“That’s not the right music,” Claudia said. “He never listens to this classical crap.”
“Well I happen to listen exclusively to this classical crap.”
“What else’ve you got?”
“Hence my use of the word, ‘exclusively’ a moment ago.”
Claudia looked at him, imagining him going home to find that his bird was dead and his wife had cleared out all of his accounts and left him for his best friend.
“Mr. Norton,” she said, her voice satin glossy. “Driscoll is going to be here in two hours. You were sent his preferences last week.” She looked around the room. “We were worried when we heard there was a new manager, but we needn’t have been. You’ve done an amazing job arranging this space to Driscoll’s liking.” She pointed at the leather chaise. “He is going to LOVE that fur throw. It’s perfect.”
She paused, pulled her tablet from her bag and opened a document. “Yes, I just wanted to double check. It says here — clearly — that Driscoll never wants to hear music made before 1965.”
She looked up from the tablet into Norton’s tight face. “You’re an intelligent man, Mr. Norton. I’m sure you don’t imagine that your taste in music matters to Driscoll at all.” She almost laughed. Who did she think she was? That wasn’t how she talked, even to obnoxious people like Norton.
“I must have overlooked Mr. Driscoll’s music,” Norton said.
“I guess you must have.” She put the tablet back in her bag. “So now you’ll make the correction and by the time Driscoll — no ‘Mr.’ as I’m sure you recall — gets here, everything will be just fine.”
She wondered how long they would stand staring at each other. It probably wasn’t all that long, but it felt as if a phase of the moon was passing with Norton refusing to budge and Beethoven having his say in the background.
Claudia had studied piano from her seventh birthday through college. She was the kid with orchestra posters on her bedroom walls, Dvořak on her answering machine, and tiny plaster busts of Liszt and Bach on her bookshelf. She’d lived eyes-deep in “classical crap” her whole life. Then a car accident her senior year ruined the nerves in her right arm and hand.
Meeting Driscoll in rehab had been her moment of divine intervention. They’d been in the same therapy group and had found they shared similar family backgrounds. They made a pact to keep each other clean, and he’d hired her to be his assistant, to keep his life organized, his trouble with women to a minimum.
It was ten years since they’d met. She’d left once to follow a man, but had recognized her mistake and come back after only six months. Driscoll was the only person in her new life who knew about her music. She didn’t want people to know, didn’t want anyone asking about it, but she liked having that connection close.
Ten years. They’d never been lovers, but she might not have minded their relationship going there.
She smiled at Norton, put her sunglasses back on. Her life wasn’t the one she’d planned or would have imagined, but she enjoyed herself. And she’d stayed clean. Yes, she had grown an attitude, had begun to enjoy being rude and high-handed with men like Norton — and it was always men — but she also knew when to let things go.
“We both have jobs we’re good at, Mr. Norton. They don’t need to be in opposition. I’ve got flowers and champagne to pick up. I know you’ll take care of this. It’s the service we know to expect from this hotel.” She smiled again, walked past him to the door. “It’s something I’ve always remarked on in the letters I send with the thank you bonus after our visits.”