The guitar’s notes rise and fall, plangent as rain falling in a dark pool. Echoes ripple through the house and its wooden floors just as mysteriously. The dawn sun throws odd shadows through the tule fog. Gray curls of mist twirl visibly against the window panes, curling into plumes like the tails of the fluffy gray cats that live next door, sitting in the windows. The foglight throws blurred light across the floor in shafts without clear edges.
It is a house where Dance’s music practices sound different whenever the weather changes. For that matter, so does the thump and hiss of his martial arts practices, when he is not trying to be quiet.
Emma tilts her head, frowning at the glare of the computer screen, where her work is frustrating her. She would rather slip away from its challenges and go answer the whisper of the guitar’s strings speaking in the rhythmic accents of Anduluz of centuries ago.
He’s been up all night too, playing through all his instruments, playing pieces he needs to practice. He’s been swearing sometimes in frustration at the very same time as she was.
She recognizes the composer that is a ghost presence at her ear now, dead at least three hundred years now, from a time and a culture that is as alien to her beliefs and her life as a priest from an Aztec blood cult would be. She knows enough to know that it would be that strange, or more. She can hear how strange those accents really are, in the way Dance plays them.
Dance’s interpretation does not make the Pavane for a Dead Princess a melancholy piece. Nor does he make it dripping with fury, as she’s heard sometimes. It is balanced in a nicely terrifying tension between anger, grief, loneliness, tenderness, and a clear unflinching memory of what really was, not what one wished it had been.
A very clear remembrance of all those times a busy person gave up the chance to be with someone they loved, frittered away their shared time, turning away to some other higher task–and now they are gone, and there will be no more chances. Ever.
Sometimes when Dance plays, she finds him quite the most terrifying creature she’s ever met.
She has been struggling with the sense that her lovers live an interior life quite as different from hers as the unseen side of the moon.
While the two men may be the kind of men who are deft with a joke and wonderfully sociable on their own terms, they do not unveil their inner mysteries by choice. She’s not sure they know how.
But Dance is a musician. He speaks to her across the house that way, in the silence.
She doesn’t bother to shut off the computer when she gets up. She just crosses the house in swift, loud steps, letting him hear it.
He has set aside the guitar by the time she reaches him. He stands up to meet her, shorter than she is. He looks up at her with that steady face that is not a mask at all. It speaks to her now of endurance, of setting aside something that is as close to pain as he ever shows.
“Musicians!” she says, her Aussie accent getting away from her. “If they could just talk, they wouldn’t be musicians, would they?” he grabs a wad of his hair, tugs on it, wraps both arms tight around him.
Dance is not as angular and uncomfortable this morning as he has been in months past. He can make himself all bony angles and sharp points, like a cat trying to escape, when he wants to. Right now he just feels bulky and solid and warm, standing there letting her hold onto him. And then, very gently, he lifts one hand and strokes the back of her elbow, and then he traces her shoulder blades with his fingertips, as if he wants to memorize what they feel like. It drives her perfectly wild sometimes.
Muffled against his hair, she says roughly, “He’ll be back tomorrow night. They just got delayed. He’ll be fine. He said he was fine. I hate it when he leaves too.”
Dance turns his face into her collarbones, leaning into her.
After awhile he says, “You always smell so good.”
She smiles into his hair. “I’m all nasty from working all night, I should get a shower–”
Dance turns his head, with a sigh. “I just like how you smell.”
Emma starts to smile. Some things are not a mystery. About some things she’s been reassured numerous times. He might not talk; but he will sit nearby listening, he will rub her stupid back if she asks for it and he will warm that stupid back with his own, all rolled up warm in the blankets. But he won’t ask first. There he hits some kind of internal boundary he won’t cross.
Softly, Dance murmurs into her neck, breathing along her collarbone. “Want company?”
July 21, 2008 Challenge: Fog Author’s Notes: The music sounds like rain to a lot of people, but I always recall this piece when I am watching tule fog in motion.