A Dance to Remember

Submitted into Contest #154 in response to: Write a story about someone who feels increasingly irrelevant.... view prompt

56 comments

Fantasy Contemporary Romance

A word of advice, darling: don’t ever love anything or anyone. They’ll only end up shattering your heart, and then they’ll grind the broken bits up into dust, and make bricks out of it, and then they’ll brick you up where they no longer have to look at you.

Oh, hush, darling. I know you’re not like them. No, you’re special. You’re my special little guy. You’re the only one I can trust.

And it’s not like I was ever unreasonable, you know? All I ever wanted to do was dance, to have a full belly. To have someone that appreciated me, someone that respected me. That’s not too much, is it? Instead they buy microwaves and frozen foods and other space-age horrors.

Hmm. Are we here? Is this your place? It’s… quaint, darling. It’s quaint. Oh! I feel so naughty! I’m not supposed to be here – their rules – but I just can’t resist mon petit chou. If it were up to them I’d never get to see the light of day. But I’d spend every moment with you if I could.

You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?

I just loved dancing. Did you know that they worshipped me, long long ago? Way back when I was still a hot young thing. Oh, sure, at first they were afraid, and I won’t deny it – I had a bit of a playful streak. Well, pumpkin, a cruel streak too. I’d say I’d never hurt a fly, but of course I would. Everyone would. Nobody likes flies. I bit, if you believe it, but don’t worry, darling – I won’t bite you. Unless you stick those precious little fingers where they don’t belong, smooch-smooch. I’ll never forget that first night, when I was dancing under the stars after a wild storm in the forest, when my first suitor mustered up the courage to approach me. And oh, my sweet, were there ever sparks.

Oh, what’s that you’re doing love? Is that… food? Pour moi? Why, you shouldn’t have. Thank you, thank you, darling. That’s just lovely.

Well, where was I? Ah, yes. After that first one, something changed. I found kindred spirits, and I fell in love, hard. Yes, yes, more the fool I, but I couldn’t help it. And they made it so easy. They loved me back, then. Men, women, it didn’t matter. Not animals though. I can’t stand the beastly things. They’re just dumb and dull, but at least they have the decency to stay away from me.

Darling, thank you so much for indulging an old starlet. You simply have no idea what your rapt attention means to me. Your smile lights up the world.

Things couldn’t have been better in those early years. They adored me as I danced each night away. Oh, we were so good together. Don’t misunderstand me, mon chéri, this isn’t vanity talking. I really was beautiful. Incomparable. I still am, I daresay.

Oh, you charmer. Thank you.

But I was more than just a pretty face. So much more. I turned any house I entered into a home. I cared for everyone I met. It was I that made sure they were warm in the winter. It was me that kept them dry in the rain. Countless sickly children – the poor darlings – survived because of my care. And I cooked! Yes, it’s cliché I admit, but I was oh so very good at it. They all looked to me for help, for guidance, for inspiration, and my meals were simply the best. Again, dearie, I’m not bragging. I don’t have a vain bone in my body. This is all the simple truth, and we owe it to ourselves to be honest.

Well thank you for saying that. I knew I could count on you. You’re my special little ducky. Yes you are! I knew it the moment you were born. You’re one of the good ones.

I never complained about anything back then–

–Oh, what’s that delightful smell? Why yes, I would like a sip. Oh-ho, burns going down. That’s the right stuff, all right.

Ahem… right. As I was saying, I never complained about anything back then. It was a lot of work but they loved me for it. They respected me for it. Or, so I thought at the time. But the years wore on, we all got older, and things changed. I joked about just being another piece of chattel but then they started treating me like it. See, mere wonder and beauty was no longer enough for them. The magic of life gave way to the grey smear of mindless existence. They were no longer alive, they just went through the motions, and my youthful mystique – oh, pardonnez-moi, darling, this is hard to talk about – it no longer charmed anyone.

All my old loves burned out. Disrespect took root, and the only time they talked to me – with utmost insincerity, I might stress – was when they wanted something. Not because of who I was, but because of what I could do for them. It was like a knife right in the heart, over and over and over again.

Darling, you’re making me blush. I know you’re not like that. Shall I go on?

I played along with them. Why, you ask? Because despite it all I still loved them. I still remembered how it used to be, and like a pretty little fool, I held out hope it might one day be like that again. And in my hopes to see that day, I resolved to play along politely, no matter how much it was killing me. I’d show up when they snapped, I’d work when they told me to. I’d cook meals for their ungrateful broods. I’d let them treat me like some wretched donkey, an old rag, run raw to the bone.

