Two years later
The speaker over Yaz’s head was crackling, the tell-tale sign of her soon-to-begin walk to the stage.
“Miss Khan, this is your fifteen minute call.”
Taking a deep breath, she closed the sheet music in front of her. It was no use trying to look over it anymore, anyway. She knew her score, and she knew it well. Now all she needed to do was get a grip on her nerves.
She had never really had a problem with them before, yet they had been bothering her ever since she had gotten on that plane yesterday morning. It wasn’t even like she had never played a solo with an orchestra before; in fact, she had already done so at uni.
This, however, felt entirely different. She had gotten one rehearsal with the orchestra yesterday, and it had gone by all too quickly for Yaz’s liking.
“Will you calm down?” she muttered to herself, taking her violin out of its case.
The Vuillaume had been her constant companion over the past three years and she was incredibly grateful the bank hadn’t wanted it back when she gave up her position as concertmaster. In fact, they had been delighted to know it was in the hands of someone with a soloist career ahead of them.
Gently strumming the chords with her left hand, she realised that it had been a year already since she’d left her job at the orchestra behind. A year in which she’d given solo recitals all over the UK and now, finally, she stood at the beginning of her very own solo tour.
The agency had approached her a couple of weeks after she had come home from that very first orchestra tour; they had liked her performance as a concertmaster and wanted her to audition solo for them. She went in thinking that nothing was likely going to come from it; the agency was a small, prestigious institution and just being asked to audition was more than Yaz could have ever wished for.
When the phone call had come a week later, she’d cried.
And when they had sat down to negotiate the terms of her contract and her first tour a couple of months after that, she made only one request.
“Miss Khan, please proceed to the stage.”
Smiling, she looked into her violin case - how the pictures in it had changed! - before snapping it shut.
As she walked down the corridor towards the stage, she heard the thundering applause from outside. The orchestra had just finished their piece, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony , and it was no doubt the conductor’s turn to take a bow right now, before walking off stage to enter again together with Yaz.
After greeting the stage technician with a smile, Yaz looked herself over one last time, smoothing out her skirt. Funny how those little habits never change , she thought to herself as the door in front of her suddenly opened.
The smile on the face of the woman in front of her was wild and contagious. Her blonde hair dishevelled from twenty minutes spent energetically leading an orchestra, it made Yaz think of those very first days they had spent together.
“Ready?” Jo said, as she stretched out her hand towards Yaz, the red stone of the small golden band on her ring finger flashing as it was hit by the light.
“Ready,” Yaz replied, squeezing Jo’s hand before both of them walked out through the doors into the blinding spotlight of the
Philharmonie de Paris
One year later
“They’re not coming.”
Jo stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, holding a thick piece of paper in both hands.
“What?” Yaz immediately jumped out of their reading chair - a cosy, red wing chair they had found at an antique shop after they’d first moved into the house.
Nodding, Jo held out the paper towards her. She had found it in the pile of mail a minute ago as she had come back from a morning rehearsal. Seeing it, she had immediately known that it was her parents’ reply to the invitation, but she’d frozen as soon as she saw what box they had ticked.
She watched as Yaz turned the piece of paper around, searching for an explanation, looking incredulous. “Did they say anything to you about this?”
Jo shook her head and saw fiery anger starting to blaze behind Yaz’s eyes. “Where’s my phone,” the brunette growled, looking around the living room.
Before she could find it, Jo gently put a hand on her arm. “It’s fine,” she mumbled.
“Honey, it most definitely is not . They’re not even giving you an explanation! It’s their only daughter’s wedding for fu -”
“Language,” Jo interrupted, raising an eyebrow and smiling weakly.
She watched as Yaz calmed her breathing down and slowly unclenched her fists.
“You know,” she continued. “I even think I kind of expected this. Can we just let it be? Getting upset about it won’t change things, I’ve learned that much over the years.”
She looked into Yaz’s eyes, those kind, chocolate brown eyes she loved so much, and watched her gaze soften.
“If that’s what you want, I will say no more about it.”
“Thank you,” Jo replied, turning around to walk back into the kitchen.
