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Refuge and a Gangster

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Szpilman slowly began to wake up with a sore body, and bitter taste in his mouth that seemed to have being lingering from the previous night. He lazily opens his eyes and was met with a very dimly lit room, rather dark actually, dark and rather quite messy. He slowly sat up in the bed and noticed just how messy it really was in one specific corner of the room. There were papers all over the place, empty whiskey bottles, and a very dirty fireplace. "Good god, this is making me sick." It really wasn't but considering he had begun a small clean freak after getting out of Warsaw and living awhile in England, yes he loved things to be clean and tidy.

He couldn't look at the mess anymore, and besides his stomach gave a very low growl as a way of showing that he obviously hadn't eaten in the past few hours. So he began to get out of bed and slowly walk towards the large wooden doors of the rather large room. "Why am I here?" He wasn't sure, and truth be told, could care less at this time. Instead, he was to focus on a very pleasant sleep emitting from downstairs that filled the house. A certain scent, that smelled both sweet, and rather amazing filled his nostrils as he slowly trailed down the stairs and followed the smell to a large kitchen. 

"Why good morning young man! Your just in time for afternoon tea." Afternoon? Had he really sleep until noon? That couldn't be good. "Em...yes, I suppose I am awake now and ready for tea..but do you perhaps have coffee?" It wasn't that he hated tea, it's just they couldn't flavour it to his liking was all, so coffee suited him more.  "I'm afraid we don't have anything for coffee sir...but I'll inform one of the grocers to go get some next time he's out." Szpilman gave a small pout as he shook his head and ket his hands tap the sides of his legs in a rhythmic manner.

"That's quite alright, I don't mind tea, just wished for some coffee is all."

"Completely understandable Mr..." The old woman paused a few moments while looking at Szpilman with a confused look on her face. Szpilman realized the sudden pause was from the lack of a name.

"My name is Wladyslaw Szpilman, I go by Szpilman."

"Oh! Your that famous jew that plays on the radio! My sisters told me all about you when she visited Poland, before the war that was."

This knowledge brought a smile to his face, he did enjoy that select few people had in fact heard of him outside of his country, and even outside of Germany. "Here, eat some of this and go find a woman named Mary, she'll put you up for some work little one." What was people obsession with calling him little, or even kid? He once more was 28! Young, but still quite old.

"Yes, miss I'll get to that straight away."

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The number of small pastries and other things had filled him, along with a great deal of tea, that was actually really nice for once. So with a full stomach, he went on his oddly long and confusing journey of finding a woman named Mary. Whom was very old looking and not the most pleasant thing to speak with. "Spilzmen, Spillman, let's give-"

"I'll be keeping my name thank you if you can say it calls for a pianist I'll come."

"Well then...do you have anything else other than working with pianos?"

"I know the basics of cooking, cleaning, I'm very good with children...but I mostly write and compose piano music, with the occasional lyric or two."

"How about you go, wash up, and you can be the new nanny for Charlie."

"But a nanny is a woman."

"Would you rather stand around in an uncomfortable suit and clean this house from top to bottom, or play with a four-year-old and make sure he gets his daily teachings."

"Let me go wash up and I'll tend to the child."

This was going to be a long, very long day for him. And he wasn't even sure on how to truly take care of children for long periods of time, he only ever played games with them. Well, there's a first time for everything right?

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The shower went quick and Szpilman fixed his hair to look much more presentable. He dug through some clothes, before having the maid Mary bring him new clothes and told him that shed washes the clothes he ready had. So he dawned a white button-up, with suspenders, a brown button-up vest, and brown dress slacks, socks, and some simple black shoes, which just barely fit him. "You're not going to meet a child, not some overlord of England pianist."

"I know, but I would like to make a good first impression miss." Szpilman couldn't have cared if the boy was a child, it was good manners to dress nice for any occasion, even if the occasion was the first meeting. "Well, whatever makes you happy I suppose, now come, come now, I must show you to the child's room, he was taking a nap but I suppose we can wake him."

