“I met the man who started it back in junior high.” Andrew said as they drove. It was nearly six by the time they set off, but Andrew said it always started early and ended late. “We were supposed to do some ‘tracing your roots’ project or something and we were stuck together because we were the only Greek kids in class.”
“You’re Greek?” She asked, glancing at him.
“Both sides.” He gripped the wheel tightly as he glared at the road ahead. “I have no idea when we stopped being Orthodox, but who ever made THAT decision, I would love to spit on their grave.”
Harriet didn’t know how to reply to such an angry statement so she just said, “I’m Romanian.”
He looked at her sideways, his smile returning. “Are you? You don’t look it. But then again I don’t think I’ve ever met a Romanian.”
“I don’t look anything like the rest of my family. My mom and all her family have darker coloring.”
“You look like your dad then?” He asked, sparing her a quick glance before looking back at the road. Harriet supposed she could see the Greek in him, but maybe only in the dark hair and green-blue eyes. He had a gentle yet chiseled face with light freckles over the bridge of his nose.
Harriet shifted uncomfortably in her seat at his question. “I suppose.”
“You suppose.” He chuckled. “How educated you are.”
“You’re just lucky I don’t speak the way I did when I was younger. I spoke like I ate a dictionary, only my dad could fully understand me.” She looked down at her hands resting in the lap of her dull blue dress. “I entered high school when I was barely eleven. I learned quickly.”
Andrew sighed as they took a right turn back toward the city. “Quinn’s the same way.”
“I hope you don’t mind my asking,” Harriet said wearily. “But what is… Well, what’s the deal with Quinn?”
Andrew shrugged but he was still tense. “My mother refuses to let him be…assessed, so the only thing I have to go off of is library books and my own unprofessional guesses.”
“I could probably find someone to look at him, if you want.” Harriet offered. Her dad had colleagues in all professions.
“Nah.” Andrew let out a forced chuckle and stretched his arms out against the wheel. “Thanks, but no thanks. We’ve got this.”
They drove in silence for a while. Andrew’s car wasn’t exactly new, but it got the job done and the seats looked to have been recently refurbished in faux black leather. They were on the outskirts of the city now and headed in. Harriet wasn’t especially looking forward to listening to some garage-rock band a bunch of college kids threw together and decided to perform in an abandon parking structure. However, it was far better than going home, especially considering that her dad was due home over two hours ago. So Harriet went with Andrew and didn’t offer any complaints.
It took about twenty minutes to get through the afternoon traffic, but they were far enough out of LA that it was nothing too bad. “How long into the night will this concert last? I have a convention to prepare for tomorrow.”
“We can leave whenever you want.” He told her as he drove into the parking garage and directed the car to the ramp leading onto the second level. “Convenient parking, huh?”
Despite herself, Harriet felt the ghost of a smile lite upon her face.
“Would you look at that?” Andrew faced her and laughed. “I’ve managed to get yet another smile out of Doctor Grumpy.”
“I’m not grumpy!” She protested.
“No, you’re just eternally frowning is all. Maybe that hair stick is digging a little too hard into your head.” He told her as he parked the car and hopped out.
“That doesn’t even make sense.” She grumbled to herself as she went to open the door. Andrew was there already and opened the door for her and held out a hand.
“I am nothing,” He said as he held her hand and sketched a tiny bow. “If not a gentleman.”
Harriet had to fight back a laugh as Andrew fumbled over his own feet as he rose from the bow. He gave her a bright smile despite it and he led the way through the third floor of the structure. There were other cars there too, nice ones. They probably all worked in the building next door.
Harriet was surprised to find a large man with his arms crossed beside the elevator button. She felt herself tense up at the sight of the stranger, but Andrew just nodded his head in greeting and told the man his name. The man nodded back and pressed the calling button without a word. Harriet looked dead ahead until the doors opened, trying not to call any attention to herself.
When the doors opened she had to hold herself back from running inside. Andrew must have felt her nervousness because he gave her a warm smile and said, “Don’t worry about Vincent. He does security at all their events. We’re tight, me and him. Or at least I think. I’ve never actually heard him talk.”
Harriet felt her a laugh boil in her gut and she looked at this man she’d only just met and his goofy grin and she smiled. His grin widened and she felt her heart thump. Harriet turned away from him and looked at the elevator and the glowing button beside the number six.
“What sort of music do your friends play anyhow?”
But even as she asked, the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Harriet had expected a dirty rooftop and a half dozen boys trying to make a mosh pit in front of some make-shift stage, serenaded by a garage band. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
Even in the late afternoon sun, there were bright lights strung up throughout a roof top garden. There were marble water fountains and beautiful white gazebos with ivy growing up and over them. There were two green shrubs trimmed up like elephants standing on their back legs with water spraying from their trunks into an in-ground pond full of little lights on floating leaves.
