A Valentine’s Day Short Story: “Hearts in Tune”
After a few hours of unsuccessfully trying to sleep, Lyric got out of the bed and went down to the kitchen and put the tea kettle on. She wished she could write-off her sleeplessness to excitement, but she wasn’t excited. And she couldn’t understand why.
Last year, she’d jumped at the chance to return to the Nashville Symphony Center to fill in for the lead soprano in the Valentine’s Day program. She’d been flattered to have been asked, as she’d recently left the professional music world for the academic. It had kept her from spending the day with absolutely nothing to do.
Three months ago, when they’d called to ask her to come back this year, Lyric had said no. For the first time since she’d left her parents’ home in Rome to come to the US for college, Lyric had had a date for Valentine’s day . . . with Matt.
Matt. His name tasted bitter in her mouth. When Maestro Domingo had personally called two weeks ago and again asked her to come sing, since the soprano had just been taken to the hospital for an emergency tonsillectomy, Lyric couldn’t refuse.
She couldn’t help but feel that Matt had reacted out of jealousy—that he was jealous that she was still occasionally invited to be involved in the world of professional music and he wasn’t. It wasn’t her fault that his album hadn’t been picked up by a record label, even though he’d been a member of one of the most popular boy-bands twenty years ago. It also wasn’t her fault that the other three former members of that boy-band all had albums in the Top 20.
He’d asked her to choose between him and going to Nashville.
Lyric wanted both. She’d told him that if he’d been invited to sing somewhere on Valentine’s Day, he would have dropped everything and done it, trying to get him to be objective about it. She’d asked him to go with her. She’d even promised she’d use her contacts in the Music City to get him meetings with some artist management companies and recording labels.
Matt had refused and told her that if she went to Nashville, he would take it as her saying she didn’t want to be with him anymore.
She was going to Nashville . . . alone.
The lines at the curbside check-in were long, but Lyric could tell the lines were even longer at the counter inside the airport. The taxi couldn’t get closer than a few stands down from her airline, but the driver helped her with her suitcase, for which she was grateful.
An hour and a half later, Lyric boarded the plane. She’d treated herself to a first-class ticket and so got to board before the rest of the masses of people waiting to board. She set her earphones into her ears, and closed her eyes, visualizing the sheet music of the pieces she’d be singing as she listened.
Even with the music turned up as loud as she could stand to listen to it, all she could hear were Matt’s accusations and ultimatums. How could he have treated her like this? Why couldn’t he understand and be supportive?
At the airport, Lyric went straight to the rental car counter and secured a car before going to the luggage claim to get her bags. She arrived at the symphony center a few hours early and one of the production staff setting up for the concert found someone who could show her to a dressing room.
Lyric napped fitfully, trying to catch up on the rest she hadn’t gotten last night. When she joined the rest of the company to warm up with the orchestra, her head throbbed and she felt on the verge of tears. She didn’t want to be here. But now, she didn’t have a choice.
She thought about what Matt had told he had planned for their Valentine’s Day together. Hiking in Kisatchie National Forest. Watching the sunset from a hot-air balloon. And, finally, dinner and dancing at Vue de Ciel—the cavernous sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre.
Mechanically, she went through the warm-ups, receiving the greetings of her former colleagues with a forced smile.
Throughout the performance that evening, Lyric felt as if she were experiencing everything second-hand. She felt numb, dead inside. The solace and escape she usually found in music was, for the first time in her life, not there. It all seemed empty and meaningless.
Even the applause and cheers from the audience meant nothing to her. She had to see if there was some way she could get back to Bonneterre tonight. There was no way she could spend even one more day away.
She escaped the back-stage crush as quickly as she could and returned to her dressing room—but jolted to a halt in the hallway. The door was slightly ajar, and she knew she’d closed it before. Approaching as quietly as she could, she pushed it open slowly.
Her mouth dropped open and her heart pounded when she saw the interior of the room. Every imaginable surface was covered with vases of roses. And they were the largest, most beautiful white and red roses Lyric had ever seen.
Tears sprang to her eyes at the sound of Matt’s voice. Slowly, she turned toward the sound—then gasped at the discovery that he was mere inches from her. Before she could give voice to her many questions, Matt drew her to him, one hand at the small of her back, the other winding into her carefully styled hair. Her breath caught in her throat and she almost forgot how to keep herself upright as he kissed her.
“How . . . when . . .?” she whispered when the kiss ended.
“I flew in this afternoon. In fact, I barely got here in time for the performance,” Matt said, reaching up to wipe away the tear that had escaped Lyric’s eye. “You were wonderful.”
“I don’t understand.”
Matt’s smile was gentle and contrite. “I was afraid I was going to lose you. I didn’t want you to come up here and decide you wanted to come back to this. So, I realized I needed to come up here and give you a reason to come back to Bonneterre.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box even as he went down onto one knee. “Lyric, I can’t live without you. Will you marry me?”
© 2017 by Kaye Dacus
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