Excerpt from Rhapsody
by Lynna Banning
The Woolston Family Trust, November 2022


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, too?

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 wrong?

* * *

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 through this.

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 to open.

"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.

"Sorry, what?"

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 articulate.

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 the entrance.

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 and accusing.

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.