Chapter 14: EpiphanyFor Heather, who teaches me more than she knows.
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heilgtum!
Deine Zauber binden weider
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Laci woke suddenly. One second she was asleep, the next awake. She was surprised that the room seemed bright. It was also surprising that she’d slept through the night without getting up to pee at least once. That’s what woke her now, an urgent, almost painful need to pee. She rose up like a prairie dog from her warm burrow, and looked around, trying to make sense of her surroundings.
Karen was still in bed next to her, but she was sitting up propped against the headboard, doing something with her iPad. “Good morning Sunshine,” Karen said cheerfully.
“What time is it,” Laci said through a yawn.
“A little after seven.”
“I hafta pee,” she said, tossing back the blankets and sliding out of the bed.
“Don’t let me stop you.”
Laci stuck her tongue out at Karen, and skittered into the bathroom. As she relieved herself, she picked up the bidet control. She smiled. Who woulda ever thought of such a thing? she marveled. Done peeing, she braced herself and pushed the “Cleanse” button. Just as before, even though she knew what was coming, it made her jump. I hafta tell Emily about this, she won’t even believe it.
Laci reluctantly turned off the warm, pleasing stream of warm water bathing her muffin, and patted herself dry. Before leaving, she stopped at the mirror. “Ewww, yuck!” she grimaced at her reflection. Her hair was like a rat’s nest, and her face all puffy and sleep-creased. She did her best to unsnarl her mane, washed her face, and brushed her teeth. Now she could face Karen.
Laci climbed back onto the bed, and slipped under the covers. “Whatcha doing?” she asked Karen.
“Just looking at things we can do later on. I really want to take you to the observation deck in that skyscraper with mall that we were at yesterday, the Prudential Center. Then, maybe we can walk back on Newberry Street and see what kinds of shops they have. I figured we could have brunch downstairs before we go.”
Karen toyed with Laci’s hair and smiled lovingly at her. “It’s a cross between breakfast and lunch. They have food that’s from both breakfast and lunch, you decide which you want, or both if that’s your fancy.”
“I’m learning all kinds of new stuff,” Laci said. A thought flashed through her head, and she suddenly sat up, spilling the covers in a puddle around her. “I just remembered something,” she announced.
Karen looked at her with a furrowed brow. “Oh really. What might that be that it made you spring up like a jack-in-the-box?”
“That first night when we got here,” Laci explained, “I wondered what what we could see from here during the day, but yesterday was foggy, so you couldn’t see anything.” She grabbed Bearyanne before swinging her legs over the edge of the bed and slipping her feet into her scuffies. “But today, the sun’s out, and I wanna see. I got up to pee in the middle of the night when we first got here, and I looked out the window, and I think I saw the airport.”
Laci scampered over to the window, and Karen got off the bed and followed right behind. Laci, Bearyanne held in the crook of her bent elbow, tried pushing the gauzy drapery aside. Karen wordlessly found the cords to pull the drapes open.
Laci’s breath caught in soft gasp. The sky was sharp blue and cloudless, the world stretching out before them over the harbor islands to the ocean, and from there to the distant horizon. She craned her neck, and looking down eighteen floors below, cars seemed hardly bigger than Matchbox toys, and people were little more than indistinct miniature dolls. Off to her right, the imposing skyscraper they’d been to while shopping yesterday, soared up to dizzying heights, dwarfing the tower they were in now.
Though she wouldn’t say it out loud, Laci didn’t feel as antsy about the height when Karen stood behind her and wrapped her comforting arms around the girl. “You were right, that’s the airport in front of us to the left,” Karen said softly into Laci’s ear.
As if to prove the point, a passenger plane rose up from the clearly visible runway, and seemed to be coming right toward them, growing larger by the second. Laci unconsciously rose up on her tippy-toes as the jet banked to their left and passed over the northern part of the city. “Karen,” she said. “How come we can hardly hear it? It looks really close, and we could hear them yesterday.”
“I imagine they have the building pretty well sound-proofed. People who stay here don’t want to hear jets taking off from Logan all day. Pretty cool though, huh?”
Laci nodded her head slowly. “Yeah. Have you ever flown on a plane like that?”
“A few times.”
“I think I’d be scared. Unless you were with me.” Laci came down from her tippy-toes. “Just like being here. Everybody is so rich, and everything looks so expensive, I’m kinda scared I might break something, or someone might think I’m, like, a slum-bitch loser and call the cops or something. But not so much when I remember you’re with me.”
Laci half expected Karen to dismiss her nervousness and fears as silliness. Instead, Karen tightened her embrace and gently rocked Laci. “It must be pretty nerve wracking for you, everything so new and different from what you’re used to.”
Laci mentally sighed with relief that Karen wasn’t dismissive of her of worries, even though they were probably dumb. Yesterday, she’d been too awestruck to have a chance to be really nervous. But what about later this morning? She didn’t even know what brunch was, and how stupid was that? And Friday, she didn’t even know what a bee day was, so was it really a stretch to think she might unintentionally break something, or say or do something really dumb?
Why should I be surprised she doesn’t blow me off? She loves me, and she knows everything important, and she isn’t going to let me look stupid or clueless. Laci pushed back closer to Karen, and said, simply, “Yeah, but it’s OK when you’re with me, I know you won’t let me break things, or act lame or anything.”
Karen chuckled very softly. “You’ve handled yourself really well this weekend, kitten. I’ve kinda given you a long leash, sort of like seeing how you’d do riding a bike the first time without training wheels. I’m happy to say you’ve made me very, very proud of you.” Karen kissed Laci’s head, and continued, “You’ve handled yourself like an old pro. You should be proud of yourself.”
Laci’s tummy somersaulted delightfully at Karen’s praise. How was it that Karen always seemed to know exactly what to say to make her feel better? Laci simply shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. “Like I said, knowing your there with me makes me feel better.”
Karen brought her hand up, cupped Laci’s chin, and gently tilted the girl’s head back. Karen was just tall enough that Laci could see her whole face, though upside down, from this position. Karen, smiling, softly swooped in and planted her lips firmly on Laci’s. A delightful shudder trickled over Laci, and she returned the lingering kiss. When Karen pulled her lips back, Laci kept her own lips parted as if in anticipation. Karen didn’t disappoint her. Gently holding Laci’s chin, she dipped in and kissed the girl again and again.
Laci made a purring sound in her throat. At last, she brought her head level and turned in Karen’s loose embrace to face her lover. She tucked her head under Karen’s chin and nuzzled her face against the woman’s neck.
Karen rocked herself and Laci side to side, making her own throaty purrs at Laci’s nuzzling. “You give the best kisses, my little Laci baby. You could sell them for a hundred dollars apiece, and I’d buy every last one because I want to keep them all to myself.”
“Me?” Laci looked up at Karen, a smile dancing on her face. “I think your kisses are pretty awesome. If mine are so good, it’s cause you taught me how.”
Karen chuckled and hugged Laci tight. “How am I supposed to argue with that?”
