MONDAY: If This Be Love


Copyright is held by the author.

AT FIRST, I assumed he wrote the piece, If This be Love, a new composition for solo cello, as a gift for me. I stood next to the ridiculous six-foot floral arrangement I’d purchased, proud of him, proud of myself — as if I’d done anything more remarkable than marry him — as he announced that his old classmate, now international soloist, Johannes Bremner, would be premiering it the following month with the Toronto Symphony. Then, grinning like a fool, I applauded my encouragement as he was induced, out of a charming reluctance, to perform an impromptu, unofficial premier for our guests. In one practiced movement, he seized his cello from its stand and wrapped himself around it. Then, without preamble, he circled his bow and sank it deep into the strings. The new piece was muscular, fluid, aching. His most passionate work to date.

To see him clearly, I had to lean around the billowing peonies and ivy that spilled out of the arrangement. The angle brought our dear friend Cecelia, especially lovely that night in shimmering gold, into my line of sight: her face, as she listened, alongside his face, as he played. She stiffened as he began, as if — and the thought surprised me — as if she’d recognized the theme.

Afterwards, we stood together amidst the laughter and celebration, and I watched as she congratulated him. Instead of her usual carefree embrace, she was restrained, reaching out a slim hand as if holding her breath. And instead of flinging his usual bear hug — sweaty and elated — around her, he took the proffered hand, politely, even carefully.

Our guests’ congratulations, as much to me as to him, continued in an overflowing rush, and I accepted them, smiling automatically, while I tried to shake off the questions that came into my mind, as sudden and unwelcome as a home invasion. Why this difference? Had she heard his piece already? Had he played it for her? Sung it to her? Had he hummed it as he kissed her palms, the insides of her wrists? Groaned it into her ear as he held her, pressing his fingers down her back?

Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself, pushing the questions and the images away. Everything was fine between us. Better than fine.

He wrote the piece for me.


The night before the premier, he came into my home-office holding his glass of wine.

“Can’t you stop soon?” he asked, stooping down to kiss the back of my neck. “Join me?”

I smiled without looking up from my computer screen. “Ten minutes — I promise.”

He laughed. “I’ll hold you to that. I’ve already poured you a glass.”

He began to leave but stopped in the doorway. “Oh,” he added, his voice casual, “it turns out I have an extra ticket for tomorrow night. Is there anyone else we should ask?”

Suddenly I couldn’t concentrate on the spreadsheet I was working on. He wanted Cecelia. I was — almost — sure of it. I feigned a reluctance to break my train of thought, frowning at the screen. “I can’t . . . ,” I said, flapping one hand, “Who do you think?”

“Your mother?”


“Right — d’uh! Any of your friends who might want to come?”

“It’s your premier,” I said, “who would you like?” I wasn’t going to make it easy for him by suggesting her myself. I stopped and swiveled my chair around to look at him, forcing my face to stay blank, my voice to stay innocent.

He couldn’t hold my gaze. Instead, he spun away, pretending to think about it, looking out over the peonies in our garden. They’d been battered by the previous night’s rain. I’d intended to stake them but was too late.

I stared at his back. Perhaps . . .

“I know,” he said, spinning back around and laughing brightly, as if the thought had just come to him. “Cecelia. I should have thought of her right away. It’s obvious.”


In the kitchen, the next morning, he forwarded me an email from the soloist — Johannes — who was in raptures, raving about the piece, feeling it was meant for him alone.

He asked me if I’d heard back from Cecelia.

“Heard back?” I poured my coffee to stop my hand from shaking and reached for another cup. “Coffee?”

“For tonight. The concert. My premier?” He sounded impatient. “You were going to contact Cecelia about the extra ticket.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to lie, to tell him she couldn’t make it. “No,” I said instead. “I haven’t. It’s your concert. You should ask her. It’ll mean more coming from you.”

He looked at me sharply.

I sipped my coffee, looking back at him over the mug. “Do you need her contact info?”


What was I thinking? To sit, quiet, between my husband and his lover. But I almost enjoyed it — the pain surrounding my heart. I played with it, like the flame of a candle, drawing it closer, nearly to where I cried out, pushing it back, bringing it close again, tormenting myself with the voice of the cello, through the full 11 and a half minutes of the piece. As it ended, I imagined them together, spent, his face buried in her neck, her shining hair spread across the pillow. I imagined them laughing at me. Or worse, attempting to spare my feelings.

I told myself I’d see it in his face when he stood to acknowledge the audience. Or in her face.


“Congratulations,” I say once we are finally alone, in a taxi, on the way home. “The reviews will be amazing.”

“I don’t think the reviewers thought much of it,” he says.

I laugh.

“Seriously, I saw Weisgerber, heads together with Sato, gossiping.”

“The audience loved it. Johannes loved it.”

“You think so?”

“Cecelia loved it.” I can’t stop myself though I don’t want to do this in a taxi.

He looks at me, surprised, his laugh nervous.

“You wrote it for her. Didn’t you?”

He freezes, saying nothing, staring straight ahead.

We ride the rest of the way in silence while I wish myself back to the fool place where I still dared to hope I was wrong. To the place, even more foolish, where I had no suspicion. At home I see the peonies, shining in the streetlight, torn and splayed against the dark of the ground.


Image of Paul Sather

Paula Sather is a writer based in Oakville, Ontario. She loves music as well as writing and is an avid amateur singer, so when not making stories, she makes music. 

  1. Very cool story, subtly told.

  2. I enjoyed this story. Subtle but we absolutely get it.

  3. Loved the story … was gripped from the first line!

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