Love's Melody Lost
See part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Anna stretched her back, cramped from the long hours in one position. She surveyed her progress. Graham was rightóshe was going to need help. Nevertheless, she was happy with the start she had made in the gardens below the terrace. In two weeks she had pruned back the rose bushes and bordering shrubs, and had rescued most of the perennials from the thick vines that had encroached upon them over the years. Since her mornings had quickly become filled with managing the affairs of the house, she worked mostly from midafternoon until dusk. The Yardley household itself required little attention. Whatever needs Helen had were easily accomplished on Annaís trips into the city for her classes. However, Graham owned property in both Boston and Philadelphia. Much of the financial matters were directed to the attorneys, but Anna found herself becoming quite adept at dealing with building managers, contractors, and accountants over the phone.
Several times a week, she assisted Graham with her business affairs, a task she had come to enjoy. From their afternoon meetings, Anna was slowly gaining an impression of Grahamís many dimensions, despite her carefully guarded exterior. Anna found her to be impatiently dismissive of any and all financial matters, despite the fact that she was clearly wealthy. If engaged in quiet conversation she was attentive, gracious and altogether charming. However, when forced to confront the affairs of the estate she made decisions quickly, occasionally displayed flashes of temper when annoyed, and seemed altogether uninterested in the practical issues that occupied most people. Whatever captured Grahamís mind when she suddenly fell quiet, her attention clearly eclipsed by some internal voice, Anna sensed it had nothing to do with the world she herself was familiar with.
Despite the fact that they spent several hours together nearly every day, Anna knew so little of her. Graham easily drew Anna into discussions of her life, but she never spoke of her own past. Anna became more and more intrigued as the days passed. She wondered what thoughts, and more importantly, what feelings, lay hidden beneath the silent unreadable features.
Anna sighed and tossed her trowel into the toolbox. Despite her fatigue, the hard physical labor satisfied her. Her days were full, and she was coming to view Yardley as her home. She looked forward to breakfast and dinner with Helen, only wishing that Graham would join them. Each evening, Helen took a tray to the music room before serving their own meal. After Anna and she cleaned up together, Anna retired to her rooms, often falling asleep before the fireplace. She never saw Graham in the evening, and she came to realize that she missed her formidable presence.
She carried her tools around to the gardenerís shed in the rear of the property. As she passed by the terrace, she noticed that the doors to Grahamís music room stood open. The lace curtains wafted out on the late afternoon breeze. Glancing in, Anna was surprised to see Graham seated at the piano. It was the first time she had ever seen her playing. The notes of a haunting melody reached her easilyósoft, and gently flowing, but so incredibly sad! Without thinking, she drew nearer, captured by the beautiful music. Standing before the open doors, she watched Graham as she played. This was a Graham she had never seen. Her eyes were nearly closed, and as her body moved commandingly over the keys, her face reflected the essence of the music. She was lost in the melancholy notes, critically alone. Annaís throat constricted as she watched and listened, knowing with certainty that at that moment, Graham Yardley and her music were one. She remained unmoving until Graham finished, then stepped softly away. The image of Graham, staring sightlessly down at her hands on the silent ivory keys, remained etched indelibly in her mind.
"Graham asked that you join her in the music room when youíre free," Helen called to her as she passed through the kitchen.
"Yes, thanks," Anna replied absently, still disquieted by the scene she had just witnessed, unable to say exactly why. She showered quickly and was soon knocking on the closed doors of Grahamís study.
"We need to deal with some of the personal correspondence," Graham said perfunctorily when Anna joined her. "We have been getting too many calls lately."
"Certainly," Anna answered, instantly aware by Graham's tone that she was disturbed about something. She wished she could ask her what troubled her, but Grahamís unapproachable demeanor prevented even that simple inquiry. Ignoring her disquiet, she crossed to her usual seat at the desk and began to peruse the letters Graham had obviously ignored for months. Anna was amazed at the scope of the solicitations. She began to read aloud at random, for all the letters were similar in theme.
"These two conservatories have written several times in the last two years requesting that you teach a masterís class," Anna informed Graham, who had begun pacing soon after Anna began reading messages to her. Anna had never seen her so agitated before.
"Tell them Ďnoí," Graham replied curtly, her face grim.
"There are a number of inquiries regarding your concert availability," Anna said quietly, subdued by the well-known companies seeking to engage Graham as a guest performer.
"Throw them away," Graham said flatly. She stood with her back to Anna in the open terrace doorway, and the hand she rested against the frame was clenched.
"Thereís a graduate student at Juilliard Ė sheís written and called several times. She says sheís writing her doctoral thesis on your early works-" Anna faltered as Graham caught her breath sharply. "She would like to arrange a meeting with you, and perhaps discuss your current-" Anna was stunned to silence as Graham whirled toward her, her face furious.
"I donít perform, I donít compose, and I donít give goddamned interviews. Go through whateverís there and deal with it! I donít want to hear anything more about it!"
