I’m alone when I hear the music in my living room. By the time I pull the covers off and shuffle across the hard wood floor down the hallway, the record is finishing. The needle’s run out of groove and thumps the label. Thump. Thump. Thump.
As though a hand touches it, the needle scratches the record, picking up in the middle of a song. A trumpet wails like it’s had too much to drink, like it’s trying to say it’s sorry for something it’s done.
Sitting on my sofa, with a shivering hand held up to a bruised eye, is a woman I’ve never seen. A spotlight hits her face. Tears shimmer on her cheeks. She chokes on a sob, so I sit down next to her and let her rest her head on my chest. I stroke her black curls, which are soft and smell of lemons. The trumpet cries out more, louder and full of regret. She turns to look at it with forgiveness in her eyes.
The murmur of an audience and sounds of clinking glasses seep in through the floorboards. And where a plain white wall used to be is now a velvet curtain.
“The show must go on,” she says as she wipes the tears away with the back of her hand.
“Help me with my makeup.” She points at a corner of the living room where there’s now a vanity full of powders, perfumes and other bottles of transformation.
Small round bulbs light up a mirror in the center of the vanity. She sits down in the chair in front of it, wiping her face with a handkerchief. In the mirror, she catches my gaze and holds up a tube. I walk over to her and take it, pouring its contents onto a small sponge. I smooth it over the bruise, which has changed the different hues of a polluted sunset. I apply a second layer and when I’m done, the bruise is no longer visible.
The sounds of the audience grow louder as she runs her hands down her dress to smooth out the wrinkles. The trumpet fades into a whimper.
She walks between the curtains without looking back. When I try to part the curtains, my hand hits the wall. I shake it until the throbbing fades.
Everything in my living room is in its place. No record plays on the player.
My fridge buzzes through the small window that connects my living room to my kitchen. I go to it. Inside is a pitcher of lemonade. I pour myself a glass and take a sip. It’s so tart, tears form in the corners of my eyes. One runs down my cheek and makes the long descent to the kitchen floor.
L. Soviero was born in Queens, lives in Melbourne and studies creative writing on the web with the University of Edinburgh. Her most recent publications can be found at Maudlin House, Seizure, and Star 82 Review.