Author's Note:This is a short one. Kind of sad. Anyway! Here it is!
To Dance with Another
The Living Room
Eva Montgomery was tired.
At this age, everything began to be sluggish around her. Each second passed by as each minute, with no more weight to it than an hour did. There were days and there were nights, but nothing was comparable to Eva; she simply endured it all with a friendly detachment.
Reaching 89 years of age had never been a milestone for Eva; she'd never, in her younger years, thought that she would get this old. She'd always thought that the phrase The Good Die Young was a phrase was meant specially for her, even in her forties and fifties. It wasn't until she reached the sixties, felt the worn tugging of her bones, and when she preferred to stay inside when the weather was good that she realized that the phrase no longer applied. She had passed her young years, flew by them with flying colors, and yet she was still here, still alive.
Eve shifted under her thatched quilt, the soft noise of the TV incomprehensible in her deafened ears. She reached her hands out and studied them under her blurring eyes. A thin spiderweb of veins protruded on the back of her hands, the crinkled skin, the withered fingers, the yellowish tinge all evidence to her age. When she was young, she'd had wonderful hands. Long and slim, her fingers would pluck out tunes on the piano forte with ease, skimming over the ivories with a skill unheard of. But those days had passed, and the constant battle against tendonitis and arthritis was eventually lost.
The piano had accumulated a thick dust, crying out in desperation for the skilled hands – any skilled hands – to press them down again and fill the room with wonderful notes. It was a shame that none of her grandchildren played; they all had inherited her long, capable fingers.
Eva shifted again, craning her neck to look at the piano. They looked long and hard at each other, old friends once again recognizing, and Eva felt her heartstrings give a hearty tug. Before she could tell her body not to, she was standing, clutching the quilt around her shoulders, and shuffling towards her forgotten piano.
Eva sat down gently, slowly peeling the cover off her beloved instrument. With shaking hands, she switched on the lamp light, and the brightness made her blink in wonderment at the dust on her poor baby.
She placed her withered hands in position, resting them on the cool ivories, her mind in a whir.
" Charlie, can you hear this?" she said quietly to her dead husband, plucking out a soft middle C. " You used to love to hear me play."
If she listened hard enough, believed long enough, she almost heard her husband say distantly, " I still love it, Eva."
Eva shook her head. She was going crazy; this business with the piano was not good for her. It was dusting off memories from the past – ones she had worked so hard to suppress. But oh, she had never felt so good, sitting at the piano, bathed in the yellow light, her fingers itching to play on of her favorite tunes: Fur Elise.
" Play Beethoven, Eva," said her husband, his voice deep and gravelly. " I love Beethoven."
Eva let out a dry chuckle, her indecisive fingers brushing against the keys. " You know I can't, Charlie. It hurts."
Her head was feeling very light, high in the clouds, and she felt Charlie's warm hands place themselves against her shoulders, steadying her.
" Play it, love," he said.
So she played it, and for the first time in twenty years, her hands and fingers did not hurt as she skillfully led them into Beethoven's masterpiece. Each note that came out of the rusty piano was slightly off tune, but it did not ruin the beauty of the moment. Charlie's fingers tightened reassuringly, and she heard him laugh as the music swelled.
" Come dance with me, love," he said. " I would like to dance with you."
Eva, as if in a trance, left the piano and turned to face her long-dead husband. He was just as he had been, the last day he was alive some ten years ago, his beer belly slightly protruding and his thin lips in a dazzling smile. She'd come to dream of his crinkly face, of his warm, caring eyes, of his strong and sure embrace. And here he was, no longer an apparition or a figment of her imagination.
Fur Elise kept playing, the music coming from somewhere, but Eva delighted in each note as Charlie took her hand in his and pulled her into his warm embrace.
Eva laughed, her heart happy, and she looked into Charlie's reassuring eyes.
" You are beautiful, my love," Charlie rumbled, his gaze strengthening the love and tenderness she felt towards him. " You are absolutely beautiful."
" I love you," she said simply as he took them for a turn around the living room.
They danced slowly, basking in the love they held of each other, wondering in the soft-spoken moment. Charlie held her strong, and Eva's heart was at peace.
" Are you ready?" he murmured to her.
" I am."
The last notes of Fur Elise came to a beautiful, haunting end, and Eva was no longer tired.
She held onto Charlie as he danced them to the next life.