She had come there only to be a part of the audience. She’d listened to the concert, then remained after the end of the performance, waiting for the public to leave the hall. The singer had been amazing: everyone praised her, but Arielle refrained to do so for a while: the notes were certainly perfect, high, vibrant, but she sensed the technique was far more important than the emotions, for the lady who closed that evening at the teather.
She had no right to judge, not being a singer herself; she should hush and clap her hands, and so she did right after thinking about who she was, and who she wasn’t.
“I’m no opera singer nor anything else. Why did I tried to sing like her, afterwards?”
Arielle bit her lips, blaming her ego. She wanted to become a musician, three years ago, when she was still studying piano and attending singing lessons with Monsierur Lefevre: she well remembered him telling her her tone was weak, scolding her for her lack of energy during public events. She was able to sing properly only in front of the mirror, alone in her room, when nobody was home.
“Just to my reflected image, that’s it. That’s how pathetic I am”, she remembered, and that was the reason why she quitted without any regret. Her parents were happy she did: nobody saw any talent in her, included her.

She was once again lonely, in the same place as the day of the concert: she pointed her eyes on the paintings, on the huge chandelier swinging from the ceiling, watching the light playing with the crystals of the smaller lamp-holders. It was like she was invisible for the crowd: their chatter vanished after the show, and her red dress didn’t aven attract a bit of their attention.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m some kind of ghost…”
She got up, reaching the stage. It was like an invisible force encouraged her to free that feeling, to let the music heal her soul, for only the music could help her find what she felt was missing in her life. She followed that encouragement, lifting up her chin, smiling to the empty seats with a teardrop on a cheek: a breath after, she started to sing.

«I heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord,
but you don’t really care for music, do you?»

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah echoed in the hall, while she imagined the voice of her teacher shouting she should learn easier songs, that she was inexperienced, that she wasn’t able to do nothing more than singing the alphabet.

«Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift,
the baffled king composing Hallelujah…»

She walked down the stage again, twirling in the central corridor: Arielle danced without losing the rythm, desiring at least one spectator, one single presence to share those verses with.

«…I’ve been here before,
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor…»

«… I used to live alone before I knew you».

She almost fell on the floor, turning around: a man was on the stage, exactly where she was right before, looking at her with a strange expression, half hidden by a curious mask. Dressed up like a gentleman of another century, he was kindly holding a white pair of gloves and a walking stick, a silky mantle covering one of his shoulders. He could have been an actor, but why reciting in front of her? His movements were the ones of a dramatis persona, he seemed so… Unreal?
He followed her amongst the empty chairs, bowing in front of her when he got near enough: she had already recognised his voice, the same that complimented her when she sang there the week before. The man was taller than her, definitely stronger than her, but she didn’t feel menaced by his presence. She took a step back, shaking her head and remembering what “common sense” was. She should find the exit: the problem was… After the closing, the only one she knew whas behind the stage, and she couldn’t reach it without getting nearer the man with the mask. The alternative was running across the stalls, no chances to escape whatsoever. The man, as if he could sense her thoughts, smiled and raised both hands, still holding the gloves and the stick: he took a step back, letting her see the stage behind him: «I come here for the same reason as you do. Alone, hoping to find relief… From a grief only I am aware of».
The man chuckled, a sad expression on the half of his face that was visible. «Music’s the world most ancient healer, don’t you agree?»
She nodded, her heart telling her to trust that stranger, her logic screaming her not to be so silly.
«Your voice… I just wanted to hear you sing, nothing more».
His sadness fiercely pierced through her chest: it was like she heard that sorrow in another life, in another time. She suddenly felt the same pain, and naturally continued to sing the interrupted song she was harmonising before.

«I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
but love is not a victory march,
It’s a cold and it’s a broken

They remained silent, the one in front of the other, while the echo of the last note slowly quenched.

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