"Oh, no need miss, I can wait for him to wake on his own, just show me the room."

"Suit yourself." Mary, whom he felt a stong detached feeling towards, lead him into the hallway upstairs and they stopped at a door on the left side of the hall. "This is his room, little Charlie's...poor boy has all kinds of troublesome nightmares so watch him, oh before I leave...any questions?"

"Do you have a piano?" Mary lightly shook her head and gave a huff as a small smile came onto her lips. "Yes, it's in the study, which is downstairs to the left at the end of the hall." 

"Dank you miss Mary." "Anytime dear."

Maybe she was just a very stern woman, he had heard that English women were very strict and stern. Nevertheless, he seemed slightly more content with the new nickname of dear. With this in mind, he carefully made a few small knocks on the door before him, before slowly entering the room. Much like the rest of the house, it was spacious and dimly lit. What he didn't expect however was just how...how...boring it looked. The boy's room was painted a dull colour of a saturated blue, the bookshelf held not many books, and well, the room looked sad and pitiful. He had animals, and things yeah, but they did nothing but bring a little colour to the room.

A child's room, in Szpilman's opinion, should be a safe haven, a bright magical place filled with plenty to do, not be this sort of poorly made bedroom that made his homes in Warsaw, or any other place look better. 'This is just sad...well I know what I'm going to do with my first paycheck.' He was going to make this room a beautiful place, even if it took a while he would do it. He continued to look around the room, finding a chest filled with toys, realizing this is where all the money went, as well as his clothes. Which was good, but not that good. 

"DADDY!!" A sudden cry pulled Szpilman from his previous thoughts, the small child, no older than four had shot up in bed and was crying heavily as his sobbing became louder by the second. "Hey, hey now its alright, no need to cry." Szpilman wasn't sure on what to do, he didn't know the boy's life, wasn't sure where the father was so he instead gently sat down on the bed and pulled the small child into his lap as he began to slowly, and gently rock him back and forth. "It's okay, hey it's okay, daddy will be home soon just me...he'll be back before you know it alright?"

"A-and I-if he's not?"

"Well, I'll just have to get him about that now wouldn't I?"

A small giggle escaped the boy's mouth as he brought his head from its spot on Szpilman's shoulder to see who this new voice was exactly. "Your new..." was all Charlie said in a very small weak voice as he began to pat Szpilman's face, seeing its fractures and messing with his hair. Szpilman loved the boy's curiosity, it reminded him of a much simpler time in life, one was he could happily walk home and eat in a good restaurant without having to worry about things. But he was taken aback from his present memories as Charlie suddenly jerked his small hand away and looked down.

"I'm sorry, it's not nice to do that."

"Well...I don't know who told you that it wasn't nice, because I certainly didn't mind you playing with my hair, or touching my face....ho on, it's natural to be a curious little one."

Charlie seemed to have taken this as an invitation, and began to gently rub Szpilman's face, it wasn't until Szpilman felt small fingers tracing lines on his face that he realized what Charlie was doing. He was playing with his small cuts that were noticeable and had played with his hair because he well...felt like it.

"What happened here?" Charlie had suddenly pulled his attention away from Szpilman's face, and tods the mans arms, which were little red with things taking their time to heal. "Oh...I got into some trouble with some very bad men is all."

"Are you like my daddy then? He comes home smelling funny, and constantly talks to himself about how the bad men hurt him" the sudden sentence that left Charlie's mouth made Szpilman's heart hurt. Was his father Thomas? Perhaps John or Arthur...he wasn't certain but dear God he never drank unless it was a time for celebration. "No little chłopak* I don't do those things, instead I make things from my times of hurt and sorrow...do you know what these things are?"

"No, are they business deals?"

Szpilman gave a small chuckle as he moved Charlie to were the boy sat comfortably on his right knee and spoke. "No, I'm very bad with those...instead I make music, and sometimes I make art."

"You can sing?!" The child's eyes lit up with so much joy that it made Szpilman smile the most he had in a very long time, it made him so happy seeing someone else as happy as he used to be.

