Here is our weekly instalment of Black Fox (I really need a better title for this), I hope you are enjoying the journey so far. The previous instalments can be found under the 'fox' and / or 'romance' tag.
“ And what is it that we assisted to, exactly?” Lucia’s frustration was evident. “ I think it was a political suicide” I answered, judging from her expression I could have been speaking Chinese.
“ You know of the single-child policy in China, right?”
“ Well, yes I heard of it, but I thought it was a thing of the past… isn’t it?”
“ No, it is very much in force, and often strongly enforced as well. It is also one of the things that aren’t negotiable and are better not discussed at all. I guess the party would like it if everybody outside just forgot it is in place.
What we have heard tonight happens, even though in theory is illegal, and get swept under the carpet unless someone manages to make it known abroad. People disappear in the night for fighting against this policy”. I heard my voice tremble, I was still reeling from the emotional backlash of the performance.
"You are as white as a sheet”, said my friend offering a steadying hand, “Come backstage, I’ll get you some water before you faint, and look for Paolo. You’ll feel better after dinner”.
I nodded, although dinner and company were the farthest thing from my mind, I would have loved to go back home and curl up near the fire, staring at the flames and letting the emotions of the evening drain off me.
I followed Lucia’s cap of Titian-red curls against the current of spectators going toward the exit, we cut through a few knots of people with a murmured “ Permesso”, most of them were so engrossed in discussing Hu Xiaowen’s coup de theatre they didn’t even notice. As soon as we got behind the stage Lucia zeroed on an empty chair.
“Here, sit down, I’ll get Paolo and off we go” with that she disappeared among the crowd of technicians, musicians and assorted theatre workers.
I sat there, looking at the bustle of after-performance work without really seeing it when the maestro’s voice cut through the background noise: “ Yes, Miss de Rossi, that was the idea behind tonight’s premiere”
" And what reaction are you expecting from the Chinese authorities, Maestro Hu ?”
" Going by precedent, I imagine that Thursday’s concert will be canceled and my works will be officially banned in the People’s Republic. What other measures they may take is up to them, usually the severity of the reaction is proportional to their guilty conscience”.
I winced, definitely the man had no qualms about speaking his mind. Turning, I saw him coming out of the corridor leading to the artists' dressing rooms.
" Thank you Maestro, that will be all for tonight. We’ll be ready for the full interview tomorrow morning at ten.”
" I shall be there, Miss de Rossi, good night”. A couple of video-reporters with an hand-held camera went by, the woman was already talking full speed in her cell-phone about a prime spot in the late-evening newscast.
“ Xiaowen!” a female voice cut through the background noise, the blonde with the bloated lips marched in, dragging the critic with her, out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed Hu Xiaowen’s quick look towards a side door, he recovered, put up a polite smile and approached the incoming pair.
“ There you are” the blonde said, “ allow me to introduce Mr. Lorenzi, the best musical critic in town, I must say you made quite the impression tonight”.
“ Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lorenzi”.
" Maestro Hu”, nodded the critic “ You have a strong admirer in Mrs. Adami, and I believe it is deserved, although I would like to know the reasons behind some of your stylistic choices in …”
" Luigi, please don’t be so formal”, interrupted the woman ”I am Paola, Ok? And I think we could continue this conversation at dinner, Xiaowen must be starving after all these emotions”. She put her hand on the Maestro’s arm, fingers tightening proprietarily, he stiffened, eyes narrowing. She kept chatting, oblivious to his discomfort, trying to pilot him towards the auditorium and the exit.
Without thinking, I rose and addressed Hu Xiaowen in Chinese: “ May I help you, Maestro?”.
He smiled, and with that his whole countenance changed, it was as if he lit up from the inside, I wondered how I could have ever thought him almost plain.
"Here you are, sorry to have kept you waiting” he said, in Italian. He turned to his companions: “ I am sorry Paola, Mr. Lorenzi but I already had plans for dinner, maybe tomorrow if you are free, sir?”
“ Tomorrow is fine, Maestro, here is my card” said the critic with an amused glint in his eyes, Hu Xiaowen took the offered card in both hands, elegantly freeing himself from the woman’s grasp, read it and put it away with care.
" I’ll call you in the morning, thank you”.
He approached me staying within touching distance until the two disappeared in the darkened auditorium, then he moved half a step away.