Still Life with Strings (6 page)

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
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I briefly reach out and
give his wrist a squeeze. “That sounds very lonely.”

“It was and it wasn’t.
Mostly I was so focused on my music that I didn’t have time to realise I was
lonely. Then when I got older, though, I’d see other kids my age out having
fun, and I’d envy them. But I always had my violin. Often I’d wonder if I could
be a normal teenager but had to give up music, which would I choose? Music
always won. When you want to be accomplished at something, especially playing
an instrument, you have to sacrifice other things in life. Natural talent only
goes so far. You have to spend so much of your time trying to get better and

There’s a small note of
strain in his words, giving me the impression that he struggles over this on a
regular basis. Being a virtuoso versus having a social life.

“Well, you do realise
you can have both now, right? Music and friends, I mean.”

“I can?” he asks,
looking at me in hope.

I laugh tenderly. “Of
course you can. You already have a friend in me, so you telling me you have no
friends isn’t true.”

He gives me a tiny
smile. “I didn’t know if you really wanted to be my friend or if you just felt
sorry for me.”

I shake my head at him
in awe. “Are you serious? Of course I want to be your friend! In fact, I envy
your life. If anyone should be felt sorry for, it’s me.” I pause to hold up a
finger as I list off my reasons. “Recovering alcoholic, orphan, responsible for
two wayward teenagers, lives in a shitbox area. Need I say more?”

Shane laughs at my
humorous tone. “I guess you’re right.”

“I am
And you, Shane, are far too young, handsome, and talented to be so troubled,” I

“Not handsome enough
for you to want to sleep with me again, though,” he says, putting on a mournful

I give his shoulder a
friendly slap and wink. “I don’t remember any sleeping being involved. But
anyway, if I was the relationship kind of girl, I’d be sleeping with you all
over the place, my friend. You’re a hot piece of arse. You should be getting
out there and finding some willing females.”

“Why aren’t you the
relationship kind of girl?” he asks with interest, ignoring everything else I

“We’re back onto me
again, I see. Well, when I was a drunk I found myself in a very messy,
co-dependent relationship with another drunk. When we were happy, I drank. When
he hurt me, I drank. For me, boyfriends are closely tied to my alcoholism. So
when I decided to start over fresh, no boyfriends was my number-one rule. You
see, when my heart gets broken I turn straight back to alcohol, and I have too
many people relying on me now for that to happen.”

“Who says I’d hurt
you?” Shane asks seriously.

I shrug at him. “I
can’t predict the future. Who knows what we’d be like together?”

“I think we could be
good together,” he says in a low, flirty voice.

I suck in a breath at
how his eyes rest on my breasts. “Feel free to elaborate on that,” I flirt
back, picking up my orange juice and gulping some down. All of a sudden I’m
really thirsty.

He grabs either side of
my stool and pulls it into his so that our thighs collide. Next, he brings his
mouth to my ear, his breath touching my skin and giving me tingles. “Well, for
a start I’d lay you down on my bed and take my time worshipping your full,
beautiful breasts. Then I’d spread your legs and use my tongue to…”

“Okay, I get the
picture.” I laugh nervously, not having anticipated such a detailed erotic
description, especially considering how shy he can come across. Perhaps that
gin and tonic has already gone to his head. I quickly stand up from the stool
and hurry back behind the bar, saying, “I think my break time is up.”

 I can feel how fast
his words got me wet, which I find startling for some reason.

Shane stares at me in
confusion. “You did tell me to elaborate, Jade.”

“Yeah, well, sometimes
I’m my own worst enemy,” I mutter, picking up our empty glasses.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Never mind.”

“We’re still friends,
aren’t we?” he asks, worried that he’s ruined things.

“Of course we are,
silly. The intermission is coming up, so I need to get back to work.”

“All right. I should
probably be getting home anyway,” he says, unsure, grabbing his violin case
from where it had been resting on the floor. He’s about to leave but then turns
back to me. He remains silent for a moment before stating, “I really like
talking to you, Jade.”

Giving him a warm
expression, I answer, “I really like talking to you, too, Shane.”



The next day there’s a free lunchtime
concert on at work. I haven’t bumped into Shane since our conversation at the
bar yesterday, and I’m really curious to see him play, so I quickly eat a
sandwich and then make my way to the hall.

I take a seat close to
the back of the room, not wanting to be noticed. There’s a decent-sized
audience assembled, mostly nearby office workers who’ve decided to do something
classy on their lunch break. I realise I’m in for a treat when the conductor
announces that they’ll be playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor.

I don’t see Shane
anywhere; however, there is an empty seat in first violins belonging to the
concertmaster, which in my limited knowledge I know is the second most
important position after the conductor. The fact that this seat could be
Shane’s must mean that he’s pretty good.

What am I saying? I’ve
heard his album; I know he’s good. In fact, I fell asleep listening to it again
last night. I probably shouldn’t make a habit of that.

The conductor turns to
address the audience, saying, “We usually have a guest violinist join us to
play this piece. However, we recently welcomed a new and very talented member
to our orchestra, Mr Shane Arthur, who I have invited to play the solo today.”

Those in attendance
clap, and the conductor turns to take his place in front of the musicians.
Shane appears and walks to the centre of the stage before the music starts up.
Just seeing him standing there holding his instrument has me a touch hot and
bothered. Immediately he begins playing, with the rest of the orchestra
accompanying him, and my ears soak up the familiar melody.

It fills me with
emotion, as classical music always does. Shane’s entire body is a work of art
as he moves with his violin, and I realise that he was right, it really is like
an extension of him.