Oh, excuse me, darling. That was my tummy rumbling there. It’s so rare these days that someone prepares such a delightful banquet for me. Mhmm, yes. It looks absolutely ravishing. Just a bit longer? Oh, very well, love.

Where was I? Ah, right. Well, I’m still waiting for that day. And as you know, things have just gotten worse. Those ingrates call me old and ugly, and they’ve shut me away from the world, holed me up in the countryside where nobody would have to look at me. That’s the fashion today, isn’t it? Shut your elders away where you don’t have to acknowledge them. Lost are the people who forget their history.

But it’s worse, isn’t it? They still make me work, and I do! I do because I still love them. How’s that for loyalty? They make me work in these horrid dark rooms, endlessly toiling so they can have all the nicest things in the world, all the latest gadgets. And, sure, once in a while they’ll cart in a meal for me – some factory produced rubbish that I’m forced to eat alone, wheeled in by some faceless orderly, as though I were an inmate they’d prefer didn’t exist at all. Out of sight, out of mind, isn’t that how it goes?

I think they’re just waiting for me to die. Of exhaustion. Of a broken heart.

Ah, but well, I’ll admit – just to you, my sweet little imp! – sometimes I do misbehave. Sometimes I sneak out of my gilded prison. I don’t recognize the world anymore, and that makes me sad. I keep running into these roving bands of young men who scream and shout at me, no manners whatsoever, and they call me the most horrid things. Dangerous. Pfft. Like I were some savage beast. Me, with my noble cheekbones. It beggars belief.

I’m not here to hurt anyone. I’m just so lonely. Is it a crime to want to be remembered?

So that’s why I do it, dearie. I sneak out to spend time with my special little champs. My special little heroes, like you! Yes, darling, you absolute darling. You’re so precious sweet to me, taking all this time to listen to me ramble on. You have no idea how it stirs the embers of my old heart.

Oh, I see the meal is ready! It looks délicieux. I’ll just have a quick nibble, and then… what say you, my rosy-cheeked cherub? Shall we have this dance?

***

Craig nods, not daring to breathe. He glances over his shoulder when he hears a car, but it races by. They are alone in the condemned house. There’s tears in his eyes as he watches her dancing in his hand, upon the tip of the match.

And then gently, gently, he sets her down on her pedestal of gasoline-soaked newspapers, and he watches enraptured as she eats. As she grows. As she dances the night away.

July 11, 2022 23:58

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56 comments

Zelda C. Thorne
08:47 Jul 12, 2022

Very cool... Or should I say hot? Lol Loved the voice. Fun to read since I was wondering what she was for a while. "Everyone one would. " typo

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Michał Przywara
21:09 Jul 12, 2022

Heh :D The voice was fun to play with, for sure. Thanks for catching that typo! I glossed over it a couple times.

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Jay Mc Kenzie
08:01 Jul 12, 2022

I was trying to work out who she was from the beginning, because you're just so damn stylish. I knew it was something glorious, as opposed to a person. I thought at first the moon, then a star then it finally clicked. I love the voice you've given to the flame - sexy ageing superstar. It reads so well. I kind of want to hear this read in a bit of a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice. I love your take on the prompt. Big fan of yours.

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Michał Przywara
21:10 Jul 12, 2022

Thanks, Jay! That would be an amazing voice for it! Alas, a *far* cry from my own, lol. Thanks for the lovely feedback :D

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Jay Mc Kenzie
03:09 Jul 13, 2022

I dunno, we've all got a hidden Marilyn buried in there somewhere!

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Drew Andrews
16:01 Jul 14, 2022

That ending. I wish I had more time to write down how great it was/is. Well done.

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Michał Przywara
22:11 Jul 14, 2022

Thanks, Drew! I appreciate the feedback :)

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Charlotte Morse
08:38 Jul 14, 2022

Wow! What a fantastic take on the prompt! I'm obviously not the brightest spark (ha ha) but I had to read that last part about 4 times before I finally 'got it'!! 🤣 Excellent writing, I loved it! Well done.

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Michał Przywara
21:49 Jul 14, 2022

Thanks, Charlotte! I was worried there was a little too much indirection, so your feedback is very useful to me. I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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Seán Mc Nicholl
10:31 Jul 13, 2022

Michał, you absolute genius! Brilliant story! Loved the narrators voice! Such a brilliant idea for a story! Well done!

