The tinkling of the piano keys stopped and Belle looked up from her book, pushing her glasses on top of her head.
‘Victor?’ She walked into the large music room, a place where Victor spent most of his time these days. He sat at a baby grand piano in the middle of the room, lost in the vast space. Belle pushed down the irritation that bubbled in her throat.
‘Victor, darling, that was delightful, please don’t’ stop.’ Belle stood by the piano, one arm resting gently on the top. She hummed a scale and Victor slammed the lids of the piano shut. He looked straight through her, as if someone were standing behind her.
‘Victor, whatever is the matter!’ Her voice trembled at his dismissal of her. He pushed the stool back and walked to face the windows, looking out across the city skyline, his hands pressed against the glass.
Belle sighed. This silent treatment had been going on for weeks. Ever since she found that box of Violet’s possessions and had suggested he gave them to a charity. He had snatched a publicity photo of Violet at the prime of her career and disappeared into the music room and not spoken since.
‘Maybe another time?’ Belle pressed. ‘I’d love to accompany you again, just us.’ She stared at his hunched back, his grey hair long and limp in the nape of his neck. She wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore.
‘I’ll be next door if you need me.’ Belle bit her bottom lip, resisting the desire to shout, scream, stamp her feet, anything to get a reaction.
Later that day she phoned the estate agents. It was time they moved out of this mausoleum, she decided, start somewhere fresh away from the lurking presence of Violet. It was something she’d wanted to do when they first married, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
By the following week a For Sale sign stood defiantly in the front garden and Belle was showing a young couple round for the second time. Victor refused to allow them into the music room.
‘He’s always been fiercely protective of his gift,’ Belle apologised through gritted teeth at the couple who had oohed and aahed as she had shown them around. They were very keen, they told her at the front door as they were leaving, but would really like to complete the viewing. Perhaps they could visit again, at the end of the week?
‘So you see, Victor. We must show them the music room, it would make a lovely nursery, don’t you think?’
Victor stared back with soulless eyes and nodded slowly, then shut the music room door and began his tinkling. ‘Friday morning then,’ Belle shouted at the wooden door.’ 10am.’
‘So this,’ Belle opened the door to the music room wide, ‘is the place my husband—’
The audible gasps from the couple in front of her stopped Belle in her tracks.
‘Oh, my goodness!’ the woman exclaimed, hands covering her mouth.
Belle turned and stepped into the room. Every inch of the room—the walls, the ceiling, the floor—was plastered with Violet’s photo. Not an inch lay uncovered. In the centre of the room someone had smashed the baby grand to bits and the curtains flapped at the open window.
Belle choked, there was no sign of Victor.