I remain in the kitchen alone, listening for the music, but it doesn't come back. As if to taunt the silence in my brain, a passenger jet takes off noisily from a nearby runway, filling the house with its engine's roar.
My composition notebook lies open on the table in front of me, waiting in vain for me to complete what I've started.
I clench and unclench my fists, using my thumbs to crack each of the other knuckles. The burst of inspiration that coursed from my fingertips through my pencil just a moment ago has disappeared and now, my hands feel unbearably useless with nothing to write, no notes with which to fill the empty staves.
As I strain to listen for music among them, the idiosyncratic sounds of this house seem to drill through my ear drums with particular urgency. The ticking of the grandfather clock in the dining room. The low hum of the refrigerator. Clara's small movements as she rearranges paperwork in the dining room.
Between all those noises, where a moment ago I heard unrelenting melodies and harmonic ideas, now there's only crushing silence.
Another jet engine rumbles overhead. From daybreak until dusk, passenger planes take off from Logan airport every fifteen minutes or so. That means I've been sitting here, waiting for musical inspiration to return to me, for at least a quarter of an hour.
A line of sweat that's been collecting along the nape of my neck begins to roll down between my shoulder blades.
I give up.
Partly to distract myself from the silence and partly to satisfy my curiosity, I decide to spend the evening going through the items left in George's bedroom. Only a few of his things have been moved over to Sacred Heart. The rest, mostly clothes and books, need to be packed and labeled for donation.
Once I reassure Clara that I'm not secretly hunting for more clues about how Delia died, she stays down on the first floor. When I briefly tip-toe downstairs to serve myself another helping of overcooked rotini, Clara doesn't come in from the dining room to join me.
She's sulking that I snapped at her, but there's just no way for her to understand how annoying her interruption was. There's no point in trying to explain my composition process to her.
After a couple of hours spent folding and packing George's cold-weather clothes and bed linens, I come across a shoebox on a shelf in his closet. Inside, there's a stack of faded photographs.
My heart flutters with anticipation as I bring the shoebox over to the bed. Despite what I told Clara, part of me fervently hopes to find some new evidence that might explain Delia's decision to die. Finding her death certificate must have ignited a spark of morbid curiosity within me.
I remove the lid and place it on the bed next to me. Cradling the shoebox in my lap, I begin to examine its contents.
The first photograph takes my breath away.
It shows Delia in her prime, on stage with a jazz band. The photographer, ostensibly George in the front row of the audience, frames her body from below. Delia's thick, black hair is pinned on top of her head in a glamorous up-do. Even in faded sepia, her lavender, floor-length gown shimmers as she twists away from the camera, deep in some heartfelt jazz ballad. In the corner, the drummer's eyes are clenched tight with emotion. Behind Delia, the pianist's profile is visible. He's watching her sing, clearly as enraptured as the photographer.
Placing the photo face-down on the bed, I notice something written on the back of it. It's George's handwriting: Connolly's Stardust Room / March 3, 1966. I've never heard of Connolly's, but it must be the name of one of the jazz clubs where Delia used to perform regularly, before she became a mother.
YOU ARE READING
The Piano UpstairsMystery / Thriller
Emerging composer Valerie Marco has always believed her mother committed suicide 20 years ago, in 1970. As she and her estranged sister prepare to sell their childhood home in the spring of 1990, they discover that their father lied to them about th...