This is the first story, of twelve, in my new romance anthology:
The Right Note
“You play the Cello, don’t you?”
Sandra whirled around to see who was making the inquiry of her. She found herself looking at a short man (though he was about her own height), broad in the shoulder and thick in his chest. His arms bulged under the thin black T-shirt he was wearing. His stomach had the swelling of a man just entering his middle ages. His face looked “nice”; not overtly handsome, nor was he ugly. He surely did not look like a music critic. She turned away ignoring him, hoping that he would go away—or speak to her again.
“I heard you perform last night at the Sherman Performing Arts Center. My son was in the chorale that sang during the performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.”
She turned back, intrigued now. The chorale that performed last night was an aggregation of several choirs from local colleges. That meant that the man had a son of college age. He did not look old enough, she thought sullenly. It also meant that he was married.
“You managed to see me among the hundred and eleven people in the orchestra?”
“Yes”, he said.
“You must have been sitting up close.”
“I was in the 10th row on the other side of the stage from you. Most of the time you were hidden behind that older cellist, but yes, I was able to pick you out. I guess the dress you were wearing and the way you were playing made you stand out to me.”
Sandra thought about the frumpy way she looked this Sunday morning compared to last night. She had been wearing her, semi-short black dress, thin spiked black heels, and a single strand of black pearls. It all contrasted with her, still natural, shiny blonde hair. Though she thought the outfit made her look fantastic, it was not much different from what many of the other women around her wore. So, what was this man’s game? She decided to call him on it.
“Did your wife enjoy the show?”
“I will ask her the next time I see her. She was there last night, of course, with her new boyfriend. I am not sure she was paying a lot of attention, though.”
Her heart buoyed at his response.
“You don’t mind your wife going out with other men?”
“As long as she signs our final divorce papers and does not suddenly decide to hold me up for alimony, I really don’t care who she sees. It wouldn’t matter to her anyway if I did.”
Did Sandra see a slight touch of emotion around his eyes as he made this last statement? Was it real? It looked real to her.
“Well, I am glad you liked the performance. I can’t say that I added much more than anyone of the other cellists around me, but thank you for noticing me.”
“How could I not? Your eyes were ablaze with feeling; you almost seemed as if you were not on stage but playing your instrument from high above the auditorium while letting the notes cascade down around the ears of the listeners. You were a gracious goddess sharing your heavenly gifts with all those present.”
Was this man a poet?
“Sorry. That was the writer in me slipping out. I usually keep him reined in while in the supermarket, I guess there is just something about you that brings him out in me. As I watched you last night, I had an idea for a story and I was up past 2 AM this morning working on it. Secretly I hoped that, someday, you would be able to read it, but I never really expected to see you again.”
Was this just a line? If it was, it was not one Sandra had heard before. He sounded genuine enough, and now there was no mistaking the emotion—and gentle kindness—that showed in his deep brown eyes. Still, as much as she hoped he was for real, she could never be sure.
“Well, maybe someday I will.” she said demurely, not wanting to be unkind.
“Then I can see you again?”
“Um, sure. We are performing next Friday in Oakmont at the Philharmonic Hall. You can see me then.” she replied, unable to suppress a shy smile.
He smiled in return.
“Okay then, it’s a date. I will see you on Friday.”
As he turned to walk away, Sandra felt a pang of regret. Had she been too abrupt? She really would not mind seeing this stranger again. Maybe they could be friends. She wondered who he was.
As if reading her mind, he turned back to her while pointing to himself and said, “Dalton. Brian David Dalton.”
With a wave and a laugh, he disappeared around the corner of the aisle.
During the next two days, Sandra told herself that she was “busy” and she was to a certain extent. She had her daily 3-hour practices with her coach and a 2-hour meeting with her agent who continued to tell her that she would soon be a world-famous cellist in the mold of Yo Yo Ma. Her 90-year-old mother also needed to be shuttled to one of her many doctors and, of course, she had that unfinished gardening to attend to. Somehow, she managed to spread these duties thinly enough so that they filled 48 hours, but by Wednesday, she was out of excuses. She finally decided it was time to find out more about a certain gentleman who went by the name of Brian David Dalton.
Once she let herself go, her computer drew her to her work desk as if it were a magnet and she were lightweight piece of tin. Though she never considered herself much of an expert in the use of the Internet, she knew enough to Google on a person, place or thing to find out more information on just about any given subject. What she did not expect was the return of 2,890,000 possible mentions of Mr. Dalton’s name since she did not think it was that common.
