"I'm pleased with the way the song turned out."
"Ja. It did turn out quite well."
Lamiroir, Borginian singing sensation sat in the room formerly used as the Gavinners' dressing room, her veil discarded. Klavier Gavin sat on a chair in the far corner near a long mirror, fingering the strings of one of his spare acoustics, gently tuning. For a while, Lamiroir sat and listened to the resident musician-at-work.
"But I have to ask, Lamiroir," Klavier said, letting the sound of newly-tuned string linger, "why did you come back here? This place must have a lot of bad memories for you."
Lamiroir reached her hand out and felt for something that wasn't there. "For all of us," she said in slightly-accented English. "But I came here because you said you wanted to corroborate with me?"
"Collaborate," Klavier corrected gently. "And yes, I would love to work with you again, Lamiroir; we make a great team. Our last song was quite a success, ja? I have never seen a crowd act so crazy after such a soft song. They want to hear you again; they'll have to, of course."
"I—I'm glad. That was the first time I have heard so many people all rise up and cheer. It was incredible."
"Hard to believe that it was only a week ago. It seems like it just happened yesterday." Klavier leaned back.
"Yes, it does. I can still hear the sounds of the concert so clearly."
"It's the same for me also. The sounds of a particularly hot concert always burn within me for a week or two. Ah, that reminds me," Klavier said, suddenly serious, sitting upright. He chose his words carefully. "I'm…sorry about what happened to your gift, Lamiroir. I took such special care of it, and I know how valuable it was."
"Please don't worry yourself about it. That—burning was not your fault, Mr. Gavin."
"I know that. But still…" Klavier trailed off, picking at his guitar's strings. This one wasn't nearly as sonorous as Lamiroir's guitar was; he had never heard an acoustic make such an enrapturing sound as hers had. He played a few hollow notes of 'The Guitar's Serenade' and sighed. "And please, call me Klavier," he added, grinning. "As long as we are working together, we should be able to address each other familiarly, ja?"
"Yes. I see," the blind woman said ironically. "All right...Klavier. I have enjoyed the time I spend making music with you. Even with all that has happened, I—I am glad I came here. Thank you for helping me feel welcome."
Klavier played a few more notes and looked at Lamiroir from across the room. She was unquestionably the most modest person Klavier had known in his life. In a profession where vanity was prized and cherished, Lamiroir's appearance was understated and mysterious; when her many admirers told her that she was beautiful and magical, she could only take them for their word.
"It has been my pleasure. It was the least I could do as repayment for hearing you sing. Your voice is more beautiful than any instrument." Klavier said. He slowly and deliberately brushed a strand of hair away from his face before he realized that she couldn't see. He chuckled quietly into his palm, and after a moment said, "I heard you were planning on getting an operation?"
"Yes," Lamiroir said. She felt her face with her fingers, free of the veil, and sighed. "Finally, I will be able to see all the things I never have before…"
"You sound…disappointed, almost." Klavier set down his guitar.
"Not disappointed, but—what I will see…the darkness in my world might be lifted, but the darkness inside my memory, it…"
Klavier walked over to Lamiroir, and as his footsteps grew closer, she moved a chair over for him to sit in and placed her hands on the table. Chuckling, Klavier sat down.
"Ah, but there's darkness inside all of us, deep down, isn't there? And the only way to light that darkness…is with music, ja?"
Lamiroir nodded. "You're right, of course. Your guitar work is beautiful, and I wouldn't forget your voice even if I didn't have to rely on sound to 'see'."
"Exactly! I should say the same for you! I've told you before, but I've never heard anyone with such an entrancing voice before, neither in Europe nor here. To think, from singing in small bars in Borginia to performing for the world to see. For a German boy from Ingolstadt to come to Los Angeles…it's the same thing, really, isn't it? Fate brought our talents together."
Lamiroir laughed again. "No, you brought our talents together," she said, crossing her legs. "It was because you have come to Borginia that I am where I am now."
