Lifting a hand from the keyboard he took the pen, dipped it, and wrote
a few notes onto the paper. "That is it, the right way to do it" he said
to himself. His mind rushed forward, imagining the next section, but
suddenly another fit of coughing hit him. It seemed to take forever to
subside. When it did, it left his body aching. He was tired. It was time
to stop for a while. But the morning had been a productive one.

Lifting himself up from the piano he went over to the wide window that
faced to the rear of the estate. Some of the many panes of glass were
covered with ice; others, though, were still clear. Looking through one
he saw outside a broad stretch of freshly fallen, unbroken snow. Beyond
the field there was a line of trees, bare during the winter, the branches
seeming so thin and frail. Beyond that was dark grey sky. He felt the cold
air from the glass cool his face and he was glad for it — the fireplace was
still burning rather high and the room was much too warm. He listened.
There was only silence, punctuated now and then by the almost bell-like
sound of ice cracking on the windows.

Slowly, gradually, like flakes of snow falling to the earth, he felt a
profound sadness come over him. He was so far from his native land.
Though the chateau was grand, it held no great beauty for him. Much more
lovely by far was the little parlor of his childhood and the old piano that
seemed always in need of tuning. But his keyboard touch was light. He
had made do. Just as he had made do ever since in spite of revolutions,
illness, countless disappointments. He took a half step forward more
toward the window, bringing the cold air even closer to his face.

Behind him, a door opened. It was a soft sound, but he heard it anyway.
There was a brief pause. And then he heard the door close. He knew she
was there, standing behind him, though she said nothing.

Turning to her, he saw her smile fade as she looked at him. She knew
the place he had been in his thoughts, she always knew, she had a divine
talent for that which often frustrated him. She pulled her hands up to
her chin, fingers laced. "No" she said, pleading as if she could make it
not be. "No, not again dearest. Will you never just be happy?"

His heart went out to her. He hated to make her feel that way. Feeling
a wave of strength he walked quickly to her. She leaned into him and he
kissed the wonderful flatness of her lips, leaned forward and kissed her
bare shoulders. Slowly, she pulled away from him a bit. She put her left
hand on his shoulder, into her other hand took his own. "Dance with me."

He shook his head. "No, I mustn't" he told her. "Oh, come on!" she said
with a mock pout. "Don't be such an old man. You are still young!" Then
she looked over at the piano, and back at him. "Although not as young as
you used to be!" He had to laugh at that. And so it began. His fingers
were so long she thought they could have wrapped themselves around her
small hand twice over. They did the waltz, very slowly, more a slow spin
with each other than an actual waltz.

She stopped. Pulling his hand out far to the side she dipped her left
shoulder and did a glissade, jerking him with her. Then another drop of
the shoulder, another glide. He was unwilling. But she was insistent.
Doing a slow galop together they reached the fireplace. Then they switched
direction and danced back across the room. He was smiling, and it lit her
heart like a dozen candles. Back again to the edge of the room they
sank to the floor. And then they were together, totally and completely.

Ice cracked on the window panes. Beyond them was the silent snow. And
then the line of trees — their bare branches stretching up toward heaven.