A Sunset Finish by Melinda Moore
paranormal romance novella
Release Date: 06/13/2013
Stephanie Minagawa travels to Albuquerque as a last resort for her music career, only to have her violin split apart in the arid air. When she takes it to a repair shop on the pueblo, she enters a world of spirits and yearning. Her body is taken over by the ghost of the craftsman’s dead wife, and she must decide between the quiet death she’s longed for, or claiming a new life of music and love.
The desert sun blazed as if it wanted to leech the moisture out of every yucca, cactus, and adobe brick to create a sand painting for its living room. Standing before the pueblo-style instrument repair shop, Stephanie considered offering herself to the sun as part of the picture. The arid air had already rendered her violin mute at her first rehearsal with the New Mexico Symphony, and becoming a sand painting would be a more artistic end than the bottle of sleeping pills back at her apartment–or slicing her wrist open. She looked down at the bandage that covered the half-finished yin-yang she had pricked into her skin last night in her despair.
The door to the shop opened from the inside, and a ray of sunset-hued light shot out accompanied by the strains of an unusual quartet of instruments: a violin, drum, flute, and guitar.
An older Hispanic woman stepped out of the shop, patting her eyes with a handkerchief. “Stephanie! I’m so glad you brought your violin here. “It was Marie, her stand partner who had recommended the shop, though Stephanie didn’t notice until the door closed on the strange lights and sound.
“What was that?” she asked.
Marie put her handkerchief in a large, black purse that matched her shoes and pantsuit. “What was what?”
“The pink lights and music. Are they doing a show in there?” Stephanie walked past Marie, whose jaw dropped.
“You hear them?” she whispered.
Stephanie pulled open the door and blinked against the glare. As her eyes adjusted she saw, several yards in, a violin, guitar, Native American drum, and Native American flute on top of a glass case, glowing and playing music of their own accord. A bittersweet melody in a minor key slipped into her ears and filled her vision as if the song painted the sunset. As the notes flowed, parts of the color darkened into orange shapes of people dancing. The silhouettes popped into relief; feathers in their hair swung up and down with their heads, and pine needles flapped in time around their arms. Gourds rattled and a distant-sounding chorus chanted.
“What do you see?” whispered Marie in Stephanie’s ear.
Behind the glowing instruments stood a woman who looked real and a woman consisting of coral smoke–beautiful like a Monet painting. The smoky woman expanded as if surprised when Stephanie looked at her, and then she beckoned to Stephanie, holding her hands above the violin like she wished Stephanie to take it.
“Stephanie,” said Marie in a louder voice, “do you see something?”
“She wants me to play it.”
“That ghostly woman wants me to play the violin.” The part of Stephanie’s brain that would question everything happening was blocked. The milieu before her was an invitation to a world of melancholy and beauty, and the glowing violin was her ticket. It never occurred to her to ask the price. The real woman behind the counter looked startled, but grabbed the violin and held it out to Stephanie.
Stephanie took a step forward, but Marie put a hand on her arm. “I don’t think you should,” she said and then in a louder voice said, “Leticia, put them away!”
The sunset woman smiled and motioned to Stephanie again. She urged Leticia to hold the violin out further. Stephanie inched forward, suddenly hesitant to accept what must be a divine gift from a divine person. The sunset woman nodded and motioned faster. Stephanie pulled her arm away from Marie and marched towards the violin. Marie yelled out, “Leticia, what are you doing? Ray! Ray!”
The sunset woman glowered at Marie and changed into formless vapors that disappeared into the f holes of the violin. New voices were yelling now, sounding dissonant to the music, but Stephanie ignored them. As she reached out to take the violin still being proffered by Leticia, the chanting crescendoed, and she heard a calling as if from another world. There was something familiar or comforting about it. Before she could peg the emotion or touch the violin, a hand encircled her wrist. Through the orange glow, she saw Marie and a man gather up the instruments, along with a protesting Leticia, and carry them away to another room. When they shut the door, the melody and glow ceased; the dancers vanished.
The store sound system played Native American flutes in a new age pagan style. Fluorescent lights flooded her vision, and an air conditioner cooled her while blowing the scents of rosin and varnish up her nose.
“Are you here to buy an instrument, or do you need yours fixed?” asked the man who still held her wrist. She didn’t understand the question and stood with her mouth hanging open. His hair was as black as her own but much longer and hung in a single plait down his back. He wore an Iron Maiden t-shirt covered in sawdust with a ghoul leering at her. Nothing about him made sense, but he sighed and repeated the question, as if he knew he didn’t make sense.
Stephanie jerked her hand away. “Where’d they go?”