As if sensing her thoughts and look, Darky turned and smiled at Laura.
‘Did you enjoy it?’ he asked her gently. There was a soft quality to his voice that Laura had not heard, or noticed, before.
‘Yes, very much so’, Laura nodded slowly. ‘I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time. Funny, eh? When I am living in a retreat place and I am meant to be having a peaceful existence day in, day out.’
They laughed at that, good-naturedly.
‘There is something about music that simply touches the soul’, Darky said thoughtfully. ‘Always has, always will. Humans can’t escape it.‘
They sat in silence for a moment as they watched people walk out to the foyer for the interval where refreshments would be served.
‘Do you feel like having anything?‘ Laura asked Darky. ‘I kind of feel like sitting here, admiring this beautiful space, and not spoil the moment by getting up.’
Darky winked at her. ‘I feel the same.‘
Laura felt herself blush. Why did he have to ruin their nice moment together by doing something cheesy?
‘I hope that I can maintain this feeling of calm when I get back to London’, Laura said to distract herself from any thoughts that might spoil the evening.
‘You’ve said it’, Darky sighed. He looked at Laura carefully. ‘Are you also running away from something? Like the rest of us?’
Laura was slightly taken aback by this comment. What was he implying? She gazed at Darky cautiously.
‘Yes and no’, she replied eventually. ‘I am running away from a tedious career, from abusive colleagues, from the mundane life. But doesn’t everyone need a break sometimes?’
Darky nodded. He looked a little sad, Laura noticed with a jolt. She had to play it safe here.
‘And you? What are you running away from?‘ She touched Darky’s arm gently with her hand. He turned to look at her hand first, then he looked her directly in the eye.
‘I haven’t told this to many people, but you seem honest and reliable enough’, he said after a while. He looked her in the eyes sadly, as if to see whether there was any judgement, but Laura didn’t flinch. She had to hear what he was about to say.
‘When I was studying at university, medicine, can you imagine, me and my flat mates played a stupid prank on a friend of ours.‘ Darky was now staring right ahead, at the purple curtains that were in front of the stage. ‘We had some ongoing silly jokes amongst us all, but one evening, someone suggested that we put some rotten soil into our friend’s sandwich, as a joke, to see if he eats it and notices. The plan was to see him eat it and then laugh at him after. But that never happened. He had eaten the sandwich at night and died in his sleep during the night. He must have got poisoned from the soil.’
Laura was holding her breath. She didn’t dare to say anything, not to break the spell. Darky was silent, staring ahead for a number of minutes before he spoke again.
‘No one ever found out’, he said eventually. ‘The doctors said that it was a natural death, that probably he had had some underlying heart problem of sorts that had killed him.’
Darky turned to look at Laura. ‘But did he? Or did we kill him? We would never know and we all have to live with the thought that we might have killed him, that he might still be here today if we hadn’t put the soil in his food.’
There was a single tear falling down his cheek. He looked so lost and sad that Laura couldn’t help but reach out her hand to him. He held it tightly for what felt like minutes.
‘It was really the turning point in my life, the point that determined everything I did there after’, Darky spoke eventually. His voice was a whisper. ‘Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the incident. Did we actually kill one of ours friends? I couldn’t study to become a doctor, it would have felt wrong. Saving people when in fact I might have killed someone. Music was the only way for me. Music was the only way to feel safe.‘