Required Prompt Word: "Fingerfoods"
Required Theme: Moral Dilemma
Required Word Limit: 500
Written for the Haiti Relief Anthology, January 2010
It was late, well after the time for a social visit, yet neither of them was ready to be parted.
Because he was expecting her to continue playing the piece, she stared into the glowing, red wood, drawing the smooth bow across strings once again, completing the note perfectly before sliding into error. An awful screech sliced through the quiet room. Once more, she'd wound too high on purpose.
“You're impatient,” he explained kindly, their eyes meeting as he took yet another step closer.
She was beginning to wonder if he suspected her intentional mistakes, each a reason for their lessons to continue, a demonstration that she was a slow learner.
They were so close to one another then, his hands eager to touch her, but restrained by propriety. The wine made him brazen, though - the secret love in his heart for her pushing him to be nearer. “You must concentrate first on the bow. That's the essential component. Straighten your grip," he coached, his voice reserved for instruction, watching her comply. "Remember, the rest will come in to its own. Try again," he said, meeting her eyes once more in the low firelight, resisting the urge to kiss her. She nodded and adjusted her face in concentration, her thoughts of hands touching sinful places a distraction she didn't need.
Stepping back, he watched from just a foot away as her brow furrowed, her teeth pinching the skin of her mouth again as the bow touched strings once more. Perfection, he thought.
In this way, she was so beautiful, with enchanting eyes and pink lips. It hurt his heart that these small lessons and moments were all he would have. She would leave in a few months, married off to the intended of her father's choosing, set to live on his estates in the north. That fleeting, hopeless thought pushed anxiety through his veins, but he cast it off. There was nothing to be done, such was the way the world turned.
Yet still. Despite his efforts, the thought of her happy country life wasn't just a stab, but the twist of a knife that would never be removed. For revenge on his fate and his future loss, he watched her play, his mind conjuring images of her sweating and panting against him. Peach skin flushed from decadent sex. He let that vision linger as she continued, daydreaming of her as he always did during these moments. Mesmerized and captivated, he nearly lost track of her progress as she closed her eyes and slid into another transition of notes.
His head involuntarily swayed to her explorations of his beloved instrument, and right as these thoughts threatened to expose his desire, she erred. The grinding cry of the violin was different this time. Suddenly he became alert, knowing that sound only originated when the player was dropping form.
"Sorry. I'll try again," she said, her eyes full of that look that almost seemed desirous.
Nodding silently for fear his voice would betray his darkest wishes, he nodded, watching her once more, wondering if the source of her mistake was him. They'd had too much wine before their lessons, which had grown increasingly more frequent. Increasingly more intense.
Again, she began to play the same notes as before, but this time she huffed and gave up, sagging his violin against her hold, imploring him with her eyes.
"Feels like I'm holding it wrong . . . can you show me, again?" she asked bravely, her voice still small despite her bravado. His heart skipped a beat and so did hers, both picturing the naughtier version of her expression.
Stepping behind her as he had done before, the blade of her shoulder touched his chest, unintentional contact all the encouragement he needed. Flashes and images of fantasies often repeated hit him hard, filling his mind with visions of her silken skin and long dark hair in his hands. But back in reality, he covered her warm, small hands with his own and steadied his gentlemanly ways.
"Don't get frustrated. It takes time. It's important that you focus on keeping your index finger on the grip, like this," he demonstrated, touching her more firmly. With intention, he drew the bow across the strings with the focus of a thousand nightly practices. A beautiful sound emanated from the instrument and a soft sigh left her lips. One he imagined capturing with his own.
Slowly, he drew across the strings with her hand in his; the instrument conjuring a beautiful, exquisite sound when they played together. Staring at her neck, he led his hand automatically through the motions, having played this piece a hundred times. There was a curl of hair underneath her ribbon and he longed to suck it into his mouth.
Sliding forward and then back, a perfect concoction of play filled the room, but this time, instruction wasn't the order. The buzzing closeness sparked between them again, his chest to her back. And once again, just as each time she asked him to touch her in these lessons, he felt closer and closer to her. Felt as if something more than this were possible. He was sure she could feel it too, and as if to prove this, their breathing sped at the same time.
"Will I ever play this well without you?" she whispered, shocking him into loaded silence.
He swallowed. "Yes. You'll get stronger with practice."
"Will it ever feel this natural?" she asked, her question ill-fitting without the double meaning. He wanted to answer her, to tell her 'no'. That what she felt was true and reciprocated, that if she married the other man, she wouldn't be happy. But his heart told him to tread lightly. It wasn't meant to be and feelings aside, that was a fact.
On impulse, he chose to ignore her obvious intention, each second assessed anew as the music continued, their passion infringing on the restraints of convention; held back by his caution and her good raising.
Soon, though her hands warmed under his, the play all him, her grip barely active.
This was all he needed, he decided: the woman he loved and his violin. And as painful as it was to know she would be lost to another, he cemented the feeling of her soft hands under his, ministrations weaving a tale his words couldn't tell. In that spirit, un-monitored seconds passed, both losing track of their thoughts in the face of silent passion.
She danced closer to the brink of impropriety, he closer to the edge of telling her everything. His wrist danced through the motions as visions of leaning her back on the thick, soft rug inundated his mind. She grew more impatient, her bitten lip receiving the punishment for wanton thoughts growing more risque. More than anything, she wanted him to grasp her, hold her like she was needed and wanted. Treasured.
But in reality, she fought for breath and he played the saddest song, hitting the highest peak the string would give, the music beckoning his love, his want, his lust for her. Telling her everything he would never say.
"Stop!" she said forcefully, breathlessly, breaking from his hold, his touch.
He did as she commanded, the solo ending in a slaughter of sound just like her intentional accidents. For her, their passion and flirtatious desire had reached a point of no return. A line neither could cross without fear of eternal retribution.
Signifying her silent choice laced in duty, she dropped the violin and bow a few inches until it exchanged possession. Free from him and the beauty of his song, she crossed the room in a swish of skirts to compose herself. To steel herself.
Never taking his eyes from her, the pit of his stomach ached as he set the violin on the chaise in hesitation.
"I," he stopped, afraid to say something, afraid to move, knowing words were a gamble, unaware her bodice burned for removal.
There were no words necessary. Fearing for her future and sanity, she stared at the embers, never turning to see him go. Tears of a claimed woman fell on the other side of that poise, and his presence and lust and love were no longer appropriate.
There was no reason for fanfare or goodbyes. The wheels of the world moved beyond their control, and neither had any illusions about that.
"I'm sorry," he said, wishing he'd kept it in a little more, succumbing to his own brand of longing. 'I love you' was on the tip of his tongue, swallowed away and never to be spoken.
As he packed up his belongings with the heavy heart of unstoppable circumstances, she remained motionless though her sadness was tangible. Her silhouette glowed as she stood before the crackling low fire, the neglected log forgotten like the time, like their half filled glasses of wine and finger foods.