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Interview with a Demon: Instalment 10

Chapter 10 Choices and Connections

(Links to the rest of the interview at the bottom of the post)

 

The Guardian was silent, lost in thought. I waited, holding my breath, for the part of the story I knew changed everything, changed the lives of all those involved and so many more besides, including my own. I was just about to be very rude and prompt him, like a child waiting for the ending to a bedtime story, when he released a long, unnecessary breath and spoke.

 

“There are pivotal moments, K D, moments to which we can look back with the understanding that but for what at the time, might have seemed the most logical of choices, we could have changed everything by simply making a different choice, or perhaps no choice at all.”

 

“You’re speaking of the choice Susan made?” I asked tentatively.

 

“Of course I’m not speaking of the choice Susan made.” There was an edge of irritation in his voice that made the fine hair along the back of my neck bristle. “Have I not already said, Susan had no choice? This much you must understand if you’re to ever comprehend the story I’m telling you. Susan had no choice, no more than Annie did nor any of those who came before her, no more than Michael himself did, and he an angel fully clothed in the grace of his god. You see, my power has always been to be the maker of choices. Or viewed in a different way, the remover of choices. Yes, that perhaps is a better description of who I am, of what I’ve done.

 

“When Susan came to me that night in the crypt at Chapel House, she could have done nothing else. Her arrival was fated to her from the very moment she set foot on the premises. What I didn’t then understand, and certainly she didn’t until much later, was how she would free me. For you see when she arrived at the crypt, she brought her laptop. I thought at the time it was a strange thing to have done, though it truly didn’t matter. She seated herself on the floor, with her back against the wall. Her poor body shook as though she were a blade of grass caught up in a storm. I drank in her terror and her determination as she wrote, fingers trembling over the keyboard, and I read her words.

 

The narrative unfolding before me was a wonder I could have scarcely imagined. You see, there was no magical key, no hocus pocus she was obliged to speak, no potion or incantation that would set me free. My jailor had been very thorough in securing my bonds. But what my dear Susan did was a thing Magda Gardener – oh she went by a different name back then – could not have imagined when she imprisoned me. Susan simply wrote the opening of the rusted narrow gate that blocked off the lower, more treacherous, passage at the back of the crypt. She wrote herself into that narrative making herself both figuratively and literally my liberator. I lingered close to her, my excitement rising, with the realization of who she was, of what she was. Oh, of course I was not physically bound behind that gate. Such a thing could have never held me, but Susan had, in her magic, used the opening of that gate in her tale as the method of my release. You see, hers was the power of the written word, a power she could not yet completely comprehend.”

 

Here the Guardian paused only briefly. I was startled to discover he was breathing heavily, as though the excitement of the tale he told might overcome him. I quickly reminded myself that he didn’t need breath, that once again I was assigning to him human characteristics. Then with a tremor up my spine as I realized the assigning to him of human traits was the very trap all of his lovers, his victims, had fallen into. That brought with it the realization that he was suddenly much closer to me, and I felt his presence moving over my skin like fingers caressing.

“Stop it,” I managed, my own breathing suddenly accelerated nearly to hyperventilation. “Please stop it.”

 

His withdrawal was so sudden that I felt as though my skin were being ripped off. The groan which he offered was one of pain, not one of arousal. Once again his image became visible. He turned his back on me and walked to the edge of the beck, then sat down abruptly, cupping his head in his hands.

 

My own feelings were a roil of confusion, arousal, sadness and fear. I waited, struggling to catch my breath quietly, unobtrusively. But when he didn’t return his attention to me, I gathered my courage and asked in a very small voice, “Do you want me to leave?” His response was abrupt, startling.

 

            “Susan said later that what I did to her, what I did to all of them was … rape,” he spoke the word as though it were bitter on his tongue, and my insides clenched tight at its speaking and all it conjured in my head. It disturbed me deeply to realize that not long ago, I might have agreed with her, and now I was no longer sure. But what he said next made me even more uncomfortable. “It was, you know? The way I took her, the way I took them all. What else could it have been?”

 

“Isn’t that a … human response?” I couldn’t keep my voice from quivering as I spoke. “I mean, to think of it, of what you did, as … that?”

