By Blaise Pascal <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted January 2000
Summary: Laura Lane Kent finds romance where she least expects it. A vignette set in the same universe as the author's "The Wedding."
Note: Here is another WAFFy vignette. After a story about C.J. in "The Wedding," I thought a story about Laura, his twin sister, was in order. This vignette is set in the same universe as "The Wedding." Comments welcome.
Disclaimer: The story is mine, but the characters are not. I'm merely borrowing the characters from WB, DC Comics, etc., etc. I've also borrowed some text from Deutsche Grammophon. No borrowing, copying, or distributing without my permission, etc., etc.
[Metropolis University, Bernstein Hall]
[Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 7:28 P.M.]
Laura Lane Kent was not looking forward to tonight's rehearsal.
It wasn't because she wasn't in the mood to play the piano tonight (she was). And it wasn't because she didn't like the pieces that she was working on (she thought the music was beautiful). It was because she would be rehearsing with Jerry Siegel, and she wasn't looking forward to spending time with him alone.
Laura and Jerry were History majors at Metro U, and both were accomplished pianists. They had met last year, when Laura was a freshman and Jerry a sophomore, in the Piano Ensemble class. Soon they had become good friends. They probably would have been more than friends, but Laura at the time was not interested in relationships at all, and Jerry had been seeing someone for some time. Now it was a year later, and both were still in the Piano Ensemble class, because both had enjoyed it, and because as Music minors, they were required to take at least four semesters of ensemble.
For the Fall 2017 Semester, Dr. Wilson, their instructor assigned Laura and Jerry to play four-handed piano music, in which two pianists are seated at one piano. For some people, four-handed piano music is the most intimate form of all chamber music. This would be the first time that Laura and Jerry would be playing together. They were assigned five of Brahms' 'Neue Liebeslieder Walzer' ('Love-Song Waltzes'), originally for 4 singers and piano 4-hands. Of course, since there were only pianists in the Piano Ensemble class, Laura and Jerry would have to perform the music without the singers. At first, Laura and Jerry were enthusiastic about playing together. They thought that since they got along so well personally, that they would get along just fine during the rehearsals.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
So far the rehearsals were terrible. At the first rehearsal, Laura found out that they would share the piano bench, which meant that they had to sit close together. This was not something Laura expected, but then again, she had never seen two pianists perform on one piano. Her previous exposure to four-handed piano music was limited to her listening of recordings. She did know that it was important for musicians to play together when dealing with chamber music. She did not realize, however, the difficulty in doing so with another person sitting right next to you. Even though Laura and Jerry were good friends, Laura felt uncomfortable being in close quarters with Jerry. She remembered the words to one of the songs, and she almost laughed out loud at the irony:
*Nein, Geliebter, setze dich
Mir so nahe nicht!
Starre nicht so brünstiglich
Mir ins Angesicht.*
*Wie es auch im Busen brennt,
Dämpfe deinen Trieb,
Daß es nicht die Welt erkennt,
Wie wir uns so lieb!*
*(No, beloved, do not sit
so close to me!
Do not gaze so fervently
into my face.*
*Even though they burn in your bosom,
subdue your longings,
so that the world shall not see
how dear we are to each other!)*
(Brahms, 'Neue Liebeslieder Walzer', Op. 65 No. 13)
There were also arguments during the rehearsals, which probably stemmed from Laura's discomfort, and perhaps Jerry's discomfort as well. They criticized each other when they played wrong notes. They criticized each other when they didn't start or stop together (and Laura did this more often because of her super-hearing). They also argued endlessly on matters of interpretation (especially tempo), on the use of the pedals, and even on turning pages. Laura found out the hard way that she was more literal to the music, and Jerry more flexible, and that frequently resulted in clashes between the two.
