When Ariadne and Harmon arrived in the study they were greeted by the sound of a lively valse and the jubilant clacking of soles on wood. The divan and photographic equipment, which had previously occupied the center of the space, had been removed for a Steinway and Sons palor baby grand piano and a considerable number of people, most of whom were foreign to Harmon’s recollection. Celik lounged with a cigar upon an ancient armchair near the plangent instrument, while the fencer Anders, and the model Monica, twirled together, spirit-touched and zestful, across the polished hardwood floor.
The pianist who so artfully manipulated the keys of the rich umber instrument appeared as a silhouette due the high, sparse, intense amber lights. His face cloaked in shadow; his attention fixed upon the keys. He appeared, to Harmon, to be playing wholly from memory, or improvisation, or some combination thereupon, for no sheets lay before him. Only when the tenebrous pianist straightened did Harmon realize the maestro was Lynder Partridge.
“Just going to stand there staring?” Ariadne queried suddenly, extending her hand with a broad, bedazzling smile.
“You want me to dance?”
“I’d rather not.”
“No spine beneath all those muscles?”
“Lynder wanted to talk.”
“He won’t mind, Flapjack. Look how rapt he is in his performance.”
“The octopus, not the food.”
“Never heard of a flapjack octopus.”
“They’re red and gelatinous, like your face and constitution.”
Without waiting for a response, she took his arm and playfully tugged the man to the center of the festal floor. She wasn’t wrong, Harmon thought, for he could feel the blush in his pallid cheeks. Despite his embarrassment, he straightened and took her right hand high, securing her slender waist with his left, awkwardly box stepping toward her.
One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two—
He stepped on her foot and turned several different shades of scarlet.
She turned from where she had been looking over his shoulder, to stare into his eyes, smiling like a sphynx.
“Oh no,” she gasped with feigned solicitude, raising her hand to his forehead, as if checking for a fever, “Two left feet syndrome.”
“Incurable, I’m afraid,” he replied, redoubling his efforts at acclimatization with a sheepish half-grin.
Riant they twirled, the forms of the other dancers fading to insubstantiality amidst the bony fatigues of their terpsichoric union. Keeping pace with the crystalline rhythm of the piano, they danced til the moon fell from the sky and the keys sounded no more.