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Catching the Muse

By Sarah Dickson


Marianne, a successful violinist, is forced into early retirement due to injury. Mike, an artist, is recovering from another messy divorce. Neither are in the mood for a relationship, but a resident ghost has other plans.



Standing in front of her colonial house, it didn't look as shabby as Marianna feared. True, it needed paint and some minor work, but it could be lived in.

What the heck. Having your own home certainly beat living in apartments all over the world, as she had done for the past ten years.

My own home.

Despite the chill in the afternoon air, she crossed her arms and smiled. The real reason she had chosen this town was due to the stories of its resident ghost, a famous violinist who'd died at the turn of the previous century.

He also happened to be her favorite composer.

Maybe it was a bit natty to believe in ghosts, but she had met her fair share in London. Some even lived in the apartments she had stayed in, especially in the older buildings. Others she had met while touring around castles between concerts. Some were friendly, but mostly they simply "hung around."

To find one in Little Heat had been more luck than design, and having found Frederick von Helgin was even more amazing.

Rumor had it that he had fled the house many years ago. Over what, was still a bit vague. One owner apparently played dreadful modern music and another didn't even like music.

Regardless, she hoped that if he did exist, he would return.

She recalled the fateful day when she had stumbled onto Frederick's existence. She took it as a sign and had even gone to the Realtor after she overheard the locals talking about a ghost at a nearby café.

Intrigued, she'd asked the café owner for more details.

Apparently, Frederick used to play in the local concert hall on the full moon, and had also wandered around town on numerous occasions at night looking for anyone to listen to his work. In recent times, no one had seen or heard from him.

At the Realtor's, she had jokingly asked him to keep her name if the house ever came up for sale. It had, three months later, and she'd used her insurance payout to buy it.

Fate, it seemed, was definitely on her side.

The previous owner, Peter Hanson, had admitted to hating classical music, which could explain why Frederick had not appeared around the house in recent times.

Unfortunately, three weeks later and still no sign of Frederick, she began to doubt if he would ever return. Surely with her love for the violin, he'd be at least a little curious.

She shrugged. Does it matter? This house, she hoped, would give her inspiration to move on with a new life, one that didn't include playing the violin.

Madeline flexed her right arm. Most of the movement had returned since the accident. Injections had also worked to a point, but left some discomfort, which she could live with. Flexing her fingers no longer brought agony, only a dull ache to her arm as well as her heart.

Her mother had tried to be supportive of her work, but Madeline knew she hoped that even in Little Heat she would find a man and settle down.

Maybe you'll have room where I can stay as well, she had suggested.

Her mother wasn't infirm by any means. Lonely most likely, especially after the divorce. Her mother needed to be occupied and grandchildren looked like a good way of achieving it. Since the accident, her mother's persistence had grown. Surely Madeline would find a husband now she no longer had her music to occupy her.

The part about a man appealed, although it was for more practical reasons such as repairs around the house by day and maybe some hot sex at night.

She sighed. The hired help she'd have to pay for. As for sex, well, she'd have to use her imagination.

A gust of wind, cold as ice, picked up across the lawn. Peering skyward, Madeline saw the light begin to fade, taking the warmth with it. Perhaps it would snow after all.

Rubbing her arms, she quickly walked back inside.

After adding a couple of logs to the fire, she wandered to the window to close the curtains.

Another gust of wind was followed by flakes of snow. Looking at the trees, devoid of leaves, she certainly felt isolated here. Not a bad thing all, just ... different.

Living with others for so long in cramped places, to being on her own in one of two houses on this stretch of road, would take some getting used to.

Dimming the lights, she selected a CD, one she'd not played since the car accident. If Marianna planned to get on with her life, she had to listen to the pieces of music she'd loved playing.

Tears obscured her vision as the first track began. Originally composed by Frederick von Helgin, it was the first piece she had ever learned. In slow, melodious waves the music soothed her. She yawned. Marianna had forgotten how relaxing listening could be.

This was what she'd have to accept these days.

Grabbing the blanket from the back of the large sofa, she snuggled into its warmth. Drifting in and out of sleep, she noticed the darkness descended outside.

The music stopped.

Begrudgingly, she rose to find another CD to play, when a white flash caught her eye near the doorway.

Blinking, she looked again. A shimmer at the doorway left her in no doubt as to what she was looking at.

Frederick appeared as he did on the CD cover, tall with grey-white hair falling to his shoulders. Lines of his face deepened as he smiled. Flicking what appeared to be a crumb from the lapel of his jacket, he gazed her way. His eyes appeared as dark orbs in this light, boring into her as she felt him touch her very soul.

The night of the accident returned with vivid clarity.

Tired after playing another night in what seemed a blur of cities, she decided to take a lift with a friend. She was too exhausted to notice he was in as bad a condition. She fell asleep as soon as the car moved. Only when a sudden jolt brought her to back to wakefulness did she realize what happened. The car tilted and then rolled over. Next moment she was hanging upside down, with her arm twisted at an impossible angle. As she tried to move it, nausea filled her. The road ahead slipped in and out of focus.

The vision faded.