It’s time for another instalment of my online serial, Concerto. Once again the Muse has broadsided me with events I had not foreseen. I LOVE writing! Enjoy Into the Storm, and if you’ve missed any of the previous episodes or if you’d just like to start at the beginning, follow the links below this instalment to the the story so far.
Concerto Part 8 Into the Storm
I paced the cottage a couple more times, running my fingers along the keyboard, stroking the pianist’s clothes on the chez lounge, looking over my shoulder as I did so, half expecting him to walk in on me. When he didn’t, I settled onto the seat and pulled the white shirt to my face, to my nose, breathing in the scent of the storm, of the man, of his passion and feeling the anxious flight of butterflies in my stomach along with the heavy ache of desire below.
While the rain didn’t lessened, the wind had picked up enough to clear the mist. Dawn faded to anemic daylight, and the viewpoint above the sea became visible. My landlady had told me the manor house once stood there. Now little remained but the foundations and a bit of tumbled down wall — only the few stones that were left after the rest were, no doubt, plundered over time and taken for other more practical dwellings. The broad stone chimney still stood in stark relief against the cast iron sky, a silent reminder of what had been, a keeper of secrets and stories lost in the past.
And then I saw him. It had to be him. There was no one else here but the two of us, and the storm was the perfect deterrent to any lost tourists who might wander in by accident. I was sure the cow-path of a road was completely impassable in this weather without an off-road vehicle. A great gust of wind made my heart stop as he was driven to his knees too close to the edge of the cliff for my comfort. I yelled out for him to be careful, even knowing full well that he couldn’t hear me.
The thought of the lone chimney, the ruined manor house, the overwhelming sense of isolation the storm had brought with, made me suddenly desperate for his company, desperate to not be alone, and above all desperate to have him safely back in the cottage. I all but ran to the French doors, slipping into my worse-for-wear sandals and, as an afterthought, grabbing up one of the throws for a little extra protection from the wind and rain. They were wool, after all.
Seeing the storm through the windows of the cottage and flinging myself into it were two very different things. The wind howled in my face taking my breath away and making my eyes stream. The horizontal rain was icy and needle-like against my face. I put my head down and trudged, all but bent double, toward the viewpoint, only looking up long enough to make sure I was going the right way. I hadn’t gone far before the slip and slide of the wet ground and the pressure of my body snapped the strap on one sandal. My foot slipped sideways and I went sprawling onto the slick rock to keep from twisting my ankle. It was a sure sign that I should turn around and go back, that I should wait for the pianist in the cottage. But there was something in the way he shoved his way back to his feet, fists clenched, back stiff, shoulders rigid; there was something in the way he gazed out at the empty sea that pushed me on. I took only a few more steps before I gave up and just ditched the sandals entirely. By that time I was walking on rock, and what short grass the thin, nutrient-poor soil could support.
Twice I called out to him, but the wind only blew my words back in my face. It was as I reached the foundation of the manor house and all but fell against the chimney that I realized he was naked. “What are you doing? You’ll die of exposure.” I yelled, lunging toward him, only too late realizing just how close to the edge of the cliff he stood. With a twist of his torso he scooped me up, redirected my momentum, and sent us both tumbling to the ground in the shadow of the chimney, both grunting hard from the impact.
“Do you have any idea how dangerous that was,” I spoke between desperate gasps for breath, “what a risk you took? What the hell were you thinking?”
“It’s not your business what I was thinking, nor is it your business to follow me.” Even in the storm, his voice was cold, distant. I went still beneath him, and the tremor that passed up my spine had little to do with the in climate weather. He searched my face with hard, dark eyes. His expression was one I could not define, and yet one that made me ache in a different way, as though I were once again isolated, once again the only one on this lonely stretch of coast. Then he all but collapsed on top of me and bundled me to him. With a startled sense of shock, I realized he wasn’t shuddering from the cold, his body was racked with sobs, the kind of sobs that accompany deep, hopeless loss. I could do little but hold him to me and stroke his back as the rain came down in sheets and the mist descended again.
Alarmed by the returning fog, and not knowing what else to do, I drew him close and all but yelled to be heard above the roar of the waves. “You can’t be out here like this. You’ll get hypothermia. Come back to the cottage, I’ll build a fire, you can take a hot bath.” He didn’t fight me as I wriggled out from under him and offered him my hand. As he stumbled to his feet, I draped the wool tartan around his shoulders, for all the good it would do, but it made me feel better.
As I turned back toward the cottages, I suddenly realized just how dire our situation was. I could see nothing. The landscape had been swallowed in a blanket of grey. Then the wind went deadly still. Mist swirled heavy and smothering around us. There was no trail visible on the bare rock and thin grass. “I don’t know if I can find the way back,” I said, turning toward him.
And then the world fell away. I’m not exactly sure what happened. Even to this day when I think back on the occasion, I can never be sure what was real and what was from the fall. I must have stepped in a hole. I yelped and went tumbling backward, but not before I glimpsed the manor house, towering up behind us, lights gleaming golden through the many windows, smoke wafting from the enormous chimney, and in the calm, I heard piano music wafting from an open window.
If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.