tagNonConsent/ReluctanceChords that Bind Ch. 14: Sonata

Chords that Bind Ch. 14: Sonata


Dear Readers,

I've had this chapter in my head for a long time, so I'm extra excited to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed conjuring it up. This should be up in time for Christmas, and although it isn't holiday themed, I hope you'll enjoy it! [Incidentally, I'm seeking feedback on your feelings about a Christmas chapter. I thought one up, but I'm definitely not going to get that together. I already missed the holiday story deadline! Let me know if it interests anyone. If not, I'll save it for next year!]

Thanks as always for the comments, votes, and feedback. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to see your reactions. Wishing you a beautiful new year!




The doctor's office was supposed to be soothing, but stepping into the grey and green room with the mid-century throwback furniture, Cecilia felt anything but relaxed. This was the third time she'd been to Dr. Shriz. Abraham and Clara insisted that she see a therapist after her evening with Sebastian had gone all wrong. They went with her the first time to try and ease her into the idea.

In the back of their minds, they knew that Cecilia should have gone to see a doctor as soon as she physically recovered from her first ordeal. Abraham called James to let him know what he and Clara decided, expecting to have to convince him. But James was very agreeable. Over the short conversation he told Abe to take the funds for the therapist out of his account.

Dr. Jude Shirz suspected there was more at play with Cecilia's case than the couple initially let on. She didn't buy the reason that Cecilia was here. Cecilia said she was here because she'd been attacked while out on a date. She denied that her date had anything to do with it, but wouldn't explain why she ran out of a club alone at night in an unfamiliar area.

"Did you feel unsafe? Is that why you ran?"

Cecilia nodded. "Yes."

"But your date didn't make you feel unsafe?"

Cecilia paused, struggling to find the words. "He . . . didn't . . . I mean, he might have . . . but he didn't know . . ."

"Cecilia, did you he force you into anything with your consent?" Dr. Shriz's clinically androgynous matter-of-factness threw Cecilia off balance.

"He was just kissing me. I wanted him to. But then . . . he kept going . . . and . . ."

"Cecilia, you have to tell me. I can't help you if you don't tell me what he did. Did he rape you?"

"NO! No, he didn't. It wasn't his fault!" Cecilia hated that word. "When he was kissing me it just . . . it reminded me of . . . something else. Something bad I want to forget. He didn't know that I was remembering a different time. But it felt like I was back in time, like he was someone else."

"What were you remembering Cecilia? What did he trigger?"

"I don't want to talk about it." This time it was Cecilia who was blunt.

Dr. Shirz redirected. "What specifically did he do that triggered you?"

"I don't want to talk about this."

"Then I can't help you, Cecilia."

The doctor looked over her frameless spectacles, challenging Cecilia's resolve to hold onto her bad memories.

Cecilia held her ground.

"Alright. We'll revisit this. Can you tell me about your current living situation? Are you living alone?"

"No. I live with Abraham and Clara." For now. She thought.

"That's good. After your encounter the other night, it'll feel safer to have people with you. Do you have a good relationship with them?"

"Oh yes. Very good."

"Care to elaborate?"

No. "What else is there to say?"

"Tell me about them."

"They're a lovely couple. They've made me feel very at home, as if I were family."

"Do they have children? How large is their family?"

"No. No children, but James lives with us too. It's his house actually, if I understand it right."

"Who's James?"

Again, Cecilia didn't know how to explain how she knew James. She definitely didn't want to get in him into trouble after all he'd done for her.

"James . . . well . . ." He's my hero. "He's a pianist, so he's away on tour right now."

"And how long have you all lived together?"

That made Cecilia think. "Ah . . . maybe eight or nine months now?" Had it really been that long since she'd been kidnapped?

"So you feel safe at home?"

"Yes." Cecilia was sure of that one at least.

"What about before that?"

"I was alone before that."

"What made you decide to move in with your friends?"

" . . . Well, I moved to England . . ."

"And what prompted that?"

A trafficker and a terrible misunderstanding. But Cecilia wouldn't answer that truthfully lest it cause trouble for Abe and James. She hated thinking about any of this.

"I just—always wanted to see England—it's what I studied in school, so I decided I needed a change from America . . ."