"No...no I don't sing much sadly...instead I play on the piano, I can play soft tunes, or fast notes, I move my fingers in a way none could comprehend. And when I paint, I make the most beautiful things one could only dream of, I make them seem as if they were looking into a window of another world."

Charlie's eyes lit up with a wonderful smile, he practically jumped off Szpilman's leg and began to lightly pull at the taller man's hand. A way of telling him to come one. "SHOW ME!!" was all Charlie said as he hurriedly tried to pull Szpilman with him to the study with his mother's old piano, how it had begun to look unused in the years of well...never being used. "Shouldn't we get you some lunch first?"

"No! I wanna hear you play."

"Hey now, you shouldn't say such demanding things to me, Charlie, I am the adult here."

"Your right...I'm sorry Mr. Piano man."

"It's Szpilman, but piano man works to...now then I'll play a few keys but then you have to eat understand?"

"Yes sir!"

Szpilman smiled as he slowly walked towards the old piano, his hands ran over it and felt the latch, he lifted it up and propped it open as he fixed the stool to his liking. He starred down at the piano in front of him as he placed his feet in the correct places so he could properly, and quickly change the notes when he needed to. "Give me a song any song!"

"Fur Elsa!" "NO! I've played that one too many times...how about....this one!" 

*Szpilman's fingers came down in a slow yet elegant manner as they seemed to move to their own recordings as he began to play each note carefully strumming each key as he played. The notes that filled the room seemed almost haunting and mournful as he played the piano, nearly forgetting about Charlie, but he hadn't and soon the boy spoke up. "Okey that's a very lovely talent you have! May we eat now?"

Szpilman assumed the song might have frightened Charlie, hence is why he had only gotten near seconds into the song before being told that he was hungry. "Yes we may go...and then afterwords we can do whatever you'd like to do!" It didn't take Charlie long before he rushed off tords the dining room awaiting his lunch and Szpilman was quick to follow him, a small amount of sadness filled him as he left the piano, god he was going to play and finish that song and at least two more before he went to bed that day.

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The day seemed to have swept by, and time seemed have had no meaning in that day. Seeing as before long, it was time for Charlie to go to bed, and Szpilman found himself reading the boy a story and trying to get him to sleep.

"And thus Alice awoke up to have found that all those strange things that happened in Wonderland had really just been a silly old dream! Oh, how happy she was, she could go see Dina, her sisters, and maybe if she hurried she could make it back in time for tea! And just then, Dina, her eldest sister called to her, announcing just that! My, she certainly was going to write these things down in her journal that night."

"Is that all?"

"No there's another book, and several short stories and poems by Lewis Carroll...but yes that's all for tonight Charlie."

"Daddy hasn't come back home yet...and you said he'd be home before I went to bed...but he's not home yet."

"I'm sure he's just running behind is all, maybe he's with your uncles."

"No he's probably with some odd lady...he likes to go see ladies at night and then he comes home smelling funny."

"Well...I'll is sure to have a talk with him when I see him, but for now you need rest Charlie...come here." Szpilman leaned over and placed a kiss to Charlie's Templeton as he gave him a final goodnight and left the room. All he had to do now was wait a few moments before going to play that piano of his(yes he's calling it his now.)

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Thomas arrived home at 10 pm the whole house seemingly asleep and he felt like a dirty whore for what he just did, with a...whore...this aside he still had a need to drink, and it seemed that not even a drunk night with Lizzy seemed to help his bad memories this day. It seemed that as he keeps trying to mark them out, the longer he keeps avoiding them, the more vivid and hard they came. He was currently in his office which was just three rooms down from the study drinking heavily and smoking his heart out, all while trying to preoccupy his mind with paperwork. 

This had, of course, succeeded with only a few exceptions of just simply drinking more than anything. "My life's a mess...and oh how I wish you could be here with me my love...how I miss you so."

