This story is by Dennis Wagers and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The man enters the auditorium unnoticed. Wearing a dark suit, he lingers briefly in the shadows. Smelling old wood and fresh polish, he sits in a hard-wooden chair in the farthest reaches of the crowd.
From the stage, the music takes hold of him. Long forgotten feelings rise up, filling his chest. It’s the wailing of the violin. It’s like liquid sorrow, which leaches through his skin and seeps into his bones. It stokes a need inside him, churning up longings which settle in the chambers of his heart.
There’s something else in this place however, Someone else; an attraction besides the music. His eyes dart to the young violinist. One hand goes to his jaw as he catches his breath. He’s not much more than a boy, eighteen at the most. The young man accompanies a rosy cheeked girl who plays piano. Strange he would accompany her, he obviously out classes her in talent. I should go. I cannot not linger. He gets to his feet, but he can not leave. There’s a need in him, to feel the music, the violin, the player. They play for him, ancient tunes, music that takes him back, back to when he was not… as he is now.
The boy stands just outside the spotlight, in the shadows, to be unnoticed. He gracefully sways as he plays. His dark hair hanging loosely about his eyes. It’s the way he moves, the shape of his mouth, the curve of his jaw that is hauntingly familiar. The man sinks back into his chair, held fast by the music and nostalgia.
Time slips away from him, like a pleasant dream often does. He finds himself standing among the applauding crowd who are truly ignorant to what they have heard. For he knows… It is not the pianist wannabe; the true master is the violinist.
The audience dwindles. The man lingers still. How can I remain? I manage to destroy the sweetest things in life. It’s too risky. However, he finds the act of leaving utterly unthinkable, unbearable. He wants, no, needs to know the boy who can bring him such sweetness. I am not the same. He reasons. I am stronger. However, the memories bring him such anguish, he finds himself gripping the chair arm with such force, the leather stitching threatens to pull apart. I cannot risk it again. He agonizes. It would be too much. I must go. But still he stays.
He notices the announcer, as she graciously dismisses herself from the last of the straggling audience members. He watches her click her way back on stage, her high heel shoes looking as though they might snap at any moment from her hefty weight. She spoke with a haughty tone “Is your father here Tristian? It’s a Friday evening. He won’t be lying drunk somewhere will he?”
The boy swallows”He’s waiting outside.”
The man felt the lie as soon as it was spoken; the boy’s father wasn’t waiting. The announcer leaves the auditorium.
The boy lingers on stage, caught up in a fantasy. He plays a quick run from Mozart. The man watching silently, sees him bow before his imaginary audience, mouthing thank-yous to their applause. The stranger is smiling. Then something happens on stage that causes him pause. The boy, looks up from his violin, gazing directly into the shadows toward the side exit where the man stands. In a clear baritone he ask “Is someone there?”
The man is startled. Could the boy have felt my presence? He clears his throat as he steps forward. “Hello Tristian.” He says in his most pleasant voice.
The boy stiffens “Who are you?” He asks. “Why are you here? The recital over.”
“Yes I know.” The man hears himself say in a casual business tone. “I saw the show actually and wanted to introduce myself. My name is Finigan Hamilton. I am a talent agent you see. I wanted to catch the recital, always looking for new talent.” He chuckles.
The boy looks doubtful, still accessing the situation. “That’s Laura, she’s gone I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I saw her leave.”
Confused, Tristian frowns. “What did you think of her?”
“She’s good, but not great. She’s not the ticket I need at this point in my career.”
Tristian seems disappointed. “She is very good.” He says flatly.
He cares for her.
“Your name again?”
“Mr. Finigan Hamilton. My interests are in classical musicians”
“Where are you from?”
He’s smart, and cautious “Oh, just two hours away. Have you been to Sebastian?”
“I have an aunt that lives in Sebastian.” Tristian says, without a blink of an eye. “On Third Street, right down from the St. Martian Library.”
Oh, he is clever and glorious. “Don’t you mean Fifth Street down from the St. Maritians Library?”
The boy gave him a hard look. “I suppose. I’m not really familiar with Sabastian. I rarely visit my aunt.”
Tristian closes his violin case. “Looks like you wasted your time, Mr. Hamilton.”
The stranger smiles, he eases forward slightly. “I don’t think so Tristian. My trip may prove to be very fruitful, for I found someone who I am very interested in and that someone is you.”
The boy’s eyes grew wide. “Ha, you are so mistaken.” He was taken back completely. The stranger takes that moment to move closer to the stage.
“There is no mistake. It’s you Tristian that I wish to invest my time and effort, and I don’t say that lightly.” He waits while the boy stares at him for a moment, daring to believe. He watches Tristian glance around nervously, strongly aware he is alone in the auditorium with a stranger. “I would like to work with you, Tristian. You show great promise.” He moves closer.
The boy stammers, “You’ll have to excuse me. But you can see how this would seem unreal. This kind of thing doesn’t happen. How do I know you are who you say you are?”
“I understand your misgivings completely.” The stranger says. His voice as smooth as caramel. “But you must understand my situation as well. When I decided to approach you I wanted to be discreet, to be anonymous to others. It works better that way. And besides, what would it do to your friend and her image if people were to know she was rejected by a talent scout who came specifically to see her. Out done by a second stringer they would say.”
Tristian looks hard at him. “I doubt if you’re concerned with her feelings.”
The hard words surprise the man. “Ah… you’ve got me. I’m a business man and make no apologies for hard choices, but I do not wish her any embarrassment.”
The stranger doesn’t miss the doubt glinting in the boy’s eyes, but at the same time he sees the hunger for success, for recognition. I need to push, but not to far. His tongue works anxiously inside his mouth as he lifts his palms in an innocent gesture. “I can make you relevant Tristian. I am sure of it.” He smiles. “May I come on stage?” He ask diverting his eyes, unable to match the same warmth in them that he had mastered in his voice.
Tristian’s rakes his fingers through his hair, then lifts his hand and points at him. “You wait outside the side exit there.” He says apprehensively. “I’ll get my coat. There’s a diner just down the street.” I’ll be more comfortable there.”
The stranger’s hand go quickly to his coat pocket. The rope is there as always. He just needs to get closer. If the boy is able to exit the auditorium it will be over. All chances of success will be lost. That knowledge stirs a sad longing in his heart. Just then, the main entrance door rattles. The boy freezes on the far end of the stage. “Who’s there?” He says with a lilt of hope in his voice. “Is it you father?”
He’s too far away. His fist clenching together. I could rush him, but that’s not what should happen. Damn! This isn’t right. His heart hammers inside his chest as it fills with loss and pain. He longs to wail, to rush forward and claim the boy.
A slurred voice echoes in the empty chamber. “Tristian. I’m…I’m here boy. Has…has it started yet?”
“Father!” Tristian exclaims.
From the shadows the man watches Tristian’s disheveled father weaving down the aisle. He hears Tristian’s voice “I’ll suppose I’ll be leaving now. Do you have a business card?”
There is no answer. Tristian turns, looking about, baffled that Mr. Hamilton is gone. He hears his father’s drunken voice asking if he had said something.
“Nothing father.“ Tristian’s replies still looking about the stage. “Just that we should be going.” Tristian feels an ease slips into his heart, his shoulders relax. He looks back one more time, before they exit, and is sure he sees a shadow moving toward the side door.