“Let’s go, little man!” shouted Trevor’s mom from the foyer. “We’re already late for your lesson!”

“‘Coming!” he replied as he gathered his music books from the piano rack. He looked out the front window to the street, where Charlie stick-handled out from behind her team’s net to deke four opponents and go five-hole on the goalie. “Oh, whatever,” he muttered, when she fist-pumped all the way back to her own goalie.

His mother held the screen door open for him. “Stop,” she said. He held his place on the stoop. “Turn around.” He pivoted. “You’re old enough to hold the door open for me now, but if you’d rather not, the least you can do is say thank you.”

“Thanks, mom.”


“I’m sorry.”


“I’ll hold the door open for you next time.”

“Only next time?”

He sighed. “Okay, from now on.”

She smiled as she joined him down the steps. “I’ll hold you to that.”

Trevor crossed the driveway to wait at the Mustang’s passenger door, while his mother got in and reached across to lift the lock knob.

On the street, one of the goalies lifted his plastic mask onto his head. “Car!” he shouted as Trevor and his mom neared the driveway’s end. The other players left the road for the curb.

Trevor glanced at his mom, who waved at Charlie while she backed into the street. “I’m so glad this is my last lesson of all time,” he said.

His mom stopped the car. “Until fall.”

“I said I wanted an electric guitar.”

“Go, mom!” Charlie shouted.

Trevor waved at his sister as they started down the road, only to see her stick her tongue out at him a half-second too late for him to retaliate. “Don’t forget to thank Miss Kobrina for helping you win again,” she said. He slumped back in his seat and sighed. “You should be more grateful. She’s an excellent teacher.”

“I’ll say thanks.” They listened to the radio the rest of the way.

Shoeshine boy, don’t you know that you’re a star?
Just the way, just the way that you are…

She swerved into the curb lane in front of Kobrina’s building and screeched to a fast stop centimetres from a parked car’s rear bumper. Trevor pulled on the door’s latch and swung his leg out. “Give me a kiss.” She tilted her cheek his way and tapped it with a finger. “I love you,” she said when he kissed her.

“I love you too, mom,” he answered before he shut the door, piano books in hand.

A uniformed doorman greeted him. “Running a little late are we, Trevor von Beethoven?” His silly salute, smile, and wink while he held the door forced a giggle from the young musician.

He spun on the threshold to return the doorman’s salute without breaking his stride to the elevator bay. “It’s my last one ever,” he said, over his shoulder, “so who cares?”

The ride to the 23rd floor offered him moment to find the words with which he would tell Kobrina he no longer wanted to learn piano. Still unsure when the doors slid open, he walked the carpeted corridor committed to winging it.

He heard his teacher playing through the door as he neared it. It opened when he tried the latch. He shut it behind him, and then walked the hallway on quiet feet.

He stopped halfway to the living room to peek into her bedroom. In it stood a white, queen-sized bed, and a matching dresser drawer, dressing chair, vanity, and standalone, full-length mirror. The natural, venetian blind-filtered light lent the room a peaceful ambiance.

As he listened, it occurred to him that – in the three years he had taken lessons with her – he had not heard her play anything other than the Royal Conservatory syllabus compositions she had taught him. He admired her change of touch as the unfamiliar piece’s mood shifted from minor key despair to major key elation.

A few seconds separated her final note from an unintelligible murmur in her native tongue that included his given name.

Trevor entered her high-ceilinged living room to find her peering through a shaded window, at the street below. His lips parted when he noticed her dressed in a sheer white camisole, tights to match, and white, kitten heels.

“Hi, Miss Kobrina.”

She turned to face him, hands clasped at her breast. “Trevor! I did not hear you.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t knock because you were playing.”

“It is fine. I am glad you are here. I thought you might not come.”

“‘Sorry, if I’m late.”

“Don’t worry. You are ready to start?” He held his place as she seated herself on her glossy, black duet bench and tapped the spot beside her with a hand. “Come. Sit.” He approached, but remained on his feet. “You are shy, today?” Her eyes appeared more intense than they had in the past, like those of a cheetah he had seen stalking a gazelle on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. “What is wrong?”

