Eny could tell that Inaiah and Randall were watching warily as she stepped off the bus the following afternoon. She could feel their eyes on the back of her head as the driver pulled away from the curb and the bus rumbled off in a brackish cloud of pungent exhaust. Hitching her backpack up over her right shoulder, she smiled to herself and shook her head. I’ll bet they still don’t know what hit them, she thought.
But Randall and Inaiah were the least of her concerns as she shuffled along through the smog and stifling heat, past the bus stop bench and the dingy storefronts on the Boulevard. Her mind was too full to allow them anything but the tiniest corner of her attention. It was brimming to the top with unrelenting music. The music had been with her all day long, coloring all her thoughts, pressing upon her consciousness like the memory of a recurring dream. She could not get the strains of the Fantasie Impromptu out of her head. Nor could she free herself from the haunting image of the little man in the big floppy hat pounding away at the piano keys like an undersized Horowitz or Rubenstein.
With a twinge of regret, she realized that, until she’d heard him play, she had almost entirely forgotten about her music—forgotten the power, the joy, the enchantment of her first love. With a shiver, she thought of her own fiddle lying neglected in the corner of her room at Aunt Grania’s. She hadn’t touched it in weeks.
Just then she looked up and saw her reflection in a storefront window. The hot September breeze had mussed her hair, tossing it into an asymmetrical pile on top of her head. Dismayed, she stopped to rearrange it; and while she stood there smoothing it down, she noticed something else, something that peered out at her from behind her image in the glass—something in the display case on the other side of the window. Eny caught her breath.
It was a violin. A red violin in a black alligator case with silver clasps and blue velvet lining. The wood was deeply and richly grained. The fingerboard was inlaid with ebony and ivory. The head-piece was intricately carved in the shape of a roaring lion. The black tuning pegs were edged in opalescent mother-of-pearl.
Her heart nearly stoppedat the sight of it. She knew that fiddle. She would have recognized it anywhere. She had played her own instrument alongside it too many times to forget the mesmerizing quality of the tones it was capable of producing. As she gazed upon it open-mouthed, the image of a face rose once again before her dazzled mind’s eye—the face of Simon Brach.
Glancing up to find out what sort of a shop it was, she saw two lines of large yellow block letters painted in a double arch across the top of the window. PASCAL’S MUSIC & PAWN, read the top line. Below that, We Buy Instruments. Instant Cash.
A pawn shop? thought Eny. There wasn’t any pawn shop here yesterday!
She shouldered the door open, pushed her way inside, and hurried past a big black Wurlitzer upright piano, a stand of polished trumpets and saxophones, and a jumbled display of guitars, mandolins, and banjos. Navigating her way through a maze of glass cases exhibiting a profusion of watches, toasters, coffee pots, alarm clocks, bracelets, earrings, and gold and silver necklaces, she came at last to a battered wooden counter that spanned the rear portion of the shop …
(To be continued …)