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The Pianist in 24D

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Don and Kathy had only been in their new apartment for two weeks when they first met their upstairs neighbor. Or rather, heard their upstairs neighbor. It was a Monday night. Don was finally done filming his latest movie and Kathy had just gotten the script for her new one so they could have time together at last. However, as is common with well-worn workers, the first night they had alone was spent getting tucked into bed at nine and absolutely crashing into a deep sleep. But even that peace didn’t last for long.


At 2 am they were woken by the sound of piano scales loudly emanating from the apartment above them. Apparently even in an apartment building full of large houses and wealthy tenants it was still possible to have floors so thin you could hear through them. And alas there it was, lovely piano playing at entirely the wrong hour.


Don groaned, rolling over from where he’d been holding Kathy to on his back facing the ceiling. Kathy stirred slowly with a mumbled “What? What is it?”
Don pointed at the ceiling. Kathy rolled over as well and upon discovered where the sound was coming from shut her eyes and dragged both hands down her face.


Don sighed. “Will you be able to go back to sleep?”

“I might have before but now I’ve recognized the piano tune and I might as well listen to it with a cup of tea in my hands.”


“You like the playing?”


Kathy thought for a moment. “It’s beautiful.” She moved the blanket aside and rose from the bed then held out her hand to Don who smiled. She was just as beautiful in the dark room as she had been on the brightly lit day of their wedding a month before. Kathy was smart and kind and worth so much more than he had to offer. But she was here sharing his apartment and his life and his kitchen with a mug of herbal tea and her ear tilted towards the ceiling. Don couldn’t help but think that she had been made just for this moment.


The large windows of their kitchen looked out on Central Park and the dark but glowing city. “What a lovely evening,” Don found himself breathing into Kathy’s ear. The pianist was still going strong but their jaunty tune had turned to something softer and full of a longing that made Don want to hold Kathy in his arms.


“Actually love, at 2 am I do believe it’s morning.”


Don laughed. “Good morning then.”


“Good morning.” She looked up at him with her big eyes and he melted just as he had on the day he first saw her stubbornly walking away from the cab they had shared.


Don leaned down and kissed her with just a brush of lips. She grabbed him by the back of his neck and pulled him closer, encouraging him to bring his arms up around her lower back. She broke away and tilted her head back as he kissed down her jaw and her neck, the piano music from above filtering down into their ears like caresses.


“I’d like to go back to bed.” Don mumbled between kisses. Kathy bit her lip and nodded vigorously, leaping from the chair and grabbing Don’s hand, twirling him away to their bedroom.


By the time they were lying breathless and content on the bed, the pianist had stopped and they fell asleep again, wrapping their arms around each other as if enveloped with yet another melody.


 

After that first night, Don and Kathy became increasingly aware of their overhead pianist. Just the next day the piano playing returned at a much more reasonable hour and continued in the same fashion for a week, only missing a day at a time at most. Then, a week and a half later, Don walked through the door on a Wednesday afternoon into his living room and was greeted with stomping sounds above.


He let himself sink onto the couch and realized after a few moments that his neighbor wasn’t just stomping, his neighbor was dancing. Tap dancing. Don laughed. Clearly they were a musical sort. This put him in a good mood despite the empty house and the noise overhead.


It had been a while since Don last danced and sang. It wasn’t uncommon for an actor to have training in musical theater but he hadn’t used it very often. Three action movies and two romantic comedies into his career, Don hadn’t touched a pair of tap shoes in at least a year if not more. From his place on the couch he could hear the faint song to which his neighbor was dancing. Don realized that he knew this song.


Rising from his sofa, Don listened to the faint sound of “Singin’ in the Rain”. He’d danced to that one in his first lesson for which he’d scrounged together money after dropping out of high school. If he wracked his brain he might just be able to remember the choreography…


Kathy walked through the door 20 minutes later to find Don tap dancing along barefoot with their neighbor above, laughing and sweating as he leapt and skipped over the furniture. She couldn’t remember seeing him this happy in all her memory. He motioned to her to come join him and she did in her stocking feet, feeling better and better about their mysterious upstairs neighbor. The music and dancing only stopped a half hour later at which point Don and Kathy collapsed onto the couch giggling.


With her face in the crook of Don’s neck between bouts of breathless laughter Kathy managed to say “I think I’m going to like our neighbor.”
Don nodded. “So am I.”


