A Moment’s Reflection
He woke with the pain stronger, not sharp but throbbing dully the length of his lower jaw to where it meets the hinge. His head ached slightly, from the pressure on his inner ear, the nerve hurting all the way up alongside his skull. He was aware also of the persistent ache in his lower back where he had pinched a nerve two summers before while moving a table in the basement.
But for the moment he was happy. Piano music rolled over him in trills, a ginger introduction to the new day.
The girl finished three Chopin Etudes and then put her hands into her lap, folding them together within the folds of her dress. She bowed her head slightly, waiting for his response.
“Beautiful. Really beautiful, dear,” he said, stepping toward her and placing a glass of icewater onto a small trivet on the corner of the piano. He threw his head back and laughed.
“What,” she said.
“This is such a pleasant surprise, this is. Having you home with us again is such a lovely surprise for all of us.”
“Oh, go on.” She lifted her hands and stretched her fingers, then made two fists and put them back in her lap.
“Of course. Of course.” She stood up, pushing the stool away with the backs of her legs. “You play.”
He turned and inadvertently caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He was not intending to see himself at that moment and was surprised at how much older he looked. How grey he had become, and so stupidly stooped.
“What is it, Father? Are you in pain?”