Eirica Johnstone: Dear Mr Stewart, I've had a look at your website. I love your music. Please do send me your piano pieces and I will perform them on my recital in January. I look forward to hearing from you. Do write. Yours, Eirica
Was that too forward? “Yours” was an Americanism. How would he take that? I meant it. Damn, that was too keen. He’d receive my message the moment he walked in the door.
I must have jumped every time an email came in for the next 24 hours, then 36. Finally, on Monday afternoon came his reply.
Arlen Stewart: Dear Eirica, Delighted you are interested. Have posted out the score. Let me know what you think. Arlen
I had to reply right away.
Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, I can't wait. Looking forward to trying it out. It was lovely meeting you.
The score arrived on Wednesday.
Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, It's here and I've already tried it out. I'm definitely putting it on my programme in January. May I come see you about it? Eirica Arlen Stewart: Dear Eirica, Seeing you might be a little awkward. Maybe at the university? Arlen Eirica Johnstone: At the university is fine with me. Love, Eirica
Was that too forward? On second thought, I wanted more privacy.
Eirica Johnstone: Actually, is there somewhere in York we can meet? Trains to York go through Dunrig, but Leeds trains don't. I have to go through Glasgow, and that adds an hour to my journey each way. Can we do it soon, like the last Saturday in November? That's half term here. Eirica Arlen Stewart: Eirica, I'm surprised you will be ready to see me so soon, but York will be on half term, too, so I can probably secure a space there to meet. I assume we will need a piano. Just hop on a No. 4 bus and get off on the first campus stop. Arlen
I had hoped that he would pick me up by car, but at least he agreed to meet with me. I was concerned about the brevity of his messages. Was he not interested in me? Perhaps there was someone else. Sinead?
Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, I'll arrive at York around noon and will take the first bus to campus. I don't know how long that takes. On another matter, may I ask you a personal question? What did you think of Sinead? I noticed you with her quite a lot. Eirica Arlen Stewart: Eirica, I'm not certain who you mean. A Eirica Johnstone: She was the pretty Irish harpist at the conference. E Arlen Stewart: I'm not sure I met her, actually. Why do you ask? A Eirica Johnstone: She was often sitting near you in the back row. I thought, well, maybe you knew her. E Arlen Stewart: Oh, her! She reminded my of someone, that's all. I hardly said a word to her. Why do you ask? A Eirica Johnstone: I thought maybe she was your type. E Arlen Stewart: My type? I'm not sure what my type really is. She looked a little like a girlfriend I had at university. That's all. Nothing more than that. Did she ask about me or something? A Eirica Johnstone: No, it was just my observation. I hope you don't think I'm being too forward by asking what you think of me. Objectively speaking, you know. I'm not trying to tear you away from your wife or anything. E
His reply took a couple of days to reach me.
Arlen Stewart: I'm not sure I should answer that. You're a nice girl. Pretty. Perhaps more my type than your friend Sinead. You seem very honest and open. I like that. A Eirica Johnstone: Dear Arlen, Thanks for your kind and candid reply. I confess, I've always had a thing about about composers. I'm looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. Love, Eirica
Now that was too much, and another few days passed before his reply. Meanwhile, I practised his pieces with a religious zeal, desiring so deeply to impress him when I played for him. His music touched the core of my being, and I emerged at the end of my long hours of practice with an almost sexual high.
Arlen Stewart: Dear Eirica, I'm not sure what you mean about a “thing” about composers. Should I be worried? Arlen
Yes, I had definitely gone too far. In an attempt to open him up, I had obliquely confessed my like for him. Saying that, he still replied to my message, and more importantly hadn’t cancelled our meeting tomorrow. Having openly documented my feelings about him in almost hourly tweets over the past two weeks, I asked my followers what to do. A large number of them advocated coming clean with my feelings. Arlen had applauded my honesty. Others told me to back out. He was married, it would only end with someone being hurt, probably me.
I wanted him for his sperm, not his love.
Did I really tweet that? Of course, I wanted his love, but I wanted to make babies with him even more. He solved all my problems: my desire of older men, the need to procreate, and the urge to retain my freedom. I would absolve him from all responsibility to my children.
I wanted more than one from him. That was a revelation that I had only just come to terms with, but how would I achieve that without his knowledge? While choosing the date for my recital, I had been careful to calculate the likelihood of being fertile while he was here. I would get pregnant and disappear for a year, meanwhile planting a seed for our next rendezvous. I would ask him to write a new piece for me. He composed slowly, so a year or more without seeing him seemed likely.
Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, by a “thing,” I meant that I've always felt closer to composers than other people. Unlike you, I can only recreate your masterpiece, but you fashion it yourself from your own being. To me, composers are the next step up on the evolutionary ladder: creators and great thinkers. I wish I could be like you. Eirica.
That successfully met my followers half-way. Without telling him that I adored him in particular, I revealed my innermost thoughts on his type. I didn’t expect a reply before I set off on my journey, but my iPhone signalled a new message.
Arlen Stewart: Eirica, without your gifts, a composer is nothing. Thinking can only be realized though action. I'll meet you at the concert hall around 1pm. See you then. Arlen
Action. That was what he wanted, so I resolved to give it to him.
My fans twittered in unison. Be careful! Not too soon. But it wasn’t too soon. The time was now. Over recent weeks my following had ballooned from 1000 to 30,000, all latching on to my every tweet.
