“Isn’t this wonderful?” Claire asked, laying her head against Leon’s shoulder as a man butchered a perfectly good song using an acoustic guitar, a voice notable only for it’s high pitch relative to the average male vocal range and inability to maintain a single note for longer than three second.
“It is,” Leon said, smooth as water over glass, dropping his head to hers.
“Liar,” she said.
Leon hated live music. He hated the crowds, he hated the lack of studio-perfection that’d come with the Digital Age, he hated the pretension of every single person who thought that going to a show was anything other than an excuse for young, irresponsible children to do drugs and have sex. The only exception to this rule were symphonies, and then only because there the expectation was that one came to listen to the music, not talk over it, ignore it, or get drunk to it.
That, and the atmosphere generated by the rabble getting together was uncomfortably close to a horde of unpleasant memories.
“We can go, you know,” she said, sipping at a glass of ice water.
He squeezed her hand. “I will manage.”
Leon had met Claire in a cafe. He’d been there as muscle, sitting outside in plain clothes, when a barista had told him to buy something or leave. He’d asked for a black coffee, and when the beverage that arrived was decidedly not bitter dirt-water he asked what she’d given him. That had turned into talking about coffee and European trade history and colonization and urban blight until it’d become time to close up shop, intermittently interrupted by the need to make drinks or intimidate foot soldiers. She gave him her number, he’d reserved a table at one of the nicer restaurants on the Boardwalk, and the rest had become history.
History which had stopped after the diagnosis.
Now the two of them both had more or less stepped away from their roles completely. Leon spent the days taking care of the house, doing chores, changing Amy, and generally trying to hold the leaking ship of their lives together. Claire spent her days reading the latest papers, cooking up new health foods, or laying down so she could focus on trying not to feel pain. Leon had offered to get her something more powerful than the over-the-counter or prescription drugs, but she insisted on staying sober for Amy.
Sometimes though, Claire felt well enough to go out. It was never for long, never a night of revelry like they’d sometimes had, but enough time to forget for a while. It was enough time to have a meal, to go out and see a film, or to do any number of the small, regular activities that defined so many human’s lives. In those evenings Leon could forget he was Marquis, Claire could forget that she had at most six months left, and they could be regular people again.
It wasn’t enough, but life never really gave people enough now, did it?
Another singer came on stage, this one marginally less scruffy, and Leon heard a sucking from Claire’s direction. “Get me another water, dear?”