“Miss Kobrina?”

“Yah, that is my name. Talk.”

“I, um … I’m not playing piano anymore.”

She gasped. “What? You are my best student.”

“I don’t want to.”

Her smile drooped to a pout. “You do not like me anymore?”

Trevor considered confessing that he hated her use of the pointer, but decided against, knowing he would not see her again. “It’s not you.”

“Then why do you tell me this bad news? Your family is moving?”


Her brow furrowed. “Tell me.”

“I wanna play guitar, instead.”

Kobrina placed a hand over her heart and smiled. She rose from the bench and took his wrist to lead him down the hall to her bedroom. She sat him on her white, cotton duvet. He stared at her bottom as she turned for the door, and then pushed it shut. Behind it, stood a classical acoustic guitar on a collapsable, stainless steel stand. She lifted it, and smiled when she noticed the fascination in his eyes. “It is my second instrument,” she said as she seated herself next to him. A graceful, over-the-shoulder flip of her hair preceded her deft scaling in several keys.

Trevor smiled. “Wow. It sounds great, but I wanna play electric guitar.”

She pursed her lips for a second before she spoke. “Who do you like better, Beatles or Rolling Stones?”

“Well, I like KISS the most.”

“Kiss? I like the name, but I never heard them.”

“Okay, well, if I had to choose, I like the Stones more than the Beatles.”

A devilish grin curled up the corners of her lips. “Me too. First, you learn on this one. If you do well, I will tell your mother to buy electric.” She lifted it off her knee and held it out. “You try.” He smiled at her and tossed his piano books on the hardwood floor.

Kobrina shifted her bottom further back on the bed to avoid the guitar’s neck. She lifted a leg onto it, so that her stockinged foot rested against his near thigh.

Trevor took a deep breath before he spoke. “I don’t want to take exams or play recitals. I want to choose the songs, and no more hits with your pointer.”

Her face betrayed her offence at his demands, before she flashed what he took for a false smile. “I will teach you different way. Instead to punish you when you do mistakes, I will give you reward when you do good.” She caressed his thigh with her foot. “You like it?” she asked.

“How do I play a G chord?”

She frowned. “Major or minor?”

“Major, first.” She leaned forward at the waist to view the frets, and set her fingers on the strings to show him the correct placement. He let her take his hand to help him find the chord. His first strums were true enough to inspire her smile. “And minor?”

Her foot slid over his thigh and between his legs when she closed the distance between them to reset a fret finger over another string. He looked down at her nylon-veiled toes and thrilled at the new sensation she triggered in his privates.

About to ask her to show him A major, he found himself unable to vocalize as she snugged the back of her heel into his crotch. His eyes closed while she caressed the blonde bristles at his nape with gentle fingers. “You are so good boy,” she whispered by his ear.

She pulled her foot away to return the instrument to its stand. “We have all the summer to learn the guitar.” He brought his thighs together to hide his erection. “You are so quiet,” she said, when she turned back for the bed. “Tell me what you are thinking.”

“I’m thinking about how good you make me feel,” he said.

Kobrina giggled. “You are a very handsome boy.” She seated herself close and kissed him for a half-minute. “Your mother is a nice lady,” she said. “Does she give you love?” Trevor’s bliss hindered his focus. “Trevor.” He opened his eyes. “Your parents, do they … how you say it in English? … cud-el –”

“Do they cuddle me?”

“Yes, cuddle.”

“My dad hasn’t since I was a baby, and my mom stopped cuddling my sister and I when we started school.”

“You deserve more love. What is your age?”


“It is a joke, yes?”

“No. I’ll be twelve in a few months.”

“You are too mature for almost twelve years.”

“No, really. I’m eleven-and-a-half.”

“I am surprised.” She set her hand on his chest to guide him onto his back, and then climbed on the bed to mount him on all fours, her six to his nine. He stared at her bottom while she tugged on his shorts’ drawstring. “You will be my secret boyfriend.”

