He should never have talked to her. He should have taken a taxi anyway, but it felt like one of his last chances of slumming it. He was on the shuttle to Dulles Airport about to fly to an audition with the music director of the Los Angeles Symphony. At this point, it was just a formality. Even if he blew it, he was in. Still, that's what he should have focused on. But there she was, blond, with enormous blue eyes, in animated conversation with her seat neighbor, a much larger woman with an enormous bosom. Also blond. But it was the littler one in the aisle seat that fascinated him. She had a lovely melodic voice. Some kind of accent he couldn't place. Almost like a Scandinavian lilt, but not quite that. At times she leaned into her big-bosomed neighbor's shoulder, laughing. Something in him shifted. He willed her to turn to look at him. She never did.
Then it happened that he stood right behind them as they were about to get in the long snaking line for their security check. Soon enough he'd be boarding with first class and might not need to go through quite that long a line ever again.
"Where are you two ladies headed?"
"She is going to L.A.," the little one responded with a dazzling smile. Her friend didn't acknowledge him.
"Oh, so am I. And you?" He tried to hold his violin case so that she couldn't miss it. He wanted her to know he was important, not just any old schmuck captivated by her.
"I just came along on the shuttle to see her off."
They were approaching the person checking tickets or boarding passes, and the little one gave her friend a farewell hug and stepped to the side. He presented his ticket, got in line, then quickly turned around and stepped out of line again to where she still stood.
"Er," he said. "I'd love to talk to you when I get back. Here's my card. Will you give me a call? And soon? Next week maybe? Because I'll be moving to L.A. shortly."
"Hm. Yeah. I suppose." She took his card and gave him another brilliant smile. Her friend had turned around and frowned at her. She shrugged.
"Thanks," he said.
"Have a great flight."
He got back in line again. She waved. He wasn't sure if the wave was for him or for her friend. Most likely her friend.
When she called him not one but two weeks later, he had all but forgotten their brief encounter, though he recognized her delightful voice and accent right away. At the same time, he was also irritated with all the details of his impending move. This was also the night of his performance in a benefit concert at the Kennedy Center which doubled as a farewell concert for him from the Washington, D.C. music scene. He explained to her how strapped for time he was, but he would happily serve her a cup of coffee. It being his last night in town, he was staying at the Watergate hotel. Could she meet him there? When she agreed, he briefly thought of getting her a complimentary ticket to the night's performance, but he only had her first name, Lara. Would that do? Probably. But because he had so much still to do, he didn't feel like wasting time making phone calls. The important thing was to prepare for his own performance, and once again he felt his focus derailed by this tiny blonde with blue eyes called Lara. He liked the sound of her name.
When reception called up to announce her, he said to send her up. He answered her knock on his door with an impatient "Come in," only to find he had forgotten to unlock the door. So, he had to go to the door, and he spilled a whole sheaf of sheet music in the process.
"Well, here you are," he said, bending down to pick up a few more sheets of music from the floor as he ushered her into his suite.
"This is not a good time for me to be here. I can tell." She handed him a bunch of daffodils.
"It's just that I'm leaving tomorrow. Plus, I have a concert tonight."
"I've looked you up on the internet. Sounds like you're doing well for yourself."
They had moved into his suite but were still standing and seemed at an impasse.
"Play a song for me," she said, "and I'll let you get back to what all you need to do."
"If I do that, will you go to bed with me?"
"No. But thanks for asking." She looked directly into his eyes for a moment and then turned to leave.
"Wait," he called after her, still holding the daffodils in one hand and three sheets of music in the other. "It's just...."
She was gone. He felt fury well up inside him. There hadn't been enough time for finesse. Not two weeks ago. Not now. He felt both reprimanded and ripped off. For once, his favorite meditation technique failed him, though he tried it three times over the next few hours. Anger kept roiling inside him. He couldn't eat, not even his usual pre-performance grapes. The anger was still there when he stepped onto the stage. It was still there when he stepped down from the stage after a standing ovation, which didn't seem particularly exceptional.
"Brilliant....you were on fire....never played like that....that tango sequence....exquisite...." He took in snatches of congratulatory phrases. In one ear, out the other, while he stood in his tuxedo doing the customary hour of hobnobbing, the part of his job that he liked the least. One day he might be famous enough to be able to dispense with that, but he wasn't there yet.
In the morning he read only the review in the Post, skipping the others. It confirmed that he had apparently outdone himself. He thought of calling Lara to thank her. After all, her phone number would be on his phone from when she had called him yesterday. He decided against. Thank her for what exactly? Instead, he deleted her phone number from his call history—he'd always hated the telephone anyway—hoping she would not decide to call him again from her end. After yesterday's debacle, he was reasonably sure she would not.
On the way out the door to meet his limousine to the airport, he noticed he had failed to put the daffodils in water. They lay limp and defeated on the coffee table as he was off into his brilliant future.