Jerry had also reprimanded her for not paying attention during rehearsals. But what could Laura do? Her lapses in concentration were due to her super-hearing kicking in, and whenever that happened, she would always pray that either her father, Clark Kent, or her twin brother, C.J., would be able to handle it without her. It was a little over a year ago that the world witnessed the return of Ultrawoman; even though her father and C.J. were there, the three of them were always busy. Thank God for speed-reading and speed- practicing! So far, Laura hadn't cut a rehearsal short to go to a rescue, but she dreaded the day when she would have to do so.
Four weeks into the semester, Laura had contemplated talking to Dr. Wilson about being assigned to another group. But immediately, she rejected the idea. Laura knew that there was no way for her to 'join' another group in the middle of a semester. She would have to put up with Jerry until just before Thanksgiving, when the entire class was giving a concert. Her parents were going to be there, which was a surprise, given the amount of time that Lois Lane and Clark Kent spent these days at the Daily Planet. C.J. and Mary, his girlfriend, were also going to be there. Laura didn't want to disappoint them. Well O.K., she could never disappoint them, but she would feel totally embarrassed if she made a lot of mistakes during the performance.
She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear footsteps approaching. It was Jerry, looking forlorn. "Hi," he said, attempting a smile.
"Hi," Laura replied, looking away. She willed herself not to blush. Forcing herself to face him, she noticed how unhappy he looked. "You okay?" she inquired.
"I'll live," he said flatly. Laura couldn't understand what was the matter. She had never seen Jerry look this upset, not since he broke up with his girlfriend two months ago.
"You sure? I mean, if you're not okay, we can meet some other time to rehearse…"
"No, no. We need to practice tonight. It's been two weeks since our last rehearsal, and remember how Dr. Wilson had our hides last week for not practicing enough?"
Laura grimaced as she remembered the last class meeting. She sighed, and said in resignation, "You're right. Let's get this over with." With that, she unlocked the door to the Piano Room and went inside.
The 'Piano Room' was a rather large room for a practice room. It was, in actuality, a regular classroom that consisted of four baby grand pianos and two uprights. There was also a slew of chairs scattered around in the back. The Piano Ensemble class met here, and students who were enrolled in this class received a key to the 'Piano Room' so that they could rehearse on their own. It was ironic that although the room was large, Laura was almost feeling claustrophobic. And she had no idea why.
'Liar,' she thought to herself. She knew exactly why: she was falling for Jerry.
Laura did not know how this happened, but she knew that she couldn't believe it. Laura Lane Kent, in love? Impossible! When she started high school five years ago, she vowed herself not to get involved in a relationship until she finished school. It wasn't because she was hurt before, or that she was afraid to get hurt or anything like that. Laura was simply so dedicated to her studies and to her piano lessons that she felt that being in a relationship would be a distraction. Growing up, she had found herself interested in anything related to History, and she had always gotten top marks in her History classes. After graduating from high school last year, she had decided to major in History at Metro U.
Lois and Clark had tried to encourage their daughter to go out on dates, because they felt that was a normal thing for teenage girl to do. But they soon realized that this was their daughter that they were talking about, a young woman who inherited her stubbornness from both of them. Laura's not being in a relationship wasn't due solely to her vow, however. While Laura was an attractive young woman, she was also tall (5'11"). This intimidated most of the guys, which meant that fewer guys had tried to ask her out. This also meant that Laura didn't have to turn the guys down very often, and that had suited her just fine.
Then Laura met Jerry last year, and for the first time in her life Laura had thought of breaking her vow. Jerry was very tall (6'5"), very smart, and very nice. They got along real well in their classes together. She was relieved to find out later that he had a girlfriend. But when Jerry and his girlfriend broke up in early September, she found herself with the awkward task of consoling him. Fortunately, Jerry had only wanted a friend to talk to and nothing else. Nothing for Laura would be worse than to be a rebound girl for Jerry.
"Hello? Anybody home?" Jerry was waving his hand in front of Laura's face. Laura blinked, and forced herself not to blush again. The last thing she wanted was for Jerry to know how she felt.
"Sorry," Laura said. "I was thinking."
