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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Castles In The Sky

Excerpted from a short story: Glass Slippers Are Only Found in Fairy Tales

….The massive carved wooden door opened just before she could reach for the pull. Two young men sauntered out, gazing their approval of her as she crossed in front of their gesture to let her in. Thanking them, without acknowledging their faces, she entered and paused for a second or two before passing through the double-swinging saloon doors that took her inside the lounge. The squeaking was always just enough to announce an arrival, and at random, heads would discretely turn to qualify the new entrant.

She strutted in. 

In a hurry to reach a mirror to restore her wind lost beauty and apply some color to her muted lips, she eased her way through the standing crowd. The dim light, softly red with yellow accents, caught the glitter thread running through her blouse and bounced off the contours making it appear as though little sequins were splashed all over the front. 

She nodded a quick hello to two or three people before reaching the dance floor, filled with couples roving the tile in unrelated rhythm to the mellow, upbeat music pounding out of the speakers just in front of them. 

Once past the clatter of the bartender’s frantic attempt to keep up with the orders being screamed at him, she realized the lead singer was singing “their” song. A rush of nostalgia sent a shiver through her, causing her face to flush and her knees to become weak.

“This is crazy”, She thought, “I’m supposed to be over this”.

She was sure she felt his presence, but wouldn’t look. She was grateful the lights were dim. She was sure it was obvious, the weakness in her stride, as she continued to excuse herself past the dance floor, through the spectators on the edge, in her blunder, causing one man to raise his arm too suddenly and splash his hounds tooth jacket. She begged his forgiveness and went on, taking the least obvious route.

The door on the left side of 
the bandstand leading through the waitress preparation area of the kitchen took her a good ten steps to get through, and at the other end was a junction where there was a second doorway. That was where he usually hid. There was a corner where one could become virtually invisible, a group of people almost always lurking around it. She hurried past it without raising an eye, afraid he’d be there now.

In the solace of the restroom, she fished nervously for her lipstick.

“How has it gotten to this point?” She asked herself. That first encounter so long ago had been so sublime. It wasn’t really a meeting. It was an aura, a static like that of clothes being drawn together by invisible electricity. …


 The squeaking of the back door had announced his quiet approach, and it was only as he eased onto the stool, almost without effort, that she turned for a second look. His dark, subtle appeal had drawn her to leer around the man who had so hastily taken the stool between them. She was almost aggravated at this intruder, but was too happy that night, filled with an inner peace found in the comfort of an old, familiar place and the contentment of being among people who knew how she was and whom made no demands.

She continued to dance on and off rather regularly. The man who had sat next to her seemed taken by the attention she was allowed for that night, thinking, she supposed, that she must be worthy of such notice.

He kept provoking conversation that she grew weary of. It allowed her, though, to see without looking, the handsome man behind him, and it flattered her ego knowing he might, too, be taken 
by her popularity for the evening. But he just sat there. 

         The gray in his sideburns appeared white in contrast to the charcoal velour sweater he was wearing. Every once in awhile his broad jaw would release a perfectly square, white smile that proved his skin was dark, tanned instead of the white that it too seemed behind a dark mustache. She felt like a little schoolgirl passing anonymous notes to a boy secretly admired. The conversation was all for him, hoping he’d pick up on something. He just laughed, quietly to himself. 

         It almost appeared as though he had his head hung over the glass he 
kept a continuous hand on, stirring occasionally to busy himself. Turning it with one hand and holding the napkin up around the bottom with the other, he’d wipe off the droplets of moisture that had formed on the outside. Then again he’d lift it, take a sip, replace it to the counter and go through the ritual over and over again, almost each time smiling or laughing, a glint of light darting from his eyes. He was watching too. Taking it all in, perched on his barstool like a bird perched on a high limb, he was waiting for a safe place to land.
It surprised her when he came up to her back and asked her for a dance, too late though, because she had already nodded acceptance to Louie standing on the dance floor waving her out. 

“I’m sorry”, she said, “Someone already asked me, maybe the next song?”
“Are you always this popular?”
“Most of the time.”

Louie didn’t really dance. He just dragged his feet and waved his arms, circling her as he sang along with the band. It was a strain to keep a rhythm to match his offbeat effort and her mind wasn’t on it. She was thinking how she must have sounded. “Most of the time”, she’d said. “He was probably trying to flatter me and I couldn’t even take a compliment without coming off smug”, she thought.

She didn’t notice when he left. All she knew was that his glass was gone and he didn’t return, not even first names. Malaise replaced the 
euphoria she’d started out with, so she decided to go home.  ……

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