by Stephen Grayce
(A short story originally published in The Book Of Liars, an interactive anthology on the website of recording artist Rickie Lee Jones)


"Are you coming, Jeanne?"

She looked down into the cup, then back into the mirror. This is movie stuff, she thought. Hitchcock on a stick.

She lifted her paper chalice and opened her lips slightly, making the water float into them, around them, fighting its way in. No, she thought, Bette Davis. Bette goddamned Davis in Dark fucking Victory. Part Two, The Beginning.

As she savored the last drops, winking at her reflection, Mark called again.

"Hey, lady, are you dyeing your hair or what? We're gonna be late!"

Jeanne leaned her head back and broke into a grin. Dyeing my hair. Kinda.

"Coming!" she chuckled, bouncing out of the bathroom and pulling her coat off the chair. "Damn, you'd think the symphony was gonna be gone forever tomorrow..."

"I just don't want to be late, you know the first notes are the most dramatic and set the tone for the whole evening."

Really, she thought? Cool.

As they rushed into the BMW, out of the garage and toward the freeway, Mark slid his hand from the gearshift onto Jeanne's fingers and did a quick grip, like he was checking to see if she was still there, and still his. Still there all right. The former model, the trophy wife , a reward for years of backstabbing and social climbing.

"It's going to be great," he said. "And you look wonderful."

"Glad I could shine for you, darling," she grinned.

"The pleasure's mine," he laughed.

Jeanne looked at her watch. "Ya think?", she asked. They burst out laughing.

Twenty minutes later, as they fast-walked to their seats and settled in, the orchestra was tuning up and building the tension for the big release of the opening salvo.

"Damn, what timing!", Mark crowed. "Are we cool or what?"

"Timing is indeed everything," said Jeanne, as she closed her eyes.

In that split second before the noise war began, Jeanne fast-forwarded into a dream. Her favorite dream. A dream where she was happy, and in love, and fulfilled. A dream where she could be herself and not be put down, in a gloriously simple life where she was in control of her own destiny.

And as her dream came true, as her escape kicked in, as Jeanne slumped forward off her chair, the first notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony slammed the moment into bright bas-relief. And as the others noticed and murmurs became concern became alarm, the repeating dat-dat-dat-dat of the Fifth was overtaken by the repeating oh-my-god of the audience, who had unwittingly stumbled into the most memorable overture they would ever witness, in this or any hall.

Beethoven was still there, but Jeanne had missed it. Finally.

Timing is everything, indeed.

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