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Don't Ask Me Why: Epilogue

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A year had passed since that Saturday.

No one had torn down the music building, but it stood as it always had. Instead, the Orchestra Rehearsal Room's floor was decorated with a mosaic of tiles bearing the names of people who gave their condolences to those affected by the tragedy. Thousands of names, musicians and community members alike, were engraved into the beautiful blue-and-white tiles so that not a single tile in the whole room was left empty. It served as a powerful sign in years to come to all the students who continued to enroll there and sought to perform music to the best of their ability. It was a sign of how much they were all supported in their arduous discipline, and that no one would be forgotten, no matter their struggle, no matter where they came from.

It was also in the first week of May that Alex had his Graduate Recital. By this time, he had already performed with the Symphony Orchestra with the Elgar Cello Concerto, and had also performed in the city's professional Orchestra. Alex also created a new music ensemble that included him and some friends, and with a recent addition: Marie.
For Alex's recital, Marie played a piece with him as the last work on the program, the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano op. 63 by Carl Maria von Weber. Alex stumbled across this work in his own research of cello chamber music, and thought it a perfect piece to perform with her. Many found this a perfect ending to his two years at the university. By this time, Alex was the most popular musician in the whole school, and he had a full crowd at his recital.
It was an endearing sight: Alex, dressed in his typical all-black, and Marie sitting across from him in a dark red gown, her lovely red silk scarf draping her shoulders that matched perfectly. Marie had since worked very hard, and although she was not a major or a minor in performance, she was taking lessons with the best players of the school so that she had grown to be a very mature flutist. Everyone knew that Marie and Alex had been in a relationship for a full year, and it was only a matter of time when there would be a move.
Everyone cheered when the Trio was over, and Marie and Alex stood together, but all the credit was given to Alex. Together, they went backstage where they could be alone.
"It was wonderful," Marie spoke affectionately, and hugged Alex.
"You were too," he said seriously, but not without a smile. The put their instruments away in their cases, and went to the reception hall a minute's walk away.
"Bravo! Bravo!" everyone in the hall cheered and clapped, and Alex and Marie bowed again. Everyone from Alex's connections and Marie's connections were there. Members of Marie's older church and current church where she went to with Alex were all there. The reception hall was simply a staff lounge and was only used for special occasions.
Alex's mother was also there, beaming proudly not just for Alex, but for his lovely lady friend.
"You were wonderful, Alex!" she laughed and hugged her son, and then immediately hugged Marie too. "And you were so beautiful up there, and your playing was gorgeous! Alex has a great debt to pay you for this!"
"Aw, thank you, Mrs. Young," Marie could feel herself blush. "But there is no debt to be paid. I performed with him as an act from the heart."
"And that's always as it should be!" Mrs. Young laughed. Marie laughed too.
Everyone gave their individual congratulations to Alex, and Marie slinked away to be with her dear friend Christy. For the past year, they had become increasingly close to each other, and even went to church together. As there was plenty of alcohol around, Christy gave to Marie a private toast to celebrate their friendship.
"If it hadn't been for you, Marie, I would have been just a lonely, lost soul, like so many of us once were."
"Aw, too true, Christy, thank you so much," she embraced her friend.
It was already such a lovely night that nothing more would have made Marie happier.
In the middle of the party, however, Alex asked everyone to quiet down so he could give a speech. Everyone circled around, eager to hear what was going to be said.
"I'm going to do something old-fashioned tonight, but that's what musicians as well as gentlemen tend to do, do they not?" he began, to many laughs around.
"Well, first, I want to thank my professor who trained me these two years. I couldn't have done it without him, I've been so blessed to have him as my mentor." Exuberant applause followed.
"Next, I want to thank all my friends who have continued to support me in all my endeavors, and to my pianist who helped me this whole time with recital preparation and the final performance." More applause.
"Last, but not least, I want to thank my mother. If there's been a single person who has been of greater influence in my life, it is her... as some of you know, my father passed away when I was young, even before I started playing cello. But I will never forget his love, and I know that he would have been happy to see this day... so it has been my mother who raised me alone, even when things were tough... and we got through it, even to the end now, didn't we?" Sympathetic sighs came from the audience as his mother nodded her head with teary eyes.
"There is no such thing as the 'end,' for musicians, Alex," she smiled, and everyone laughed. Alex went over and hugged her, to more affectionate cheering and applause.
"I guess that's all I have to say! Thank you, everyone for coming!" he suddenly said spiritedly, and that seemed to be a sign to disperse the crowd who started clapping again, when a few whines and taunts came from the crowd around him.
"Wait! Wait!" they said. "You forgot someone!" they laughed.
"What? What's this?" Alex seemed confused. "Who have I forgotten?"
"Marie! Marie!" everyone laughed. Marie laughed herself, not even noticing that she was somehow missed in his address.
"Oh! Right! Right! How silly of me!" Alex laughed, but somehow in that moment, Marie recognized something feigned in that laugh. "Quiet down, quiet down again!" Everyone did.
"You may not have noticed Marie around in the school of music," he began in a mock-serious tone, "But she was always behind the scenes making sure everything has been tip-top shape around here. She's done probably a thousand programs for all sorts of recitals and concerts, including the one you heard tonight. Although I asked Marie not to mess up anything, there is one error that I don't blame her for missing in the program. It involves the last terms where it says, 'there will be a reception to follow the program' ... because that's not exactly what I wanted this evening only to be." A curious stir came around the room.
"The truth is, I think I have something special to say to Marie tonight. She was wonderful to perform with, but I think saying that doesn't do enough... no..." Alex had kept up a very light mood, but now had become serious. "Marie is the loveliest woman I've ever known... and I often think about how courageous she really is. Believe it or not, she's the bravest person I know, braver than me... and through being with her and getting to know her, I've learned to be brave as well, in ways that have challenged me as a person... the greatest thing she's given me, however, something that really can't be repaid... is that she has given me the more happiness than almost anything I've ever known, because she has given herself to me, and she is my happiness... so instead, since I can never fully return the debt I owe her, I express the next best thing I can to her, and that's to give her myself," at this point, Alex was standing just a few paces ahead of Marie, who was standing with Christy. His face was very serious. "Marie, I confess now with all these witnesses that I'm completely and utterly in love with you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you..."
In one motion, Alex got on one knee, and pulled out a box from his jacket pocket. The audience gasped, but held their tongues.
"Will you marry me?"
Marie stood there looking into his eyes. She had never seen a more genuine, kindhearted face. Tears immediately came into her eyes.
After everything she had gone through, it was all worth it now.
"Yes, Alex, I will," she said in a calm but confident tone.
The whole audience gasped in delight and fell into exuberant cheering and clapping. Alex and Marie kissed, and even though she was crying, Marie couldn't help laughing. Alex took a diamond ring out of the box and put it on her hand. He was the happiest man alive.
And as for Marie, she knew now that nothing would have made her more happy.

It was perfect.