After the first week, which Ellipse spent sore with the effort of readjusting, the days blurred together, turning first to weeks, then to a few months. Even the occasional blips, like updates from the boys or jam sessions with Andra, were buried under the monotony of preparing for her debut. She wrote music, learned dances, got coached in stage presence, and fell asleep every night buzzing with achy muscles, a wrung-out brain, and a growling stomach.
She was halfway through her morning composition time, lips numb from playing descant after descant, when Andra slipped in. It was a stud day, though Ellipse could hardly tell. Andra wore his hair down that day, to showcase how the bright red dye bled neatly into black roots.
“Hey.” Andra interrupted, “have I heard this one before?”
No. The trumpet piece was not for Andra’s next album.
“I thought you were scheduled for tomorrow,” Ellipse said, trying not to sound accusatory. They still had not reconciled over their clashing plans. Jam sessions were only that—professional music making.
“I had some free time, so I thought I would check in with you. Am I going to learn whatever you were just playing?”
The music studio was too small. Its walls, covered in acoustic panelling, squeezed in every time someone else walked into the room. With the keyboard on one end and a series of music stands and instruments scattered around the floor around the keyboard bench, there was hardly enough room for a second person.
“Did you want to check in about something other than music?” Ellipse asked.
Andra wrinkled his brow and pursed his lips. He took a moment to sigh, perhaps lamenting his younger sister’s petulance or finding the right words. Ellipse just stared him down.
“Yes,” he finally admitted, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Look, I get that I should have included you from the start. Trying to keep you safe was no excuse for keeping you in the dark.”
At least Andra understood that part now, Ellipse thought. She allowed herself to relax and readjusted her grip on her trumpet.
“Do you really have to stay here though?” His face drooped, the corners of his mouth pulling down into a frown both pleading and worried. “Did you think I would not notice what this place is doing to you?”
Ellipse almost missed the raggedness in his voice. Andra had been trained to sound clear and open at all times, just as she had, but now the truth of his worry slipped through. He sounded hoarse, more like Tejal than Andra.
Suddenly feeling a little silly, Ellipse looked down at her lap and fiddled with the trumpet keys. “I can handle it for a while. I know what else is out there now, remember?”
“Still.” Andra paused. “I worry. You can at least let me do that, right?”
Ellipse bit her lip. Of course she could not ban worrying. If anything, hearing Andra say out loud that he worried gave her the same warm fuzzies that she got every time Tejal and Focci closed their update messages with little notes about missing her.
She shook her head. “You can worry. Just try not to let it get in the way of things.”
“About that.” Andra bent over to move a tenor saxophone and its stand out of the center of the room. “I will continue my plan. With you writing again, the stock jump will be huge after the release next month, and I intend to capitalize on it. I mean it when I say I want to get us out of here.”
Ellipse felt her face scrunch.
“Look, you know that no matter what, Andra-Media is going to fall. People will get hurt by that, whether it comes from my way or doing things or yours. But I promise not to get in your way, okay? Consider my plan a kind of backup.” Crossing his arms, Andra tilted his head and offered a smile. “I am sorry for letting you think you were all alone. Let me be your big sib again?”
A tiny quirk of a smile found its way onto Ellipse’s face. “Sure. I guess.” She glanced at the trumpet still sitting in her hands and then sent Andra a scowl. “Now get out. I am working.”
With a stuttering laugh, he backpeddaled out of the studio and closed the door quietly. The moment the handle clicked, Ellipse brought up her trumpet and let out a long, deep sigh. The break had been nice. She had been getting stuck on what siren words would fit into the chord progression she had already matched to the melody.
Tapping on the keys, she racked her brain for every possible word that fit. Maybe she had gone too long without hearing Trade Siren used in conversation. “Ugh stupid sevenths,” she muttered. “Too limited.” But she needed the seventh chord for the main melody. It created tension and resolution, drama and emotion. Earthlings, avians, and saur all used it as a strong component of music.
She let out a grumble and buzzed out a fart noise through the trumpet. The boys’ last report had said they were preparing to place the last prototype near the tyran home planet. She needed to finish writing this darn song so she could record and edit and write her statement by the time they were ready to tell the universe her story.
Slumping over in her chair, Ellipse squeezed her eyes shut and hummed out a few possibilities. The abundance of colloquialisms in Trade Siren made for endless poetic metaphors, which helped with making equivalent statements between languages, but nothing felt quite right this time.
Ellipse’s fingers ran through the fingerings of an old Beatle’s descant, probably “Penny Lane” or something, entirely of their own accord, and Ellipse tried to shove the tune out of her head. “Just focus!” she hissed at herself. “Come on!”
Her watch dinged, and Ellipse almost cursed the boys for interrupting her thoughts. But she held back; they could hardly know what she was up to at the moment.
She tapped the screen to navigate to their message and skimmed over the words. They had just finished setting up the last generator prototype and would conduct a few tests and time trials next. They hoped she was alright, and they loved her, and-
Wait. Sirens had all kinds of words for love, rather like the Greeks with their agape and storge and what-have-you, but their most straightforward, all-encompassing term was one stolen from Focci’s native language. It was a staccato series of notes, all close together, which sat right around the seventh note of the key. She had forgotten that she could just say things plainly.
That section of the descant needed a bit of reworking now, but syntax always rested around the more common notes. She had this in the bag now.