Alone Again, Naturally
James said, “It’s all for healing. We give a private concert to people quarantined.”
Sheila showed up, guitar in one hand, in her other a bag with cheese, fancy harvest bread, and fig preserves. God help her, she was always trying to please James.
Brian, in a striped jumper that looked like something his Aunt might have knit, raised his hand, meeting her eyes for a moment before lowering them as though there was something on the floor indescribably interesting.
Her smile fell away. Brian was around far too much lately. Sure, he could play piano, but he wasn’t needed. James needed her vocals and guitar. Brian’s piano? Nice, but not required.
James grinned. “Sheila, so pleased. Are you ready to sing and play?”
She nodded, suddenly, feeling off.
Everything was off. The glance shared between James and Brian made her feel like an outsider.
Their fingers touched, their eyes touched, and Sheila’s her heart seized.
“We’re on,” James said, turning on audio and visual.
She strummed her guitar, felt the strings vibrate under her fingers, heard James sing, and realized that every love song that she had thought was hers, was not. He’d not written them for her at all. But for someone else.
She saw their eyes meet. Their love.
She plucked strings, added her voice where needed, and felt her heart dissolve, not to be healed soon.
Her voice broke on her solo, but she powered through. The session became a program on how to be an automaton. Smile on camera, sing on cue, play in rhythm, sing when asked. At the end, her fingers shook, and she made sure not to make eye contact with James lest he see her torture. Torture! Like some Victorican melodrama.
Sheila smiled at both James and Brian as she left his terraced house. Outside, rain trembled to the earth. Streaks shone on the street. Her heart, oh her heart was still stuck inside. She’d left it there. She glanced back. The house was already dark as if all the lights had shuddered after her leaving.
She nodded. It was fine. Her heart could stay there. She wasn’t sure if she’d need it after all.