No More a Savage Life: Chapter Three
Welcome back my dear friends!
Hannibal sat at the piano cheerfully dabbling with a bit of Brahms as the baby watched him from the plush lined carrier secured on the bench beside him.
"Shall we begin your musical education? A bit of Chopin, perhaps, Little One."
The baby cooed in response to his father's voice, as if answering the question posed.
"What was that? Yes, the Revolutionary etude would be fun. Let us find the sheet music. I must be accurate if I am to be your teacher in this."
As Hannibal pushed through the buff colored Schirmer Editions searching for the selection, his hand fell upon the letter that had accompanied the armor. Slipping it from between the music books he turned it over in his hand, reflecting.
"Lady Murasaki has seen fit to contact us, my son. You're obviously the impetus for her actions being that she hadn't considered me worthy of any manner of attention prior to your birth."
The envelope sat on the piano a full five days after it had been received, remaining unopened. Clarice had expressed a certain degree of curiosity, maybe with a smattering of jealousy mixed in, and wanted Hannibal to reveal the contents, but her husband didn't seem to share the same curiosity so she didn't push him. No interest in the letter could mean either no interest in the woman or a reluctance to face the emotions. Either way, Clarice thought it better not to push.
Hannibal saw no reason to explain himself. There was no emotional pull or need to discover the contents. Still, it was an unusual set of circumstances. The relationship was, by marriage, familial, yet it had morphed into something more. Her scent had been quite familiar to him. Normally, out of curiosity, he might have lifted the envelope to his nose to test himself to see if his memory of her scent was still as he believed it to be, yet, he had no motivation to do so.
Considering several courses of action, Hannibal spoke to his son.
"My ambivalence to your aunt aside, she has taken the time to write. It would be impolite to accept the gift and ignore the correspondence. Perhaps I should send the armor back with my regrets, as we need nothing from her. No. Not without at least reading the letter. That would be exceedingly impolite. As you will learn, my son, Lecter men are nothing if not gracious; especially to women, whether or not the grace is deserved."
Hannibal smoothed a hand across the surface of the rich linen paper, his decision to open it being guided by chivalry alone. He explained his decision to his son.
"It would seem my upbringing and inquisitive nature begs me to open the envelope though I am surprised there is not any feeling of emotional attachment or sense of moral obligation. It is curious. I hold in my hand that which she held. I should be moved, yet I feel nothing."
Hannibal reached within his sleeve, withdrew his Harpy and after smoothly thumbing the blade open, slipped the point beneath the flap, slicing it open.
Surveying the handwriting as he pulled the letter from the envelope, he continued to address his son.
"Her hand is quite steady for her years. Her health must be good."
Unfolding the letter, Hannibal angled the paper just beneath the piano's music lamp, reading silently.
My nephew, I have long thought to write. Many times, so many years ago, you reached out to me, yet each time, I turned you away. Though you have long since halted that contact, I believe I owe you an explanation. Shall I tell you why I turned from you? Out of fear. A weakness? Yes, perhaps, but I have been forced as of late, to look back at my life and consider whether it was the fear of loving you, or the fear of you not loving me, that drove my choices. I convinced myself of the former, but seeing you on television with your beautiful young wife, wishing that my choices had been different, grief-stricken, I now accept it to be the latter.
You have taken many lives, my dearest Hannibal, but the life I most mourned was the loss of your own. I believed love could calm your mind and still the anger in your soul. When I couldn't stay your hand, believing myself worthy, I became convinced you were incapable of feeling love. Now that I have seen you with your wife and son, I understand it was my deficiency, not your own, that drove us apart.
My, how precious she must be to you; Clarice, the only woman capable of drawing out that which you locked away. That you have given her your heart, she must be very special indeed.
You have a family now, dear Hannibal. You have a wife, a son and a future. My heart is so very full to see it. I do not expect to share in your joy. That would be an insult. Though circumstances have long forced me to accept your financial support, I have rejected your care and concern. As such, I am not entitled to share in that happiness now.
Please Hannibal, for the sake of your son, accept this armor as my gift. You know the history. As my only family, the task falls to you to pass it on to your child. He is so very precious. When I see him, I can't help but think, if I had I been more sensitive to the needs of your heart, your son might have been my own. Though distance and time have conspired to keep us one without the other, I have long loved you. I wish you health and happiness. Family is a precious gift, one you have long deserved and one, I know, you will treasure. Know that you, too, are treasured.
Be well, be happy and be loved.
My heart is with you, my dearest Hannibal.
All my love,
Hannibal folded the letter, slipped it back within the envelope and placed it on top of the piano. He turned to his baby and noticed the boy's eyes appeared heavy as sleep began to tug them down. Hannibal placed his large palm on his son's chest feeling the rise and fall of each breath. Comforted by of his father's hand, the baby was soon fast asleep.
Emotions churning, though he couldn't quite put his finger on the cause, he spoke softly, "Ravel, my son…Ravel."
Hannibal's hands lighted on the piano. As he played, Pavane pour une Ifante defunte, his eyes twitched slightly and single a tear tracked down his face. Feeling nothing in particular from the letter itself, as the tiny pearl of moisture dripped from his cheek, he angled his head slightly, considering the sentiment behind it. Could it be the thought of a love long lost? No. Impossible. Was this, perchance his body's unexpected reaction to the memory of what had been? Perhaps mourning the loss of what could have been?
