Emma’s POV

After dinner I sat down at the piano.  I rested my hands on my thighs. I stared out the window. How am I to survive the winter?  Such short days and long nights. I feel like a caged animal, all cooped up. I must find a way to see Leon.

I played the wretched song at least four times. Each time I played fewer and fewer correct notes.

“Bravo! Very good!” Charles said. “Go on.”

“How can you say that?” I said.  “I sound atrocious. I must stop for the night. I must go to bed.” I feigned a yawn.

The very next evening, after dinner, he begged me to play again.  How could I use my poor playing to my advantage?

“Ah well,” I said, walking toward the piano. “If you insist.”

I played even worse than the night before.  I saw Charles grimace out of the corner of my eye.  He came around my back and rubbed my shoulders.  He rested his hands below my collarbone.

“You play splendidly.”

“Oh! How can you say that?” Tears rolled down my cheeks.  “I need lessons so desperately but they cost so much.” I bent my elbows and placed them on his resting hands.

“Yes, they are quite an expense darling.” He came around, faced me, and leaned in. “I bet we can find less expensive teachers.  I’ll make some inquiries.”

“Would you?” I said.  “You are so wonderful.”  I kissed his cheek.

When Charles returned the next day he said nothing. Should I ask him what he learned?

“Well, Charles? What did you learn?” I said, during dessert, when I could take it no longer.

“Piano lessons are expensive,” he scowled. “Madame Liegard made me feel that 20 francs was a bargain.  She accused me of being cheap and unrefined.”

“Don’t let what Madame said bother you,” I said, stirring my tea. “I can think of plenty of other uses for my time.”

Each time I passed the piano, I looked at it wistfully.  In Charles’ presence, I commented on how much I missed playing.  Two weeks later, I suggested that we throw a dinner party.  The night of the dinner, after all the guests seemed satiated, they began calling for me to play.

“Oh no,” I said. “I have given up the piano.”

The women protested. The men insisted.

“What a pity!” the chemist said.  “You are so talented.”  He turned directly to Charles, “How can you let her waste her talent?”

Charles seemed to be at a loss for words until he said, “She’s only taking a break.”

“Yes,” I said.  “A little respite.”

In bed that evening I wrapped my arms around him. “I know you didn’t mean that about taking a break.  So I think you should sell the piano.”

“I suppose a few lessons wouldn’t hurt,” Charles said.

“But I need to commit to them weekly,” I said. “That is, if I am to make any progress.”

“Oh, all right,” Charles said, on the verge of sleep.

Suddenly, I was wide-awake at the prospect of seeing Leon weekly.

 Charles POV

After dinner Emma sat down at the piano.  She didn’t begin to play right away.  She stared out the window into the evening darkness.  Then, she began to play over and over the same song.  Each time she played it sounded worse.

“Bravo! Very good!” I said, finishing my tea while sitting on the couch.  “Go on.”

“How can you say that?” Emma said.  “I sound atrocious. I must stop for the night. I must go to bed.”  She yawned.

I wanted to be a supportive husband.  The very next evening, after dinner, I asked her to play again.

“Ah well,” Emma said, walking toward the piano. “If you insist.”

She played even worse than the night before.  Hiding my disappointment, I strolled to her and rubbed her neck and shoulders.

“You play splendidly.” My hands rested below her collarbone.

“Oh! How can you say that?”

Although I could not see her face, I knew she was crying.

“I need lessons so desperately but they cost so much,” Emma said, resting her hands on mine.

“Yes, they are quite an expense darling.” I said. When I came around the piano she pouted and lowered her eyes.

“I bet we can find less expensive teachers,” I said. “I’ll make some inquiries.”

“Would you?” she said.  “You are so wonderful.” She kissed my cheek.

I said nothing when I returned the next day.  I didn’t want to disappoint her with my news.

“Well, Charles? What did you learn?” Emma said.  She waited until we were having dessert.

“Piano lessons are expensive.” I said. “Madame Liegard made me feel that 20 francs was a bargain.  She accused me of being cheap and unrefined.”

“Don’t let what Madame said bother you,” she said stirring her tea. “I can think of plenty of other uses for my time.”

Over the next few days I saw her glance wistfully at the piano and heard her sigh.  Two weeks later, she suggested that we throw a dinner party.  After dinner the guests called for Emma to play. I should have expected this but I did not. I waited to see what she would do.

“Oh no,” she said. “I have given up the piano.”

The women protested. The men insisted.

“What a pity!” the chemist said.  “You are so talented.”  He turned directly to me, “How can you let her waste her talent?”

“She’s only taking a break,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.  “A little respite.”

The guests all nodded.

In bed that evening she draped her arms around me and waited until I was about to fall asleep.

 “I know you didn’t mean that about taking a break.  So I think you should sell the piano,” she said.

 “I suppose a few lessons wouldn’t hurt.”

“But I need to commit to them weekly,” she said. “That is, if I am to make any progress.”

“Oh, all right,” I said.

Instructor Response

Excellent. You are good, very good, and have perceived well the point of the exercise. As you’ve made it, along with Flaubert, your own, I think my preference is through Emma’s POV, although I’m not sure why. I think there’s more force to her manipulation, and her character is more revealing. You’ve got the skill. If you’d like, try this: take a thousand-word segment of something you’re working on, and make it fiction and a story. Don’t do memoir or historic or creative fiction for this. Then write the segment in two different points of view. Use a narrator if you want, or two major characters. Submit it via workshop under Assignment 1. I’ll give you some thoughts.

Thanks for the submission. And all the best with your writing. WHC

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