Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dreams Of A Love Indestructible - Draft Two Complete.

I write this, having just completed a two week long edit of my draft manuscript. It was an arduous task, re-examining grammar and punctuation, removing what seemed to be copious amounts of repetition and tightening up the story line significantly. I also expanded some of the characters roles which added an extra cohesiveness to the plot.

So now I have, what I think is a significantly better manuscript, but I know that there is a long way to go. What I need now is for volunteers who would be willing to look over my manuscript and offer me some constructive (or even destructive) criticism on my work.

What works? What doesn't work? Does it work at all?

If you are at all interested, please get in touch with me via email - and I'll arrange for a .pdf to be emailed to you. It's 205 pages long, about 80,000 words long. To give you an idea of what it's about - here's a synopsis...

Dreams Of A Love Indestructible is a story about a young man whose spirit refuses to die.

Denny Banister had it all – a successful university degree, a love for the guitar and a passion for Sonya – his soul mate whom he wishes to marry. Tragically, Denny is struck down with inoperable cancer and he is destined to die.

At the moment of his death in an Australian hospice, however, Denny's spirit passes from his destroyed body and into the body of a drug addicted young man - who lies in a trauma room, clinging to life on the other side of the world.

Andy DeVries stands on a precipice. He lives life on a razor's edge, dealing in drugs and moving through a dangerous underworld of criminals and con artists. He is alienated from his father and he stands to lose the only thing that matters to him - a place at a prestigious Conservatory for classical guitar in Chicago. For Andy has a love of the guitar as fierce as Denny's once was.

Having been snatched from a near fatal overdose Andy is suddenly plagued by dreams of another life - a life he has never known but it is as familiar to him as his own memories. He dreams of a love he has never known yet he knows this love intuitively. Having been given a chance at redemption Andy begins to change.

Something has been awakened in him - a spirit of a once proud man. And as Soneya grieves for her lost love Andy begins a quest to find her - knowing her only by the dream...the dream of a love indestructible...

Please do consider participating in helping me. I hope to self publish the novel in early 2010 and am excited to see it on a book shelf.

Thank you in advance,

Dean from Australia.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Editing the "Dream" Part Two.

I've put in serious hours in the past week editing and re-writing my manuscript and already the story has started to evolve in a much different way to the original document that has appeared here. The one thing I have noticed during the editing process is the trap of using words and certain phrases repetitively throughout - so that has been my aim in the initial edit - to remove or reword certain passages so that they sound a little more unique and a lot less repetitive.

I have also focused on character development. Looking at each of the characters and refining their contribution to the story. In particular I have changed Andy's story quite a bit. I mean he is still heading in the same direction but I have made clearer some of the things that help him to realize that his life is pretty much in the shitter right now and that he needs to change. I have also made Denny more of a character in so much as his spirit is more of a character.

I'll continue to hone and refine the document in the coming weeks and then get some input from other people. A friend of mine who does proof reading as a side thing has offered to help me out so I hope she can really take my manuscript apart and help me improve it.

I have also started making contact with the publishers of the Foo Fighters music - asking for their permission to reproduce the lyrics of the song "Come Alive" which features on their 2008 release "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace". I have used a couple of lines from that song in the story mainly as cues to drive Andy's thought processes during his reverie. I have also used a couple of lines of dialogue from the movie Bladerunner which I only just remembered doing when I started reviewing the manuscript this week so I have emailed Warner Brothers in the States with a similar request. We'll see if they actually respond.

I'll talk more soon.

Dean from Australia.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And That's Where We'll Leave The Dream...For Now...

You're gonna hate me aren't you.

I've decided to leave it at that insofar as posting anymore of the novella for now. I finished a draft manuscript earlier this week and now I have begun the arduous task of sitting down and reading the entire document from beginning to end, reviewing it, adding to it, subtracting from it and generally picking the shit out of it.

But I have also decided to keep you updated on it via this portal - posting notes and possibly even video blogs keeping you up to date with my progress. I'll also be putting the feelers out for help too. The big thing I am hoping to get assistance with right now is with a design for a cover for the novel. If you know of anyone out there who would be interested in putting something together for me then please put them in contact with me.

The "Dream" has been realized in draft form - now the real work has begun on polishing up this document in preparation for self publishing...

Dean M.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dreams Of A Love Indestructible (Part Twenty One).

Andy sat in the foyer of the Windsor Hotel the next morning flipping as casually as he could through the daily newspaper but he wasn't really taking anything in – he was too distracted. He had woken insanely early and spent several hours sitting on the bed, watching television, strumming his guitar, pacing the room. He'd showered twice – so nervous and excited and terrified he was. It was like going on a first date all over again even though he remembered their first date well.

He – Denny – had gotten tickets to an indie music festival in Melbourne during the summer. It must have been three or four years ago, when they'd both reconnected again at university. Andy couldn't be exactly certain – the burden of carrying the memories of two lives made it difficult to pin point. It was an incredibly hot day and he and Soneya has spent most of it in specially provided mist tents – basically tents fitted with sprinkler systems to cool down the revelers at the venue. It was a wild and crazy day but during it they had fallen for one another. Andy remembered that they had been childhood friends – almost inseparable. Soneya was a willowy tom boy, athletic, bold and very self assured even then. He...Denny...had been awkward and shy but in her company he felt at ease. Once they become a couple at university, it was as though the years they'd spent apart had never been. They were as inseparable as adults as they had been as children.

The memories were as clear to Andy now as if they had always been his own and he smiled at the realization.

Every so often Andy looked towards the foyer entrance to see if he could see her. He checked his watch. It was still only early. He cursed himself for having readied himself so early but he didn't know what else to do. The anticipation was too much. The thought of seeing her again was just too exciting for him.

Andy folded up the newspaper – again - and, placing it down on the table, he stood then searched out out the mens room from his vantage point. Just as he was about to walk over to it, he caught a glance at the entrance once more and...

There she was.

Soneya was standing there, just inside the door surveying her surroundings, looking for him. She had dressed lightly - svelte cargo pants, a singlet top, her large hat from the previous day.

Andy walked towards her and she smiled reservedly upon seeing him.

“Hello” Soneya greeted. “Wow. You've been put up in some pretty nice accommodation”

Andy nodded, craning his neck to look around the foyer of the resplendent hotel. The morning sun streamed in through a large sky light far above bathing the foyer in an ethereal light. When he looked back her again he was struck once more by her beauty, the way the sunlight danced over her auburn hair making it seem more beautiful than he ever remembered.

“Yeah. My school did pretty well in getting us into this place. The dean might flip out though when he finds out how much it was costing them”

Andy looked at her and smiled.

“I'm glad you came. I know it might be a little awkward for you”

“Not at all” Soneya replied. “It's nice to be able enjoy a little down time while I'm here. The Festival is good and all's just nice”

“So...” Andy ventured. “Do you like coffee?”

Of course she likes coffee...

Soneya nodded.

“There's a really great coffee house not far from here called Enzo's” Andy suggested. “I found it when I first arrived here. They make an awesome cup”

Soneya's eyes widened in surprise then but Andy but didn't react.

