39.5. A Splendid Evening
Edna smiled, clasping her hands, as she inspected herself in front of the mirror. She had tied her crimson hair back with an emerald ribbon, naught a strand out of place. Her similarly colored dress appeared flawless. Jewelry sparse but tasteful, and just a little bit of rouge to color her pallor. All manner of her appearance seemed satisfactory. Hopefully, her husband would find it pleasing. Her brow furrowed slightly as she noticed her own heartbeat. She had yet to be so concerned about her physical presentation to Philip.
She proceeded down the flight of stairs towards the kitchens. In the same routine, Edna inquired on the meal's progress, provided suggestions where she thought necessary. She then retreated to the parlor where she picked up her journal, waiting for Philips's return from the bank. They followed the same schedule religiously, and she could not help but wonder if these twenty or so days of marriage forecast the rest of their married life.
'I can understand, so even though we have to do this, well, I won't force into anything. What happens afterwards, I will support you in your endeavors.'
Philip reassured her with such sincerity then, with a warmth to his gaze and his voice bereft in the following weeks. According to his word, Edna had the freedom to do with her time as she pleased, arguably more so now than at any other point in her life. She could write, play her music, go to school...Whatever she could want.
Yet, why such perturbance now? How easy it would be for her to seem ungrateful, though. Did she think too much? She may have exceptional circumstances now, but in time, things may change. She may change. Her husband may change.
'You should talk to him. Tell him how you feel.'
Her sister had given such simple advice. Yet, it really made her think about these past few weeks in her...newer life. She was married. She was married to a man who had wanted the arrangement as much as she did, which was to say none. Still, they carried out their duties. They lived together in the same home. They saw each other almost every day. When they had dinner, which comprised the bulk of the time they spent together, they spoke cordially enough. Philip would detail anything of interest in his banking work, often very little, while she would relay how her day had gone. She would tell him about what she had read, musical pieces, local news...Most of the time, she was the one talking, speaking of herself. And he seemed to listen. Then, after dinner, they each retreated to their separate rooms; Philip at his study, her in the parlor. They had separate bedrooms and would maybe glimpse each other once in the following morning.
'It's not how married people act,' Edna thought as her mind wandered to her own childhood. A smile plastered upon her mother's face while in her father's company. Afternoons spent lounging in the gardens as her parents looked on. How a single word or touch from her mother then could calm her father. There were difficulties, imperfections, as mother would say, but she had never questioned her marriage to the man she loved. It had made Edna angry at first, but now she felt only envy.
The steward opened the door, and Philip's voice echoed in greeting shortly thereafter. Edna looked up as her husband passed by the parlor, his double-breasted coast still buttoned up to his chin. Their gazes met for a moment as he gave a "harmless" smile, as she liked to call it, nodded his head, and then moved on to freshen up before dinner no doubt.
"How was your day, husband?" Edna asked nonchalantly. They sat across one another with the length of the eight-foot table riddled with food between them.
"Just busy work, unfortunately. Father has been discussing a merger which left most of us to deal with the semantics." Philip glanced at her before turning his eyes back to his plate. "Boring, honestly. Sorry to disappoint."
Edna felt a slight flush in her cheeks. "Oh! Um, no. That's...I was curious. It sounds like you were busy, and I just...A merger sounds like it could be exciting, though. How, how would that bode for the bank?"
"Can't say for certain. With what's happened recently, it's become a matter of when, so much as if. I have a sense that Father will try to tie me up with it whenever it does go through."
"It would be very good for your career. I am...I am glad at the prospect. And, I..."
"I hesitate to get excited. Lest I disappoint myself, otherwise." Philip dabbed at his mouth with the napkin as he once more looked at her. "Did you finish that book?"
"Which one, husband?" she asked.
"That biography. Of that one artist. I'm sorry. That's probably not helpful."
"It is quite alright. Well, I had found another book on Lovina the Loquacious and Milecia Auberlain."
"Yeah. That one."
"Yes. That one," Philip interjected with a nod.
"I did." Edna smiled. "I had not been fully aware that the book would focus so much on...who she was."
Philip blinked at her. "That's what biographies are."
Edna quirks back a brow. "Well, yes. But, with these famous people, they're usually about, well, all the great things that made them famous." She briefly rearranged her napkin. "The one I had was...more revealing, about where she grew up—And she actually grew up in Conais, northeast of here!—what she'd been through before she became well known. She had lost her father, her mother became an invalid, and it was all throughout wartime in the area. Yet, even with that, she still sang such lovely pieces. There was even an entry in there..."
"Of how close she'd been to simply giving up. How close she had been to never realizing her talents. And how she had seen so many others do the same, others who had potential but were just so worn down by all those things going on at the time. It was..." Edna's face scrunched slightly.
"Poignant?" he offered.
"You could say so, yes."
"I see. It sounds like you liked the book very much."
"I did. It was quite fascinating. If you ever have the time, and it interests you, I do recommend it," she returned with a smile.
"Perhaps, I shall. Thank you."
The conversation petered as they continued through their meal. When the dessert arrived, Edna took a deep breath and looked at Philip again who seemed focused on his cake.
His gaze drifted up toward her.
"I..." Edna felt the heat in her face. "I wanted to inquire if, if you may be interested in attending a performance. Tomorrow—with myself."