 

“Of course it’s a human response, for you see, Susan, at her very core is still human. Even that horrible creature, Desiree Fielding, is still human in her deeper nature. The succubus, some of Magda Gardener’s other more exotic minions, even Magda herself, though they have never been human, they … attach themselves to humans, to humanity, because … I suppose because they feel a need for connection they would not now otherwise have, as far removed from their original context as they are.”

 

“Is that … is that what’s happening to you?”

 

His laugh was so bitter I hardly recognized it as such. “I have not … attached myself to humans. It seems I’ve been attached to them by Susan’s fatal act, by what was, in earnest, her only true choice in this whole tale I tell. You must understand, being prisoner was not my choice, and while I have endeavored to make the best of the situation in which I now find myself, I would not have chosen it. For what you cannot see, what you cannot begin to understand, my dear little scribe, is that I battle every day against my nature. I battle every day to find a way to balance the love I bear Susan, Michael, and now Reese and his vampire against what I would do to them, to those they love, if I were at liberty.”

 

This time the slight chuckle was more bemused. “There, you see, K D, I am now assigning to myself the very human traits I have warned you not to.” Another slight chuckle with a shake of his head and he continued. “Susan has given me more liberty than she must, in some cases far more than that with which she is comfortable. I find, however, that it is less the liberty I crave than it is those connections of which we speak, the intercourse with other beings, even that horrible succubus.”

 

My own laugh was a burst of relief as much as anything. “I’ll be sure to tell her
that when she brings me back.”

 

“Please to. I delight so in irritating her.”

 

Once again we were silent. It was not a comfortable silence. I knew what was to come, and I knew that the Guardian would not gloss anything over for my own protection. I suppose a part of me hoped he would do what so many of the more conservative storytellers did and “close the bedroom door,” so to speak. Susan told her story with open, honest candor, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I found myself drawn to the Guardian, fatal though any attraction to him would be. But I knew only too well, that he lived for, in fact he fed upon that attraction, that sexual act, and I doubted he would spare me anything.

 

“Do you wish me to?” He asked. I jumped at the realization he was once again closer to me than an embrace, close enough to read my thoughts. “Do you wish me to spare you the details, KD?”

 

I shoved up from the chair, which I found myself once again inexplicably sitting in and stumbled to the edge of the beck, hoping for a bit of breathing room, or perhaps hoping he would take the choice out of my hands. But he moved away. I wanted to berate him for once again invading my thoughts, but I doubted he’d really had to in order to understand the emotions racing through me, the fear, the desire, the loathing of what I knew I could not help but feel in this voyeuristic act I was about to commit. I took a deep breath, which unlike him, I very much needed, and then I took another and looked out onto the beautiful Cumbrian night, which was no more real than the chair I’d just been sitting in. “I’m here to record your story. Isn’t that what a scribe does? You tell it as you need to, and I’ll write it.” I had an overwhelming urge to turn and face him, but he took away that possibility by moving behind me, close behind me, and resting his hands on my shoulders.

 

“Then I will not be gentle, KD.” I felt his breath against my ear. “I will be as painfully honest as I must. If I had not believed you capable of hearing my tale, capable of recording it in an unbiased way, I would not have asked you here into what I know is a very compromising situation. But you’re trembling. For that I’m sorry. I’ll give you a moment.”

 

From a long way off, I could hear Talia and Reese arguing, an argument in which my name figured frequently.

 

I took yet another deep breath and opened my eyes. “I’m ready,” I said, and the voices receded.

 

The Guardian guided me back to the chair and said softly, once again close to my ear. “Then I will begin.”

 

Links to Previous instalments of the interview

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

 

Concerto Chapter 11

 

Chapter 11 Making sense of it

 

“Are you sure you’re well enough to be here,” Mrs. McLaren said, watching me nervously as I stepped out of her battered Land Rover.

 

“Fine, I’m fine,” I lied. I’d been out of the hospital two days and had convalesced impatiently in a hotel room until, ready or not, I could stand it no longer and called Mrs. McLaren, who had promised to take me out to the cottages as soon as I was up to it. I had driven to Portree and endured another night and day in a hotel room in the pounding rain until the weather cleared enough that Mrs. McLaren would even consider taking me out. As it turned out, it was just as well. The trip up from Glasgow had exhausted me, and I wasn’t fit to do much but sleep and order in when I was hungry enough to eat anything. Every time I slept, I hoped that I would wake up back in the cottage with my piano player. But I didn’t. He didn’t even haunt my dreams during those nights of exhaustion and sickness.

