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.
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.