Chopin stared dead-eyed at the piano in front of him. It didn’t sing to him. It didn’t say anything to him. It didn’t speak to him. It just stared ominously back at him, the grey, rainy day filtering through the windows only adding to the austereness of the picture.
He was ugly in the face of music. The piano was shunning him, throwing him to the wind. What did he have to write for? He certainly had no love, no ambition, now that he was out of his home country forever. He could have fought for Poland’s rights, but he instead enjoyed luxurious days of playing in gallant parlors. His friends and family were perishing back home, and he didn’t know about it. What pained him the most was, he wasn’t even curious at the time to find out.
Chopin lived alone in a small, yet richly decorated flat located on the outskirts of Paris, consisting of a kitchen, a bath, two bedrooms, and a parlour, within which he kept his piano.
Even the most minor of minor keys didn’t depict how lonely Chopin was in the face of little word from his family back in a tumultuous Poland. His thoughts drifted to George Sand, exactly where he didn't want them to go. George had told him abruptly a few weeks earlier in a shorthand letter that she would be going out of town with a man named Louis Blanc for a non-discript period of time and promised she would write to him often. How could a man be stupid enough to even have thought about Sand in any moderately romantic way? In a surge of sudden anger - about Poland, about women - Chopin beat his fist down on the piano causing a horrid chord to ring out from it. He let it linger sourly.
Does love make one so blind to the signals of others? Sand was an intelligent, sensitive artist like himself and he thought in the past few months they were making progress towards, well something and now, and now... In the five short months he had known the woman, Chopin became closer to her than he had anyone else since he had moved to Paris. And he felt horribly betrayed by the fact that his friend had just left him here to rot alone indefinitely during such difficult times. Delayed pain shot up Chopin’s arm. He was so numb he couldn’t even feel it.
He sat like this, bitter and unwavering, watching the rain fall from the sky and the light begin to fade into twilight. One can dwell in a circular pattern of self-loathing for hours, time quickly escaping through the lense of a distracted mind. He was not sure what time it was when someone knocked on the door, unexpectedly. He laughed to himself, followed by a cough. What if it's George? he thought. Now that would be a riot, for sure. He chastised the hope he felt creeping up within his bosom.
"Who is it?" he shouted, followed by more coughing.
"Frederic?" a female voice shouted back.
Chopin was startled. It couldn't be. "George?"
"Will you let me in? It's pouring out here!"
Chopin, without even thinking, raced toward the door and flung it open. Of course, there was George, in a rather wet wool suit, water dripping from her hair, which had come untangled from what was once a bun. "Do you mind?" she asked sweetly, in her rich contralto. He could not tell whether or not he was happy to see her, all that he knew was there she stood.
"What happened to Louis Blanc?" asked Chopin snidely, unable to help himself.
"Plans change," she mused. "Especially when those plans include socialists."
"Why did you come here, George?" Chopin questioned thinly. Even though he had wanted to see her more than he wanted to admit, he couldn't help but feel exasperated with this woman who was intent on tormenting a delicate soul like himself.
"I was wrong to have left so suddenly," she said, stepping inside. "One can admit such things."
"Why admit them to me? Out of the blue on a rainy Sunday?"
"Because you are my friend, Frederic, and I have wronged you. If you want me to leave, I'll leave, but as long as I'm here, do you mind if I smoke?" Sand did not wait for his answer and lit up a cigar, a habit of hers which Chopin loathed. Cigar in mouth, she took off her overcoat and hung it on Chopin's rickety coat rack.
"We're friends," he mumbled. "Do you want some tea, since you insist on staying?"
"Yes, that would be lovely. Thank you." The two ventured into the apartment kitchen where Chopin began filling a kettle with water. He lit the stove, and motioned for Sand to join him at the small table in the corner.
"Can I take off my shoes? They're full of water."
"If you must."
