Drabble: A table set for two
Twenty years after, they come back for a night of stars. Future!Finn, with family and friends, accompaniment to send me away with the words of a love song. Healing after the hurt. So, music makes me write better..
That’s where I have to go
To see your beautiful
Face anymore I stare at a picture of you
The restaurant is loud and energetic, the music and laughter of the people inside infectious. Everywhere there are groups and couples sitting down eating, chatting or just hanging out. There’s a raised stage for a band and a piano in the corner.
This is where he sits, his pale fingers barely touching the keys; still, beautiful music floats from the hidden speakers scattered around the room.
She sits beside him, adjusting her skirt and brushing her fingers over his knuckles and his amber eyes turn to meet her twinkling chocolate-coloured eyes, matching grins on their faces. Slender fingers on creamy olive hands poise over the keys and she tilts her head at him. And as if on cue, the music from the speakers cut out, he winks at her and their fingers move simultaneously over the ebony and ivory keys.
The melody is beautiful and haunting as the crescendo builds and just as they come down, as the beat slows, her voice echoes around the room, their fingers changing to match the music of the new song she sings. Her voice isn’t as powerful as hers but it’s beautiful nonetheless and he gives in, as usual, and finishes the song with her, feeling the familiar swell in his heart.
Finn kisses his daughter on the cheek, pulls her up and they bow to their dinner audience and she gives a beauty queen wave with a kilowatt smile and he has to laugh at her because it’s exactly something Rachel would’ve done.
He looks around the room as he walks away from the piano, Evie going back to the office and he greets his parents and Rachel’s fathers, excusing himself when one of the chefs pokes his head out and whistles at him.
He sits at a dark corner in the restaurant, a perfect view of who is coming and going.
His table is set for two, a vase with two blue orchids in water sitting beside a bottle of pomegranate juice chilling on ice. He watches the crowd as they all filter in, excited for the night that only comes once a year; there is a buzz in the air and soon there’s not much sitting or standing room inside, the crowd spilling out to the tables and benches outside. But people are enjoying good food and pretty soon good music. That’s what counts.
His eyes roam over the pictures along the wall, pausing at one of a beautiful brunette, a mic in her hands mid-song. She’s tiny, compared to the group of people standing behind her, but if you were there then, right there when the picture was taken you’d see that she was larger than everyone else in the room, a voice and too big for her body. His gaze continues along the wall: playbills, record covers, snapshots and pictures of places and people decorating the wall, he thinks he needs to thank the interior designer again. The place looks magnificent. After more than 15 years in business, he’s not really surprised they managed to stay open that long.
Star Berry’s showcases talent from everywhere, and a lot of people who pass through these doors are all stars in their own right; artists, poets, guitarists, pianists, Broadway actors, record artists, almost anyone who’s performed here, leaving something behind can honestly say their experience here was magical.
Just like she was.
His fingers are idly playing with the golden bands on the chain around his neck when the svelte brunette goes up to the mic and the room automatically goes quiet.
Evie Hudson will never get used to the reaction people show when she mentions her mother; she never knew the woman, but she’s heard the stories about her- good and bad! and she’s seen the videos since her grandfathers catalogued every year of her mother’s life, a lucky habit that she herself picked up growing up in high school and her short travels and what Evie herself continues.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I really hope you’re all enjoying the food and looking forward to a night filled with stars – from people who still sing in front of their mirrors, in their bathroom, in glee club, in a record studio, in a dentist’s office, at an architect firm or on Broadway itself. As long as you’re in love with good music, you’re in the right place. I do hope you enjoy yourselves.”
She flashes a smile and hands the mic over to a dark-skinned woman with a voice like thunder and a smile like sunshine. Mercedes Evans grins at the crowd, belying the fact that she was a platinum-level multi-award winning singer. To those who know her, the real her, she’s just a girl from Lima, Ohio with dreams as big as the moon who followed her best friend’s advice to never stop believing. She’s not halfway through her first song when the crowd is on their feet. See? Music, good music, was infectious.
One by one her mother’s friends perform. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, fashion and interior designer, architect, nurse – remarkable people from all over the country with a talent some would sell their soul to the devil for.
More people perform after they do, spoken word artists, poets and some pretty good singers and she sits beside her father and smiles at the crowd, because she knows her mother would have loved this. Music represented in all forms.
Before the night ends though, she sings the song her father says made him fall in love with her mother and she does the best she can, proud of herself when the crowd is in an uproar and her father’s wolf-whistle is the loudest of all.
She hands the mic back over to the band, and greets the people who came out to celebrate a night of music with them before collapsing in the chair beside her father, eyes wide and happy, just like her mother’s.
His daughter is radiant, her smile dazzling as she watches the room from beside him, happy in another wonderful night. He eyes the clock, watching it tick down to 10:13pm.
“Happy Birthday Rach.” He murmurs silently. He touches his glass to his lips, slipping the rings onto his ring finger for a brief moment. Around the room, eighteen people mimic his movement, touching their glasses to their lips, closing their eyes in a minute of silence.
Later when they’re all mingling around a large table in the back eating cake, they’ll joke and tell stories about growing up, catching up and sharing pictures of their new lives. He’ll smile at his friends and watch the wonder and awe flickering over his daughter’s face. She’ll come over and sit beside him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“You OK, Daddy?”
He’ll nod, kiss the top of her head and laugh at whatever joke Puck throws out this time. He’ll look around the room at the people he grew up with, who helped him walk back from the darkness and embrace the life she wanted him to have. He’ll cherish this night, file it away with the others because it gets more special every year.
He promised her he’d never forget her, and he’d make sure the world never forgets her either. And his world is sitting beside him and all around him in this room. They’re the people who come here every day and especially on this night every year. They’re the kids in his daughter’s dance class and in Puck’s music room and the people who buy Mercedes’ album and buys the clothes Kurt designs.
Because she was too big for this world and even though she’s not here, sitting beside him, he sees her every time he looks at his daughter, at his parents, at her parents and at their friends and he already knows she’s burrowed herself too deep in his heart for him to ever let her go.
So he’ll miss her, and he’ll never get over her, but he’s happy. Happy he got to know her, got to love her and she loved him return.
If you asked him how he was doing, he’d smile, his eyes crinkling merrily, grey dusting the hair at his temples, freckles spread over his nose, scruffy jaw and world weary eyes. He’d say he was doing just fine, sitting at his table set for two and the picture of his wife hanging on the wall behind him. The star who sang at the top of her voice and braved the world on borrowed time.
Because Rachel Berry was a star that no one would ever forget.