"I could tell," Jerry said, unsmiling. "I've seen that you've been distracted a lot lately. Anything wrong?"
"Nothing," Laura replied. "It's nothing. Let's start with Song No. 13, shall we?" Without waiting for Jerry to reply, she got out her music and sat down at the piano.
"Darn it!" Laura exclaimed. She and Jerry were going over the ending of 'Nein, Geliebter, Setze Dich' (Song No. 13), and something was still not right. Laura remarked, "This sounds awful. We're awful. Can we try it again?" When Jerry didn't answer right away, Laura glanced over at him. She found that he was looking off into space. She banged a chord loudly on the piano, causing Jerry to jump. "Earth to Jerry. You there?"
"Yeah, uh, what were you saying?"
Laura shook her head. It looked like she's not the only one who was distracted. "I said that the ending sounds bad. Can we try it again?"
The pair began the piece again. Laura quickly glanced at her partner and best friend. 'He really looks down,' she thought. She took a good look at Jerry, and then she realized how close they were sitting together while playing a love song. Her heart was beating so wildly that she was afraid that Jerry could hear it. She then mentally chastised herself for losing focus. 'This rehearsal is going well,' she thought sarcastically. In order to return to focus, she tried to move herself away from him. Unfortunately, she hit some wrong notes in the process.
The music stopped again. Laura avoided Jerry's eyes, staring instead at the music in front of her, waiting for him to reprimand her. Instead, Jerry chuckled, which took Laura by surprise. She turned to face him, eyebrows raised. "What?" she asked.
"Oh, it's just that I can tell that we are really out of it this evening. We're not together. You're sitting at a wrong angle, and I didn't notice it until now." Jerry shook his head.
"I don't know what's the big deal with sitting at an angle, anyway," Laura muttered. Actually, she knew, but she had wanted to give herself space between her and Jerry.
"You remember what Dr. Wilson said. It's easier on your right hand and my left when we're angled, especially if we have to cross hands," Jerry said. Since Laura had the Secondo part (ie. she was the 2nd player) in all five songs, she was sitting on the left side of the keyboard, with Jerry, having the Primo part (1st player), on her right. Mumbling to herself, she repositioned her body so that she was facing more towards the center of the piano, rather than straight ahead.
"Did you notice," Jerry continued, "the words to Song No. 13? About not sitting so close? It's very ironic, because if you noticed, Brahms wrote this piece in such a way that our four hands end up being so close together, which means that we have to sit close to play it properly."
Laura let out a gulp. She had exactly the same thought minutes before. She started thinking irrationally. Will Jerry notice her discomfort and then figure out her feelings about him? God, she hoped not. All she wanted to do right now was to get up and run, run as far away as she could from him. But running away doesn't solve anything, as her parents had pointed out.
'But what if I tell him how I feel, and he doesn't feel the same way?' she asked herself. 'Our friendship will never be the same, if it still exists. I don't want to jeopardize that. And this may affect our performance in the concert. I definitely don't want to mess that up either.' Laura took a deep breath to calm herself down. Then she realized that Jerry had asked a question and was expecting an answer. Focusing again on the music, she responded, a little shakily, "Yeah, I noticed. I guess we should follow Herr Brahms' intentions, shouldn't we?"
Laura and Jerry started the song again from the top. While they were playing, Laura noticed something different. Instead of sounding like two different pianists, they were beginning to sound like one. This was much more than playing together. She had always known that they sounded like two different people, but she chalked that up to inexperience. Besides, Dr. Wilson had told them to worry about playing together first and not to worry about sounding alike just yet.
Even though she didn't want to, Laura tore her eyes from the music and looked at her and Jerry's hands. She noticed that even the hands' movements were more synchronous than before. 'What was going on?' she wondered. Then came a passage where Jerry's left hand was to cross over her right hand. Their hands touched, and a jolt of electricity surged through her. This surprised her so much that she stopped playing.
