The Epilogue (Of Sorts)

Midnight never sounded so exquisite.

In the slums, as infants wailed and drunkards rejoiced, a piano sang. The notes wound

themselves around their player as she wept, curling like smoke and disappearing in the night. Her

eyes blurred as she tried to read the lines, as they transformed into dark smudges. Fingers

stumbled and the music ceased. Chagrin turned to anger at her misstep and she whispered

furiously at herself. "Pitiful, pitiful," she muttered hoarsely. The woman laughed, perhaps a bit

maniacally, as she looked at her hands. They shook under her gaze, looking frail and ill. "What

would Edmond think of you now? There would be no more sweet nothings whispered to his dear

Mercedes, would there be?" The words, contrary to their tone, seemed to cheer her immensely.

She commenced her piano-playing again.

As Mercedes' fingertips danced across the keys, her eyes wandered. They darted, noting her skin

(once full and like cream and roses, now wan and paper against her bones), her locks of hair

(once dark and lush, now brittle and gray), the walls of her small apartment (once she had lived

within walls of gold, now stained and brown), her stomach concave with hunger. The only

perfect thing left in her life (when once the only blemish was Fernand) was the piano. It would

have been lost in the night had it not been for the seemingly celestial glow it emitted.

After the brief glances, she began half-murmuring, half-humming, her broken voice dipping

between the two. Her singing matched the piano in softness as she sang of lost sons, of lovers

gone, of poverty, and of memory. Her words lingered on memory as she mused if she would be

forgotten. The various noises of the neighbors drowned out her pianoforte (except for those few

nights she screamed words like a savage, throwing her fists against the keys.) No neighbors

would remember her. There was no longer an Albert to mourn her, no more Edmond to care for

her. Perhaps the instrument, which now comforted Mercedes more than any human, would

mourn her. Mourn the loss of another, one who gave meaning to it. She hoped so. With such

thoughts, she played quieter and quieter, until symphonies flowed through her veins rather than

blood, until her eyes dimmed to darkness. Her fingers curled before the notes ended.

Midnight never sounded so lonely.