“I know it” she said slowly. “...very well”

Soneya seemed to gaze at him, assessing him as Andy gestured towards the door.

“Shall we?...”

Andy knew he was taking a risk by taking her there, to her and Denny's old, favorite place – but the gamble appeared to pay off for him and they spent a couple of hours right up until lunch time, enjoying several cups of coffee and talking. Andy felt the echo of the way it had once been when Denny and Soneya sat in this very place – when they were studying for exams on rainy winter afternoons when it was pouring with rain outside. Or during summer when classes were just beginning and they were coming to grips with a seemingly insurmountable workload. On weekends, when they just craved being alone together – Denny and Soneya would seek their refuge here at the little cafe and just curl up together reading a book to each other and sipping coffee. Here was the place that had once felt like a second home.

Coffee eventually did turn into lunch. Soneya had completely lost track of time from the moment they had sat down. She felt herself relaxing, her guard had come down completely and she found herself enjoying the company of this shy but amiable American. All the while, as they talked, that potent sensation of deja-vu visited her once again, the feeling of somehow knowing him, the feeling of familiarity about his presence. He was quiet, considerate. He was interested in her. Soneya talked about the practice and the house in Stafford, how she hoped to make something of her grandfather's legacy and turn it around into something to be proud of. She avoided talking about Denny entirely – not because she consciously set out to but because it just happened that way.

After lunch, Soneya suggested that they go for a walk through the City. She stopped by a florist in a French inspired arcade to pick up some Lily's for Joss as a thank you for having her at Joss' Williamstown apartment. Andy recognized the florist. Denny had bought flowers there for Soneya and Andy smiled inwardly, pleased that Soneya still favored it.

And just when Andy thought Soneya might choose to end their day together in the early afternoon, he was pleasantly surprised when Soneya turned to him as they strolled along the banks of Melbourne's Yarra River.

“Would you like to go for a drive?” she asked hopefully.

She doesn't want this day to end! Andy thought excitedly.

“Where?” he inquired, intrigued.

“Well...I have to drop these flowers off at Joss' apartment, otherwise they'll shrivel up in this heat. It's in Williamstown, just over the bridge, say about a half an hour from here. I can drop you back to the Hotel if you'd like”

Williamstown! My home!

Andy managed to stifle his alarm at hearing mention of the seaside suburb by feigning a thoughtful expression, as though he were considering her proposal. He studied her with a lop sided half grin.

“Am I correct in guessing that you're enjoying yourself?”

Soneya blushed embarrassed and eyed him suggestively.

“I could be” she replied.

Andy wanted to take her in his arms right then and kiss her. He wanted to feel her lips against his, to hold her hands and feel their warmth but he restrained himself.

Finally he nodded.

“That sounds like a great idea”

They drove to Williamstown, in the Volkswagen sedan that had once been Denny's. Williamstown was a cosmopolitan beach side suburb where Denny had spent his childhood. And as they entered the suburb on a thoroughfare that flanked the waters of Port Philip Bay Andy was overwhelmed with a new collection of Denny's memories – ones that he'd not experienced before. Memories of Denny's childhood - of fishing from the jetty near the Williamstown Port with his father on cool Melbourne mornings, playing with Soneya on the beach after school when they were just children, of sailing a small yacht on the water as a teenager. Images and visions of the life Andy had 'adopted' – they assailed him with a speed and ferocity that threatened to overwhelm him. But he rode the wave of them once more until it settled back to a gentle swell.

Neither of them wanted the day to end.

By the late afternoon, Andy and Soneya found themselves in Williamstown's chic restaurant district and decided to find somewhere to have dinner. Seating themselves on the balcony of a waterfront cafe that overlooked Port Philip Bay they ordered a bottle of wine and relaxed back in their seats to take in the view. The majestic City skyline dominated the landscape to the north, towering above groups of moored yachts that rocked gently on the swell of the Williamstown harbor, their masts swaying to and fro.

People were enjoying walks on the nearby esplanade, playing on the beach, swimming in the sea. A tall-ship slowly made it's way across the water, it's sails billowing full in the late afternoon breeze bringing the salty scent of the sea to Andy's nostrils. As they sat at their table on a balcony overlooking the sea Andy thought it all reminded him a little of Chicago. He sat back in his chair and exhaled, almost unconsciously feeling a calm unlike any he'd felt before. Everything seemed so pure here, so clean...and so familiar. Even this cafe in which they sat now – Andy knew it well. It had been one of their favorite places. Soneya hadn't revealed that to Andy.
They'd enjoyed a beautiful lobster that was quite unlike Andy had ever eaten before. They drank a local wine and continued their conversation almost uninterrupted. The day had been wonderful.

Soneya smiled as Andy stretched and gazed out across the water.

"I can see that you're enjoying yourself" she commented as a waiter clear their plates and refreshed their wine glasses.

"I am," Andy replied. "This place is surreal. It's like something out of a dream or a picture book. Is everyone in this City so...laid back?"

Soneya followed his eyes out across the waterfront.

"Hmm...It is tranquil here. Though Melbourne itself is like any other city. It has its fair share of problems"

"So city law doesn't appeal to you then?"

Soneya shook her head and sipped her wine. She glanced at him fleetingly, suddenly unsure of when she had told him she was a lawyer.

"N...not at all. I decided that rural concerns are enough of a challenge on their own. And I prefer the people. They are far more...real...than anyone here. I would rather help them there than destroy people here. There's enough aggression in the Melbourne law fraternity. I don't want to get sucked into it"

"That's quite noble" Andy remarked.

"It is," Soneya agreed with an earnest nod before smiling broadly. When she did, Andy felt light headed.

"What about you? The guitar seems to be very much a part of you. It defines you, yes?"
Andy returned her smile with his own and swirled the wine in his glass, holding it up to the light from outside the restaurant to study it.

Soneya's breath caught in her throat then as she watched him.

The way he held the glass, the way he inspected the wine...

Andy rested the glass on his crossed leg.

"It's everything to me," he said wistfully. "It's carried me through some difficult times and I've not always been very kind to it. But now it's the one thing that I want to do more than's pretty much been the only thing I was ever good at"

Soneya brow creased into a frown fleetingly.

"Surely you're good at more than just the guitar"

"Getting into trouble...possibly...I was exceptional at that. I dunno...unfortunately I think I made an art form out of calamity instead of applying myself. But there has always been the guitar. It is a gift that I've come to treasure"

"Well, I think it's a very noble gift so here's to it," Soneya raised her own glass toward him and he met hers with his. They drank, looking at each other, a sense of something passed between them both.

"You know...," Soneya began. "I have to say this, and please don't think I'm crazy but..., you seems very familiar to me. It's like...I feel like we've met before.

In Andy's mind that voice pleaded at him, tell her, tell her!

Andy flushed pink and smiled awkwardly.

"That sounds like a very bad line - even with the Australian accent"

Soneya laughed and covered her mouth embarrassed.

"I know, it does right? God I'm such a klutz...but it's true. Are you sure that you've never been to Australia before?"

