Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.
That Old Black Magic
By L. Stewart Marsden
Terry shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket against the penetrating cold night air. It was late – nearly five in the morning. He figured if Sheila awoke to find him gone, he’d tell her he was out walking, couldn’t sleep. And he didn’t want to lie. He was afraid she’d pick up on it. Sense it.
As he approached an intersection not far from his apartment building, a taxi pulled up and stopped at the light. Its radio was playing loudly, and Terry could hear the song. Frank Sinatra.
Darling, down and down I go, round and round I go
In a spin, loving the spin that I’m in
Under that old black magic called love
No coincidence there, he thought. He breathed out a long sigh that condensed and formed a small breathy cloud in the mist. In the distance, he heard the echoing undulating sirens of fire trucks and ambulances rushing to some event. A fire, maybe. Or an accident. Probably a fire, he reasoned, the streets fairly barren of cars or pedestrians. Only the lone outliers like himself.
The light changed and the cab drove off, sputtering exhaust behind it, Sinatra fading down the street.
Terry was careful to unlock and open the apartment door as quietly as he could. The light to the oven hood was on in the kitchen, and next to the stove top a large mug. The tab and string of a tea bag was flopped over one side. A handwritten note was propped against the mug so that Terry would see it.
Missed you tonight. Drink this chamomile tea. It will help you sleep.
We can talk about what’s worrying you in the a.m.
He picked up the cup, which was still somewhat hot to the touch. He cradled it with both hands. It felt good, and he let his still-cool hands receive its warmth. She must have only recently poured the water over the teabag. He set the cup down and removed his damp jacket, and hung it on one of a set of coat hooks on the wall next to the front door. His hand brushed against Sheila’s dark cape. It was cool and damp to the touch, and he noticed a small pool of water on the floor beneath it.
She had gone out, too! When? How long? Had she followed him?
He grabbed the mug and walked to the bedroom, opening the door quietly. It was dark, and Sheila was rolled to one side of the bed, her back to the door.
“You awake?” he asked in a loud whisper.
“Am now,” she replied sleepily, rolling over to look at him. “Where you been?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“I figured. What’s bothering you?”
Terry sat down on the edge of the bed away from Sheila, his back to her.
“I don’t know, Sheila. My success and what’s going on is really unexpected. I’m not sure I was ready for it.”
“So it’s a bad thing?”
He dropped his shoes on the floor and turned to her.
“No! It’s a good thing! I just look around me at all of the people trying to make it here – who struggle and struggle and it doesn’t happen for them. Why me?”
“You feel guilty for your success?”
“A little. Yeah, I guess I do. Crazy, right?”
“Not so much, Terry. I mean, you are living your dream. And it’s kind of happened like that!” she snapped her finger.
“Yeah. That, and you. It’s like someone said ‘abracadabra’ and poof!”
“Question is, what kind of magic?”
“Terry don’t go off on me with that satanic stuff again. This is not magic! It’s good luck and good timing. You are the right guy with the right stuff and are in the right place.”
He laid down on his back, hands behind his head, and looked up at the ceiling. Sheila had found some luminous stars and other night sky shapes, and it looked like the night sky.
“You went out, too, right?” he finally asked.
“I woke up and you weren’t here. I figured I’d try to find you and we could walk together. I must have guessed wrong about where you were headed.”
“To the café and the honky-tonk.”
“Pretty dead this time of night. I guess I wanted some sort of touchstone to that night everything happened.”
“Well, drink your chamomile and let’s get some sleep. You won’t be worth a damn tomorrow, and we’ve got that recording session all day.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
He sat up and drank down the tea, putting the mug on the night table and lay back down.
Sheila scootched next to him and snuggled.
“Hey,” he flinched. “You’re cold as ice!”
“I need my man to warm me up. I told you I was cold-blooded,” she grinned.
He closed his eyes.
Cold-blooded, he thought.
A lone siren wailed, and dogs throughout the city took up the cry, howling from various locations.
His head swam in slow circles, as if he had just finished a couple of beers.
That old black magic, he thought, hearing Sinatra crooning in his mind.