It had been years since Jenny heard a saxophone being played like that.
The welcomed melody caught her attention long before she realised why, and with the boredom of the weekend settling in she sat on a bench to listen, delaying the walk home to an empty house.
Its deep sound radiated through an open window and poured its way through the fresh late autumn breeze, weaving its way around the bustle of the city.
If Eric had been here he would have sat beside her and held her hand while tapping his finger along with the music. He played them all – piano, guitar, even the drums occasionally – but the sax always had the ability to take him to the places his heart wanted to be. Places she never could.
When the performance came to an end the instrument’s owner thrashed out scales; Warm tones repetitively penetrated the airwaves like melting chocolate oozing out of its wrapper after being in the sun too long. Jenny pulled her scarf tightly around her neck and sunk her hands deep into the sleeves of her coat.
It had been 40 years since Jenny had last seen her childhood sweetheart Eric. On the day he left for America she presented him with a painting of the two of them; Eric on a beach with his saxophone, while her younger self watched him from a rain-covered window. He asked her to sign it and promised to store it in his case.
Suddenly the music stopped. Jenny looked up to the window and saw a young, black-haired man putting the instrument away. With the impromptu show finished she stood up to leave but, as she turned, her ankle rolled and she fell to the ground.
“You alright down there?” a voice called. Apparently the young musician was fond of people-watching too.
“I’m alright, just a little sprain,” Jenny called back.
“Stay there. I’m coming down.”
She attempted to make a quick exit but ranging pain greeted her ankle like ice cream on a sensitive tooth. It didn’t take long for the stranger to reach her and despite the cold weather he appeared in jeans and a t-shirt.
“My mum used to be in St John’s so I know a little bit about sprains,” he grinned.
“If you can just help me get back onto the bench, I’ll be okay.”
“Well, I will stay with you for a bit. I’m Marcus.”
With youthful confidence Marcus helped her up, then knelt down to inspect the painting of blue and purple starting to develop across her ankle.
“You play beautifully by the way.”
“You were listening?”
“You’re very talented.”
“I had a good instructor,” he smiled. “Well the good news is your ankle isn’t seriously hurt but you will need to rest it. Live far away?”
“Not too far. I used to live in Essex with my husband John but he died a few months ago. I moved back to Norwich recently – it’s where I grew up. I live by Riverside now.” It felt nice to have someone to talk to. An unexpected aneurysm had taken John from her just days before his 64th birthday and it had been a while since she had enjoyed company. “How long have you been playing for?”
“Since I was a kid. My granddad was musical. He taught me.”
“I used to be friends with a saxophone player. He moved away though, to find fortune and fame I think,” Jenny laughed to herself. “We lost contact over the years.”
“Listen, you wait here. I’m just going to grab my stuff from the studio.”
With his coat now on, he returned holding a grubby brown saxophone case. “Shall I play you something?”
As he opened the case Jenny gasped. Inside was a very worn painting showing a man from another time with his saxophone and a woman gazing after him. In a corner the name Jennifer was signed.
“Jenny?” Marcus followed her eyes. “Oh… Jennifer.”
“Your granddad, what was his name?” She almost chocked on her words.
Marcus held the saxophone up to his mouth and started playing a tune she hadn’t heard in decades. As a tear rolled down her face she whispered “Jennifer’s Song”.
“It’s still his favourite,” Marcus said when he finished.
He took her hand. “Why don’t you rest that ankle at my house? It’s just round the corner. I might be able to talk granddad Eric into playing you a tune on the sax himself.”