Chapter 6

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Junipea's hand rests on mine, loosening the stiff bones to help me play a more natural tune on this stringed instrument

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Junipea's hand rests on mine, loosening the stiff bones to help me play a more natural tune on this stringed instrument. My finger eases its way over one key and then another, striking down hard on the cool ivory to make a melody, so horrendous, he laughs at my shameful hot face.

My eyes narrow in on his honeydew eyes. They twinkle with excitement, teasing me as he moves my hand once more. His fair freckled skin is like a blanket of stars covering my olive brown. But the longer we train outside, the more tanned my skin becomes, while his skin turns red as a ripe tomato, bleaching out his orange curly hair.

The keypad tongs, blaring out a disgruntled noise. Junipea grimaces. "Don't press down so hard, or you'll break the piano," he says, grabbing my hand. "Here let me show you. It's easier than you think."

"Says the master of all piano players. How did I end up letting you teach me, again?" I tease, but follow his lead and rest my hand on top of his and play the C major scale. It's always fun to play the imaginary and believe I can do this artsy craft.

He smiles, showing those soft dimples of his. "Because you love me."

"Ah, no. I think it's because you bribed me with a song." I smile back.

His hand glides across the key, pressing each ivory delicately in. The melody comes out from the strings and flows into the ballroom high ceilings. My mind wanders as my fingers dance to his meandering steps. This song is gentle and soothing and tries lulling me away, but it's not the one I want to hear.

When he finishes, I ask, "Will you play my favorite piece, now?"

"After you do the scale."

He pinches my cheek like a child. I swat him away. He's only two years older than me but acts as if he's ten years my senior. It's those eyes of his. A smile may rest on his lips at all times, but he can't hide the darkness lingering beneath. He's seen as much evil as I have in the world. He's been evil just like me, though, he's been doing it longer.

Two years can make a big difference when you experience life sooner.

I press down on the C, D, E until I reach F. It's always the blasted F that has my thumb screwing itself over. I'm used to having it curled or straight on my Bō, not dancing it around on table tops. Somehow, I get it this time.

"See? Wasn't that easy." He laughs, clearly trying to not criticize my horrible playing.

Laughing, I shake my head. "If you say so. I think it's easier to throw a knife."

He rests his fingers on the keys and starts playing another tune. This time a somber one. "You're always the best at knife throwing."

"The best at everything I do, you mean."

Junipea chuckles. "You're even great at killing people."

He doesn't break his tempo, moving his fingers across with ease. This dark emotion spreads throughout the ballroom and inside me. "What?"

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