May 28, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“Again.” I commanded.

Wilma sighed and began the piece over. It was a simple three note combination she was struggling with. I decided to ignore the sigh in favor of hopefully achieving perfection. Wilma has improved considerably in our few weeks together. I have concluded her lack of excellence in the past was due more to a lack of commitment to practice than any deficiency in skill.

Her fingers run aground depressing the wrong key again. In this way I was comforted to know she had indeed practiced the entire week as she was supposed to. Unfortunately she had practiced it wrong and was now finding it nearly impossible to correct her error. It was my turn to sigh.

“Again.” I ordered once more.

The slump in her shoulders told me she was more disappointed in herself than I was in her. In fact her attitude has such improved in our brief time together that I am quite pleased. Mr. Van Cox has twice expressed his appreciation for my efforts and his satisfaction at Wilma’s improved attitude as well as musical skill.

In truth, she is a pleasure to instruct. Nothing like the young boys of the St. Francis. Wilma had come to me discouraged. Her faith in her talent shaken by a year of falling placement in her class. I can see now it was through no real fault of her own. She was lacking in discipline, yes, but it is the place of parents and teachers to provide it for her. To allow a young woman of such immense musical talent to fall from grace for the lack of it is the true shame.

I suppose it is beauty to blame. It is the curse of men to find it irresistible to place such lovely creatures upon pedestals beyond reproach. I know it better than most. I once and for many years had placed Caroline up where only angels dare to tread. The fault was mine of course and not hers. What angel would dare cast themselves out?

Wilma’s fingers stumbled again. She reacted in frustration at herself. Her hands slamming down on the keys in thunderous roar of un-melody. Her normally straight back arched forward and it was just possible to hear a sob escape her lips.

I reached forward and patted her back tenderly.

“Come now, you will get it right.” I said in confidence.

Her head turned back and I could see the fresh tears on her cheeks.

“I know it is wrong and still my fingers will not listen. I cannot do it.” She cried.

“Take a break, my wife has some cookies in the kitchen. You must think positive so when you return you will get it right.”

“A break will not change anything!” She shouted through tears.

“I am hopeless.” She whispered.

I should have punished her for shouting but in the forefront of my thoughts was the firm belief she would come around without such strict measure and be the better for it. I am a fool for it, but my heart swells with kindness.

I slipped my hands underneath her arms and gently lifted her upward until she stood on her own. She turned around to look at me, embarrassed as her rosy cheeks made clear. With a handkerchief she dabbed at the tears falling still from her eyes. I offered her my arm and her quivering lips formed a smile. She took my arm.

Caroline was still busy scrubbing the kitchen clean from her dinner preparations as we entered. She glared at Wilma for a moment before choosing to be kind. I wonder if it was my own eyes which convinced her of the right path?

“Might we have a plate with two cookies and a glass of wine for our guest?” I asked of Caroline.

“Yes, dear. It will be just a moment.” She said still on her knees with scrub brush in hand.

I admired her there for a moment. I have seen Caroline in all manners of pose during our marriage and yet seeing he kneeling on the floor, scrub brush in hand, bare breasts swaying slightly and red buttocks glowing, was as captivating as if I had never laid eyes on her beauty before. I enjoyed the view far longer than I should have in the presence of a guest.

Wilma shifted uneasily beside me, no doubt embarrassed to see another woman naked. I cannot adequately explain my reasoning but I chose to explain the situation to Wilma rather than let her imagination fill in the blanks.

“As you know, we will be relocating to Rhode Island in a few days.” I began.

“Caroline and I have not stayed in any one place more than a year in the last five and she has grown weary of the constant relocations. She thinks I am not as weary. I do not know why she thinks I would be any less bothered by it than she but of course she does. She also thinks I seek out new appointments for no other reason than to torture her. Is it so with you as well, do you believe the sun and the earth revolve only around you?” I paused to allow Wilma a moment to respond.

She shifted uncomfortably before replying, “No, sir.”

I suspect she lied, but only she can know for certain.

“Let me assure you, it does not. Nor does it revolve around my wife. There are many reasons I seek out new opportunities the most relevant of which is the happiness of my family. As a woman you will never know the burden of responsibility which lays on every man’s shoulders. It is through our actions and choices that your life is made to be what it is, be that good or bad. Caroline must think I have delivered not but bad.

