It’s one of those days. A phone call (or none). A letter. A cloud over the tree. Wallie the Imp and I are not our usual cheerful selves. And as usual, when no spoken word can work out the knots in a melancholy mood, the written word sometimes comes through just right. It’s time for contemplation, an apocalypse, a woman not of this world and a man who very much is. It’s time for a little low music.
She traced her fingertips over the keys. Her touch left the barest pearl-gray shine through the thin layer of dust.
“This grief,” she said. “It is nearly unbearable.”
Edwin turned. He saw how pale she was.
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, it is.”
Elaina felt a sudden pain. She raised her hand to her constricted throat.
“How do you bear it?” she said. Her voice was pitiful.
“Come here,” said Edwin, quietly. “I will tell you.”
She sat beside him.
Edwin rested his hands on the piano keys. Gently, almost carefully, he began to play. Elaina felt something hot and wet spill down her cheek and chin. It was a beautiful tune, the one she had heard when they first met as he performed in the great concert hall to a quiet audience of empty chairs. And now as before, there was a moving sentiment in this simple, unadorned piece.
“That is the nature of this world,” said Edwin. His low voice startled her. “We lose much, and suffer much, but you must not forget that there is a purpose behind it. God’s design is never anything less than beautiful, and though we suffer now, the pain will ease, and be entirely forgot when we too pass on to that place where all the faces we love, the very goodness and beauty we long for, are no more a memory or dream but a reality and truth. That is how I bear sorrow, Elaina. In knowing that what we enjoy here is but a shadow of what will come.”
She bit her lip. “You always see light, even in darkness.”
“I would not see it,” he replied, “but for God’s mercy—but for His Son.”
Elaina looked aside.
For an instant they sat together. When Edwin’s melody abruptly ceased, Elaina turned to him, wondering and pained.
“Could you—rest your hands over mine?” he asked. “Just for a moment.”
She frowned. “Why?”
“Because I want to feel you with me,” he said. “Because though I know it will pass, I am so very—”
Elaina placed her fingers lightly over his. She laid her cheek against his shoulder, and felt him tremble.
“Play for me,” she murmured. “I want to hear you play.”
And he did.
He played as he had never played before. Songs of mirth and heartbreak, of life and death, his soul was in them all. Elaina left off following his motion, nestling close against his side. One hand held his shoulder, the other slid under his arm to rest on his breast, seeking and finding the steady beat of his heart.
“You are such fragile creatures,” she said. “You humans are full of the strangest whims and fancies.”
He laughed softly. “Do not spare me, then,” he said.
“But you are right,” she said. “Your God, our God is wondrous indeed, to save and guard a heart like yours.”
His breath caught. He did not reply.
Elaina stilled the motion of his fingers. Carefully, she turned his face to hers.
“You are beautiful,” she murmured. “I believe—I believe I love you, Edwin.”
“You have always been very fond of music,” he observed.
“No.” She shook her head. “No, I do not care if I never hear your piano again, though I would miss it, so long as I know you will be with me. I care only that I hear your voice and know your heart. We have been through much together. I feared you once, as I feared everything. But I have learned to trust you. Now, I can recognize your weakness as well as your strength, and know that I love you, still.”
Edwin looked amazed. But in this, Elaina did not hesitate. She leaned forward and, without waiting for his word, kissed him.
He was riveted. His mouth was chill and moist.
Elaina drew back. She could not read his expression.
“I am sorry,” she said. “I thought—”
He captured her lips in a desperate kiss. His long fingers twined in her hair, his breath shuddering against her. His passion surprised Elaina, who had expected reserve even in his tenderness.
“Yes,” he whispered. “Never leave me, never again.”
“If you will promise me the same,” she said, “I will make the vow, gladly.”
“I promise,” he said. “I am yours.”