by Paul du Preez
Last week: Pastor Arendse had asked Leandré to perform, and she has fetched her cello from her car. Darren accompanied her, grateful for an excuse to break away from Saloni. Afterwards, he excused himself and went for a walk, leaving Leandré to prepare.
Pausing on the landing, Leandré takes a moment to post a performance notification to her SpaceBook followers, glances at her messages menu (nothing significant) and then lugs her cello case downstairs, careful not to bump into risers, railings, walls…
Or, at least, as little as possible. Each contact produces a hollow thump.
That echoes through her like the anxious beating of her heart.
Darren… Tranquil on the outside. So gifted, she muses. Ambitious…for a post-graduate scholarship. Hoping it will be Stanford.
She circles past her friends, absently batting her way through the virtual crowd towards the stage. “Hey, she’s meat-intolerant,” one of them calls after her, half-joking. “Sorry, AR glitch,” she flings back. She’ll probably get a few thumbs-down. She not going to obsess.
They see only her – bowed over her cello. She has a gift, as they all acknowledge. And love her. Suddenly the atmosphere changes: what was beautiful becomes sublime.
Instead – Darren…
Calm on the surface, but beneath, storms rage…
She settles her case backstage with a soft thump, flips the catches, raises the lid.
…his aloofness, a disguise he can ill-afford
Her cello lies there, polished spruce gleaming on its bed of velvet, rosy tinged under the lights, like a virgin, waiting.
I wish I could get through to him; touch his soul.
She hooks her hand behind its neck, lifts it from its bed.
I wish I could make him whole…
She seats herself, takes an ‘A’ from the pianist, tunes with resonant strokes of her bow.
…but it’s not my gift.
“Slow blues in F?” asks the pianist.
“What!” Does he think this is jazz? The pianist is river-black. High forehead, goatee beard. She can’t remember his name. Sweet guy. Young, talented. “Ah, no. Just C major. Keep it gentle…” His teeth glimmer, like phosphorescence on a midnight sea. “…Maxwell,” she adds belatedly, “Yeah, just keep it flowing.”
“Sure. I’ll follow you,” he responds. But she hardly notices – already drawing the bow across her instrument’s belly, rounded notes swelling, bursting like dandelion seeds on the air, as an arpeggio rolls up along the finger-board to float, high and pleading.
An instant later, Maxwell is there to support her, his delicate chording a gently blown breath that wafts her higher still.
Leandré closes her eyes, listens for the melody that is waiting to be born.
When she opens them, a tiny angel is perched on the tip of her bow, tolerantly conducting her efforts. Poliamuel (pronounced Poly-AM-well, she insists) is waving her arms languidly, and smiling in a lopsided way. Her words ring like the melody of distant bells. “Relax. You’ve still got Darren on your mind.”
Leandré’s breath huffs between her teeth: “What should I do about him?”
“Don’t know. It’s above my pay-grade. I’m here for the music.” Poliamuel brushes a strand of long, ink-black hair from her moon-face.
“Huh,” grunts Leandré (the angel is never forthcoming about Darren). And gripes back: “You’re beating your wings out of time to the music. It’s distracting. Speed up.”
“No. Maxwell is playing too fast. Make him slow down.”
Leandré pulls a face.
“A little humility please.” Poliamuel folds miniature, coffee-coloured arms and waits. Her tawny wings continue their steady, billowing pace. “Come on now. Control the bass – dictate the tempo.”
Leandré does as she’s told.
She begins punching out deep, resonant notes in time with the beat of the angel’s wings. The pulse is slow, empty and, at first, Maxwell is confused. Leandré fills in, adds notes to define the rhythm, build a bass-riff, and he slips into gear.
“OK…a little more energy than I’d like,” comments Poliamuel. “But it will do.”
“I wish you wouldn’t perch on the end of my bow like that. Watching you see-saw up and down is making me feel sick.
“Then, lucky you,” Poliamuel snickers. “Because it’s time.” An instant later, she’s hovering, directly in front of Leandré’s face, brilliant light streaming from her body. Getting closer. “Concentrate now…”
That’s the last thing Leandré remembers before she’s enveloped in glory.
The audience hear Leandré lay down the bass riff; most miss Maxwell’s confusion, hearing only his swift recovery.
None of them see the angel.
They only see Leandré.
Beneath her Minnie-Mouse AR glasses, a long, heart-chinned face, accentuated by short-cropped, nappy hair. Clear, tan skin pads her slight frame – a little too pudgy for couture elegance. She wears a deceptively simple brocade smock: black silk thread embossed on coarser black weave. And simple v-dress – a faint, white, five-line musical stave pattern that migrates slowly among the fabric’s folds and planes.
They see only her – bowed over her cello. She has a gift, as they all acknowledge.
And love her.
Suddenly the atmosphere changes: what was beautiful becomes sublime.
“Ah,” sighs Pastor Arendse, lifting his arms, sinking to his knees. “The presence of God is here.”
Outside, Darren walks in the darkness of the night.
Leandré: Enveloped in Glory by Paul du Preez
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
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Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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