I do disagree, but I am not such a miser I will not hear out a respectful viewpoint even if it is in opposition of my own. Caroline often has difficulty with the respectful part in her manners. As you can see, she is learning though.” I paused again for the benefit of both ladies.

“Yes, I would think she must be.” Wilma voiced clearly feeling the need to speak favorably.

I cannot say I was bothered by her need or words. Caroline blushed and I recognized the struggle to remain silent in her face, neck and shoulders. In the end silence won out but I suspect it was only barely. Caroline is a very proud creature.

“This very evening during dinner, Caroline once again felt the urge to voice her opinions on our imminent move. Her choice of words might have been better thought out. Would you not agree in retrospect my wife?”

Caroline nodded stiffly.

“Speak up dear. Our guest cannot hear you nod.”

“Yes, sir. I was wrong.” She said and managed to sound believably contrite even to my discerning ears.

“What did she say?” Wilma asked me as though Caroline were not present at all.

“My dear child it is impolite to inquire into the private conversations of a husband and wife. Your parents have surely instructed you better by your age?” I replied.

“My apologies, sir. I only inquired out of curiosity because of what you have already said. I meant no disrespect.” Wilma looked hesitantly between Caroline and myself as she spoke.

“Your apology is accepted, no harm has been done. Let us leave my wife to her duties and we may further discuss your troubles at the piano.”

Wilma bowed her head respectfully at Caroline before accompanying me out of the kitchen. I guided her to sit on the sofa and I took the armchair to its side. Her tears were now dried and her cheeks and nose less rosy yet still pink. Is it wrong of me to think her face more beautiful in this way than any other?

“Your troubles are caused by a week’s worth of repetition of the wrong sequence.” I said.

Wilma nodded.

“There is a lesson to be learned from this. Do you know it yet?” I asked.

She appeared uncertain yet afraid to give voice to her uncertainty. I smiled at her trepidation.
“The lesson is a simple one but important. Given enough practice you can learn anything but you should always be alert to insure you learn the correct lesson.”

Wilma smiled and were it not for her shyness I believe she might even have giggled. I smiled supportively. It was at this juncture, Caroline arrived with a plate and glass of wine for Wilma.
How Caroline managed the task without blushing I do not know but she politely offered the items to Wilma with a slight curtsey.

“Your cookies and wine, miss.” She said with the appropriate respect due a guest.

“Thank you, Mrs. Birchwood.” Wilma replied taking the items from her.

Caroline turned to me and said, “Would you like something, my dear?”

“Whiskey.” I replied.

A moment later I enjoyed the warm swell of liquor in my throat and the gorgeous view of my wife’s swaying posterior as she retreated back to her kitchen. The pinkish glow caused another type of swelling and I adjusted my position in the arm chair to disguise it.

Wilma nibbled delightfully at the sugar cookies and sipped at her wine. With each morsel consumed she visibly relaxed. This was my goal of course. It is my long time experience that tension is the nemesis of perfection.

When her plate was empty and my whiskey was gone I rose from my comfortable seat.

“Shall we try again?” I asked gesturing toward the piano.

Wilma nodded her head with only a touch of reluctance before rising to stand before me. We walked to the piano and she took her place on the bench. Her hands hovered nervously over the keys.

“Before you begin I want you to practice pressing the proper keys slowly.” I said.

She looked over her shoulder at me for a moment and then did as I asked. Once, twice, three times, each time correct. She smiled and I nodded approvingly at her.

“You see, you can do it.” I said.

“Yes, I can.” She replied with happiness in her voice.

“From the beginning then.” I commanded.

She played it perfectly. The music coursing through the air between us, our bodies swaying in perfect harmony. A tender hand graced my shoulder from behind. I turned my head to see Caroline smiling behind me.

“That was beautiful, Wilma.” She said softly.

Wilma blushed.

“Thank you, Mrs. Birchwood.”

“Will you play it again?” Caroline asked.

Wilma looked to me and I nodded approval. Her hands confidently began the piece again. I turned myself to face Caroline completely. She smiled at me and held her arms out to me as though to ask me to dance with her. I took her in my arms and we moved gracefully around the living room. Such is the power of music to move us all.


Paul said...

What a change we see in Caroline.
Warm hugs,

Jen said...

That was oddly romantic. Charles continues to surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't he at least described the spanking he gave his wife?