He knew whining about his dead wife wouldn't bring her back, going out every night And sleeping with either Lizzy or some other whore wouldn't help his loneliness.....and the drinking was absolutely horrible for his health, and he had Charlie to take care of, whom he never saw much anymore. God he loved his son, but just never really saw him much due to just how bad the memories were getting. It seemed like every day could start out fine and normal, then halfway through he would be staring blankly at the wall stuck in the trenches once more. He could hear thier screams and feel the walls of dirt swallowing him whole...he could hear the shovels, but he could also hear something else, a much more pleasant sound almost like a piano being played.

He sat back in his chair, whiskey glass in hand and cigarette in the ashtray as he listened to a very faint yet relaxing sound. He soon realized the faintest sounds just wouldn't do, and so he got up and stumbled towards the study room as he carefully opened the door to see Szpilman playing elegantly on the piano. Thomas recognized a very solemn* tune playing from the piano, what kind of tune? He couldn't place a name even if he was sober so instead, he took a seat in a nearby chair and listen to the shockingly peaceful performance before him. He watched as Szpilman's hands moved in a way that looked like he was just hovering over the keys themselves, how he barely touched them and they would then go makes beautiful sounds. 

Thomas watched in contentment as the horrid war memories slowly faded from his mind, and fade into something more than memories. The trenches began to slowly fade and the sounds of yells and screams began to die out into a light chattering of people murmuring and glasses being clinked together. His sore body and shaken hands soon began to feel light, and he felt as if he was going to propose something.

The peaceful sounds of the piano putting his mind at ease as he envisioned himself in a concert hall, listening to the piano play peacefully. And now, instead of the awful memories of war plaguing him, he was now suddenly plagued by much more pleasant and calm ones. But he was soon brought to his thoughts as the music faded out slowly and then stopped. He waited for a few moments, debating on if he wanted to even open his eyes, but soon enough a new stream of keys began to play.

A loud low note filled the air before a slow stream of low notes began to play. They were very quite soft and seemingly peaceful, he enjoyed every bit of it as he leaned back into the large chair more, his whiskey glass long forgotten as he was entranced by the almost hypnotic music that filled his ears and soothed his tortured soul. He did, however, begin to sit suddenly and lean over legs as the notes began to pick up the pace and become a mix between high and low notes. His heart began to beat faster, he could feel a sort of anticipation build up inside of him as Szpilman's hands moved at an almost inhuman pace as the music went from very light and joyful to a suddenly almost dark song.

Well, Thomas thought it sounded dark, it hadn't it was just very loud and the low notes did things to his mind. He was however very glad when the jets switched back to thier original soft sounds, how they were soft, but harsh and could be heard. The odd mix between light and dark almost, as if the keys were two people dancing and he was watching the display before him. It felt as if his world was coming to lose around him, he felt like he was in a sudden game of sorts...like he needed to relax but this performance and the notes wouldn't let him relax, they needed him on the edge of his seat for this. 

So he sat on edge as all of the seemingly pleasant things were replaced with still very pleasant ones, but these were much more...Intense and oddly lonely. He knew he wasn't alone, but as he listen to the keys, he felt an odd dread wash over him as he looked at Szpilman. The loneliness was still there but less so, he knew the song was probably a very, very difficult one to play, and he felt as if this was the story of his life written in a simple yet complicated piece of music. And dear god did he feel wave after wave of emotions hit him. Sorrow, guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness, and even some amount of joy filled his being as he sat with a suddenly slight bounce in his leg as he listens to what was a practical rollercoaster of a ride for him. The keys would go from being slow and sensible, to fast and loud.

Thomas barely even believed that this man was playing in front of him, and was even more surprised that how when he thought the song had ended, it had picked back up in a more slow, soothing manner. It was only then, right then that Thomas allowed himself to drink the rest of his glass of whiskey, and then slump back into the chair, a small sigh escaped his lips as he waited a few moments to see what else the man would play. And was pleasantly surprised by the sudden transition from a stream of keys that made him almost anxious. To the calm* slow movements of the keys as Szpilman moved in a very orderly manner. His fingers once more, simply brushing against the keys and make such a beautiful sound, and it was only now that Thomas realized the odd feelings of that began to bubble inside of him. He felt the same way when Grace used to play the piano, how he would intensely watch her play as she would help him forget the war. 