Klavier watched her and wondered what it felt like to be blind. What it would feel like to be unable to see the pyrotechnics, unable to see the waving hands and enraptured faces of adoring fans, unable to see even her own beauty reflected in the mirror. And for him! To be unable to see these things—the familiar sight of the stage, the warm glare of the spotlight, the comforting faces of his many lovers, asleep in his bed like angels—
"I could not do it," Klavier said, resting his arm on his chair and his head on his fist. "I would not be strong enough to go through life not being able to see my world. I admire your strength. Not everyone could flourish without their sight as you have."
"Yes, well…" Lamiroir paused and looked away. "For—for as long as I can remember I have sung on a stage that was only dark. I have remembered where I have sung by the smells of smoke and the sounds of the people. For a moment Klavier heard the reflection of a faraway place. "I have sung for so long on a back—back…ground? Background of darkness. It is…comforting, almost."
Klavier sat silently save for the sounds of his breath. He watched her, watched the way she played idly with her hair. Lamiroir turned towards him, right towards him, and for a moment he would have sworn she was looking not in his general direction but at him, into his eyes, as though she could see him, see him for everything he was and everything he wasn't. Klavier chuckled.
The first time he had met her, before he had found out that Lamiroir was blind, the first thing that had stood out to him was her eyes. Before she had sang even a note on the stage of the quaint Borginian bar he had first heard her in, before she had sang even a note for him privately as they worked out a melody, Klavier had known she was a star. Her eyes were looking forward. Her eyes were longing, searching, desiring a truth somewhere out there; they were alive, they jumped out at him, beckoned him, and demanded his attention.
"Comforting? I suppose." Klavier paused, then, "For what it's worth…I'm sorry I had to bring charges against your little friend…the pianist?"
"Ah…you mean Machi? Yes—but everything worked out in the end, did it not? He was considering me even before I thought of considering myself. My happiness was more important to him than it was to me. He—we all have been through our struggles."
"Ja…when the crowd sees us stand on stage, they could never imagine that we might have our doubts, our misgivings as well. Sometimes I think we make ourselves less human for the sake of the stage. Do you know what I mean? Ah, but Lamiroir—!" Klavier said, clasping her hands in his, taking her by surprise. "In your music, there is such honesty. Because you sing for us all, there are so many things about ourselves we can appreciate. People look at you and they can see the beauty in themselves."
"Please stop," Lamiroir said, turning her head away, but she was smiling. "My singing…is not quite so special as—as you say."
Klavier sighed contently and sat back. He folded his hands in his lap and looked up at the ceiling. "I hope you wouldn't mind hearing a story?"
"'Would not mind?' I—I would be glad to listen, if that's what you mean."
He laughed. Traces of a Borginian accent made everything she said, no matter how mundane, seem almost lyrical. Klavier was reminded how the ladies loved it when he accentuated his German accent for them.
"It was one sunny afternoon down in San Diego. I was leaving the venue where my band and I were playing, and a young Fraulein approached me and told me something interesting: She said that she had seen one of my concerts and that my music had inspired her to pursue her dreams—that I had touched her in a way that no one had touched her before."
"Touched…her?" Lamiroir said, fiddling with the bands on her hair. She blushed and looked away. "And she liked it when you—touched her?"
"Ah…ah!" Klavier said, realizing her semantic confusion. "No, no, she meant that my music affected her so strongly! That's all."
Lamiroir nodded slowly.
"My point is, music helps to forge personal connections between people. Has anyone ever told you, honestly told you, that your music was beautiful above that of its commercial appeal?"
"Um, I—I don't know," Lamiroir said. "I have read the newspapers speaking of my success…but no one has spoken to me about my singing. It is—er…misappropriated?—in Borginia for a performer to speak of his or her success outside of a stage persona."
"Is that true? Then let me tell you," Klavier said, without missing a beat, and he leaned in closer until he was aware that she felt his presence nearby. "Your voice is beautiful. Never forget that. Your voice…can change the world. That isn't just idle flattery, either."
"Ah, thank you," Lamiroir said quietly, "but I—I don't know if—"
Klavier looked into her eyes, so full of light and life. He wished, for that moment, that she could catch a glimpse of the world of light, and more importantly, at him, full circle, at the man on the other side of the mirror staring at himself.
