Oh yes there is, sweetie. Im absolutely yearning to go look in that Prada store. I only came over just now to tell you Id be longer than I said.
Okay, honey. Tony Gardner straightened for the first time and took a deep breath. So long as youre sure youre happy doing that.
Im gonna have a fantastic time in that store. So you two fellas, you have yourselves a good talk. She got to her feet and touched me on the shoulder. You take care, Janeck.
We watched her walk away, then Mr Gardner asked me a few things about being a musician in Venice, and about the Quadri orchestra in particular, whod started playing just at that moment. He didnt seem to listen so carefully to my answers and I was about to excuse myself and leave, when he said suddenly:
Theres something I want to put to you, friend. Let me tell you whats on my mind and you can turn me down if thats what you want. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. Can I tell you something? The first time Lindy and I came here to Venice, it was our honeymoon. Twenty-seven years ago. And for all our happy memories of this place, wed never been back, not together anyway. So when we were planning this trip, this special trip of ours, we said to ourselves weve got to spend a few days in Venice.
Its your anniversary, Mr Gardner?
Anniversary? He looked startled.
Im sorry, I said. I just thought, because you said this was your special trip.
He went on looking startled for a while, then he laughed, a big, booming laugh, and suddenly I remembered this particular song my mother used to play all the time where he does a talking passage in the middle of the song, something about not caring that this woman has left him, and he does this sardonic laugh. Now the same laugh was booming across the square. Then he said:
Anniversary? No, no, its not our anniversary. But what Im proposing, its not so far off. Because I want to do something very romantic. I want to serenade her. Properly, Venice style. Thats where you come in. You play your guitar, I sing. We do it from a gondola, we drift under the window, I sing up to her. Were renting a palazzo not far from here. The bedroom window looks over the canal. After dark, itll be perfect. The lamps on the walls light things up just right. You and me in a gondola, she comes to the window. All her favourite numbers. We dont need to do it for long, the evenings are still kinda chilly. Just three or four songs, thats what I have in mind. Ill see youre well compensated. What do you say?
Mr Gardner, Id be absolutely honoured. As I told you, youve been an important figure for me. When were you thinking of doing this?
If it doesnt rain, why not tonight? Around eight-thirty? We eat dinner early, so well be back by then. Ill make some excuse, leave the apartment, come and meet you. Ill have a gondola fixed up, well come back along the canal, stop under the window. Itll be perfect. What do you say?
You can probably imagine, this was like a dream come true. And besides, it seemed such a sweet idea, this couple he in his sixties, she in her fifties behaving like teenagers in love. In fact it was so sweet an idea it almost, but not quite, made me forget the scene Id just witnessed between them. What I mean is, even at that stage, I knew deep down that things wouldnt be as straightforward as he was making out.
For the next few minutes Mr Gardner and I sat there discussing all the details which songs he wanted, the keys he preferred, all those kinds of things. Then it was time for me to get back to the marquee and our next set, so I stood up, shook his hand and told him he could absolutely count on me that evening.
Excerpted from Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro. Copyright © 2009 by Kazuo Ishiguro. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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