“You can’t be serious,” she says cuttingly. Her fingers cradle the belly of her glass—swirling counterclockwise before she takes another generous sip of cabernet.
“She’s good, Eve. She does good work and you’ve seen it, though I suppose you didn’t realize it at the time,” Bill explains over speakerphone. The clicking of a ratchet sounds in the background followed by some hollow thuds and the twang of piano wire. “The Steinway you played for Rach. III? Symphony Hall last spring? That was her.”
There’s a long, extended pause. Then a small gasp.
“Oh!” There’s a sudden clink of glass on marble. “She’s the tech that fixed the broken damper for that buzzing D string! She did it right in front of me, cut the felt freehand and everything.”
“Yes,” Bill says with relief.
“That was impressive…” Eve remembers her clearly now.
How could she ever forget walking out onto that empty stage to see a beautiful woman in overalls, a floral button-down shirt, and black Doc Martens, leaning over a 9 and a half foot grand piano, her back turned to Eve while she tinkered and tested. The blonde jumped when she heard Eve behind her, and whipped around to stare wide-eyed—a black tuning fork stuck between her teeth. How strange...
“It’s so I can hear it better,” the piano tech blurted nervously before Eve could even ask. “You know, for bone conduction? Much better resonance.” The way her voice curled on the ‘r’ was…delicious. She watched, entranced, as the blonde tapped the tuning fork against her lips nervously. She smiled curiously at her, the hint of a blush warming her cheeks. Eve couldn’t take her eyes away from the blushing blonde in the Carhartt overalls, pockets full of tools. She knew she was staring just a little too long to be considered polite, but it was hard to look away. Her hair glowed a golden yellow under the stage lights.
A solitary note rang out, snapping Eve out of her reverie.
“I’m just fixing that buzz on the middle D.” She hit the key a second time with her thumb to demonstrate, never taking her eyes off Eve.
The buzz registered at the end of the note but Eve could only hear that lovely voice. The accent was eastern european, maybe, but with softer edges. Eve swallowed hard and gave a nod of approval as if to say, “go on then.”
The tech drew the pointed handle of her tuning fork sensually across the cupid’s bow of her lip—a nervous tick, perhaps. Up and down, up...and down. She had an impervious look on her face as she turned back around to study the piano, exposed and shining. Her head snapped back to Eve.
“Would you like to watch?” She asked with authority, like a dare.
Eve’s breath hitched and she felt a small smile quirk at the edge of her lips before she could stop herself. She wondered if this girl even knew who she was. “Yes,” was all she could say.
“She’s young...and blonde, right?” Eve asks excitedly. “I think she had an accent. Does she have, uh...large, expressive eyes?”
Bill scoffs and the sound reverberates against the wood frame as he leans his head into the piano. “I suppose she does though I’d never put it quite like that.”
Eve ignores his teasing. He was always giving her a hard time. “I didn’t realize she worked for you, I assumed she was on retainer with the BSO.”
“No, no, Andris asked for her personally. I’ve talked her up quite a bit. We don’t really have prodigies in this line of work, but if we did, she’d be one of them.”
“That’s some very high praise there mister Pargrave. And you trust her with an Imperial? Has she even worked on a Bösendorfer before?”
“She has, in Vienna, in fact. Observed a lot of the manufacturing process, met with their techs, etcetera,” Bill says proudly.
Eve sighs. “But why can’t you just do it?”
“Because I’m out of town refurbishing the SFO’s stock of concert grands. It’s a big job as you well know, whereas you; you are a house call, Eve. A standard tune-up. I hope that doesn’t deflate your ego too much.”
Now it’s her turn to scoff. “You’re lucky I know you so well otherwise I’d actually be offended.” She drums her fingers on the kitchen counter, frowning at the now empty wine glass. She hears the faint click of her nails and makes a mental note to trim them later.
“You know, I've adored you ever since our first days at Curtis—even when you sat in on my first jury and told me I played Bach like a monkey, whatever the hell that means. God, you were such an asshole...sorry, I mean, you still are.” He chuckles into the phone.
“There’s no way I said that!” Eve laughs before she can sound apologetic.
“Honey, you had the biggest stick up your ass that first year and you know it. Good thing you had me to loosen you up.”
“By ‘loosen up’ do you mean getting me wasted in the practice rooms?”
A beat of silence goes by.
“I think it really improved your tone,” Bill deadpans.
They both burst out laughing. Eve has to lean over the counter to keep from keeling over in a fit of giggles.
“You’re a dick.”