“Touche! Maybe I can’t, but let’s see you argue with this. It’s seven thirty on a Sunday morning, and we have nothing to do until noon at the earliest. Why on earth are we standing around in what’s basically our undies, when there’s a warm bed we can be lazy in just waiting for us.”
Laci giggled, “Yeah, what’s up with that?” Karen released her, and Laci scampered back to the bed, kicking off her scuffies and tucking Bearyanne back in her special den between the pillows. Scuffies or not, her feet were cold from the visit to the window, and it felt good to slide them under the covers.
Karen got in the bed and stretched out on her side. Laci rolled onto her tummy, bent her elbows, and propped her chin on the heel of her hand. Her ear picked up on the music playing over the sound system. Karen Music of some kind. “What music is that?” she asked.
Karen cocked her head, seeming to zero in on the music for the first time. “Mozart, a violin concerto from the sounds of it.”
“What’s that? A violin concerto?”
“Well, a concerto is a bit like a symphony, but it revolves around a solo instrument, like a violin, or a piano, or a cello. The orchestra plays along, but the instrument the concerto is written for, the violin in what’s playing now, is basically the star of the show. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea.”
“Is that what we’re going to tonight?”
Karen laughed, her eyes glowing. “No, baby. We’re going to see two full symphonies by Beethoven. This is very sweet music – powerful in its own way – but Mozart wrote music that could be taken as warm and fuzzy – it isn’t always so, once you get used to the basics, but Beethoven didn’t really do warm and fuzzy. He’s more like thunder and lightning, raging storms and the hand of God, especially the ones being played tonight. They have warm and fuzzy parts, but they’re not at all like the Love Music I usually play for us. You’ll get what I mean when you hear them tonight.”
“I hope I don’t do something stupid and look like a loser to all those rich people.”
Karen laughed. “I think you’re looking at that bass akwards. I think all those rich people need to worry about staring at you and doing something stupid themselves, like stumbling and falling on their faces, or their asses, whatever the case may be.”
“Tch,” Laci clucked her tongue. “Karen, be serious,” she said, but the flush that spread over her belied her skepticism. “Rich guys aren’t like that, they can’t be.”
“Oh no?” Karen said, her eyebrows arching sharply. “And why’s that, Little Miss Eliza Doolittle?”
“’Cause they’re, I dunno, too stuck up to notice things like that.” There was Karen, speaking in riddles again. “Who’s Eliza Doolittle, anyway?” Laci shifted so she could lay her head on Karen’s midriff and look up at her lover.
Karen raked her fingers through Laci’s hair and let it spill like water through her fingers. “No fair, I asked first,” she said, her voice soft and playful. “So,” she continued, “rich guys can’t be ‘like that’ because they’re stuck up? That makes them even more apt to be think they’re all that and a bag of chips. They’re men, sweetie, which means they think with what lives betwixt their legs more often than with what’s atop their necks, rich, poor, or middle class.
“And to answer your question, Eliza Doolittle was a poor woman from the Cockney part of London, a flower girl, in a play by George Bernard Shaw, which you might well read when you take AP English in a couple of years. A ‘rich guy’, Professor Henry Higgins, made a very cynical bet with a friend that he could take this uneducated, poor commoner, and train her so she could pass for royalty – wealthy royalty. And Eliza, being naive and thinking ‘rich guys’ were above such trickery, thought he was teaching her how to be a lady for very noble reasons. But he wasn’t, he was being a rich asshole. No sweetie, like I told you Friday night, rich people, men or women, are not automatically better than you because they have money. Those rich guys will see you tonight and they’ll be undressing you with their eyes and minds.”
Laci sighed. For better or worse, Laci knew Karen was right. Much as she might try to come across as naive about her looks, years of hard experience made her acutely aware of the effect she had on men, including some who were interested in more than just looking and mentally undressing. She’d held out some hope that wealth might cause men to behave with more class. In the end, she wasn’t really surprised it did no such thing.
Laci shifted mental gears. “Did you notice yesterday at the museum that a lot of the places were named after people? Is that because the people were rich and they donated money to, like, buy paintings and sculptures?”
“More or less,” Karen said, still toying with Laci’s hair, a soft smile of affection on her face. “I’m not saying rich people are bad, just not better because of their money. They might love art but not be able to draw a straight line without a ruler, so they become patrons of the arts – which means they’ll buy art, or pay an artist to produce it for them on commission. Or they’ll donate money to museums, or galleries.”
“A gallery, that’s a place that shows art?”
“Mm hmm, usually to sell it, kind of like an art J Crew. There are some really impressive ones on the coast back home, which is where all the pretentiously rich spend their summers and money. When warm weather rolls around, we’ll have to take a weekend and go check them out.”
“That’d be cool. Do you really think I could, like, be a real artist?”
“Honey, baby, yes I do, and I’m not just saying that. Meg sure thinks so.”
Laci quietly scrutinized Karen’s face to judge her sincerity, and she was relieved to see Karen wasn’t just being nice. Thus reassured, and craving validation of sorts she decided to pursue the subject a bit. “You know what I was thinking last night? I think I’d like to try painting. Mr. Belden taught us a little bit about colors and how to make them, that there’s only three colors all the rest come from, red, yellow, and blue, and it only matters how you mix them. He told us about color wheels, which show you what colors to put together to get a new color.”
“Well then, I think we need to find out from Mr. Belden what you need to get started.”
“Are you really going to meet with him about me?”
“You bet your sweet bippy I am. Whether you like it or not – and I have a funny feeling you won’t mind one bit – your teachers, all of them, are going to find out that when it comes to you, there’s a new sheriff in town.”
Laci chuckled at the image of Karen, hands on her hips, foot tapping, telling her math teacher to stop being a dickhead. But a knot of excitement began to smolder in her tummy. Finally, for the first time in her life, she had someone who cared, someone she could talk to about anything and not be told to fuck off.
Laci had a sudden need to love Karen. She climbed atop Karen, and got on her knees. She sat back, and Karen didn’t need any more cue than that to open her legs and bend her knees to create a place for Laci to sit. Laci held out her hands and beckoned with her fingers.
“Oh, so now I suppose you want me to sit up,” Karen said playfully.
“Yup,” Laci said simply. Karen gave Laci her hands, and the girl pulled until Karen was sitting up.
Laci bent her own knees to create a place for Karen to sit, and thus situated they could come together. “It must be nice to be so young and limber that you can sit like that without help. I on the other hand, haven’t been that flexible for at least ten years.”
“Ha!” Laci cried. “You’re plenty flexible when you want to be.”
“Well now, young, flexible, and sassy,” Karen declared. “Who knows what’s next.”
Laci pushed herself close to Karen. A sudden surge of hot emotion as heavy as legs made of lead burst inside her. She wrapped her arms around Karen’s chest, and her face between the woman’s breasts, she hugged her lover as tightly as she could manage. “I love you, Karen,” she said in a quiet but strained voice. “I love you, I love you so much I want to explode.” How did I ever live without her? Laci’s inner voice cried out. How do I deserve her? Why do I deserve her?
