The Borderlands Expire
The house was dark, the hallway lit only with a weak blue night light. He pulled his key from the lock and closed the door with a quiet click.
“Sandy?” he whispered.
He hung his keys on the hook by the door, kicking glass shards that lay on the white-tiled floor in a puddle, red wine judging by the smell. Oh God, what had she done this time?
He was later than he had hoped, hadn’t called to tell her so. He’d driven the three hours in one shot at a speed he hadn’t wanted to just to get back. She wouldn’t understand this. He paused to listen for any sign of life.
He walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. Empty wine bottles, two, stood on the kitchen counter. He peered around the doorway into the living room. A disheveled blanket, Sandy’s phone, sheet music and one violin, smashed, were strewn about on the sofa. He hated this smell of stale smoke and spilled wine.
He’d finally gotten a big break. Sandy’s brother in law, their agent, told him that someone he knew wanted to turn his spy novels into a TV mini series. That someone, he called him a producer, wanted to meet him at the Two Sheds, a nasty bar on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The brother-in-law-slash-agent told him to go for it, it could pan out. His instincts told him that the business would never work like this but he went anyway. And since his story included an orchestra scene, he thought he could get Sandy a part. She was a great violinist but her personality kept her from getting a job. Ok, the music industry was a tad competitive but if she never left the house except to buy wine and cigarettes how was she ever going to get work? Any creative business was competitive.
He climbed the steps, primed now for how he would find her, always the same; in bed, under the covers, in the fetal position. He heard no snoring so she must be awake, waiting for him. She would pounce and scratch and kick and bite. He was used to it by now. Then they would make love. She would collapse afterwards, roll herself in a cocoon of blankets and wake in the morning having forgotten the whole scene. Or so she said.
The producer had made him an offer. The dread of meeting Sandy in the state he expected to find her in suppressed any joy or suspicion he had regarding the meeting this evening. He could only think of how he used to find his mom when he came home from school. She took his dad’s death really hard.She said if she didn’t drink what else would she have? Funny, Sandy said the same thing.
The bed was empty. He hadn’t prepared for this.
His writer’s mind created a frantic set of scenarios. He saw her death a thousand times over in a split second. He flicked the bedroom light on and physically touched the bed, sheets still made up, like she was there and he just couldn’t see her. He ran through the upper floor of the house from room to room, snapping on the lights, finding one room as empty as the next. He doubled back and checked each room more carefully: bathroom, empty, no blood; spare bed room, empty, nobody under the bed; music room, empty, computer on. Hmm.
Sandy had been working on music based on his spy novels. His stories took place in a historically-fantastical feudal world. The hero of the story found that the key to break the borderlands of the feudal lord was by pummeling a stone wall with the sound of a hundred violins. Sandy had composed a haunting piece that was the fuel for his story. She’d played the melody in a five-part harmony and multiplied it to 100 voices that filled him with a feeling he as a writer couldn’t describe. Couldn’t describe in a few words but in a thousand, yes.
The cabinet where she hung her violins was ajar. He opened it and saw that her most treasured instrument, a Sergio Peresson from the 1980’s, and gold-trimmed bow were missing.
They’d been robbed! She’d been kidnapped and was hanging head down from a washline, stretched 1920’s tenement style from a fifth floor window. The perpetrators had left a cryptic message, if he could only find it. She screamed for him. He had no choice but to summon a super hero. He was sure he had the power to do it. Didn’t these powers come to light in moments like this?
Realization of just how alone he was dripped down his spine in a cold sweat. He flung open the window, looked up into the night sky, gathered all his energy and concentrated on one star, a pinpoint in the infinite mind-blowing eternity. Violin song rose and fell in the distance, gaining momentum, filling this moment with awe and appreciation.
Headlights in the driveway preceded the crunch of tires on gravel. He slowly reentered reality and watched Sandy’s car park next to his. She cut the motor and the violin song stopped. He stared dumbly as she got out, locked the door and walked towards the house.
“Oh my God, Sandy, it’s you!” he said.
“Of course it’s me,” she said. “What did you think happened this time? Kidnapping?”