It was two weeks later, when she sat down to practice at the piano in the living room, that it all came flooding out. Her fingers were working against her and she just couldn’t seem to get herself to play that one passage without mistakes. Growing more and more frustrated, she clenched her teeth as she forced herself through the usual slow - fast - slow - fast routine. When she stumbled through the fast version for the third time, she stood up abruptly, knocking over the piano stool as tears formed in her eyes.
“For God’s sake!” she called out as the chair loudly clattered to the floor behind her.
She just couldn’t keep the tears inside anymore. All because of a stupid sonata , she thought, sinking down on the floor. Suddenly, she saw her parents’ faces, disappointment shining in their eyes, and a sob broke out of her, shaking her whole body.
Yaz was at her side a second later, wrapping her up in the tightest hug, softly rocking her back and forth while whispering words of love into her ear.
“It’s my wedding,” Jo cried into her chest. “It’s my wedding and they won’t come.”
Yaz held her through it all, until there were no more tears to shed and Jo became limp in her arms, breathing in the scent of her fiancée as she tried to regain control over her breathing.
“Jo,” Yaz said softly, letting both of her hands rest on the blonde’s cheeks, pulling her face up to look into her eyes. “Jo, I am so, so sorry. I don’t know how to make this pain go away. But what I can do is promise you one thing.”
“What?” Jo asked, her eyes full of vulnerability and pain.
“I will never leave you alone. Never. We’ll be our own little family, you and me.”
And with that, Yaz leaned down and kissed her.
, Jo thought as their lips touched and felt herself smile a little into the kiss.
One year later
Yaz was leaning her arm on the balustrade of her box, letting the last notes from the first act of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly wash over her. From the proscenium, she had the perfect view; it was the only box in the house placed on the same level as the stage, directly above the orchestra pit. Admittedly, she hadn’t seen much of the staging, being too busy watching Jo lead the opera house’s orchestra through this monumental piece, pride swelling in her own chest every time the blonde managed to pull a new colour out of the sound surrounding them.
As the applause in the room slowly died down, she watched Jo weave through the orchestra members towards the door to the pit, briefly looking up to wink at her. After all this time, Yaz still found herself blushing.
She made her way out of the box and into the foyer, deciding to forgo a drink at the bar for some fresh air. Just as she stepped into the evening light, breathing in the cool air, she suddenly saw an all-too-familiar face standing just a couple of steps away. Yaz blinked, trying to focus her eyes and making sure her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her.
There, her once-long blonde hair cut short and her arm casually slung around the waist of a ginger woman, was none other than Izzy Flint.
From the look on her face - eyes wide and mouth open - Izzy had definitely not been expecting to run into Yaz, either. Yaz watched Izzy lean over to the woman at her side and speak to her, and she was just about to turn around and walk back into the theatre as quickly as she could, when she realised her former colleague was walking towards her.
Izzy smiled shyly as she stopped in front of Yaz and awkwardly held out a hand. “Yaz,” she spoke softly in a tone that seemed entirely new for her.
There was something different about the other woman, like a disguise had been ripped off of her.
Pulling herself out of her stupor, Yaz took the offered hand and shook it once, before letting go. “Izzy.”
They looked at each other for a moment, neither woman entirely sure what to do next. Just as Yaz was about to excuse herself, Izzy started to speak once again.
“I’m sorry, Yaz. I am so, so sorry.”
Yaz froze and looked at the blonde in utter disbelief. However, before she could say anything, Izzy continued.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make up for what I put you through. The only thing I can say is that I was hiding who I was, and I didn’t know how to handle my life anymore. That’s not an excuse, of course.” She nervously looked down at her hands, clasped tightly together “I just… I was overwhelmed by my feelings for you. I had just started at uni, and then there you were and I… I fought it with all I had, and I ended up hurting you in order to protect myself. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to make up for that.”
Yaz was speechless. She remembered the moment, what felt like a lifetime ago, as she had looked into Izzy’s eyes in that bar, realising the truth for the very first time. Still, she had never expected to actually hear the words come out of the blonde’s mouth.