Dr. Shriz detected the deflection and didn't believe for a second that that was all there was to it.

"Why are you here if you're going to lie to me Cecilia?"

"I don't want to be here! I'm only here because Abe and Clara asked me to come."

"Cecilia, your friends think you need to be here. They're worried about you. There are some things you need to work through."

"Well, I don't want to think about that right now." It was unusual for Cecilia to be so adamant, but she wasn't comfortable at all with the doctor's questions.

"We have another half hour Cecilia. Won't you let me help you? What about your romantic life? Can you tell me about your date? Do you have conflicting feelings?"

Cecilia sighed. The doctor wasn't giving up easily. "That was my first date in a long time."

Dr. Shriz masked her surprise. She suspected Cecilia would have a busy social calendar.

"Oh? And why is that?"

"No one has ever asked me. I'm not very popular..."

This was something Dr. Shriz could work with.


One hotel bar looks quite like another after awhile. This one was in Sydney, Australia. James was puzzled that Mae wanted to speak to him here. She sounded very serious when she asked him to meet her. They didn't have a performance tonight, having just arrived in Australia after several performances in Japan. Tomorrow they'd resume their scheduled concerts.

Mae plopped down playfully next to James on a barstool. He was still in his rumpled travel clothes. The top three buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned and he had a few days' growth on his beard. Mae on the other hand, felt refreshed. She showered and changed after checking in, assuming James would do the same.

Instead, he had rather a head start on his first scotch. She scanned him quickly, deciding to go through with her plan. She meant to respect his privacy, but if he was deteriorating over this Natasha business—and from all appearances it looked like he was—it would affect both of them. It was time to act and get him to shake off whatever lingered from their amour fou.

"Cucumber martini please. And may I see a menu?"

The bartended rushed to accommodate her. Mae quickly ordered a few small plates. James still hadn't done more than nod.

She steeled herself with a sip of her martini. "James, do you know why I asked you here?"

James shook himself from whatever train of thought he had been mulling over. "No actually."

"I'm a bit worried about you. You haven't been taking care of yourself since we left Tokyo."

"I'm fine, Mae. Really. Thanks for your concern though."

The bartender brought out prawn toast, some spring rolls, and roasted beets. Mae pushed a plate towards James, and took a bite of toast. "James. Eat something and talk to me."

James sighed and took a pull on his scotch. "Why? Mae, what's going on?"

She hoped it wouldn't come to this. "I'm worried about your playing." Yes. That got his attention.

James straightened in his seat. "Oh?"

"Yes. I'm amazed you've been playing so well with the way you've been behaving. You start drinking too early in the day, before rehearsals. You stay up too late. Are you even sleeping? Just look at yourself. This is not the James Asthon I know." Her softly accented voice was gentle, but didn't shield him from the truth as she saw it.

Mae was right. He hadn't been sleeping, which meant he was too tired to argue with her.

Mae used this to her advantage. "What is wrong, James? There is more to this," she indicated his scruffy appearance, "than breaking up with Natasha. Whatever it is, I need you to be able to perform. You can't keep this up, and I don't want to be humiliated on stage... especially with the gossip that's been going around."

Natasha made short work of telling the magazines and reporters that she ended things with James. She didn't directly accuse him of cheating on her, but let the reporters stitch the story together themselves. By the end of their tour in Japan, James was characterized as a savant Casanova, and Mae as the beautiful, unwitting, new flavor of the month.

Mae let the stories roll off her back. But the situation wasn't helped by the fact that they were travelling together for a tour across the Pacific, and obliviously, they had been photographed together. James apologized when the story first circulated. Perhaps that's what started this unhealthy cycle.

James felt bad that Mae's reputation was drawn into this. He nodded. "I won't let you down. I'm sorry you got involved in all this."

"I know James, and I don't care about gossip and rumors. Those people will forget soon enough anyway. But I do take my art seriously. Is it those stories that are bothering you?"

"Well, no—yes, what I mean to say is . . . I only hope that—there's one or two people I would rather not read them. I don't care about the rest of the world. Our playing speaks for itself. There's just one person I don't want hurt by what they read."

"Pray tell James, who?"

He paused, drained his glass, and whispered, "Cecilia."

