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In un' altra vita


In un' altra vita

This one-shot was inspired by the excellent composer Ludovico Einaudi. I advise you listen to this piece 'In un altra vita' to get the feel of the mood.

 “Everything all right, sir ?”

Tristan blinked, shaken out of his musings. The coffee was to his taste, yes. But what tugged at his mind wasn’t the breakfast, per se, rather than the flurry notes of piano that hung in the air.

“Ah yes. I have to salute your taste in music. This piece truly lifts’s one spirit. Which composer is it ?” The waiter addressed him a puzzled look. Then understanding dawned upon his heavy features and he responded with a smile. “You will have to ask the lady at the Grand Piano, sir”

Tristan turned around, realising that the music came from behind him. From where he sat, he couldn’t see the Piano but he had caught a glimpse on the way to his room yesterday evening. Right before his brother’s wedding ceremony and ensuing party. Lucky him; at forty, he had, at last, found his significant other while Tristan never stopped his collection of good-looking actresses and models. Still searching from this recurring dream; a woman who would be his equal.

The waiter watched him; he didn’t dare interrupt his thoughts, but was clearly uneasy about going without his patron giving his leave. The rules of a Grant hotel. Tristan shook his head, considering how heavy the etiquette of such places could weight upon their employees’ shoulders. “Thank you.”

The man bowed slightly – a gesture from centuries past – leaving him behind. In the background, the music had changed from joyful to slightly sorrowful. There was the odd note here and there – the lady in question was probably honing her skills – but overall, it was pretty magnetic performance. One that held such pull that it tore him from the breakfast table. Tristan grabbed his mug of coffee to see who played the piano with such emotion.

The music flowed louder when he passed the threshold of the salon. Great tapestries and oil paintings of Carcassonne in the roman empire – ugh ! He hated romans and didn't even know why - then in medieval times hung in the higher part of the grandiloquent wall. History, ancestry, pride and all that jazz that new money loved to see displayed. Families hoping that once, their ancestrors were of noble descent. For he was rather sure of it; past lives existed, and were a reason why people’s behaviour was so different.

Aside from upbringing, some individual beat the odds so strangely. Like this child, Amira Willighagen, who sung opera at 9 years old without ever taking a class in her life. Those prodigies make a whole lot of sense when you realised that they were only channelling past experiences. It didn’t mean that the present moment wasn’t important; just that you would live your life with the baggage of the previous ones. Stronger, wiser, scarred, perhaps.

Tristan had buried those scars without finding their source. His family thought him too mystic. Who cared ? It didn’t change the fact that he was here, now, without any idea of what he was doing. For the flurry of notes stirred something deep in his heart. Tristan froze on the threshold of the immense room, surprised to find himself alone save the lady whose fingers caused the piano to sing. Cold marble on the floor, large airy lounge that connected the corridor to the terrasse area. And one soul, only, that caused the ground to vibrate and the air to hum.

He expected a more imposing woman such was the area of influence of her playing. Someone, maybe, with a big ego, checking out if people stopped to watch her. A lady that knew her consequence – monetary wise – and would overlook waitresses and hotel janitors as mere servants.

His expectations and prejudices were thrown through the window, for she was tiny. Tiny, and so engrossed in her playing that he didn’t dare stepping in for fear of interrupting. Long hair, reddish, falling in ringlets upon her slender back. A posture that told of her principles, high cheekbones that sometimes showed when she bent to strike higher tones. And the melody flew in the room, created by deft fingers who played softly, as if the lady was coaxing the music out of the instrument and not creating it herself. There was magic at hand there.

Tristan sipped at his coffee, finding comfort in the strong brew. His eyes closed by themselves, the melody became light as a feather, her touches barely caressing the white keys. And when she stumbled, breaking the rhythm of hitting a wrong key, a hiss passed her lips. But the beauty of the piece remained, for she was only summoning it. It existed out of her, from the composer who wrote it in the first place.

Silence occurred for a few seconds. Nothing happened as the woman breathed, back ramrod straight, before the piano. Those long ringlets of fire… it reminded him of…

Her fingers started a haunting melody and Tristan felt compelled to step forward. Slowly, as if lured by an invisible string, his coffee still smoking, he took another step. Then another. As silent as a scout in a warzone, lulled into a trance by the notes that danced around him, Tristan watched the woman’s face. Warm chocolate eyes, distant look, she wasn’t even acknowledging his presence as the melody changed. It became… a plead to his soul. Such sadness, tugging at those long-forgotten scars.