Karen tightened her own embrace, and she rocked Laci. “I know you do, my precious baby girl, and I love you. God help me, I love you, don’t ever worry about that, I love you my precious Laci. I do, I do, baby.”
Karen stroked Laci hair, ran her fingers through it, and Laci felt soothed. Tucked as close to Karen as she could get, embracing and embraced, she felt safe and warm. She could almost hear Karen’s heartbeat say, “Love you, love you.” The vibrant sounds of the Love Music Karen chose for them somehow seemed exactly right. She began to not just hear the music, but feel it inside. No wonder Karen listens to music like this, who knew these guys from the olden days could think of music that you can feel inside, and make you warm. Listen to it sing without words, how do they do that?
Thus soothed, Laci could let her other hunger spread out over her and spill like a river of liquid gold inside her tummy. She lifted her head and looked up. Karen looked down, her smile like the one an angel might wear, and her eyes captured Laci. Karen’s brown eyes looked like ponds of dark honey, and Laci could surely drown in them.
Karen’s voice came soft and sonorous. “You are so incredibly beautiful, Laci. How did I ever come to deserve a love as beautiful as you? How is it that I am the one who’s blessed to have your love?”
Laci’s flesh rippled, and something shifted inside, a warmth that settled in her pelvis and swelled. They weren’t just words with Karen, and that gave them a special heat. Laci wordlessly lifted her lips up and snared Karen’s lips. She held her tongue back and simply kissed.
When she momentarily released Karen’s lips, a logy warmth settled over her, and her breathing deepened. She returned her lips to Karen’s and felt the woman’s love in her return kiss. Laci gently opened her mouth and invited Karen’s tongue in for a visit. Karen accepted the offer, and gently nudged it in to play with Laci’s.
Laci shuddered when Karen stroked her nails up then down the girl’s back. Laci signaled her interest by returning the favor. She let herself float in the river. For some reason she didn’t care to pick apart, she had a sudden image of Karen and her on a beach somewhere warm, alone, with the ocean waves lapping at her feet, making her toes sink in the sand. A poem rose up from some song she must have heard somewhere, She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolor in the rain. Don’t bother asking for explanations, she doesn’t give you time for questions, as she locks up your arm in hers, and you follow till your sense of which direction completely disappears. There was no desire to question where the words or the image came from, she simply basked in Karen’s embrace, safe, secure, warm, loved.
Love music in her head, Mozart and the strange but perfect poem, Karen’s tongue caressing hers. Nothing else mattered. Karen pulled her lips back and snuck them to Laci’s ear. A nip on her earlobe, Karen’s warm breath whispering, “My love, my beautiful Laci, my girl, my love.”
Laci didn’t know that she moaned softly. Love is like a drug, oh yes, love is like a drug. She slid her hands up Karen’s neck and her fingers found the nest of Karen’s silky curls, and she gently pulled her lover’s head back to her so she could bring her lips back to Karen’s.
It was like she was half dreaming. The ocean in her mind gave up soft, warm breezes, and it stretched to far away horizons, and her heart surged. Somehow, they let their nimble fingers tug at each others suddenly confining clothes. Hardly letting their lips part, clothes were removed and tossed aside so they could come together unfettered, flesh to flesh, lips to lips, breasts to breasts.
Time had lost meaning. All that mattered was the warmth of being connected to Karen, and feeling the woman’s kisses and caresses. The deliciously throbbing ache in her loins was growing. She opened her eyes, and she was immediately swimming in Karen’s brown eyed gaze. “Lay down, my precious love,” Karen said in a soft voice that seemed to come from inside, and she didn’t argue about who loved who first.
Laci leaned back, letting Karen hold her hands to ease her down. She stared at the ceiling, smiling. Her legs were splayed open, exposing her most intimate parts, her butt on Karen’s chest, her upper body between Karen’s spread legs. Laci was vaguely aware that Karen was resting back against a pile of pillows, her face inches from Laci’s sex.
There was a change in the music, and she knew the melody, a slow, swirling cry of violins, a melody at first associated with sadness, of The Bad Night, but then it became a sound of pure love, she and Karen back on the warm beach, embracing on the sand as they step, swayed, step, swayed to the music.
A memory, just as she felt Karen’s lips on her sex. “It’s beautiful, Karen, what is it?” “Mozart. Elvira Madigan.” But this time, it didn’t make her want to cry except in exultation. Karen’s tongue stroked her sex, and Laci’s passion rose with the music, rising up on the gentle strokes on the piano’s keys. Each stroke of Karen’s tongue seemed to happen just as a piano key was struck. When the piano sang a vibrato note, so Karen’s tongue rattled over her sex, sending shocks of hot pleasure through her.
She felt the sleeve of her sex yielding under Karen’s fingers, opening the magic place never touched or explored by anyone other than Karen, the secret entrance to her as yet undefiled inner body. Laci was hardly aware of her movements or her soft whimpers. She was in a place only Karen could bring her, a place of love and secret passion, a place where Sappho and Anactoria knew the same things she was feeling, and where did that come from, she wondered with a smile.
It was almost as though Karen’s loving tongue was searching inside the secret spots where her passion lay, waking it, and now she was being born aloft on warms winds. How were such things possible, she wondered distantly. No, it didn’t matter how, only that it did happen.
The music turned bright and cheery, fingers rattling on the piano’s keys in perfect time with Karen’s magic kisses with her equally magic tongue. Laci was laughing now, with sheer delight, whether out loud or only in her head she did not know nor did she care.
The music grew more intense, just as the sensations jolting through her body were growing more intense, rising up, carried high into some magic cloud.
When the release came, she was no longer in the clouds, but laying on the beach, the warm waves coming in and breaking over her in soft surges. Would the awe at how anything could feel so much like Heaven ever leave her? Please God, no, she cried inside, but it was a smiling cry because as long as it was Karen bringing her, it would always be like Heaven.
She lay there panting, and the dreamy image of laying in the warm surf on a faraway beach was slow to leave. The clouds reluctantly gave way to the ceiling, the beach to the luxurious bed, the waves to Karen’s savoring the wine Laci’s young body gave up. The odd song from somewhere deep in her memory, released for it’s visit above, lingered as a reminder. But the drumbeat strains of the night remain, In the rhythm of the new-born day.
No, it mattered not a whit where she heard the song that locked itself in her brain, nor how it was released, or why it came to her. It only mattered because it was there.
Brunch as a concept was foreign to Laci. Who knew, she thought, that there was an entire meal mixing breakfast and lunch. Karen told her it wasn’t even something indulged in only by the wealthy, or as Karen put it, the blue-blood country club set. Plenty of more or less ordinary restaurants back home had them.
It was almost noon when they headed down to the restaurant. The residue of the morning’s passion lingered like a pleasant summer breeze. While it wasn’t actually familiar to Laci, at least the restaurant wasn’t completely foreign anymore. Perhaps half the tables were occupied by people in casual dress, many in jeans, which assuaged some of her fears about standing out as too casually dressed in her coral pink and black print tunic top, midnight blue leggings, and ankle boots.