 

Over the next two months their musically prone neighbor became a staple element of their lives. Whoever lived upstairs followed a schedule similar to their own and only rarely took to playing lively music early in the morning (once Don and Kathy returned home from a premiere at 4 am and heard them pounding happily away).


The couple learned to read moods in the music, in the slow tap of someone performing a pas de deux all on their own, of the tumbling piano riffs through which you could almost hear a voice laughing at its own jokes, of the calm moods that came every now and then, telling silences that suggested a pensive smile or an evening with a book.


On the day Don found Kathy moved to tears by piano keys in their kitchen they both agreed that it was time to meet this neighbor at last. Kathy was hesitant to barge into their life head first so instead they poked around the lobby for a while to find the tenant of apartment 24D. His name was Cosmo Brown. With a little bit of internet research, Don found him to be credited with sound track and sound work on several films including one or two of his own.


Kathy’s reacted eagerly. “So he knows who we are!”


“Well yes as do most people.”


“Don’t be so smug. It does put us on some of the same page though.”


“Not really. I’m half way in love with him at this point.”


Kathy smiled at this and flopped down next to Don on the couch. “So am I. Though we probably shouldn’t spring that on him so soon.”


“Probably not.””


“I wonder if we’ve ever seen him. Just casually you know, like in the elevator or the lobby or something.”


Don shrugged. “Maybe.”


“What if he’s completely different from the person we imagine he is? What if he’s an old bitter snob with not a romantic bone in his body?”


“Somehow I sincerely doubt that but there’s only one way to find out.”


“Tomorrow?”


Don thought for a second. “Tomorrow.”


 

Tomorrow was a Friday and in the morning Kathy began to worry that Cosmo would go out with friends because it was the beginning of the weekend but Don reassured her and reminded her that he had been home on Fridays almost every week they’d known of his existence.


Don bought flowers though Kathy wasn’t entirely sure that was completely helpful. There was no convincing him out of it. So she brought a bottle of wine.


“We look like we’re celebrating something.” Kathy said in the elevator.


“We are. We’re celebrating a new encounter… of sorts.”


Kathy giggled as the elevator doors opened and they walked towards Cosmo’s door. “That’s oddly romantic.”


Upon reaching the door, each of them hesitated to be the one to ring the bell. Finally, with a deep breath, Don did the honors. Kathy had never known him to be nervous about social visits ever but this was different somehow.


After what seemed like hours of silent waiting, they heard the shuffle of someone walking to a door and the click of a lock. The man who opened the door wasn’t old and didn’t seem bitter in the least. He was slightly shorter than Don with dusty brown hair and the brightest blue eyes you could imagine that widened when he found two movie stars on his doorstep.


“Well hi there I wasn’t expecting the presence of royalty this evening. What can I do for your highnesses?” Kathy was shocked out of her well-practiced introduction and her mouth hung open for a moment. Cosmo appeared to rethink his greeting. “Sorry, I always forget to turn my brain on when answering the door. What can I do for you?”


Kathy’s shock morphed quickly into a fantastically large smile. She had to stop herself from laughing so she could start her introduction. “I assume you’ve noticed that I’m Kathy Selden and this is Don Lockwood.”


“No kidding.” Cosmo said, leaning on the side of his doorway. “Sorry, go on.”


“We’re your downstairs neighbors and we were just coming up to introduce ourselves.”


“Awww don’t tell me I’ve been too loud. It’s my feet isn’t it? I promise I’ll tell them to shut up. Look I’m sorry I’ll stop everything and put carpets in and-”


“Woah there.” Don said, reaching out a hand in a halt kind of motion. “We’ve heard your musical skills and trust me we’re not complaining.”


Cosmo quirked an eyebrow at both of them. “If you’re not complaining then what are you doing?”


Don and Kathy smiled at each other then looked back at Cosmo. “Inviting you to dinner.” Don says smugly, his seductive nature returning in full force.


Cosmo didn’t have time to say another word as Don and Kathy handed him their gifts, first the flowers then the wine bottle. As she leaned in to hand him the bottle, Kathy said softly “Our number’s in the flowers.”


Then, with large smiles on their faces, Don and Kathy turned and left, waving back at Cosmo as they went.


Cosmo Brown is left standing in the doorway, feeling utterly confused about the interaction that has just occurred but deciding that he liked it, whatever it was. He liked it very much indeed.