"I haven't...sorry. Not even once"

Even they were true, as Andy spoke them he felt as though he was lying. Again the voice tugged at his conscience.

Tell her...

A jazz quartet began playing in the far corner, their light music filling the cafe.

Andy's mind drifted towards the final, the seemingly overwhelming nature of it.
"I can't believe I'm here...that I've made it this far," he mused. "I've never done anything like this before"

"It's a wonderful opportunity for you," Soneya agreed. "I can only imagine how nervous you must feel"


Andy looked out across the waterfront towards the beach and gestured with a nod.

"Shall we take a walk on the sand"

Soneya nodded and smiled a little bashfully.

"That would be nice"

Making their way down to the waters edge, Soneya slipped off her sandles and stepped- gingerly at first - into the sea, feeling the cool water against her ankles and feet.

"I can't believe how beautiful it is here" Andy marveled, seemingly awestruck by the pristine sand so close to a metropolitan environment. "There's nothing like this in Chicago"

Andy took off his own shoes, setting them on the sand and joining Soneya as she luxuriated her feet at the water's edge.

"There is something addictive about the seaside" she mused. "So - are you nervous? About the final?"

Andy wandered a few paces along the shore line, hands in his pockets.

"I'm petrified," he answered truthfully. "I came here with no expectations what-so-ever. I mean, Christ, I was a last minute entry - the Conservatory didn't even want me on the delegation. Now...I want it more than anything. I don't think I've ever wanted anything more"

Soneya watched him, her hand shading her eyes from the late afternoon sun.

He stands at the water's edge, his hands in his pockets, thoughtful...

Yet he is not out of focus nor out of reach unlike her dream.

This was the dream?...

Small waves, no more than a few inches high washed up on the shore line now but as they strolled slowly along, watching a gaggle of enthusiastic children playing in the shallows, a bigger wave broke unexpectedly over a ridge of sand, slapping against Soneya's ankles and causing her to over balance. Reflexively she reached out with her hand and Andy grabbed it pulling her close to steady her. He held her until he was sure she was safe. She looked up at him to thank him and in that moment their eyes locked and neither one of them could look away. Andy couldn't resist. He leaned in gently, his finger rising to touch her cheek and their lips found each other. A soft, slow, electrifying kiss that lingered - igniting a well spring of warmth and emotion with them both so powerful that neither could pull away nor wanted to. Soneya's hand cradled his jaw, her lips parted and she touched her tongue to his, teasingly, exquisitely...rolling around it, then gently pulling back. Soneya sighed audibly as Andy pulled her close to him, sliding his hands between her arms and holding her softly there.

Then, suddenly an alarm bell sounded in Soneya's mind and she pulled herself away from Andy abruptly. Flooded with guilt Soneya mind swirled and she felt as though she might fall. Her expression held melted into one of bewilderment, embarrassment, shame...

"What have I done?" she gasped reflexively.

Andy was stunned where he stood, dazed by the afterglow of the kiss but feeling extreme awkwardness now as he reached out to Soneya. She put her hand up defensively and searched nearby

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said breathlessly. "I shouldn't have done that"

Though in his mind, Andy sensed he knew the reason for her sudden switch in behavior and what she meant by her apology, he remained floundering before her.

"No, no Soneya please...I shouldn't have. I'm sorry"

Soneya felt nauseous then as the familiar, irrational guilt assailed her conscience All she wanted to do was to run away from here, from him - this exquisite stranger who made her feel. He made her feel.

"I sh...should go Andy," she stammered as she hurriedly bent down to put on her sandles and stood up again. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for any of this"

Andy's heart pounded as she turned away from him. All these long months of searching, the battle within himself to make sense of the additional presence that resided there. His and Denny's emotions collided together somewhere deep inside of him, melding together until they were all but indistinguishable.

This is it!

Denny's voice rang in his ears and Andy turned to face Soneya who was walking away from him.

"Soneya!" he called out desperately.

Something in the tone of his voice made Soneya stop and slowly she turned around to face him.

"Please wait!"

Andy stepped forward holding his arms out by his sides and it was then Soneya realized that his accent had changed slightly.

"'s me. It's Denny"

Soneya's eyes went wide and she blinked.

"Soneya...I don't how to explain what happened. I was in the dark happened and then...somebody found me – in Chicago” Andy voice quivered. He became animated then and, unbeknown to him, it had clearly spooked her.

“I was lying in a trauma room in a hospital,” he went on. “They told me I'd overdosed – that I had died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. But I was revived - something happened to me when I was revived. I woke up and I was in this - this - body"

Soneya's purse strap slipped from her shoulder, falling to the sand. Her jaw slackened slightly but she said nothing as Andy approached her.

"Ever since then I've these...memories...of this old life, of this place - of you. I couldn't make sense of them at first but I realized I was remembering everything about my old life"

"I...I can't believe," Soneya whispered, her lip quivering.

"I couldn't believe it at first either" Andy continued his voice cracking. "But I remember everything - the hospital, our home, everything we planned to do. It all came to me, gradually at first, but I remember. And then I found you...I found Stafford – on the Internet. I found Denny's page on Facebook. I had these clues to go by – the things I remembered. It was all there!"

Andy stepped forward but Soneya threw up her hand abruptly stopping him.

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" she hissed venomously.

Andy shivered violently at the sound of her voice and he looked at her seeing a palpable anger in her eyes. He froze where he stood.

“'s the truth. I remember it all”

“How dare you!” Soneya spat, backing away from him slowly as angry tears welled up at the edges of her eyes. “How dare you play this game with me. How could you even begin to be so cruel? Who do you think you are?”

Andy felt a nauseating panic then. His mouth went dry and he struggled to force his mind to work.

“What are you – some kind of sick stalker?!” she continued, her fury becoming white hot.

He thumbed his chest firmly then interrupting her.

“Soneya, look at me. Surely you can see it. Surely you can sense something – can't you?” he was pleading with her now, his voice rising. “What about that kiss just then – tell me it you didn't feel something. Why would I make something up like this?”

But Soneya shook her head furiously and back away even further as he stepped forward again holding his hand out towards her.

No! Don't you come near me. If you do I will call the police”

She wheeled around then and stumbled on the sand before running away. Tears were streaming down her face now, her heart and mind filled with confusion and anger. Andy stood there on the beach watching her go until she had disappeared. He was too stunned to move.

“What have I done” he whispered breathlessly.

Copyright © 2009 Dean Mayes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dreams Of A Love Indestructible (Part Twenty)

Andy felt his breath quicken as he realized that Soneya was actually approaching him. His eyes darted between her and the beer in his hand, his heart thumped noisily in his ears. As his nerves almost managed to overwhelm him, Andy managed to pull himself together just as Soneya stepped around a group of people in between Andy and her. Then she was standing before him.

Her beauty, her presence, her perfume, her auburn hair, lustrous and shining. The scent of rosemary and mint that he had always remembered. Her eyes – shimmering jewels, vibrant and alive. Everything about her that Andy had remembered and dreamed of from the moment that he had been brought back to life in that trauma room so far away became very real, very tangible in that single moment. Soneya offered her hand to Andy and he took it, hesitantly at first – until he caught himself and grabbed onto his rational state of mind – then he firmed his grip on hers. The feeling of her hand in his was electric. When she spoke, her voice made his heart almost stop.

