Chapter 8:

Fog on the Hillside

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        “Fuck…”

          Was the sole thought occupying Grace’s mind as she walked at a hurried pace up a steep cobblestone road. Since parting with Kevin, she had spent her minutes combing the twisted maze of the hilly neighborhood, retracing her steps in attempt to find clues. Not only had she forgotten about Matthew, but she also came to realize that the two had never exchanged numbers. Nor could Grace remember where exactly he lived. An unnecessary frustration began to mount with each accumulating step. Her plight only increased upon remembering that her bag and belongings still sat with the guitarist. Nonetheless, all that mattered to Grace was her desire to apologize. The thoughts of her brother were slowly dwindling from perception. It boggled her mind how hastily she could return to feeling lost.

           The low-lying fog had settled atop the many hills of the East End. Visibility had become difficult; the miasma had stripped Grace of the ability to see beyond short distances. The pallid gleam from the streetlamps remained her only aid.   

          Grace wandered about the hillside for nearly an hour with the hope of obtaining a brush of familiarity. She unfortunately didn’t receive any. Deeming her mission pointless, Grace collapsed while halfway up a brace of city steps. Her feet dusted the cracked cement as she leaned on the teal colored railing, regaining her breath. The calls of the nocturnal were echoing from all about.

          She closed her eyes and began to review in her head each detail of the past two days, hoping for a straw to slip within grasp. Like the spark of a flint, as Grace’s thoughts found the violinist, an idea manifested that involved Gooski’s. For each of the past two nights, Matthew had been at Gooski’s at roughly the same time as Grace. It was as good of a place as any to try her luck; and, were he to be absent, she would at least be able to scour the bar for information. And if that ended up failing, she could always continue her dance with whisky.

          Grace swiftly arose and trotted the remainder of the city steps, passing a pair of grungy weed-smoking teens. She arrived inside the dark smoky abode a few minutes later.

Standing near the entranceway, Grace thoroughly perused the bar yet was saddened to see neither Matthew nor his band. Perhaps they had a performance at another venue, although she hoped that wasn’t the case. Grace disliked the idea of Matthew on stage beyond an audience of fun-searching women. Anything was possible in those situations.

          Her spirits were declining by the second. Grace took a seat at the bar and kept to her promise of whisky. She threw back a shot and then rummaged her pockets in search of cigarettes, only to find she had provided Kevin her last. Annoyed, Grace chucked the empty box towards the garbage. It hit the wall and slid to the ground beside the bin. She returned her sights to the bar and saw the longhaired bartender eyeballing her with a stern look. Apologizing politely, Grace picked up the cigarette box and placed it in the trash bin where it belonged.

          Little progress was made as the minutes ticked away. Grace continued to torture herself with unrealistic, anxiety-induced scenarios regarding Matthew. She eventually decided that she would revisit Gooski’s each night until the guitarist returned. The plan was solid enough to calm her, but only temporarily. It was quite possible that weeks could pass before Matthew stepped foot in Gooski’s again. And when he did return, what if he was unhappy to see her? Standing him up could have very well hurt his feelings. Grace cringed at the thought. She decided it was time for another drink.

          As Grace signaled for the bartender, a motorcyclist bearing a silver tooth departed from his stool and ambled past her with a drunken stagger. The tooth glimmered when he passed under the ceiling’s red light bulbs. It was then that Kevin replaced Matthew in her thoughts, and Grace remembered that a truly stable presence had returned to her world. Her smile reappeared and her anxiety slipped away. And so she ordered herself a beer and relaxed…

         

          The alcohol took its hold in short time. Grace found her confidence returning. Her gaze fell to the longhaired bartender who chatted casually with his patrons. She impulsively left her chair. As Grace approached the bartender, the conversing patrons dispersed like ants below a magnifying glass, leaving a void for her to occupy. She hopped on the stool before him and asked the man if he knew Matthew or his band mates. To her pleasant surprise, not only did he know them well, but he also knew the house where they resided. Grace eagerly asked for an address, to which the bartender happily obliged. He provided not only the address but directions as well. Thanking him deeply, Grace downed her beer and hurriedly left the bar. She strolled briskly through the foggy streets and meandered down slanted, densely packed blocks in the direction of the given address. The light from the full moon was trapped beyond the shrouding mist.  

          As she walked, her head became filled with pre-rehearsed apologies. If Matthew wasn’t home, Grace decided she would remain on his stoop like an owl until he arrived, even if it meant spending the night there. When Grace neared the intended residence, she felt relieved upon hearing the sound of music from the window above. She eagerly stepped to the landing, knocked firmly, and then patiently waited. A few moments passed before footfalls were heard from beyond, causing her heart rate to fluctuate. The door swung open and Grace’s heart found the pit of her stomach.

          Standing there to greet her was a brown haired woman in a handmade dress. Her glimmering jewelry amplified her natural beauty.

          “Hi… Who are you?” the woman asked in a friendly, curious manner.  

          Suddenly Grace felt dirty and embarrassed. More than anything she wanted to disappear.

          “Sorry,” she replied. “I must have the wrong place.”

          Without further desire to remain, Grace quickly descended from the landing. Then the woman joyfully spoke.

          “Hang on!” she said, enthusiastically snapping her fingers. “You’re Grace aren’t you?”

          Grace stopped dead in her tracks and whipped her head around; the blue of her eyes pierced the darkness.

          “And how do you know who I am?” she inquired, bearing the slight hint of an attitude.

          The woman smiled.

          “Matthew!” she replied. “He’s been talking about you all day. Hasn’t been able to stop really. Its kind of cute!”

          She began to chuckle.

          “Here, come on in and make yourself comfortable.”

          The woman put her arm around the now mystified Grace and led her inside.

          “I’m Marie, by the way. I live here on the first floor. Its nice to meet you!”

          Grace sighed with relief as she took off her shoes. Further comfort was attained when she recognized Marie as the soulful singer of Matthew’s band. In her blind panic, Grace was unable to bridge that connection. But now she enjoyed a short laugh as the two ascended the stairs.  

          The women arrived in the second floor living room to find Matthew and the rest of Copper Brown improvising jams. It was apparent from their lighthearted enthusiasm that a great chemistry flowed among them. A large grin appeared on Matthew’s face as he saw Grace emerge from the stairs. She settled in the seat next to him and then apologized for her disappearance, explaining her unforeseen reconnection with Kevin. As hopefully expected, Matthew assured that it was quite all right and that he understood. He also implied how happy he was to see her, and thanked Grace for seeking him out…

         

          The rest of the evening was one of celebration, in which the festivities lasted well throughout the night. The band whimsically played their favorite songs, refrains both old and new. They paused every now and then, either to further discuss music or for one to crack a glee-inducing joke. It was enough to leave Grace wholly enchanted. She was soothed by the power of Marie’s voice combined with Matthew’s guitar. She listened merrily as Matthew’s fingers danced between the frets, or skimmed his slide along the neck atop the strings. He even brandished a harmonica during several key songs.

          And Grace was happy. She wished no end upon this night, yet wasn’t troubled when the band decided to call it quits.

            The lights of the apartment dimmed. By then Grace and Matthew had relocated to his bed. There they kept warm on a cool October night, wrapped in each other’s arms until they both were asleep. For Grace it was a night unlike many, a night that held not a care for the morning…

  

Chapter 9>>