Book Preview, Chapter X: Olivia at the Piano

Olivia reached over to her nightstand for her phone. No messages. Of course. She withheld a sigh, climbed out of bed to wake the girls and mechanically proceeded with her morning rituals — pretending to herself she didn’t care that apparently he hadn’t thought about her all night. Hadn’t thought to send her a good night text or better yet, a good morning one to mark the new day.

“Why should he?” She thought to herself.

He was busy. He is always busy. Just because he was away right now in Boston on a business trip didn’t mean he’d have any more time for her than he usually did. He’d already explained to her gently over the phone the day before that he was over-committed six ways from Sunday but that he’d do his best to reach out to her when and if he could.

She was understanding. Of course she was. What choice did she have?

Later, when the girls had left for school and Alex had kissed her on the forehead as husbands do before heading to the office and after a cursory tidy-up around the house, she sat down at the piano to play. For him.

Olivia always felt that if he could hear her, if music was her way of communicating, he would see that this was Olivia’s equivalent of writing to him, for him — poems and sonnets and soliloquys and prose—the kind of things she would have liked to see from him in texts and emails.

“What a stupid, dramatic, unrealistic expectation…” she whispered to no one. Neither of them was very good at writing anyway.

Bending forward, she pressed her left hand heavily into the first few notes of Chopin’s Berceuse in Dflat Major.

One broken chord. One measure.

She wished that this morning she would have opened her phone to discover the emotion that this one measure had conveyed in Chopin’s music.  Was it too much to ask from Aaron that he convey any of that, any emotion at all in just one line of text?

She imagined him sleeping now- spent from having hosted another corporate dinner for a hundred other corporate big-wigs like himself. She imagined his five o’clock shadow and his breath – the mixture of toothpaste from having just brushed his teeth and the lingering of Glenlivet he would have had after dinner. Just one glass, maybe two. Aaron was always in control and never went too far with anything – alcohol included.

She wished she were with him at that very moment. She would gently, gently pull back the covers– just enough to climb into bed so as not to wake him. She would lay there taking in his scent, watching him sleep, listening to his breath…

She’d stopped playing. She was gazing at the garden now—her hands resting on her lap. With tired eyes she watched a Starling pick at the grass just outside the window before flying off again.

“Wings. How liberating.”

More than anything, she wished she were strong enough not to care so much. But she did care. So much. And like a child, she wished on a fantasy – that she too could have wings that would take her away. To him, of course.

But the futility of this thinking weighed upon her frail figure—heavy, oppressive to the point of helpless languor.

Her head bowed, with chin practically on her chest, she sat there solemnly and contemplated with resignation the ridiculousness of her thoughts.  She lamented how low and desperately needy he could make her feel – from all the way across an ocean without ever even knowing it.

Olivia tucked a loose wave of hair behind her right ear. She straightened her back, took in a deep breath, raised both hands to hover gracefully over the keys, as if a ballerina at the barre, and with an exhale, gave herself over to her beloved Polish composer.

She let herself go and for the next six pages of notes, Olivia lost herself in her playing and allowed the unspoken words of Chopin’s delicate lullaby to distract her from the pain of invisible, tangible heartache.

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