Anna stared as Graham searched for her walking stick with a trembling hand. She had never seen Graham misplace anything in her surroundings before. It was heartwrenching to see her falter uncertainly as she tried to orient herself.
"Itís against your chair," Anna said quietly. She looked away, giving Graham time to compose herself. She knew Graham could not see her, but it seemed wrong somehow to watch her private struggles.
"Graham-" she ventured tentatively, not wanting to add to Grahamís obvious distress. "These things look important- I canít just throw them away. I donít think I can answer them without your help."
Graham paused at the door, her back to Anna, rigid with her struggle for control. "Iíve given you my answer to all of them - Ďnoí. Word it any way you want, but handle them yourself in the future. Thatís what Iím paying you for. Donít bring them up to me again."
Anna risked Grahamís ire with one last attempt. "If you could just give me some idea-
"Enough Anna," Graham said wearily as she pushed open the heavy door to the hall. "Itís done."
Anna was more than curious, she was shocked, both by what she had read as well as by Grahamís reactions. She had very little exposure to formal music, but even she could appreciate from the nature of the requests that Graham was no ordinary musician. The magnitude of Grahamís response was even more bewildering. Anna wanted very much to understand what had just happened, but she could not ask Graham. Anna knew Graham well enough by now to know she would never discuss something so obviously personal, let alone something that caused her such anguish. Her pain was clearly evident, but Anna sensed that Graham would never admit to it. It was the nearly palpable intensity of that pain more than anything else that propelled her from the room in search of Helen. She found her sewing in the library.
"We need to talk Helen," Anna said gravely as she joined the older woman in the seating area.
Helen regarded her first with surprise, then, at the sight of Annaís distress, with apprehension. "What is it?"
"Itís Graham," Anna replied. "Tell me who she is."
"Oh my goodness!" Helen pronounced, "That would be quite a task! Iíve known Graham since she was just a baby. Mrs. Yardley died when Graham was only three, and I guess I became the closest thing she ever had to a mother. Lord forgive me, but I think I love her more than my own flesh and blood. I wouldnít know where to begin!"
Anna was beginning to expect Helenís evasions whenever Graham was the subject, but she was too shaken by the strange scene with Graham to accept more non-answers. It was enough that Graham shut her out with her unimpeachable graciousness and impenetrable emotional barriers.
"Start with these!" Anna demanded, holding up a fistful of envelopes. "Carnegie Institute, Paris Conservatory, London Philharmonic Ė and a dozen others. You should have seen what these did to her! Sheís suffering, and you know she wonít admit that, let alone explain it. Iím supposed to be here to assist her. I canít be of any help to her if both of you keep me in the dark!"
Helen regarded her solemnly, a lifetime of guarding Grahamís privacy warring with her concern for Grahamís well-being. In the end she finally conceded that Graham needed someoneís help, and Anna cared enough to ask. She decided the time had come for one of them to trust someone. She set her sewing carefully aside and crossed to the library shelves. She took down several heavy leather bound books and handed them to Anna.
"I think this is what youíre asking about."
Anna opened the cover of the first volume to find press clippings, articles, and reviews, all of them about Graham. The earliest dated back over thirty years. With an increasing sense of wonder, she studied the chronicle of Grahamís life.
Graham Yardley had first come to the attention of the music world when she was only six years old. By then she had studied the piano for three years. The young music teacher her father first employed soon recognized that the headstrong young child was advancing far too rapidly for normal instruction. An interview was arranged with a famous instructor at the Curtis Institute, who accepted the little girl as a pupil. By six she was giving recitals, by her teens she had appeared as a guest soloist with a number of internationally renowned orchestras, and by twenty she had won not only the Tschaikovsky competition, but every prestigious music competition on every continent. Not only had she been lauded for her innovative interpretations of classical works, but for her own compositions as well. Her talent seemingly knew no bounds.
The decade of her twenties was a time of intense international touring and performances. The London Times, the Paris Review, the Tokyo press and dozens of others celebrated her as the next heir to Rubenstein and Horowitz. There didnít seem to be enough superlatives to describe her. Seemingly she had not yet reached her peak when the coverage simply stopped. Anna was left with a void, staring at empty pages, desperately seeking some further glimpse of the great pianist all the world had welcomed.
"My god, Helen," she murmured, closing the books gently, swallowing the urge to cry. Laying them aside, she met Helenís questioning gaze. Just as she knew Helen was waiting for her to comment, she knew that her response would determine what else Helen might share. In the end, all she could do was speak from her heart.
"Sheís really quite special, isnít she?"
Helen smiled softly. "Itís strange that you should say that Ė I always thought of her that way - special. People who didnít know her thought her genius came easily. I knew that whatever she was born with, the music she made came from her heartís blood. When she was working, you couldnít drag her away from the piano. For days and nights unend sheíd go without sleeping - Iíd practically have to force myself into the room with a tray of food. Sheíd be pacing or playingóstruggling with some refrain. When sheíd finally come outóĎstarvingí, sheíd say, -- she would look so happy! I knew she loved it; you could feel her excitement when she had gotten it just right!"
