I have a present for you, he murmured as he kissed her on the cheek, then on the nape of her neck.
What is it? she answered, wanting to give in fully to the caress but intensely curious. Can I see it now, please?
He breaks away from her and reaches into his coat pocket.
A music box. How lovely! Oh, thank you.
I know you love music. I wish it were a violin.
I can’t play violin, silly. You know I played piano.
Well, those are harder to find. You would learn violin if you had one, I’m sure. I can’t pull one out of my pocket. But when I see one, I will get it for you. She nods silent assent, her voice caught in nothingness for some strange reason. A piano or a violin? she wants to ask, but is unable to.
One of the pilots was outbound and waiting at the cafe. I sketched him a picture of his airship and we traded.
It’s a precious thing, she whispers, turning the little handle. A tinkling melody emerges, one she does not recognise. Not from around here, then. Yes, of course, the pilot must come from elsewhere. When she looks closely she can see the tiny raised dots that spell out the song. As the cylinder turns, little metal tines get caught on those dots and sing. Much like him and her, constantly turning but always playing in the same beautiful key.
She looks down at her hands suddenly. The fingers are stiffer and more rigid than they used to be, though perhaps that is from the growing cold.
Do you think it would have made a difference if I’d insisted? she asks.
No. No, I don’t think so. Not from what you’ve told me. They’re so heavy I doubt anyone at all would have flown it in. Weight is at a premium on the airships. I’m luckier. Paper and canvas is nearly weightless.
If only we could get away to the capital sometime. Together. We could go to one of those ballrooms and find a grand piano. I could play for you. But I’ve forgotten how.
You’ll remember again the moment your fingers touch the keys. Next time I go, I’ll bring you back one of those miniature pianos they sell in the toy shops there. I’ve seen them a few times. They’re very fashionable right now.
She could kiss him. She kisses him.
Your new instrument. Instead of learning violin, you can play miniature piano pieces. I have the impression you’ll prefer it, and I’ll actually be able to afford it. Think of it as a cross between a piano and a music box.
My music has been packed away for two years. I don’t want it boxed anymore. I want it to fill the air.
She turned the tiny handle and the music box sang in time with her rising heart.
Story © 2015 Clio Em.
Part of the series Airships. Read the earlier stories:
2. mint tea