The Soprano Ch. 01bybarabajagal001©
Note: Before diving into this, please note there's no actual sex in this chapter (sooo if you're after that, you should wait until chapter 2). This is the beginning of the sequel to The Maestro, and it's more or less a recap of The Maestro from Sebastien's perspective, just to fill in some background and set the scene for the sequel.
Many thanks for all the comments and constructive feedback I've received. It's been a real pleasure to share my work with you all!
Music trickled through the corridors of the symphony hall one foggy Saturday morning as musicians rehearsed Beethoven's 7th Symphony in the auditorium. The orchestra ranged around the stage, groups of musicians in little semi-circles playing together. It was typical for a Saturday morning, except that their conductor was nowhere in sight. Normally he would have been seated in the front row -- if he was not conducting -- making copious notes in his score. But today he was absent from the auditorium.
He was in his office, down a long, empty hallway from the auditorium, reclining on his green sofa with a woman in his arms. His woman. More than just his woman -- his soprano, the soloist he had hired over a year ago to accompany his orchestra. Since then, they'd become so much more than simply colleagues. He gazed down at her, soft and lovely and fast asleep, and just couldn't believe how much he loved her.
Certainly it wasn't something he'd anticipated when he'd first met her so many months ago. Oh, she'd made an impression on him, of course. The audition tape she'd sent in was so pure and lovely that he had chosen her as one of the finalists, even though her résumé made it clear that she could hardly have been out of college. Without as much professional experience as the other applications, he had been expecting someone flighty and immature.
Not so. Actually, his first impression was of a serious young lady -- serious, and seriously nervous. She had arrived early for her audition and had curled up in one corner of the auditorium to read. Only he'd noticed that she never seemed to turn a page. He didn't know where her mind was, but it was certainly not on her book. He had found himself smiling, quite charmed even before he had made her acquaintance.
"Good afternoon," Sebastien said, startling Claire away from her thoughts. She put her book down and then stood up to greet him.
"Good afternoon, Maestro," she replied, her voice soft and tremulous. "I am your one o'clock audition."
"So I see. Are you ready?"
He turned, leading her down the hallway to a small practice room and opening the door for her. She breezed past him and he noticed that she smelled sweet. Like strawberries, and roses, and...gummy bears? Shaking it off, he followed her into the room and sat at the piano bench. He watched her set down her things and smooth her hair down nervously.
"Are you adequately warmed up? I would like to play a few basic exercises to get a sense of your range," he said.
"Fine. I'm ready," she replied. He played softly, leading her through exercise after exercise. How pleased he was to find that her voice was as clear, as sweet, as it had been in her audition tape. It certainly had not been a mistake to bring her here to audition in person. And to find that she was every bit as lovely as her voice, what a charming surprise.
As he played through a final trilling exercise, a vision came unbidden to his mind. It was of the lovely young Claire, who he was bending over the piano and having his very vigorous way with. Her auburn waves were tangled in his hands, her sweet little voice gasping out in helpless moans. "Oh, Maestro," she was saying.
"Um...Maestro?" Sebastien blinked, his vision disappearing and Claire -- fully dressed and with a very anxious look on her face -- appearing before him.
"Very good," he finally said. "What selections did you prepare?"
"Well, I thought I would...um, I've got three pieces. One from the Verdi Requiem, one from the Brahms, and, um, something from The Magic Flute." She produced some sheet music and handed it over to him. He glanced at them, impressed by the range and gravitas the pieces showed. Her singing proved to be just as lovely and mature as was required by the pieces she had chosen, and he knew he would not soon forget her.
As it turned out, he would not be able to forget her at all. During the two-week period in which the auditions were taking place, there was rarely an hour in which he did not see her in the symphony hall. The orchestra was still rehearsing as usual, of course, and the young soprano was most often found in the auditorium with a notebook balanced on her knees. When Sebastien appeared to direct the orchestra between auditions, he saw Claire scribbling away furiously, watching him very intently. It was actually unnerving.