"You are a remarkably beautiful woman, Lamiroir," Klavier said, and he was only partially surprised that he wasn't merely flirting with her; he usually had a woman in bed by now. But there was something different about Lamiroir, something special, something inherently sacrosanct about her beauty. For the first time, he was acutely aware that the real woman behind the veil was more than just a singer. "I am being honest. Has anyone told you before how good-looking you are?"
"Yes," she said, stroking a tail of hair. She seemed melancholy.
"Did you believe them?"
Lamiroir turned in the direction of his voice. Klavier watched carefully as she interlaced her fingers and looked away.
"I-I don't know. I don't know if what they said was true. All the folk in Borginia who urged me to sing famously…they all said that I was attractive. My—my song managers in Borginia always called me in to be prepared for my shows with make-up."
Lamiroir looked at her lap. Klavier put his hand on her shoulder, and he could tell that she was thinking intently about something.
"Mr. Gav—Klavier, I don't know the answer to your question. My managers always told me to wear a hooded cloak and a veil over my face, saying it looks more mysterious. I have never seen myself—as beautiful. I have no way of know—"
"Do you believe me?" he asked, and waited for her response. It might have been only him, he thought, watching the blind woman nervously, but he had a feeling that there were so many things he took for granted that she didn't even know about, that she had no way of knowing. What was she afraid of? Maybe the same thing he was.
Lamiroir turned to him. "Mr. Klavier, I—"
"If you believe anything I've told you, Lamiroir, believe this." He leaned closer to her and spoke almost in a whisper. "You are a remarkable woman…and in your 'darkness' you've found a fantastic gift." Klavier sat up straight. "Believe in yourself."
They didn't speak for a few moments, enough time for the notes at the beginning of the 'Pleasure, pleasure' verse of "Guitar's Serenade" to play in Klavier's head.
"Klavier," Lamiroir said quietly.
He laughed. "I'm sorry! I guess I sounded a bit too—sentimental, ja? That might make a good lyric to a song, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, it would," Lamiroir said, staring at her lap. "I—When I am singing, I am happy. That's what is important, is it not?"
"I think you already know the answer to that, ja?"
She smiled. "Yes, of course. But may I ask you a favor, Klavier?"
"I don't want to be so forward, but—may I touch your face?"
Klavier put his hand on his chin and grinned. "Now that is one I haven't heard before. And I've heard a lot. May I ask why, Lamiroir?"
"I want to know what you look like," Lamiroir said. "I want to get a—a painting of your face in my mind. I can…feel out what you look like that way."
"I see. Ach, why not? Go ahead, I don't mind." Klavier smiled, threw his hair back and closed his eyes as Lamiroir reached out, feeling for his face. Her soft fingers made a chill run down his spine.
It was ironic that he was being entranced by the one woman who could not be charmed by his good looks. Ironic, too, that she was the most honest woman he had ever met hidden in the guise of a siren from another world. He could sympathize with her. He was happy on-stage, where the bright lights warmed him and the people cheered. That was his world. He could close his eyes and feel the guitar strings beneath his fingers and hear, so much clearer, the music dance around, not only in his cone of vision, but everywhere. His eyes closed, he could hear, stunningly clear, Lamiroir's voice carve its way into her audience's souls, the people all willing and eager to receive, Lamiroir only able to give and give again.
"I envy you," Klavier said suddenly.
"What do you mean?"
"I—don't think I could explain it well enough," Klavier said. He shrugged. Lamiroir continued to touch him and warmth prickled through his body.
"Your face," she said, "and your features. They are so soft," and she quietly giggled as she found his drill-hair and spun with her fingers. "You're a beautiful man."
"I know," Klavier said. He smiled. "How does it really feel, being blind?" Klavier asked as Lamiroir's fingers ran along his face, down the ridge of his nose, gently clenching and rubbing his skin as they passed by.
"I-I paint pictures to see," she said as she traced his face. Her hands were soft and gentle. "Sound is my picture. The beauty I know is in voices and words…and the things I feel, the things I touch."
"Are you afraid?"
