Symphony In A Minor Key
By Rachel McMillen
A smile softened the lines on Margaret’s face as she watched her husband slide the white shirt off its hangar and hold it up to the light. How many times had she watched him perform this same ritual in the thirty-seven years of their marriage? How many imagined motes of dust had those long, slender violinist’s fingers flicked off the pristine white twill?
Next would come the black merino wool trousers with the satin stripe. Once they would have been in a slim fit that emphasized his lean height, but twelve years ago, on his forty-fifth birthday, Andrew had decided those no longer flattered his more mature body and so he had switched.
Did her clothes still flatter her body? Margaret’s smile widened and she instinctively reached her hand down and stroked the fabric that clung to her legs. Once she had taken as much care as Andrew with her appearance. On those nights when she accompanied him to the symphony she would take hours to decide what to wear. Perhaps a light mauve silk dress to contrast with his black tuxedo and highlight her pale hair. Small sapphires in her ears to match the cornflower blue eyes Andrew had said he fell into every time he looked into them. Open-toed stilettos to add a little height and elegance to her short frame – or perhaps strappy sandals to show off a new pedicure on the toes he had liked to nibble.
The sound of a zipper and the crinkle of plastic drew her attention back to the man she had shared so much of her life with. He had removed the tuxedo jacket from its protective bag and was sliding his arms into the sleeves, settling it on his still-broad shoulders, smoothing the satin-faced lapels over his chest. She could see his reflection in the mirror, his eyes examining every fold and crease as he inserted the onyx studs into the French cuffs.
Her eyes studied the familiar planes of his face, the strong cheekbones, the wide mouth, the heavy eyebrows, the long lashes that shielded the black depth of his eyes. She had always loved his eyes. They were alive, sparkling, yet had an unlimited depth that seemed to hint at some ancient wisdom.
He only had to shift the focus of those eyes a fraction of an inch to see her: after all she was sitting right behind him, no more than eight feet away, but she knew he wouldn’t. She had become invisible. She could see his lips moving, his head nodding slightly. He had already left her. He was already up on stage, his musicians lifting their instruments in readiness as they waited for the first movement of his baton, the audience hushed expectantly behind him. He was already hearing the delicate nuances of the Bach Fugue in G Minor, the rising crescendo of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – or was it Dvorak tonight?
It really didn’t matter. She would not be there. She would never be there again. The mauve dress had long ago gone to the thrift store, along with all the stilettos and the strappy sandals. There were no more fancy pedicures to adorn her toes. There would only be these shabby fleece sweatpants that were the only thing she could drag up her crippled legs, and the ugly felt slippers that hid her gnarled feet. Andrew had his Scheherazade: she had her Multiple Sclerosis.
She heard the front door slam as she wheeled her chair down the hall to the kitchen. He hadn’t bothered to say goodbye and she knew it would be several days before he returned: it seemed the new second violinist needed his personal attention.
The Chardonay she had put in the fridge should be chilled by now and there was a Wynton Marsalis concert on the television. Andrew despised both. Funny how life brought opportunity along with challenge.
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