Helen paused, searching for words to portray a personality that by its very uniqueness defied simple description. The icon the world had worshipped was merely the public image of the complex, complicated, and all too human woman Helen had known.
"Sheís been called so many things. A gifted child prodigy they said when she was six, a remarkable composer they said when she was twenty, and at thirty they called her a master. Some things they said arenít written down in those articles. There were those who called her arrogant, temperamental, an egotistical perfectionist. All those things were true, but she was so much more to those who knew her! Whatever she demanded of others, she demanded ten times that from herself. She put all of herself into everything she did, and expected the same from others. She was the force that drove all of us, and in return she gave us beauty beyond belief. We made allowances I suppose, for her temper and her arrogance. She was never cruel or malicious, simply so intense, so consumed by her music! She was the light of our lives!"
Anna sat quietly, trying to imagine Graham like that, wishing she had known her. When she thought of the tormented, anguished woman who would not even hear of the world she had once ruled, Annaís heart ached. Where was that imperious virtuoso now?
"What happened to her Helen?"
"The accident changed everything," Helen said with a finality that warned Anna not to probe for details.
"Helen," Anna began tentatively, "I heard Graham playing todayóit was so beautiful! Why doesnít she perform any longer?"
Helen shook her head. "She wonít play for anyone anymore. Hasnít since the accident. She was in the hospital for months. When she was finally released, she came immediately to Yardley. Sheís lived here since then. Her father was alive back then, of courseóitís been over ten years. He stayed on at the main house in Philadelphia, and I came here to be with Graham. He visited, but I knew it was hard for him to see her so changed. At first friends would call, and so many important people from the music world, but she wouldnít see them. For months she barely spoke, or left her room. After a while, she began to go outside, mostly at night. She wouldnít let me help her. Sheís always been so stubborn, even as a little girl!" Helen smiled at some memory. "It broke my heart to see her stumble. Sometimes she fell, and it was all I could do not to run out to her. But, oh! Such pride-! I knew it would hurt her more if she knew I could see her like that."
It was physically painful for Anna to imagine what Graham had suffered, or the extent of her loss. Neither could she imagine that the stubborn independent woman she was coming to know would simply give up.
"But, Helen! She's still so strong. Whatís happened to her?!"
"She didnít go near the piano for that whole first year, and I feared for her mind, I really did. I can never remember Graham without her music! When at last she began to play again, I thought everything would be all right. But the music was so sad! I donít care about that anymoreóIím just happy that she plays at all."
"It doesnít make sense! She can manage quite well, and with a little helpó"
Helen looked alarmed. "Oh no, my dear. Itís not because of her injuries. I only wish it were. Graham lost something much more than her sight in that accident. She hasnít composed a piece of music since she came home from the hospital. Itís as if the music left her that night Ėafter she had lost so much already!"
"But what--" Anna began, confused.
Helen stood suddenly, gathering her things. "Iíve gone on too long, Iím afraid. I must sound like a silly old woman to you."
"Oh, Helen. I know better. It must have been so hard for you all these years!"
Helen smiled. "To have Graham home, alive, was all I wanted. If only I could see her happy again! I wish you could have known her óso accomplished, so full of life. She loved her music so, and the world loved her! When she toured, the concert halls would be full! People stood for hours to hear her play. Oh, she was something to seeólike a young lion, so graceful and proud!"
"She still is, you know," Anna said softly. "I heard her play, I felt her musicóit was one of the most powerful things I ever experienced."
Helen looked at Anna strangely. "You can see it, then?"
"Oh, yes!" Anna exclaimed. "She has such passionóin her hands, in her voiceóeven in those beautiful eyes!"
Helen touched Annaís face tenderly, then turned quickly away. "I think it will be good for us that you have come."
When Anna found herself awake and restless at midnight, she returned to the library. She curled up in the large leather chair, books open in her lap, compelled to revisit Grahamís past. She searched the newspaper and magazine images of the vigorous artist, struck by her vitality and fierce passion. The photos of Graham on stage, lost in the rhapsody of her music, were among the most arresting portraits Anna had ever seen. Anna was stirred as if by the memory of someone she had once known and now missed. There was a sense of loss that felt deeply personal. As Anna lay tossing later that night, searching for sleep, the strains of Grahamís music echoed in her mind.
Reluctantly, Anna conceded to Grahamís wishes. When more than a week had passed with no further overture from Graham to address her personal correspondence, Anna wrote replies. Since she had no specific instructions, she simply stated that Ms.Yardley appreciated the inquiries but was not presently available. She could bring herself to neither leave the letters unanswered nor to close the door on Grahamís previous life. It was too final and felt much too much like death. Grahamís death. It was beyond tragic to accept that the Graham Yardley she had glimpsed in the yellowing pages of history was gone forever. Anna could not accept it, not when Anna heard her walk the halls late into the night, or awoke to the sight of her outlined against the dawn at the cliffsí edge. Stubbornly Anna clung to the hope that Graham herself had abandoned, the hope that the music would someday return to Yardley.