The intercom buzzer startled her off him. “Your mother is here. Close your pants.”

“Miss Kobrina?” he asked while he lifted his shorts.


“You’re so pretty, but I …”


“I’m in love with someone else.” He crouched to lift his books off the floor.

“Shut up.”

“You saw us kiss, at the festival last week.”

“That girl?”

“Her name’s Hope. She’s not my girlfriend yet, but she will be.”

She walked him to her suite’s entry, where she lifted her clutch purse off a small table. From it, she drew the medallion he had given Hope. “I watch you there, everything you do. So, after recital, I follow her family to their car.”

“You took it from her?”

“I tell her mother and father I am your teacher, and she has your prize. They take it from her and give it to me. Now, I give it to you, so you can give it to your mother.” She took his wrist, placed the award in his hand, and then closed his fist around it.

“Did she cry?”

“Why you ask that? You should say thank you to me.”

“Did she?”

“She cried, but she learned to not take what is not hers.”

“It’s hers because I gave it to her.”

“It is yours because you are the winner.”

“What did her parents say?”

“They apologize to me, and they make her apologize. You show to your mother. She will be happy.”

“I wanted Hope to have it.”

She set her palms on his shoulders and looked him in the eye. “Your heart is big, but you don’t want to play piano. You will not see her next year.” Another intercom buzz saw her stand and push the talk button. “I am sorry, Mrs. Swain. Trevor is coming. I give him a surprise for you.”

“Ooh! I love surprises,” came his mother’s filtered reply. “I’m out front in the car, honey!” They listened to her heels’ click-clack fade on the walkway.

Kobrina crouched. “I will call her about guitar.” Her goodbye kiss wobbled his knees. “From today, I am your girlfriend and you are my boyfriend. Don’t say to your mother, or to anybody, or no guitar.” He nodded. “You like to kiss me?”

“It feels really nice, but I love Hope.”

“You are too young to know what love is. I will teach you.”


Trevor watched the doorman rub a smudge off the glass door’s exterior with a black, cotton-gloved hand. “So long, little Ludwig,” he said, when he held it open.

“Not anymore,” replied Trevor, who spun halfway up the walk to back-pedal to the car. “I’m learning guitar now. I’m gonna be a rock star!” The doorman chuckled, while he exchanged waves with his mother.

“That man’s such a dear,” she said as he hopped in.

“He’s pretty funny.”


“Well what?”

“Where’s my surprise?” Trevor handed her the medallion. “Oh, wow!” She held it over the steering wheel’s hub. “How did she get it?”

“She was watching when I gave it to Hope, and told her parents. Her mom and dad made her give it back.”

“We must have missed each other in the parking lot,” she said. “I’ll call her to say thanks, tonight. You’re very lucky to have such a protective teacher, you know.”

“She said she’d call you about guitar lessons.”

His mother rolled her eyes. “What do you want to be, a dirty, hairy rockstar or an esteemed, concert pianist?” Trevor offered no reply, sure of his teacher’s ability to persuade her. “That’s fine,” she said. “I’m happy having my medallion back.”

“Your medallion?”

She frowned at his calling her out. “Can’t you let me enjoy the moment?” She slipped it into her purse. “What would you like for supper?”


“There’s one on the way home.” He turned the radio on as she shifted into drive. “Ooh! I love this song!” Trevor cringed as she sang along with the last half of Love Will Keep Us Together.


“Car!” shouted Charlie as the Mustang slowed to a stop a few metres behind one of the nets. The players let them pass, and then resumed play with a triple-tap face off.

“Time to wash up for supper, Charlie!” her mother hollered from the driveway.

“Five more minutes, mom!”

“Right now, please!”

“The score’s eight-eight!”


Charlie dropped her shoulders and dragged her stick’s heel across the sidewalk and onto their front yard.

“It’s KFC!” shouted Trevor.

“Yes!” Charlie lifted her stick and jogged the lawn to catch up at the door.