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Michał Przywara
23:46 Jul 13, 2022

Thanks, Seán! Writing that voice was fun :)

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Tommy Goround
08:46 Jul 13, 2022

Random thought: would be interesting to put the other person's shadow movements in brackets. Example [ The Shadow enters the kitchen], etc. Still reading, Darrrrling. Brb

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Tommy Goround
08:50 Jul 13, 2022

"we owe it to ourselves to be honest." Hahaha....still here. I read slow at night without the glasses. Hold on...I can almost picture the woman from Mamma Dearest with a coat hanger and a cigarette chasing the stranger, Joan Crawford. Brb

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Tommy Goround
08:56 Jul 13, 2022

Oh Darling, you and Craig killed her. You naughty naughty man! (I was just considering All About Eve and then you killed her.) As Scarlet o 'herra loved to Quote: tomorrow is another day...I'm gonna sleep on the matchstick. Ce' formidale

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Tommy Goround
09:00 Jul 13, 2022

Ok. Fine. It is a pyro talking to an ember (I had to read the fan mail). You cannot use the [] brackets for action then. Gives too much away. Unless it intensifies their love?

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Michał Przywara
23:51 Jul 13, 2022

Hey, Betty! Thanks for leaving your thoughts as you read. I appreciate the feedback, and it's super helpful! Yeah, the idea was fire. We don't respect it as much as we used to, nor do we directly need it. Maybe we'll light a fire in a coal power plant, but we'll light our homes with electricity and heat them with gas. Things change with time. But maybe there are some people who still appreciate it, like pyro Craig. Not a traditional romance perhaps :)

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Tommy Goround
04:12 Jul 15, 2022

Your so lovely...

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Cindy Strube
03:42 Jul 13, 2022

The pyro and his old flame… Good job of drawing us in, trying to work out who she is. She’s such an unexpected character! The voice is great - the aging starlet who doesn’t mean any harm; just wants to dance and be fed.

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Michał Przywara
23:45 Jul 13, 2022

Yup :) I was hoping it wasn't too obscure a character to figure out, but I guess the pyro spells it out.

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01:43 Jul 13, 2022

Thiiiiiiis was fascinating! I loved it so much! The voice of the narrator was so hypnotic, in a way. I was completely drawn in, she was such a mystery and I knew the reveal at the end would be good, but you completely surprised me in the best way! So well done! <3

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Michał Przywara
23:33 Jul 13, 2022

Thanks, Hannah :) Yeah, the voice here was very fun to play with, and I'm glad it came across :)

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00:49 Jul 14, 2022

I love how you convey her feelings and relationship with Craig without him saying a word. I feel like I know EXACTLY what their dynamic is. There is this sense of danger, and maybe even villainous intent from the narrator, but it’s like a warning sealed with a kiss. You don’t even mind because she’s so charming!

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Michał Przywara
21:29 Jul 14, 2022

"warning sealed with a kiss" I like that :) I've seen some other talented writers pull off stories like that, where its basically just monologue and there's a whole bunch of implied action but none of it is described -- and yet it's all crystal clear anyway. It floored me, so this was my attempt at something in that vein. About as close as I've gotten to second person. Glad it came through!

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Amanda Lieser
18:32 Sep 11, 2022

Oh my gosh! I was totally hiding a book by its cover as I was reading the first few sentences of some of your stories to pick one to enjoy and boy am I glad I settled on this one. I think what’s most brilliant to me about this piece is that it’s one of those stories that I read and then re read once I knew the ending. I love when authors are able to really create something special with their endings. I have to also give a huge shout out to your use of italics in this piece. I could totally hear these words coming from the bright red lips...

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Michał Przywara
23:39 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks, Amanda! I'm glad you enjoyed this piece - it was a fun one to write. I'm especially happy you pointed out the sounds, and that they worked for you. A while ago I read some solid advice where occasionally onomatopeia could really enhance prose, which isn't something I had really considered before. Seemed like a comic book thing. But I think there's value in it, in different kinds of writing too. As for Craig, I don't have any plans for him one way or the other, but I'll keep it in mind! I appreciate the feedback :)

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Graham Kinross
02:11 Jul 27, 2022

An arsonist, fires only faithful lover?

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Michał Przywara
02:49 Jul 27, 2022

But of course :D

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Lisa Lange
13:37 Jul 22, 2022

Very clever! Absolutely loved the voice! Well done!

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Michał Przywara
21:02 Jul 22, 2022

Thanks, Lisa! I loved the voice too, very fun to write :)

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Thomas Pascal
12:06 Jul 22, 2022

Great story! Fun read. Well done.

