Short Story – The Music Festival
This arose from a 100 word piece of flash fiction, ‘A Writer’s Perspective’. One of my fellow bloggers, Noonespecial, commented “Oh, Penny! Couldn´t you change the last sentence? Than I would say I understand!” This short story is specially for her.
It was the second concert of the Festival. There was a modest audience – perhaps a hundred or so – and the venue, while visually attractive, had an atrocious acoustic for classical music. Those who were to perform sat in the front few rows of the audience. I noticed two very young men, sixteen or seventeen perhaps, sitting side by side in the second row.
The compere introduced a piece for solo piano, to be played by Jeremy. Both young men stood up. Jeremy went to the piano, while the other stood at the side of the auditorium recording a video of the performance on his cellphone.
Were they a gay couple, I wondered? I felt sure that Jeremy, the pianist, with his wavy hair, passionate face and confident manner would have appealed to both men and women, and when he started to play I could feel the strong pull of his magnetic personality. Even the poor acoustic couldn’t conceal that he was a virtuoso in the making. The youth making the video was engrossed in the performance. His face glowed with pride and delight.
At the end of the concert, I spoke to the Festival Director, to let her know how much I’d enjoyed it. I think she saw me as a potential donor, because she invited me backstage and offered me raki. The performers were tidying up, and Jeremy and his friend were talking in a corner.
“Doesn’t this last week mean anything to you?” I heard as we passed them.
“Of course it does. It’s been great fun, but I just don’t swing that way, Calvin.”
A girl came over, and pecked Jeremy on the cheek.
And then the Director and I were in her office and she closed the door.
Quite by chance, I saw the young men again the following evening, in a party of eight students in a taverna. Jeremy sat at one end of the table, and every so often I saw him look at the girl opposite. She was blushing. Her eyes were sparkling. She tossed her head, and spoke quickly and excitedly. The boy who had made the video sat on the opposite side of the table, at the far end. He was quiet. Occasionally he glanced in Jeremy’s direction, his expression a mixture of hero-worship and longing.
As the party left the taverna, Jeremy put an arm around the girl and she rested her head against his shoulder. I saw the quiet boy notice, and wince.
The final concert was the following evening. By now people had realised that the standard of performance was high, and the venue was packed. I found a seat on the outside end of a row, about halfway back. Jeremy was sitting on the other side of the auditorium, next to the girl with whom he’d left the taverna. The quiet boy was sitting at the end of the second row on the same side as me. He looked sad.
The third item of the programme was the ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, to be performed by Victoria, accompanied by Calvin. The girl next to Jeremy, the girl from the taverna, prowled sinuously onto the platform. The quiet boy, who I’d seen first with Jeremy, unobtrusively took his seat at the piano ready to play for her.
Her voice was superb; her manner both seductive and dramatic. Calvin’s accompaniment was musical and self-effacing, supporting her and never overpowering her. It was perfect accompanying; Calvin was an excellent pianist, I realised.
“And if I love you, Ah! then take care!” sang Victoria to Jeremy. I could see him beam.
The applause at the end of the piece was enthusiastic, but it was almost over before Victoria realised that Calvin hadn’t joined her for his share. Instead, he had slipped back to his seat in the auditorium. She gestured in his direction, as though she hoped he would stand and bow, but he just shook his head in negation. Victoria gave one last curtsey and smile and sat down beside Jeremy, whispering in his ear. Jeremy stared across at Calvin.
We came at length to the final item of the concert, Chopin’s ‘Heroic Polonaise’. Victoria kissed Jeremy on the cheek as he rose, and held his hand just a little longer than you might expect, before he strode to the piano and sat down.
The performance was bravura, brilliant. The notes poured out. The rhythm was as crisp as a military heel click. There was a fiery energy, and a stern strength to the playing. It was indeed a heroic interpretation. I was watching Victoria. She sat very straight in her seat, aflame with emotion.
Then I noticed Calvin. He had moved stealthily to the side aisle where he held up his cellphone, once again recording the performance. Tears trickled one after the other down his cheeks, as he wept in perfect silence.
And now, at a signal from the Director, the musicians gathered at the front. Calvin dried his cheeks and joined them. Jeremy and Victoria were centre stage, holding hands, triumphant, elated, already a couple.
We rose, in a standing ovation. The performers bowed, once, twice, thrice, and that was it.
The Festival was over for another year.