And these new thoughts(how meany was he going to have?) Were odd ones to say the least. He felt like he was once more in a concert hall, but instead of in the audience, he was behind the curtains, and off stage. So close yet so far from Szpilman as he would listen to him play his songs. He could honestly see this happening as well. Szpilman would adorn a spacious tuxedo with an elegant bow tie that seemed to have elegant patterns on it. He would have a dimly lit spotlight on him as he played for a crowd of people, who would be mesmerized by this sheer talent he owned. And Thomas? Well...he would be off in the side, in his tuxedo as well, waiting for him to finish and maybe...no...no he did like this he needed to change his image to something more comfortable.

He would have a small ball, Szpilman would play the piano for his guest and still adorn that lovely tuxedo, as would Thomas and little Charlie. Everyone would love this strange unknown pianist who seemingly popped out of nowhere, and Thomas would stare at Szpilman the whole night. A loving gaze in his eyes much like the one he unknowingly had right now. God this song made him feel like he was falling in love with someone all over again, what kind of magic did this man hold? 

The music went on for what seemed like hours, and Thomas by no means complained one bit about the lovely music that once more, soothed his broken tortured soul. And he had nearly fallen asleep before that is the music cut off and he was met with the sounds of Szpilman putting the latch down and pushing the stool in, and then, of course, there were the lines of "Mr Thomas...when had you arrived home?"

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Szpilman had snuck down the stairs earlier that night to play the piano once more, he was happy with being able to play not one, but three songs the last one has been the longest though. He hadn't minded, he was content and happy, seeing as all he had left was his love for piano and the occasional call from Wile...his family was probably long dead now, and his friends had been murdered so this was the final love of his life, and he did know that it wouldn't leave him ever. 

So with finishing his final peace Clari de Lune he stood to stretch his legs and pop his fingers some, before closing the hatch(it was more of a lid) on the piano, and then as he went to go and leave the room, he saw a familiar face. It was Thomas, he must have been Charlie's father. "Mr Thomas...when had you arrived home?" It was a genuine question, but Thomas looked confused yet...almost peaceful as if he had just been out on a cloud and was just so, so happy and content looking as he held a small gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face before getting up.

"Since then. Didn't know you could play so...so...well? No...no...beautifully, enchanted? I'm uncertain of the words to use but it was truly amazing, all three pieces were beautiful." Had Thomas really just used those words to describe his piano playing? Yes, he had, and the way he spoke about it made Szpilman feel all bubbly and happy as he found himself looking down from Thomas. He could feel his cheeks beginning to heat up as the words sunk into his mind.

'He said that you enchanted him! This handsome fella really sat through almost an hour of our playing!!'

Yes, yes Thomas had, and Szpilman felt wonderful about it all, he might have held an involuntary blush on his face but damnit he couldn't help but feel a rush of happiness bubble through him. 

"I take it you really enjoyed those complements huh?"

"Tes Sir, I did...dank you."

"When was the last time you had properly competed?"

"Four...maybe three years ago?"

"Well then...you play beautifully, and that final song made me feel as if I was falling in love all over again. Which who? I'm not certain but I felt love, and for one night, in a long while of nights... I haven't felt lonely or scared of the trenches....you saved me from myself Szpilman, and I thank you, now head to bed."

Szpilman was speechless as he looked ar Thomas, he couldn't help the brink that spread across his face as he let a few giggles out of his mouth before giving a quick nod and rushing off to his own room(during the day, he had moved from the messy room to a much cleaner and a little smaller room) where he prepared to get ready for bed, but instead found himself in his pyjamas and wrapped around a blanket thinking of all those amazing things Thomas had spoken to him. God he felt wonderful, he wished he could get used to this on a daily basis, he knew he would....all he would have to do was calm his broken soldier from time to time.

Maybe he could play at one of Thomas parties, or social gathering? Maybe even teach Charlie to either paint or draw...yeah, those sounded good to him, very good.