Below the melody, I can hear the pressure of his fingers, blunt force pushing the string down to meet the fingerboard. Pale flesh meeting ebony wood with wire sandwiched between.
The actual piece doesn’t matter. It’s something by Bach, of course, baroque and brooding, an elegy at times, a discourse at others. I know that it’s Bach in the same way most people know the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but the name of the specific piece eludes me.
Between the notes, I hear him draw a breath. If I were watching him, I’d probably see him reposition his bow in that same moment. As it is, I hear the air being released from his lungs, from his lips, just before the bow attacks the strings.
I can’t watch him.
I look at my phone, observe the deep claret colour of the wine in my glass, devote close study to the remains of the dark chocolate mousse cake on my plate.
Anything to avoid his eyes.
Behind the music I catch the rasp of his sleeve where it brushes against the bridge on an up-bow. I lift my eyes – just for a second, I tell myself – and drink in the crisp white of his shirt, the jet black of his tie.
Finally, I am caught, trapped in the warm brown of his eyes.
He notices me staring at him, but his playing never falters, though there’s a slight quirk of his brow that just matches the note he flourishes.
Beneath the chords, I hear the faint buzz, not quite a wolf-tone, from the titanium strings, and discern – barely – the soft contact of his thumb resettling itself in the saddle of his cello.
As he lifts his bow from the strings, the faint tang of sweat and rosin assaults my senses. I lick my lips, anticipating the moment when he leaves the stage and joins me at my table.
People warned me about dating a musician. “You’ll be alone at all his gigs,” they said. “You’ll feel like a groupie; you’ll lose your identity.”
They were wrong.
I’m never alone, merely… unaccompanied.
About the author: Melissa A. Bartell
Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.