Authors: Naima DaCosta
Instead of industrial Grey the ceiling was now a soft eggshell and the walls a light, warm, olive.
"Very nice," Hayley said pleased at the new mood of masculine elegance, this quiet grace which had replaced the weary utilitarian decay of before.
Jack showed her the corner kitchenette which he had expanded into something noticeably more domestic. A larger fridge and counter merged to form a fuller and more harmonious use of the space. Hayley walked around not really knowing what to make of it, somewhat bemused by his apparent pride in the pleasant, if baffling changes. There were still the ubiquitous booze and cigarettes on the side table of course but nowhere near as empty were the bottles, nor as full the ashtrays as she recalled from previous times.
Jack was gesturing towards a her to a newly constructed door in the side of the suite.
"What's this?" Hayley said puzzled.
Jack smiled even wider, "I own the whole building now. I'm taking over the space next door- I figured it was getting cramped in here and the checks were just piling up.."
"What are you going to do with it," Hayley asked feeling like he was being purposefully mysterious.
"Oh just a change of scenery- I was thinking maybe Michael was right-I've been in a bit of a rut."
Jack’s eyes danced with mirth. He was clearly enjoying her puzzlement.
He changed the subject, "I hope you have a something new to play for me."
Now it was Hayley’s turn to smile mysteriously, "oh yes, I most certainly do.”
Hayley turned towards his old upright piano.
"Wrong way," Jack said, taking her arm and leading her back towards the brand new thick wooden door.
"Right this way."
The door led to a short and narrow hallway with another double door at the end her eyebrows went up.
"So many doors? why, security?"
Jack shook his head, "they don't have locks, it's just for soundproofing."
Hayley wondered if he had built a recording studio in there. It seemed unlikely he never showed any interest in making records he preferred to just focus on writing and arranging. What he couldn't play on a piano or guitar he could easily create on his computer he preferred to not work with musicians directly. Hayley had heard him say more than once that musicians were overtrained peons who couldn't see the forest for the trees when it came to songs.
Jack opened up the double doors for her and said "after you." She walked in the room as he turned on the lights... there was a soft glow from many tiny bulbs that dotted the ceiling like miniature stars. There was a candelabra already lit in one corner bathing the purple velvet curtains which covered the rear walls in a gently flickering dance of richly shimmering color.
From the ceiling slightly to one side of the room a single soft spotlight shone down on a beautiful white baby grand piano. Hayley inhaled the scene with her eyes. The room was so lovely- so unlike his usual style of no nonsense, function first decor. She noticed other things: microphones already set up at the piano a small mixing desk next to a table with a mac based recording setup built into it.
One half of the table had a stunning antique lamp made of crystal next to a writing area with score paper, pens and carbons. it even smelled lovely.. no stale cigarette stink but instead a heady aroma made up of orange peel and cinnamon. Hayley was taken completely aback, it seemed so lavish- so extravagant, so beautifully thought out.
"It's...lovely. It's just so lovely.”
Jack looked at her critically, "you're wearing beige today it looks nice against your skin but the lighting in here isn't quite right for it." They both laughed at his seemingly random remark.
"Well, I'm no glamour queen, as you already know," she said, a tad tartly, rolling her eyes.
"You are a queen tonight, in this room," Jack said this softly.
Hayley’s eyes narrowed and she said, suspiciously "are you playing with me?"
Jack said nothing but instead smiled his enigmatic smile. She was getting impatient with this game of his and she longed to play that beautiful piano.
"Do you mind?" she asked dryly, gesturing towards it. Jack raised his hands in a merry surrender to her annoyance, "by all means!" Hayley sat down as he stood and waited attentively. She had rehearsed this moment in her mind many times but she was unable to believe the perfection of the setting and the feeling of absolute control it gave her to be sitting in the center of this opulent, private stage.
Hayley began by slowly playing the melody with her right hand only her foot softly stroked the quiet, well oiled pedals. The melody shimmered and sang out of the perfectly tuned strings eerily. It had an odd cris-crossing sway as it moved over inaudible chord changes, spanning across distant keys without the slightest strain or tentativeness. She sang the tune wordlessly, switching to a counter melody on the keys that was even trickier, yet every bit as effortless sounding.
Jack stood staring. He was actually perplexed, not by the music itself but by a nagging sense of familiarity, an almost deja-vu. Hayley smiled to herself completely relaxed, in love with this instrument, in love with way the room sounded, in love with her own creation. At last she brought in the chords with her left hand as her right hand started to dance around te melody her voice carried so lovingly, as the strain started over she began singing the words.
“You are the music that moves inside of me you are the chords that chime to prove my melody is true/You are the words I learn anew each day I write my song to you/You are the night that falls to set me free/ You are the dark that comes to choose this shining star who cannot see all of the love we are too far away from to ever show we knew still each night I shine to send my light to you.”
Jack heard his chords, his own wonderful chords sounding better than he had ever played them himself. Hayley had united those changes with a melody so perfect, so unlike any he had ever contemplated using, it was almost a miracle. He had never tried to understand his own hearts meaning when he played that piece so often alone in the dark. That brooding, haunting refrain was suddenly transformed into something magical in it's yearning promise.
As the final chord rang out she sat still wanting it ring forever. her foot held the pedal keeping it sustaining as she closed her eyes and felt everything that it meant surge through her. Hayley felt like the sound was caressing her. She slowly realized that he was there standing behind her his hands were on her body gently moving over her. Her lips parted and she felt her breath come shallow. Jack was unbuttoning the back of her unbleached cotton dress.