@ClanGoddess87: I'm pulling into the station now. Will be with him in an hour. @ClanGoddess87: Just pulled up to the bus stop. He's standing at the hall waiting for me. I know he's up for it.
Stepping off the bus, I panicked. Had I over-dressed? Under-dressed? Would he even notice? When would I make my move? Conservatively, I had chosen the same purple blouse as I had worn when he first met me. One of my Facebook friends had told me I looked sexy in it, following that with another proposal of marriage. He was too young for me. I had always thought it de-emphasized my bosom while bloating my hips. Maybe that was what Arlen liked.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” I said, shaking his hand.
“You’re early, actually. I just met with a couple of students and came outside to wait for you in case you couldn’t find the place. You wouldn’t be the first person to get lost on this campus.”
For two hours we sat in one of the classrooms working through his piece. I didn’t play my best as he hovered over my shoulder. I could feel the warmth of his breath as he pointed to passages that he wanted me to play differently. He smelled clean, as though he had just taken a shower. No cologne, just the clean smell of masculinity … of semen. Maybe I imagined the latter, but there was something sexual about his odour.
“I was wondering,” he asked as we packed up at the end of the session, “would you be interested in playing my piano concerto if I can arrange a performance?”
That was almost too much for my tender heart to handle. “Yes!” I gulped, too loudly, as if I had just climaxed. Truly, I was on the verge of it. A light brush on my thighs would have sent me into ecstasy. I wanted him. I needed him. “As long as I can fit it into my schedule,” I added, trying not to sound over-eager. I anticipated a pregnancy to plan around.
“I have a few conductors interested,” he replied, “but it always takes some convincing, and programming such a big piece with an unknown soloist is risky.”
“Are you sure you want me?” I asked. “You haven’t exactly heard me at my best.”
“I want you. I’ve listened to the clips on your website.”
He’d thought about me more than I’d guessed. I hadn’t even given him the URL. “Well, I’d really like to play it. I love what I’ve heard of your music.”
Time for my gambit. “Is there any chance you could give me a lift back to the station. I hadn’t thought of bringing an umbrella.” It had started raining while we had our session.
He thought for a moment. “I guess so.”
Halfway to the station he broke our awkward silence. “What’s it like living in a castle?”
How did he know? My website, of course. “It’s quiet at night after the staff leaves for the day in season. That’s why I usually live on campus.”
“You have a staff?” He sounded surprised.
“Only for the visitor centre. They hardly come into the residence at all out of season. I’m all alone there.”
“You allow visitors?”
“About a third of the castle is an ancient ruin, surrounded by 100 acres of pasture and woodland. The estate also owns the freehold to the village and a couple surrounding farms. There are a couple well-preserved bedrooms there for the old Laird, and a room reserved for the king, although no furniture survives. The residence is a nineteenth-century renovation, with modern conveniences added by my mother while I was a child.”
“You must get lonely kicking about on your own.”
“I’ve got the ghosts to keep me company.” Too many to count.
“Every 900-year-old castle has ghosts.”
“So are you the Laird?” he asked.
“If I bear a son, he will be. I’m just the Lady.”
“Lady Eirica? Should I bow before you?”
“Nobody does. It’s just an inherited title with no seat in the Lords or anything. I just have the obligation to bear an heir at some point. How do you know so much about me?”
“Your website. You should probably have one for the visitor centre, though.”
“There is one, but it isn’t kept up well. I don’t have any control over it.”
“Did you set up your own site? It’s very slick.”
“Well, I don’t have much to do other than practise, write my dissertation and proliferate my web presence.”
“So you’re on Facebook and all that?”
“It keeps me sane. I don’t have much other contact outside of Uni.”
“Well, here we are,” he announced as we pulled into the station.
“Thanks for the lift,” I replied as he stopped the car. “I really enjoyed finally getting to know you a little.”
I reached over to give him a kiss on the cheek as close to his lips as possible, lingering as long as I dared. I revelled in the warmth of his cleanly-shaven cheek. Did he notice that I steadied myself, putting my hand on his thigh. How long did it last? One, two, three seconds? An eternity?
Certainly not long enough. Did he hear me sigh? Did he close his eyes?
“You should come visit the castle,” I whispered. Did I really? Then louder, “It’s a wonderful place. You should bring your wife. There are plenty of things to see and do. I’ve got a number of spare rooms. Stay as long as you’d like.”
“I’ll think about it.”
That was too forward, but did I really invite his wife? I wanted him and only him for a weekend or a week of lovemaking. “The offer is always open. If you want, you can stay there when you come up to the concert. I’m sure Hamish will want you to give a seminar on the Friday before my recital. I’ll talk to him about it.”
I cringed waiting for his response. “I’ll see what my schedule is like.” No commitment.
Talk dirty to me! Wow, did I just think that? I wanted him to tear my clothes off, not caring that we were in the middle of a busy drop-off lane. Reluctantly, I picked up my rucksack and stepped out of the car. “See you soon!” I waved.
Did he notice that I had brought an overnight bag with a change of clothes? Did he notice the burgundy pair of silk knickers that had wrapped itself around the score of his piece? He couldn’t know where I intended to stay the night. Maybe he thought York wasn’t my only destination.
Could you hear me sigh?