Dinner For Two
(33 Moliko 415: The Crossing, Zoluren)
She knelt by the fire and arranged the fresh supply of firewood that Skalliweg sent up for her against the chill of the autumn night. Softly humming a song she wrote for her love, she carefully built up the layers of the wood in the fireplace. Her head was racing with all that remained for her to finish this surprise for their 35th anniversary – all before he returned.
“35 years,” she said to her wren with a soft sigh, “It is amazing.”
She cleaned off the table and put a new cloth over it, then added table linens over it. She placed the chairs near one another on one corner so that it would be easier to look at him during this special meal as well as be nearer to one another. Her fingers traced the length of a colored napkin as she closed her eyes and smiled to herself.
She pulled out the candlesticks, and looked into the cabinet again, deciding to add extra small candles to the table, too. She went back to the table with her arm-full of the lights, and started placing them on the table. She took a couple steps back, look at it, then re-arranged the candles.
“There,” she mused aloud, “I like that. I think.” She took another look and chuckled to herself. “As if he will care where the candles are, right?” She knew him so well.
With a glance toward the cupboard where she kept the dishes, she reached up high, and pulled out the beautiful, delicate china pieces from their wedding. Each piece was hand-painted with a carefully graduated palette of a rich sunset. He knew this sunset, so did she.
From her lips, there was a soft melody with which she had been experimenting. Her humming filled the room; she liked to think it wove into everything. She was getting ready. She placed the dishes on the table, the flatware, and situated crystal goblets just where they should be.
Topping off each place setting, she carefully made the intricate folds of a pair of damask napkins, setting them as if Gaethrend himself had been here to cater. But no, they would be alone, and she was looking forward to it.
There was a knock at the door. It was the delivery for dinner. She had ordered his favorite things to eat … to drink, and they were here, right on schedule. She covered the food to keep it warm, poured the drinks, and set out some fruit and rolls to her carefully arranged table.
It was almost time. She lit each candle and stood back surveying the scene. There was a warm glow of anticipation in the apartment now, as well as the one within her.
She slipped out of her jacket and skirt, and hung them in the wardrobe. What should she wear? She looked at all her choices, lingering over some of them with a smile of memory. She reached for a sumptuous red gown and mentally picked out the simple jewelry she could wear with it.
“He has never seen this one,” she whispered with a smile.
And with that, it was settled. She would be the deepest, warmest part of the sunset tonight in that red gown. She let her hair down, just the way he loved it. As she brushed her hair, she closed her eyes, her thoughts her own.
Everything was finished and ready for him to return. She was sitting on a soft chair near the fire with a view of the waiting table (and the entryway). She pulled her harp up close and arranged her skirts to accommodate the instrument, then began to finger the chords of the song that had been flying through her heart and her mind all evening as she prepared this surprise dinner.
The harp echoed the growing ballad with a soft accompaniment. She hummed at first, perfecting the structure of the melody and the chord progression. It seemed to be the story of this night. The song was bright upon her heart as she responded with a smile. Her pulse began to drive the pace of the music as she took her time, mastering every nuance of the piece for him.
She looked over at the waiting table and chuckled softly, wondering just exactly how much dinner would be eaten while it was still warm.
There was a noise in the hallway, her eyes locked on the doorway and her heart pounded with anticipation. No, the click of the lock was too muffled, it was someone else next door.
She turned back to the song and the instrument in her hands, swaying softly with each beat of the new ballad. She could hear scraps of lines of music in her mind now, but … this was not the time for the lyrics. She gave herself to this song, the song for this night, until she knew it as well as it already knew her.
The song grew in sweet intensity as she played, awaiting his return. As the chorus built into the climax that marked the bridge, she hummed almost breathlessly, drawing out soaring notes as if this song had always existed.
She knew there was a dance in this song; she was savoring every expectation.
An anlas passed without her realizing it. She noticed it first in the candles, and the first shadow crossed her face as she glanced at the entryway again. She shook it off, and kept playing her harp.
But when the next anlas passed, and the next, her joys sank, bare and wanting, into the depths of her failing reality. She played on, now with nothing but a brave face forward to face the unyielding door.
She lost track of time as disappointment turned to despair and the candles sputtered. Her hands lay on the strings of the harp, playing nothing, just sitting there. Her mind was replaying every dreadful possibility in an endless loop, and she was unable to do anything but watch, tears running down her face.
Darkness became her only ally as the table faded from her view with the light of the last candle. The song, gone, was replaced by nightmares. Finally with a scream of defiance, she started to rebuke the dark and reclaim the new melody …
… and woke up – her throat raw, her face soaked with tears.