 

The landlady watched me with a jaundiced eye as I walked slowly, carefully, through the cottage I’d stayed in, remaining close enough that she could catch me if I stumbled. Everything was exactly as I remembered it, but that was no real surprise. “As I said,” she reiterated, when I turned to her expectantly, “this is the only cottage that’s finished.” She didn’t repete the obvious, the obvious that I’d heard a thousand times, that there’d been no one here but me. She knew it would do her no good, and she wasn’t given to wasted words. It was just as well. I knew what I’d seen. I knew that I hadn’t been alone.

 

She opened the back door, and we stepped outside into the anemic sunlight. My first view of the other cottage felt like a gut punch. There was no patio. Instead a small earthmover stood to the side of a rectangular hole filled with muddy rainwater where the patio, no doubt, would be when the builders finished. To the side under heavy plastic stood several stacks of large paving stones.

 

“The place won’t be ready to lease until next summer.” She sounded almost apologetic. Then she gently threaded her arm through mine. I figured it was so she could catch me if I lost my footing. There was no disguising my trembling. Though more than a little of that was from the shock of what greeted me as I looked out at the other cottage.

 

With a bit of careful tugging, she pulled me away from the flooded would-be patio and around to the front door, which was not locked, the reason became obvious with the pounding of hammers and the mumbled curses of workmen coming from inside.

 

As we entered the front door, two men dressed in paint spattered jeans and ratty t-shirts, looked up, then laid down their hammers and nodded their greetings as though I were some strange creature they weren’t sure how to approach. No doubt they knew the tale. The story of the crazy American lady who was found wandering the cliffs in the middle of a storm had surely made its rounds in a place where I figured I was the most entertaining news that had happened in awhile. Mrs. McLaren motioned them to the door, and they left without a word.

 

Where the wood floor had been, there was, instead, bare concrete, and the fireplace had been newly bricked, the trowel and other tools of the trade still on the floor on plastic sheeting. There was no piano. In fact there was nothing but sawhorses and cans of paint with odd bits and pieces of lumber scattered around, along with a several half-empty bottles of water and sports drinks. The kitchen was exactly as I remembered it, unfinished and covered in drop cloths. As if she knew what I’d ask next, she led me to the bathroom. The tub in which I’d made love to my pianist was there, but sitting in the middle of the floor, and the plumbing was only half finished. Without waiting for me to comment, she led me into the master bedroom.

 

It was suddenly hard to breathe, and I saw the room through a haze of tears I blinked hard to control. The big bed sat in the middle of the floor exactly where it had been, but it was battered and weather worn. On top of a bare mattress that didn’t really fit the wooden slats, a sleeping bag and a pillow lay rumpled and tossed. An empty teacup and an open can of Red Bull sat on a backless chair to the side.

 

“Ian, he’s my nephew, he stays here when the weather is nice and he wants to work late, or get an early start,” Mrs. McLaren said. “Mostly though I think he just likes the place what with the sea and the cliffs.”

 

“The bed?” I managed, feeling like my throat was closing off.

 

“It was here when we bought the place,” she said. “No sense in having it restored until the cottage is a little closer to finished. Ian likes to sleep there.” She smiled indulgently. “Makes him feel a bit like a laird.”

 

There was little left to say after that. Mrs. McLaren walked me up to the cliffs where I’d been found, not far from the standing chimney and the ruined foundations of the manor house, all the while, in my head, flashes of the house in its glory days and broken strains of piano music made me dizzy and even more unsure on my feet. When I dropped down onto a rock near where Mrs. McLaren said I’d been found, she only stood next to me patting my shoulder, until the younger of the two men, the one I assumed was Ian, joined us. “Ms. Alan,” he said quietly. “You’d best go back to the cottage now, have some tea, get warm.”

