In the fourth chapter of The Bird that Sang in Color, Vincent tells Donna and Frank that the harp is the only instrument he still needs to learn. He reiterates this aspiration again in Chapter Eight. By Chapter Nine, he’s learned this instrument. The scene below is from this chapter during Donna’s last visit with her brother. By this time her visits with him had become a sort of refuge from her tumultuous marriage. When she sees the picture of him playing the harp, she considers how fitting it is that this was the last instrument he learned in his life considering that it is the most divine instrument she knows of. Enjoy the following scene.
“Hey, Vincent,” I said, hugging him. I followed him upstairs to his apartment, which looked almost exactly the same as when he lived there previously. There was, however, more of everything: books, crystals, and instruments, the most notable being a beautiful harp. I barely sat down when he said, “I’ve been practicing,” and sat on the chair behind the harp and started playing.
His playing was nearly flawless, and I was floating in peace and harmony as I closed my eyes and melted into the music, and when I opened them, I looked out his window to see the rest of the world and remembered that beyond this room and the outside of this apartment, beyond the singing birds and the leaf-filled trees, Frank lived. My upper stomach soured like I drank a gallon of vinegar, and my head felt dizzy with angst. So, I closed my eyes again, and the feeling dissipated, and I was being lulled by angels in a timeless place without any knowledge or concern about the drama and chaos that lived outside of the window. After playing for what felt like too short of a time, Vincent stopped and said he was going to put a pot of water on for tea.
“Play another song,” I said loudly, so he could hear me from the kitchen. He poked his head in, smiling with eyes glinting into the sun that poured in the room and said that he would as soon as he got a couple cups of tea together. I told him to just put milk in mine, and he said he already knew that. He brought in two cups of tea and sat down to play the harp some more. He said he only knew a couple songs, so I’d have to hear the same ones again. I said I didn’t care if he only played the same song over and over.
I was listening with my eyes closed and feeling relaxed, but then I heard Frank’s raging screams going on about something, too abrasive and stirring to be drowned out by the lovely music. He kept breaking through to my sanctuary. That bastard! So, I opened my eyes and focused on Vincent playing the harp as if I was a student trying to learn to play. I studied his fingers as they moved so delicately from string to string, and then I glanced up at his light-filled face, and the feeling of ease returned.
This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family Trilogy. Each one of these family trilogy books is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.
Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family Trilogy books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.