This chapter will definitely need some major reworking, but I won’t be doing that until I hear back from Kendra and start working on the rewrite. I will also need to further develop and refine my musical compositions to align the text with the music. So I invite you to read on, but bear in mind there will be some changes down the line.
Phil stared at the first of the two pieces of music in the torch light. It was in D+, so clearly not the piece of music he’d heard in Rosegate’s parlour on the morning Aubrey’s body had been found.
“Broken Together by Aubrey J. Holloway,” he murmured. Not ‘Broken’. Nor ‘Broken Apart’.
But ‘Broken Together’.
As if Aubrey understood that to be complete – in one’s humanity, in one’s awareness of the never-ending cycle of death and revival – in one way or another, a person had to be broken. Like a chord a thousand times more lovely in its rupturing on the keyboard.
And in that moment, Phil believed he knew-knew Aubrey Holloway. As if the manuscript hadn’t already shown him Aubrey’s comprehension of the oxymoron’s logic, the music had shown up to prove that broken together was so logical, it was understood. As Phil eyed the broken chords rippling through the staff paper, he held the chord in the highest esteem, identifying with its melodious fissuring of sound, its notes parting ways, then falling back together for an instant then breaking again just to tumble apart at the seams like we do in the over-and-againing of our up-and-down days and our toss-and-turn nights.
This piece of music was the same as the Kaleidoscope People. It was the same as Justine’s jar glimmering with the shards from a mirror destroyed by someone she’d cared for, shards turned beautiful by her son who’d died before she had. This composition was the same as a story filled with painfully moving parts, pieces of stories loved ones will never read, therefore filled with pieces of souls they will never know and by osmosis, never love. And yet if it weren’t for those moving fragments, well, the story wouldn’t move through the pages, nor would it move the emotions of the human heart. The fractures, excruciating, were essential to the meant-to-be sum so complete in its dissention, so together whilst broken.
Phil sat there with that.
Chest aching, tears gathering, he sat there with that.
The acceptance that his mother, in self-defense, had cut herself off from the life-love-art source he’d been born with, but only because, like a person curled up with a migraine, she hadn’t been able to cope with his light which would’ve been blinding in the midst of her grief.
The acceptance that Aubrey Holloway’s parents were still in the United States while her body was in the mortuary but she was forever here and he, a stranger-but-not, was the one hearing her voice in the pages and in the composition before him. He. Not her parents.
That Anthony Winterbourne had broken the mirror which held a muse’s memory and burnt Justine’s writing in the very heath which she’d loved.
All the damaging barbs and quips he’d hurled at his sons as they’d been engaged in their art, building masterpieces on a plate, creations which left the herds and the flocks and schools to themselves. All the accusatory comments with which he’d assaulted Claire as, armed with her iPhone, she practised what she’d preached to all the little budding artists in her nursery school class. All the jabs he’d given her whilst she artified her middle-aged self and put it out there even if it weren’t everybody else’s version of perfection. All the insults he’d made, intimidated by her revival, a revival so fierce in its brilliance, it made him turn away like a mother with a migraine.
Phil sat there with that.
He grasped the paradox of human nature from which he wasn’t exempt.
And yet, sitting there with that first piece of music scripted in Aubrey’s hand, already knowing that the broken chords were vital to the unity of the creation, he wished that darkness didn’t have to be a necessary part to beauty soul-deep.
Smoothing his hand over the melody, Phil thought of Harold sitting in the firelight at St. Anne’s, explaining to Justine that he had to know injustice inside and out in order to identify its Achilles’ heel, how to bring it to an end. Harold’s understanding of the inner workings of malevolence to be the best at what he did; his knowledge had been more than textbook; it had been born from his own troubles.
And then Phil thought of himself, of his life as an officer of the Heath. Of his ability to sit with troubled individuals in their most traumatic hours, of the knack he had of settling the downtrodden and aggressive, the victimised, and people ‘on-the-edge’ or ‘past-the-brink’ of harmful actions, decisions which would change the course of lives which, if the world were kinder, would flow like pristine rivers through an unpolluted landscape. I mean, seriously, his colleagues always said he had the magic touch with people jailed in their own bodies. They said he ‘held it together’ in worlds that were falling apart.
How did he hold it together?
He held it together with the broken pieces of himself.
Because he saw his sister Richie coming home dishevelled, slamming doors, and crying, leaving her own eyes to practise for the moment when she abandoned them for good. Because he knew the pandemonium of crisis. In every home or circumstance into which he waded as a fifty-year-old man in blue, he nursed the four-year-old within, his inner child which life had thrown into a tailspin. Just as Harold Clarke had hunted down his father’s ghost with every bully he took on, Phil sought to solve some bygone trauma in the present. He kept whatever he could together from his own experience with dysfunction.
