The stage is your master. It is what determines your fate.

Words swept up by the current of time. Ava stares at the stage before her, the long wooden platform is occupied by a violinist who seems to have immersed herself into her Bach’s Partita number three. The music makes Ava want to take flight, but through the door marked exit. Nerves. Just nerves. ‘First recitals are always anxious, but it lasts only till you get on that stage.’ She thinks of Jacques, her teacher, sitting in the music room, flooded with the iridescent light of a cloudy morning. What does he know though? Maybe it never gets better. Maybe every performance brings anxiety. Perhaps all firsts are exactly the same – pulsing with pain and thrust with fear. ‘Great music comes from a place of pain.’ Those words again, spoken so long ago.

Her mind is flying now, away from the wings of the stage soaked in darkness and melody, to an afternoon in May. To a baby grand digging its claws into a deep brown carpet, to wizened fingers stroking the white and black keys, of a complex melody that could not be fathomed by a child’s mind. Grey hair, black eyes. Her first teacher was her grandfather, sitting beside her on the bench patiently as she painfully tiptoed around Mozart.

That morning the house was quiet. Her mother and grandmother were at the market, leaving her to get on with her music lesson with her grandfather.

She remembers the room now. It’s as if a tiny window has opened in time, allowing her to peek into it:  the crimson carpet, big windows, sunlight barging in through the glass panes, burning the delicate skin on the back of her neck. Her grandfather’s slicked back silver hair. Gnarled fingers prodding out a melody she did not know. The smell of lemon pomade, tobacco and leather, the polished wood, the rustle of her skirt and the white curtains billowing in a soft breeze. She remembers the metallic taste in her mouth.

‘The stage is the master,’ he used to say. An applause brings her back. She stands in the wings. Fight or flight. All firsts are plunged with fear and pain. She walks on to the stage and sits down on the bench. A baby grand sits before her, grinning wide. She strikes her first note. D sharp. It sounds like the distant call of a song thrush and a rush of wings taking off against a blue, summer sky.



About The Author

Ishita Mandrekar grew up in a house by the sea. Before she came to the UK, she received a degree in Mass Media, worked as an interior designer and had her first article published as a freelancer. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work is influenced by magical realism and traditional storytelling.