Laci sat down and softly thanked the pleasingly plump hostess, who gave her the menu. “Your server will be Annalisa,” she said in a genuinely bright voice. “Can I have her bring you something to drink?”
Karen thought for a second or two, then said, “I believe I’ll have an Irish Coffee, with a bottle of whatever sparkling water you have.”
“That would be Poland Spring. And for the lovely young lady?” she smiled at Laci.
Laci hesitated for a second. “Umm, I think I’d like a hot chocolate and a glass of orange juice. I can have both?”
“Oh absolutely, you sure can. Would you like some marshmallows in the hot chocolate?”
“Ummm, sure, if I can?” she said softly, almost shyly.
“Of course you can, dear. OK Ill have Annalisa bring these right out for you.”
When they were alone, Laci said, “What’s an Irish Coffee?”
“It’s a coffee with sugar, heavy cream, and a shot of Irish whiskey.”
Laci scrunched up her nose. “Yuck! Sounds awful. I didn’t know you liked whiskey.”
“I like it once in a great while in certain drinks.”
Laci looked down at her menu. Most of the stuff was at least familiar. It didn’t appear there was anything resembling octopus or the like on the menu. Her gaze fell on something instantly recognizable which she knew she liked. “I think I’m gonna have the buttermilk blueberry pancakes,” she announced.
“That sounds good. Be careful, they use real maple syrup here, not the fake Log Cabin stuff. It’s got a much stronger maple taste.”
“That’s OK. Is it true that they make maple syrup from tree sap?”
“Yup, it’s true. They collect it in buckets and boil it down until it’s a syrup. They usually start collecting the sap right about now. There are all kinds of places that make it at home. Maybe in a couple of weeks, we can go visit a sugar house – the French in Quebec call it a cabane a sucre — where it’s made. My grandfather used to do it.”
“Really,” Laci said, a mildly surprised look on her face. “Your grandfather sounds like he was a real character.”
“He was that and then some.”
“So what did he do? How do you get the sap from the tree.”
“Well, he didn’t make much, just enough to last him a year, and to give some to family, so he didn’t have a big operation. He’d take a tap, which is a cone-shaped metal thing with a hole in the narrow end and lip on the wide end, and a hook underneath, and he’d hammer it into a hole he drilled in the tree trunk, and hang a bucket from a hook. Once you get enough sap, you boil it down until all that’s left is syrup.”
“That’d be cool, I’d like to see that. I think I would’ve like to know your grandfather.”
“I think he would have loved you to pieces, given you tractor rides and told you lies about things he claimed were true.”
At that, the server came with their drinks. Karen said they were ready to order. “I’ll have the eggs Benedict, with a croissant and raspberry compote on the side.”
When it was Laci’s turn, she ordered her blueberry pancakes. The smell of her hot chocolate was rich and inviting, and a dollop of marshmallow swam over the surface. She took a sip and immediately decided it tasted like a melted chocolate bar, nothing at all like the powdered kind she was familiar with.
The server Annalisa came out with their breakfast plates. Laci’s plate held a stack of four pancakes, each as big as the plate, and it came with a crockery carafe of maple syrup and a small cup with whipped butter that smelled a bit like vanilla. She looked at Karen’s plate, with its English muffins topped with eggs and some sort of yellow sauce. “What the heck is that?” she asked.
“Eggs Benedict, English muffin halves with a slice of ham, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce – that’s a sauce made from egg yolks and a little bit of butter and lemon. Very good. How are you pancakes?”
“Umm, Karen,” Laci said ominously, “they’re better than yours.”
Karen laughed. “At least it took a four star chef to do better.” She sipped her fortified coffee and dove into her eggs. The Eggs Benedict looked like it was worth trying sometime, Laci decided. It didn’t appear radically different from an Egg McMuffin. Maybe she could get Karen to show her how to make it some weekend morning.
For the next twenty minutes, Karen regaled her with memories of previous trips to the Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, the USS Constitution, the USS Cassin, a Navy destroyer very much like the one her grandfather was on in World War Two, Fenway Park, and other Boston landmarks. Maybe when it was warm, Karen said, they could come back and do a tour of the sites. That, Laci decided, was something she would love to do.
Laci managed to eat less than half of her pancakes, and she felt guilty about wasting so much food. There was no way however, that she could eat any more. The maple syrup had been an especially pleasant discovery. Karen was right, it was nothing like Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima.
“If your finished, I want to get moving,” Karen said. “If I sit still for five minutes after a breakfast that rich, I’ll fall asleep.”
It had been a hectic day already, starting with loving, then brunch, followed by the visit to the observation deck of the Prudential Center, which was just one more entry in a line of stunning things she’d experienced this weekend. At the height they were at, itself dizzyingly disorienting, they were able to look out over the whole city, the world stretching out before them. They could even see the baseball field in the near distance, Fenway Park, which she’d seen on TV a couple of times. And Boston Commons, even in the midst of winter, was a marvel awaiting spring to reach its full grandeur.
Then, it had been warm enough for them to walk back along Newberry Street, looking in all the shops. It shocked her when Karen, without so much as batting an eyelash, spent two hundred dollars on a silver and pearl Eden’s Garden hair comb from J. Crew for her to wear to the concert, and then another hundred dollars on a plum colored clutch to match the new cocktail dress Karen bought yesterday, and which she now had on. It made Laci wince. Her instinct was to protest Karen spending so much on her. However, she’d already been scolded on the subject. Karen knew what she could and couldn’t afford.
And now Karen was fussing over her as if she were an artist in her own right, working on a masterpiece. Had it been anyone other than Karen fussing over her, Laci would have been annoyed and grouchy. She trusted Karen implicitly, so she sat and let her lover fuss.
Karen ran a brush through Laci’s hair with care and tenderness. She pulled the right side back behind Laci’s ear and placed the comb to hold it back. “Laci,” she murmured. “You are going to break some hearts, and feed a lot of fantasies tonight.”
“What do you mean?” Laci said.
“Honey, one of the things that makes you so incredibly special is that you truly don’t grasp how beautiful you are. I’d say it’s even odds that you are going to be the most beautiful girl or woman there tonight.”
“What about you?” Laci cried.
Karen chuckled. “What about me?” Karen took Laci’s chin in her hand so she could look directly at her. “Let me fuss, OK? I want the high and mighty to see what real beauty looks like, let them see it doesn’t necessarily come only from their rarified air. Just let me fuss over you. Humor me.” Karen, dressed only in pantyhose, a half slip, and a bra, stood and looked at Laci. “Stand up so I can see.” Laci stood, a small smile on her face. When Karen said, “Turn so I can see you from behind,” Laci did so.
Karen was clearly taking this very seriously. She shook her head and murmured, “Gorgeous, just breathtaking. Honey, this is going to be an evening you’ll remember for a very long time. Don’t mind me if I seem fussy.”