“Boo-hoo my name’s Eve Polastri, I have two Grammys and I’ve never done anything wrong in my entire life come fix my $500,000 Bösendorfer,” Bill teases.
“UGH, you’re impossible.” Eve wishes he could see her epic eye-roll.
The line is quiet again, though it’s not an awkward silence. It’s comfortable, a contented pause between old friends.
“Let Villanelle take the job.”
“Fine,” Eve says nonchalantly. She doesn’t bother to complain this time. She’s still smiling.
“I’m serious. Don’t be a dick when she shows up. She’s a talented girl, and smart. Be. Nice.”
“Oh my god I will, christ!”
“I know you, Eve,” Bill says.
“I’ll be good. Promise.”
She needs to take a break before she does something stupid. It’s Bill’s fault her nerves are shot to hell—he sent the text five minutes earlier. She had to read it three times before she could fully understand it. Her brain kept tripping over the words “Eve Polastri,” “her home,” and “Bösendorfer.” It sounds like an incantation: Eve, home, fancy piano. Eve. Eve’s home. Fancy, fancy, fucking piano.
She suddenly feels uncomfortably warm and realizes her hands are sweaty—no wonder she almost dropped the hammer.
As she paces the workshop she shares with Bill, she wonders if Eve even remembers her. It’d be a fluke if she did; she’d only spent five, maybe ten minutes sitting in the flute section while Villanelle meticulously tuned and re-tuned the Steinway while addressing the broken damper. She wasn’t sure why Eve stayed to watch her. She guesses maybe Eve was curious because of the tuning forks. Most in the profession use electronic tuners. Villanelle does things old-school. Or maybe Eve was just being a control freak, staying to ensure Villanelle completed the job to her satisfaction before the big performance. Whatever the reason, it's difficult not to be intimidated around her. Eve is at the top of her game. Well accomplished. Distinctive style. And gorgeous as ever at the age of 43. Most consider her one of the greatest solo pianists in the world. She has performed with every major orchestra, has dozens of solo albums—and a few Grammy’s as a result. Everyone wants her. She’s a guaranteed full house.
Villanelle sighs heavily. Fucking up this job was not an option.
It isn’t productive, but she keeps thinking about that day Eve watched her work on that Boston Symphony stage. She remembers with aching clarity the feel of Eve’s eyes on her back, how she could feel them follow the movements of her hands as she listened and adjusted, listened and adjusted. She remembers how warm she felt—heat radiating in waves from her stomach to the tips of her ears, how she could smell the coiled metal and resin of the obstinate strings as they creaked under the twist of her hammer. Villanelle burned under those lights, under Eve’s gaze. It was difficult not to turn and look. But occasionally she managed to steal a few glances. And of course every time she looked, she found Eve staring right back at her. The moment was for the briefest of seconds and Eve would always turn away feigning disinterest.
And when Villanelle had finished the job, when she asked Eve if she’d like to play something on the keyboard to test her handiwork, Eve declined. Instead, she smiled appreciatively, stood, and walked briskly away toward the wings of the hall (impressive, considering the 4.5” Jimmy Choos), while throwing a hand over her shoulder in a simple gesture of goodbye. Villanelle’s heart sank as she watched Eve walk away. The flutters in her chest swooped low and caught in her lungs. She wasn’t expecting that. Her lower lip curled, threatening to turn into an all-out pout. Ridiculous. But she quickly schooled her features. She was not being very professional. Villanelle prided herself on her professionalism. But still, she couldn’t help but cherish that last image of Eve as she walked away. Bouncing black-auburn curls under hot stage lights, the swing of her ass on her small frame. Those damn Jimmy Choos.
No, it’s unlikely Eve will remember her and that is just as well. Bill entrusts her with this gig and she plans on doing the best job possible. So what if Eve makes her nervous? She’s good at hiding her anxiety behind an obnoxious wall of confidence. Eve is not going to remember her and Villanelle will do her job very well. End of story. What could go wrong?
Eve adjusts the collar of her Erdem floral print blouse tucked into navy high waisted Fleur du Mal trousers and lets out a heavy sigh. Why was she so nervous? The girl's a piano tuner for god’s sake.
She steps into her Gianvito Rossi black leather ankle boots and fumbles with the zipper. She’s reaching for the other boot but loses her balance on the three inch heel and nearly falls to the floor. Thankfully there’s a wall for which she gracelessly slams her shoulder into with a heavy thud. She hopes Villanelle didn’t hear that. Such a klutz. So embarrassing.
