Her pale, slender fingers soundlessly streaked the dust upon the keys of his old piano. What had once been melodic in brilliant shades of ebony and ivory, now sat silent, dulled and stained in yellows and browns. The intricate figures within the muraled walls loomed, gray and stoic as if waiting, begging for the sounds he used to bring so effortlessly and with such untamed passion. His death had introduced a numbness to the radiant warmth of her soul, and it had found a home deep inside her hollow chest. She had long ago passed the point of tears.
A gentle ocean breeze came whispering through the French doors, carrying the scent of air and brine into the stillness. The transparent, white curtains danced and swelled, and for an instant in their movement she saw herself laughing, lost within her lover’s arms, his unkempt locks and chocolate eyes as real as they once had been. As quickly as it came, it went, and the unwinding shades descended, conceding to the power of the mansion’s melancholy, and leaving her as she had learned to be – alone.
Or so, she thought.
For, as she stared at the frail hands that now lay clasped upon her knees, he stared at her.
The burden of loss reflected in her face, and the lust for life once found within her hazel eyes was gone. Strands of hair had escaped the knot of her dark green ribbon, and her soft, chestnut curls fell flat and wiry across her temples and cheeks. She appeared tired and somber, her stunning beauty buried beneath an ugly mask of solitude and sadness. He still thought her to be beautiful. He watched as she turned her back to him and shifted her legs to the end of the bench so she could face the water. The old wood creaked with each motion from years of neglect, and the large room eagerly echoed the now seldom offered noise. He stood from the position that he had taken beside her, and walked slowly to see the eyes that no longer saw him.
She used to sit this way when he played piano. The melodies that formed beneath his fingertips would lift to meet the low and thunderous growl from the belly of the distant sea, and together, they would create a crescendo that could leave even Beethoven speechless. At times, while he was playing, he would lean and softly kiss the length of her neck. Smiling, she would close her eyes and wonder why it was she that God had favored.
After the sun sank low on the horizon and the music played only in their hearts, he would stand from his seat by her side, and walk to kneel upon the polished marble floor to rest his head in the comfort of her lap. As he did this now, there was no joy, no laughter as there was before, and her only thoughts of God were to question why she was forgotten. He could sense her spirit fading. He knew that all her hope and will had left her, and that her entire life suspended from a thread that had already begun to fray. Desperate, he knelt upright and pushed his lips to hers, silently willing her to feel the love that death had stunted, but could not kill.
Her lips felt warm. She breathed deeply and shook her head before rising to her feet. Though hundreds of days and nights had come and gone since he last passed through their front door, his belongings remained untouched. A black, knee-length coat and gray woolen hat hung neatly in the entryway, and a pair of his favorite leather boots waited empty underneath them. The right boot was still on its side, about a half a dozen inches away from the other, where he had vigorously shaken it from his foot and left it one morning in haste. A bottle of glue, long ago dried, stood open on a small side table near the fireplace along with his glasses, the pieces of a porcelain mug, and several odds and ends with no counter parts. She had liked to observe him most when he was mending things. She would sit cross-legged in the chair across from him, hiding all but her eyes behind a book (that he somehow always believed her to be reading) and watch as he squinted through wire-thin spectacles, his mouth slightly ajar. It never failed to amaze her when the same hands that so gracefully created mellifluous masterpieces “fixed” something into a catastrophic and unrecognizable ball of paste that had been better off broken.
He used to captivate her with a sort of resonating light, and now all she had left of him was wrenching memories and shattered kitchenware.
He walked next to her as she made her way through what used to be their home. He would smile with her when she fondled certain objects, and reach for her hand when the pain raced through her like a freight train. She had never seen him, and he understood that she probably never would. But, there were times when he thought she felt him, and so he never ceased to try. He used to hold her in the night when nameless faces startled her awake, and hum close to her ear to coax her back to sleep. Then, it became his face that haunted her once pleasant dreams, and she woke to a reality far worse than any nightmare. Alongside her, he still hummed the same soothing lullabies. He believed that she might one day hear if she could only calm her cries.
She wasn’t sure what she hoped to find as she wandered aimlessly each day, envisioning him in places where he used to be. But she guessed that it was closure, a sense of peace that she had not known since her sanity had been buried six feet beneath the earth. As she stood in the very place that she had started, amidst the mournful gazes of the mural and the screaming silence of the piano, she came to realize that there is just too much that time cannot erase.
With the teeth of the evening nipping at the heels of the afternoon, a cool wind whistled beyond the two open doors, and the curtain’s sheer fabric tossed like a child’s lost kite. As she crossed the threshold, she felt the ribbon slide from around her loosely gathered hair. She paused to watch it drift, beckoning her to follow. With bare feet and desperation, she made her way through the grass, and toward the ocean.
The scent of her sweet perfume enveloped him, and he stayed close enough behind her to feel the soft white cotton of her sundress brush his legs as they walked. He was aware of where she was going, and of what she planned to do. He stood helplessly as she arrived at the rock wall that separated their land from the sea. Tenderly, he touched her face, and then kissed her velvet hand as she placed it on the barrier before them. Together, they climbed atop the stone. “Fear not, my darling.” He whispered, “Your suffering will soon be over.”
Far beneath her, she watched the clapping waves slide over jagged rocks, then slink back to gather the strength to charge once more. The wind, now stronger with the tide, whipped her dress and hair and sprayed her weary face with salt. She closed her eyes. Perhaps I shouldn’t do this. He wouldn’t want me to. Slowly outstretching her rail-thin arms, she pictured his hair, his lips, his smile. “Fear not, my darling,” she thought she heard him say, and before she plummeted, she was sure that someone pushed her.