“I’m better now. I mean, personally, but also as a person, or I hope at least. I’ve been seeing a therapist, and Amy,” she paused awkwardly, gesturing behind herself. “My girlfriend, she’s helped me find kindness inside myself again. Showed me it’s ok to forgive myself for the awful things I’ve done, though I’m not sure I’m quite there yet.”
She looked up into Yaz’s eyes, and it was like seeing an entirely new person. In that moment, Yaz realised that she had never truly met Izzy Flint.
“Did you…” she started, tentatively. “Your parents?”
Pain flashed across Izzy’s face, and Yaz knew the answer before it was spoken. “Chased me away. I haven’t talked to them in two years.”
“I’m sorry,” Yaz heard herself say, surprising herself by really meaning the words.
Izzy shrugged, smiling nervously. “It’s ok. I mean, it’s hard, but at the same time, it’s not as hard as trying to be someone I’m just not.” She sighed. “My whole life, I tried so hard to make myself fit into a mould that I simply wasn’t cast for. It turned me into an awful human being, and I really am sorry, Yaz.”
Yaz nodded, unsure of what to say. She wasn’t quite there yet, she knew that telling Izzy that she had forgiven her would still be a lie. Nonetheless, she found herself wanting to reach out to the other woman, maybe have a chance to truly find out who Izzy actually was.
“Here,” she finally said, fishing a card out of her purse and quickly handing it to the blonde before she could change her mind. “Call me. We could go for drinks, the four of us, sometime.” She gestured towards the ginger woman and watched surprise appear on Izzy’s face, quickly replaced by a smile.
“I would like that,” she replied. “Thank you.”
The two women stood quietly before the gong rang out from the opera house behind them, announcing the end of the intermission. Yaz nodded at Izzy, wishing her a nice evening, and just as she turned around, heard the other woman call out after her.
“You make a great couple.”
When Yaz turned around, she saw Izzy taking a tentative step towards her, smiling an honest, true smile without any fake sweetness or bitterness lurking in her eyes. For a moment, it looked as if she was about to hug Yaz, who felt herself freeze, but then the blonde just stretched out her hand once more, and Yaz slowly reached out to take it into her own.
“I am happy for you,” Izzy said, and Yaz knew in that moment that she really meant it.
With a final nod, they let go, each turning around and walking back to see the women they loved.
Six months later
They bowed together, smiles wide on their faces as they joined hands, relishing in the applause washing over them.
After letting each other take a single bow, they walked away from the piano together, their hands rejoining as soon as the doors to the stage closed behind them.
“You were brilliant!” Jo called out as she turned towards Yaz, grinning wildly.
“So were you,” Yaz replied, squeezing the blonde’s hand softly. “Dressing room?” she asked, suddenly feeling tired from being on her feet for forty-five minutes straight.
Yaz had to suppress a smile as Jo took her by the elbow, guiding her down the hallway as if she were an old woman who couldn’t walk on her own.
As soon as they walked into the dressing room, Jo ushered her to the couch, propping up a pillow behind her back. She then proceeded to scurry around the room, grabbing a bottle of water from the shelf.
“Right, you comfy? Do you need something to drink? You should probably drink. Fluid intake, very important. Are your feet hurting? I can rub them if you want.”
“You’re good for the second half, right? We can always prolong the break by a couple of minutes if you aren’t.”
As there was no sign that the blonde would stop anytime soon, Yaz got up from the couch and walked towards her.
“Maybe we should have cancelled this tour after all, I mean we shouldn’t risk - umph.”
Yaz did the only thing she knew would surely work to shut Jo up; she pulled her in by the waist and kissed her deeply.
As she pulled back, she pushed a loose strand of hair behind Jo’s ear.
“Honey, you know I’m pregnant, not terminally ill, right?”
“Hmph,” Jo replied, pulling her face into a pout. “I just don’t want anything to happen to her! I want to do this right.”
“Her, hm?” Yaz asked, grinning.
“Yup, I’ve decided.”
“I don’t think that’s how that works, Jo,” Yaz laughed, placing another small kiss on the blonde’s lips.
