Everything was exactly the same as I remembered it. The music was the same, too; soft and soothing . Something about it reminded me of the time my father had passed away. Mom used to listen to this kind of music a lot then.
Years back, when life was perfect in quite a number of ways, I used to visit my grandparents every summer, here in Somerset. All that pretty English countryside never really appealed to me. I was a true New Yorker, and proud of it, but my dad wanted me to know his parents and the country where he was born.
I was fifteen the last time I was here. I was in the car with grandpa; he spotted the speeding truck too late. It almost crushed the car. I was in the back seat with my cousin.
I survived, and so did Holly but my grandfather…he died on the instant. I don’t remember much: just the fact that I blacked out. But I do remember the funeral and weeping relatives.
A year later, my father passed away, after fighting cancer for more than eight months. After that, I never visited Somerset again. I never wanted to leave my mother’s side, as though if I ever left her, I’d never again see her. But the insecurities began to fade after a few years. I could live life again. And my mother? She thinks I don’t see it, but it hit her very badly. It had become too painful to be near her. And soon I left for university.
I had first heard that music on the day of my grandfather’s funeral. I couldn’t bear the crying, bloodshot eyes of the relatives, and I slipped out for some fresh air. That’s when I heard the music. It almost made me forget my sadness, and I was determined to find its source.
I walked down the lane, the meadows and fields stretching out on both sides. It was clear day, though quite windy. And that’s when I saw her. Eva Mason.
I’d met her for the first time six days before my grandfather’s accident. She, too, was visiting her aunt. My mind sometimes just involuntarily wanders back to that day. They had come over for dinner with my grandparents. She was so beautiful, the perfect English Rose. More pretty than even Mom.
Mom was always beautiful, always fashionable. But her beauty began to fade as my dad got worse. She stayed up late every night at the hospital, looking after him. And after his death, she took up two jobs to support the kind of flashy lives we used to live and also so that I would be able to continue in the private school. But it didn’t last long. We had to sell the bungalow and move to an apartment. I realized that things had become serious and she might not be able to pay for college tuition. I took a part -time job at a DVD store working after school. It was during that period I started taking life seriously. My grades shot up and I continued school on scholarship.
Eva Mason was looking over at the meadows, lost in thought. The wind played with her blonde hair, tied in a ponytail.
“Hey,” I said as she turned to face me.
“Hey,” she acknowledged. “I was just taking in the beauty of this place. Saving every piece of it. It’s great out here and I love it.”
“What do you mean ‘saving every piece of it?” I asked. Somehow that line caught my attention and I didn’t even know why.
“Did I really say that?” she asked a little sadly.
“Yeah, you did,” I said and sat down beside her. I don’t know why but I felt as though it meant a lot to me.
“I’m an orphan,” she explained, not meeting my eyes. “Did you know that, Jason? My father died when I was, like, three-years-old and my mum, she died two years back.”
I certainly didn’t know that. I waited for her to finish.
“It’s a little odd, but her last words were ‘save every piece of it’ and sometimes I just involuntarily use that phrase.”
That wasn’t the answer I wanted.
“Well, have you ever given it any thought?” I asked.
She paused for a moment.
“Actually, yes, I have,” she said, but refused to say anything else.
“Umm…okay, then.” I said and started to walk away when she called out, “Hey! I’m sorry about your grandfather. He was a sweet old man.”
I nodded and wondered whether I should tell her about the music I kept hearing; maybe she could tell me about the origin.
“This music,” I said, waving my hand in the air “I keep hearing it. It’s just that…Well, I wondered if you could tell me where I can find it. I mean its location.”
“The music?” she asked, puzzled.
“You do hear it, don’t you,” I asked.
“No, I don’t.”
What was wrong with her or was it me. The music was still playing, softly but yes, it was there.
She suddenly got up and closed the distance between us. She stared up at me intently. I had never before seen eyes so deep a blue that they were almost violet.
“Jason, is this music, by any chance, soft and low,” she asked in a clear voice.
I stared at her, mesmerized by her eyes.
“Jason” she said again, a little louder “Is the music…..”
“Yes,” I snapped, annoyed at myself for staring at her like a moron. “Yes, and I’m surprised you hear it. Didn’t you just say that you couldn’t hear it?”
But then I noticed her head was down. She finally looked up at me.
“When my mother died, I had…” she trailed off.
I didn’t say anything and after a while she began again, “When she died, I had stayed with my aunt for a few days while they decided where I’d live. You know, it was then that the truth really hit me that I was an orphan.”
She paused for a second.
“I heard this music then. It was so soft and soothing and…” she smiled to herself, “I felt everything would be alright. I too, tried to find its origin.”
She shrugged, “Anyway, I mentioned this to my aunt and she said that ‘Music is nature’s painkiller’.”
“Are you telling me this music doesn’t exist and that it’s only going on in my head?” I asked incredulously.
“Probably. You might have heard this music somewhere earlier and it somehow helps you cope with your grandfather’s death. I suppose you’ve been thinking a lot about him and that’s why you hear the music. The more you think about them, the stronger the music gets.”
“So, what are you now? Some psychology student?” I scoffed.
She shook her head. “Just my experience.”
And with that she walked away; I watched her silently until she disappeared around a corner.
I had more questions, but that could wait for another day. I somehow had the feeling that I would see a lot more of Eva Mason and that she would play an important part in my life.
A car door slammed somewhere and I was jolted out of my reverie.
“Daddy! What are you thinking? Come on! I want to see your grandpa’s house.” Maria, my six- year-old daughter said impatiently, tugging on my hand.
I exchanged a smile with my wife. She was still beautiful, with that same blond hair that used to fascinate me all those years ago. And those amazing violet eyes. We were down from the States to visit the place where it had all begun.
“Coming, sweetheart,” I tell my daughter. “I just know you’re going to love the cottage!”