"Wh-what?" Lamiroir said.
Eyes closed, Klavier reached his hand out in her direction, and, accidentally smacking her in the shoulder, realized just how difficult it was to even reach out to anyone sightlessly. But this was a gift for her: It was as if to say, Here, take this mirror, see for yourself who you are.
"Are you afraid of being able to see?"
"What do you mean?"
"I would be frightened," Klavier said, sighing as her hands kneaded his forehead. He was comfortable. "Learning to see…there would be so many new things, and what if things weren't how I imagined them to be? Have you heard the stories about the people born blind given sight by modern science? How it was a struggle for them to make sense of these shapes we call images? Sight has to be learnt, like everything else."
"Ja. I read a book about it the other day," Klavier said. "I could understand why you might be apprehensive. I would be terrified of what I might see.
For a moment they said nothing, and Lamiroir pulled her hand away slowly from his face. "Maybe I am," she said. "To be able to see, finally, to see, and what a gift it would be…no one would understand why I—would be so hesitant. They would think I am being selfish."
"No, please listen, Lamiroir. I can at least sympathize. It is obviously not the same feeling, of course, but, you know." He chuckled. "We're all like that. Don't think that you're alone, being afraid. My brother and I have had our secrets—sometimes I think I was blind to what he wanted me to be. I can tell people I want the truth, the whole truth, and only the truth, but sometimes I just don't want to know, ja? How is that honesty?
"And I think it's the not knowing that scares me. Not knowing where I'll end up tomorrow, or a week from now, or in a year. I never thought about that when I was a kid." Klavier laughed dryly. "I didn't even know who'd end up in my bed every night. I didn't know why I loved the stage but I was too afraid to go home. I thought the 'eager truth' would solve everything for me. Well…"
Klavier shook his head. "I dunno about that." He laughed again, and his voice shook. He scratched his head and massaged his temples, thinking about where he came from, who he was, and what he'd become. Open your eyes, he thought he heard someone say to him. Open your eyes. "I dunno about that at all."
"Klavier." Lamiroir held out her hand, and Klavier looked at it for a moment, hesitant; people didn't usually offer priceless gems up so readily. "Please."
He grasped her hand, squeezed it gently, and the feeling of her fingers against his made him cry quietly.
"Thank you," Lamiroir said. "For everything you've done for me. Without you, I would not be here, and I would never have been able to have this operation. That was because of you, Klavier."
"Ach," Klavier said, wiping his eyes. "It's—it's my pleasure. You're having the operation in one of the hospitals in the city, aren't you? If you don't mind, maybe when you first awaken, I could come see you? It would be the least I could do, so that you don't have to be alone—besides, little Machi wouldn't be tall enough to see over the top of the bed by himself."
Klavier laughed from the base of his spine upward and Lamiroir joined him, squeezing his hand, nodding.
"I would love that," she said. "You must be very handsome; it might be nice for the first thing I ever see."
He laughed again and almost doubled over, clutching his side. He hadn't expected her to say that, but it meant so much more than when anyone else said it. When he stopped laughing, he stood up and walked over to his guitar. "Ah, Lamiroir! There is so much you've yet to see. Someday soon, I'll have to show you around the city a little bit. How about it?"
Lamiroir smiled. "If you were my guide, Klavier, I would be most honored, of course!"
"And I could learn a lot from you; I want to learn from you, if you'd be willing to teach me. About…music," Klavier said, sitting down again, acoustic cradled in his arms. "And about your life in Borginia. I'd think that would be a fair trade, don't you?"
"I would be glad, yes."
He smiled. "Now," Klavier said, tapping the guitar strings with his callused fingers, humming quietly in unison with his instrument. "Perhaps we can make another beautiful song together, while we're here. Something with energy."
"I'm sure we'll be pleased with the way the song turns out," Lamiroir said. As he started to strum, she moved closer, feeling out for his shoulder with her hand. She leaned against his side and he sighed and let her melt into him.
"I'm sure we will," he whispered. "We make a great team, you know."
Lamiroir hummed along with his guitar as he played silently. Klavier listened.