His fingers caressed the keys, coaxing the antique piano to give him something it hadn’t given anyone in nearly fifty years. She had never heard anything that beautiful, it teased her soul, offering it a waltz and laughter and something that felt like joy. He began to sing and her heart burst, she clutched her chest with her left hand to keep the pieces from floating out of the open bay windows and her right hand held the mop and kept her steady as his voice- whiskey smooth, continued to rock her.
“Hello there sunshine
I can see you’ve been seeking me
Though the clouds buried you
And the rain wouldn’t let you come
I waited and hoped you’d find me
In this hole far from light and love.
The storm said to forget you
The lightning called me fool
But the thunder echoed my pain
Still, here you are and here I am
Let the dance begin,
Please don’t let it end
You owe me and I’m here to collect.
I want forever and a spare,
Forever and a spare.”
His voice dropped, then roughened when he got to the chorus, the buoyant words of the chorus at odds with the waves of gloom that hung on him with more ease than his shadow. She couldn’t see him and all her instincts screamed that his seeing her would put her in big trouble. Father Gerald-Mary had already written her name in the infractions book for the third time this week
“Little mouse, you should stop sobbing, it’s just a song” His words startled her into dropping her mop.
When it fell without noise to the decrepit carpet, she crossed herself and inched backwards into what she was sure was swirling darkness. She would wait for him to leave and hopefully, forget everything about her.
“Are you hiding, little mouse?” His voice bubbled with suppressed laughter.
“I am not a mouse” She snapped.
“So you are a tiger? Afraid of nothing”
“I am not an animal!” She barely stopped herself from stamping her left foot
“We’re all animals, didn’t they teach you in biology?”
“I did not go to school”
“Oh!” he said softly
They stood there in silence, with the darkness, an almost soothing cover for the man who had only just arrived and the girl who had been planted and watered in the old house, she continued to inch backwards until she could get to the door that swung into the rose garden at the back.
“I locked that door just before sitting at the piano, you can’t escape that way.
She gasped and his mocking chuckle made her tuck her fingers into the waistband of her skirt, it was easier to control them that way. He was the one they’d been expecting, the one they’d prayed wouldn’t come, God probably wasn’t listening.
“who let you in Sir?’ She stuttered.
“Imperious and polite, impressive combination. Not many women can pull it off well”
“You use such big words Sir, let me get Father Okey to attend to you because father Gerald is not around”
He stood up to his full height and her throat suddenly dried, she had to look away to distract her heart which was intent on bouncing out of her chest.
“I know my way around, I was born here, after all” He picked a leather bag that looked as soft as the anchor butter- Father Gerald-Mary reserved only for his palate, and sauntered to the stairs.
“What is your name?” he asked from the foot of the stairs.
“I do not remember; everyone here calls me girlie” she answered crisply.
“And she even has an unknown backstory, interesting!” he mused as he bounded up the stairs, taking three steps in each leap.
She crossed herself three times, eyed the holy water on the mantle but managed to keep her feet from taking her to it and her fingers from gripping the bottle and flinging the contents everywhere.
“Girlie!” someone called from the vegetable garden outside.
“I’m coming!” she replied.