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Tea lights flicker. It’s cold, so cold. Slowly I dance the steps I danced once at a memory of a party. The silence of the empty mansion rushes around me, trying to drown out the song in my head. My eyes are half closed, hiding the darkness that wants to frighten me. Tomorrow I will be gone. The house will be alone, alone among the green hills. I’m sorry, house, I’m sorry. Suspended between yesterday’s dream and reality, I can’t cry. Unspilt tears course through my body, numbing me. My last spangled party dress brushes my legs, comforting me with it’s carefree silkiness. I dance, I dance without music.
Softly, softly a melody floats through the open window. It’s the violin from the house across the lake, that I hear sometimes when the wind is right and the night is clear. A tiny warmth fills my chilled soul, I am not completely alone. I change my steps to match the ghost of a song, straining to catch each distant note. One, two, three, four.
It’s raining as I walk towards the black taxi cab. Rainy and foggy. The hills are shades of gray, matching my black umbrella. The driver doesn’t open the door for me, my days of grand chaffeurs are over. I am nobody now. Nobody, and–
“Hello,” the voice is deep and friendly, but not cheerful. It emerges quietly from the grays.
It’s a man in a long black raincoat. His umbrella is black too.
“Hello,” I say a little unsure of my voice, I have been locked in my thoughts for so long.
“Miss Ryder, right?”
“Yes, I’m Emma Ryder,” I reply, not that the name holds much pride now.
“Carter Nolan,” he sticks a wide, tan hand out. “We’re neighbors, I live over on the south shore.”
“Nice to meet you,” his grip is strong, his hands strangely calloused for a wealthy gentleman.
“I heard you’re leaving for the city,” his eyes search my face, looking for confirmation of the rumors.
“Yes, it will be an adventure, I think,” I say bravely. It is what I have been telling myself for weeks.
“An adventure,” the man seems thoughtful, “I’m sure it will be.”
In the corner of my eye, the cab driver shifts impatiently, gripping the wheel.
“I just came over to wish you the best of luck, and to apologize for never coming over to meet you in all these years,” the corners of his mouth turned up and his gray eyes smiled.
“Oh but you have! Or, at least your music did,” I smiled, embarrassed at revealing my poetic side.
“Ah yes,” the man rubbed the back of his neck, “I not terribly good, I’m afraid,”
The taxi driver gave a short honk.
“Hey lady! Are you gettin’ in or not?”
“I should go,” I half turned towards the cab.
“Of course, sorry to keep you waiting,”
“Thank you for stopping by,” I smiled, taking a step towards the cab.
The man sprang forward.
“Here, let me,” he opened the door, holding my umbrella so I could get in.
“Thank you,” I scrutinize his eyes for pity, sure that is what promted his unexpected visit.
“Your welcome,” he smiles again, and try as I might I can only find friendliness beneath his grin.
The cab door slams shut, the driver has already started the engine. We drive, drive away from my life. Stupidly, I look back. Carter Nolan throws up his hand and waves. It’s the last I see of my old home.
The color, the people weaving patterns, the noise, the smells. Each direction an interesting picture. I have grown to love walking through the busy city streets, although I hate the city itself. I walk past Mimi’s Cafe and Donnovan’s Bagels. There are business men and shoppers in expensive hats carrying matching purses. There’s peddlers and workmen on their lunch break, all painted in vivid colors by the warm noon sun. I wind my way through a crowd, past Claire’s Bakery.
I whirl around, scanning the crowd for the voice’s owner. In city like this, it is not often you meet a friend on the street.
I see only the broad navy shoulders of a business man and a gaggle of giggling women in tiny, stylish hats.
I recognize the clear gray eyes before I realize who he is.
“Hello,” he smiles.
It’s odd to see him here in this vibrant city, so different from the soft grays of my old home that he seemed to blend into.
“What brings you to the city?” I ask, finding myself filled with a giddy excitement to see someone from home.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you. I work here,” he says, rasing his voice above the murmur of the crowd.
“You do?” I didn’t know why it made me so happy.
“Yes, in the offices on Fourth Street. I’m an architect,” he says it proudly, not like he’s boasting, but as if he loves his job.
“Oh really?” I wish I was a better conversationalist. I have been alone too long.
“Yes,” he nods, “I’m on my lunch break now though,”
“Yes,” I nod back, awkwardly.
“Have you eaten?” he asks suddenly.
“No,” I planned on skipping lunch, but found I was voraciouly hungry.
“Well, I’d be pleased to have you join me, if you like Arnold’s Deli that is,” he looked at me questioningly.
It was one of my favorite sandwich shops.
“Thank you. I’d love to,” I replied, inexplicably glad to have a friend to eat lunch with.
“So do you like the city?” Carter Nolan asked over the menu.
“I–like it, some parts of it anyways,” I said, after a bit of hesitation.
“I’m sure the transition was difficult, it’s so different from the gentle colors of the country,”
I was astounded by his insight.
“Yes, actually, the night before I left I thought it was going to kll me to go away. I felt so alone in that big house. And then I heard your music. I wondered out how you knew just when I needed it,”
“But of course you didn’t,” I hastened to add, not wanting to appear silly and sentimental.
“My music?” Carter looked confused for a moment. “Oh yes, it was a lonely night wasn’t it? I felt as if I had to reach out into the world, fill the empty spaces with notes,”
His words were like a poem, music.
At that moment, our kindred spirits met.
“I did know,” Carter said.
We sat side by side on the rooftop of my apartment building, the music of his violin fading in the cool night air.
“Know what?” I ask, smiling at his soft gray eyes.
“That night by the lake. I knew you would be lonely, maybe a little scared. I didn’t know how else to help, so I played, trying to reach you, to comfort you somehow,”
The city lights were stars in the rich black sky.
I didn’t say anything because I didn’t need to.
We sat gazing at the lights, my fingers laced into the empty spaces between his, listening to the memory of those long ago notes, fondly thinking of the music yet to come.