Her eyes widened as she shook her head. "Oh! No! I mean, no. I had learned of a concert being held, in the Lyceum's Music Hall, tomorrow at midday. Open to the public. So, it—I, I planned to attend..." Edna gradually looked back down at her cake as she spoke, realizing her mistake.
"Tomorrow at midday. I would be in the middle of work, and I remain unsure as to what exactly Father will have me do with the current proceedings...However, I appreciate the offer. Perhaps another time."
"Of course. I apologize for my lapse," she almost murmured.
"Please don't. It was very considerate of you, wife."
She glanced up and Philip gave her another of his harmless smiles, as if he had been waiting for the moment, and to which she returned her own. After they finished dessert they each separated once more.
Edna tickled her nose with a feathered quill, one of her new ones from a wedding gift. The opened journal in front of her had at least five lines of scribbled text. 'Writing a song is like writing poetry but with music,' Auberlain once said according to the biography. She flipped through past pages, glossing over the various limericks and sonnets she felt confident enough not to scratch out. She wouldn't consider them substantial, or even profound, mostly about nature, the mundane. Maybe she should branch out her topics. Something more personal now, perhaps?
She released an audible sigh.
"Is something the matter?" Philip asked from behind.
Edna gave a start, jerking her gaze towards the doorway of the parlor. "Oh! I'm sorry." She began arranging her skirt to stand up. "Do you require something of me?"
"Please. Don't get up. You looked comfortable." Philip tore his eyes away from her as he looked around the room. "I felt like stretching my legs." He began a slow pace about the parlor before stopping in front of her cello situated in the corner of the room. "I noticed the cello's out of the case."
"Yes, I practiced for a few hours earlier today," she said.
"And you still finished that book?"
"I do still have quite a bit of time, with classes still suspended. So I had time for both." Edna paused. Is that why he asked if she was playing at the concert? She watched him step away from the cello and caught his fingers grazing over the white wood piano as he passed it.
"It is a very beautiful instrument." Edna glanced back to the piano when Philip looked at her, blinking. "The piano. I'd not seen one of that color before I came here."
"It is," he agreed, pausing in front of it. "Came with my mother, as part of her dowry. She played."
"Do you?" She watched him hesitate before he placed his hand on the keys.
"I did," he answered quietly.
"You did? As in not anymore?"
"Not often. I don't often find the time..." Philip pulled his hand away, rubbing his fingers as he did. "Or the company to. Anymore."
"I find that a shame," Edna replied, slowly tucking her journal closed.
"I would love to hear you play. If I would count as company, Philip."
He turned to her, brow creased. Then, she saw him visibly exhale as another one of those harmless smiles came to his face. "I guess. I guess it would be rude, of me, if you didn't count. Umm..." Philip pulled the stool back and sat down. His fingers found the keys with obvious practice, then he dove straight into a slow, melodic waltz. His head swayed slightly as he played, and when she had stepped close enough to the piano, Edna noticed to calm, yet focused expression as he played.
"Vermillion Dach," Edna stated at the piece's end.
"You have a good ear."
"It is contemporary." Her gaze drifted to the cello. "Do you...do you know how to play Gaspardeux's Cloue Sonata?"
"Duet, right? No, I don't." Philip craned his head at her. "But, if I have a sheet, I can try to wing it."
"I do have a sheet," she said meekly.
"Let's try then."
Edna felt her cheeks flush as she glided over to the stand, flipping through the music book with slightly nervous hands. "I...I already know the part for cello," she reassured him.
"I figured as much," Philip replied with a small smirk. "Thank you." He gently took the sheet from her and set it on the rack while Edna sat on her stool by the cello.
Edna watched him look at the music. She could see his lips moving as he read over it, straightening up when she noticed his head turning towards her. "Have you...have you gotten a good look at it?"
"I have. You lead, right?"
"Right." Grasping her bow, Edna placed her fingers on the board and inhaled once. She exhaled while strumming the first long note of the chord. Soon thereafter, Philip began his part of the piece. About midway through the duet, Edna hazarded a glance to Philip. He had scrunched his brow while his gaze trained on the sheet. She could hear the mistakes, the occasional off note, the mismatch of temp, but still agreeable, especially for a first play. Edna continued smiling as she played and watched him, the concentration never leaving his face until the final note.
"Ugh," Philip huffed once they had finished.
"You'd never played the piece before, right? It wasn't all bad."
"No, I hadn't. Still. That won't stop my disappointment."
Edna gave a small frown. "Oh..."
Philip sighed before letting out a soft chuckle. "Again?"
"If you would like to," she replied, blinking. Her gaze drifted to the darkened window. "Though, it is getting late. I would not wish to tire you, what with your work tomorrow."
Philip's eyes followed hers to the window before he looked back to the piano's rack. "Ah, yes. There is that. I suppose I should rest."
"Though, you play beautifully." Edna smiled at him. "If it would not be too much, perhaps another—"
"You, too, Edna." He had averted his gaze, his attention seemingly on the wall behind the piano.
Edna watched him quietly for a few moments before she began to put her bow away. However, she hesitated upon seeing Philip straighten his posture on the stool and rearrange the music on the rack. Then, as he replaced his hands on the keys, Edna's brow raised in delight, her lips parting to a lopsided grin. "Philip...?"
With his head still turned away from her, he stated, begrudgingly, "But, ah...They won't miss me for a day. Probably."