Encore

He didn’t want to be there.

When Charlene had come home gleefully waving two free tickets to hear the sensational new virtuosa, Malcolm told her he wasn’t interested. When she’d said, nonsense, he loved concerts, he’d shrugged and said, “Not necessarily.” When she’d insisted he wear his tux, he looked so handsome in it, he’d said handsome was overrated.

But there he was, sitting Row Five, Center Front, in his tuxedo, next to his girlfriend, watching this woman fiddle the heart out of a bunch of helpless dead composers.

Charlene tried to hand him the opera glasses. “No,” he said. He could see the performer well enough without them.

She was gorgeous, Malcolm gave her that. She was like all these female soloists, thinking a low-cut dress and ample cleavage were a fine stand-in for talent. Though talent she had– if you liked an overdone, pseudo-passionate display that manipulated the emotions and bypassed the brain. She wasn’t moving him.

It was all for show. She was French. She must despise the whole audience as ignorant Americans, himself included.

Let her.

Charlene would not stop jostling him. “Oh! It’s too beautiful!” she whispered, grinning like a jack-o’-lantern. Malcolm folded his arms and stolidly ignored her.

God! How many curtain calls will the woman take?

“All right, Charlene, it’s over,” he said. “Let’s go home.”

“You’re crazy. There’s a reception for Mlle. Duchesne in the Schubert Room and I’m not leaving until I’ve met her. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t meet her, too.”

In the Schubert Room, he raked his eyes over the crowd. “She’s not here,” he announced. “We can leave.”

“Silly, she’s still in her dressing room. Why don’t you go to the Men’s? She’ll be here by the time you’re finished.”

Or she wouldn’t be. Fine with him.

Head down, he escaped into a side passage marked Restrooms. A woman, hurrying out of the Ladies’, cannoned into him.

“Hey! Watch where– ” he began. And stopped.

“Malcolm!”

“Amelie!”

“It is you truly?”

Her look.  Her voice.  Her scent.  His whole being reeled, remembering. She offered her hand. In a dream, he took it. “That night. Why did you– ?”

“Hush. We will not speak of that. You are still composing?”

“Yes. Amelie, your performance . . . were you trying to kill me? Do you realize how hard it was to keep from– ”

She laid a finger on his lips. Her other hand remained in his.

“I could not forget you. I am yet alone,” she said. “And you: that girl you sat with. Is she anything special to you?”

Even through the door Charlene’s laugh vibrated down the hallway.

Yes, let me introduce her to you.

He opened his mouth.

“No.”

__________________________

by Catrin Lewis, 2014.  All rights reserved

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