Faye heard the music just after midnight. It was soft and lilting. She thought it might be a harp, but when she listened harder, it seemed to be a flute. She couldn't tell where it came from; anywhere, everywhere, nowhere. She sat up in the bed, stretching, and listened intently.
Beside her, sprawled over most of the bed, was her husband. Jeff was still a good-looking man, still aggressively pursuing his goals; setting new ones even before the old were achieved. Faye automatically counted her blessings, as her mother had taught her: "Whenever marriage starts to get you down, dear," her mother had said, "count your blessings. What's good about it - that's the way you have to think! And besides, dear," her mother had gone on, "marriage is better than anything else."
Blessings . . . a large house, too small for a family of four, but too big for a family of two. Two children, independent, grown, hostile. Faye thought it was unnatural, and felt guilty for it, but she disliked her children. Marianne was selfish and amoral. She'd been married twice, and was living with her soon to be third husband. Michael was focused, intent, brilliant and a bullying womanizer; a heterosexual who actually detested women.
Faye had tried to warn his girlfriends, and eventually his wife, but to no avail. In high school and college, the girls had been dazzled by his good looks. Later, they were dazzled by his medical degree. Faye supposed that a six-figure income was some consolation. Despite his other faults, he wasn't stingy with the money.
It was hard to reconcile the two horrible adults with the infants they had once been. Faye had stopped trying, putting their pictures away in a box in the attic. They weren't missed.
The music was a little louder now, and a lot sadder. Faye got up, slowly because of the arthritis in her knees, and went into the bathroom. After she washed her hands, she turned out the light, but didn't go back to bed. She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror: grey hair, broad hips, sagging breasts, and tired face. She turned away, and went downstairs to the kitchen. Some tea might help.
Before she went, she looked at Jeff again. He was all over the king-sized bed now, on her pillow, with the last remnant of covers underneath him. Of all the irritations inherent in 35 years of marriage, the sense of being pushed out of bed every night was the one that really rankled. She'd begged for twin beds after the children had gone, but Jeff had been adamant.
"Married people share a bed," he'd thundered, "and by God we're sharing a bed." Only it wasn't sharing, it was combat every night, for every inch of space she occupied, and she hadn't slept well in 35 years.
She left him to sole possession, and walked downstairs. The music was audible again; it was discordant, and irritating. Like Jeff. Like her children.
Her kitchen didn't soothe her, either. She had wanted a simple, functional kitchen, perhaps a hint of warmth. She didn't like to cook, and spent very little time there. What she had was a gourmet cook's dream and her nightmare. She filled the electric kettle, plugged it in, and warmed the small pot and fetched a cup and saucer. She had done this every night for years; it had the comfort of routine; she still was half convinced it would help her sleep.
Damn that music; it was sad again.
She sat at the countertop as the tea steeped, listening to the night noises. The slight whoosh of the furnace; the nights were a little chilly in June. The yowl of the neighbor's cat, perpetually in heat, perpetually an irritant. There was no traffic, though, no voices.
Just the night noises. And the music.
She poured a cup of tea, and, restless, walked to the french doors leading to the patio. The moon was full, the backyard looked silver in its light. She remembered how much she had loved the moonlight when she was young, and, impulsively, put down her cup and stepped into the night.
The air was cool, and her nightgown billowed around her feet; a practical nightgown, thin white cotton. She walked out onto the grass, feeling the cool blades under her feet, with a hint of dew. The moon blazed overhead, lighting her, turning her hair - braided for bed - to molten silver and her skin to milk. Her green-grey eyes glowed, and she suddenly threw out her arms and began to spin.
The music was louder now, wilder, and it tugged at her heart, her feet. She forgot her arthritis, and began to skip along the hedge, to a gap she knew about, leading to the golf course beyond. She began to run through the course, faster and faster, dancing and twirling and running. Her heart was jumping, she was smiling to herself, slowing to a walk at last, slightly breathless, but feeling younger than she had in years. The music was soft again, happy, resting music. She found a patch of soft grass, and sat down, leaning on her hands, her head back, feeling the coolness.
She didn't see him arrive, but she felt him. She opened her eyes and saw him before her, spare, slim, older than earth and younger than the summer. His hair was very curly and wild; there was lots of it, all over his body. He smiled at her, his forest green eyes deep and sharp; his hand, reaching for her, young and old and soft and very firm. She blushed when she saw his erect penis, but rose when he tugged, and stood before him.
"You can leave that," he indicated the nightgown, and it was at her feet. The music now was full, and rich, and loud. Her hair was loosened, pouring down her back, flowing and waving in the night breeze. She left her nightgown, as she'd left her teacup, as she'd left her husband, lying right where they'd fallen.
She followed her lover into the forest, into the night, and into the bed of earth. She gave herself to him; gave of herself, all of herself. He accepted her gift, giving generously in return. They loved all night, with passion, with expression, and they were together as the sun rose.
He loved her again.
They slept, until the sunset, until a faint noise awoke her. She looked down at herself. Her breasts were - breasts. She was not young, but they were not ugly; they were sensitive, had fed children, were full with time. Her hair was - hair. All shades of silver, gleaming and drifting, beautiful. Her hips - full, yes, but again she had borne children, she had cradled her lover in them.
She was not young, but she was beautiful, and she saw it in her lover's smile as he pulled her to him again. She ignored the noises, close now, but muted; an alarm about a discarded nightgown. She didn't see her husband, standing over it, more irritation than bewilderment on his face.
She never knew what happened, nor did she really care. She followed her lover and his music, deeper into the forest, deeper into the earth, reborn to passion, reborn to herself.