Authors: Hillary Kanter
Tags: #Romance: Fantasy - Historical - Time Travel - Humor
Quoting other writers made me think it was time to write something
I got out of bed, threw on a robe, and trudged into the kitchen. I had set the timer on the machine and fresh coffee was brewing. It was almost eight, and my deadline was 5:00 p.m.
I dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and headed to my writing loft, which was accessed by a ladder. It was small, but homey. An Oriental rug lay across the walnut floors, and a small window looked out on the street below. I rented this apartment because of that space. My pine desk was crammed with so many papers I could barely see the computer. Pinned with thumbtacks to the walls were all the damn rejection letters received—so far—for my new book. I had scribbled my own snide rebuttals on each one, which nullified their sting just a bit.
I started working on my piece. It was about, of all things, dating. I was supposed to give young women hope, writing about
giving up on the dating scene. Talk about a stretch for my writing abilities
After several false starts, with great effort, I pulled forth the hopeful, less-cynical, optimistic me buried under all this crap, and wrote the stupid piece. At four-forty-five, I hit the Send button and it was off to the editor.
I sat back in my chair, poured a glass of wine, and flipped on the CD I listen to when I need to relax: Beethoven’s “Leopold Cantata,” which coincidently represents “victory and joyful conclusion.”
Hmm. Clearly, that did not describe my dating life. These days it was hardly worth the effort of going out with one more bozo, which, of course, I hadn’t mentioned in my article. But, oh, I had wanted to.
Beethoven’s music seeped into my being. I’d taken a lot of piano lessons as a kid, played a lot of his music. It seemed incomprehensible he could write so many brilliant compositions while partially—and, in the end, completely—deaf. What kind of man was he?
The glint of my cut-crystal heart caught my eye. I slipped it from the shelf and put it back on. I thought about that psychic Serenity’s words and my experience in Key West. No way could that have been real, or could it? Was it only some crazy dream I had concocted out of loneliness? Too many questions and not near enough answers.
My mind drifted back to Beethoven.
I could almost see him, touch him, feel him.
Oh, girl, you are such a fool. You’re only doing this fantasy thing because your realities are so ca-ca.
Eyes closed, I drifted far, far, away on the music …
There I was sitting in a beautiful garden. Green and lush, it was full of red, yellow and purple tulips and sweet-smelling daffodils. Breathing in this glorious afternoon, I wandered between clumps of flowers and found myself on a tree-lined cobblestone street. I had seen cobblestones like these while walking around New Orleans, and knew them to be at least a hundred to two hundred years old. But clearly this was
Where was I? New York City this was not.
On the building to my right, a sign read:
The Wiener Theatre Presents
Ludwig von Beethoven
Performing for the First Time His Second Symphony
in D Major and Piano Concerto in C Minor.
Could this be possible?
Thinking of my other jaunt into the past, I suspected that this was connected. If my history lessons were correct, the year would be around 1800, springtime in Vienna. The music of Mozart, Handel, Haydn and Bach had permeated the lives of Austrians, and now this more “modern” composer was gaining a reputation throughout the land.
From college reading, I also knew Beethoven was quite the eccentric. His father was a drunk, and Beethoven had supported him after he squandered the family’s fortune. Attractive in an unconventional way, Beethoven, too, was quite the ladies’ man, falling in and out of love with a new woman every week.
Was he truly handsome?
I would like to find that out for myself.
Music from the building drew me into an auditorium. Low and behold, there was the man himself on stage, conducting a full orchestra, and in the gala dress of a court musician. Ludwig von Beethoven looked even better than in the portraits I’d seen in history books. He boasted a sea-green frock coat, matching breeches with gold buckles, and an embroidered vest with real gold cord. He was not tall, but had dark, magnetic eyes. His charisma was obvious.
I slipped into a seat at the foot of the stage. Entranced, I watched him lead some forty musicians through rehearsal.
“No, that isn’t it! It’s WRONG, WRONG, WRONG,” he bellowed.
It had sounded beautiful to me.
“There is a rest right after the A flat, in the second movement. Try again,” he said. They began to play, and he interrupted once more. “NO, NO, NO. You played the correct notes, but with about as much feeling as a wooden stick. Now with FEELING, please.”
They played the passage eight times before Beethoven was satisfied. He looked exhausted, and finally allowed the musicians a break. I’d noticed him eyeing me a few times from the stage, and he approached me now.
“Hello,” he said in German.
I could not explain how I had ended up here or how I understood the language, but I saw no reason not to go with it.
“Hello,” I responded.
“Might I be so bold to say that I have not been able to take my eyes off you since you walked in? What is your name,
?” He took my hand and pressed it to his lips.
Our eyes locked, and I felt an undeniable chemistry.
“I’m Ariel,” I said, unable to remove my gaze from his.
“It’s nice to meet you then, Ariel.”
“The pleasure is mine, Herr Beethoven. I hope you didn’t mind my listening. I was walking down the street and I heard the music.”
“Not at all. But please, you must call me Ludwig. I would be ever so honored if you would join me for afternoon tea.”
“Yes, of course, Herr Beethoven … I mean, Ludwig. It would be
honor.” I figured, what
did I have to do? How many people do you know who can say they had afternoon tea with Ludwig Von Beethoven?
We walked the short distance to his sparsely decorated flat, in the Rotes Haus near the Alster Barracks. Outside a spacious bedroom, a small balcony held pretty, hand-painted, wooden window boxes filled with spring bulbs. A music room housed his piano, and compositions covered his writing desk. More sheets of music were strewn about the floor, and ink stained the piano—which I attributed to Beethoven’s reputation for clumsiness.
On his worktable, he had framed three inscriptions under glass:
I am that which is …
I am everything that is, that was, that will be …
No mortal man has lifted my veil.