Mae could barely make out the name. "Who is she?"

"Someone I care about. Someone who has every reason to hate me and doesn't."

"Someone you love James?"

James avoided the question by ordering a blood and sand from the bartender and nibbling on one of Mae's spring rolls.

"James? Do you love her?"

"It doesn't matter Mae. I—I did something unthinkably stupid that hurt her. And instead of hating me, she—she didn't forgive me—because she never even held it against me. She acted as if I were some sort of hero. . . I could hurt her again, and I don't want to."

Mae was confused. "Dating Natasha? Is that what you're worried about? All men get a little stupid when confronted with a woman like her. But that's not irreparable. Not if you don't want it to be."

"It's not Natasha." James shook his head. The bartender presented him with the scotch-based cocktail. "Thanks." Turning his attention back to Mae he struggled to explain. "Because of me, because of my error in judgment, she was grievously injured. She—could have—. . ."

Mae interrupted his confession. "You say she never held anything against you?"

"No. She doesn't. She doesn't seem to know I'm no good for her. So I have to be the one to protect her from me."

"I don't know what it is you're supposed to have done." James looked like he was going to confess whatever it was he'd done. Mae cut him off. "But it sounds like it was out of your control."

"That's the problem. It's all out of my control now. But before, I was the reason she was hurt. That's why I had to get away from her."

"So you're on this tour . . . and you think that will give you more control? I don't know all of this story—"

"Mae, if I'm not there, then I can't hurt her. Since I tried to make things right she's been living with Abe, Clara, and me. It's too hard having her so close to me."

"James. . . you're punishing yourself and running away at the same time."

"I'm not sure what else I can do. Mae, I'm just—"

"James do you want to be happy?"

"What sort of question is that?"

"James, I know you. Whatever you did, or think you did, you're a good person. You need to move on. Especially since you said she doesn't hold this against you."

"She brings out something in me. I'm afraid of it. Afraid of what I'd do to keep her. She's so perfect Mae, and she deserves someone better than me. Someone who doesn't . . . desire her so profoundly." It was as close as he could come to admitting his personal darkness.

Mae felt James rebuilding his emotional walls. "James," she shook her head, "you can't hold yourself accountable for things outside your control. Does she feel the same way about you?"

"She—shouldn't in any case. I don't know. I don't know if I can trust her feelings."

"Then all you can do right now is accept her forgiveness. James, do you hear me?"

"I do. But I don't know how. Right now, I hate myself for what I've done. I tried moving on with Natasha. Look how that turned out."

"James. You're suffering and it's no one else's fault but yours. You are in control of that. And if you don't take hold of that soon, your appearance won't be the only thing that suffers. You can't keep treating yourself this way and perform at this caliber."

If nothing else, Mae was right about his physical health. His sleepless nights with copious amounts of drink were taking their toll. He oscillated between being heartsick over missing Cecilia, and loathing himself for the part he played in her ordeal.

"You're right, Mae."

"I know. So will you try to forgive yourself? I need you in top form."

"I will. But I make no promises."

"That's all you need to do right now. Just try."

With that, she snagged his cocktail and started sipping on it. Her smile dared him to object. "After a gratifyingly smoky sip, she said, "You need some nourishment. Order some real food. I'll finish this for you."


James woke the next morning without a hangover. He pulled the curtains open and took in the sun sparkling off the water of Port Jackson. He ordered himself a pot of earl grey and a full English breakfast. After showering, (and a long-overdue shave) he pulled on his dressing gown and tucked into his breakfast alone.

Replaying his conversation with Mae last night, James wondered if Mae knew. She didn't pry into the dark nature of his desire for Cecilia. But his allusions didn't seem to faze her; her advice was sound and sincere. She was demure and easy going by nature, but he wondered if she was an actual submissive. He appreciated the way she confronted him and realized that she caught him before he really started to spin out. He did the same thing after Josephine left, and it had been unpleasant and awkward for Abe and Clara while he grieved the loss of that relationship.

Part of him was hurt by the gossip Natasha circulated. Another piece of him was ashamed he ever tried to have a romantic relationship with her. The other part was ashamed that he'd been unsatisfied with one of the most beautiful women in the world, not to mention a world-class musician. What was wrong with him that she hadn't been enough to satisfy his desires?

