They’d warned Landon he’d be here. Even if nobody dared to actually voice it to him, he could almost touch the red flags sticking out; beneath purses, in between murmurs, even crawling out of seemingly calm expressions. The silence was the biggest warning of them all. Whenever Landon came to visit, the street came alive and dissolved into a cacophony of exclamations, cheers and every now and then, sobs. He was one of the few prodigies that the city had conceived, after all. A dignified pianist, a musical virtuoso. It was always deafening, always blown out of proportion.
But this time, even the cicadas were immersed in a vow of silence, holding their breaths as he stumbled around.
And dense as he may have been, he still had a pair of mildly functioning ears, and a disposition for gossip. The whispers told him more than what he needed to know. That the bastard had arrived two days ago, that he had a tan now, and no wedding ring in sight. He hadn’t seen him but could imagine his shit-eating grin as he pronounced words with an accent just to show off. Landon ignored the fact that he himself sometimes did the same, in order to seethe over every little detail he could find about the man.
He was overly confident, Landon thought as he scribbled on his musical scores, and a chronic liar. He was the first-person Landon felt he could breathe with. His eyes were constantly jumping around but when he looked, really looked, they were two beacons, alight and scorching. He was infuriating and stubborn. And yet, Landon remembered he despised Debussy, that passion boiled over everything he did, and the way he loved so easily, so freely.
But Landon also remembered the way he’d cheated on him, just as easy and free. He closed his eyes, rage building inside the pits of his stomach. Bastard. Still, he decided to carry on with the small concert planned for that night, because as much as he feared encountering him, he was also too prideful to show that he actually cared.
He found himself sitting in front of his beloved piano way too soon. He wasn’t prepared yet, not today nor ever. The hairs on his neck stood up while every person from his past poured in. He’d never hated the small city more than at that moment. He’d never hated him more than at that moment.
And of course he started with La Cathédrale Engloutie, by Debussy. He tried to convince himself it was an inside joke, a sweet salute to old times, but the way he ended the scales was a little too rough, the notes bordering on agressive. Raw feelings tugging out of them, desperate to resurface and bite. His body contorted, his eyebrows jumping and moving along with the notes and his breathing coming out ragged. In a moment of weakness, he glided almost clumsily into Campanella, just because he could. Because he was a bit of a show-off, and because he enjoyed keeping people on their toes. Because if he were here, he thought, sweat dripping down his cheeks, he would be looking at me with those eyes. Scorching, alight.
His hands were cramping by the time he made it to the encore. His face was a pressure cooker, and something smelled wrong. But everything that he could pay attention to now was Beethoven, who was proving to be particularly difficult that night. He could only hear and feel the resistance of the keys against his fingertips, how they ripped and bit through the air. Furious, shaking, whining.
So it wasn’t a surprise how loud he cried out when someone ripped him away from his only source of solace. Too late he realized what was it that smelled wrong, why everything was blurry. Someone was tugging on his arm, pushing him outside. The street had never been more alive, the orchestra never as loud. Too late he looked up to see the apartment above crumbling and spitting fire. For the first time in a long while, he felt powerless. He knew no melody he ever produced would ever replicate the rushed screaming, the howls, the silence that follows a real tragedy. The death of a stray dog, the birth of a new demon. Fatima's last ballad.
So his voice rose, tore, cried to mingle in with the chants. He yelled as he hadn’t before, lungs filled with smoke and his throat aching, ripping, spitting cinder. He repeated the same name, God knows how many times. He searched for him in the crowd, pushing and silently praying.
Just as he was about to collapse of exertion, a pair of beacons turned towards him, and everything was white noise.