I had never seen anyone play the fiddle like her. To be fair, though, I hadn’t seen those many fiddlers playing on stage. I am not the most musical person. Jan was, and he reckoned that she wasn’t that good.
“Her fingering is rather clumsy, though the melody doesn’t come out badly,” he was saying over and over again while we emptied our pint glasses.
Jan had been playing the violin since he was seven. I had often heard him rehearse at home and he had even given some recitals at school. He was good and I had to concede that he usually got a much finer sound out of his old violin. But it was also true that his melodies needn’t compete with the uproar of scores of people crammed in a pub, their tapping feet and clapping hands, and the clinks of their glasses.
“But that fiddle,” he said, “it looks rather unique.” Jan waxed lyrical about that black instrument for quite some time. It didn’t take me long to stop listening. My senses were focused on her bouncy black hair and bright blue eyes, her pale skin and frail figure. She might not beat Jan at fiddling but she clearly outdid him in the looks department.
“Maybe we could go over during the break and ask her if we could take a closer look at that fiddle,” Jan said. Wishful thinking, that’s what too much beer does to Jan.
“Sure, I would like to take a closer look at anything she has,” I said, a rather loud display of my inner thoughts, which I regretted immediately. That’s what beer does to me. Jan gave me a harsh stare and I knew I shouldn’t open my mouth in front of her in the very hypothetical case that we went over to say hi.
We ordered another pint, hoping to find some Dutch courage to get us through our absurd plan. The jigs and reels played on and Jan continued praising the precious piece of wood on the fiddler’s left arm.
The music came to a halt and the band stepped down the stage and ordered some pints. All but the fiddler. I noticed her icy blue eyes fixed on us and, gosh, were they beautiful. Jan noticed her looking too and poked me on my ribs, a just-made-up sign meaning ‘let’s go’. And so we went.
The fiddler was staying slightly apart from the band, like she couldn’t be bothered to mingle with them offstage. We singled her out and said hi and she said hi back with a husky voice. I remained quiet while Jan did all the talking. She just nodded for most of the time until the conversation turned towards her instrument.
“So, you’d like to see it up-close?” she asked, her eyes sparkling. Jan gaped and said nothing. “Sure, but you must come alone.”
Rather odd, I thought, but I desperately needed a pee so I excused myself to the toilets and let Jan have the fiddler all for himself. I mean, the fiddle.
The stinking cubicle was beside the tiny room where musicians stored their kits and I could hear an overexcited Jan gushing about that stunning violin. I imagined him so wanting to put his hands on it and play some bits but restraining himself out of respect to a fellow musician. An imaginary conversation began playing in my head, thank you but no, I don’t want to spoil your finger marks and blah blah blah.
I was surprised when I heard one of Jan’s favourite sonatas filling the air. I had heard that one a thousand times at home but something felt wrong this time. The sound wasn’t projecting properly – it was muffled, as if the violin was swallowing the music instead of playing it outwards. Oh well, perhaps I was too drunk to know how a violin should sound and blamed it on the thin wall between us.
I went back to our table and a couple of minutes later she came back on her own.
“So, happy St Patrick’s,” I said, not having a better pick-up line. “I’m sure it must be tedious, having to work today.”
“Oh, it’s not like work at all. And I like to think of Paddy’s as my lucky day. I usually find something worthy to take home with me.” She had quite a naughty look in her eyes. And I had the silliest smirk on my face, deluding myself that she was talking about me. And then I remembered.
“Jan who? Oh, his name was Jan. Your friend is off to the toilets for a sec.”
“My brother,” I mumbled. But she was already walking towards the stage, a grin on her face.
The fiddler began playing a solo and I noticed immediately that the violin sounded different than before. Her fingering was still as clumsy, or so Jan would have said, but the melody was clearer, each note more precise. Jan was still nowhere to be seen and I began to get impatient. I shivered and knew it was time to look for him. Mother wouldn’t like it if I went back home on my own.
Irene Montaner was born in sunny Tenerife. After having studied and/or worked in several rainy countries she realized she didn’t really like the rain and moved to sunny Switzerland. A graduate in Mathematics, she has put her degree to good use by writing speculative fiction. Her stories have appeared at 365 tomorrows and Daily Science Fiction. This is her third time at Every Day Fiction.