He was strumming his guitar on a bench in the park. Not really anything, really, not yet. Not until he saw her, dark and beautiful and watching him from across the pond. He picked up his game then, trying to make her come to him with his song.
She introduced herself as Amy. He smiled and taught her to play an A major. The first thing he noticed about her was how gracefully her long, slender fingers fit in one fret.
She asked him his name and when he answered her she laughed and asked him to teach her a G chord.
He showed her how to curl her fingers and warned her that if she kept up they’d be sore from stretching soon.
He bought her a small ring at a second hand shop with the money saved from his paying gig. He worried about it being used. She assured him that vintage rings had more character.
The wedding was small, tiny. They spent more on food for the reception. Entertainment was free, though. Their friends all came together with their instruments, a most eclectic band that delighted them but not the people at the place next door who had the party busted up on a noise ordinance. They couldn’t think of anything more authentically rock and roll.
On their first anniversary he gave her a guitar, vintage they both agreed but something she’d never have to share. They had only just enough room to sit in their small bed-sit with both guitar cases open and agreed that the arrangement was perfect.
When the stick turned blue he knew they’d have to sell the guitars to fit a crib in or he needed a better paying gig. She told him not to fret. He tried not to laugh.
She suggested they call him Gibson. He suggested they call her Lucille.
When they heard two heartbeats, he got the steadiest job he could find, despite the ribbing from the boys in the band.
She offered up the names Les and Paul. He thought one of them was getting a raw deal. She argued it would make a good blues song, my brother got the name of an Apostle Beatle and I got Les.
The new flat felt big and empty after they unpacked their combined three boxes. But soon it would be filled with baby things and tears and laughter… only the laughter never came. The house stayed empty.
They had extra rooms now and it felt right, natural even that they should have some distance with their grief. But the distance never closed.
She suggested he go back to the band. He promised her it would go better the next time.
He buried himself in his work. She took guitar lessons.
They kept different hours, and when they passed in the kitchen, one going in and the other out she’d show him her new hard earned calluses. He’d kiss tem, telling her how well they were coming along. His own were softening, but he ignored it.
He took the detective exam. She joined a band.
They grew comfortable in the silences and sometimes they came together, rarely though.
She invited him to her first major gig, the kind of place he never managed to get booked. He was envious but proud. He stood in the front row at her concerts, sold t-shirts when they had them, broke down the equipment and things were better for a while, and then they were worse.
The band booked a minor little tour. He had to work.
She got a record deal, small, but still. He got promoted.
She started taking the uppers to stay awake, everybody did them. Then downers to crash, and finally opiate for the pain. He worked too much to notice, maybe on purpose.
And then one day she was gone, her clothes, the guitar he bought her on their first anniversary, scared from years of use, all of the others, too… but that was the one he missed when he came through the door. It was nearly a month before he realized his own was gone, as well.
More than a year before he started thinking of replacing it. He looked sometimes, often for a replacement, but never put the money down. He didn’t need to play anymore and his fingers were nearly smooth.
Still, he looked. It was years later, more than a decade when he saw it, and it seemed implausible to him that it was there, improbable that he would recognize it. He wasn’t sure. But he was. Her guitar. He’d know it anywhere, but no… in a pawn shop of all places. He flashed his badge to get the ticket information, despite being sure it had probably changed hands more than once since he last saw it.
He received no answer for a day or two, he called at different times. Plugged the number into his computer at work, got an address. The place he let himself into that weekend looked worse than their bed-sit ever had, food containers, rubbish, cigarette butts piled high, nothing that reminded him of her, but the name on the lease and the phone… He stopped by again the next morning and planned to stop by again when he got off work, no matter what time it was.
He didn’t need to. He saw her at lunch, in the city morgue. He almost didn’t recognize her, her hair no longer shiny, strait, or dark… but his wasn’t so much anymore either. Her cheeks were hollow and gaunt. Her complexion more ashen for the lack of circulation but marred with dark spots. He reached out for her hand, despite protocol and found her fingers, the tiny delicate fingers he’d so loved to examine yellowed, nails cracked, and skin broken in the calloused parts. She wouldn’t have stopped at used, she looked abused.
The only identification they found on the body was the pawn shop claim ticket. He made the identification, asked where the body’d been found. He thought he go see the place, he wasn’t sure why. It wouldn’t do him any good. It wouldn’t do her any good. He’d failed her, but not there, not then. Instead he went back to the pawn shop to rescue the guitar, used now, but he could restore that, at least to vintage.
That was where he ran into, quite literally, Sherlock Holmes. The boy was in such a rush going out the door they’d had a bit of a collision. He watched the boy run off too wrapped up in his own head, in the life playing over and over in his head, in the mistakes that he barely registered the hollow cheeks, the pale ashen complexion as the boy headed left out down the street.
It was only when he saw the broker fondling a quite different musical instrument at the counter that the pieces fell into place. He took off then, running in the direction he’d seen the kid go. He’d never know how he caught up with the boy with the long, lanky, young legs but when he reached for his arm, pulling it back behind his back he saw the deep calloused fingers of the left hand and he knew this was a wrong he could right.
A week later when he visited the boy in a local detox facility he handed him the violin.
“How’d you…?” The kid frowned.
“The slip might have fallen out of your pocket.”
The kid smirked, “Do gooder...”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it... “
“Work on it with somebody else,” the kid demanded.
“I will,” he promised. “But I’m not done with you, yet.”