He invited her back to his place, their conversation far from finished. She was surprised to see the cello positioned in the corner of the lounge room.
“Classically trained from an early age and all through high school. My folks were classical musos and the guitar was beneath them. Had they never heard of Slava Grigoryan? But it was Eddie Van Halen I idolised. I learnt cello as a concession in order to play the guitar. I even learned a bit of piano until they were convinced guitar wasn’t a passing phase.”
He poured two glasses of wine, offering her a seat on the lounge. “Besides, playing cello doesn’t get you the chicks.”
“Do you still play?”
“All the time. It’s different to guitar in its feel, tone, pitch, sound.”
“Would you please show me?”
Setting his wine on the low bookshelf Jake placed the cello between his legs, resting it against his shoulder as he tightened the tension in the bow. With a light finger he plucked the strings, his ear held close to the strings as if he were listening for a heartbeat. Charlotte watched the tattooed arm tune the strings.
Satisfied with the tuning Jake drew the bow across the strings, pulling out long notes, full of longing, resonating deep in Charlotte’s chest. She pulled a camera from her handbag and a roll of film. Careful not to interrupt the virtuoso she adjusted the camera’s settings and closed her eyes for a moment, carried by the music. Opening her eyes Charlotte moved between notes and passages with the rhythm pressing the shutter in time with the music. Through the view finder her eye caught the lines of the bow perpendicular to the strings; Jake’s arched fingers against the neck, his knee hooked into the curve of the cello’s body.
Jake grinned at her once, changing the tune to a quicker, lighter pace before the sonorous tones emerged again. Charlotte crossed her arms and held her camera to the right of her chin, studying her subject. Moving back to the couch she wound off the film and began to reload.
“The sound is sensuous, almost melancholic, yet beautiful,” she said.
“Playing cello is like making love to a woman,” said Jake, his legs straddling the dark stained wood. His fingers rested lightly on the strings, the bow waiting for the invocation of music, the horsehair tickling the strings above the bridge.
“And like all guitarists, you name your instrument.”
The raven-haired woman crossed her legs on the couch and sipped at her wine.
“What’s her name?” she asked.
The woman frowned, no knowledge forthcoming.
“From The Color Purple,” he said.
“The movie with Oprah in it. I’ve seen it. But isn’t Celie raped by her father and beaten by her husband?”
“I read the novel. It’s the redemption found in love. And you can’t treat a cello like a loose woman. That’s what guitars are for.”
Returning his focus he looked at the woman seated on his couch. She leaned back into the furnishings, her feet crossed beneath her.
“So this is your lover?” Charlotte asked indicating the cello with her wine glass. “How do you make love to her?”
Jake adjusted his legs around the cello. “You embrace her. Find the position where she is resting against you, comfortable and intimate. The body of the cello has the shape of a woman, curved and full.” Jake ran his hand down its body as if he were feeling a woman’s breast or the curvature of her thigh. Taking up the bow he began to play.
The cello’s notes, full of longing, took up the melody. “Each note made up here on the neck is her breasts: sensuous, ripe, engorged. With each touch you develop the song. You caress, press, touch.”
Jake saw Charlotte glance down at her own breasts, the fingers of her hand fiddling with the shirt button, perhaps conscious of their small size. He hesitated to make eye contact and let the music weave throughout the room, passionate incense perfuming the room.
“When you make love, you must remember all parts of a woman’s body. You embrace her to feel the softness of her skin, to inhale her fragrance, to consume her. But her breasts are but one part of the symphony.”
The bow arched and fell as Jake pulled and pushed it across the strings watching flakes of resin disintegrate from the hair and float under the light. The strokes gained intensity, no longer pushing and pulling, but thrusting with controlled ferocity. The music reached a crescendo, held sustained but not resolved. Jake plucked at the strings, the pizzicato quick, flicking the strings, holding the tension. Attacking the strings with the bow, the notes were drawn out in a hasty flight up and down the neck of the cello. An improvised solo, pushing, pulling, thrusting.
The bow arched sharply, the final note held in a vibrato by his fingers on the neck. Jake felt his breathing slow and become deeper. He rested his hands on his knees, touching the body of the cello, a light intimacy, the headstock leaning into his shoulder.
Charlotte, the raven-haired woman with the camera for eyes, put down her empty glass. Crossing the floor she felt Jake’s arm curve around her waist, pulling her into his lap. Positioning the cello between her thighs, her hands shadowing his as fingers. The bow moved arched slowly over the strings and her fingers followed his like a spider on the neck. Even now she could feel the vibration through the bow moving up his hand and into hers. Turning her head, her mouth brushed against his ear.
This is an extract of a longer piece, which you can read on Sunday, as part of the Write Anything Form and Genre Challenge. Many thanks to Jodi Cleghorn for giving me permission to use her characters, writing the beginning of their relationship.
You can read the story that inspired it here: What I Left to Forget