She was not sure what to do next but since he seemed to know the area and he had a son in the local college, it was possible that he lived in her town. She appended her inquiry by adding its name after his. That brought the number of possibilities down to “only” 44,200 choices. Still too many.
Finally, she took a chance on him being truthful about being a writer, so she added “author” to her inquiry. This returned 10,200 choices. With no other ideas coming to her, she started manually searching for her mystery man.
Sandra was astonished to find him only three pages later in a listing where she had not expected to see him. The Google link, took her to a page of a local construction firm, one that was so well known, even she had heard of it. Brian David Dalton owned the company. By clicking a few more links, she confirmed that the man she met at the store and this man were the same as there were several pictures of him at what appeared to be building sites. Well, this at least explained his haunting physique, she thought rather bitterly, but why did he have to lie about being a writer? Was it because she was a cellist and he wanted to connect with her in some way so he pretended to be part of the arts community? She was about to switch off when she remembered his graceful words and the look of true feeling he had in his eyes when he spoke of his soon to be ex-wife. None of it ringed false to her. So, instead of just discarding him as another man who just wanted to sleep with her, she decided to press on.
About an hour later, she was happy that she did.
By following the first link that promised any sort of literary connection, she found herself in the archives of a small on-line arts journal. There she found a short love story called Dream Lovers that told of two people who meet in real life after having previously met in a dream. It was a fanciful story, very well written, that ended with the lovers going their separate ways after having speculated about reality, life, dreams and how they are all interconnected. It was sad, ironic, little piece that brought a tear to Sandra’s eyes. No picture of the author showed on the page, but a brief biography confirmed that this Brian David Dalton lived in her town.
He had told her the truth. Now all she had to decide was what she would do next…
Sandra scanned the audience. Something she never did during a performance. Would Brian be here? She felt she could use his first name since she had spent a good part of the last week with “him”, or at least with the words that he wrote.
By continuing her search, she managed to find two more stories he had written. She was surprised to see that they were also tender love stories. One was a long, adventurous tale set in the old west about a man who goes looking for treasure and finds true love the other was a comically written story about a nerdish little man who becomes a hero for the sake of love. Brian’s words touched her in each story by the compassion conveyed in them.
She had resisted the urge to contact him, great though it was. She did not want to seem too eager and maybe scare him off nor did she want to jump into a relationship with a man who apparently had just ended a marriage. She was not looking to be a rebound. She had caught a one of them after her own failed marriage and that turned out to be a disaster.
The footlights made it impossible to see the first few rows, so if he were here and up close, she would have been able to spot him. Despite the fact that the theater seated over 2500 people, she was confident that she could have picked him out had she been able to find him; his face was etched in her memory and became ever more so with each of his words that she read.
This evening’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 6 “Pathetique seemed flat and emotionless to her ears though it was one of her favorite works; she played the notes on the page but her mind and emotions were not there. This drew a few concerned looks from the Maestro who had conducted her in past and knew of her zeal. Afterwards he asked if she was feeling well. She lied about having a slight headache as she packed up to go to her car.
“You seemed a little flat tonight?” said the familiar voice as she stepped out the stage door.
He was standing in the circle of light projected by the lamp above the door. He was dressed in a tuxedo, with a white tie and crimson cummerbund. She barely recognized him.
“Yes,” Sandra replied, “I suppose I was. Not every night will be a winner, I am fortunate to have excellent performers backing me up. So, why are you here?”
“Remember our date?”
She did, of course, but she could not tell him that openly.
“I thought you were teasing.” she replied.
“No, I was very sincere. I know this is forward of me, but I had hoped you would patronize my foolishness. After seeing you perform, I greatly wanted to meet you and talk to you about your music. Running into you in the store last week was pure fortune; I promise that I am not stalking you. I mean, I don’t even know your name.”
She was again touched by his honesty and sincerity. His use of the word fortune seemed very appropriate as well.
She smiled and held out her hand, “Brian David Dalton, meet Sandra Angela Foster.”
His hand was warm and dry. His grip was firm but not confining.
“A pleasure, Sandra. I know it is late, but would you join me for a drink?”
“Yes I will, but I have to take my car,” she half lied, “I can’t just leave my instrument in a dark, empty parking lot.”
“Of course,” Brian replied as he took her case from her hand, “Just lead the way.”