Frustrated that she could not help Graham, she worked instead to restore her home. Summer was approaching, and Anna had taken the task to heart. She hired carpenters and painters to work both outside and in, tending to the multitude of small details that had been neglected for a decade. She finally relented and hired a landscaping crew she had seen advertised in the university paper. They would be helping her clear the wide expanse of nearly wild growth that covered the rear slopes and the bluff above the sea.
When Anna walked down one morning to the sea cliffs where Graham stood nearly every morning at dawn, she was terrified to find the path almost totally obscured with roots and vines. She couldnít imagine how Graham had avoided injury all this time. To make matters worse, the sea wall was crumbling into the surf a hundred feet below. There was precious little safety in that spot, especially for a woman who could not see. Anna knew it would be useless to ask Graham not to go there. Anna could envision the reaction that would produce! And, in truth, Anna didnít have the heart to bring it upówhatever compelled Graham to visit that desolate point of land morning after morning didnít matter. Anna couldnít ask her to give up one more thing in her life. She simply hired a contractor and had the stone abutment repaired.
Late one May morning when Graham entered her music room, she immediately sensed another's presence. She stood still just inside the door, trying to discern the unexpected visitor. Anna had made it clear to the various workers that Grahamís music room was not to be violated.
"Anna?" she inquired with faint surprise.
"Yes," Anna answered uncertainly. She was standing with her back to the door and hadnít realized Graham was there until she spoke. She hadnít expected Graham at all. She was rarely about during the morning.
"What is it that youíre doing?" Graham asked as she crossed the room. Her voice wasnít critical, merely curious.
"Iím putting a vase of flowers on the mantle. I just picked them." she replied quietly. She was well aware that she had not been invited into Grahamís study, but neither had Graham told her she was not welcome to go anywhere in the house she desired.
"To what purpose?" Graham asked darkly, "Did you think I might enjoy the color?" She didnít want reminders of what she could no longer see! Anna caught her breath as Graham stalked to the French doors, flinging them open to stand in the archway, her back to Anna.
"I thought you might enjoy the beauty of their scent. I only wish that you might enjoy the sight of them as well." Her voice quivered with both anger and uncertainty. She didnít want to hurt her, but she couldnít stand to see her deny all that remained to her. She stared at the rigid back, not realizing she was holding her breath, wondering if she had pushed this volatile, wounded woman too far. She waited for the hot flare of temper.
Graham drew a long steadying breath. "Forgive me," she said quietly. "That was unconscionably rude of me. Please accept my apology."
"I didnít mean to upset you," Anna replied. "You neednít apologize."
"I thought I could smell the roses on the wind last night," Graham said softly, her back still to Anna. The rigid stance relaxed, to be replaced by a weariness too often evident in her whip-slender frame.
Anna approached her cautiously, afraid Graham might retreat if startled. "Yes, theyíre in bloom again now. Theyíve been waiting so long."
"Have they?" Graham questioned, her gaze fixed on some distant point beyond the open terrace doors. "I would have thought they had simply perished by now."
"Their roots are deep, and strong," Anna said softly, wondering if they still spoke of the flowers. "The soil of Yardley is rich and fertile; it has nourished them all this time."
Graham stood very still, aware that Anna was close beside her. The air about them was filled with the perfume of new life.
"Nourishment alone is not always enough - living things need more than that. They would not have survived indefinitely without care," Graham said softly.
"No," Anna replied, swallowing the ache in her throat, "but they didnít have to." Impulsively, Anna grasped Grahamís arm. "Walk with meóIíll show you."
Graham tensed at the first touch of Annaís hand upon her arm.
The sensation was so foreign it startled her. Then, with the grace born of her
breeding, she tucked Annaís hand in the bend of her elbow. "All right," she
agreed, allowing Anna to lead the way.
As they strolled the meandering paths, Anna stopped frequently to describe the young flowers, drawing Grahamís hand to the soft buds.
"Daffodils?" Graham asked as Anna brought a petal to her face.
Anna smiled. "Yes, - wait," she said, plucking another blossom. "And this?"
Graham cupped her fingers around Annaís hand, bending her head over the flower nestled there. Softly, she inhaled. "Wisteria?" She looked up to Anna expectantly.
Anna stared into the questioning eyes, struck by there expressiveness. For an instant, she was certain that Graham could see her. She would give anything to make it so! Graham sensed the stirring of her emotionsóAnnaís hand trembled slightly in hers.
Anna released the breath she hadnít realized she was holding.
"Youíre very good. Right again!" she said, her voice thick with an emotion she couldnít name.
Graham slipped the blossom from Annaís grasp and tucked it into the pocket of her shirt.
