Chords Unbroken Ch 02

In the dark living room, the heavy breathing sounded eerie. Amelia closed her eyes when she felt it against her neck, hot and intoxicated. It made her head swim, her feet unsteady.

“You still haven’t paid me this week.” The snuffle was followed by the clink of glass against metal. She saw him lift the bottle to his mouth from over her shoulder, guzzling noisily until there was nothing left. “How many times do I have to remind you?”

“We broke up two months ago.” She turned around to face him, the damp clothes and fear freezing her body. “You are not my boyfriend anymore. There’s nothing between us.”

The laugh in response curdled her blood. Amelia took two steps back when his hand tightened around the beer bottle.

“You remember our deal, right?” He inched closer, his pale brown hair glistening in the streak of streetlight. “You stop paying me and I add to your collection of bruises.”

“I’m not giving you any more of my money,” she explained slowly. “All you do is drink with it.”

She did not see the slap until she was stumbling backwards, the sharp sting burning like red, hot coals. Her hand moved to her cheek, even as she was roughly grabbed and pinned against her console piano. He brutally squeezed her arms, and through the pain, she tried her best to not scream. The soundproof apartment would do nothing to alert anyone.

“You’re talking back at me now, are you?” His mouth was contorted, his eyes bloodshot. “What a change, babygirl. Is it because of the new man in your life?”

“Let me go,” she stuttered, wiggling to free herself from the savage grip. He released her and she tried to run, but there was nowhere to hide. She staggered against the piano, sending sheets of music fluttering across the room.

“Is that why you refused to get back together?” he hissed, towering over her. “Because you already have someone new?”

Her ability to speak was robbed by the slap that followed, pinning her face to the cold wood of the piano. “It took you no time to get over me!” A fist accompanied the roar, then another, pistoning her to the floor. Amelia gasped, her vision blackening, as though she had been stabbed with a knife. She wailed noiselessly, the pain rising from her lower back and spreading across her stomach. The last time he had done that, she spent the night vomiting blood.

She bit her lip when she was yanked back to her feet. “I want my money.” He wrung her face, the muscles of his jaw throbbing. Amelia jerked free and pushed him away, reaching for the wall.

“It isn’t your money.” She shook her head. “And you’re not getting any of it.”

The bottle came flying at her, and she ducked just in time, collapsing onto the floor and hitting the corner of her forehead on the hardwood. The bottle lay in shards around her, sparkling in the faint light streaming in through the window. Her head spun but she felt the trickle of blood only when she tasted it on her lips.

“Bitch.” A boot kicked into the side of her stomach and yet again, she resisted the urge to cry out. The pain was piercing like a razor, shooting up her chest. “That’s what you are. A filthy slut.”

There were sounds of her flat being ransacked, but she could not move. Could not breathe. Amelia lay still on the floor, letting the world disappear into a black hole.


Daniel entered the practice room and stopped short to find his student absent. It had been a hectic day, starting with his first public masterclass of the season in the lead-up to the conservatoire’s summer music festival in June, followed by three interviews, and a meeting with the piano committee regarding the annual festival line-up. The centrepiece of the event was going to be his rare performance of Ligeti’s piano concerto, a recital he was looking forward to. Besides the masterclasses, the summer series would also feature Schubert’s late sonatas and various multimedia collaborations, and the world premiere of Amelia Cavenham’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

But where was she?

He checked the time on his watch. It was his last class before the weekend and he had been anticipating the individual session with Amelia, to have a first-hand taste of her incredible maturity as a musician at such a young age and hopefully change her mind about her decision.

Students dropped out for several reasons. But she was not just another student. She was a prodigy, a jewel in the academy’s crown, an expert at both classical and contemporary music. She had owned some of the biggest music competitions since she was nine, performed at the most hallowed venues across the globe, and given older, more experienced musicians a run for their money. That year, she had been commissioned for a unique arrangement of Jeunehomme for her Carnegie Hall concert in July, and another for her recital with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. She was the epitome of precocious talent. Letting her go would be such a loss for the conservatoire, for the world.

Turning around, he started walking back to his office while scrolling through the contacts on his phone. Halfway down the stairs, he was met by one of the professors of piano.

“I was about to call you,” Daniel said to Timothy Martin. “Have you seen Amelia today at all?”

“No.” The lean, grey-blonde man shook his head. “Mr Freeman-Atwood wants to talk to you about that. Ms Dankworth and Mr Harvest are in his office.”

Daniel followed him to the principal’s office, knowing well how the discussion would go and already feeling helpless. Tilda Dankworth used to be his classmate back in the day when they were students at the academy. Tall with sleek brown hair and large, round glasses, she was soft-spoken and fond of her students. When Daniel entered the room, she sounded concerned about Amelia’s disappearances.

“She’s the brightest among the crème de la crème of musicians,” Ms Dankworth said to the principal and the other professor in the room, Oscar Harvest. “If there’s any pianist who can match Dr McGraw’s genius after all these years, it’s Amelia.”

“Please.” Daniel walked over to the window, sliding his hands inside his pockets. “This isn’t about talent or genius. That girl looks troubled. Does anyone know what could be wrong?”

“Did you talk to her?” The principal asked. Daniel nodded.

“I tried,” he answered with a sigh, focusing on the neatly manicured garden outside. “She’s as stubborn as always. Trying to get a word out of her is like pulling teeth.”

