After 25 years
of marriage, my whole existence had gone belly-up, and the worst part
was I hadn't seen it coming. I could just imagine the newspaper headline:
Middle-Aged Professor Dumps Wife for Art Student.I closed my eyes
and locked my arms over my stomach. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Damn, damn, damn !My friends back in Eugene were starting Act
Three of their lives--buying vacation cottages, bicycling through
Spain. I was starting my life over.
Beginning with my audition in exactly 13 days. My mouth went dry.
Would they even let my 43-year-old fingers into the advanced piano
class? I'd have to choose something with no long pauses so they wouldn't
see my hands shake. I piled out of bed, pulled on a pair of jeans
and an old blue sweater, and stumbled downstairs. Just let me get
through this week, Lord, and I'll never ask You for another thing.
I circled the big Steinway in the living room three times before I
could muster the courage to slide onto the padded bench. The instant
I looked down at the ivory keys my heart felt like it was belly-flopping
off the high dive. Could I really do this? I hadn't worked seriously
at the piano since I left college to marry David. Was my technique
completely gone? Could I get it back, or were my muscles used up,
And what about my life, could I get that back? I closed my eyes and
clamped my jaws together so hard my teeth hurt. Yesterday my happily-ever-after
life with David was the center of my existence. Today it was toast.
I'd been a good wife, a good mother to Rob and Danny. What had gone
* * *
In the middle of the night, a scraping noise beneath the balcony brought
me awake. Afraid to breathe, I lay motionless in the dark, listening.
After an agonizingly long minute I heard it again. A footstep echoed
off the tile porch step beneath my window, followed by the faint ching
of the wind chimes in the front entry.
I caught my breath. Oh, God, a prowler.
Very slowly, I sat up. I am not fussy, Lord. All I want is to live
A key snicked into the front door lock and I halted halfway down the
stairs, clutching the revolver I'd found in the top desk drawer. The
doorknob was turning. My gun arm wavered up and down, and I cupped
my hand under my elbow to steady it. The carved oak front door began
"Don't move," I ordered.
"Janice?" A man's voice. "Is that you?" A foot in worn Birkenstocks
edged around the door.
"No, it's not Janice. Put your hands up." My voice wobbled embarrassingly.
I detected a slight British accent. Ordinarily I liked people with
British accents. Those who frequented the university library where
I'd volunteered three days a week were unusually articulate. I liked
But I wasn't at the university now. I was standing in my teddy-bear
pajamas on the third step from the bottom with a gun in my hand. The
door swung wide, and a man in jeans and a tee shirt stepped through
I snapped on the light. "I said put your hands up!"
Instantly both his arms shot up, a ring of keys dangling from one
forefinger. His dark eyebrows pulled into a frown. "Do I know you?"
"No, you don't."
"Of course," he said with an edge in his voice. "That explains everything."
I leveled the revolver at his chest. "Who are you?" I hoped my voice
was steady enough to sound demanding.
"For Christ's sake, is that thing loaded?" He asked the question with
a perfectly straight face, but his eyes were a curious mix of frightened
I bobbed the weapon up and down. "Answer my question."
"Answer mine! Is it loaded?"
"I don't know if it's loaded. I found it in a desk drawer."
His gaze slid down to my bare toes and back up to the revolver. "Who
are you?And what the bloody hell are you doing here?"
"I'm a houseguest. The owners are friends of mine, traveling in Switzerland."
My arm drooped until the gun pointed directly at his crotch.
"Ditto. My name is Nicholas Durany," he said quickly. He eyed the
revolver. "The owners are also friends of mine."
"Really? Are you sure?"
His lips tightened. "Damn sure. Look, could you point that thing somewhere
else?" I didn't move. Neither did he. We glared at each other like
opposing gladiators until the telephone jangled. I must have jerked,
because the gun barrel went up and the man dove for the floor.