He is of himself alone, and it is to that aloneness
that all things owe their being.
Beethoven explained that these were Egyptian inscriptions. This man, it seemed to me, felt isolated from the world.
After a servant had flitted through and poured us tea, my host said, “How would you like to hear a piece I am working on?”
“Yes, I’d like that,” I said, trying not to sound too excited.
I followed him to the piano, where he patted the bench for me to join him. He began playing, and it did not take long to recognize his Fifth Symphony. The soaring strains and melody resonated through the room, richer than any digital recording could capture. He had no idea how famous this piece would become, and how many millions of times it would be played in the future.
“Thank you, Ludwig, for sharing that with me.”
“It’s something I’m still working on,” he said.
“And I have a feeling it will be a huge success.”
“I hope you are right. I teach as well, you know? One cannot count on one’s music these days to pay all the bills. However, I
working with these amateurs who think they have some sort of talent—the so-called royalty, the princess of
principality, or the duke of
principality. Such a tedious bore it can be, for the most part. Soon I shall embark on my tour and have a break from teaching, thanks be to God.”
The next two hours flew by. Every time he asked questions about me, I changed the subject back to him, only mentioning briefly that I was a writer. How could he ever believe me if I told the truth, that I had traveled in time and knew the future? In particular,
I clicked with him on a creative level. His passion for his music, his intelligence, and his intense blue eyes, drew me in like a moth to the flame. I was quickly becoming infatuated with this strange man.
Beethoven may have been disgruntled at the rehearsal, but the concert the next evening was a smashing success. This guy was like Elvis or the Beatles! He received three standing ovations, the thunderous applause ringing through the concert hall and bringing tears to many eyes, including mine.
Afterward, I waited on the perimeter as local luminaries crowded around him. I knew how gratified he must feel after his attention to the details.
When at last the place emptied and darkness fell over Vienna, Ludwig led me out through the huge doors. I wondered for the first time about my lodgings for the evening.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, sensing my hesitation.
“I’m new in town. Is there a hotel I could check into?”
“A ‘hotel’?” he said. “What is that?”
“I mean an inn or a boardinghouse.”
Ja, kein problem.
My cousin Theodore’s inn is right up the street, and I will take you there in a few minutes,” he said, removing his pocket watch. “First I must greet one of my students before I leave the concert hall.”
Soon after, he helped me get situated at the inn, and I agreed I would meet him again for afternoon tea.
Ludwig greeted me at the door of his flat. “Hello, Ariel.” I could tell from his smile that he was pleased to see me. He took my hand, held it to his lips and looked into my eyes.
My breath quickened.
“Come,” he said. “You must forgive this mess. My servant has taken ill, and as you can see, it is not a good thing my being on my own.” He led me by the hand to the love seat. “But I’ve made tea for us, and I have fresh biscuits to go with it.”
“That sounds good to—”
He embraced me around the waist and kissed me full on the lips, his tongue swirling around mine. When at last he pulled away, he said, “Have you ever been in love before?”
“I think about fifty times.”
“How many, Ariel? I did not quite catch that.”
I repeated. “Fifty.”
“How is that possible? No one at your age could have been in love
many times.” Amusement sparkled in his blue eyes.
“Well, how many times have
been in love?”
“Once, or …” His gaze locked on mine. “Maybe twice.”
I blushed. Was he falling in love with
I knew from my first escapade into the past that this relationship could not last. If the Hemingway fiasco was any barometer of things to come, my time here would be limited.
“Ariel, will you dine with me tonight?”
I dropped my eyes, fidgeting with the lace on my dress. “I … I don’t know.”
“Don’t worry. I do not bite, I promise.”
“I want to, I do.”
“Then what is wrong?”
“I … I may be called away at any time.”
“All the more reason to avoid delays. I don’t want to waste a minute.”
Before I could stifle myself, I agreed. “I suppose I can.”
Then I shall walk you back to your inn, and my carriage will come for you at eight o’clock.”
Back at the inn, I wondered how I would handle this attraction to Ludwig. Hemingway and I had never consummated our love. It had left me lonely and longing. On this new adventure, maybe I would take things further. After all, this romance would stay in the past, so why not have some fun with it?
Granted, I had nothing but dead-end dates back in New York.
The carriage arrived right on time, with Ludwig on board. He had arranged for a private back-room in a beautiful restaurant, complete with white linens, crystal, and gleaming candelabra.
The waiter, dressed in white, asked, “Would you care for a drink? Perhaps I could interest you in a daiquiri?”
A daiquiri? I almost choked. That was Hemingway’s drink. “Did you say a
“A daiquiri,” he repeated.
But they did not have daiquiris back then. What was going on? I could swear he had said something else. Was I losing it?
“Uh, no thank you,” I said, remembering my resolve to never drink another daiquiri. “Champagne is fine for me.”
“I want to propose a toast tonight, to you, my new friend,” Beethoven said. After several sips of champagne, he turned, his face only an inch from mine. He brushed back a stray dark hair from my eyes, then clasped my hands in his. “You are very beautiful. What shall I do with you, Ariel? What shall I do?”
“Uhh … have dinner?” I suggested.
I know, I know. But I was getting
As we ate our Wiener schnitzel and sauerkraut, I studied him. His roughness coupled with gentleness appealed to me. We talked and talked, mostly about his music.
“You look at me as if you’ve known me a long time,” he noted. “And you seem to have a very good understanding of my music. Far better than most people, on just meeting.”
“Maybe it’s ESP.”
“‘ESP’? Where do you get these odd words?”
“It means extra-sensory perception. I made it up,” I lied.
“Extra-sensory perception. I’ve never heard of it. But how very clever.
I, too, feel almost as if we have known each other before.” He stared deeply into my eyes. “I want to be with you alone at my flat, after dinner.”