 

I didn’t protest as he helped me up and the two flanked me, Ian close enough that if I should stumble he could catch me, even carry me if he had to. And to my embarrassment, he had to. We were nearly back to the cottage when a view of the earthmover and the whole where the patio should be made the ache in my chest bloom until it felt like the icy blasts of the storm that had raged all the while I’d stayed her with my pianist. “He asked me to find him and I don’t even know his name,” I whispered, and then the ground tilted around me and strong arms lifted me. I humiliated myself further by burying my face in Ian’s chest and sobbing all the way back to the cottage. Inside, he settled me on the sofa and covered me with a blanket. He sat with me until Mrs. McLaren returned with a cup of tea, which tasted like it might have had a nip of something stronger in it. “This’ll warm your belly and make you feel better,” she said.

 

When she was sure I wasn’t going to humiliate myself further, she motioned Ian into the kitchen, where I could hear them mumbling quietly. Occasionally their voices rose in what sounded like an argument, but it took me a minute to realize they were speaking Gaelic. Not that I cared that much. My own thoughts were too confused trying to sort reality from fantasy. But in spite of everything that I had seen, everything that was obvious, I was still certain that what I’d experienced with my pianist had been real.

 

In a few minutes, they returned to the living room and Mrs. McLaren sat down on the sofa next to me. “You’ve got no business traveling alone,” she said, “not in your condition. You shouldn’t even be out of bed yet. You’ve had a terrible shock. I’ve got guests coming and I can’t get away, but Ian will take you back to Portree and then on to Glasgow and help you arrange a flight home if you need.”

 

“I’m fine,” I said, setting the teacup aside and pushing to my feet.

 

“You shouldn’t be alone.” Ian gently took my arm with a rough hand and guided me back down. “If you don’t feel comfortable with me, I can get my sister, Mary to take you.” At this suggestion, I couldn’t help noticing that Mrs. McLaren stiffened.

 

“No.” I sighed half in defeat, half in relief not to have to make the trip by myself, one I wasn’t sure I could manage. “I’m all right with you taking me.”

 

Twenty minutes later, Mrs. L had me bundled up in Ian’s Land Rover like an invalid with a flask of tea and a basket of sandwiches. It was only after I was settled in that she handed me the coffee table book on the manor house and its history. “Maybe this will help,” she said, then waved us off.

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

Concerto Part 9: Me, But Somebody Else

Concerto Part 10: Find Me

 

Interview with a Demon 9th Instalment

R&R is over, and I have been properly lectured by Magda Gardener on my flight
home from the States. I’m relieved that she knows about my interview with the Guardian, but she made it very clear she didn’t approve. That being said, in spite of Magda’s warnings, a few days later I returned to the penthouse for my next meeting with the Guardian for instalment 9 of the interview. Listing for previous instalments are at the bottom of this post.

 

Chapter 9  Anticipating

It was almost a month before I was invited to return to the Guardian’s dream prison. In those first days, I slept most of the time, and when I did wake up, I was ravenous. I ate and slept again. On the evening of the third day I woke, ate and showered, and boarded the plane for some much needed R&R with family. I thought I was prepared for whatever would happen next, when Magda Gardener showed up on my flight home to informed that not only did she know about my interview with the Guardian, but she was not best pleased.

 

For the next few days, I waited, expecting that any time I would get called back to New York to continue the interview. But when the call had not come by the third day, I found myself unable to settle, unable to relax, vacillating between hoping Magda had forbidden further meetings with the Guardian and longing desperately to see him again, to hear the rest of his story. On the fourth day, not only did I get the call, but one of the Consortium’s private jets had been sent for me. It seemed that after her stern talk to me, Magda had decided best expedite the whole interview under her watchful eye. I didn’t know how I felt about that, but I was more than a little bit anxious to get back to the Guardian.

 

I arrived in New York with more of a sense of excitement and anticipation than I would like to admit. That in itself frightened me. I told Magda Gardener that I had made a commitment and I would see it through to the end, but in my heart of hearts, I feared my desire to continue the interview had little to do with my commitment at this point.

 

At the flat in New York City, Talia met me at the door and invited me back to the big bed. This time it was Reese who sat in the wing backed chair, rising to kiss me on both cheeks. Then he held me at arms length and inspected me as though he were checking for physical wounds. “I’m all right,” I mumbled. “Better now that I’ve rested.” Then I added without waiting, “Magda knows.”