“What about makeup? Should I wear any?”
“Well, you don’t need much, maybe a touch of lipstick, a tiny bit of eye shadow, a little mascara, and that’s all you need Baby-girl. You can go ahead and do that while I get dressed.”
Laci pawed through her makeup bag and took out a tube of something she thought would look good, a soft pink satin that always served her well. After lipstick and a bit of gloss, she brushed on her eye shadow and mascara, and only then did she allow herself to pose in front of the mirror. She had to admit, the plum cap-sleeve cocktail dress was gorgeous, and it fit like a glove. She also had to admit, the look she gained with her hair pulled back and held in place by the comb was very flattering. Her wrists were adorned with the watch and bangles Karen had gotten her a few weeks earlier. Those would always be special to her. Even though they weren’t especially high-heeled – they certainly weren’t stilettos – she felt a bit awkward in her pumps. The only way to get used to heels was practice.
Karen came up behind her. Karen looked devastating to Laci, dressed in her knee length black pencil skirt, ivory silk blouse, and black bolero jacket. Who’s calling who beautiful? Laci silently mused.
“Here,” Karen said. “I want you to wear these,” she said, laying out a gold heart-pendant necklace, and a pair of matching earrings. “My mother gave them to me for my birthday when I was just about your age, now I want you to have them.”
Laci realized this was no spur of the moment decision on Karen’s part. She had obviously brought them along for this express purpose. Laci felt on the verge of tears. “Why do you do things like this for me?”
“Well, first off, because I love you. Besides that, beautiful girls deserve beautiful things. Humor me, sweetie, just humor me, OK?”
Laci sighed. She didn’t have much choice. “I didn’t get you anything special. All you’ve done all weekend is spend on me, and I haven’t been able to get you anything.”
“Yes you have, kitten. You just don’t realize it yet. You’ve given me way more than you can understand right now.”
Laci sighed again. Karen had a way of talking in confounding riddles, but that was just the way she was. There was no sense in fretting over it. She lifted her hair so Karen could slip on the necklace and clasp it in place. She removed her own cheap costume earrings, and put on the ones from Karen.
“Let me have one last look at you before we get going.” She held Laci at arms length and inspected her. “Perfect.” Before heading out, Karen checked her purse, murmuring the inventory aloud. “Visa Card, American Express, room key, wallet with cash, lipstick, hankies, that’s everything. Laci honey, do you have your room key? Carry it with you just in case. And bring your gloves, just in case it’s cold after the symphony.”
Karen helped Laci slip on her pea coat before donning her own knee length bridge coat. Laci followed Karen out the door. She took one last look, and she had the oddest feeling that when they came back, nothing was ever going to be the same again.
If someone had rolled out a red carpet when the door of the hotel’s limousine opened, it wouldn’t have shocked Laci. As if I needed to be reminded I’m in a different world,” she mused.
Around them, people, couples, small groups, men, women, even a few kids in her own age group strolled with casual ease toward the granite steps leading to the pillared entrance of the symphony hall. It sent a pleasant thrill rippling through her, making her break out into goosebumps.
Karen stepped over to her, an amused smile playing across her face. “What do you think, honey?” Karen said, offering Laci her arm.
Laci’s face beamed like a July sun. “Oh Karen,” she cried, hugging her mother-lover’s arm. “This is sooo awesome!”
Karen chuckled with delighted warmth. She leaned over and risked planting a peck on Laci’s nose. For a moment, their eyes simply embraced. “God, how I love you,” Karen murmured only loud enough for Laci to hear.
Laci was surprised at the small tremor in her voice and tiny bump in her chest when she said, as softly as a snowflake, “I love you.” Yet again, she wondered how it was possible to love someone so much it ached.
“Come, baby,” Karen said, standing erect and resplendent. “Let’s go in.”
They made their way, arm in arm, up the steps. The eight columns of the entrance to the hall might well have been part of the Acropolis for all their power to awe Laci. The as yet small crowd of concertgoers were clustered in knots about the entrance doors. “Be ready, honey,” Karen said. “They’re going to want to look in your purse when we get to the door.”
Laci reluctantly released Karen’s arm. Her clutch, carried mostly as an accessory to her outfit, held simply a tube of lipstick, a bottle of gloss, her room key, and a hankie. Just inside the spacious, ornately decorated lobby, an usher peaked discreetly into her clutch and simply smiled and nodded his head.
Laci looked around, taking in her surroundings and noticed the way everyone, men and women, looked at them, some doing subtle double takes. Karen gently nudged her to the coat check window. “We’ll give them our coats to hang up for us so we don’t have to hold them in our laps.”
Laci shed her gloves first, then her pea coat, at last revealing herself to the other concertgoers. She nervously toyed with the Eden’s Garden comb nestled in her luxuriant mane. Karen slipped off her coat, draped it over her arm with Laci’s atop it, and strode to the window where coat check clerks took their garments and gave tickets in return.
Laci was uncomfortably aware there were now more and longer glances at her, and it left her feeling like a light attracting moths and beetles on a summer evening. Most were subtle, and not too bad, but some were flagrant leers even with a significant other at the ogler’s side. The feeling she was being mentally undressed by an assortment of mostly middle-age, successful, wealthy members of the social elite was enough to make her skin crawl. It was one thing when a guy near her own age did double takes and cast sidelong glances, that was to be expected. Being stripped by men old enough to be her grandfather was another thing altogether.
Laci was rescued from her unpleasant ruminations when Karen turned back and smiled at her, and a little shiver trickled over the girl. They looped their arms together, for all anyone else knew a mother and her beautiful daughter. Laci pulled herself erect and put on a bearing that might dispel the naivete she was sure she projected. Act like you’ve been here before, she admonished herself.
Karen took their tickets from her clutch and glanced at them. “Let’s see if we can find where we have to go,” she said, looking for a “You Are Here” map. “Orchestra Section Four, Row R,” she said aloud.
A young usher came up to them, and smiled. “May I help you find your seats, Ma’am?”
“Why yes, thank you,” Karen said with a smile, and she showed the tickets.
“Ah, Center Orchestra, section 4, Row R, seats 20 and 19. Would you like me to escort you? Or would you prefer verbal directions so you can enjoy refreshments before taking your seats?”
Karen looked at Laci, then looked at the usher and said with ironic gravitas, “Just point us in the right direction, if you would be so kind sir, and we’ll take it from there.”
The young man stole a glance at Laci, swallowed noticeably, and said, “Yes, Ma’am. Right this way.” He led them to center doors, and glanced at the ticket again to assure himself he was directing them properly. “Go passed the crosswalk aisle, to the middle aisle, and Row R is about a third of the way down, your seats are on the left, two seats from the aisle.”
Laci’s attention was on Karen, not on the hall itself. She watched her lover carefully so she might take her cues from Karen on how she should act.
“Thank you,” Karen smiled. “We shouldn’t have trouble finding them.”