They were inside less than five minutes, before the telephone rang. Trevor waited for his mom to take the call in the living room, and then left his seat for his parents’ bedroom. “Where are you going?” his sister asked, drumstick in hand.

“‘Washroom. ‘Wanna come?” he asked as he turned down the hall.


He shut the washroom door for effect, and then snuck into his parents’ bedroom to listen in on their phone.

“Hi Kobrina! I was going to call you tonight. I can’t thank you enough for getting Trevor’s medallion back from that girl.”

“It was not fair for her to have him.”

“Don’t you mean ‘it’?”


“It wasn’t fair for her to have it, the medallion, not him, my son.”

“Oh, yes! Yes, yes. It! I am sorry. I am still learning English.”

“That’s all right. I wasn’t sure what you meant.”

“Trevor said to me he wants to learn guitar.”

“I know. How crazy is that, eh?”

“It is not crazy. I can teach him.”

“You teach guitar, too?”

“So far not, but I play very well.”

“I don’t know. He spent the last three years learning piano. I don’t want him to give up.”

“Instrument is not so important. Music is the same. If he does not enjoy piano, you should not force him. He will do guitar good because he likes it.”

“Well, you did get his medallion back for me, which he wouldn’t have won if you weren’t an excellent teacher.”

“We start after his exam, so he will finish piano grade three.”

“So, next week?”

“Yes. It is better if he has no break.”

“You know, this could work. I’ve signed my daughter up for sports camps until Labour Day, but haven’t made plans for Trevor yet.”

“You want me to teach him every day?”

“Weekdays would be great. What would you charge?”

“For whole summer? I do for $2,000.”

“One hour lessons?”

“After this week, I have no piano students until September. If you want me to keep him longer, I do for same price.”

“You’re sure?”

“‘Very sure. He is my best student. And guitar is smaller than piano. He can learn on my balcony, or we go to park, or anywhere.”

“Fabulous.” Trevor pulled his hand off the phone’s mic to pump his fist. “What time would you like him there?”

“He can come at ten o’clock, and pick up at three.”

“Wow. That would really free me up. I’ll ask him and call you back after supper.”

Trevor set the receiver on the phone’s base. He peeked down the hall, crossed it to flush the toilet, then turned the washroom tap on and off, and then towelled off his dry hands. Back in the kitchen, he pulled his Krazy Straw from a utensil drawer when his mom walked in singing.

When those girls come hanging around, talkin’ you down
Hear with your heart and you won’t hear a sound …

“Who called, mom?” asked Trevor as she took a seat.

“Your wonderful piano teacher, that’s who.” She reached into the KFC bag for a coleslaw container, and then set it on his plastic placemat. “There’s one here for you, Charlie. Fries, too.”

“I’m carnivorous,” she said between swallows.

Trevor smirked. “Like Big Alice, from Land of the Lost?

“Exactly.” She tucked her elbows to her ribs and curled her fingers into allosaurus claws. “Rrr-awww!”

“Nah,” her brother replied between bites, “you’re uglier.” He flinched when she threatened to cuff his ear.

“That’s enough, you two,” said their mom. She looked at Trevor while she tore the paper wrapper off a straw. “As I was about to say, Kobrina has offered to teach you guitar this summer. What do you think?”

He chased down his swallowed mouthful of chicken breast with a spiralled sip of Coke. “Okay.”

“You’ll be with her five hours a day, five days a week, until the last week of summer, like one-to-one guitar camp. Do you think you can handle that?”


She nibbled on a French fry. “You’ll have to be on your best behaviour for her.”

“I know.”

“That means following her instructions at all times, and not only on the guitar. It’s her place, so she makes the rules.”

“I know, mom.”

“She comes from another culture too, so her rules might not be the same as ours. You’ll have to respect them, even if they seem strange, okay?”

“Okay, okay.”

“It’s quite nice of her to be so generous of her time, don’t you think?”

“I think she’s lonely.”


That evening, while his mother confirmed plans with his teacher on the phone, Trevor snuck the medallion from her purse and hid it in a zippered pouch in his backpack.