Author:Andrea Randall & Charles Sheehan-Miles

Finally, I halted at the end of the movement.


Carefully, I leaned my Domenico Montagnana cello in its stand. The instrument once belonged to Pablo Casals, and I bought it at auction two years ago for seven hundred fifty thousand dollars. This, in turn, raised the ire of my entire family against me. I’d inherited the house on Pinckney Street from my maternal grandmother. Valued at just over a million dollars, a new mortgage on a property, which had been in my family for two centuries, was just enough to get my hands on an instrument without parallel; an instrument produced by one of the finest master luthiers in history, when Boston was merely a trade outpost of the British empire.


Once my instrument was in place, I walked toward the door. Immediately my legs cramped. I’d been sitting in the same position for many hours. I stood still, ignoring the now continuous doorbell. The sweat, which had rained off my body, stained the carpet for four feet around where I’d been playing, and my body was slick with perspiration.


A good practice.


I found James sagged against the doorframe as I opened it.


“It’s about time.” He rolled his eyes and scratched his head.


“You should have called ahead.”


“I did. Your phone is off, Gregory.”


I shrugged and walked back into the house, leaving the door open. James followed, his nose crinkling a little, probably at the stink of sweat I was giving off. “That’s usually a hint that I don’t wish to answer the phone.”


I walked into the kitchen and pulled a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. “Drink?” I asked.


“No, thanks.” He stood there, staring at me.


“Is something bothering you?”


James sighed. “I’m worried about you. What are you putting in right now? Eighteen hours a day? More?”


I shrugged. “I do what it takes.”


“Have you seen Karin lately?”


“We date occasionally. But she understands my music comes first and always will.”


He shook his head slightly. “I’m sure everyone who ever comes into contact with you knows that. But you need to get out a little. There’s such a thing as having a life.”


I finished gulping back the water and tossed the bottle in the trash.


“We’ve had this discussion, James.”


“I want you to go get a shower and get dressed. Let’s go get a drink.”


I gave him a long, level look. Then I shrugged. “Fine.”


My muscles were tired, aching, and irritated with me as I climbed the stairs. James and I had been friends since both of us were students at the New England Conservatory. He was my only friend really, apart from Madeline, and certainly the only person on earth who could pull me away from practice. I’d learned to let him do it. When he decided I’d had enough, he would call and bang on the door and interrupt until I finally gave in. Generally, I found it cumbersome to have people in my life, but James’s friendship was oddly gratifying, perhaps because we’d known each other so many years. He was correct on one point. I hadn’t realized I was famished. I thought back, trying to remember when I’d last eaten, and came up with an unsatisfactory answer. It was sometime yesterday afternoon. Now that I’d stopped playing, my entire body was shaking like the vibrato I put into the strings.


Clean now, I stepped out of the shower and dried off. I changed into plain black pants, white shirt and a jacket and walked back downstairs.


“Wherever it is that we’re going, they need to have food,” I announced when I got to the bottom of the stairs.


James obliged. A few minutes later we walked into Murphy’s Pizza on the Common and sat down facing each other. A wave of exhaustion washed over me as we sat down, and James gave me a concerned look.


“Stop that,” I said. “Another lecture about how I work too hard would be tiresome.”


He shook his head and shrugged. “How long have we known each other?”


Thank God the waitress appeared at that moment. I ignored his question and looked at the menu, then placed my order. James did the same, and then he looked at me.


“Damn it, I’m not going to lecture you, but look at yourself. You’ve lost too much weight. Your clothes hang off of you. You’ve always been intense, but lately it’s seemed a little much. Even for you.”


I didn’t dignify his micro-lecture with a response. Instead I pointedly looked at the waitress, who had paused to talk to another server instead of bringing our drinks. She saw the look and started moving again, bringing us our beers.


I tasted mine. It was swill, but it would do for now.


James shook his head. “Anyway, that’s not what I came over to talk to you about. Have you thought at all about the email I sent you Thursday?”


I had received an email from James, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was about.


“Refresh my memory,” I replied.


“Jesus, Gregory. It’s amazing we’ve stayed friends all these years.”


I stared across the table at him. “We have a series of shows coming up starting next week, James. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”


He frowned. “This is about the boy.”