The choral music resounded in the aisles, wave after wave of singing in the vast gothic space. Slowly, Alex found herself responding to this anthem to heaven. She sat still, attentive, upright. She could not say what it meant, but as the eight groups of singers echoed each other with chords of ethereal beauty, she felt the back of her neck shiver. Was this what it meant to have the hairs stand up on the back of your neck? Wasn’t that a sign of fright? Or was it meant to be someone walking over your grave ? But this was not fear, this was rapture, an indication that even a sybarite such as she could be transported and given a glimpse of the divine. She closed her eyes and tried to picture austerity and self denial, fed only by the richness of this sacred music.
Later, when the applause had finally died away, Alex and the other members of the committee greeted important guests and friends in the adjoining cathedral refectory, which was functioning as a wine bar for the evening. “Wasn’t it wonderful?” she quipped to everyone as she gave them the obligatory air kiss or warm handshake as appropriate.
“Alex, that was simply stunning,” pronounced Ann Biddell, the chairman of the village riding club. “ Well done you for putting on such a good show.”
“Oh it was a team effort, really it was,” smiled Alex, silently hoping Ann with her loud voice, her dated tweed suit and large, shiny husband would drift towards some of the local councillors gathering around the trays of wine.
“Jolly good,” said James Biddell, firmly shaking her hand and also lunging for her cheek, his moustache bristling against her skin. “Not really my cup of tea, but jolly, jolly good.”
Alex could not help a little smile as they turned away, heading, as predicted for the chairman of the parish council. She shouldn’t despise them, really she shouldn’t. Oh they were decent enough people of course. He was financial director of a large conglomerate and she bred horses on their substantial estate. But….but… Alex sighed, they were so unimaginative and so, so boring.
“You’re looking awfully pleased with yourself,” laughed Caroline, as she hugged her friend. “That was quite wonderful.”
“It was, wasn’t it,” beamed Alex, genuinely pleased to see a real friend and know that she had enjoyed the performance. “I’m so pleased you liked it. And what did you think, David,” she asked, holding out her hand to Caroline’s husband.
He held her hand in both of his, then leant forward and hugged her. He was silent for a moment and then spoke in a strange, slightly husky voice, unlike the strong tones he normally employed. “I was deeply moved, more than I can say. Superb. Utterly superb.”
to be continued February 22