“Congratulations” Soneya repeated smiling politely. “I just wanted to say that I thought you were superb this afternoon. That piece is a favorite of mine”

Andy nodded respectfully. He could feel his cheeks flushing just a little.

“Thank you,” he replied softly. “It was a pleasure to play it – if a little scary. I haven't performed for such a large audience before”

“Well one would never have known it. I think you managed to capture the entire audience's imagination today”

Soneya sipped her champagne and looked around her at the people mingling.

“How are you finding Australia?” she asked. “Is it your first time here?”

Andy nodded.

“It's very hospitable. I've enjoyed this city very much. It's very different to Chicago...very warm...and I don't just mean weather wise”

He shifted nervously on the spot then gazed at her - almost as if he was hoping she would recognize something within him telling her he was Denny.

“You're Soneya Llewellyn right?” he finally said, tripping a little over his words.

Soneya met his gaze, caught off guard by his question.

“I...I am” she responded surprised. “How di...”

Andy turned and gestured discreetly at Jochen Zinski.

“Zinski pointed you out to a few of the performers earlier. He told us that you were visiting to present the trophy at the end of the week”

“Oh,” Soneya said, nodding. “Yes. He invited me to attend personally. It was his idea to name the award”

“He...must have been pretty special huh”

Again Soneya nodded, looking down and away from Andy momentarily.

“He was...very special”

Again an awkward silence threatened to settle upon them. Andy tried to think of something, anything to advance the conversation further. Little did he know that Soneya was thinking exactly the same thing. She felt extremely nervous and unsure of herself in his presence. She felt a powerful attraction to him but she betrayed nothing of this outwardly.

“How long have you played the guitar?” Soneya asked finally, finding the words that he couldn't.

“Since I was about eight years old,” Andy replied, relieved for her question. “Some would say I came to it quite late. Most of the contestants here probably started when they were still in diapers so I feel as though I'm on the back foot a little”

Soneya smiled at his quip.

“Well, if today was anything to go by I think you'll be a definite contender. It's a wonderful event. Are you excited about the finals?”

“I think terrified is perhaps a more appropriate feeling right now” Andy said. “I've never done anything like this before...but I am looking forward to the final though. I think I'll spend the next few days taking in some of the other performances and seeing what I'll be up against”

Soneya nodded, lifting her brow slightly.

“Oh...well that will be nice. I...I guess I'll probably see you again then”

She felt herself feeling light headed and realized as she lifted her glass to her lips that she had emptied the champagne from it completely.

Andy looked at it and gestured towards the bar.

“Could I get you another drink?”

Soneya considered his offer. She wanted to say yes but she suddenly felt her nerves getting the better of her. She looked over her shoulder at Joss who wore a wicked half grin as she chatted with another group of people – every so often stealing a glance over in Soneya's direction.

“I probably shouldn't,” Soneya finally decided. “I fear if I have another I won't be able to walk. This stuff is pretty potent”

Andy smiled warmly as she offered her hand again.

“I just wanted to say how lovely your performance was” she said.

Andy nodded.

“Thank you. Perhaps I'll see you again”

“Perhaps you will”

Soneya stepped back, holding his hand a moment longer, holding his gaze a moment longer then she turned and headed back to where Joss was standing. He watched her go unable to take his eyes off her until he realized he had forgotten to breathe.

Michyko appeared beside him then and tugged at his arm.

“There you are! We've been looking all over for you. Have you had enough praise thrust upon you yet?”

“I think so,” Andy smiled, still gazing after Soneya who had disappeared into the crowd as if she had never been. Michyko followed his gaze fleetingly.

“Well a group of us have decided to hit a pub in the City that was recommended to us. Want to join us?”

“Yeah...that would be cool”

Michyko gave him a silly grin.

“Who are you looking at?” she ribbed him conspiratorially.

Andy squirmed uncomfortably and blushed.

“Nobody,” he said a little too quickly and Michyko studied him with mock suspicion.

“Nobody – a likely story. Come on – we'll miss the cab”

Andy followed Michyko out of the Pavilion, looking back to where Soneya had been standing with her friend – but she was no longer there.

Soneya and Joss had hailed a cab just outside the Garden not too long after. As they rode towards the City Joss noted a curious expression on Soneya's face and she smiled wickedly.

“You're definitely attracted to him aren't you” she teased mercilessly. “

Soneya screwed up her nose at Joss.

“Oh stop it. You're a pain in the arse”

But deep down Soneya couldn't deny that Joss was right.

“Well I think he's hot” Joss persisted, trying to get a rise out of Soneya.

Soneya just laughed softly and gazed out through the window as it passed by. She felt an old, familiar warm glow within that she hadn't felt in a long time.

* * *

While the others from the Chicago group went on a tour the following morning - none of them were performing - Andy decided to slip out early and walk down to the Gardens from the hotel to see the performances. He had hardly slept a wink. All he could think about was Soneya, their meeting in the Pavilion and their brief conversation, the touch of her hand. Though he had intended to watch the concert heats for the genuine purpose of studying his competition, now that he had made contact with her and that contact had been good, all he wanted to do now was to find her again.

His walk took no more than approximately twenty minutes. He crossed over a wide thoroughfare separating the Fitzroy Gardens from the smaller Treasury Gardens, noting that a sizable crowd was already gathering on the lawns in front of the conservatory. Though it was not quite 10AM, the intense summer sun was beginning to warm the city significantly and Andy felt beads of sweat forming on his brow. Quickly daubing them away, he made his way into the Gardens, instantly trying to appear as casual as he could without making it obvious that he was looking for her.

Aside from the concerts today, the Gardens were playing host to several other gatherings related to the International Festival. There were several stages set up throughout the Gardens that were to play host to a number of visiting performers from all across the world. They ranged from blues and roots artists, to South American and Spanish guitar virtuosos to jazz outfits sourced locally and from the UK, the US and Europe.

Andy stopped by the Pavilion and purchased a coffee and a muffin – he hadn't had anything to eat so far today – then sat down to browse through the days program. He had made a mental list of a number of artists who he wanted to see perform while he was here including a name sake of his Doug de Vries – a celebrated Australian guitarist who had caught his eye as well as Slava Grigoryan – a former Kazakhstan native who'd immigrated to Australia with his family as a child and who had become one of Australia's most prominent classical guitarists. He chatted with some of the performers from the previous day's heat with whom he had become acquainted, received yet more congratulations and well wishes for Saturdays semi final then he managed to extricate himself and wander off to take in some of the musical acts for today...

...and hopefully bump into Soneya.

How was he going to tell her?

