While I reserve my works in progress for my other blog, every now and then I have the tickle to pen shorter stories. Here is one in particular:
The room fell silent as his fingers struck the final chord, its harmonious echo quickly fading as the strings of his piano stilled. Pausing with relish, the pianist remained in place for a moment, in part to allow the sentiment of the music to wash out of him after having channeled it throughout the duration of the piece. It was a practice which had become as common as cracking his knuckles; as simple as that first breath before his fingertips touched ivory. Music was his soul and the piano, the altar where he celebrated his communion.
The ghost of a smile touched the corners of his mouth. A pulse beat steadily in the background, from the area where two leather couches provided the only other seating in the room. Words danced across his thoughts, his lips parting to ask, ‘How did you like it?’ or even to state that someday, her hands might produce strains of Bach as well, given time and practice. As he pivoted in his seat, though, he heard the rhythmic sound of her breathing and noted its cadence. By the time he lined her in his sights, his suspicions were confirmed. She was already fast asleep.
His facial expression softened. A quick flick of his gaze toward the clock revealed the time much later than he had guessed, midnight a distant memory now hastening toward dawn. With a sigh, he admired her again, noting how many times this same event had occurred in recent days. She forced herself awake far too late, but the company was always welcome and in their silent companionship, he found a calming solace he could not bring himself to disrupt. Sometimes, they indulged conversation, and other times he would have her sit at the keys and practice her playing while he sat next to her. As the night progressed, though, she would inevitably find her way to the couch and hours would tick by without a single word exchanged.
To him, it was utter bliss.
He rose from the bench and strolled from the piano with quiet, fluid steps. While his focus remained centered on the trek across the carpet, as he approached, he allowed himself to take in finer details explored a hundred times over. Her hair fell in waves of dark amber, spilling over her shoulders and settling over the barest hint of her breasts. A white dress hugged her subtle curves in a loose embrace and the purple flowers adorning the fabric added to her feminine, youthful appearance. In one hand, she held a leather-bound sketchbook which had fallen partially open. The other hand rested atop a burgeoning belly.
On the floor, a pencil had rolled and now settled near one of the legs of the couch. He crouched low enough to pick it up and held it in his palm as his eyes returned to the contents of her hand. The beginning of a sketch came into view and suddenly he found himself embroiled in a debate, wanting both to peek and not to violate the sanctity of her work. As he made out what appeared to be the beginnings of a figure, though, curiosity won out and he motioned for the volume while watching her breathe. When his actions failed to spur even a hitch, he snatched the book out from her grasp and straightened to a stand.
Leather creaked softly as the spine settled in his hand. On the page, a man sat with his back to the viewer, but his head turned just enough to expose his profile to scrutiny. Eyes intent on the keys of a piano revealed an intensity the music had betrayed and one hand had lifted with fingers still bent and ready to capture the next series of notes. The proper, cuffed sleeves of his shirt guarded his wrists and the folds gathered at his elbows still bore crisp lines. The man in the picture was both a tempest and a rock; a man of distinction and a man of barely-bridled passions.
Each stroke of the pencil bore a signature, however. The gaze that had captured the pianist was the gaze of a lover and with each touch of lead on paper, a poem had been composed which bore no words and needed no explanation. The attention to detail read of a person bent on memorizing subtleties, and as the pianist’s eyes traced across every line, he felt his heart radiate with warmth. At the corner of the page, a message had been scrawled.
‘Your father, playing me a lullaby.’
He swallowed past a lump forming in his throat and finally shut the book.
As he placed it beside her, he bent and ghosted his lips across her forehead, pausing only to savor a draught of her scent. His hand grazed the one of hers settled on her stomach and pressed enough to feel the swell beneath the protection of her fingers. Pulling away, he reached for the blanket covering the back of the couch and unfolded it to drape across her body. She squirmed under discovered warmth and settled again, without as much as a flutter of her eyelids.
The smile returned to his face and the pace back to his piano bore a different tenor, as though the music had already commenced to play again without his intervention. Settling on the bench, he admired the collection of ebony and ivory and inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with every sentiment still lingering in the air. His shoulders squared and back straightened, the notes already coming to life before his hands could settle on the keys.
With the slowed pulse and the quiet, rhythmic breathing his only accompaniment, the pianist began to play again.