He hadn't been sure the others would like her as well as he did, but she continued to surprise him. He watched as she plucked up the courage to introduce herself to most of the musicians, and they seemed to get on well with her. She aced her interview with the hiring committee, and in her final audition she was a veritable star onstage. Of course, some of them were reticent to hire someone as inexperienced as she, but in the end they supported their conductor's decision to take a chance on her.
If Sebastien thought about it honestly, he would say that there was nothing inevitable about their relationship. Certainly he could admit that he had always found his Claire somewhat intriguing -- well, he had hired her after all. And of course he found her attractive -- who wouldn't? -- but he had been able to mostly ignore those feelings...until his friend got involved. Everything had changed in an instant.
"What is this?" came an incredulous whisper from somewhere to his right as he stepped off the stage. He turned and saw his handsome blond friend René push off the wall he'd been leaning against. "I cannot believe you have already begun to play with your new acquisition and have not even told your oldest friend," he teased in rapid French.
"What are you going on about?" Sebastien asked absently.
"She is a pretty little thing, isn't she? I am hurt that you are keeping secrets," René replied with mock indignation. Sebastien blinked, clearing his thoughts so that he finally understood his friend.
"Surely you are not thinking that Claire and I...that is ludicrous and insulting and you know better."
"Hmmm," René said doubtfully (thought it was true, he did know better). "You may believe so, but I think our young soprano might think differently."
"What are you going on about?" Sebastien asked irritably.
"Have you seen the way she looks at you?"
"In case you have not noticed, mon frère, as I am the conductor, it is her job to look at me."
"Perhaps, perhaps. But she is by far the most responsive of all your musicians. Can you not tell? I think it is more than just her job. She cannot keep her eyes off you." Sebastien grunted noncommittally.
"You are being ridiculous."
"I am not," René said, giving Sebastien a meaningful look. "There are other attractive men in the orchestra, to say nothing of yours truly, and I admit I have tried to catch her attention once or twice. She only has eyes for you, mon ami," he said, touching Sebastien's shoulder gently.
"You should not be putting such thoughts in my head! She is attractive, and that is temptation enough. But I remind myself, such relationships are never advisable -- even if they are desired by the other part, which this assuredly is not."
René only shrugged, and Sebastien shook his head as he walked back up toward the stage. He noticed Claire sitting quietly in her chair, apparently studying her music. But her eyes didn't appear to be tracking over the music. Instead, she seemed to be watching him. René's words echoed in his head: "She cannot keep her eyes off you."
Ludicrous. It was. Definitely. Still...well, he would just prove his old friend wrong. He lifted a hand, gratified to hear the music burst into life before him. He conducted them firmly -- now louder, now softer, now louder again. Then he cut them off without explanation. He cued them again, somewhat disconcerted to note the way Claire's eyes followed his every move.
He cut them off, cued them up. Off, on, off, on, until his musicians were looking at him strangely. Just as René had observed, Claire was assiduously keeping to his tempo, his dynamics, his everything.
Sebastien cast a brief glance over his shoulder, and then went back to conducting as usual. But for once he was having trouble keeping his mind on the music. So he dismissed everyone early, to their considerable surprise. He ran his fingers through his hair, noting Claire's lingering glance as she went backstage. He gathered his music, turning with some irritation when he heard footsteps behind him. René was smirking knowingly at him.
"You see what I mean. She must be totally infatuated."
"You are insane," Sebastien grumbled.
"And you, my friend, are an idiot."
Oh yes, Sebastien thought as he gazed down at Claire, he had made the right decision and it had all been worth it. He had proven it to himself, to the world, on opening night last year.
Opening night. Sebastien hadn't been nervous on opening night since his very first piano recital at six years old. He had always felt that with enough practice, there was nothing to be worried about. Generally he went into performances calmly and confidently, but tonight there was something more. Not nerves, but anticipation.
They had performed the entire program more than once in rehearsals, but it would be different somehow on opening night. In their fancy clothes, under the spotlight, with the audience filling the auditorium, he would finally get to see the results of their hard work. Especially her. His soprano. Tonight, she would stand before him, raising her voice as he commanded. It would be glorious.
