Grace sat on the wooden bench on the far side of the tiny park and let the melodies escaping out of the concert hall wave over her. The theme of the night was film music, as it had been for the past four nights. All of her favourite composers had been played: Horner, Marianelli, Silvestri, Williams and Zimmer. She closed her eyes as a single violin started in on a new piece and sighed, content, imagining the violinist gliding through the notes and allowing the power and passion of the music to take over his body.
Tom saw Grace on the bench, wearing the smallest of smiles and looking calmer than he had seen her in months. Where else would she have been but here? He walked over to the bench and sat down on its cold surface, letting out a breath that was snatched from him by the cold air and transformed into a cloud of mist before emptying away into nothing.
“It’s cold.” He murmured.
“It is,” she replied, her eyes shut and her hand gently moving with the music.
“You know you’re only wearing a T shirt and shorts right?”
“I do.” Grace smiled, her face smooth, a picture of peace.
“Ok, just checking.” Tom replied, closing his eyes and assuming the position Grace held. “So what are we listening to?”
“The main theme from Schindler’s List and yet another classic from John Williams.”
The violin picked up the pace as the piece took a new turn, adding in complex frames and flourishes to the main theme in a breathtaking crescendo. Grace moaned pleasantly as the hairs on her bare arms rose to a stand.
“It’s beautiful, I’ll give you that.” Tom admitted.
“It’s beautiful the first time you hear it, after that the beauty grows and grows until it’s impossible to listen to without it taking over every mood and element of your body.”
Tom smiled; it was just like Grace to be overcome by a piece of wood and a string of horse tail like that.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Why don’t you do that Tom.” She agreed, “Then with any luck you’d have lived your life knowing every thing without having felt anything at all.”
“I guess music just isn’t my thing.”
“Nonsense, music is everyone’s thing. You either love it or are too proud to love it.”
Tom snorted and looked at her incredulously. “I’m sorry, but did you actually call me proud? Me?”
The music died down to a finish and Grace pushed herself up on the bench, reaching inside her bag for a cigarette.
“Interval. Twenty minutes to wait for the rich folk to down their Margaritas.”
“Don’t dodge the subject. How am I proud?”
“I don’t make the rules Tom. Its how understanding of music works.”
Grace took out one of her Silk Cut’s and lit it, taking a long drag of it.
“I’m pretty sure that in this scenario Grace, you made the rules.”
Grace sniffed and took another drag before searching in her bag once again and pulling out a chocolate bar.
“So why are you here Tom?”
“Is it not allowed for me to want to spend time with you every now and then?”
She shook her head, “You have an ulterior motive. I can see your nervous body twitching.”
Tom sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. The woman had barely looked sideways at him twice and she was already picking up on his body movements.
“I’m worried about you.”
“But are you OK?”
“It’s just you haven’t been yourself.”
“I know. I’m fine.”
“Are you lying?”
“Yes but don’t push it.”
Tom looked at her, his eyes boring into the side of her face as she concentrated on opening her chocolate bar. He wished more than anything that he could take that pain she had held in her eyes for the past three weeks and throw it away. He couldn’t and she would never admit to having it so he could only do what he was used to doing with her; ignoring it until it was so bad she had to share it with him.
“The moon’s full tonight,” she offered to the uncomfortable silence.
“Yeah.” Tom agreed, turning to face the sky. “It tends to get that way once a month.”
“You ever wondered how weird that is?” She asked.
“I think we’ve got enough science to back it up.”
Grace rolled her eyes, “I mean how weird it is that the moon is always there, always full and yet we don’t always see it. For most of the month it gets to hide itself away and even when we see it as it is now we think it’s full but its not. There’s a whole other side it gets to hide away and no one even thinks about it.”
“Until we figured out how to walk on it.”
Grace kicked the ground stubbornly, “Don’t get me started on that.”
Tom laughed, “I thought you liked the idea of space travel.”
“Well today I don’t.” Grace answered wearing the smallest hint of a smile, “A girl can change her mind, isn’t that what they always say?”
“I believe so.”
Grace turned to Tom and took his hands in hers, stroking his palm with her tiny fingers.
“It’s all a load of rubbish anyway.”
“What is?” Tom smiled, amazed at her warm skin despite the freezing cold air.
“Any idea that’s not my own.” She smiled, turning her eyes onto his and wearing the cheekiest of grins. “You know I know everything.”
“Of course, and what was it you said once? Oh yeah. ’You should come up with the ideas and everyone else should just stop thinking.’”
Grace moved closer to Tom and pulled his arms around her, her face inches from his own.
“Except for you. You can think all you want”
Tom rose in eyebrows in mock surprise, “Really?”
“Well of course!” she smiled devilishly, “How else can I tell you what you say is a load of rubbish?”
She leaned in and drew Tom into a kiss, wrapping her fingers in his hair and throwing all her will into it. Tom responded, he had missed this intimacy from his girlfriend for so long and he wasn’t going to miss a single moment of it now.
Grace was the one to break it; she drew away with almost as much urgency as she started and rested her head lightly on his chest, throwing her legs on the bench and nestling into his arms.
“Turns out I am a little cold.” She murmured into the night air, her words confirmed by the mist created by them.
Tom wrapped his arms tighter around her and rested his lips on the top of her head.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“I know.” She whispered back, “I love you too.”
“You know work’s been a little different without you around.” Tom continued, choosing his words carefully so as not to say anything that might upset her mood. “A lot of people have been asking after you.”
“Like who?” Grace asked?
“Tracy and Mike, Catherine is always asking.”