 

Reese didn’t seem surprised. “It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t know him as well as she thinks she does. He won’t hurt you,” Reese said, as he stepped back, still not taking his eyes off me. “But no matter what his intentions are, you’ll never be the same after being with him.”

 

“Thanks for that, Reese,” Talia grumbled. “You didn’t do too bad out of the deal. Besides that no one is forcing her to do this interview. She’s not so stupid as to think a demon is ever safe, and if she is, well she deserves what she gets.”

 

She motioned me toward the bed, but I balked. “Do you love him?” I asked Reese.

 

He took another step back, almost as though I had hit him, and rested a hand on the back of the chair. “I … think of him differently now.” Then he settled back in the chair, but avoided my gaze.

 

As I lay down to the bed, Talia crawled in next to me and pulled me close to her. This time she wore silk pajamas. “He’s a monster, K D,’ she whispered next to my ear. “It takes more than most people are up for to love a monster, whatever the hell that even means.” Her words were brittle, lacking in the usual humor that usually surrounded the succubus.

 

I wanted to argue that Reese was a monster too now and so was she, that they all were, but I fell asleep before I could say anything.

 

I awoke on my back in the grass looking up at the stars. The Guardian sat next to me looking out over the fells. “You appear much more rested now, K D,” he said without looking at me.

 

“I am, thank you.” I eased myself into a seated position, fighting a slight sense of disorientation. He let me get my bearings before he spoke again then he simply said. “I overheard the conversation. So our dear Magda Gardener knows of our meetings.”

 

I nodded. I’d begun to understand he didn’t need to see or hear me, and sometimes I didn’t really need to respond at all. That happened more often than it was comfortable to think about.

 

“Well, I’m delighted that our situation merited a plane flight and a motherly lecture. You should consider yourself among the blest.” I wondered if I was only imagining the strange blend of humor and bitterness in his voice. I was certainly not missing the hint of triumph when he added, “and you came back anyway. I am honored.”

 

There was another moment of silence and then he spoke without preamble as though I hadn’t been gone for nearly a month.

 

“She wrote my escape, Susan did. Of course I deceived her into thinking that she and Annie, in their drunken celebration after she had seen Chapel House, were only making up tales inspired by the place, and I was nothing more than the imaginary lover hiding in the dark. I was simply an idea for a story Susan would write later, put aside among her notes and documents to be opened and resurrected when she had time and when the inspiration struck her.” His laugh was forced. “You see to what levels I was willing to stoop to be free, and I would say that it was nothing, that I would have done so much more. That would not be a lie, I promise you. But you must understand I had never encountered a real Scribe before, in fact I did not believe that such a creature even existed in these secular sterile times.

 

“That she could simply write my freedom into existence was joy beyond joy for me. But that she had such power made her all the more desirable, for no matter how much I lusted for Annie, no matter how much I wanted her, she had no power other than her beauty, and beauty is a fleeting thing. A story well told, however, is immortal.

 

“In the night, she rose up from her bed, while Annie slept the sleep of the comfortably inebriated. She found the key to Chapel House and she drove there by herself. I knew that she would come. I knew that nothing short of death would keep her from me and, K D, I was then, as I ever am, insatiable. My freedom would never be enough, I would possess not only Susan, but I would take Annie as well.

 

“And there is more, another part of this story that makes me believe, in spite of all that has happened, that my experiences, all of our experiences, have led us to this point in our journey for a reason. That it was meant to be.” He chuckled softly. “How very human it sounds to say such a silly thing. But you will understand when I tell you. You will know why I believe such a thing to be true. You see, while Annie spoke of her plans for the renovation of Chapel House there in the crypt, she mentioned the builder who she would hire on for the project, Michael Weller. Oh yes, I knew full well who Michael Weller was, and my greed, my hunger, could barely be contained as I waited for my release.

 

“You see, I would have it all. Susan would make it so. I would have my freedom, I would have Annie, and then I would have Susan and Michael, and I would make them my own and keep them close to me for the rest of time.

 

“Dear K D, in the whole of my existence I cannot recall a moment when I was more beside myself with excitement, with anticipation of what would soon come to fruition because of my lovely little Scribe. I waited in the dark, a creature of infinite patience impatient as I had never known impatience. I waited with anticipation for my first proper taste of freedom, for my first proper taste of Susan.

