Written by Harrison Huang/ Photograph by Jiyao Guo
Earned an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Scholastic Art and Writing Competition Flash Fiction Category
Dark clouds drifted across the expanse of grey skies, and were gently poked through by a few beams of sunlight. The dusty beams tickled the Seine River. On this cold and misty October evening, Frédéric and Professor Elsner had been invited to Duchess Orléans’ reception at the residence of renowned virtuoso: Franz Liszt. Now here they stood amongst numerous dignitaries gracefully dressed in the finest fashion of Paris, crimson frocks and golden fascinators that dotting the grand foyer like peacocks were flaunting their splendid feathers. Suddenly, a vigorous young man in a black tailcoat parted himself through the crowd and walked up to the two new arrivals, greeting them with upper-class elegance.
“How are you, my dear Frédéric?” he held up his hand and welcomed his friend with a warm handshake.
“Franz! This is all quite dazzling here.” Frédéric glanced around with amazement.
“Indeed.” Franz looked over at Frédéric’s companion. “May I steal him for a few minutes, Professor?” Franz placed his hand on Frédéric’s shoulders.
The two artistic notables wound their way through the crowd. Near the end of the archway, Franz held open a door, stepping back slightly to give way to Frédéric and let him enter the room first. Before them were velvet-covered furniture gingerly placed on a polished, marble floor. It was decadent, breath taking and maybe just a little intimidating.
“Madame, I bring you Monsieur.” Franz gestured to his friend to step forward.
“Madame Sand.” Frédéric bowed, taking and kissing her hand gently.
“Would you excuse me,” Franz clasped his hands. “I trust I can leave you two to get…better acquainted.” He smiled a little to himself as he walked off, presumably somewhere to prepare for his evening’s performance.
“I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and for this invitation.” Frédéric looked shyly at the beautiful woman in front of him.
“Not at all. Monsieur Chopin, you belong here,” a placid smile brimmed over her face, “among the other distinguished artists in Paris. Might I ask a favor of you…”
Outside, guests huddled inside the music room, anxiously awaiting the performance of Maestro Liszt. The young man stood graciously in front of the grand piano and slid off his white gloves.
“Duchess, to prepare for the proper atmosphere for the music I am about to play, I ask for the room darker,” Liszt raised his voice.
The rest of the spectators made their way to their seats as several footmen hurried across the room to douse the candle flames. The performer’s figure gradually faded as the room grew dimmer.
Suddenly, the unstrained rhythm of the Polonaise resounded within the chamber, and before his very eyes, his audience resembled soldiers, enveloped by the pungent smell of dead corpses. A deafening pulse broke through the Polish defense line in that November uprising, when an Imperial Russian army broke the back of Warsaw. The frontline was obscured by mist. He blinked and reality returned.
At that moment, every spirit in the room was extended towards the performer, drawn in as if refreshing rain were being poured on scorched soil.
As George Sand carefully trod through the audience towards the piano holding onto a candlestick, the flickering light eventually illuminated the poised face of Frédéric Chopin, a passionate soul with the heartbeat of Poland.