The silence after the song was easier to live with this time. Anya looked round the circle, a smile twitching the corner of her lips, as though she was thinking, What is it with these people? She retuned again. She was a fussy, fussy musician. "This song is really meant to be played on the piano, but I'll play it on the guitar. It's called 'Julie in the Court of Dreams.' "
There was another slow, finger-picking introduction. The song began as observational, a little like "Genevieve," with an open compassion for the girl it was about. You felt how protective Anya was of this imagined Julie, and maybe of all women. Then the music opened out. The voice lowered and Anya brought herself into the song, with that sudden rushing confessional we'd had on "You Next Time." She somehow managed to fuse her true self with this invented girl and make it universal. It was a huge thing to do, but it seemed modestand that was what was so moving. By the time she played the third verse, the melody had already become familiar. It sounded like a song that had always been there, yet like nothing you'd ever heard before.
When she finished, she laid the guitar down on the grass beside her and said, "Okay, I'm going to get a drink now. Someone else can play."
But no one moved.
Anya liked staying with us. She seemed happy just to mess around in our farmhouse by day, go up to swim at Maria's in the afternoon, then join me playing music in the evening.
I wasn't a great pianist, but I could fill out what she was doing with some chords on the warmer songs. There was no point in trying to play guitar for Anya because her own sound was so distinctive. Right from the start she disliked any other voice on her songs, especially a man's, even though I could reach the notes in falsetto and could think up harmonies. When she saw my face, she started to laugh. "All right, Freddy, you can play some chords." I don't know why she called me Freddy. My name is Jack. She often did this, I discovered later, finding names she thought suited people better than their own.
Although for four years I'd recorded my own songs and several joint compositions with my band, and Anya King had recorded nothing, she only tolerated me as a session mancummakeshift producer. But I didn't mind; I knew I was at the start of something extraordinary.
Rick was always trying to shift Anya back to the city. He'd found her a gig in a bar in SoHo, still pretty unexplored country then. It didn't start till September, but he kept telling her she should get back to the city and rehearse, get a feel for the venue.
"Just another few days, Rick," she'd say. "I'm really getting my head together here."
"You stay, honey," Lowri said.
The summer slid by. Suzanne and Becky moved out of the second bedroom so Anya could have it. The girls took sleeping rolls out onto the porch or the grass, though they tended to get visited and licked by Grace and Janis.
Rick disappeared to an inn somewhere off the interstate, maybe to score coke, but after a few days came back and slept on the living room couch. The general store in the village sold pretty much all you needed; we got vegetables from the local farms, and once a week one of us would go to the supermarket in town to get cases of beer.
The weather stayed hot by day and cool enough to sleep well at night. Every evening after dinner, Rick would say, "We got to fix this chick a record deal, man."
And I would say, "Pass that joint over here, you mean bastard. There's always tomorrow."
And Anya would say solemnly, "Tomorrow is another day."
Lowri would sit watching it all with her amused expression.
"Days like this don't come round that often," I said one night.
"What about yesterday?" said Anya.
"Yeah," said Rick. "And the day before."
Copyright © 2012 by Sebastian Faulks
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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