 

Links to Previous instalments of the interview

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

 

Concerto: Part 5

 

As promised, here is part 5 of Concerto, in which our pianist’s efforts become a bit more dangerous, and our writer is forced into a dark place. Enjoy! And please remember, this is a WIP, so be gentle.

 

If you’v missed the rest of the story, follow the link.

 

 

 

 

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in the Storm

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 

Without saying a word, he looked me up and down and then nodded to the overstuffed chair next to the sofa. A towel and a navy silk robe lay draped over the back. While the clothing I wore was not nearly as revealing as what I’d been in last night, it was soaked and heavy from the rain. His gaze caught mine and held only for a second before he returned his full attention to the piano, but something in that look, something in the undulating, intimate suggestiveness of the melody he now played made me giddy and a little reckless.

 

I didn’t seek out a private place to change, and he didn’t offer. I couldn’t imagine he would ever experience me more stripped bare than he had last night. So I undressed. It didn’t take long. I hadn’t bothered with underwear that morning in my rush to check if the occupant of the cottage at the end of the stable yard was stirring. He didn’t look up from his efforts while I toweled myself dry, and yet I felt as though he watched me, studied me, caressed me vicariously, with every phrase, every note of his music. I could almost imagine his fingers moving over me as they did the keys, and I found myself lingering in my task as though it were him I touched and fondled and toweled. When I was finished, I reluctantly slipped into the robe that was far too big for me, his storm and ozone scent pressed deep into its folds. I felt a flood of relief at the realization that the robe must surely be his and not that of another woman. It startled me, such possessiveness of a man I’d not known until last night, of a man who, even still, I only knew through his music, and yet I felt I knew him intimately in ways I’d never known another. I tied the sash around my waist and looked up to find him studying me.

 

Yet still, he didn’t speak. He only nodded his approval, and I knelt to crawl once again beneath the piano, where I found a tartan throw and a pillow waiting for me. I settled in a soft swish of silk and wool as the melody encircled me in a tight-fitting embrace. If I had expected that musical caress to be a gentle one, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was barely settled before the music crescendoed, changed key three times in rapid succession and became the wild ride of a leaf tossed about on the storm. The edge of the arpeggios sliced me like a scalpel, the blunt chords tore at me like a rusty knife, and I knew immediately this would not be a clean cut. And then, when I was sliced, torn and battered open wide enough, the music migrated and became the still wilder, far more devastating, storm raging in me. For almost a year now the dead calm of my life had been the threat of sameness never ending, oppressive and hopeless. That empty monochrome day-in-day-out had been there so long I’d barely noticed until now, until the calm vanished with the key change. As the force of the chords broke over me, I realized as I ached and raged, that I was not the leaf tossed on the storm, I wasthe storm, and there was no protecting me from myself.

 

The music became discordant and disconnected, an overwhelming pounding in my head, in my body. It matched my angry cries and snarls and rants, which I only became aware of when they ceased and the rawness in my throat reminded me that my voice had been the piano’s accompaniment.

 

I don’t know how long it went on, this tempest inside me, but outside, darkness had fallen when I calmed, when the music calmed. Strange that through all my raging and mourning, the pianist had made no effort to stop me, nor to comfort me. He had only accompanied me, mirroring my emotions on the keyboard. When I came back to myself, the music no longer raged. But I felt the melody of it like a thread in my belly pulling me, coaxing, me, inviting me to a different kind of participation in the ritual being created on the keyboard.

 

It was an effort to crawl from beneath the piano. I scrabbled up to my knees and then climbed my feet, legs trembling,
shoulders tight. This time I found the man’s gaze focused completely on me, even as he played. I stood for what felt like an age under his scrutiny, almost as though he were inspecting me for storm damage. There was no sympathy, which was just as well, I wanted none, but there was satisfaction, as though for a job well done. Then with an abruptness that startled me, he shoved back the bench. At first I feared he’d stop playing, a thing I realized I wasn’t yet ready for. But he continued to play with his left hand, beckoning to me with the right. He invited me, not onto the bench next to him, but onto his lap.

