My fingers glide over the white and black of the piano keys. The tune, a melody that wrote itself on my heart years ago, when my hair was not white and my joints did not ache, is familiar like the embrace of a longtime lover. My fingers are too stiff and my knuckles too engorged to play with the elegance they once possessed but the tune calms me.
“Mr. Montgomery, we are ready for you.”
“Fine, fine,” I whisper but do not move. I know they will come and collect me if I do not move but still, I sit statuesque in the stillness of the hotel bar. I pull my eyes from the piano keys and let my eyes take in this small corner of my hotel. The bar, my favorite part, was built to my specifications and resembles the one I spent time in on a vacation. Its beauty comes from the memory of my mind, not from the bar itself. Not that it isn’t beautiful. The bar is small, covering the size of a dining room giving the room an intimacy that large bars can never acquire. The tables are a pounded copper with thick dark maple legs. The chairs, a soft leather emblazoned in an orange sunset color round the backs of each chair. Tongue and groove cedar make up the walls. Liquor is displayed in floor-to-ceiling cubbies displaying glass bottles against the wood. The thick wooden bar takes up the length of room, its stools spaced evenly along its edge. My baby grand piano is hidden in the dark recesses of the room. I built it for her, to remind her and to bring her back, even if only in memory.
Vacationing to the bitter February cold of the Oregon coast was not what most would consider a perfect vacation. The cedar-sided hotel was old and weather from the constant beating of the ocean wind. The cold rain and warm fire kept us in bed, the nakedness of our bodies creating an intimacy that we had yet to experience. Our only break came in trips to the basement bar of the hotel. Hours spent in conversation over Manhattans and oysters were our only glimpses of the world outside of the one we had created.
“Mr. Montgomery,” the voice calls again and I take the martini glass in my hand and tip back the last of the Gibson. I have found I can no longer stomach the taste of Manhattans. A sigh flows out through my lips.
“Found her then?”
“Yes,” the detective who calls himself Boyles says, his voice firm and absolute. I have known him over the course of two decades. He was the first one on her case and he never gave up looking for her even after all this time. He promised me he’d find her, even though it was a promise I hoped he wouldn’t keep. I think he always knew, even in the beginning when my tearful pleas for her safe return were plastered on every news station around. It is after all, always the husband.
I pull on my dinner jacket and straighten the tie around my throat, no sense not looking good. I take one last look around the cedar walls and copper-pounded tables and whisper, “good times.”