As they walked along, they chatted about the night’s performance, the weather, and anything else that did not really concern the two of them a great deal. After they loaded up her instrument, she drove him to his car, which turned out to be an old Buick Skylark that looked brand new. He called it his “classic”.
She followed him to bar not far from the performing arts center. The fact that the establishment ended up being located in a hotel only scared her a little, after all, she was all grown up now.
After finding a table and ordering drinks, a scotch and soda for him, a strawberry daiquiri for her, they settled into a long talk.
She told him how she had taken up the cello when she was seven years old, not revealing how long ago that had been, despite her father wanting her to follow him into his accounting firm. She had never had an affinity for mathematics in a paper and pencil way, but she loved the mathematics involved in music. She could hear and feel them much better than she could ever visualize them. Her mother, who had acted a little in College Theater understood this call and supported her even when she was struggling to find a paid position in an orchestra so she could make her rent each month.
She had married a lead violinist who seemed charming and kind, but who turned out to be vain and cruel. They had divorced after 11 years of a noisy marriage and for the past 3 years, she had not really dated anyone on a steady basis.
Brian was just the opposite. He had married his high school sweetheart and started a career in the construction trade, eventually owning his own construction company (she did not let on that she knew this fact). He started writing as a way to pass the time while recovering from a back injury that laid him up for months on end. He had been surprised at how easy this came to him since he only daydreamed of writing in the past. When he sold his first story to an Internet based magazine for $5.00, he was thrilled—even though they never got around to paying him.
Over the course of a twenty-five-year marriage, that produced just one son, he found that he was growing and changing while his wife stayed the naïve high school girl that he fell in love with. Year by year, they grew apart. Finally, since his son was a grown man now, he decided to get out of the marriage.
He still ran his company, but his back injury turned chronic and kept him from doing a lot of the work he enjoyed. It became easier to hire others to run his job sites while he stayed home and wrote. His son worked for him occasionally as school permitted, but Brian was hoping that he would not get too interested in construction and would continue his pursuit of a degree in International Business.
“Do you only write love stories?” Sandra asked before she realized what she was saying.
He looked astonished.
“So you have read some of my stories?” he said, softly taking her hand.
She hoped he did not see her blushing in the low light of the bar.
“Well, I was a little curious after our odd encounter in the store. I had to look you up and see if you were famous or not.”
“Were you disappointed?”
“Not with your status—or your stories. You write magnificently. I am sure that someday you will be discovered to be a great author.”
“Maybe after I am dead.” he said with a cheerless smile, “Sometimes I think that is why I write, so when I do die, a little part of me will go on forever, or at least as long as anyone remembers my work. I mean, is Shakespeare really dead? Have any of the masters, whose music you play so well, really departed this Earth? I say no, not as long as people remember their works. As long as they exist in a thought, they will be immortal. I suppose I wish to join their company someday.”
Sandra continued to be amazed and touched by this man!
“I agree—writers are immortalized in the written word, like artists in their paintings and composers in their music. All creativity is eternalized, if not in the tangible sense, then in its affect upon people who in turn, affect other people exponentially forward through time.”
Again, Brian looked astonished.
“That was a beautiful thought, Sandra, very well expressed. Have you ever considered writing?”
“No, but maybe I will start. Will you help me find a publisher?” she replied as she squeezed his hand.
“Of course I will, Sandra,” he said leaning close to her.
They both felt a little embarrassed at their sudden intimacy.
Sandra sat up slightly, smiling shyly.
“Is this where you say something about me having something more exciting between my legs besides a cello? I mean is that why we are in a hotel bar?”
“I must have left that line in the puerile mind of the teenager I was once long ago,” he said smiling back at her, “but as a grown man, I admit having thought about it after we sat down in here.”
“Afterwards? Not before?”
“No. Not before.”
“I am not sure if I should feel insulted or flattered.” her grin widened.
“Just be happy, Sandra. As happy as I am right now.” Brian leaned forward and kissed her tenderly.
Sandra sat back after a while.
“Should we inquire about a room for the night? I want to even though I don’t know you well.”
Brian looked solemnly into her bright blue eyes for a several minutes as if he were fighting devils inside him.
“Not tonight, Sandra. I do want to, but I think we might be better off waiting, at least for a while. I want to make sure we stay together for a long time; jumping into bed at the first chance could be more harmful than helpful towards that end. Would you mind if we waited a while longer?”
“Of course, Brian, we can wait, we have time.”
“Yes,” he replied, “We have all of eternity ahead of us.”