 

Concerto: Part 4

It’s time for the 4th episode of Concerto, my WIP unfolding in serial form right here on my blog. For a burned out writer, a holiday in a remote cottage on the Isle of Sky involves a mysterious man, a little night music and a struggle to discern what’s real and what is just  imagination.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

 

Concerto: Chapter 4 Writing and Waiting

I scrolled down through the open doc on the computer screen, the one I didn’t remember writing. It was a detailed account of everything that had happened until the point at which I had tripped on the patio of the cottage at the end of the stable yard and, in doing so, disturbed the man at the piano. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to make sure I documented everything that had happened the past night, or at least as best I could. I doubted I’d ever find words for the experience of sharing the man’s music, what it had done to me, what it had done to both of us. But I had to try. I didn’t want to forget what it had felt like, how it had moved me. So I wrote.

 

As is often the case when I write, the flood gates opened and what poured forth on the page was far more detailed and had much more depth than what I actually had in mind when I sat down to write. I remembered more clearly the way the music rode the waves of the storm, the way it anticipated the rage of the wind and the moments of calm. Somehow what the man had played felt like a way of making sense of everything, of the storm, the sea, of my doubts, my longings, of his need to share what he had created. That need was something I had not really thought of, certainly hadn’t understood until he settled me in my bed. Of course every artist, every writer, wants to share the end result of their efforts, but I had never really considered that just maybe that creation could not be fully experienced by its creator unless it was shared.

 

By the time I finished, the kettle had grown cold, the fire burned low and my body had become stiff from sitting so long. It had been ages since I’d gotten so lost in my work, since my work had felt like anything other than a slog through heavy mud. Rubbing my hands together, I rose and put more wood on the fire. The rain pelted the slate roof, and the wind whistled through the cracks between the windows and their ill-fitting frames. In the kitchen, I clicked on the kettle again and found the Nescafe on the tea tray, not wanting to take time to make proper coffee. While I waited, I chafed my arms and stared out the window. A heavy fog had descended and the cottage at the end of the stable yard was now not visible at all. I fantasized about taking coffee and the coveted packet of shortbread across the cobbles to my neighbor and thanking him for last night, a thing not possible in this weather. When the kettle clicked off, I held my breath and listened, frustrated by the howl of the storm, but even between heavy gusts, I heard no music wafting through the thick air. A glance at the clock on the kitchen wall told me it was just past noon. The growling of my stomach reminded me that I’d had nothing to eat since yesterday evening. I tore into a package of croissants and ate one while I made the coffee. Then I returned to the lounge, determined to let the man rest. I figured he was exhausted.

 

I’d only just settled in to write again, when I noticed what looked like a self-published paperback in pride of place on the coffee table. “Cliff Down Lodge Reclaimed.” I flipped through the pages sipping my coffee and munching on another croissant. The book was mostly photos with captions, before and after shots of how the present owners had found the place and what they had done to make the stable cottages inhabitable. There was a brief history, but not really much more detail than what my landlady had told me on the ride over. What really drew my attention was the last three pages of the book. They were full of images taken from battered daguerreotype photos. Sadly none of them were of the stables. Most were of the lodge itself perched precariously on the cliffs above the sea, with its heart stopping view. I recognized the gatehouse as one of the last piles of rubble we had passed on the rough ride into the cottages. From the look of the photos, there must have been nothing left of the main house.

 

The rest of the images were of the interior, of the entrance hall, the formal dining room, a morning room. But the photo that drew my attention was of the music room. It was not particularly large, wood floors covered in rich carpets, heavy chandelier hanging from the ceiling, walls a mix of dark wood and heavy tapestries. In one corner there was a concert harp. But it was the grand piano at the center of the space that drew my attention. Perhaps it was simply the past night’s adventure that colored my perception, but to me, it was obvious that the piano was by far the most important part of the room. But then if the lord of the manor had daughters, they more than likely would have all played, as would have his wife. Or perhaps I simply watched too many period dramas.

 

I was about to set the book aside and make more coffee when I noticed the images on the last page of the book, all of pen and ink drawings. One of those was done in the music room of a dark haired man at the piano. And though it was difficult to tell from a print of an old drawing, the pianist, who sat poised to play, looked very much like the man in the cottage at the end of the stable yard. I laughed at my active imagination. I could easily see a story coming from this, though a rather predictable one I feared. I put the book down and went to get coffee.

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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