The simple gesture touched Anna. It pleased her unaccountably to bring the gardens to life for Graham. Each smile that passed Grahamís lips, however fleeting, felt like a gift. Oddly, she was even enjoying their physical closeness. Even though Graham could maneuver the garden paths perfectly well, she made no move to remove the hand that Anna kept on her arm. Anna found herself curiously aware of the muscles rippling under her fingers as they walked. She forced herself to pay attention to the uneven terrain, trying to ignore the unusual fluttering in her stomach.
Graham stopped suddenly, a puzzled look on her face. She turned to her right and stretched out her hand.
"Where are the lilacs?"
Anna was startled that Graham should know. Grahamís ability to orient herself in her environment continued to astound her. "Youíre right, of course. Theyíre here, but they were so badly overgrown that they havenít flowered in years. I cut them back. In a year or two theyíll flower again."
Graham leaned on her walking stick and sighed. So much was gone! "Iím sorry. They were always so lovelyóthey were my favorites, I think, after the roses."
Anna place her hand over Grahamís, whispering, "Theyíll be back."
Graham shook her head, her expression once again dark. "There are some things, Anna, that once lost, simply cannot be restored. There is no use in struggling to reclaim them. That path leads only to greater disappointment."
"I cannot accept that," Anna insisted. "One must hope."
Graham remained silent as they made their way to the house. She knew only too well that with the passage of time, even hope would die.
Helen carried a tray into the music room as she did each evening, placing it on the table beside Graham. Tonight, Graham seemed lost in thought. She held a flower in her hand, tracing the petals absently with a fingertip. As Helen turned to leave, Graham called to her.
"Sit a moment, wonít you?"
Surprised by the unusual request, Helen sat anxiously waiting. Although she and Graham spoke often, their conversations were always casual. Graham never discussed her deepest thoughts, and never sought Helenís advice. Even as a child she tended to make announcements about her intentions, such as the time she informed her father she wasnít going back to school. She never did. She had been eight.
"Would you like some champagne?" Graham asked as she filled her glass from the bottle by her side.
"Oh goodness, noóyou know how silly I get when I drink that!"
Graham smiled. "You just talk a little moreóyouíre never silly."
Helen leaned to touch Grahamís arm gently. "Is everything all right, dear? Is there something we need to talk about?"
"Anna," Graham replied after a moment. "Do you think sheís happy here? It must be very lonely for a young woman so far away from the city, with no friends nearby."
Helen had known the woman before her since the day she was born. She had seen her through triumph and great tragedy. She had watched her lock her heart and mind and great talent away in the empty rooms of this house for a dozen years. This was the first time in all those years that Graham had mentioned another person, let alone noticed someone enough to question their happiness. Annaís presence had penetrated Grahamís self-imposed isolation, and that was close to a miracle. Helen chose her words with care.
"She seems to love it here, Graham. Why, I can hardly remember what it was like before she came."
Graham made an impatient gesture. "Nor I. But thatís not the point. Yardley is our homeówe chose this place, this life, you and I. Anna didnít. We mustnít take advantage of her kindness, or herócaring."
Helen thought she had an inkling of what really concerned Graham. Anna was an unusual woman. She appreciated Grahamís notoriety, had understood her fame, and yet she was not overwhelmed by it. In Grahamís entire life, there had been very few who had ever dared approach her with friendship. Her imposing personality and public stature prevented ordinary relationships. People were either afraid of her intensity, or her temper - or they wanted something from her. She had had many followers, and many would-be friends, but it was rare that anyone tried to know her. Grahamís personal attachments had most often been the source of her greatest disappointments. After all these years alone, she would surely distrust any type of intimacy.
"Graham, Anna is a grown woman. And sheís made a lot of hard decisions in her life. Leaving a marriage is hard, even when itís not a good one, and I imagine striking out on her own without much security was hard, too. But, she is strong and independent, and she knows what sheís about. Sheís here because she wants to be, and if she becomes unhappy, I imagine sheíll do something about that herself. I donít think thereís anything to worry about."
Graham relaxed perceptibly. "Helen?"
"What does she look like?"
Helen appreciated what a difficult question that was for Graham to ask. Graham knew the description of every piece of clothing in her closet, and insisted that each item be returned from the cleaners in a certain order. She never asked for assistance in dressing, never asked for help if she needed something to eat, never asked for any help at all. The only concession she made to her lack of sight was the necessity of keeping the furniture in one place. For her to make a direct reference to her inability to see was unheard of.
"Oh, lord, that is a hard one," Helen exclaimed, nonplused.
Graham rose impatiently, reaching a hand up to the mantle, her face turned toward the fire. "I know that she is almost my height, and strong. I could feel that in her hands when she took my arm in the garden. She laughs softly when something pleases her, and she loves the land. She knew how to bring the flowers to my mindís eyeó" She halted in frustration, unable to complete the picture of the woman who was so often near, but whom she could not see.
"You already know the best parts of her, Grahamóher goodness, and warmth, and her wonderful love of life."
Graham turned around, her fists tight. "Yes, but what does she look like? What color is her hair? Her eyes? What does she wear? Helen, I canít see her!"