And it was. Claire performed even more beautifully than he had anticipated, and for reasons he didn't fully understand it fairly lit a fire in his heart. Their eyes locked more than once during the concert, and he had to force himself to tear his eyes away from her. As the last lingering notes of the violins died away, he gave her one last smoldering look before turning to take his bows. From the way her chest heaved as she caught her breath, he imagined her heart must have been pounding. For the first time in a very long time, he felt his own skip a beat. How could this be?
He had been so right. They were a success, she was a success, and he'd won the right to be thrilled. Yet on opening night, long after the celebrations had stopped, his exaltations had been pushed aside by more pensive thoughts.
He had been conductor of this symphony for nearly a decade. He had directed dozens of successful shows, personally assisted in the raising of millions of dollars in support of the symphony, and he should have been very happy. Most days he was. But every now and again, on a night like this one, which had been such a triumph, he gave in a bit to his melancholy, admitting that as much as it was a cliché, it was also true: he was not as young as he once had been, and sometimes he wished he had someone to share such events with.
Sure, he had René -- a friend (and occasional bedmate) good enough to stave off many a lonely night. But they would never really be lovers, and some nights he longed for a companion so intensely that it almost hurt.
Tonight had been one of those nights. René had been as wonderfully enthusiastic as he could have hoped for, but he sent his friend home early. It was all over for one night, and he wanted to play. So he sat at the piano in the empty auditorium and began half a dozen pieces, stopping each after only a few bars. He knew what he wanted to play, what he always wanted to play at moments like this.
It had to be Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, the very first piece of music he remembered hearing; actually, it was the music of his very first memory. He'd been four, perhaps, and it had been a cold winter night long ago. Something had woken him from a sound sleep, and he had edged out into the hallway, away from the room where his brothers slept. He had made his way down toward the dim, flickering lights of the candles no doubt burning to their nubs on the dining room table.
At the end of the hallway, the door stood open. The chill breeze blew in and the powdery snow was falling outside. He could only see a few feet past the door, and then the light from indoors no longer penetrated the deep, dark night.
He had rubbed his eyes, still bleary from sleep and dreams. That's when he'd heard it: the music coming from nearby.
Around the corner, his grandmother sat at the piano, on which several rapidly melting candles sat throwing a dim circle of creamy light into the room. His grandfather -- the happy, clever man who had lived only another six years before succumbing to cancer -- sat beside his wife, beaming at her. Just at the edge of the light were his parents, looking young, carefree, and very much in love. His mother's belly was rounded softly; she'd been about four months pregnant with Sebastien's younger sister, Justine.
In retrospect, he supposed that Moonlight Sonata had been sort of a strange song to dance to, but he supposed they were in such a mood that they would have danced to a funeral dirge. He never remembered what the occasion was. Perhaps the turn of the new year.
He had watched them for a long moment before his mother spotted him, and he had been afraid he would get in trouble for being out of bed. Instead, she'd lifted him joyfully, exclaiming over her youngest son and dancing around with him before setting him on his grandfather's lap.
Being the baby of a large family, he almost never had time alone with his parents and he had soaked up every second. When his grandmother's playing stopped, he had cried out, "again!" before anyone could send him to bed. So once more it was, until young Sebastien was nodding off and was whisked away to bed in his grandfather's arms.
Moonlight Sonata. It was the first complete piece he had learned on piano, the first he had committed to memory at age nine, a song he played on lonely, melancholy nights. It complemented his mood and reminded him of that warm, happy night long ago. He missed his family.
So on opening night, he'd closed his eyes and played the first movement. He knew it so well; he didn't even need to think about it. For several long moments, he was back in his grandparents' farmhouse, twirling and safe in his parents' arms. He came to the end of the first movement; did he have the heart to go on?
Then he'd heard the sigh, the unmistakable exhalation of another human being. He'd supposed it was someone on the cleaning staff, or perhaps a member of the orchestra. When no one answered, but it was plain that they were trying to escape unnoticed, he grew angry. They had caught him in an intensely private moment, even if they had not seen the visions in his head.