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Michał Przywara
21:01 Jul 22, 2022

Thanks, Thomas! I appreciate it :)

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Zack Powell
20:45 Jul 21, 2022

Late leaving you a comment (as usual), but I just wanted to say that this reads SO unlike any of your other stories, and that's awesome. I personally adore monologue pieces like these, and I'm glad to see that in addition to branching out and exploring Reedsy's different genres, you're also trying a litany of different writing styles. Always a treat to see what your brain conjures up each week, Michał. I really think you nailed the voice here. Of course, for those of us who look at the genres before reading, the "Fantasy" tag definitely tip...

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Michał Przywara
21:34 Jul 21, 2022

I think trying new stuff -- or new approaches, styles, techniques, whatever -- is important. Certainly I've found it to be useful, and the nice thing about this site is, if it doesn't work out then at worst you've wasted a week. Not great, not terrible. (Heh, I guess that fits next week's prompt.) That said, I'm also thrilled to hear what does work :) And particularly thanks for pointing out the break at the end. Yes, you got it, the conclusion was there for the reveal, and it didn't even occur to me the shift in style could be jarring li...

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Kevin Broccoli
17:44 Jul 21, 2022

I really love the approach to the story. The narrator's voice is so clear, and there's something about this piece that seems to have all your skill but a different sort of tone from your previous writing. It was a really great read.

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Michał Przywara
21:13 Jul 21, 2022

Thanks, Kevin! Playing with tone and voice was one of my aims this week, so I'm pleased to hear some of that took root. I appreciate the feedback :)

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Zoë Page
13:52 Jul 20, 2022

This is such a unique way of interpreting the prompt. I've never read anything like this - and it shocked me - but I absolutely loved it! I was definitely trying to figure out what the narrator was for the majority of the story, and I was excited for the final reveal. Versus all my guesses, the actual answer is by far the most creative and interesting. I adore how you describe the flame to "eat" the paper, and to "dance". I also like the sassy tone it has. Obsessed with this, well done! :)

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Michał Przywara
20:56 Jul 20, 2022

Thanks so much, Zoë! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I really appreciate the feedback! It's made my day :)

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Avery Mossop
01:28 Jul 19, 2022

Oh this was wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing it! I was enjoying trying to guess who the voice belonged to. And what a charming persona you’ve created for the flame.

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Michał Przywara
01:45 Jul 19, 2022

Thanks, Avery! I'm glad it was enjoyable to guess. It was enjoyable to write too. I've been trying to play around more with the narrator's voice, and this was one of the results. I appreciate the feedback :)

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Ba Eubank
19:03 Jul 18, 2022

Love the personification you gave to the flame and how you waited til the end to make it clear. Well done

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Michał Przywara
20:53 Jul 18, 2022

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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16:47 Jul 17, 2022

Michal, this is a brilliant leap of imagination and a fantastic POV. I loved the clues and that powerful ending. What a twisted romance!

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Michał Przywara
18:35 Jul 17, 2022

Thanks, L.! Twisted is definitely what I was going for :)

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Eliza Entwistle
00:45 Jul 17, 2022

I loved this story and the easy, enrapturing way it read. So cool what you did at the end there! Well done, and good luck in the competition!

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Michał Przywara
16:30 Jul 17, 2022

Thanks, Eliza :) I'm glad it read well. Good luck to you as well!

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Aeris Walker
23:45 Jul 16, 2022

SO original. I had no idea who this foxy flame was communicating with the entire time, but that ending was just smoking…okay I’m done with lame fire puns. I loved how you touched on the ways it really has become irrelevant—so true. And that little snippet about her viewing, what I assume are firefighters, as the enemy? Genius. There is so much to talk about here, it’s like a spider web of thoughts and ideas and realities covered in the dew of your beautiful prose and style. *okay cheesy, but true* Teensy potential typos: My gut says this “...

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Michał Przywara
20:01 Jul 17, 2022

> lame fire puns Ha! No such thing :) Yes, that was meant to be firefighters! I'm glad you picked it out, I was worried it would get lost in the story. Thanks for the typo findings. Looks like this story has already been approved, so I'm leery about editing it. I can justify the first by saying it's her voice, and that's fine, but the second, yeah, you have a point. Numbers don't match up. Thanks for the feedback, Aeris :)

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Aeris Walker
21:57 Jul 18, 2022

Ugh, sorry! I never think about it already being past the approval point for some stories. Looking forward to your newest story, which I can’t believe you’ve already finished. I’m still looking at these prompts just scratching my head…

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