Lani is a concert-level soprano 1 who passed on continuing her music career to start her family with Rob, a Coast Guard lifer. The young man’s mother has known Lani since childhood, and through quirks of circumstance–the Coast Guard for Lani and Dad’s law practice for Barbara–the two women are in the same congregation in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Christmas program is coming up, and Lani has been asked to sing “O Holy Night” as a solo; she has asked the young man’s mother to be her accompanist.
The young man likes music. He sang a solo in the Primary Christmas program a couple of years before, and he has consistently participated in the regional church choir. So when Lani comes to rehearse at their house, he stays in the family room to listen to her rehearse. As the rehearsal opens, Blackie takes shelter in the young man’s room. But Panther, normally the recluse, wanders out of Stephen’s room and plants herself in the middle of the living room floor.
Lani and Mom run through some warm ups and the first sections of the song. Lani modulates her voice expertly, and the young man knows enough to marvel at her staying power throughout the rolling melodies. During one run-through, he notices Panther hop up on the sofa behind the piano. He thinks little of it.
Lani says to Mom, “So let’s go all the way through now. At the climax, I’m taking this up to the high C. Adagio right there through that.”
“Sure,” says Mom.
Mom starts the intro, and then moments later, Lani is really into it. As she sings, and as the music builds, the young man notices that Panther is getting twitchy. She climbs to the back of the sofa and starts to pace. After the first verse, Lani pulls it back a bit, and Panther’s pacing slows. She watches Lani, her head tilting back and forth. The music builds. Lani’s voice builds. Panther paces back and forth and then starts to wiggle her haunches. The second verse ends, Lani pulls back, and Panther looks down and licks her belly.
The third verse starts, and now Lani is really rolling, her voice clear and commanding, all the notes effortless. The young man loves it, wishes he might have a male version of that voice. She is building and building.
And now Panther looks really agitated, pacing. Then she pauses, staring at the back of Lani’s head, lowered into a squat position. She wiggles her haunches. Lani’s voice rises, and then she booms to the high C, hitting it perfectly, landing on top of it.
Panther leaps. She lands with all four claws out in the middle of Lani’s back. The music stops, Lani screeches, Mom bolts up from the piano bench.
“Oh my gosh!” Mom yells.
Panther lets go, drops to the floor, and sprints past the young man back to Stephen’s room.
“I am so, so sorry,” Mom says.
“Wonder if I missed the note,” says Lani with a laugh.
“I am so embarrassed,” Mom says.
“It’s okay,” Lani says. “Just didn’t see that coming. Sorry I upset her.”
“I should have had all the animals locked away. She usually hides from people. I just didn’t . . . I’m sorry.”
Lani touches Mom’s wrist. “It’s okay. Shall we run through it again?”
Mom looks at the young man. “Is Panther in Stephen’s room?”
“Yes,” he says.
“Could you close his door?”