She turned around, walking back to the couch and sat down on it with a sigh. Leaning back, she closed her eyes.
“Do we have to do the autographs after?”
“I’m afraid we do. Contractual obligations and all.”
“Ah, here we are at the peak of our careers, slaves to our agents. Do you think they’ll ever forgive us for taking all of next year off?”
“Not just next year.”
“I cancelled America.”
Yaz’s eyes shot open and she leaned forward, frowning. “You what?”
“I cancelled America. It was too close to your due date.”
“Two weeks, Jo!”
“Not risking it. I’m not missing this for the world. Besides, I want to be there for you, before, too.” Jo walked over to the couch, kneeling down on the floor in front of Yaz. “You remember what you said, that day… when I cried about the thing with my parents.”
Yaz frowned, nodding. “I do.”
“Well, I’m making the same promise to you. Both of you. I will never leave you alone. Our little family.”
“Jo,” Yaz breathed, feeling tears starting to form in her eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Jo replied before leaning forward and pulling her wife into a soft kiss.
“Besides,” she said as she pulled back, scrunching up her face. “If I missed the birth, you’d probably use the chance to brainwash her into liking Bach better than Tchaikovsky, and I can’t let that happen.”
“Oi!” Yaz called out, slapping her playfully on the arm.
A soft knock on the door interrupted them. “Come in!” Yaz called out, smiling at Jo still kneeling in front of her.
“Guys, we really have to stop meeting like this… Break’s over in five minutes.”
“Oh, Mister concert hall manager himself announcing the breaks, that’s new,” Yaz said, laughing as she got up to walk towards the door, pulling Ryan into a hug.
“Only the best for my favourite musicians,” he replied, winking. “And my godchild!”
“God daughter ,” Jo corrected, walking up behind Yaz.
“What, really?” Ryan asked, looking back and forth between the two women. “You already know? I thought it was too soon to -”
“It is,” Yaz interrupted, sighing. “But she’s made up her mind. I think somebody needs to explain human biology to my wife.”
Ryan threw up his arms, screwing up his face. “Nope, definitely not me.”
Six months later
“I can’t believe you were right,” Yaz groaned. She felt completely drained of any energy, unable to move.
“I don’t want to say it, but I told-”
“Joan Khan, don’t you dare! I might be physically unable to move right now but I will smack you over the head later.”
“Shh, Sophia,” Jo cooed, softly cradling their baby and leaning down to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Your ma’s very tired from bringing you into this world, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.”
“That’s it,” Yaz said, using all of her leftover willpower to reach for her phone on the nightstand.
Jo frowned. “What are you doing?”
“I’m putting on my Bach playlist. And you have no right to complain, because I just spent the last six hours giving birth to our daughter.”
Feeling a smile spread over her face, Jo watched Yaz grab her phone and press play. A moment later, the room around them was filled with the sound of a violin. She looked down to marvel at the tiny human she was holding in her arms; the perfect little nose, the hands and feet, all miniature versions of her own, and the little bit of fluffy brown hair on her head. “She’s perfect,” she mumbled.
“She’s ours,” Yaz replied softly.
Jo looked up, warmth spreading through her chest at the sight of her wife smiling at their baby. Even with all the exhaustion of labour visible on her face, she was still radiant; the most beautiful woman Jo had ever seen.
“Our little family,” she said.
“Yeah,” Yaz replied, smiling while stretching out her arm, gently letting her hand come to rest on Jo’s cheek. “Our little family.”
Seven years later
“Is she sure?”
“I don’t know, I mean she says she loves it.”
“Maybe it’s just a phase.”
“Do you think we’ve done something wrong?”
“There has to be something we can do.”
“I don’t know, I mean… she looks happy .”
They were standing next to each other in the doorway to their living room, watching Sophia practice her heart out next to the piano, smiling broadly as she worked her way through a new piece. The instrument was still a bit big for her, even though she had gotten a smaller, kid’s version of it.
Both women sighed, resigning themselves to the undeniable truth in front of them.
“So, the viola it is, huh?”
“Yup. The viola it is.”