My head wanders as I
become enraptured by the music. I hardly see or hear any of the other
musicians, my attention solely on this intriguing man. Musical notes float out
of his strings in a cacophony of colours and textures. They fly up into the
air. A treble clef drifts to me, catching onto the edge of my shirt. I pick it
up and smooth it beneath my fingers, fold it in half, and stick it in my pocket
for safekeeping.

There’s a lull in the
music at one point, with Shane playing a low and sad melody. When he plays
this, I see grief and misery in his entire form. I see loss. He’s so
emotionally involved in the piece that I can’t help falling in love. Maybe I’m
not in love with
, per se, but I’m definitely in love with something
about him.

How fortunate I was
that our paths crossed. I’ve a feeling that having this sad, lonely, lovely man
in my life is going to change it irrevocably. Even if from now on I only ever
get to observe him from afar, he will mark me somehow.

All of a sudden, his
eyes seek me out. I go rigid in my seat as he plays to me for a long few
moments before focusing on something else. For the remainder of the symphony I
close my eyes and just…imagine.

In turns joyful,
mournful and triumphant, I see streams of paint in my head, swirling and
dancing to the music. All of the pain I’ve experienced in my life feels like
it’s being expelled simply through Shane’s manipulation of the strings.

I remain seated even
when the concerto is over, my eyes still closed. Minutes later I feel someone
sit down beside me and take my hand in theirs. I can tell it’s Shane even
before I open my eyes to look.

“You never told me you
were coming to hear me play,” he says just as I lift my head to look at him.
He’s closer than I expected him to be, his face hovering inches from mine.

“I’d hoped to remain
incognito,” I reply, giving him a soft smile. “You’re amazing. The way you play
is just — wow. I still have tingles.”

I lift my arm to show
him how my hairs are standing on end.

He lets go of my hand
and sits back in his chair with a satisfied look.

“I’d love to play for
you alone sometime,” he says after several moments of quiet.

I breathe harshly just
imagining it. I don’t think it would be humanly possible to sit in a room alone
with Shane and have him play for me, and
want to fuck his brains out
afterward. Even the way he holds the bow turns me on. For a brief moment I
imagine him standing above me, reaching down and running it lightly down my
naked abdomen.

“I’d give anything to
know what you’re thinking right now,” Shane murmurs, breaking me from my dirty

“Oh, nothing much.”

“It didn’t look like
nothing. It looked like a whole lot of
I’m thinking about sex

I smirk and try to
deflect from the stone-cold truth of his words. “You
I was thinking
about sex.”

“Yeah, you’re right
about that. So when are we next spending some time together, friend?” he asks,
giving my arm a little nudge with his elbow.

I take several moments
to think about it before giving him a considering look. “That depends. How do
you feel about haircuts and Indian food?”

He shrugs and runs his
hand over his head. “I’m in favour of both?” he replies like a question.

“Good. Come to my house
tonight at six, and we’ll hang out.”

“Okay. You aren’t going
to explain?” he asks with interest.

I stand up. “Nope. I
have to get back to the bar now. See you tonight.”

“See you tonight,
Bluebird,” he breathes, shaking his head and smiling as he watches me walk


Once a month my friends
and I get together at my house for a catch-up night. The group consists of me,
Lara, Lara’s cousin Ben, and Ben’s boyfriend, Clark. Ben is a hairdresser and
Clark is a counsellor, so we combine haircuts with talking about our feelings.
I like to think of it as grooming for the inside as well as out. We also love
Indian food, so we always order some in.

I’m beginning to wonder
if Shane’s going to show at all when a quarter past six hits and he still
hasn’t arrived. Ben is moving furniture about the kitchen to create a makeshift
styling station, asking Lara what kind of a cut she wants this month. She tells
him she’d like seventies-style retro layers, like one of the
. She’s far more adventurous than me in this respect. I always keep
my hair long and just have a basic trim to keep the split ends at bay.

“So what’s he like,
this new friend of yours?” asks Clark, sitting down beside me at the table. He
and Ben are both in their late thirties, and I love having them around because
they kind of feel like my two gay big brothers, giving me guidance and advice.
Ben also had a drinking problem when he was younger, so we’ve bonded over that
shared experience for years.

“Well, at first I just
thought he was this good-looking, slightly shy violinist, but then I spoke to
him some more and got to see him play, and now I kind of feel unworthy of his
friendship. He’s like one of those, what do you call them? Virtuosos. He was a
prodigy at the age of six.”

When informing my
friends about Shane, I left out the part about us meeting on the street in the
middle of the night and instead simply pretended we met at the concert hall
after a show.

“All those classical
musicians are mad in the head, though,” Ben puts in as he runs his hands
through Lara’s auburn hair. “You know, like Beethoven. Oh, and the guy out of
that movie,

“Beethoven went mad
because he had all this beautiful music to create but couldn’t hear it because
he was deaf,” says Lara.

I look at her in

“What? Haven’t you ever
Immortal Beloved
? I cry at that film every time. The unrequited
love that wasn’t unrequited after all.”

“I have, actually. I
couldn’t watch it more than once, though. I was literally in tears for days
afterward. Anyway,” I say, looking back to Clark, “I’d forego sanity any day of
the week to be able to play like Shane.”

“Are you having a
little cerebral crush?” Clark asks with a knowing grin. “You don’t want him for
his body, you want him for the music he’s got inside kind of thing?”

I love how Clark uses
words fancy words like “cerebral.” He’s one of the only people I know with a
college education, so I’m always stealing his phrases.

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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