Charles Benson lived alone in a stately old manor on the outskirts of town. Alone was how he preferred to be. He’d spent time living with roommates in college, and he’d shared hotel rooms and cramped bus spaces with his fellow musicians of a traveling orchestra. As far as Charles was concerned, he’d paid his dues, and now he deserved the quiet and solitude of this old place. He made his way to the ballroom, yes, a ballroom. It was part of what had attracted Charles to the property. The house was a bit run down, it had sat empty for nearly a decade before he’d come along with his life’s savings. He was still working on replacing fixtures, repairing cracked walls, and painting peeling crown molding. All of that was worth the ballroom, with it’s beautiful wooden floors, ornate rococo inspired trim, and many floor to ceiling windows that filled the room with natural light. The room was dark as he walked into it, stars winking in at him from the grounds outside. He hit the light switch, and took in the majesty of the blue and gold paint, the floors now gleaming after a clean and wax. His gaze landed on the black lacquered grand piano in the center of the room. When he’d toured the house, this had been the image in his mind. His beautiful piano at home in the center of a room as grand as it. The acoustics in this room were made for live music, and he hummed happily to himself as the fingers of one hand slid along the top of the piano in a loving caress. He set a small tumbler containing his whiskey, neat, on a coaster atop the piano as he took his place on the bench. He drew in a deep breath through his nose and closed his eyes, his fingers settling gently on the keys. And then Charles Benson began to play. He lost himself to the music and the way it filled the large space and bounced back at him, each note the gentle caress of a lover as it passed him by on its way to a silent death. He sat like that, eyes closed, playing a complicated classical piece for ten minutes. He opened his eyes as the last note wavered, clinging to the air, begging to stay in existence. He let out a small sigh, content and ready to retire for the evening, but as he reached for his glass, someone clapped.
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