Saturday 16 June 2018

'Solo for Two' by Barbara Renel

She drags her suitcase away from the bottom of the escalator and sits on it. She watches the metal stairs unfolding, disappearing, backs of heads going up to the Main Line station, faces coming down – an elaborate choreography of avoidance as people, pushchairs, bags, shoes, criss-cross in front of her, left to right, right to left, Victoria, District and Circle Lines, blue, green, yellow routes, exiting, entering.
            The clasps of her suitcase unsnap. Inside, a black leather case, battered, curved. She takes out the violin, tightens the bow and waits for his introduction. She imagines the opening broken chords of his piano, chords that will gently ascend, descend, support her melody. And she plays their song, their story.
            There’s an Egyptian limestone statue in the British Museum, two seated figures, a man and a woman, their clothing androgynous, height distinguishing one from the other. She’s holding one of his hands with both of hers. They are looking straight ahead, certain of their relationship.
            Her melody is sustained, buoyant, floating on his piano. She ascends slowly adding a note, taking another step, moving further away, but always returning to the beginning, home. There is no drama in this music, the song serene. Their story is simple, timeless.
            The provenance of the statue was unknown, the figures labelled anonymous. She has a photograph of her teenage-self standing next to it. When she re-visited the museum the figures were smaller than she remembered. Recently they have been identified as Horemheb and Amenia. It’s an important statue now, preserved in a protective glass case, unreachable.
            She takes a breath and gently slows towards the final notes. She listens as the last sound echoes then disappears. She loosens her bow, returns her violin to its case and closes her suitcase, ready to move on.

First published: Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine 10:1(April 2017)


  1. The rhythm of this piece is so perfect, mirroring the story and the music and the beauty. Gorgeous.

  2. Lovely, Lovely Barbara!!! I love the juxtaposition of the rail station with the museum, today's buskers with the timeless statue. This says so much about our humanity...and our endurance.

  3. Beautiful story. Up there among the very best on this flash flood - and that is saying something!

  4. I enjoyed it, too! A tranquil piece. Beautiful writing.


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