Helen longed to go to her, to stroke the anger and frustration away. She knew very well that Graham would not allow it, would not allow any sign of sympathy.
"Her hair is blonde, rather like honey, and cut back away from her face. Her eyes are very blue, like the ocean on an August morning. When sheís excited about something, her skin flushes a light rose and her eyes sparkle. In my day, weíd call her wholesome. She has the kind of strong body women have these days--you can tell sheís fit, but, she flows in the right places, too."
"How long is her hair? What colors does she wear?"
"Her hair just touches her collar, and itís not so much curly as wavy. It blows around in the wind, like your does, all wild and free. When sheís working outside she sometimes ties it back with a bandanna round her forehead. She likes to wear those loose trousers with the drawstrings at the waist, and tee shirts, -or those menís shirts that are made for girls. Lovely colorsópurples, dark greens, deep golds."
Graham had become very still as Helen talked. The tension slowly left her body.
"Does that help?" Helen asked her.
Graham nodded, concentrating on the picture forming in her mind.
"Sheís not at all like Christine, is she?" Graham asked softly.
"Oh my dear, not a bit."
Anna waited impatiently in the kitchen. Helen had been gone for so long! She had been starving when she came in for dinner, but the longer Helen was absent, the more anxious she became. Graham had been so subdued on their way back to the house, Anna was certain something was wrong.
"Is Graham all right?" she asked the moment Helen rejoined her.
Helen looked at her in surprise. What had gotten into the two of them? They were both so jumpy! "Yes, dear, sheís fineóshe just wanted to talk to me about a few household thing. Now, why donít we eat before everything is completely cold."
Forcing herself to relax, Anna poured them each some coffee and joined Helen at the kitchen table. She tried to appear nonchalant.
"I was just a little concerned. She spends so much time alone, and sheís so very sensitiveó"
"Thatís her nature," Helen commented. "All she ever wanted was to play the piano. Her father had to force her to do anything else. He adored her, though. I thought he would go mad himself after the accident. For so long we didn't know if she would live, and then when she finally opened her eyes, he was sitting right there by her bed. She put her hand out to take his. She didnít say anything for the longest time; we didnít know that anything was wrong. It did break his heart when she said, so quietly, that she couldnít see him. Oh, it was a horrible time!"
Anna closed her eyes with the pain of the image, of Graham so brutally injured, of a family so hurt. Some part of her longed to change the past, to undue the horrible suffering.
As if sensing her thoughts, Helen said, "We all felt so helplessó" She shook herself, rising briskly. "It doesnít change things, does it, to wish for the past to be different?"
"What was she like, before the accident," Anna asked quietly. As each day passed she wanted to know more. She was certain that the key to Grahamís silence and her pain was hidden in her past. Anna couldnít stop thinking that if she could only understand what had caused Graham to withdraw from all she had been, she would find some way to reach her. Exactly why that mattered so much to her she couldnít put into words, but she knew she had never been so affected by anyone in her life. Maybe it was just knowing what an incredible genius Graham Yardley possessed, and that the loss of such a gift went beyond personal tragedy.
Helen laughed. "She was a regular hellionóshe never got on well in regular schools. Not that she wasnít bright - she was always good at whatever she tried. Itís just that she never wanted to do anything except play the piano. She said once that when she looked at the world, she heard music. It was her language, as natural to her as talking is to us. All you ever had to do was listen to her play to know what she was feeling. Itís the one place she could never hide. When her father put her in the music school, with tutors at home, she did much better. From the time she was young she was in the company of adults, and she never had a childhood. She had been all over the world by the time she was fifteen. She grew up surrounded by people who wanted things from her - a piece of her fame, a piece of her passion. Her music might have been pure, but the world it thrust her into wasnít. Sometimes I feared it would destroy her!" Helen sighed. "She loved a good party, though, and, oh, what a good dancer! She made up for all the hours she spent lost in her work by being a little wild. But we all forgave her for the times she worried us, because she was such a wonderóshe brought us all so much happiness."
Anna tried to imagine Graham that way, infused with energy and enthusiasm. That there were great depths to her sensitivity Anna had no doubtóbut Grahamís passionate embrace of life had disappeared. What Anna couldnít explain was her own desire to rekindle it.
Anna respected Grahamís wishes, and did not mention the abundant correspondence that still arrived regarding her former career. Graham remained for the most part an easy person to work for, and if it werenít for the fact that Anna was acutely aware of Grahamís deep unhappiness, she would have found Grahamís company more than satisfying. On those occasions when they escaped from the drudgery of paperwork to relax on the terrace, Graham seemed sincerely interested in Annaís life. Anna enjoyed their times together, only wishing for some way to make Grahamís rare smile linger.