Andy had wrestled with the prospect through an almost sleepless night and he was still no closer to resolving it. The idea was preposterous and even he had had difficulty in coming to terms with it in the beginning. Soneya had always been a very grounded person and didn't have much time for anything of an existential nature. The only way that he felt he could convince her would be to spend some time with her - get to know her in his guise now and then reveal himself to her. But he only had a short window of opportunity. Their encounter last night at been painfully brief and the chances of finding her amongst the hundreds of people moving about the Gardens today were slim. Andy felt an uncomfortable knot of panic tighten in his chest. If he didn't take the chance at some point while they were here, together, in Melbourne the chance would be lost to him perhaps for good.

He meandered up to an old stone band stand far from the conservatory and took in a performance by Doug de Vries and a jazz quartet which had attracted a sizable audience. He sat on the grass, every so often looking around in the hope that he might spot her somewhere in the crowd.

But she wasn't anywhere to be seen.

After an hour or so, Andy eventually made his way back to the southern end of the Gardens, to the conservatory where the afternoon heats would be taking place. He stopped by the Pavilion to purchase a mineral water then he made his way across the lawn to find a spot on the grass where he could view the performances best.

“Hello Andy”

Andy turned around at the sound of her voice to find Soneya and Joss relaxing on a rug on the lawn just a few feet away. His heart skipped a beat as Soneya waved to him and he smiled warmly.

“Hello again” he greeted, placing his hands in his pocket and walking over to them as casually as he could, trying desperately not too seem too eager.

Soneya was wearing a light cotton dress with a pearl colored cardigan and large sunglasses underneath an overtly large sun hat. A pair of leather sandles lay near her feet. She looked positively radiant.

Soneya lifted the brim of her hat as he approached.

“Beautiful day once again isn't it” she said. “We've really turned it on for you don't you agree?”

Andy nodded reservedly and lifted his hands to his eyes to shield them from the mid morning sun.

“I'm finding Melbourne a little addictive actually. I could get used to this”

Soneya got to her feet and gestured to him to come closer before turning slightly towards Joss who also got to her feet and brushed down a pair of three quarter length cargo pants. She wore a multicolored sleeveless top that showed off tanned arms – the product of spending hours out running. She had always been something of a fitness fanatic.

“Andy DeVries, I'd like you to meet Jocelyn Banister a very good friend of mine”

Andy stepped forward to take Denny's sister's hand and noticed a small tattoo of a humming bird on the inside of her left wrist.

That's a new one, Andy thought to himself.

“You can call me Joss” she greeted. “Though I'm sure you've already heard this a bunch of times I have to say I thought you were amazing yesterday. There's a real buzz for you out there already”

Andy blushed and scratched the grass nervously with his foot.

“Well there's a long way to go until Saturday and I'm not taking anything for granted right now...there are a lot of better performers here than me”

“ here to watch the heats this afternoon?” Soneya ventured hopefully to which Joss nudged her elbow with a discreet grin.

“Yeah. I thought I'd see if there was a patch of ground up near the front so I could get a good view of the performers...but somehow, I think I might be pushing my luck”

“You could join us...if you'd like” Soneya offered.

Andy gave the pretense of considering her offer even though inside he was nearly bursting. He nodded and smiled again.

“Thank you. That would be nice”

They made room on the rug and then sat down to watch the afternoon heats, during which they shared a conversation that seemed very natural and very easy to sustain. Joss gently maneuvered it by asking Andy questions about himself, encouraging him to talk a little about life in Chicago – how incredibly cold it was there right now in contrast to here in Melbourne. He talked about the Conservatory and Veldtman as well as working and playing at The Pub. During the concert heats Andy's concentration drifted towards the performances, studying them with a practiced eye, making mental notes of how each of candidates played their way through their pieces. Soneya found herself stealing discreet glances at him – watching his expressions, the way he made subtle movements of his head as he listened to the music as though he were moving with it. There was something so familiar about him and so attractive but she felt an troubling, distracting guilt at the feelings she was having. It felt wrong to be entertaining this attraction she felt. It was as though she were somehow cheating Denny, being unfaithful to him.

Andy could sense her attraction too but felt unsure of whether it was real or not. He noticed Soneya looking at him and every so often he did the same, their eyes meeting for just the briefest of moments before both of them bashfully looked away from one another. She was so beautiful, she hadn't changed at all. She was exactly as how he remembered her from his memories – Denny's memories.

During an interval Andy excused himself so he could go to the bathroom and once he was out of view, Joss nudged Soneya in the ribs.

“What do you think?” she interrogated Soneya eagerly. “He is definitely interested in you”

Soneya flashed Joss a disapproving glare but she couldn't maintain the facade. “Alright, alright – he is very cute. But I am not here to meet anyone Joss. I know that may have been in your plan but I just...don't need that kind of complication right now”

Joss shook her head at Soneya, fishing a bottle of wine out of their picnic basket and pouring them both a glass.

“Soneya...You are a beautiful woman but you are as stubborn as my grand mother. Denny wouldn't have wanted you to remain alone forever. He would want you to be happy. Why don't you allow yourself the chance for a little happiness. This guy is interested in you and you're sure as shit interested in him”

Soneya tilted her head slowly with a pained expression on her face.

“I...I can't”

Joss leveled a disapproving stare at her.
“You're stalling for an excuse Soneya. If you don't at least ask him out for a coffee – I will”

Soneya's shoulders slumped then in a gesture of defeat and she laughed wearily, sipping from her glass.

“You are relentless”

Joss nodded triumphantly and looked over Soneya's shoulder. Andy was coming back.

“Here he comes”

Both women smiled a little too broadly at Andy as he approached causing him to look about and check himself over.

“Do I have something on my face?”

“Not at all” Joss replied patting the rug and gesturing towards the basket. Would you like a glass of wine?”

Before he could respond she had poured him a glass and was handing it over.

Andy sensed that something was cooking between the two of them as they continued to watch the concert. Joss kept whispering in Soneya's ear - he could see her out of the corner of his eye.

She was probably trying to engineer something, Andy thought amused.

Joss was the perennial social butterfly had always been adept at playing match maker when there was even the slightest whiff of potential romance. Andy wanted to slap his – Denny's – younger sister on the arm the way he'd always remembered doing but had no trouble in restraining himself. In her presence, a whole new flood of memories sprang forth from Denny's consciousness and into Andy's – memories of his childhood, of growing up with Joss. They had been inseparable as children.

As the performances continued Andy explained what it was that he was keen to study about the performers. How they presented themselves on stage, how they played the pieces they had chosen. The performance wasn't merely an exercise in the technical mastery of the guitar or the music but it was also a performance of emotions. One needed to feel the the music, know it's history and it's meaning and apply those to the performance. Soneya listened to him intently, absorbed by his genuine love for the art of the guitar. She was moved by his enthusiasm for it, describing the stories behind the pieces themselves. It was clear that he had a deep knowledge of music – a passion for the guitar.

The concert finished towards late afternoon and the trio remained on the rug as the crowds of people began to disperse slowly but surely towards other parts of the Gardens while other remained, continuing their picnics and BBQ's with the clear intention of staying around long into the evening to take in an concert by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Joss looked at her watch and gestured wordlessly to Soneya that they had to think about heading off. Soneya's expression approximated something akin to disappointment, her brow furrowing at Denny's sister worriedly. Joss pointed towards Andy with her eyes and pursed her lips tightly as though she were saying 'ask him'.

