The next night I hoped he would leave another note, but he didn't, and as before I had fallen asleep to the soft tinkling of the old piano.
The days that followed were very busy, I had let work catch up with me and I didn't have time to go and listen to the pianist. Would he notice my absence? I wondered as I sat at my desk late at night, scratching out essays.
Finally, on Friday evening, I am free to go and hear him again. I think about taking my friend, but decide against it. There will be time for her to come, but tonight I want to go by myself.
As I enter the room and make my way past empty tables it strikes me as being terribly quiet. Maybe I'm a little earlier than usual but there are remarkably few people, especially for a Friday. I sit at my table and it's only then that I realise he's not there. The piano is silent. My first thought is that he hasn't arrived yet, but he's always been here by this time. Then perhaps he's having a break, while there are fewer people, but the piano is pushed right into the corner and the lid is shut. Something is wrong here.
The waiter comes over, smiling and asking if I want my usual, but I just look at him and say, 'Where is the pianist?'
The waiter looks over at the piano, as if he'd only just noticed too, but then he looks back at me and says, 'He's left. Finished on Wednesday.' He's not smiling anymore. 'Shame, he was good. Brought the people in. You can tell they've all gone somewhere else tonight.'
I'm not really listening. All I heard was, 'He's left.' After a moment my brain starts working again. 'Where's he gone?' I ask, trying to keep my voice neutral.
'I don't know,' replies the waiter. 'He didn't seem quite as happy this week, though. Made mistakes I hadn't heard all the time he's been here. Maybe something's happened with his family or something and he's had to go home.'
He made mistakes, I think. Something happened. I try to stop myself, but I can't help wondering, was it my absence? Oh please say he hasn't left because I wasn't here.
'Did he leave any note?' I ask.
'Not that I know of. Just told the manager that he was sorry but he had to go.'
I still can't believe it.
'I need to see to another table; I'll bring you a drink.'
'Wait,' I say, and he turns back. 'Do you know his name?'
'Benjamin Jury,' he says and walks away.