Earlier they escaped together to her flat. Something that is rarely done around here, or, at least, is done so discreetly that no one notices. Now she is sleeping, and he is fetching the tiny piano he promised her once, only she does not know that it is already here.
When she wakes up it will sit resplendent before her. He must make sure to enter quietly because the flat is comprised of only one room. The little instrument is very elegant, but a dark gray engraving of a little airship just above the keys irritates him. Everything has to do with airships, around here. The children dream of them. The adults dream in them, or below them, caught under their vast shadows. Airships are beginning to make him nervous, but he relies on them more than most. He cannot afford nerves.
The piano is strung with real strings on a metal frame. Much lighter and thinner than those of a proper piano, but definitely in the right direction. Elfin spun silk. She will play this instrument like the queen of some mysterious and magical little queendom.
But will she like it?
Some would call this instrument a toy, but for her it will have to be more than that. She kissed him so intently, then. For the piano or for him? Does it even matter?
He pictures her all in lilac and sighs. Playing her little piano, a bouqet of lilac blossoms atop it. He shakes the thought out of his head; how incredibly silly.
Piano. He struggles to remain quiet while working his way up the winding staircase. No elevator, of course. One of the little piano’s legs catches on the wrought iron of the banister. Clank, clank, like machinery. So loud. But no one complains.
The lilac-tinted thought sneaks back in. He would like to paint her like that. He is a romantic, a hopeless one. If that little scene were possible he would make it all happen, preferably on a hilltop, and he knows she loves the colour. She would approve. She would play lilac princess, not just for him but also for herself. But even now that he has more income, that kind of thing is prohibitively expensive. He has not seen her lilac-coloured hat and gloves lately. He wonders if she lost them. Perhaps he should buy her new lilaccessories when he is paid next. He will actually be able to afford that soon, though she does not know it yet. Even a matching scarf or clutch, or both. In the meantime he could have her pose dressed in her usual dusky brown and lilaquify her form on the paper, though it is not quite the same thing.
Clank, clank. Piano, little piano! The piano keeps catching on bits of banister.
Up, up the magical staircase, feeling rather un-magical because this little beast is heavier than it looks. It must be that frame inside upon which the strings are strung. Grand pianos can weigh upwards of a tonne. This one just feels like it does. Four octaves, more than he had promised her. This was a new model in the shop. Not quite the full 88 keys, but enough range for her to play a decent classical piece. He is no musician, but she should be able to figure out how to play full pieces on this. She’ll probably transpose or transcribe, what was it called? She told him about that. He loves her versatile mind. The keys are full sized, he made sure to ask, but the piano itself most definitely isn’t. Instead of using a chair she’ll have to sit lower, using the provided little seat. Cute. Or annoying? He wonders if this will offend her dignity or appeal to her sense of whimsy. With her he doesn’t know, sometimes. That’s what he likes so much about her, though. Ineffable, off-kilter elegance.
He’s reached the fifth floor, and her door. Takes the key he slipped into his pocket out of his pocket and opens it. Unfortunately, he’s misjudged the door’s width and the little piano bangs against the frame. Forte.
Lee, is that you?
She turns on the light and laughs in delight when she sees him with the instrument. Definite approval. Definitely not piano.
Story © 2015 Clio Em.
Read all the other Airships stories here: clio-em.com/airships