Hayley kept her foot on the pedal and the sound, though still slowly fading continued to shimmer as she felt shivers from his hands upon her skin, he was removing unfastening her brassiere, his hand reached under the wire to gently cup her breasts, rolling the nipples slowly between his long fingers. She held her breath for a second, reaching her hand back to touch his hip, finding it already bare he was lifting her up, she leaned against him still keeping her foot on the pedal as the last of the fraying fragments of sound faded into eternity. he pulled her dress off completely lifted her dark, lithe little body off of the ground. He carried her around to lay her beneath the backside the unusually high piano. the soft sound dampening carpet beneath it felt warm and cozy against her as her skin nestled, wriggling, into it. He was almost pressed up against her...there wasn't much room but they fit snugly there together. She could hear reverberations of their breathing through the piano's body as they kissed each other with with all the tenderness, passion and beauty of the final note Hayley played.
They lay there exhausted. For her own part, Hayley simply lay there sprawled, face blank, completely satisfied, smiling vaguely as Jack kissed her tenderly before getting up to find a cigarette. Afterwards they sat together on a love-seat facing the piano from the opposite side of the room.
Jack fetched a bottle of chardonnay and they sat sipping from short, deep globes of glass while he talked about the piano. It was a Baldwin that Jack acquired from a friend who had bought it for his recording studio. It had hardly been played.
Jack rambled on about the finer points of it's construction and it's tonal characteristics as she slowly returned to reality. The glow between them began to dissipate and his windy monologue began to annoy her.
Hayley interrupted, "Yes, yes It sounds beautiful and it plays better than anything I've ever touched. I might have to kill you for it, but why in god's name is it here along with all of this other stuff? Are you going to rent this out? It doesn't really seem like your sort of setup."
Jack coughed uncomfortably, "Well It's not exactly for me, no.. I guess I assumed it was obvious that I built it with you in mind.”
Hayley stared at him unblinking for a second trying to read his expression for some clue as to the origin of this preposterous notion. Jack’s eyes were shifty as he attempted to maintain the facade that there was nothing unusual about this incredible extravagance.
Hayley said in a no-nonsense tone, fighting growing exasperation, "OK. umm, that's completely overwhelming and kind of scary but that I guess there's no other explanation that would make any kind of sense so I'll have to believe it. Next question: Why?"
Jack was still avoiding her eyes he reached for his pants, laying on the small table the table in front of them and pulled out a set of keys out of the pockets.
"I thought you could use a place where you can work undisturbed, especially at night."
Hayley glanced at the keys and ignored his motion toward handing them to her. She continued her interrogation.
"This doesn't make any sense.. I'd only be in your way.. I'd drive you crazy."
Jack seemed almost embarrassed as he said, "Oh I don't think so, the suite has it's own bathroom and everything is soundproofed."
Hayley looked around glumly he seemed serious, she was almost certain of that, how could he be such a fool?
"Did you do this because you felt guilty about who you are? I thought you knew that I was okay with everything."
Jack was shaking his head, "I just thought you deserved a decent place to work, I have nothing else I need to spend my money on at the moment."
Hayley said nothing. Jack reached his hand over and placed it in hers and then removed it leaving the keys there, slightly clammy against her palm. She felt their weight like something crushing unbearably against her heart.
Jack tried to muster something of his carefree attitude from earlier, "Look, when you have your first hit record you can pay me back, alright?" Hayley sighed and realized that he couldn't see the folly in all this and it was up to her to save the situation.
"Jack, I love this space, I'm more touched by your gesture than I could ever tell you but I can't accept it. Maybe If and when I've earned this on my own I could be comfortable working here.. but it was you that taught me that wonderful things like this don't come easily I'd feel so awkward here under your umbrella. I want to earn this on my own the way you earned it."
Jack spoke with a gruffness, covering his disappointment, "You're always welcome to sneak in and use it anyway.."
Hayley smiled sadly, feeling so much love and gratitude but she unable to release it for fear of weakening and ruining everything.
"No," Hayley handed the keys back and placed them firmly in his strong hand.
He looked down at that hand saying, "I understand. Just so you know, I'll keep this all here for you until the day you decide ready."
Hayley shook her head sorrowfully, " I won't expect you to."
"Well, now you've seen what the future can hold for you- I would say it was worth it just to give you something to work towards."
Standing up, Jack started walking back towards the door leading to his studio, motioning her to follow. Hayley got up, puzzled. Walking back through the door to his studio she noticed his bedroom door was open, it looked strangely empty. She felt like there were so many odd things going on here she didn't know how she could cope with all.
"Where'd your bed go?" she asked pointedly.
He answered easily, "Oh that, well I've been using that room to exercise in actually- I've been in pretty bad shape these last few years so I've been practicing with my old tap shoes and it's turned into a nice sort of morning ritual"
"That's nice, but where do you sleep?"
"Well I don't really sleep much anyway and I'm used to passing out on the couch."
Hayley was immediately suspicious, "Oh no... did you try to give me your old bed too?"
Jack glanced away, a worried look on his face, "Well, you'd need somewhere to crash after one of your marathon work sessions and I would have just thrown it away and gotten you a new one but I thought it might have a certain sentimental value, maybe not."
Just then Hayley noticed the radio was on quietly, and he seemed to be half listening to it while talking to her, it was something he did that had always annoyed her. This behavior seemed totally out of place in this context, however.
Jack’s ears perked up, he quickly reached for the volume control and turned it up. She heard what felt like the beginning of a familiar melody and then her jaw dropped. It was her song. On the radio. The singer was someone she didn't recognize.