Nocturne
Author:Andrea Randall & Charles Sheehan-Miles

Some people get stage fright. This is why, increasingly over the years, musicians have turned to anti-anxiety medications and beta-blockers to calm their nerves. Some musicians, however, do their best work in an audition, and can’t ever maintain that level of skill. I’d assumed the latter was the case with Savannah. I still remembered her almost cocky attitude for her audition, and her constant chatter during my lectures led me to believe she simply did not take music seriously.

 

The young woman before me, however, was certainly a musician. Her posture was perfect, and she swayed just enough to show she felt the music, but not so much that it looked forced. Suddenly, as if she sensed someone looking in, she dropped her flute from her lips and turned around. She didn’t seem startled as she took me in with large brown eyes that seemed to be misting over.

 

“You really should close the door, Ms. Marshall.” I bit the inside of my cheek to keep any praise off of my face as I placed my hand on the handle.

 

She cleared her throat and shook her head. “Sorry, Mr. Fitzgerald. You can leave it open, though. I’m finished.”

 

I dropped my hand as she walked toward the chair by the door and started taking apart her flute, cleaning the inside of each piece before putting it back in the case. The instrument was gorgeous. It had a rose gold body with silver keys, and a gold mouthpiece that was engraved with scrolling designs. Quite a high-end piece for a student—even one in the conservatory. Someone certainly believed in her a great deal, as this professional-grade flute was easily ten to fifteen thousand dollars.

 

“That’s a beautiful instrument you have there.” I tried to keep my tone ambivalent, not wanting to let on that I was most interested in how she acquired such a piece. I’d mortgaged my late grandmother’s home in the most expensive neighborhood in Boston to buy my cello. Because when you play an instrument at this level, you gave it whatever it took. Your entire life.

 

“Thank you,” she replied. “My father gave it to me over winter break. I’m still getting used to it, but I love it.” Her face brightened as she spoke.

 

“Well, he must think a lot of your ability, Savannah.”

 

Her eyes flickered straight to mine, and her brow furrowed as she seemed to process my statement.

 

“I’m here at the conservatory, aren’t I?” she shot back. “This isn’t just a hobby of mine, Mr. Fitzgerald.” She chuckled to herself as she snapped her case shut and placed it in her instrument bag.

 

“That piece you were playing…” I started.

 

“The Entr’acte? What about it?” She shrugged on her green wool peacoat and matching scarf.

 

“It’s a bit of a simple piece for you, isn’t it?” I held the door open as she walked through and met me in the hallway.

 

She turned on her heel to face me once again. “So was the Bach suite you played in class last week.”

 

Inexplicably, I followed. She was wearing some kind of floral perfume. It wasn’t overwhelming, but for a brief moment it lingered in each step she took.

 

“Yes, but that was the piece that made the cello worth playing, for me. It was the first real classical piece I tackled that made it all worthwhile.” I cleared my throat, shocked at my own honesty with a student. “I certainly didn’t waste my time, though, on rock music.” I arched my eyebrow in her direction.

 

Savannah stopped in her tracks. “And the Entr’acte is mine. It was the first piece of substance I mastered. I was ten…” Her gaze trailed off with her voice as she ignored my jab at her other musical selection.

 

“Ten?” I questioned. “It has a pretty ambitious octave for a young flutist.”

 

“My mother was in Carmen at the time. I heard the song and wanted to learn how to play it immediately. So, I learned it. It was like I was playing along with her.” Her voice sounded distant, still.

 

Ah, so her mother was a flutist. It certainly made sense, of course. Most students here had at least one parent who was a musician—or who tried to be.

 

“So your mother plays for the opera? Which one?” I asked as we reached the door. I loved the opera.

 

Savannah’s eyebrows pulled in a bit before she gave a relaxed smile. “I have to get back to my dorm. Sorry about the door, Mr. Fitzgerald. I’ll remember to close them from now on.” A blast of frigid cold air hit me as she quickly exited the building.

 

“It’s quite all right, Miss Marshall,” I mumbled to the closing door. She hadn’t answered the question about her mother.

 

Two years before, I’d been in Washington, DC for a concert at the National Arboretum. I vividly recalled the sun shining in through the glass at an angle, the slight sound of water from a fountain, the beauty of the music as we played. Most of all, I remembered the faint smell of lilies drifting over me, almost intoxicating, as I played.

 

That’s when it hit me, the perfume that I couldn’t identify before. I’ve never been an aficionado of gardens or flowers, but I remembered that scent. That’s what she wore.

 

The faint smell of lilies lingered in the air behind her as the door latched closed and I stood alone in the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

Savannah

 

 

I slid into my seat in music theory and leaned toward Nathan. “Feeling better?”

 

He looked at me with bleary eyes. Hung over, and it served him right.