Tensions in the house had eased, enabling Aria to get back to what she enjoyed; music. Having reduced her workload, the opportunity to catch up with old friends and practice the violin came to fill in the time. One of those friends was Braydon, he was an old work colleague of Jose’s and long term friend and Major Chords member. Over lunch, they laughed remembering the big gatherings, Jose’s amazing food, the different music they had danced to, and the chaos caused by the twins when they were small. Twenty years ago Braydon’s long term partner announced at the altar she wanted to travel, and he was holding her back. Brutal words crushed Braydon, his heart remained broken, believing no-one could love him, he buried himself in his career. Aria understood the feeling, losing Jose had been a punch to the chest, a gaping wound, rasping and bloody, but she had he children they helped to heal the loss, keeping him close by.
A few times a week they met for lunch, two friends enjoying the hazy afternoon sun with delicious food and great conversation. It was Braydon who made the first move, his hand grazing hers reaching for his wine, a second brush and he linked his fingers with hers. Aria felt uncertain, pulling her hand back, her cheeks soft and pink, guilty of developing feelings for someone new. With over a year since Jose had passed, would it be wrong to consider someone new? She sipped her wine mulling the subtlety of his gesture, a half-smile danced on her lips. Braydon took her hand to reassure her, no pressure to force something that wasn’t there, his love for her was genuine and he hoped she would accept an official dinner invitation.
Aria was nervous, frustrated with her curls, staring in the mirror at deepening wrinkles. Ziva had convinced her to accept Braydon’s offer, she believed her mum should enjoy life, the love she shared with Jose was so special, but why spend your remaining life alone. She stepped in to help Aria with her hair, the pair speaking in hushed tones, accepting Rylan would be unsupportive, increasing Aria’s doubts regards dating. His temper may have cooled, his friendship circle was impolite, bickering over whose turn it was on the games console, rushing to get snacks from the kitchen, speaking in hushed tones when she or Ziva walked in to get a book or ask if they needed anything. Aria feared that Rylan would party late into the night, fall in with a bad crowd, worrying that the next knock on the door would be a police officer. As the last curl fell into place, she began making excuses as to why she should stay home. Her daughter stood proud, her mother was a vibrant woman, Jose would have insisted on her living her life to the full. No denying Ziva’s words, for her age, Aria had lots of energy, and Braydon was waiting.
They drove through the picturesque Windenburg, a romantic step back in time. In the distance, Aria noticed a few small islands, overseeing the main harbour, a large lavish house surrounded by several smaller ones, a reflection of the historic era when the Lords lived surrounded by their subjects. It was an honour to have lived on the isle. The mainland had white houses, with black timber frames, beautiful, elegant characteristics, unlike the modern builds of Newcrest. Braydon parked up in a cobbled street overlooking an open courtyard a water fountain at its heart. Overlooking the yard was a renovated pub, the fresh white paint and spring flowers brought the building alive. Beyond the heavy oak door, the bar filled with young adults, enjoying pre-dinner drinks, their final destination a club down by the harbour, a converted shipbuilding factory. A few tables separated them from the rest of the diners; the reason Braydon brought her here. The dance floor, and an artistic DJ, his decks the canvas, the various records his palette, the resulting mirage of colourful sounds worming their way inside your body enslaving you to its rhythm. She could feel her body move and sway, jostled by the others caught up in the moment, Braydon pulled her close and towards the safety of a corner table where drinks and plates of fish and chips were waiting.
They danced, letting themselves laugh, spin and tumbled against other dancers, clumsiness due to a few glasses of wine. Aria surprised herself, moving closer to Braydon for one final dance, his hand resting on her waist, usual distance no longer observed, noses close to touching, cheeks warmed by alcohol and romantic intent. The night had plans, Braydon guided her towards the harbour, the haphazard light of bulbs on a string still present from a long-forgotten Winterfest. Water lapped up against the concrete boundary, lights marked where the isle sat, it’s buildings otherwise silhouetted against the starless sky. They paused, enjoying the view, cool salty air, Aria turned towards Braydon meeting in a kiss, lingering for a moment uncertain, smiling, Braydon stroked her cheek, drawing her back into the kiss.