Unexpectedly at first, Graham began to appear in the garden while Anna was working. She would stand nearby, often wordless for long lengths of time, and then simply disappear. Eventually she started to ask Anna what it was that she was doing. Graham would listen attentively, then smile to herself as she made a mental note of a new shrub or planting. She was slowly creating a new vision of Yardley with Annaís help. As the days passed, her visits became more frequent. Anna found herself looking forward to these encounters. On those days when Graham didnít appear, Anna finished her work strangely restless and unsatisfied.
Late one morning Anna glanced up to find Graham close by. Her hands were thrust into the front pockets of her trousers, and she leaned forward with a perplexed expression on her face.
"What are you wondering?" Anna asked, leaning back to see her tall companion.
"What youíre planting. This isnít the rose garden, or the English garden, or the perennial bedóin fact, this isnít anything at all as I recall." Graham gestured toward each of the gardens as she spoke.
"Youíre right on all counts. This is the kitchen garden."
Graham frowned. "We donít have a kitchen garden. Helen always said she couldnít grow weeds, and IóI never had the time." Her expression became distant, a response Anna was coming to recognize. Whatever the memory, it was painful.
Anna reached into her carry all. "Here," she said, placing a pair of soft work gloves into Grahamís hand. "Put these on."
Graham turned the gloves over in her hands, clearly at a loss. Anna found her consternation appealingóshe was usually so commanding. Had Graham known her bewilderment was apparent, Anna knew she would have been embarrassed.
"So you can help plant the tomatoes," Anna said matter-of-factly. "Weíre making a garden so we can grow our own vegetables this summer." She knew she was risking alienating her reclusive employer, just when she seemed to be emerging from her isolation, but she had to try. The gardens seemed to bring Graham some peace. Anna only hoped her instincts were correct. She was quite sure that no one had ever suggested to Graham Yardley that she dig in the dirt.
Graham hefted the gloves. "I donít need these."
Anna studied Grahamís hands. They were long-fingered and delicate, ribboned with fine blue veins beneath soft pale skin. The supple fingers suggested strength, but they were not meant for rough work. Anna had seen Grahamís hands on the keyboard, how they moved with certainty and grace. She had heard the music from those hands on the night breeze. She did not need newspaper accolades to know they were exquisite instruments in themselves.
"You do need them," Anna said softly. "Please put them on. I canít let you do this without them."
Graham hesitated for a moment, then nodded. She slipped them on, then asked, "Where do you want me?"
Anna grasped her sleeve. "Here, on my right. Give me your hand." She placed a seedling in Grahamís palm. "There are twelve of these in each flat. Make a hole six inches deep, then put the seedling in, pot and all. Press the earth firmly around the peat pot, so there are no air pockets. Put the plants a foot and a half apart. Move straight to your right back toward the house. All right?"
Graham brought the young plant to her face. It smelled like warm sunshine. For a moment she was lost in the comfort of it.
Anna watched the transformation of her elegant features. Graham cradled the tiny plant reverently, her face losing its stark tension, relaxing into a gentle smile. The tenderness she hid so well was plainly evident now. Abruptly Graham emerged from her reverie, and with a shake of her head, her expression was once again inscrutable.
"I can do that," she said with her usual confidence. With utter disregard for what must be five hundred dollar trousers, she knelt beside Anna as directed.
"Good," Anna replied. She watched Graham work for a while, amazed at her self-assurance and dexterity. She also noted the care with which Graham handled the delicate new life. She was a wealth of contradictionsóremote, emotionally distant, intimidating, and yet she showed such tenderness and sensitivity in the small gestures that she didnít realize were so revealing. Anna found it hard to take her eyes off her. Eventually she forced herself back to work, and the time passed in companionable silence. As the sun climbed above them, Graham paused to roll up the sleeves on her shirt. She leaned back and Anna caught a glimpse of her face.
"Graham," Anna called, "turn towards me."
Graham swiveled around, a questioning look on her face.
"Oh hell. Youíre burning!" Anna cried in consternation. She hadnít thought the sun was that strong, but then it occurred to her that part of Grahamís pallor was from her rare time outside. She knew Graham walked the grounds late into the night. Only recently had she begun to venture out during the day. Anna grabbed a tube of sunscreen and knelt by Grahamís side. "Put this on your faceóand your arms, too."
"Are you sure?" Graham questioned reluctantly.
"Of course Iím sure!" Anna exclaimed, angry at her own carelessness. "You should see how red you are!" The instant the words were spoken, she wanted them back. "Oh, god! Iím sorry!"
Graham opened the tube. "Well, Iím notóI know what I look like with a sunburn."
Anna thought she looked more striking than ever with color in her face. "Itís not that bad, but if it gets any worse, I think Helen will kill me."
"Better now?" Graham asked as she covered her hands and face with the lotion. She lifted her head toward Anna for inspection. Her hair was windblown and tumbled over her forehead in disarray. Sunlight etched the angles of her face in gold, a dazzling contrast to the rich black of her hair and eyes. She was unknowingly stunning, and as Anna gazed at her something visceral shifted in her depths.
Shaken, not wanting it to show, Anna reached for the tube. "Here, give it to me," she said hoarsely.