Laura looked at Jerry, expecting to see annoyance in his eyes. Instead, she found that he looked as surprised as she was. He looked down at their hands, his left still covering her right. Then he looked up, and their eyes locked. Time stood still for what seemed like eternity. Neither would be able to tell later who moved first, but at some point, Laura tilted her head upwards, and Jerry leaned forward, and their lips met in a sweet and gentle kiss.
Immediately, Jerry started to pull back, with fear in his eyes. But Laura would have none of it. With her left hand, she pulled his head towards hers and their mouths met for a second time. Realizing that Laura wasn't repulsed by, or afraid of, his actions, Jerry began exploring her mouth in earnest. Laura could only let out a whimper as they played a game of tag with their tongues, and as each ran his or her hands on the other's hair. She clung to him, not wanting to let go, wanting to prolong her first kiss, a kiss that was so incredible, so wonderful. 'So this is what it's like to be kissed,' she thought. She moaned into his mouth as they continued kissing.
Finally, Jerry pulled back, breathing heavily. Laura mentally kicked herself; she had forgotten that she was half-human. "Wow," she breathed.
"Yeah," Jerry agreed, slightly dazed. He then proceeded to wipe the tears from Laura's face, tears that she did not know she was shedding. "You okay?" he asked.
"Uh-huh," Laura said, shuddering. Jerry gave her a hug. Tears reappeared in her eyes as she rested her head on his shoulder. "Oh my God," she cried. "You don't know how long I've dreamed of this! I think I was in love with you ever since we met, Gerald Mark Siegel, but I couldn't let myself admit it."
"Really?" Jerry asked, surprised. He pulled back and looked into her eyes. Those soft, lovely brown eyes. Carressing her face, he said, "I had feelings too, when we first met. But I had Melanie, and you said that you weren't going have any relationships…"
"…until I graduated. Yeah, I know." Laura sighed in contentment as Jerry stroked her cheek. "That was my brain talking. My mind wanted no distractions, but my heart just wanted to be loved. There was no way I was going to try to steal you away from Melanie, and when the two of you broke up…"
"…you didn't want a rebound relationship," Jerry finished. "I understand." He leaned forward and they kissed again.
Laura pulled back this time, and asked, "So what happens now?"
"Well, as much as I like kissing you, we still have a concert to prepare for," Jerry replied. He released her and smiled shyly.
"I guess we do, don't we?" Laura asked, as she watched Jerry turn some pages in the music. This was heaven, to be in love, to be loved. Of course, there was the issue of Ultrawoman, but she didn't want to worry about it right now. Besides, Jerry was right; they did have a concert to prepare for, in less than two weeks time.
They continued to rehearse late into the night.
[Metropolis University, Bernstein Hall]
[Twelve Days Later]
Laura and Jerry surprised themselves. They had known that the Brahms wasn't the most exciting piece in the program. They had also known that, as Music minors, they probably wouldn't sound as good as the other groups. But their performance of the Brahms garnered the largest applause. They took their bows with a shocked look on their faces.
Then Laura and Jerry turned towards each other, smiling. Years later, each would say that what happened next was the other's idea. Perhaps both had the idea, not yet realizing the connection they were having. They embraced, and then they kissed, right on the stage. The audience responded with whistles, shouts of encouragement, and catcalls. Lois and Clark's jaws dropped to the floor at the sight of their daughter in the arms of the man she loved. C.J. and Mary could only cheer.
Dr. Wilson, who was standing backstage, responded with a knowing grin. It turned out that his pairing of the two History majors was an excellent move on his part. After being discouraged by their progress most of the semester, he was pleased to see how well they played together after they resolved their personal issues. He watched as Laura and Jerry disengaged, both blushing furiously at the audience's enthusiastic response. Quickly they bowed to the audience once more and left the stage.
Final Remarks: This vignette was based on a real event. Edvard Grieg (a Norweigen composer in the 19th century) and his future wife fell in love e they were playing four-handed piano music. I'm willing to bet that this has occurred to other couples throughout the years. (BP)