Bam, dam, dam. Those slender, elegant fingers fell upon the keys like a herald of doom. He remembered now.

Endless sky reigning upon wide plains of yellowish grass. Sarmatia. Horses running wild and the cry of a Hawk. His faithful companion in the journey of his life. The journey of his death. Long, difficult days to each Britain. Rain, and snow, mountains of hard granite and bitter winds. Comrades falling under the blue devil’s arrows, bleeding from deep slashes. And Arthur, precious Arthur with his principles, still leading them on, hoping that after fifteen years in the service of the Roman Empire, they would be set free. His loyal knights. He remembered his green eyes watching him, the torture in his soul as he realised what his scout had become. Fifteen years brushing death before she came and revived his heart.

The woman with the reddish ringlets. His little fairy. He remembered fighting by her side, protecting her until he succumbed to death. Remember her tear-stained face as he closed his eyes for the last time, promising that he would find her in the next life.

Had he, really ?

Her fingers kept flying, and tears stained his cheeks now. The coffee had run cold in his hand, the bitter taste eventually reminding him that he had never liked the brew. She was watching him now, features frozen, but her hands couldn’t stop playing. As if the call to his soul also caused hers to awaken.

They were dancing, carefree, on their wedding day. Putting on a show for the others to believe that he really fancied her, when his soul was consumed by the lovely Queen. But she – her lady in waiting and loyal friend – had agreed to marry him to hide the truth, protecting her Matilda with unwavering loyalty. And yet… even through this ploy, he could only watch, mesmerised, as she danced around him. She gravitated like a planet around the sun, her smile genuine, her bosom so lovely in the court dress, long ringlets adorned with flowers and a pin given to her by the Queen. The love in her eyes, so genuine, caused his heart to stir. So graceful, almost like a bird about to take flight. Who was he to cage her in a loveless marriage ?

For he didn’t love her, right ? Too engrossed in his consuming love for the Queen... he couldn’t see. He had not realised the extend of his regard until she held his hand on the scaffold, her lung pierced by a soldier’s blade, her stomach hosting an iron bullet. His mind cleared then, holding her fingers tightly, the memories of the past hitting him full force. He cried for her, for the life of an innocent woman who had protected him with strength and honour, a woman of twenty-five who now died for him. The executioner’s axe fell, and he knew no more.

Many other images came to his mind; she was there, always there.

He saw the great Mt Fujiyama, and her slender frame clad in a kimono. Married to another. He saw the mountain of Jerusalem, her face but a memory in his mind, her love the only silver lining in the cloud of this crusade. The United States, a desert in the Nevada; she had been his twin. Young and beautiful sister, shipped in the east coast to marry a bourgeois. Babylone, her long legs encased in a dress of white as flimsy as a dragonfly’s wings, preying to a deity in the desert with a stunning necklace of lapis lazuli adorning her neck. England, so young, blond hair and a dress laden with too many ribbons to count. Too innocent, easily swayed by the Duke's son.

 Her hands stilled, her open gaze fixed upon him. Had she seen what he did ? Tristan discarded his coffee on a nearby table, mindful not to spill it upon the expensive furniture. Who was she, today ?

“What… was this piece ?”, he asked.

“In un’ altra vita”, she said, voice even.

A magical piece, for sure. Realisation dawned. It was the Italian for…

“In another life”, he translated.

She nodded, her features frozen. Waiting to see what he would do. His feet carried him without asking his opinion on the matter. She scooted aside, leaving him enough space to settle down. Breath short, Tristan sat upon the plush bench, his grey eyes drinking in her beautiful features. Such few changes in such a wide range of memories; how was it even possible ? And given she intense look she was giving him, he had not changed much either.

The young woman didn’t move an inch when his hand lifted to caress her cheek. 

“Who are you ?”, he asked.

“Who do you want me to be, this time ?”, she responded.

Tristan smirked; he had been robbed of her so very often. He had even robbed himself once, too stupid to realise her love before it was too late. Her question made sense; they could be anything now. And even if he didn’t know her name, it didn’t matter at all. Today, they only had to choose.

And so, he closed the distance between them and allowed his lips to capture hers in a tender kiss. And for the first time in the past thirty-four years, he felt complete.