He discovered that she hadn't changed her number and, hoping other things might have also stayed the same, told her he was in the city again.
-- That's wonderful, Marion said, sounding as if she had finally forgiven him for leaving. Would you like to go to the symphony?
Elliott had taken her to her first concert when they were both nineteen and they went many times in the years after that, often carrying lit cigarettes to the side doors to enter free with the smokers during intermission. When they lay naked in his bed afterward, he would softly hum the themes of the night back to her.
Elliott walked the sixteen blocks with a warm feeling in his chest, hopeful. It was the time of day when lights in high windows began to shine against the golden sky, and footfalls quickened as people were pulled towards home.
Marion was standing on the steps to the hall in a pink dress, hand in hand with a tall man Elliott recognized as Anton Baranova, the symphony's new conductor. He was younger than they were, no older than thirty, with a broad face and an easy smile.
-- Anton, I'd like you to meet Elliott. He's an old friend. Elliott, this is Anton.
Elliott reached out stiffly and let his hand be shaken. Anton's grip was light and cool.
-- It's nice to meet you, Elliott said.
-- You as well. Anton's deep voice was accented. He leaned forward to kiss Marion. Enjoy the show, he said.
Their seats were very good. When they sat down, Marion said, I'm sorry, I thought you knew.
-- I did, Elliott lied. Congratulations.
She smiled. Her cheeks were fuller but her clear eyes had not changed. When the lights dimmed she leaned back and he could smell her perfume. It was the same kind he remembered smelling on his sheets after she left. He decided that this was not a coincidence and crept closer.
-- You look lovely, he whispered as the orchestra hushed.
-- It's nice to see you again.
He reached for her hand but she drew it away to clap as Anton Baranova walked out. His tails flew out as he took a bow. The lights onstage brightened and he raised a hand.
A soft, cottony chord emerged from the line of brass and echoed through the hall. Elliott looked at Marion.
-- Dvorak, she whispered. It was a game they often played.
-- Very good. He leaned closer. She edged away.
-- Watch his hands, she murmured. Anton Baranova's fingers molded the music like it was clay. He drew sleepy chords from the clarinets and flicked a sharp pizzicato at the violins. The music rose and fell in phrases that stretched into lines that gave each chord a place in the slow, shimmering arc of the movement. At times it filled the hall but there were moments when he seemed to hold everything between his thumb and forefinger.
A low chord resonated in Elliott's chest and he turned to see if Marion had felt it too. Her face glowed in the light from the stage. He ran a finger down her smooth wrist. She put her hands in her lap.
As applause rang throughout the hall, Elliott rose from his seat in silence and followed Marion through the wood-paneled lobby and into the night. Her gait, her stance, the tilt of her head -- it was all so familiar that he couldn't believe anything had changed.
-- Let's go for drinks.
-- No, thank you. She bit her lip. I have to go.
-- No, you don't. He took her hand. Marion, I said I was sorry.
-- I know. She pulled away.
-- I miss you.
-- Anton's waiting. I have to go. Goodbye, Elliott. She turned and disappeared into the crowd.
He stood there for a moment as men and women hurried past him down the sidewalk, buttoning coats, laughing, and talking. The glow from the lobby cast a cheery light on their faces but faded quickly as they passed into the shadow of the building itself.
Elliott put his hands in his pockets and began to follow them, not wanting to be left behind. The buildings above him were bright but silent and the clank of his shoes on the metal grates sounded hollow in his ears.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Hannah Thurman. All rights reserved.