Sand untied the laces to her oxfords and unceremoniously dumped water onto Chopin's floor, a mess he frankly was too apathetic to care about. She wiped it with a handkerchief drawn from her front pocket and peered up at the pianist from the ground with an unflinching, crystalline stare.
"I can clean up my own messes just fine, Frederic."
Chopin blushed, even though he wasn't sure what particular innuendo she was making only that he was sure she was making one.
"I'll ask again, George. Why are you here?"
"To see my friend, Frederic Chopin."
"For what purpose?" She was beginning to irritate him.
"I suppose to say hello is all. It has been a few weeks hasn't it?"
"Are you capable with answering any of my questions with at least a modicum of sincerity?" Chopin's voice came out harsh and pithy. Sand looked taken aback, and the pianist immediately regretted his tone.
"I'm sorry, Frederic. I-"
"What happened to Blanc?" he tried his best to smooth out his voice which was intent on betraying him.
"We had an argument. I won't go into details. It was political."
"About what, exactly, constituted a utopia - look, Frederic, I really did not come here to talk about Louis."
"Are you going to finally answer why you're here?"
"I came to talk to you. I wanted to see you. I -"
"Missed me? Aren't I a bit of a soft touch for your taste?"
"I -" Sand was interrupted by the kettle whistling. Chopin rose from his seat and poured hot water into two awaiting cups.
"How is your family, Frederic? In Poland? In understand there's some conflict." Sand put out the unfinished cigar in a nearby empty glass, much to Chopin's annoyance.
"I haven't heard word yet. I do not wish to discuss this."
"Frederic, I'm sorry."
Chopin handed Sand a cup of tea, and their eyes locked into a long, searching stare. He marveled at how pale hers were, and how delicate her features seemed despite her tough facade. What kind of woman was this?
"You're trouble, George. I'm a sickly man. I don't have the stamina for these kinds of interrogations." As if on cue, Chopin began to cough heavily.
George became unable to hold herself back at this moment. She lowered herself to the floor, kneeling beside Frederic, placing a hand on his knee.
"Fine, Frederic. Do you want to know why I came to see you? I might as well tell you because I'm just about as sick of this tete-a-tete as you are. I came because I couldn't stand it. I came because I couldn't stop thinking about you. The whole time I was with Louis, all I could see was your face in my mind's eye. I am captivated by you. I want to be with you, I want to take care of you. I want to lay underneath the piano and feel the vibration of your music through the floor. I find you to be so fascinating, so endearing - if you would just let me in, I -"
"George," Chopin interruped in a choked, pleading voice. "Don't do this to me. Don't, don't, you'll put me in an early grave."
Sand watched him from the floor, her eyes wide, her lips parted. "Frederic."
"I didn't want you to go with Louis, but you were already gone before I had the time to protest. These past few months, you've been coming by, spending your days here, inviting me to parties, teasing me as if I were a schoolboy and not a man, sickly though he may be, with dignity. And then you leave. To be quite honest, George, I haven't had much time to think about you, between commissions and the uprising in Poland and my own health, but when I did think about you I would feel my stomach sink to the floor, as if I'd been slighted, as if there were anything substantial to feel slighted about."
George was hurt, but she tried not to let it show. She eased off of her knees and lay her body against Chopin's leg and cast her eyes to the floor. After a considerable silence, she spoke.
"I didn't mean to hurt you. I left with Louis because I thought you didn't want me, and I couldn't stand not being wanted."
Chopin put his head in his hands and ran his fingers through his curls. His heart was pounding in his ribcage. So she admits it. What could he say to that? "George -" he began, but just as suddenly, she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down to her, staring at him intently through half-lowered eyelashes.
"Don't speak," she whispered, and then she kissed him. Unable to fight either his feelings or the embrace, he virtually collapsed into the kiss, her fingers entangling in his dark tresses. After some time they pulled apart, mutually stunned, as one is after a moment of catharsis. George spoke first.
"The tea is getting cold."