He'd moved quickly backstage and surmised who it was even before he'd yanked her around to see her face. Of course. Claire. It was only appropriate that the women who had plagued his fantasies of late should interrupt him in the middle of the only fantasy that did not involve her. That night, he knew it was only a matter of time before their bodies would meet, giving way to the passion they both secretly harbored.
How their bodies had met was, he mused, a long and uncertain story of its own. A story of his dark desires escaping from the deepest recesses of his mind. Desires that Claire had not resisted. Desires that, to his immense surprise, she seemed to enjoy -- even to crave.
Sebastien lived for conducting. He had always loved music, but somehow playing piano or clarinet was never enough, perhaps because he knew he had no virtuosic talent in either. He wanted to find his own calling, and eventually he did. Conducting was more than just standing around waving a baton, regardless of how he joked. The orchestra could have just used a programmable metronome in that case.
No, the role of the conductor allowed him to infuse the pieces he performed with his own artistic interpretation. He loved knowing that even the most famous and familiar pieces would be heard as if for the first time at his symphony. But it wasn't just that.
It was the power. It excited him to know that his musicians put their faith in him and that they would stop and start at his will. Quite exceeding his expectations in this regard was his soprano, Claire. When he hired her, he had known she was a bit of a spitfire, opinionated and bright. But she showed little sign of opposition in the first few months they rehearsed together. He couldn't be sure whether she was shy, afraid to disagree with him, or merely appreciative of his musical judgment. In any case, he had certainly come to expect -- even rely on -- her total obedience.
Which was why it was so infuriating when he had been suddenly confronted with her first error, arriving late to rehearsal. She had been immediately and sweetly contrite, but the damage had been done. There was a crack in her utterly perfect veneer, and he was afraid that the glimpses he got of what might lie beneath showed something even more tantalizing.
Then René had opened his big mouth, and had fairly forced Sebastien to see Claire in the way he had been trying to suppress. The way she hung on his every word and action was disconcerting at first, but before long it was merely exciting. Sitting in his office after rehearsal, he sometimes let his mind wander to the other things he might be able to make her do. Well, he was a man, after all, and it had been a long time for him. The years he had spend cultivating his career with the symphony had left him precious little time for socializing and he could admit it was getting a little tiresome.
Besides, René was right. She was a pretty little thing. He had taken to studying her when she wasn't looking, trying to memorize each detail for one of his increasingly dark fantasies. Thick auburn waves tumbled down around her shoulders, framing a sweet face that he imagined hadn't changed much since adolescence. Sea-green eyes and pink lips -- often pursed or bitten in concentration. Her body was gently curved, slim, and she was light and graceful on her feet -- a dancer, perhaps. There was something indefinably birdlike about her, which was appropriate, as he'd always considered himself distinctly catlike.
More and more, he was feeling a bit like a predator stalking its prey. He was beginning to suspect he wasn't the only one who thought so.
Claire was beginning to look at him with new eyes. He could tell. Whenever he got too close to her, she took a step back. If their arms accidentally brushed, she flinched away, a soft blush rising to her cheeks. When she sang for him in rehearsals, the tension between them grew to almost unbearable levels. If, God forbid, they were alone together, Sebastien had to use all of his self-control to master the impulse to take her into his arms. It was very unlike him, cool and calm as he always was. In his long memory, no other woman had aroused such passions in him.
That was why, he supposed, his temper had risen to a boiling point the second time Claire arrived late. The tardiness would have been annoying enough, but the clothes she wore -- and didn't wear -- made it all positively infuriating. Displaying her body like that was begging for his comment. Immediately, he was seized with desire -- not to ravish her, though that came a moment later, but to punish her.
The thought surprised him; he'd never thought of such a thing before, but now it seemed powerfully arousing to him. The idea of her helpless before him, bound and awaiting his every desire. He wanted to hurt her, and to pleasure her. He clenched his fists, hoping to stave off the physical manifestation of his arousal, and was mostly successful...until rehearsal ended.