Soneya felt her pulse reverberating in her ears, felt her breath quicken almost involuntarily as a rush of adrenaline surged through. She couldn't believe she what she was about to do.

Turning to Andy she smiled.

“We have to go,” she said, clearly disappointed. “We're meeting Joss' parents for dinner on the other side of the City and we're sort of running against the clock”

“Oh...okay” Andy replied. Inwardly his mind shouted – 'What are you doing?'

They stood up and Joss began packing up the picnic basket while Andy and Soneya stood to one side.

“Well – I've had a lovely time” Andy said warmly. “Thank you for inviting me to join you”

Soneya nodded, fidgeting with her hands and biting the inside of her lip. Clearly she had something more to say.

“Me too...,” she said, pausing clumsily.

She closed her eyes and took a quick breath.

“Umm...are you free at all...tomorrow? I thought maybe you'd like to – you know – have a cup of coffee. If you have time”

Andy felt dizzy with joy but he contained himself – barely.

“I would love to,” he said quietly, smiling broadly. “I don't have any commitments tomorrow as far as I know so...yeah...”

Joss watched the two of them gazing dumbly at one another and screwed her face up out of view of them both. It was all she could do to stop herself from giggling uncontrollably.

Andy checked his watch and looked up at Soneya.

“Shall we meet at my hotel at say, about 10? I'm staying at The Windsor”

Soneya nodded slowly, unable to pull her gaze away from his, unable to wipe the smile from her face. Andy stepped forward and took her hand gently.

“Thank you” he whispered hypnotically before nodding to Joss. “Nice meeting you too Joss”

“Likewise. I'll look forward to Saturday”

Andy turned away slowly without taking his eyes off Soneya and parted. As he crossed over a path and under a line of trees his smile broke into a broad grin and he felt a rush of endorphins course though him.

He could not believe his luck.

Copyright © 2009, Dean Mayes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dreams Of A Love Indestructible (Part Nineteen).

The day could not have been more lovely, nor could the venue. Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens with it's wide, open spaces, perfectly manicured lawns and long, meandering avenues lined with majestic English Elms seemed the perfect place for the sounds of beautiful, classical music.

Andy felt surprisingly calm as he and the others made their way into the Gardens from where the taxi had dropped them off on Wellington Parade. It was a beautiful summer's day, not too warm, a light breeze kept the temperature even in the Gardens as it wafted through the trees, rustling the leaves. Andy was glad he had dressed appropriately - a linen shirt and pants and comfortable leather shoes which he had purchased in the City the previous day. He actually felt pleased with his appearance. He looked smart yet relaxed - a world away from the attire he would have once chosen to wear. As he walked across the manicured grounds Andt felt a strange sort of deja vu about this place, a sense of familiarity that had him smiling inwardly. The old maxim "in another life" came to mind. He had been to these gardens - he remembered them. Denny and Soneya spent many times here walking and talking, holding hands, laying on the grass in each others arms, kissing. This had been one of their places.

The group from the Consevatory had spent the weekend acquainting themselves with their new surroundings, after dealing with the inevitable jet lag from 15 hours in the air. They settled into their accomodation at the hotel that was not too far from the Gardens. They had explored the city, dined out in cosmopolitan eateries that Andy knew well - in that other life. They had gotten to know one another better - something that there had been barely enough time for since they'd left Chicago. Among them was the shy and painfully quiet Alistair Stephens who was a couple of years younger than Andy. Andy regarded him as technically suprerior to him as a guitarist. However Stephens had revealed during the trip that he was prone to bouts of stage fright so severe that they were nearly paralyzing. As such he had fairly low expectations for this competition. Annaliese Ingram was a tall red head with characteristically tight curls and a more easy going nature. Annaliese had attended competitions like this before and had won a number of prestigious awards both in Japan and in London. She had been among the top performers in Andy's class and one of the first selected for the Chicago delegation. Then there was Michyko. Both Andy and Michyko were the two first timers of the group. Michyko was a sweet girl, wide eyed and enthusiastic. She had become a sort of team motivator for them all. Whenever one of them was feeling apprhensive or anxious about their upcoming performance she was there offering encouragment and reassurance. Regardless of the outcome, they were here in this wonderful country, representing their school in an event that was truly prestigious. That alone was a significant achievement for all of them.

Today Andy alone would be performing in his heat and they had all come to cheer him on and provide moral support. Andy noted there was a steady build up of people coming into the Gardens to see today's performances. He noted large groups of friends and families who had set themselves up on the lawns of the gardens near to a historic spanish inspired conservatory that housed spectacular floral displays. People spread out on picnic blankets, served food from large wicker baskets filled with pre-prepared lunches, bottles of wine and champagne. Children ran bare foot on grass playing chasey, playing cricket or throwing a ball back and forth near to a natural amphitheater, where seating had been arranged for the Orchestra.

Andy was more than a little star struck that the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra had been seconded to provide the accompaniment for several of the performers throughout the week. The orchestra was regarded as one of the finest in the world and just the thought that he might play with such an esteemed group – if he was lucky enough to make it through to the semi final round – made him feel giddy. Not even Denny had known that experience.

In this place of beauty and serenity, so far away from everything Andy had ever known, any residual apprehension he might have harbored fell away. He smiled at the familiarity he felt with these gardens. He took in the surroundings, the people gathering – visitors, family, friends and performers who were milling about already, chatting happily amongst themselves, sipping champagne and laughing. Andy marveled at how relaxed they seemed.

Michyko tapped Andy gently on the arm as his attention meandered on the audience around him so much so that he had begun drifting away from the group a little.

Andy blushed as he realized where his inattention had lead him. Michyko smiled warmly.

"You seem a little dazzled by all this" she observed cheerily.

"Yeah...I guess I am," he replied languidly. "Have you ever been in a more beautiful place?"

Michyko scanned around her and nodded in agreement.

"It is very pretty here. We're so lucky - don't you think?"

Andy regarded earnestly and smiled.

"Indeed" he answered simply. “I feel very fortunate”

“Are you nervous?” Michyko questioned him gently.

Andy nodded.

“Yeah...but not so much now. I feel surprisingly calm actually. I guess I've spent a lot of time mentally preparing myself. International flights seem great for that”

Michyko laughed at his little joke as the group made their way across to the registration marquee where today's performers were required to sign in and receive their performance schedule. Their was also a place there for them to leave their instruments until it was their turn to perform.

Andy was suddenly a little hesitant to leave his guitar there even though the area was guarded and secure. He slung his guitar bag off his shoulder and held it close until an attendant came over.

"Good morning. Shall I take that for you?" she asked cheerily.


"It will be safe here. We have plenty of eyes. Nothing will happen to it, I can assure you"

Andy reluctantly handed it over and watched as she placed it on a rack at the back of the marquee then returned with a ticket.

