Tamsin knew where heaven was. Her Grandpa took her there the second he picked up his golden saxophone and played those first syrupy notes. The magic contraption with complicated buttons sparkled like glistening treasure and made melodies sweeter than milk and honey.
She’d lay tummy down on the floor, butterfly hands cupping her dimpled chin, gazing adoringly at the show he put on for her, strutting up and down the room striking the intense crooked poses she’d seen on record sleeves. He’d grin through ballooned cheeks and lean back like a diva to project the high notes and make her giggle. It was like witnessing a spectacle, something beautiful being created that was unique to that perfect but fleeting moment. Every moment was caramel.
She learnt to feel the music, noticing how the notes related to each other and what a difference it made it they were played with love. Her dancing fingers found rhythm in their patter and her feet swung in time like chubby little metronomes.
At night she was sometimes woken by the wonky chorus of instruments tuning up and getting ready to play. Over the distant hum of chatting and laughter downstairs, she could hear the stretching and yawning of brass and string.
She’d quietly slide out of bed and tip-toe down the stairs, carefully hopping over the creaky step. Sweet, wispy smoke tickled her button nose as she peeked through the gap in the front room door.
The musicians faces turned to her Grandpa, and as though he had spoken, their instruments suddenly came alive. Her imagination ran wild with the stories told by each melody, each instrument telling a different part. They conversed without words, lifelong friendships forged from meeting at the perfect harmony.
The makeshift audience of wives and close friends were transported by familiar songs back to the days of youth and freedom. Red wine was sipped through lipstick smiles and cigarettes suspended from dainty fingers.
Although mesmerised by the the band’s unity, it was him she loved watching the most. She craned her neck to witness him fully each dreamy note inviting her closer. He was mid solo, gently puffing his cheeks with the face of an angel. Eyes closed, completely relaxed.
He’d had the same peaceful expression years later when she visited him in the chapel of rest. He’d taken her to heaven many times and now he was there to stay. She kissed his cold, clammy forehead and said ‘Sweet dreams Pumpkin Pie’ just like he used to say to her, all those years ago.
The house seemed so empty without his music. Records weren’t the same, even with eyes closed and memories as vivid as yesterday. Her grief was consoled by love, but life had a piece missing.
She read the note again, welling up at the sight of his spidery handwriting which could have been written yesterday.
Wish I could be there to hear you play.
All my love,