She makes a final adjustment to her hair and schools her face into what she hopes looks neutral—bored, even.
She’s just a piano tuner.
The deadbolt clicks heavily as she turns the lock and swings the door open.
She’s met immediately with wide hazel eyes and full lips slightly parted by a forgotten smile as she stares back at Eve in equal measure. They’re frozen in place as they take each other in. Minutes seem to go by before the blonde breaks the silence with a soft, “oh.”
Eve resists the urge to laugh. ‘Oh’? How endearing... She clears her throat. “Hello, I’m Eve Polastri, welcome to my home. And thank you for coming on such short notice. Please, come in and if you don’t mind taking off your shoes…?” She moves against the open door to let the tech pass. She’s still buzzing with nervous energy and feels uncomfortably warm. She didn’t expect the piano tech to be so...so, well, hot. Of course she remembers the honey-hair, the wide eyes, and lovely cheekbones but that leather jacket...the simple designer t-shirt tucked into black skinny jeans. Holy shit. Isn't it illegal to be that attractive?
“Thank you,” Villanelle says softly, head bowed low. She crosses the threshold and gently rests her leather valise against the wall by the door and begins to unlace her Doc Martens, looking around the house curiously. “You have a lovely home.”
“Oh, thank you. I’ve put a lot of work into it.”
The silence is heavy.
“You’re still wearing your shoes,” Villanelle gestures her head down to Eve’s feet.
Shit, she’s right. Such an idiot. “Ah yes, I am. Um, that’s because I just got home myself,” she squeaks out.
They’re back to staring again.
The blonde holds her valise at her side and tilts her head. “Should I—?”
“Yes, of course,” Eve answers quickly. She pulls off her boots and drops them on the shoe matt. “Follow me.”
Villanelle looks at Eve and then back to the Bösendorfer, trying to hide her smile at Eve’s awkwardness. She places her valise full of tools down on the piano bench and moves to raise the lid to its full height. Next is the music stand that slides out to reveal the tuning pins but Eve rushes to Villanelle’s side just as she has a hand on it.
“Oh, no, let me help you,” Eve says.
Villanelle, a little surprised, moves her hand back and accidentally brushes her fingers against Eve’s palm.
They freeze for a few seconds, both pretending they didn’t just touch each other and that it certainly is not sending warm waves throughout their bodies.
Eve makes the first move after the awkward moment and gets both hands on the stand, flattens it, and slides it out to lean it against the wall. She turns back to look at Villanelle and notices her breathing has quickened and she’s wringing her hands. Maybe it’s time to give her space. Besides, Eve needed to leave and sit with her feelings. They were starting to concern here. This person was practically a stranger. A very attractive stranger, though.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’ll just be upstairs in the loft. Let me know if you need anything and thank you again.”
“It’s no problem,” Villanelle replies softly. “Happy to do it. It’s an incredible instrument.” She pauses, looking like she’s dazed. Her eyes come back into focus and she turns her back to Eve to look at the piano. “...Beautiful.”
Eve climbs the stairs and looks over the banister. She notices the tech is now reverently stroking the extra nine, all-black keys at the bottom of the keyboard. It's what makes the piano so unique—instead of the typical 88 keys, there's an extra octave totaling 97 keys. Eve doesn’t blame Villanelle for the fascination. Eve did the same thing when she first played an Imperial Bösendorfer. They are remarkable instruments. She knows she shouldn’t but Eve keeps watching, high on her perch of the loft landing. Unfortunately, the piano isn’t the only thing to look at. She catches herself staring at Villanelle’s smooth, golden hair hung low in a ponytail. She catches herself staring at her hands, her long, long fingers as she plucks and prods inside the instrument studiously. And god, she catches herself staring at the girl’s amazing ass in those tight jeans. She’s appalled at her body’s reaction. Her heart rate is up, her palms are sweaty, but most concerning is that she’s pretty sure her clit just throbbed and she can now feel herself getting slightly wet.
This was ridiculous. The girl had to be at least 15 years younger than her. She has never been attracted to women younger than herself; it was consistently older women, or to be more accurate—very successful, powerful women. What has this woman accomplished? At most, maybe she’s the best piano tech in the North East? Maybe? And yes, that took a great deal of talent and skill but she’s no CEO, not an esteemed conductor, or doctor or whatever profession she’s dated in the past. Why was this person special? Because she couldn’t deny the flutters low in her belly or the blush on her cheeks when she imagines what it would be like to....to be with her.
Oh god, this was not good. Definitely not good.