And the flowers! Harriet’s mouth was open in shock as she took in the bright colors all around her. There were orchids and chrysanthemums and dahlias. Magnolias, lilies, tulips, lotuses, lavender, lilies of the valley, begonias, and many more that she didn’t have names for. And so many roses, in all colors and shapes, many of which she’d never even seen.
“What are those?” She asked in a whispered breath, pointing to the flowers closest to where they stood.
She had forgotten Andrew was even there until he spoke. “Juliet Roses. Expensive as hell, but they sure are beautiful. In their own way.”
Harriet nodded slowly and continued to take in the sights around her. There were people everywhere, sipping champagne long-stemmed crystal flutes. They were laughing and gesturing, their jewels glinting in the lights. They all wore dresses and suits, but it had a fun feel to it. The girls wore shawls across their shoulders in bright colors and the men had discarded their black suit jackets and rolled up their sleeves. There was a carelessness to the whole thing that Harriet didn’t know how to cope with. There was nothing in her life that was done carelessly. Everything had to be planned then executed then assessed.
Then the music hit her and she wove her way blindly through the garden until she found herself face to face with a large platform. Instead of a pathetic rock band and harsh noise, Harriet was greeted with the beautiful sound of flutes and cellos and harps and so many others. There were eleven people up on that stage, each dressed to perfection and playing with such harmony that Harriet’s pounding heart almost stopped.
She didn’t realize she’d left Andrew behind until she heard footsteps from behind. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from the musicians. The man on the first cello glanced up at them and winked at Andrew. He had black hair and glowing blue eyes and a scar leading up from the corner of a crooked smile.
“From when a dog attacked him when he was ten.” Harriet said almost to herself as she slowly turned to face Andrew. “How do you know Elias Mavros?”
Andrew blinked down at her. “I told you. Junior high.”
“Wait, wait, wait.” Harriet gripped the bridge of nose, sighing in amazed frustration. "So, Elias Mavros is Em?”
Andrew laughed at her expression. “What? Am I not allowed to know famous people because I’m not as rich as you?”
Harriet groaned and shook her head. The Octets had been featured in both her mother’s over-bright, glossy magazines as well as her dad’s black and white newspapers. The eight person symphony was currently the most popular and sought-after in the city. Because they didn’t have an agent or known contacts, it was next to impossible to get a hold of them. They had one of their own conduct their interviews and pictures released to the press, but other than what, no one really knew them. They would send out invitations the day before they held a concert and always had them in the most random places. Or sometimes they’d show up impulsively at a café or a park and play for everyone there.
Her father’s circle enjoyed them because the talent with which they played and her mother’s posy liked them because of the mystery and their tenancy to make classical-sounding takes on popular songs.
Even as she thought it, there was a brief pause in the music, just long enough for a polite, but brief applause. Then they started up a familiar tune and Harriet laughed in surprise and delight as she recognized “Livin’ on a Prayer”.
“That’s a beautiful sound.” Andrew said softly.
“They are, aren’t they?” Harriet starred in awe as they twisted one of the most well-known songs into a beautiful melody.
Andrew just smiled down at her and said, “That’s not what I mean.”
Before she had time to think that statement over, a woman in a brightly colored cocktail dress with a flower in her hair walked past them, arm in arm with another girl dressed similarly. She looked down at her sharply cut dress and pantyhose and office heels.
“I’m…” She looked around again. “I’m not dressed for this.”
“And I am?” He looked down at his blue t-shirt and leather jacket.
She just continued looking at him in despair. “You know them, I don’t.”
He sighed. “Here.”
Her entire body stiffened as he stepped closer to her and reached around her head. Their faces were only inches apart and Harriet had nothing to do but to stay still and try not to look too closely to him. She felt the constant, tugging pain of her hair tighten and then release as Andrew drew the stick out of it. He reached the other arm around, bringing himself even closer to her. He smelled like Old Spice and Sandalwood. She tried not to breathe in too deeply.
He loosened her hair from its twist and shook it out, bringing it forward so it waved around her breasts. He smiled at her without moving. “There. You look much better when you don’t look like a librarian with her panties stuck up her @ss.”
She just stared up at him until he finally took a step back. When she could finally stand to look up again, he was smiling like a fiend. “Are you hot? You look a little red?”
His green eyes were twinkling and Harriet’s heart wouldn’t stop pounding no matter how she breathed. “Very funny.”
“Oh I was just teasing.” He spared her the embarrassment of replying by changing the subject. “So you’ve heard of them then?”
