't have to be like that.”
“What do you even mean,” Baekhyun muttered under his breath. The feeling he had been having all the way was a great mixture of anger, frustration and sadness, which kept eating him inside, yet he couldn't name only one feeling where he could put his finger into. That had been the problem from the very beginning, when this nightmare had started; he wasn't ready to face those feelings and he definitely wasn't ready to move on.
“What I mean is,” Kyungsoo said, and sounded a bit more gentle again, “there might be someone who needs exactly the knowledge you have. You know yourself that your technique is beyond unique, thanks to your hard training. Now it'd be perfect time to make good use of it. Otherwise everything you did, you did for nothing, and I know you well enough that's not what you want deep inside.”
“I just don't believe it'll be the same. It won't feel the same.”
“No-one's told you it will be the same, Baekhyun, have they? But who knows, maybe you could find something totally new, something you never thought you were craving for. You can't expect to go on and have a wonderful beginning but you could go on and try to make yourself a wonderful ending.”
“I didn't know you were such a poet,” Baekhyun scoffed.
“All I'm asking you, please think about it.”
Baekhyun let out another long sigh.
“Just listen to them, let them tell you what they'd have in their mind for you,” Kyungsoo pleaded.
Baekhyun's phone started ringing again.
You're up, orangegreenlove! :D