Pretty Scars First Chapter

My palm was sweating.

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was full but not hot. I wasn’t getting sick. But there I was, in a sleeveless gown, sweating like a schoolgirl with my damp hand holding Peter’s on the armrest.

Adam Brate had just drawn his bow across the strings for the final moan of the first movement of the famous concerto we’d all come to hear. Ballad of Blades. I knew the piece, and I knew what was next. But he paused. Lit from behind, face obscured by a shadow perfected over years of staging, he was now and always would be the anonymous genius. His body in silhouette, paired with the instrument between his legs, he dominated the concert hall like a giant. The music had molded the space into its own form, then died.

Someone coughed.

And still, Adam Brate sat in the shadows, legs spread, bow poised. This was his piece. A piece I loved, memorized, played loudly when no one was around. It had made him famous, and yet, he stayed anonymous. 

My hand got damper with every second that passed. I pulled it off the armrest and put it in my lap. Peter, never one to take a hint, moved his hand to join mine. He squeezed twice to get my attention, then shifted my diamond ring back and forth twice, as if it was some kind of lever.

I didn’t look at my husband. I couldn’t. My body belonged to the man on stage. I was in the third row, but I was sure his attention found every last person in the auditorium.

Adam Brate shifted his shoulders forward as if starting the next movement. The orchestra behind him laid the first notes, but Brate snapped his bow vertical. The conductor stopped moving, and twenty-two hundred people held their breath. We knew what came next. My mind played the first measures for him.

“What the hell is he doing?” Peter whispered.

Answering would be a waste of time. If Peter couldn’t see that the musician was about to turn this entire thing upside down, no explanation would help him.

Adam Brate drew his bow down to the strings and played a single note.

Then another.

And it wasn’t Ballad of Blades. Or any orchestral composition. He played a Dolly Parton song that I remembered in the voice of Whitney Houston.

“I Will Always Love You.”

That was when my sweat turned to tears.