The young usher gave Laci one last, furtive glance. Laci wasn’t sure what to do, so she simply flashed a quick smile. At last, Karen led Laci into the concert hall proper, and the girl’s breath caught.
They stood at the rear of the hall, the aisles and seats sloping down toward the stage before them, not unlike a movie theater, but much bigger, deeper, and more profound. Above them, a double set of balcony seats ran nearly the full circumference of hall. Tucked away in niches in the walls above the second level balcony were statues that looked to be figures from ancient Greece or Rome of the type in the Museum of Fine Arts dome mural.
What really caught her attention though, was the triple banks of gleaming brass organ pipes, though Laci didn’t yet know what they were.
Laci’s hand instinctively squeezed Karen’s. “Look!” she whispered. “What is that, Karen?”
Karen murmured, “A pipe organ.
“That’s an organ? Ohmygod! Are they going to play it tonight?”
“No, I don’t think so, kitten. These symphonies don’t have any organ parts in them.” Karen’s smile and the way her eyes sparkled clearly showed her pleasure at Laci’s reaction. “Pretty amazing anyway,” Karen said.
“I – just…” and her voice trailed off, at a loss for words.
“Exactly,” Karen said without irony. “OK,” she continued, bringing herself back to earth. “What seat do you want, the inside one, or the outside. It doesn’t matter, there’ll be people on either side of us, so there’s no escaping your fate, you have to sit next to a stranger.”
Laci shrugged and smiled. “As long’s it’s not a dirty old man.”
Karen secretly pinched Laci’s side, and made the girl squirm and giggle. “You’re bad,” Karen beamed.
Laci looked mischievously at Karen and darted her tongue out in a flash. Karen crossed her eyes and flashed her tongue at Laci until they were both giggling uncontrollably. Staid people standing around them, chatting importantly with colleagues and friends, scowled at the attractive woman and the girl who were so mirthful, and then forgave their impertinence because of Laci’s beauty.
“OK,” Laci said, giggles tapering. “I’ll go inside.”
No one else was sitting in their row yet, so Laci reached her seat with ease. When she sat down, she arranged herself in a way that she hoped would appear adult, as if she’d been in similar circumstances before. She crossed her legs, fluffed out her hair and adjusted her dress so she could comfortably hold her clutch in her lap. Only after Karen sat down did she allow herself to finally take in everything.
It seemed as if they were at eye level with the orchestra, which itself was mere yards away. She at last took note of the musicians scattered about the stage, and the seemingly incoherent tintinnabulations they made with their instruments. Now that it was just her and Karen, she felt safe asking questions. “What are they doing? Up on the stage?”
“Tuning their instruments, trying to work the kinks out and get ready for the concert.”
“Why do they have to tune their instruments? Aren’t they already tuned? And how can they tell with everyone else doing the same thing?”
“Well, to you and me their instruments might be perfectly tuned, but musicians are very precise and picky about those things. Things like the humidity and temperature can change the tune enough for them to notice.”
Karen patiently pointed out the instruments for Laci, and where they fit in the orchestra. Laci listened intently, taking it all in, and every so often she’d ask a question about this instrument or that.
It didn’t take long for the hall to fill up. At one point, she and Karen had to stand so a well-dressed middle aged couple, who, in all honesty looked a bit snooty, slid passed to take their seats next to Laci. At first, it appeared the man was going to sit next to her, but through some silent means of communication, they shuffled around so the woman took that seat. Laci glanced at Karen, who was trying to disguise an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.
Laci felt a pang as she realized Karen had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of incredibly expressive smiles. Laci grasped that this smile of hers had something to do with the seating arrangements of the couple next to her.
It surprised Laci when the lady spoke to her after getting situated. She actually had a warm smile. “Well, I must say it’s nice to see such a beautiful young lady here for tonight’s performance.”
Caught off guard, Laci blushed and managed to mumble, “Thank you.”
“Have you been here for a performance before?”
Laci squirmed a bit, feeling out of her element. Karen was still smiling, and she didn’t seem inclined to rescue Laci. Laci sensed it was important to be polite and answer questions, so she looked up shyly from under her lashes and said softly, “No ma’am, this is my first concert. Ever.” Prob’ly thinks I’m some loser from the boonies or something, Laci thought.
“Really? Well, you’re certainly diving right into the thick of things. This should be very memorable for your first concert.”
“I’m anxious for it to start, my – Mom says it’s going to be amazing.”
The lady looked over at Karen, and they made eye contact, and both women wore small, enigmatic smiles. “Your mother is a wise woman.”
Laci, unused to talking with reasonably intelligent adults beyond Karen and her teachers, wanted Karen to rescue her. “I think so, too,” she managed.
At last, it seemed Karen took pity on her, and rescued her from further discomfiture. She touched Laci’s arm and said, “Look at this, honey.”
Laci smiled at the lady and turned her attention to Karen. “What?” she said, curious.
“Oh, nothing,” Karen said very softly. “You just looked like you’d suffered enough having to talk to a stranger.”
Laci rolled her eyes and clucked her tongue, realizing she’d been had. Karen winked at her, and Laci melted inside. This particular smile of Karen’s was playful and teasing. “You’re being bad,” Laci murmured.
“You survived,” Karen said. “It’s good for you to know how to be polite when in public at places like this. You’re one of those girls who’s going to draw attention wherever you go.”
Before she could answer, Laci noticed all of the musicians had come out and now sat in their chairs, all of them seeming to do some sort of last minute fine tuning. She also noticed that the hall was full now, all of the seats taken.
Then, without any special cue, a hush came over the hall. It was about to start. The knot in her tummy clenched harder, and her heart thudded. The feeling of anticipation was almost sexual, and it was not lost on her that half a year ago, if someone told her she’d be this excited over a Karen-music concert, she would have laughed and said, “Yeah, as if.”
Laci squeezed Karen’s hand and looked up at her mother-lover with undisguised glee. Without fanfare, an ordinary looking middle age guy in a tuxedo came striding across the stage, while everyone started clapping. The man bounded onto the podium, and the hair on the back of Laci’s neck stood up while a shiver trickled over her.
After only a few seconds of applause, the man turned to the orchestra, raised his hands, and without prelude, he bade it thunder out with an astounding volume and force, “DA DA DA DAHHHH! DA DA DA DAHHHHH!
An inner burst of glee came over her. Yes! She had heard this before, its familiarity was surprising, but the familiarity was no more than that, an I’ve heard this before sort of thing. Hearing it now was almost shocking. It was filled with an in-your-face power she never would have thought to associate with her idea of Karen music. She watched, transfixed. The music suddenly went softer, almost sensual yet still urgent, then growing to thunder forth again, kettle drums booming like explosions of cannons, and the brass instruments hollering, demanding attention.
Laci was surprised at how grand and explosive the music was, surely as thundering as any heavy metal concert, yet without one single bit of unnatural amplification. How, she marveled, could it go from demanding shouts, to soft, gentle string strokes, then instantly bellowing again? Oh yes, she understood now what Karen meant when she said this Beethoven music was like thunder and lightning, earthquakes and volcanoes.