"Here you are. Now all you need to do is present that when you are ready and we'll have your guitar waiting for you"

Andy nodded silently then made his way over to the line of tables where the registration officers were handling the performers. Andy had already completed his paper work and took it from his pocket and handed it to a kindly man, who checked it over and ran a biro down a list before him.

"Andrew DeVries," he confirmed. "Here you are. You'll be required for the first group after the luncheon interval at one o'clock."

The man handed Andy a lanyard with a photo card of himself attached to it as well as a glossy folfer containing a booklet of the week's program. Andy took a moment to check the information on his identification then he examined the booklet.

Suddenly his eyes went wide.

There on the page was a description telling him that the concert series had been renamed as a memorial trophy - the Dennis Banister Memorial Trophy. Andy quickly opened the program he had been given and flicked through a couple of pages until his eyes fell across a photograph of a young man.

It was as though he were looking in a mirror.

The description beside Denny's photo read;

'This years emerging talent concert series has been named the Dennis Banister Memorial Trophy by Festival Director Jochen Zinski in honor of virtuoso guitarist Dennis Banister who lost his battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma early last year'.

Andy's heart thudded noisily in his head then and his palms became sweaty. The registration official looked up at Andy concerned seeing all of the color drain from Andy's face.

"Are you alright son? You look as though you've seen a ghost"

Andy shook his head and forced a smile. The irony wasn't lost on him.

"N...No, everything's fine" he answered, tripping over his words.

He continued to read the program as he stepped back from the registration table.

'In what is hoped will become a lasting tribute, the award will presented this year by Dennis' partner, Soneya Llewellyn'


His mouth went dry, he felt light headed and suddenly Andy felt as though the world was spinning out of control.

'Soneya's here!?' his mind shouted, reverberating throughout his brain. Instantly he began looking around him, scanning the gardens and the crowd looking for her – but of course he couldn't see her.

Other contestants were completing their own registrations for their own performances. Andy stepped back from the tent. Michyko noticed Andy standing alone and went over to him. She noticed his shocked expression.

"Andy...are you okay?" she asked, feeling worried for him all of a sudden. "You look sick"

Andy quickly regained his composure, wiping beads of sweat from his brow with his shirt sleeve.

"I...I'm okay. I just thought I saw...someone I knew"

Andy checked his watch whilst still scanning the crowd, more discreetly this time. It was still only early so he had several hours to go before his own performance. They had the opportunity to mingle, watch the mornings concert heats or relax in the open air dining pavilion beyond the amphitheater where other entrants were relaxing. All the while his mind was asking 'Is she here, is she here?'

"You're not suddenly nervous again are you?" Michyko asked Andy as they headed across to the pavilion.

"A little I guess," he answered quietly, not quite truthfully. "I've chosen to go with an arrangement that isn't very well known so I hope I don't balls it up completely"

Michyko laughed sweetly.

"You love living on the edge aren't you" she remarked. "But I guess for someone of your talent, I guess that's where you flourish best huh?"

Andy regarded her with a lop sided smile, finally feeling himself beginning to relax.

"You seem to know me better than I do. What have you gone for?"

Michyko gulped a little and showed him a piece of sheet music she held.

"I've been practicing Paganini's Caprice in A Minor, the finale. It's been my obsession ever since I began playing the guitar. I've been practising it ever since I applied for the competition"

"That's a beautiful piece," Andy mused. "I'm sure you'll do well. You're bound to be better practiced than I am"

“Gosh I doubt that” Michyko laughed as they entered the Pavillion.

The Pavillion had been set up a little way beyond the conservatory in a fenced off area. There were tables and chairs, an open air bar and a dining area that provided catering to the performers, delegates and invited guests of the Festival. The group entered, ordered morning tea and seated themselves at a table. Andy regarded the program on the table, kept picking it up and studying it nervously. He kept looking around, searching their surroundings for her until their coffee's arrived. The others seemed to take it as a sign of his nervousness about performing rather than anything else and thankfully didn't question him about it. Finally the coffee's arrived and he finally diverted his attention away from the program and the group chatted for a while before the concert began. When the morning concert session began they wandered across to the lawns in front of the Conservatory to watch the performances. Right away, Andy knew the competition was going to be fierce.

Not far from the Pavillion another taxi pulled up against the curb. The doors opened and Soneya stepped out along with Denny's sister Joss. Soneya quickly paid the fare and the two women stepped forward surveying the Garden's and the growing crowds of people there.

Soneya put on a large sun hat and her sunglasses and looked over at Joss raising her eyebrow.

"You know, I haven't been among this many people in months," she commented.

Joss smiled breezily, brushed down her dress and took off her sandles as they crossed over the lawns towards the Festival's epicenter.

"Well today's the day that you're going to enjoy yourself - just for you. Okay?"

Joss took Soneya's hand and together they headed towards the stage area.

* * *

Andy collected his guitar from the tent and spent a little time adjusting the strings, tuning the guitar until he achieved what he felt was the best sound. He had done a good job in repair the guitar and despite the bullet hole it appeared almost brand new. Michyko kept him company as he walked across the lawn to just behind the stage area. He was glad for for her presence even though her enthusiasm was a little too much right now. He introduced himself to an official there who checked him off and wished him good luck. He felt the rush of adrenaline, his nerves sang like electric wires. This was it. All those long months of struggle, both with himself and with his gift had boiled down to this. He was never more focused as he was now.

Michyko squeezed his hand and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“Good luck Andy” she said sincerely. “You'll be wonderful. You have come so far”

Andy smiled at Michyko and nodded, impressed by her observation.

“Thank you” he said quietly.

Stepping up onto the stage, Andy seated himself on the stool there and adjusted the microphone in front of him. He scanned the audience in front of who had turned their attention firmly to him waiting in anticipation - so different were they to the crowds that crammed into The Pub to hear him play. He looked for her in the crowd but could not see her.

Was she there?

He closed his eyes as he picked up the guitar hoping to feel her presence but he sensed nothing.

As birds chirped the tress and the breeze picked up ever do slightly, Andy began his preparatory breathing exercise waiting for the MC to finish his introduction of Andy to the audience. Andy's fingers hovered near the strings readying themselves to play, waiting for his cue.

The audience clapped politely – they sounded so distant in his ears. He began his piece "The Sounds Of Rain". Touching his fingers to the strings he sought that perfect first chord, found it efortlessly and launched himself - at first with a concentration so intense - for he was wary of faltering on the introductory refrain. Then he relaxed into it eliciting a sound from the weathered guitar that was all at once crisp and full and soulful, capturing vivid imagery of rainfall that rippled through the audience and caused them to sit up and take notice immediately. Before he was even fully into it, every head had turned towards him. Andy disappeared into the music moving with it, feeling completely in concert with Denny as the piece flowed from their collective memory and into his fingers translating it with effortless beauty and poise. Not once did he need to open his eyes - every sense was alive in lieu of his need to watch over his technique and his playing was flawless.

And in the audience, far from the stage, Soneya watched utterly hypnotized by the stranger who played before them. Her heart jumped as he began his performance. She knew the piece right away. It had been Denny's favorite - a piece which he'd told her was the first he'd ever learned when he had began playing the guitar as a boy. He had played it for her often, especially when they used to escape from the city to the beach house and spend long weekends there when it was raining - relaxing, holding one another, making love...