She brushed the cream across Grahamís jaw and down the side of her neck. "You missed a spot," she said softly, cupping Grahamís chin gently in one hand. Graham struggled not to pull away. Anna sensed her discomfort and wondered why. Was it her blindness that made her so, or something else?
"Thank you," Graham remarked seriously when Anna took her hand away. The touch of Annaís fingers on her skin had startled her. Even Helen rarely touched her, and Graham had not thought she missed it. She had little need of contact with anything save the keys of her piano. Still, her breath caught in her throat at the sensation of Annaís fingers on her face. She struggled to control her expression, aware that she was trembling.
"Youíre welcome," Anna replied, moving away. She had a hard time forgetting the look on Grahamís face when she innocently touched her. It looked like fear.
"Graham!" Helen cried when Graham walked into the kitchen. "Oh my gracious! Did you fall? Are you hurt?"
"Iím fineówhy?" Graham answered in surprise. She felt better than fine, in fact, she felt strangely exhilarated.
"Why, youíve got dirt streaked on your face, and your shirt is a sight!" Graham took meticulous care in dressing, and Helen could never remember her with so much as a crease out of line on her tailored trousers.
Graham frowned. "I was gardeningóapparently rather messily. Just how bad do I look?"
When Helen got over her astonishment, she laughed with delight. God bless Anna for this! "Iím afraid you wouldnít like it. You look - disheveled."
Graham put down the glass she was about to fill. "Iím going to shower," she said stiffly. She left with as much dignity as she could.
Helen looked after her, tears threatening to fall.
Less than a week later Graham was startled by a knock on the door of the master suite. Helen never disturbed her when she was in her rooms. She rose from the chair that faced the open windows, calling, "Yes?"
"Graham, itís Anna. I have something for you."
Graham opened the door to admit her, a question in her eyes. By way of explanation, Anna placed a package in her hands.
"These are for you," she said, suddenly shy. It had seemed like such a good idea when it first occurred to her. With Graham standing in front of her, as unassailable as always, she wasnít sure.
Graham motioned her inside with her usual grace. "Please, sit down."
Anna looked about, surprised by the luxury of Grahamís quarters. Everything from the high four-poster bed to the ornate armoires and antique dressers spoke of cultured refinement. Graham projected such an austere impression that Anna had to remind herself that Graham had grown up in and been part of the very pinnacle of wealthy society. Her only visible concession to that opulent world now was her taste in clothes. Anna watched Graham carefully as she opened the parcel.
Graham stood by her bed, meticulously examining each item, her expression growing more and more perplexed. She said nothing as she carefully arranged the strange gifts. Finally she faced Anna, one elegant eyebrow arched in question.
"And these are?" she queried, her voice carefully uninflected.
Anna took a deep breath. "Two pairs of denim jeans, three blue cotton workshirts, six white cotton tee shirts, crew socks, and a pair of Timberline work boots."
"Interesting," Graham noted, struggling to keep her voice even. "And the purpose?"
"You canít garden in Saville row suits and Italian loafers. Itís criminal," Anna stated. She didnít add that it was also unsafe for Graham on the steep, often muddy slopes in the shoes she usually wore.
"I have never worn blue jeans in my life," was all Graham could think to say. No one had ever been so bold as to comment on anything she had ever worn before. In fact, such an attempt would have drawn her most scathing reply. That Anna had taken it upon herself to actually buy her clothing astounded her.
"Theyíre black," Anna answered smartly. "I thought youíd prefer that."
"And how did you manage the size?" Graham asked, still strangely subdued. Anna was one of the few people she had ever known who did not seem intimidated by her. The other had been Christine, and that had been entirely different.
"I write out your checks," Anna explained. "I called your tailor."
Graham couldnít hide her shock. "You called Max Feinerman about blue jeans? What on earth did he say?"
Anna smiled at the memory. "He told me more than Iíll ever need to know about your inseams, rise and waistbands. I had a hard time convincing him that it wasnít necessary for him to make the jeans, even though he insisted vehemently that he had always made all of your clothes. Heís delightful." She didnít add that he also obviously adored Graham, and had asked anxiously when he might be needed to tailor her next concert suit. He explained her trousers were cut to allow easy movement on a piano bench and that since Graham had an unusually long arm span, she needed extra width in the back and sleeves of her shirts. It was important, he said, that nothing impair her reach on the keyboard. His pride in assisting Graham had not diminished during her years of seclusion. Anna was coming to realize that Graham made an indelible impression on every one she touched.
Graham smiled softly as Anna spoke, one finger aimlessly tracing the cuff of her fine Irish linen shirt. "Poor Max," she said with a hint of laughter. "He probably hasnít yet recovered."
"Try them on," Anna suggested boldly.
Graham started with surprise, then laughed unexpectedly. "All right, Ms. Reid, I will. If you would be so kind as to excuse me for a moment." She gathered the clothes and disappeared into her dressing room, leaving Anna with the memory of her laughter.
Continue on to Part 3
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