Hot Buttered Yum

By: Kim Law
Episode One

Chapter One

Strains of Rachmaninoff flowed from the Steinway grand piano, mixing with the ocean breeze that casually drifted in through the open dining room windows. Roni Templeman lifted slightly off the piano bench, one foot working the pedal, and picked up the tempo of the song. If there was anything she could get lost in, it was being at the keyboard. It had been that way her entire life.

Her hands flew in front of her. Up, down, pounding, caressing to the song’s crescendo. She lifted her face to the cool breeze and sucked in a deep gulp of the morning dampness, knowing her cheeks had to be pink from her exertion. There was nothing like playing in the mornings when the rest of the world was still asleep.

Of course Turtle Island, just a ferry ride away from the southeasternmost corner of Georgia, had begun waking up well over two hours ago. Roni had welcomed the sunrise as she’d sat in her dining room—where most people would have a table instead of a black-lacquered, six-foot piano—as she did every morning. Tucked into the curve of the large bay window in her beach cottage, she had her routine, and she stuck to it. Occasionally, however, she did go beyond her allotted piano time and into her run-on-the-beach time. Because some mornings demanded she stay right where she was for just a bit longer. Today was one of those days.

As she neared the last stanzas, she watched through the plate-glass window as a distended bead of water clung to the leaf of a potted cabbage palm sitting on her deck. The sun had greeted the morning behind a hazy, slow rain, and though the sky was now a clear blue, promising a glorious early-December day, everything remained damp.

The droplet of water shook slightly, as if wanting to let go, but not quite certain it was ready to be free. Roni set her back teeth together and concentrated on the song, on the movement of her hands across the ivories, yet she couldn’t take her eyes off that single leaf with the lone bead of water.

As she reached the final bars, her arms tensed with exertion, her breaths grew short. She was exhausted from the longer-than-normal session, yet at the same time, exhilarated. Playing had that power.

The tiny orb seemed to grow in size as she played, puffing up with bravery for a brief second before it vibrated with hesitation. Then, as if in desperation to move forward, it broke free, slipping silently along the leaf’s vein and rolling down its length toward the tip. As it leaped from the greenery, Roni hit the last note and a crystal-clear, rich sound filled the room.

She let out a ragged breath.

Then her muscles went lax, and her body sagged against the bench as the bead of water splatted to the wood deck and the final note disappeared in the room.

Everything seemed overly quiet in the seconds that followed. But it wasn’t, not really.

If she listened carefully, she could pick out the faint hiss from the gas fireplace burning in the connected living room. She heard the motorized hum of half a dozen ornaments hanging on her Christmas tree, slowly rotating while tiny people danced away inside.

She could hear the ocean a story below her deck; the swish and lap of the water was always there. Even more so after the wet greeting to the day.

Yet without chords coming from the piano, everything seemed so perfectly still.

She let out another slow breath and relaxed her shoulders before inhaling and filling her lungs once again. Then she blinked and looked around as if coming out of a fog.

She took in the cozy rooms with the cluster of unique furniture she’d handpicked from local stores. Her home wasn’t tiny, having once housed a family of eight, but it wasn’t too big, either. She liked having a bit of space. It was far nicer than the cramped apartment she’d rented in New York City. Or the hotel rooms where she’d spent the majority of her childhood.

The best thing about the house, though, was that it sat surrounded by almost an acre of land. This meant she could play in the mornings with her windows open to the sea and not worry that she’d wake her neighbors. The size of her yard was unheard of for a beachfront property in this day and age, but she’d lucked out when she’d moved here almost three years ago. The older lady who’d owned the property had refused to sell, even though she’d already moved into the smaller two-bedroom next door, until she’d found just the right owner.

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