And everything about the stranger up on the stage now - from the way he held the guitar, the way he moved with the music to the exquisite sound he produced - touched off memories within her so intense that she was paralyzed before him. Their was something eerily familiar about his performance – something that she dared not allow herself to consider. Looking over at Soneya, Joss – who was as equally stunned - remained clear headed enough to notice than Soneya was utterly transfixed. Not even a gentle hand upon her shoulder could budge her attention from the performance.

As he progressed towards the final flourishes of flamenco Andy infused a gentle emotional intensity into his performance allowing it to lift both him and his audience towards the slowing conclusion of the piece where he trailed it softly away, his fingers softened their touch upon the strings until the music ended.

The audience was on their feet clapping and cheering and whistling enthusiastically as Andy relaxed back on his seat and opened his eyes lowering the guitar with a smile. A rush of endorphins surged through him and he knew he had achieved something very special. He nodded respectfully to the audience, kissed his guitar and threw a beaming glance down to Michyko, Annaliese and Alistair who clapped proudly. Then, finally he stood, bowed and stepped down onto the lawn where he was embraced by the others.

"Oh my god that was brilliant Andy!" Michyko squeaked as they moved away towards the tent where he had stored his guitar earlier.

"You definitely aced that," added Annaliese admiringly.

Andy breathed out through his cheeks and shivered.

"I think I need a beer" he said shakily.

* * *

The performers, delegates, officials and invited guests gathered in the pavillion at the end of the day to mingle, to dine and to enjoy a celebratory drink after what had been a hectic but successful day. In the warm and pleasant dusk of the Melbourne evening, where a beautiful sunset graced the city skyline Andy felt a little overwhelmed at the attention he was receiving. So many people had offered their congratulations on his performance and wished him well for the semi final. He had won convincingly – having been announced the second finalist for the day. He hadn't yet grasped the full realization that he was through. It was all too surreal. He had held a lovely, if a little surreal, conversation with Jochen Zinski who made a point of meeting both him and the other finalist from the day – a young french woman who had performed a interpretation of Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith by Mauro Giuliani. He'd felt that familiar twinge of deja vu in the presence of Denny's former mentor – amazed at how potent his memories were of his old life and friendship with the renowned artist. They talked easily and Zinski had been impressed by Andy's polite and gentle way.

Soneya and Joss were there too in another part of the pavillion mingling with some of Zinski's colleagues as they enjoyed horderves and champagne. Soneya was feeling considerably more relaxed now, possibly more as a result of the champagne than anything else but at least she felt as though she could enjoy herself. She discreetly scanned the crowd looking for the stranger who had made such an impression on everyone earlier in the afternoon. She had a name for him now – Andy DeVries – a Chicagoan apparently for whom this was his first appearance at any sort of festival of note. Though she hadn't sought him out overtly, so far this evening she hadn't seen him.

Her emotions were a mixture. She had been so moved by his performance – by everything about it and she was afraid to admit that she was intrigued by him. And with those feelings came potent pangs of guilt – a sense of betrayal to Denny. That she should even allow herself to be intrigued by any man so soon after...

...Soneya desperately tried to push those feelings deep down as she clutched her champagne flute tighter in her hand and smiled pleasantly at Zinski's secretary Grace whom had spear-headed the arrangements for Soneya to attend the Festival.

“Isn't this a lovely evening dear?” Grace commented in an awkward tone noticing that Soneya seemed a little uneasy. “Have you enjoyed the Festival so far?”

Soneya caught herself, flushed with embarrassment for having forgotten herself and smiled warmly at Grace.

“I have...very much, thank you” she replied. “ It's been a while since I've been amongst so many people in the one place”

Grace nodded touched her glass to Soneya's.

“I totally understand. I'm not given to large gatherings either, however Jochen insisted that the troops put in an appearance at least once or twice during the week to keep the sponsors happy”.

They shared a light laugh together and shared a surveying gaze across the open air pavillion.

“Jochen was so glad that you decided to come. Denny was a wonderful student”.

Soneya blinked at her. She nodded gracefully, looking down at the grass beneath her feet.

Grace offered a sad smile.

“I'm sorry. I...I didn't mean to...”

“No, no – it's fine really” Soneya said reassuringly. “It's nice to hear so many wonderful comments about him. I'm really rather flattered by all the attention”.

However the conversation seemed to stall then and Grace excused herself which didn't escape the notice of Joss who sidled upto Soneya soon there after.

“Are you okay” she queried.

Soneya shook her head dismissing it out of hand.

“Yes. It's okay. It's funny how – even now people want to treat you with kid gloves. I don'y mind so much”.

“Do you want to get out of here? I don't think they'll notice if we slip away quietly”

Soneya considered her near empty champagne glass and quiclky polished off the remainder. She then cast her eyes around the pavillion as though she were searching...

“You're intrigued by him aren't you?” Joss smiled knowingly. Soneya flinched and glared at her realizing that Joss had been watching her.

“No. God no,” Soneya retorted a little weakily. Her eyes darted all around their environs, everywhere but at Joss.

“Soneya” Joss said almost chidingly, squeezing her hand gently. “It's alright you
you know"

Soneya gasped softly and pulled her hand away, recoiling at Joss's apparent insight.

No it's not Joss. Don't say that”

Joss gazed at Soneya with empathy and warmth.

“Soneya...You can't hide yourself away forever you know. Put yourself out there – I mean it. I'm Denny's sister and I am ordering you to at least – have a look!”

She put an arm around Soneya and squeezed her close.

“Besides – I thought he was kinda cute”

Soneya glared sarcastically at Joss then handed her glass over.

“Can you just get me another drink please?”

Joss laughed and sought out a nearby waiter and procured two glasses of champagne while Soneya surveyed the gathering in the pavillion. In the near distance her eyes fell across him – the stranger – standing with a group of performers chatting.

Andy looked sideways just as he lifted his beer to his lips and saw her there across the crowd standing alone. In that instant Andy's heart felt as though it had leapt into his throat before it settled back again and time seemed to slow to a crawl. He froze, holding the bottle , unable to move. The dormant emotions that, until now, he had only felt as echoes of Denny's became his own and as they rose to the surface Andy felt overwhelmed by them. He wanted to run to her, hold her in his arms. The length of time since he had been taken from her suddenly became very tangible – how long had it been? Only Andy's conscience held him back and prevented him from doing something rash. He then wanted to run, to hide, to look away but he couldn't. He was utterly transfixed.

But then Andy realized that she hadn't looked away either. Soneya was as equally frozen where she stood. In that moment there seemed to be a sense of recognition from her. Had she recognized him?

Did she know it was Denny?

As Joss handed Soneya a new glass of champagne and she took it, she tilted her head and smiled awkwardly. Soneya raised her glass slightly towards him and mouthed 'congratulations'.

Then she made her way through the crowd towards him.

Andy felt his mind swirl.

'She's coming'