"The Master" - Short Story

Updated: May 31

She made her way through the dark streets, bracing herself against the cold, winter wind. The unfamiliar silence of the dead of night accompanied by the eerie flicker of the street lamps put a strain on her already weary nerves. How she longed to turn back, go home to the familiar sounds and smells of Henry Street, but she knew that she must find him. After all, this was her own fault. Wasn’t it? She had taken his light, his life. She only wanted to make him happy, to make him proud, but somehow, she had failed him.

The coarse sound of drunken laughter pulled her from her thoughts. Across the street beaconed the light of a lonely pub. One step at a time, she crossed the street, listening to the raucous voices as their muddled words became clear.

“Tell us again! Tell us how you let that girl steal your spotlight!”

The words caught her off guard. She stopped outside the window and peered in. Laughter once again erupted but was quickly silenced by the feeble, slurring words of an old man. He stood amongst the crowd, a bottle in his hand, his once pristine dinner jacket wrinkled and stained. She had found him. Perhaps not the man he once was, but she had found him. The sound of his voice brought tears to her eyes more-so than the hurtful words he uttered.

“I’ll tell you just as I’ve told you a thousand times before, no one steals Stefan Clancy’s spotlight. No one! Stefan Clancy will always be The Master! That girl will never be as famous as I, Stefan Clancy. Never!”

His statement was once again met with laughter from the drunken crowd. She doubted they even knew who he was let alone what he was talking about. To them, he was just a bit of free entertainment, a toy to be tossed to the dogs, not sparing the fact that he would be torn apart.

Having seen enough of the spectacle, she sauntered through the doorway of the pub. Her entrance was met with stares and whispers from the patrons. Indeed, she must have looked like a queen amongst the commonwealth, still dressed in her evening attire from a grand banquet the night before. The pub was now completely silent as she approached the middle of the room, the stage for the spectacle. The silence was appropriately broken by a drunken exclamation.

“Charlotte, my dear!” slurred Clancy, his expression not matching the alluded excitement in his voice. “Why, you are just in time! Won’t you have a drink with us? Come, my dear, you must have a drink. Sit down and be a good girl, after all, it’s not every girl that has the privilege of drinking a toast to Stefan Clancy…The Great…The Master…Extraordinaire!”

Charlotte stood, unmoved.

A smirk formed on Clancy’s face as he once again gibed at her, “Come, come, why are you so quiet? If you are not going to join in the festivities you can just go home. We’ve no room for a limp spirit, here.” He turned away as he took another drink. He could feel Charlotte’s cold stare, but he could not bring himself to look at her. “I said you can go home. You’re not wanted here,” he said coldly.

“I suppose not after hearing what you’ve said,” she replied.

“Well, what did you come here for? To flaunt your good fortune?” Clancy jeered.

Charlotte stared at him, her face expressionless. Timidly, Clancy looked up at her. Their eyes met. “I came to take you home.”

“Take me home!” he laughed. “Take me home to the mundane life you’ve burdened me with? 'Stefan Clancy, The Professor!’ I am still The Master, and there are still plenty who’ll pay to see the great Stefan Clancy perform!” His face grew serious as he turned to Charlotte. “No one will ever take my place, not even you.” Clancy took another drink from the almost empty bottle before continuing, “They’ll line up for miles, cheering for the great Stefan Clancy. They’ve never forgotten me! They’ve just been distracted by the would-be talent of a young girl still wet behind the ears. You’ll never be anything more than a student, a mediocre copy of a master.”

Charlotte’s face turned hot with his insults. She had chided and lied to him long enough. “Don’t fool yourself, old man! Your career was over long ago. Unless you call this a career,” she accused as she knocked the bottle from his hand. She stepped back, looking Clancy over before motioning to the still silent patrons, “Look at him. The Master, The Great! Who worked his whole life for what?” she asked, turning back to Clancy. “A bit of fame today, only to be forgotten tomorrow? You fool! Do you really think that we are all destined for the same end that you have allowed yourself to succumb to? Can you not see that I have my own life, my own dreams, my own path that I must follow? No longer to be hidden in the shadow of your wings. Ah! But you thought you had clipped mine long ago, hadn't you? Well, watch me. Watch me soar and become something greater than you ever dreamed that you could be!”

Charlotte spun and took a few steps toward the door before stopping. The room was completely still, and she could feel the glaring eyes of the shocked patrons. Tears rolled down her cheeks as the realization of what she had just said sank in.

There was no going back now. There was no going back to the life she had known. The Master, who was once a mentor, a friend, was gone. He, whom she had once loved as a father, had ceased to exist, replaced by the drunken shell of a man still living in the glory of a life gone by.

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©2020 by Emily E. Finke.