A Secret Grave 25: White as a Ghost

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The concert was held in the living room of my friends Richard and Gary, who own a house with a magnificent view over the hills of west Austin, green and lush, with iconic radio towers blooming like tall thin cranes in their midst.

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The gorgeous view from Richard & Gary’s back deck

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It was late afternoon, the dropping sun a soft rose gold. Auditorium chairs had been set up in rows to accommodate the guests, perhaps fifty of us in cocktail attire with programs folded neatly in our laps, some of the women sporting fans (although the A/C was blasting) along with svelte little handbags and plastic glasses of Perrier water. It was a string quartet – two violins, a viola and cello – and the music they were to play, according to whispers in the audience, was difficult, complicated. Although I’d grown up going to the symphony, my education was limited – I don’t remember what was played that evening, only the pink splashes of sunlight resting on people’s necks and shoulders, a smell of perfume in the air, the softness of the carpet under my feet, a glint of diamonds as a woman in the audience moved her wrist.

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House Concert at Richard & Gary’s home

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Caroline sat with the cello between splayed legs, her entire body moving like the bough of a tree in the wind as she played. She wore a long black skirt and black camisole top and her hair was loose around her shoulders. The other three musicians were men and occasionally, after a difficult passage, she’d look at them and flash a smile. But mostly her brow was furrowed in concentration.

There was a ten minute intermission, during which people wandered into the kitchen for wine or out onto the deck to admire the view. One or two people quietly left. When I returned to my seat, I noticed an empty chair at the end of the row. I tried to remember who’d been sitting there, a heavyset woman in a floral dress? I must’ve looked away for a moment. When I looked back, someone, not the original person, had taken the seat and I saw right away there was something familiar about him, the white suit and tightly coiled, forward hunched body. Victor, of course. He hadn’t been there during the first half of the concert. Up front, the musicians were tuning their instruments. Caroline was totally immersed in her cello, drawing the bow across its strings, glancing at her colleagues to see if they were in synch and ready. The first violinist nodded his head and they began with a vivid twist of sound, like a swarm of bees released from a hive and zigzagging melodically upwards high into the air. I was enthralled. I glanced at my program: Haydn. Then back at the musicians. Caroline had just finished a passage of music and her hands were resting at the sides of her cello. She was smiling sweetly at the audience. Then her face turned white, and when I say white, I mean white as a ghost. I followed her gaze… her eyes, black as dots in her head, were focused on Victor. A sheen of sweat had broken out on her brow. I glanced down the row at Victor. He was gazing back at Caroline, face absolutely rapt, an odd little twitch of a smile on his lips.

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To be continued…

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Cover Photo ~ media.gettyimages.com

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