But then, at times the music would drop low and soft, a lonely instrument crying by itself, only for everything to suddenly explode again. Then, instruments talking back and forth, one set crying out, the other repeating the same thing in it’s own peculiar voice. Then finally, everything seemed to come to a crashing end.
Then, silence. She frowned up at Karen, who smiled back, leaned over and whispered, “That’s just the first movement, the first chapter.”
After perhaps ten seconds, the music started again, yet this time it was the bigger string instruments sounding warm, almost mellow and brown colored. The violins caressed, the woodwinds wandered fields, but she knew it must only be leading up to something more grand, and she was right; it was rising, upping the tension.
It went on like this, soft, warm sounds gradually climbing a hill, perhaps pausing along the way to sing to the sky, seeming to rest for a moment, then higher and higher, until the tension was almost unbearable. Then, everything cried out in a sort of announcement for all to heed, like the herald of trumpets in an old movie about castles and kings and queens. It went back and forth like this, soft rising, rising, rising, then bursting forth in a triumphant cry.
She noticed on an intuitive level that there were several distinct yet interwoven levels of music going on, as if a group of people were talking at each other about the same thing, each seemingly impressed by a slightly different aspect and they needed to express it their own way, different points of view about the same thing. How on earth could anyone hear something like this, and then take Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber seriously again? How can I get what’s going on, and get it just like Karen explained it, it’s like a story in music, not like stupid Rap or metal, how come I get it even though I’ve hardly ever heard stuff like this? Like this morning, it’s weird.
Several times, the music did things she didn’t expect. Instead of thundering in a call to arms as it had before, it would float down like a leaf borne on a light breeze. This Beethoven guy, she thought, you can’t take stuff for granted with him, he’ll trick you if you aren’t paying attention. She had no idea just how sophisticated her intuitive grasp was.
All Laci knew was that she was utterly captivated. She didn’t realize she was leaning forward, as if in anticipation. It was almost as if she could see the music flowing from the instruments, swirling like eddies of snow in a blizzard, or like she might see in an old Looney Tunes cartoon.
Things like this just didn’t happen in her old world. That was her first faint inkling that she may have come from that world, but she was not of that world. She had the faint, distant sense that this was the world she was meant for. It was not a feeling she resisted.
It went on like this, the music sometimes predictable, other times not, but never once was it boring or uninteresting. It went from the sounds of violins creeping through the reeds while a drum tapped softly, ominously, making her tense in anticipation. Then everything went crescendo, and exploded in a triumphant cry from a mountain top.
Every now and then, she would glance at Karen and wonder how Karen knew this was a place she was supposed to be on this very night.
At last, it came to a coda, seeming to promise a conclusion, yet several promises melded into more promises of a conclusion. It was only when the music spilled out like a puddle spreading out on the sidewalk, and with a rumble of the tympani, that it was finally over.
People stood and cheered with genuine enthusiasm. “Karen!” Laci cried with great excitement, clapping her hands and bouncing on her tippy-toes. She was beginning to really, truly believe that nothing would ever be the same after tonight. “That was awesome!”
“Isn’t it? Didn’t it just grab you, sweetie?”
“Yes! Yes! It grabbed me, and shook me! How come I never noticed it before?”
The applause died down, and there was a restless stirring in the audience as people stood up and stretched, and the musicians mopped their brows and fiddled with their instruments, relentlessly refining their sound.
“There’s going to be about a fifteen minute break while everyone catches their breath,” Karen said, “and the choral singers get in place. Remember how I told you there’s singing at the end?.”
“Uh huh,” Laci nodded. In her limited frame of reference, she’d imagined singing like a Miley Cyrus might sing with a few back up singers. Somehow, after what she just experienced, that wasn’t likely to be the case. Her excitement quickly burst out anew. “Karen! You were right, it was like there was a story being told, a real story, just like in a movie.”
“See? You do get it. If you thought that was impressive, this next one will blow you away. In this one, it was like he was calling out to a big crowd. In this next one, it’s like he’s calling out to the whole world. But at the same time, it’s very personal. Look Baby-girl, I don’t want to ruin it for you. I want you to experience it for yourself, without my opinions cluttering it up for you. It’ll speak to you in your own way. Beethoven does that, he speaks to everyone, not just the rich, or musicians, or arty-types, he speaks to us each in our own way if we let him. That’s what makes him so special.”
Forty-five minutes ago, Laci wouldn’t really have understood what Karen was saying, not really understood. Now…
There was a fresh stirring as the choral singers filed in to their place behind the orchestra. Everybody started sitting down. After sitting, Karen and Laci subtly let their hands com together and embrace. Once the singers were situated, the hall grew quiet, and the conductor came back out, climbed the podium, bowed, faced the orchestra, and…
Laci was caught a bit off guard. She expected a thundering start in the way of the first piece, but it started out softly, a low moan of the woodwinds, the distant sounds of the strings, before suddenly rising in a discordant mishmash of strings, woodwinds, and brass before crashing into thundering percussion collision, only to drop back down and repeat itself all over.
By the start of the final movement, Laci was totally and utterly in the thrall of the performance. It was as if there wasn’t another soul near her except Karen. She got the very odd and somehow thrilling sensation that somewhere up ahead, not much further along, there was something very important for her to see and hear.
It might have, in another time and place, felt strangely eerie, but tonight it felt as if everything was leading her to this one special place. It was all for her, as if the composer had been visualizing her when he composed the piece. That was, of course, utterly absurd, she told herself, but it was nonetheless the sense she got as the final movement opened and announced it’s theme and began to unfold.
Before it was far into the final movement, Laci became distantly aware that something extraordinary really was happening. It was as if she were hypnotized. Her eyes fixated on the up and down sweep of the violin bows, the intense concentration of the brass players, the sonorous moan of the woodwinds, everything combining into a seamless whole.
But that wasn’t the most extraordinary thing. No, the amazing thing was a sense of déjà vu. Though she’d never heard this music before, it felt as though she was always a step ahead of what was being played, as though she had heard it before, and was anticipating what was to come next.
And not only did she feel a step ahead, she was seeing it, even more now than the vague sense she had in the other symphony. The music she’d never heard before was unfolding in her mind like a splash of colors on a canvas, colors with odd but meaningful forms, swaying and roiling in time with the music.
She unconsciously wrapped her arms around Karen’s arm, as if it was a life pole Laci needed to cling to or be swept away by a tempest.
Her eyes stayed riveted on the orchestra and the choir. She didn’t notice Karen smiling ever so softly at her, as if Karen understood what was going on inside Laci.
Something about the music was about to change, she knew it, it was getting ready to turn a corner. Somewhere around that corner, she was sure, was the very important thing, important to her, almost meant precisely for her. The turn around the corner was very subtle. A low, sonorous moan of the bass violins making her head sway almost imperceptibly in time with it’s message. It melded into a clearer picture of muted lights drawn by the violins, cellos, and oboes, soft and gentle as yet. Their message was still faint and indistinct.
