by Carter Lappin

The musicians were already on stage and starting to tune their instruments by the time Darlene and Richard made their way to their seats. Darlene would have liked to have been there earlier, but the line at the bathroom was horrendous, even with several women allowing her to cut in front of them. There were very few benefits of being hugely, visibly pregnant, but that was one of them.

Everyone who had already been seated in their row stood up to let Darlene pass. She unlinked her arm from Rich’s, turning sideways to squeeze through the gap as he trailed behind. She checked her tickets to make sure she had the right seats before lowering herself into one of them. She knew from experience that once she was sitting it would be nearly impossible to get herself up again without a lot of effort.

Rich sat next to her, draping his suit jacket over the back of the chair. Darlene could see tonight’s program sticking out of the pocket of it, folded in half and crumpled at the corners. She hated when he did that; he knew she liked to save them to look at later.

“They’re bringing in a famous conductor from Switzerland,” she told him, wriggling a little to get her dress to stop bunching up beneath her thighs.

“Huh?” he asked. He had been looking up at the ceiling. “You know, they could get better acoustics in here if they demolished that proscenium. I wonder if there’s someone around here I could give my card to.”

“Leave it,” Darlene said, “No one’s going to want to hire a construction firm that harasses them during such an important performance. They have a new soloist as well. She’s supposed to be fantastic.”

Rich sighed, leaning back in his seat. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll have my secretary send over a pamphlet later.”

The theater lights were beginning to dim. Darlene clutched Rich’s arm. “This is so exciting, isn’t it? I’ve been looking forward to this performance for months.”

“Just wake me up if you need to pee again,” he said.

As a girl, Darlene had dreamed of being a concert violinist. She’d managed to bully her parents into lessons, once every other week with Madame Delvaux. How Darlene had loved the sound of the bow sliding across the strings of her rented instrument. That something so small could make a sound that beautiful had astonished her, even at that age.

On stage, Darlene saw the violinist making one last check of her instrument. She turned her head away from the audience, and for a moment, Darlene’s breath was taken away. The woman could have been her twin, back when she was a teenager. She recognized herself in that confident set of her shoulders, in the reverent way she held the neck of her instrument.

It was funny, but Darlene couldn’t even remember why she had stopped going to lessons. Boys, most likely, or painting, or whatever had caught her eye that week.

Is this what Darlene’s life could have been? If she hadn’t given up the violin, if she hadn’t gone off to local college and met a handsome architecture major? Darlene rested a hand on her swollen belly.

“Do you see her?” she asked Richard, tugging his arm again.

“What? Who?” Richard had already started to fall asleep.

Darlene turned to point, but she found that she couldn’t see the version of her younger self anymore. The violinist didn’t look like her at all.

“Nothing,” Darlene said, “I just thought I saw somebody I used to know.”


Photo by Josep Molina Secall on Unsplash