Harriet looked back at the Octets. “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’ve seen article after article. But…who’s the girl on the harp?”
“She’s a girl from a high school up in Oregon. Henry’s out for a while so she’s here for three weeks.”
“She looks so young.”
Andrew laughed. “Only a bit younger than you. She’s probably seventeen or eighteen.”
Indeed the girl looked to be such an age. She had light blonde hair tucked up in a messy bun and, though her face was wrinkled in concentration, it had a youthful glow to it. “What’s her name?”
“Marina Sea-something.” He clucked his tongue. “A little too ocean themed for me, but it fits her.”
Harriet shrugged her agreement and watch the girl pluck out a tune. She had been a skilled pianist when she was younger, but medical school hadn’t left her much time to practice as it wasn’t before long that the shining black piano just became another object in need of weekly dusting.
“Here.” Andrew said, crashing her train of thought. He grabbed two flutes of Champagne off a servers silver tray as he passed. He handed one to her. “Have a drink.”
“Oh,” She said nervously, looking down into the glass. “I don’t really…”
“You’re twenty two Harriet Thatcher.” Andrew laughed and raised his arms above his head and twirled into a circle before taking a long sip. “Stop acting like an old widow. Drink, laugh, dance, breathe. You can still be a doctor incarnate tomorrow.”
Harriet looked down at the glass again. She always had a sip or two at weddings or galas, but she had never really enjoyed it. She looked up at him again. She must have looked pretty pitiful because Andrew sighed and took the glasses and put them both on a low decorative railing.
“If you don’t want to drink, then I must insist that you dance.” He held out a hand and she almost groaned. He wouldn’t let up until she was doing the salsa in her underwear, would he?
“Whatever you just thought,” Andrew smiled wickedly. “The answer is yes.”
With that, he gripped her hand and pulled her through a flowering arch and onto a black and white, granite dance floor. There were other people out on the floor, dancing mildly and chatting. It was a quicker paced, fun song and Andrew stayed far enough away from her that she wasn’t blushing. Maybe she could do this after all. Then the song ended and Harriet looked over a small wall of ivy to the stage where Em, as Andrew called him, gripped his cello and stood up.
He was met with applause, but gestured them down with a smile and a wave of a hand. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. We’re going to be taking a break and will deign to mingle among you commoners—” He was met with laughter, but he turned his head when he caught sight of them on the dance floor. He looked past her and then a smile flickered onto his scarred lips. “But first, one more song.”
His companions glanced at him with bemusement and he quickly told them something and they all nodded. Em took his seat again and positioned the cello between his legs. He looked back at them just as Harriet looked away. She missed the wink exchanged between the old friends.
The song started up almost as if it were to be light-hearted waltz, but then the notes slowed down and the feeling changed. She turned back to Andrew to ask if he’d had enough of dancing, but instead she found his face only inches from hers. Though his expression didn’t flicker once, a light danced in his eyes. He held out a hand to her as though it were an offer, as though she could refuse. She couldn’t. She took his hand, despite the warm feeling in her face and the cold feeling everywhere else. He pulled her close, but kept his hands respectfully at her side and began to lead her into a slow dance.
She’d been taught all sorts of dances when she was younger, but Andrew had the lead and he didn’t seem to be following any sort of planned steps. He just went where the music and his feet took him. Harriet decided it was the easiest dance she had ever learned. The music was swaying and memorizing and it wasn’t too long before she felt her heart beating in time with it and knew Andrew’s was too. He led her around the dance floor, dodging other couples with what seemed almost like a practiced grace. Until he made a small fumble, just once, as he did out in the parking lot too. Only this time he turned a little red and Harriet smiled, holding back a laugh. He really did have the funniest expressions, especially when he tried to pretend that he didn’t.
After a minute or two, Harriet noticed a boy two or three years younger than her waiting by the ivy wall, watching the musicians with hypnotized eyes. No, not the musicians, the young girl at the harp. Andrew must have noticed her gaze because he bent his head to whisper in her ear.
“A cousin to Theo’s friend Cas.” He said and his breath tickled her hair. “Marina’s only been here a week, but they’re already talking serious. Like, pre-engagement serious.”
“Really?” She asked, but she couldn’t spare even the smallest turn of her head to look at them. “Aren’t they a little young?”
“Oh, let them have their fun.” Andrew chuckled and she felt a shiver crawl down her spine. “I’m sure nothing will come of it.”
She couldn’t form words to answer him, so instead she just took a breath and let him guide her in this strange dance they were both caught up in.
Again I really hate requesting feedback, but if you could leave some sort of comment, that’d be fantastic.