“She’s missing classes all the time,” Ms Dankworth said. “It’s been over three months and I’m afraid it’s growing worse.”

“She was not at your masterclass today, was she?” Mr Harvest asked Daniel. When he shook his head, the principal leaned back in his chair and sighed.

“I called her to my office the other day and tried to unravel what was going on,” he said. “Daniel is right. She wouldn’t say anything.”

“It’s such a shame.” Ms Dankworth lamented. “She’s a smart, rational, even-tempered girl. You can put her in any situation and she will shimmy her way out with her charisma and elegance.”

“Summer is almost here and we have concerts lined up.” Mr Harvest folded his hands under his nose, a scowl of worry on his forehead. “She is indeed the most remarkable musician we have seen since Dr McGraw. She’s carrying our music festivals, the recitals, the seminars—”

“Wait a minute.” Daniel raised a hand. “Are we only talking about this because we need Amelia for our professional gain?”

The people in the room recoiled. “I… I did not imply that,” Mr Harvest quietly amended. “But if she really backs out of the concerts—”

“Have you even looked at her lately?” Daniel exclaimed. “She seems dead. How can she carry the concerts when she barely looks capable of carrying her own life?”

Collecting himself as quickly as he had snapped, he inhaled deeply. “I’m going home,” he announced. “I’ll try to talk to her again and let you know if anything changes.”

He wished them a good night and a nice weekend and walked out of the office, his mind racing as he strode down the hallway. Later, he sat in his car for several minutes, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel while gathering his thoughts. Then, with a determined nod, he started his car and headed for Brixton.


“You looking for anyone, sir?” The middle-aged gent spoke with a cigarette between his teeth. Daniel was in front of the building he was almost sure Amelia lived in, but he did not feel confident about going up the stairs only to find the wrong house. The man who had just spoken to him was probably the owner of the bookstore on the ground floor.

“Yes.” He cleared his throat and turned towards him. “You don’t happen to know a red-haired girl who lives around here, do you? Small, quiet, green eyes, plays the piano.”

“Sure I do.” The man smiled, before pointing up the stairs. “Right there. That’s her flat.”

Daniel followed his finger, relieved to know that he had been looking at the right house. “You aren’t the police, are you?” the man suddenly added.


“Don’t mind me.” He turned to walk back to his shop, stopping only to drop the cigarette butt on the ground and crush it under his shoe. “But it’s time someone called the coppers on that rascal.”

The door of the shop swung shut before Daniel had the chance to thank him or ask what he meant. As he carefully walked upstairs to reach the blue door, he could not help but wonder why a gifted, globally-renowned musician with a prestigious career would want to live there. He was twenty-three when he bought his house. Amelia was around the same age now with the same level of success and could easily afford a better dwelling.

He knocked and waited, but the door did not open. Daniel knocked again, listening for any sounds inside. Just as he had lifted his hand to knock again, the door unlocked, slowly scraping open. A shadowed face appeared through the crack, surprised eyes widening in recognition. Daniel flinched when the door closed on his face.

“Splendid,” he spoke gently. “Is a slammed door my reward for turning up unannounced?”

“I don’t want to see anyone,” came the muffled response from the other side. 

“Yes, probably why you weren’t at the masterclass.” He tapped on the door with his fingertips. “This is getting out of hand, Amelia. Stop hiding and open the door.”

“I’m busy in here.”

“I won’t take too long. Open up, please.”

A minute of silence followed. When the door cracked again, he saw her face hanging low, her messy hair covering more than half of her profile. Daniel’s gaze stopped on her hands as they clutched the edge of the door, and he noted the almost imperceptible shivers underneath her long-sleeve dress. He stepped forward, and she instinctively moved away to hide behind the door.

“Why weren’t you at the masterclass?” he asked. “You knew it was a live, public event, right? We were scrambling to cover for a missing participant.”

“I’m sorry.” Her hands were trembling now. “Something came up and…”

“Are you alright?” He took another step toward her, and she faltered as she tried to move further away. Daniel slipped a hand in through the gap in the door and lightly held her elbow when she swayed unsteadily. He frowned when she winced in pain.

“Look at me,” he said. When she did not oblige, he cupped her pointed chin and moved the hair out of her face, revealing the gash on her forehead, the purple bruise on her cheek, and a deep cut down the side of her neck. His heart dropped.

“What happened to you?” he gasped. Amelia scrunched her eyes.

“You don’t have to know.”

“Like hell I don’t,” he exclaimed. “You look like a trainwreck. Are you going to tell me you fell again?”

He pushed open the door and drew her out of hiding, and she whimpered when the mere act of putting one foot in front of the other caused her pain. His blood turned cold the longer he stared at her.

“You’re coming with me,” he adjured, nodding down the stairs. When she shook her head, he let out an exasperated sigh.

“If you think I’ll leave you in this condition, you’re very mistaken. You need medical attention. Come on. We’ll go to the hospital.”

“I don’t need it.”

“You do. I can see your wounds are still very raw.” He clenched his teeth. “Who did this to you?”

Her eyes were glistening when she finally looked up to meet his gaze. “Who is it?” he repeated in a quiet voice, recalling the rascal the bookstore owner had spoken about. “Those aren’t injuries from a fall. Only a fool would believe that.”

She lowered her eyes again, a teardrop spilling onto the ground. It was all the cue he needed to make up his mind.

“Come with me.” He commanded, gentle yet firm, the tone he knew Amelia had never been able to defy. “I’m taking you home.”


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