Marie Antoinette and the Morning After Halloween

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story told entirely through one chase scene.... view prompt

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General

She was high-stepping down a deserted Ursulines, each chunky-heeled T-strap daintily lifted in turn, pointed forward, then gracefully touched down on the wet brick sidewalk with a “clack.” The merchants on this block of Ursulines had hosed down the sidewalks in front of their establishments late last night, clearing away the Halloween bacchanalia’s debris so they could open on time this morning.

In the early light, I tiptoed behind her, fifty yards back. I matched her pace so I could better study this rara avis of the French Quarter.

Marie Antoinette’s white powdered wig towered high above the rest of her outfit. The short white ruched skirt barely covered her derriere, and the upper portion of the outfit, in the style of the era of Louis XVI, was deeply scooped down the front and laced in back. I had taken all this in as she passed in front of me thirty seconds ago as I walked north down Royal Street. Charmed, I turned left to trail after her, instead of turning right toward the Hotel Vieux Carre, where I am a waiter.

I have lived in New Orleans for seven years and worked five years at the hotel, yet I had never trailed anyone for blocks before. But this girl was so incredibly different.

Her face, before I turned behind her, captured me with its sweet innocence, providing counterpoint to her sexy outfit. Her theatrical-style make-up was still powdery-white, with an adorable black beauty spot which drew one’s eye to her attractive face. Enchanted, I gave chase to this dream, this hybrid figurine of sexiness and ersatz Eighteenth Century France.

The first thing I noticed, as I turned and began pursuit, were her thigh-high white stockings squeezed over perfect legs, each topped with a small white bow on an equally white garter. Beige spots of mud and water dappled the bottom third of her stockings. Her legs in those stockings were an unretouched version of perfection, per Maxim magazine.

Her age was anywhere from seventeen to twenty-five years old. I believed she would have been one of the prettiest girls of any age during yesterday evening’s crazy night in the French Quarter.

Last night, tens of thousands of outrageously and suggestively dressed people slowly meandered up and down Bourbon Street celebrating All Hallows’ Eve. They paraded their brilliant and outlandish costumes for each other and for the hundreds watching from the iron balconies above, stopping their perambulations and sashays only to duck into bars to top up their feelings of camaraderie and outrageous fun. Unlike Mardi Gras, when then cops look harassed and stressed, New Orleans’ finest were taking it all in with great humor. They were into the spirit of the night as much as the revelers they watched over.

Even among the myriad of the French Quarter’s Halloween costumes, featuring the brazen sexuality of displayed breasts, naughty school-girl outfits, and hooker ensembles of every profession from nurse to judge, everyone must have noticed her. Marie Antoinette would have stood out in her all-white ensemble, bright alabaster stockings, shiny white patent-leather heels, and snowy wig. The wig soared a foot above the top of her head, then cascaded down in ringlets onto her powdered shoulders.

I closed the gap to study her more closely. My soft rubber waiter’s shoes made little sound, while the click-clack of her heels striking the bricks echoed like horses’ hooves between the buildings on either side. Besides the sound of her shoes, the Quarter was eerily silent.

As I eyed her, I began to think more about how to approach her, how to get her to stop briefly enough to ask for her name and number, without scaring her into fleeing in fright. If she screamed, I am sure the cops would have descended on us in an instance, despite their reputation as tardy guardians.

I wished I could have seen her last night, but I would not have dared approach her then as I was considering doing so now. Last night, she would have been swarmed by a phalanx of testosterone and alcohol-fueled Imperial Guardsmen, all six-foot plus and willing to step up to fight for her honor. However, here, a little past dawn, she was all alone and unescorted, stepping carefully down the street.

Earlier, I had noticed a wistful look written across her face. A lesson learned? An opportunity missed?

Different emotions streamed through me as I saw her lift and step, lift and step, all along the street. I was surprised my heart tugged with such a deep pity for her. What was her story, this girl out of place and time?

Was she sneaking home from a drunken one-night stand with some lying creep who wouldn’t even hail her a cab, forcing her to do the walk of shame, in costume, after satisfying his Napoleonic pleasure?

Or was she so pleased with her outfit and its stunning effect that she just had to wear it a little longer?

Perhaps the true story was more upbeat; by still wearing her costume, she was keeping the memories of last night’s great party alive. She could be reliving last night’s parading up and down Bourbon Street. Why did the party have to end just because the sun came up?

As for myself, with whom could I share this morning’s experience without sounding like a sex-crazed stalker. But it wasn’t like that; she attracted me like a moth to the flame.

I decided I no longer wanted to know the truth. Following her and thinking about her story had given me great pleasure. I enjoyed viewing this snowy egret of a girl in the bright morning; I would remember it for a long time. I didn’t want to spoil the memory by learning any mundane explanations.

The spell was broken, my pursuit over.

I veered into a café at the corner of Burgundy. I strolled to the counter with a delighted smile on my face and bought un cafe au lait to go. When I exited the café, she was gone.

July 15, 2020 22:18

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