Hannibal Lecter felt none of those things. This was something else. This was something deeper, a burning that centered within his chest, that caused his heart to race…that heated his eyes. This was something more, something so very much more.
To give her husband a brief respite, Clarice took Ardelia and Logan out for lunch. Logan had been convinced to accompany the women though he had little interest in shopping or seeing the town, with the promise that the last stop would be the chocolatier to bring snacks back for later in the evening. Not that Logan cared about the chocolate itself, but Clarice told him Hannibal adored the confectionary shop so Logan insisted he make the choices.
When Clarice entered the foyer with Ardelia and Logan in tow, hearing the music she believed she sensed melancholy. Worry must have tinted her expression because Ardelia voiced immediate concern.
"Girl, what's going on? You look like you're gonna be sick."
Clarice held up a hand signaling that she stop speaking. She listened a few moments.
"Can't you hear the music?"
Ardelia's eyes sought clarification, "So? He plays beautifully. What's the problem?"
Her hand still extended, Clarice stepped toward the music room. She was obviously very concerned.
"You don't understand. His playing usually reflects his mood."
Logan shook his head. His normally cheerful eyebrows were knitted together with worry. "Well, that's a sad sounding piece. I don't think I want to be around when he comes out of that room."
"That's the problem. If he's upset, he won't come out of the room."
Ardelia placed a consoling hand on Clarice's shoulder. "Will he let you in?"
"Yeah. He tells me all the time there are no locked doors between us. As a matter of fact, aside from the exterior exits, he never locks doors."
"Except for the bathroom, right?" Logan kidded.
Ardelia slapped him, "You just had to go there, didn't you?"
Logan was surprised by her irritation, defended, "What? Every dude wants private time on the throne. It's like, embedded in our DNA or something."
Clarice waved to her friends, beckoning them to follow her to the kitchen. She spoke as she walked.
"He tells me all the time how much he appreciates the fact that the bathroom door locks, but other than when the film crew was breathing down his neck, he doesn't lock that door either."
Ardelia was a step or two behind, with Logan trailing like a puppy, straining to follow both the women, and their conversation. Ardelia was supportive, seeking to ease her friend's mind.
"Hell, if I spent as much time confined as that man did, I wouldn't lock doors either. You know, Clarice, you don't have to entertain Logan and me. Why don't you let us fend for ourselves tonight? There's no reason you can't have some private time with your husband. We can go out to a romantic dinner or something and Hannibal can cook for you. We'll be really quiet when we come in and go straight to our wing so you'll have the house to yourselves. Okay?"
Clarice almost said no. Almost. Then, she considered he might have opened the envelope and had no idea what sort of Pandora's box that might have been. She decided Hannibal might need the alone time so she reached for the keys to the Mustang and grabbed her wallet, handing both to Ardelia.
"There's plenty of money and the gas tank is full. You've got the front door key on the ring as well so come back whenever."
Ardelia attempted to return the wallet. "We don't need your money, Clarice."
"I know you don't, but allow me to treat you. I'm kicking you out for a couple of hours so it's the least I can do."
"Not to worry, Clarice. You take care of your man. Lord knows he's been through hell and back without complaint. We'll be scarce tonight."
Clarice looked at Logan. He was quiet. Not very Logan-like at all.
"You okay with this, Logan?"
"What? Yeah…I'm just worried about my buddy that's all. He's okay, right?"
"He's fine, Logan. Clarice can handle her own husband!"
"I know, but, if there's anything I can ever do, Clarice, you'd tell me, right?"
"Sure. If there's anything we need, trust me, I'll holler."
"Promise? Loud enough for me to hear, right?"
Clarice nodded, "Sure, Logan. I promise. If H needs you, trust me, you'll hear me."
"Don't worry. You can count on me, Clarice."
"I know I can, Logan. H knows too and we appreciate it."
Clarice waited patiently as her friends prepared for their evening. She continued to listen as Hannibal played, assessing the quality of each piece as he moved from selection to selection. The choices seemed lighter as he progressed.
The moment Clarice walked her friends out the front door, hearing Hannibal stop playing mid-phrase she panicked. He had their baby with him. Not that he would ever hurt his son. Even the thought of it was ridiculous to her, but the music had been so plaintive, so melancholy that although there seemed to be improvement, Clarice was concerned with Hannibal's frame of mind. She honestly had no idea what to make of the situation and worried when the playing stopped and Hannibal did not emerge.
Okay, H…even if you couldn't tell by scent, you heard the car travel down the gravel path. You know I'm here and you know we're alone. If you're not playing the piano. Why haven't you come out?
Clarice approached the door and paused, waiting for Hannibal to acknowledge her presence. When he didn't call to her, concern forced her hand to the door handle.
As Clarice opened the door, preparing to step in, Hannibal filled the doorway.
"Jesus Christ, H…how the hell do you move that quietly? You scared the hell out of me."
"It's an acquired skill, Clarice, and one that has served me well throughout the years, though my intention was not to frighten you. Our son is sleeping and I thought calling out to you would disturb his rest."
Though they were whispering, as if the baby could sense the presence of his mother, he began to stir. He cried quietly for just a moment; his signal he needed to feed.
"Well, seems like the baby's hungry, so why don't you scare us up a meal and I'll feed Hannibal."
"I'd much rather have what he's having, my Love."
"You'll get your turn, H…you'll get your turn."
Until the next chapter, my friends!