Grace smiled, “Tracy and Mike are just annoyed they can’t double date at the moment. If they’re that bored with each other why be together at all?” She gave Tom’s knee a light squeeze almost in reassurance. “Catherine’s lovely though. I miss her. Tell me about work, what have I missed?”
Tom ran his hand through Graces hair methodically as he started up on the day to day accounts of work at the tiny offices where they made the local paper. Grace lay there, watching the moon as she let his words flow over her while mingling them in with her own thoughts. They stayed that way for at least five minutes until Tom’s stories ceased and his voice trailed into silence.
Tom sat then and watched Graces shoulders move slowly with her breathing. She was so beautiful. In that moment he was happy, happier than he had been in a long time. Maybe now things were going to be ok. The price to pay to be with this beautiful woman was her ‘moments’ as she liked to call them. Moments when she would be so far away it was impossible to reach her, but she always came back, and when she did it was amazing.
“You know what’s weird?” She spoke after a couple of minutes had gone by.
“What?” Tom asked lazily.
“The phrase ‘Not for all the tea in China.’”
Tom bellowed out a huge laugh and Grace sat up shaking her head at his response.
“I mean think about it!” she urged, “Why does China have a lot of tea all of a sudden? And if so then how much tea is there is China? I mean, maybe I’m just stupid but I thought it was our country that was famous for the tea drinking. Surely the phrase should be ‘Not for all the tea in England,’ if it’s going to exist at all.”
“I don’t think it’s just us that drink tea.” Tom offered, calming himself down. “I get the feeling that if you were to go to China, you would find there is a lot of tea drinking there as well.”
“Well it’s still stupid,” she pouted, “who would want that much tea anyway? If someone were to ask me to do something I wouldn’t use billions of tea bags as my example of the highest price they could offer me. I’d prefer the money spent on those teabags instead if anything.”
“Somehow I don’t think, ‘Not for all the money you would spend on the all the tea in China’ works as well.”
“Well it doesn’t stop it from being a stupid saying.”
Tom chuckled, and squeezed Grace’s side. Grace fell silent then, her eyes suddenly full of the hurt that had been occupying them for so long.
“I’m dying Tom.”
Tom’s stomach lurched forward. His grip on Grace’s waist loosened.
“What did you just say?”
“It’s a clot in my brain.” Grace’s eyes stayed glued to the floor. “Doctors only found it a couple of weeks ago but they say it’s too big to remove.”
His head went light, cold sweat prickled over his face.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to tell you at all but my doctors said it would be harder if you found me dead one morning and didn’t get to say goodbye.”
“Please say you’re joking.” Tom managed; his voice cracked and heavy.
“Apparently it’s a bit like a time bomb in my head, they have no idea when it’s going to off but when it does it’ll be quick. Hardly any pain on my part at all.”
The music started up again, this time a choir was singing a slow and prayerful piece breaking into an operatic soprano solo.
“Ah.” Grace smiled, “This one is called Kyrie for the Magdalene, from The Da Vinci Code, it’s composed by James Horner.”
“I don’t give a damn what this is!” Tom retorted.
He stood up suddenly and walked to the end of the short path. Grace didn’t move from where she sat, eyes still glued to the floor.
“It’s one of my favourites.” She murmured to the floor.
Tom turned and took in her small frame. She was sitting on the edge of the bench, her hands firmly tucked under her legs and her hair hanging limply in front of her face. All anger faded from him and desperation took its place. There at the end of the path he watched the woman he loved and let the sobs take over and escape his lips.
Grace looked up then, her eyes reaching his, all her hidden pain gone and now she had nothing but concern for him. She stood and walked over to him, taking his face in her hands.
“Please don’t cry baby,” she whispered, kissing his cheeks, “I’m fine now, I don’t hurt I promise. I’m fine.”
Tom hated her at that moment for making so light of this. He reached out and pulled her to him, pressing his head against hers. She pulled back and looked into his eyes.
“I love you Tom, if I could have spared you from this then I would.” Tears were flowing freely from both faces now. “You don’t deserve this, I –“
“Shut up Grace!” Tom pushed her away and held her by the shoulders.
“Do you know what you just said to me?” He shouted, “You are dying! You are not perfect enough to only care about me in this so just shut up!”
He let her go, pushing his hair out of his face and turning away from her. There they both stood, three feet from each other, hunched isolated versions of themselves. Three pieces of music played into the park and neither one moved or spoke.
“I have to go,” Grace spoke first.
“Don’t be stupid, the concert’s not finished.”
Grace went back to the bench and sat, pulling out her cigarettes once more. Hands shaking she fumbled with the lighter, trying to get it to work. With every time it failed to light she became more frustrated, eventually she let out a scream and threw the lighter across the park.
“Damn it Tom, I’m terrified! Is that want you wanted to hear?”
Tom watched her from across the park, he didn’t move, he’d forgotten how to.
“I’m sodding dying and I don’t know when! I could be here for another year or I could be gone tomorrow so forgive me if I don’t want to be spending my potential last night feeling sorry for myself.” She grabbed her bag and walked up to him. “Don’t you dare tell me how to deal with this. It’s my problem. I’m the only one who’ll be altered permanently by this so I don’t give damn what you think I should be feeling.”
“I’m sorry.” Tom murmured. It was his turn to avoid eye contact now. He gazed at the floor, the picture of a little boy being told off. He looked up and saw her flushed face and blood shot eyes. “So what now?”
“Now?” Grace sighed as she thought of her answer. "Would you sit with me till the concerts finished?"
Tom took Graces hand and led her to the bench, he sat down and she laid her head on his lap. Some random melody that Grace never identified flowed into the park. Tom took up his stroking of her hair and Grace traced his jean pattern with her finger. Neither said another word that night. They just sat until the concert ended.