One chilly afternoon in late autumn, I was browsing the stalls of a market in my hometown. The smell of freshly baked bread, coffee beans and hot chocolate drifted out of a cafe to one side of the market. I bought a few things - a book that had been recommended by a friend, an old album by a favourite artist of mine, a cute beanie with cat ears and a mirror in the shape of a flower I knew my little sister Cleo would love.
I was on my way home, the coffee warming my hands, when a long, high note reached my ears, stopping me in my tracks. Turning, I saw a woman standing next to the fountain, an electric violin in her hands. Curious, I went and stood in front of her. She was testing the strings, playing a round to warm up. I waited patiently, braving the cold in the chance she might be worth listening to.
Then she began playing, and I forgot the cold.
Her hands danced in the cold air, her green eyes burning as her bow flew across the strings like an Irish dancer hyped up on energy drinks. The notes sounded clear in the misty air, cutting through the steamy breath of passersby. There are not enough words in any language I know to describe the beauty of her song. Images and emotions formed in my head as she and her cherry red violin told a story of rage and pain, of injustice and insanity.
They told me of a girl who had no innocence, and her fairy friends who had kept her going through everyday life. Then a cruel aunt had taken away the fairies and she had descended into madness, had been locked away in a white room that made her even worse. One day, many years later, the girl, now a woman, had finally been let out, and had gone home to a house filled with emptiness and cobwebs. She had picked up her violin and began to play. Now the violin was all she had.
They told me how the woman had her heart broken more times than she could remember, and how her violin had stayed with her when all those men walked away. By chance, she had been found by an advertising company, and slowly made her way to a dream career as a musician. She had changed her name, made a new life for herself with her violin, and bought two more violins to keep her company. Now she and her friends lived in an old Victorian house, with mice and rats and a few insane friends, making music and having tea parties.
And finally, she was happy.
The song ended on that high note, and I realised that my face was wet with tears. The woman smiled at me, and began playing a new song about an Irish fairy who fell in love with a dragon.
Later that day, I walked into a bookshop to find her there, browsing the fiction area. I approached her, and she looked up, startled, then recognised me and relaxed visibly. "Hi", she said, her voice warm, sweet and lilting. She was called over then by one of her friends, and when I looked for her a minute later, she was gone.
I never had the chance to tell her how her story had touched me. Now I tell you, in the hopes that one day you might hear a violin playing somewhere, and remember her too.