She was eagerly unpacked when I got there, her case sitting wide open. Feet dangling over the edge of the stage, she was holding the music, copper eyes skimming over it like it was a treasure map that led to a hidden stash of gold. I stopped myself for a moment, just stood there at the back of the auditorium, watching her. I wonder if she knew how beautiful she was.
The hairs on the back of her neck must have told her that I was there, because not soon after, she looked up. A grin broke out across her face as she saw me, something that made my stomach jump, but in a good way. Bringing a hand up, she waved, as I was searching for her in a crowd of people. Grinning, I waved back.
I started my way down the short incline of the auditorium, one unfamiliar, and yet newly homey to me. Recently I’d been spending hours a week staring at the intricate purple carpet, and I’d memorized the pattern of the lights on the high walls. It wasn’t an unusually beautiful theater, but what it lacked in design, it made up for in sound. During rehearsal, it seemed like every time she played her solo, the walls sang and echoed the sound right into my heart.
I couldn’t stop smiling as I looked at her. I didn’t want to seem cheesy or weird, but it’s like my mouth had a mind of its own. She didn’t seem to mind though. Beaming, she jumped off the edge of the stage and ran to greet me, music still in hand.
As I met her, she tucked a strand of soft mahogany hair, as if she were suddenly shy. It was almost weird, seeing her shy away from her typical gleaming smile that she always wore. Though she had been mute all her life, she could speak louder than anyone I’d ever met.
Her eyes glimmered with excitement as she held out the music for me to see. Dvorak’s Humoresque number seven. Our duet. I raised an eyebrow questioningly, oblivious as to why she was enthusiastically presenting it to me. She pointed back toward it, urging me to look closer.
Across the paper, there were little spots of color among the black music notes. I smiled. She had drawn tiny little hearts in the places we had been working on. The fortes, crescendos, svortsandos. It added a bubbly, charming quality to her music, one only she could possess. Taking it back, she gently took my hand and tugged me along to the empty orchestra chairs. Eagerly anticipating our duet, I followed.
She had settled herself in the pit, the section right below the edge of the stage. All of the chairs were still there from our last rehearsal, and it looked weirdly empty, seeing only her cello sitting next to her chair. First chair, of course.
She dipped her head low, nodding towards the small case in my hand. Magic danced in her expression, something so rare and fascinating in a world of forced musicians.
We, obviously, had never spoken a word to each other, but as she delicately picked up her cello, I could tell that it was her everything. By the way her fingers skimmed across the silver strings, when she plucked them. She was nothing close to the dead-eyed, unwilling musicians that had been forced to play since they were four. They were nothing compared to her.
Setting my case on the floor next to hers, I began unpacking my violin. She watched me, eyes a kind of intense. It was like she was enthralled by my movements, the miniscule size of my instrument next to hers. Her gaze was patient, enchanted. I looked up at her, and she blushed in the musty light, turning back to rosining her bow.
I unpacked in a comfortable quiet, something easy and almost serene. Once I had set my music on the stand, I lifted my violin up to tune. Suddenly, she shot out her hand to stop my bow from hitting the string.
Confused, I turned to her. Her eyes were widened, but a smile still stuck on her face. She looked almost surprised at herself for a moment, but brought her hand down from mine with intent. My brow was furrowed in confusion, I could tell, but before I could say anything, she brought a finger to her lips and puckered them in a shushing movement. With her other hand, the one holding the bow, she pointed upwards, towards the vast, empty space of the auditorium. When my confusion didn’t fade, she brought her hand down from her mouth and pointed to her ear.
Though there was nothing to listen to, I did. What was she trying to tell me? It was quiet. Listening, I only heard the silence that overtook the place where music was almost always occuring. It was something I hadn’t noticed before, how you don’t really notice the silence until a bow on a string shatters it. It was beautiful, how she appreciated it.
It was like the first note of our duet was so important, so special and defining that she wanted nothing to come before it. No unnecessary tuning, nothing to wither down the importance of the silence. Because how could you have music without it?
Cuing me after a moment, she put her body into a strict, but relaxed playing position. Bow on the string, but not making a sound. I followed her, and raised my violin. And with respect for the silence, we played.