Hearing about Cecilia's near-abduction (and God knows what else those men had considered) nearly unhinged him. Right after that the social columns started circulating rumors of James' alleged affair with Mae. He needed to draw on the last reserves of unrequited passion for the remainder of their tour in Japan.

Waking up with a clear head helped. James acknowledged that he needed to move past these accumulated hurts. He was running out of excuses to punish himself. For a dominant he had such a masochistic streak. If acknowledging was the first step, then he was on the road to recovery.


"Cecilia, so far you and I only talked about your confidence issues. Socializing is hard for you, but I think you've been making progress on that. Probably without me, if I'm honest." Dr. Shirz was summing up conclusions from Cecilia's previous session. "Abraham and Clara seem to be good influences on your confidence." Cecilia noticed that she left James out of the good influences category. "What about your goals? Are you looking for a career? A relationship? Travel?"

Cecilia smiled. She hadn't made traveling a goal, but through events outside of her control she was the furthest she'd ever been from home. "I-I don't know."

"Come now, Cecilia." Dr. Shirz looked over her frameless spectacles. The doctor noted Cecilia's reticence to share anything personal about herself. "Why did you study English at university?"

"I wanted to be a writer."

"Have you been writing anything?"

"No. I haven't had time."

"What's been eating up your time? Your job?"

"No." Cecilia stared at the floor. She couldn't work because of the status of her nonexistent visa. It often bothered her that she couldn't repay James, Clara, and Abraham for letting her stay with them. "I sometimes go with Clara to watch rehearsals at the ballet."

"You enjoy dance?"

"I enjoy watching."

"I'm not much of a dancer myself," the good doctor confided, "but it is beautiful to watch. Have you thought about using that for inspiration?"

"No." Cecilia hadn't. She often let herself get swept away in watching the beauty and athleticism at work. But she hadn't attended a rehearsal since her date with Sebastian. She still didn't want to face him. Explaining would be too hard. Cecilia was uncomfortable with everything Dr. Shirz wanted to talk about.

"Sometimes I go to fitness classes with Clara and some of the other dancers." Cecilia hadn't done that in some time either. Mostly, she cloistered herself in the townhouse and listened to James' music when she was sure no one would notice.

"Exercise is healthy. I'm glad to hear that."

Cecilia almost admitted that she stopped doing these things, but it was easier to let the doctor assume.

"Cecilia, I want you to do a little writing. It doesn't matter if it's a journal or a poem, or anything else. I think it'd be good for you to express yourself. See if inspiration strikes while you're watching the dancers . . . How's that sound?"

Cecilia looked up from the floor to see Dr. Shirz had quietly crossed the room and presented her with a black, leather-bound notebook. "Take this. Do some writing, and next week see if you can share something with me."

Cecilia grimaced. "Okay."


James felt the sun beating down on him. The crash of the waves was a constant soothing noise in the background, punctuated by the intermittent cries of seagulls. Mae convinced James that they should take the time between the week's performances to relax. She no longer worried that James was having a mental breakdown, because he appeared remarkably improved. He stopped drinking into the wee hours of the morning and no longer looked haggard.

Today, they'd earned some leisure. James had been touring for months, and Mae wanted to unwind a bit. A day on the beach in Australia was just what he needed.

A buzzing interrupted James' semi-somnolent state. He sighed deeply, shielded his eyes against the sun, and reached for his mobile.


"James. I've got good news for you." Josh sounded rather pleased with himself.

"Who is this?" James asked groggily.

"It's Joshua Howland. United States Embassy. Your roommate second year of college..."

"Sorry Josh. I didn't check the ID on my phone. Did you manage—?"

"I did, James. That girl of yours should have her new passport and visa in a few weeks."

"That's brilliant Josh! Truly. Thank you so much for all of your effort. I know I wasn't asking something easy of you."

Josh chuckled. "Let's just say you owe me one or two. But it got done. I'm sending the documents to your address in London."

"Anything you need Josh. Just name it. If it's in my power it's yours. The London address is perfect. I'm in Australia for a few more days, but Abe and Clara should be able to get her a ticket to fly home."

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