The violins went up an octave and shushed and swayed together, gently higher, like an eddy of smoke. In time the music grew subtly more urgent, until the brass and tympani crashed, loud and clear. But oh no, this was only the start of the path she needed to be on.
The violins cried like sheets of rain blown by the wind, and all came together and fell softly like leaves. Then! A cry of the orchestra, loud and demanding. A man stood and called out in a deep voice in a language she didn’t understand. Nonetheless, she saw exactly what he was saying. People, singers, facing each other, echoed the deep voiced man singer. The man’s singing was colored a faint mahogany, swirling like an ocean wave. Punching back against the mahogany wave were the sharp silver cries of high, piercing female voices, all picked up and echoed by the chorus.
She swore she heard the chorus at two points sing, “Must be a glorious thing we see,” and “The moon lights up the evening sky.” Surely that couldn’t be right, she thought vaguely, the language wasn’t English, but it’s what she heard, and it made perfect sense to her.
The singing went back and forth, pushing ahead, pushing back, joining together, breaking off, melding again, growing shrill and urgent and cacophonous, cresting like a breaking wave, and…..
Then, like the croak of a bullfrog, the contrabassoon woke up. Six heartbeats and the oboes and flutes rose and answered. The bassoons and clarinets joined in a cheery dance. A different man with a higher voice stood up and sang as if he were dancing down the street to meet a lover, and oh the important thing was getting close, she could feel it in her soul, the thing was getting so close! The cheery dance was a diversion.
The choir joined the man, and the music went crescendo, lifting her, carrying her, letting her down just at the point where she had to be so she could have her date with her destiny.
Suddenly, she knew she had to hurry! The music was frenetic now, demanding she run, run, and she was running, frantically running, running away, running to, her hair streaming out behind her as she tore madly through the dark woods, running away, away from something chasing her, but running to something brighter, hotter, even more urgent! She had to flee, but she had to arrive, and it was almost painful. On it went, violin bows punching the air again and again, her breathing ragged and painful, but she had to keep going! There was no question of stopping in the dark woods. She flew over obstacles in her path. Oh it seemed like it would never end, she would never get there on time, she wouldn’t be able to escape the monster chasing her.
Suddenly, the music pulled up short. Almost too late she came to a screeching halt at the edge of a vast, yawning chasm, the entrance to the dark abyss. On the other side, bathed in light, was what – who — she was running to. Karen, standing on the opposite ledge, smiling, beckoning, and Laci knew she had to jump, the dark thing was still chasing her — but the chasm. She felt and saw herself hesitate. Like the old schoolyard cry, “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready…”
And she was flying, soaring, carried by the throbbing, triumphant cries of a thousand angel voices wrapping around her, carrying her safely across the chasm, and dropping her into Karen’s waiting arms.
Laci was weeping openly, unaware of her tears, every hair on her body seeming to stand up straight, her heart racing like a frightened rabbit’s. She clung to Karen’s arm as if her very life depended on it. But everything was light! She was freed at last. The Mother-Monster she was running from couldn’t leap the chasm as she had done.
Now she was safe.
And she was loved.
Karen turned and gathered her as close as the seats would allow. She held the sobbing Laci in her embrace, rocking her. Laci looked up at Karen, and it was if she were looking through a rain streaked window pane. She was only dimly aware that she was crying. Her insides quivered and hummed like a sharply struck tuning fork. Karen simply looked at her with a beatific smile, and kissed her forehead.
This is real Love Music, flashed through Laci’s brain.
The lady next to Laci looked at Karen with more than a little alarm on her face. She mouthed, “Is she alright?”
Karen continued to wear her beatific smile. She mouthed back, “She’ll be fine, a little overwhelmed.”
Laci barely noticed the final few minutes of the concert. When the music ended, the audience erupted in a tremendous ovation, shouts of “Bravo! Bravo!” punctuating the general cheering. It went on and on, but Laci didn’t seem to even be aware of it. She was still reeling inside, the music searing relentlessly into her soul.
Laci blinked and looked up at Karen. “I saw angels,” she said. “They carried me to you.”
“They must have been beautiful,” Karen answered over the applause.
When the ovation ended, the lady next to Laci seemed quite concerned. “Is she going to be alright?”
“Oh, she’ll be fine, just a little overwhelmed,” Karen said, a calm Madonna-like serenity emanating from her.
The lady opened her purse and pulled out several tissues, which she handed to Karen. “I have a feeling,” she said, “as good as the performance was, no one got it quite like your lovely daughter did. We get older and jaded, and we forget just how incredibly powerful old Ludwig can be.”
“Thank you. That is so very true. The Hand of God through the hand of Beethoven.”
“Indeed. I doubt I’ll forget this particular performance for a very long time. God be with you and your beautiful daughter.”
It was only when they were outside in the cool night air that Laci started to really return from the inner place she’d been in. Still, she felt dazed. Karen hugged her close and rocked her. “I guess that was a pretty intense experience for you. I have a feeling that’s exactly the kind of thing Beethoven wanted people to experience.”
“Karen, I saw the music. In my head. It was like I knew what was coming, and the music had colors and it moved. And then I was running – away, but to you. There was a big space, and I had to jump to get to you. I was scared, but I did it, and I saw angels. They carried me to you. Please don’t think I’m a loony tunes.”
“Laci, baby, don’t say things like that. I believe you honey. I know that angels are real, because they really did bring you to me. I think I knew that a while ago. They brought you to me for a reason. Come baby, let’s find a taxi to take us back to the hotel so we can unwind. I think I could use a glass of wine.”
Once again, Laci woke in the middle of the night needing to pee. Truth be told, her sleep had been restless and filled with odd but vivid dreams, dreams of being a little girl yet her current self at the same time, finding herself somewhere that was a confused mix of various places she’d lived, and some places her brain simply created. She was fighting with her mother over a pet cat, trying to find a taxi so she could go somewhere with the cat. It made no sense, but it lingered even as she grabbed Bearyanne and headed for the bathroom.
There was no curiosity about the bidet this night. Her brain simply hummed with a restless energy, vaguely turning over the dream. As she slowly returned to the bedroom, the memory of what she’d experienced a few hours earlier rose up to push the dream aside.
Laci paused and stood at the window looking out over the lights of the city. The music started to play in her head, and a few small tears trickled from eyes. Her heart started to speed up. The memory came back in full force. She had seen angels, she was sure of it. They had carried her over the chasm to Karen, leaving her old self behind.
At last, she hugged Bearyanne and whispered, “I’m not a little kid anymore. That’s gone now. But I’ll never let you go, Bearyanne, ever. I promise.”
She turned and shuffled back to the bed. She climbed in, put Bearyanne in her usual position between the pillows, and pushed herself as close to Karen as she could. “I love you, Karen,” she whispered, and she breathed in the soothing fragrance of her savior. The lines as she heard them lingered, “Must be a glorious thing we love,” and “The moon lights up the evening sky.
And she drifted into a calmer sleep, oddly comforted.