“Broken Together,” Phil murmured again.
Phil moved the piece of music, the other still hidden behind it, forward on the table, clearing a space along the edge of Anthony Winterbourne’s table. As much as he hated to admit it, he was about to venture into Vic’s ‘intuitive reading’ territory by ‘playing without playing’ and ‘hearing without hearing’. And, in doing so, he was about to intuitively hear Aubrey’s ‘sound’. Yes, he’d heard her voice, by way of her subjects, in her manuscript, but he hadn’t heard the way she sounded; the music, her music, separate from the saga he’d just come through, was about to give him that, not with his ‘mind’s eye’, but rather with his ‘mind’s ear’, an ear which years of soundtracking had honed.
As Phil eyed the imaginary keyboard on the edge of Anthony Winterbourne’s table, he recalled the prayer he’d prayed while leaving the suicide scene in Rosegate’s study. ‘Please God, just let me hear her voice,’ he heard himself think. ‘Let me hear how she sounds.’
And then, he lifted the top page, revealing the second page to the music. Setting them side by side so he wouldn’t have to break from the experience to rustle the paper, he brought his Latex-ed hands up to the table and played; he played without playing, and he heard without hearing. And he heard Aubrey; he heard his prayer answered.
The music was softer, sweeter than he’d anticipated.
It soothed him after this ‘night-of-nights’.
And wasn’t that something?
That, despite the energy surges he’d felt in her writing, she gave him serene.
‘Have you experienced a love like that?’ Harold came haunting the moment.
‘Once,’ Justine’s ghost replied. ‘But not for a long time.’
‘Ahhh,’ Harold gusted. ‘So, you write it.’
To the very memories Aubrey had given him, Phil came to see that, in this piece of music, Aubrey had given herself peace in D+, a blissful key, and by giving it to herself, she’d given it to him.
Aubrey’s life had been anything but peaceful. Phil knew that now.
Her parents had been both physically and emotionally distant, chasing their own dreams. Her grandmother had died. Her first love had left her for her friend.
Phil paused in thought there, even though he kept playing.
Adrian Kettering had fallen in love with someone else, a person close to Aubrey. And Adrian Kettering had followed his heart because he simply had to follow it, or else he’d lose its beat, the blood-pumping life it provided. And in honouring himself, Adrian had left Aubrey adrift in the most poignant of sexual memories, forcing her to grapple with betrayal the only way she knew how: through her writing, by taking it on herself in the first person to understand why—why—why he would do something like that after all the beautiful promises he’d made to her and in light of the bodily divinity in which they’d come to know God.
Aubrey Holloway had been abandoned and betrayed by people simply following their own flow. And, in the natural surf of others, she’d tumbled like a bottle in an ocean unintentional in its roughness.
What on earth do you do when the truths, necessary and defining, of others throws you into psychological chaos? What – please God – Phil heard himself saying – what on earth do you do?
The answer was there.
In the artwork.
But, here and now, in the music.
Because in this music, Phil saw Aubrey standing at the kitchen window, nursing a cup of tea in her grip, allowing her lips to linger on the warm ceramic of the rim, before she sipped for the gazillionth time. The vision made him think of the time that a young Justine had challenged Gregory to create a poetic little vignette from the simple word ‘tea’, and how Gregory had said that a single sip of tea replaced the chill of winter with warmth, filling him with thoughts of a summer day.
As Phil continued to play the music, he saw Aubrey looking out at the heath, absorbing from the wind and the gorse and the wildflowers and the birds and the sky and the shrubs and the trees. He saw her taking it all in, then wandering to one of the chairs by the fire and hearing a piece of music she’d never heard playing in her head, the piece of music she was going to write because she needed it. She needed its calming, lullabyish nature. She needed its gentleness to stand in for those too occupied to her. She needed to mother herself in the same way that the Earth mothers all its creatures.
‘That’s so pretty, it could put me to sleep, it could,’ Phil heard Holls say.
‘Thanks for the compliment,’ he heard Aubrey return sarcastically.
‘Oh, I don’t know, love,’ Holls responded. ‘To play people into sleep is a gift not everybody has. It’s – well – just what I need right about now.’
Losing himself in the music, Phil suddenly realised that Aubrey, while she may have suffered in her short life, had also known great joy, not only from her grandparents and the snippets given her by her parents in the moments when they’d been open to giving it, but because she’d created it for herself. And this piece of music, ‘Broken Together’ was her moving case in point.