By Maddy ✒
The air was icy; the wind chilled my cheeks as I walked along the cobbled street way. All the shops were closed, and it was half-past nine. I was late, I was never late, but somehow this morning I had managed to misplace the semibreves that I had jotted down into the late hours of last evening. The garden was alive with lights; cigarette smoke billowed from the center of the garden like that of the smoke from a bonfire. Roses were decorated with tiny lights, and a pine tree that stood in the middle of the garden was adorned with many white candles. There was laughter streaming out of the greenhouse; more lights flickered on the inside. As I approached, a woman holding a gentleman’s arm burst out the front doors; champagne glasses clutched in each of their hands; the gentle man’s fancy tux was wrinkled, probably from all the dancing. One of the greenhouses' doors had remained propped open. I entered gracefully, pulling my hands out of my pockets. I closed my eyes for a second, trying to control my racing heart. I was very much out of my comfort zone, but Lila had said it would be good for me to get out around people and not just the stuffy business people I would usually hide behind.
I swallowed the lump in my throat as I glanced around at all the people laughing and dancing joyfully. Women in long, flowing pink and silver dresses with diamonds and beads that caught the dimly lit candlelight; men with fancy tuxedos and red poinsettias on their lapels; either dancing or standing by the skylight looking out at the stars. A server came towards me, his gloved hands offering me a slim glass of champagne. I shook my head; his smile fell, and he turned away as if he had been snubbed. I took a deep breath, trying to ground myself; I looked down; my tie was slightly crooked; I fixed it.
The noise from the jazz music playing, the many people laughing, some yelling towards each other, skirts, it was all too much. I ran my fingers through my hair, and looked for an exit; the doors I had just come through had been shut, to my left; there was a door leading out into the pavilion area. It appeared to be empty. As I was rushing towards the door, I felt someone’s arm bump into mine. An airy voice replied,
“Oh, I’m sorry I’m-
Her voice was cut off as I stumbled out of the doors, into the chilling night air, and I was once more alone. Tension swelled in my throat and chest. I took a deep breath through my nose, feeling the air run through my body. I felt my heart rate slowing. I distracted myself by staring up into the night sky; the stars were beautiful; yellow and white gleaming among the darkness. Suddenly, there was a hand on my back. I hoped whoever it was couldn’t feel how sweaty I was underneath the coat and my dress shirt. I turned abruptly, and there stood a woman. A beautiful woman. Her blonde hair was tucked up underneath a headpiece; her purple dress flowed around her in the evening breeze. It was s breathtaking sight. The woman’s face was soft; her gaze also,
“Are you alright sir?” She asked. I had realized I had stopped breathing momentarily, in my lungs.
I nodded, there weren’t any words that I could find. She moved closer to me.
“Are you sure? Or has a cat got your tongue?” She pointed a painted nail towards the greenhouse. I just nodded again, still trying to find the appropriate words. The woman chuckled softly to herself.
“What are you doing out here anyway? You don’t look like a man who doesn’t enjoy the party life!” I had found words…finally.
“Just cooling off.” The woman’s face grew a bright shade of pink.
“So you can speak!” Smoke billowed from her red lips.
I nodded. She drew even closer to me again.
“I haven’t known any men to be short of words, why are you the exception?” She was asking too many questions. I shook my head, pulling my own cigarette case from my pocket.
“Enjoying the party?” I asked, nodding towards the greenhouse again. The woman shook her head, a sigh escaping her lips.
“Ah, no, I only came because my date came, but he has somehow disappeared.” I could still hear the jazz music wafting from the greenhouse, but it was muffled. The woman swayed, she heard it too. Her body moved eloquently to the sound. She looked back up at me. I broke away from my gaze. She was smiling again.
“I love Henry Burr!” She kept swaying. I looked down at my shoes; they needed polishing. She looked back up at me.
“I didn’t get your name.” She said softly. I smiled.
“You didn’t ask!” She frowned.
“That’s right I didn’t, I’m Bridgette!”
She extended her gloved hand,
“Ethan Colby.” I shook it.
“Well, Ethan Colby, you don’t speak much do you?” I shook my head.
“Only have to.” Bridgette moved closer still towards me.
“Would you dance with me, Mr. Colby?” I hesitated, but she had already grabbed my hand, leading me to the pavilion, where there was better light.
Bridgette started swaying again, her hands wrapped around my shoulder. My hand traveled down her waist, resting on her hip, and the other holding on to her delicate hand. Together we swayed around the patio, her purple fabric brushing against my dress shirt. After our third turn around the square, Bridgette leaned closer towards me; a flowery scent that caught my attention; not only was she beautiful as a rose, she smelled like one, too. I closed my eyes, trying to enjoy this moment of what at least felt like heaven. I had never had a lover; the closest I had come to a woman was when they were coming up in me in the burlesque last time I had gone to Ireland on business. But, now dancing with Bridgette, it felt like I was in another world, in another country, away from war and the gore that followed, away from the horrors men experience daily.
“Mr. Colby?” Bridgette had stopped dancing; she was looking up at me; now, I must have kept my eyes closed far too long. Her eyes darting back and forth; she was studying my face.
I looked into her eyes; they were just as beautiful as the rest of her, emerald green, simply beautiful.
Bridgette leaned against my chest. I felt my heart catch. What was she doing? Didn’t she say she had a date? These thoughts played out in my mind. Then she spoke, her voice almost a whisper.
“Thank you, Mr. Colby, this has been a lovely night!” She looked back up into my eyes. Her cheeks still pink, she looked even lovelier, underneath the dim candlelight. I nodded.
She laughed again.
“Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” I shook my head, whispering back to her, my voice dropping lower.
“Thank you for dancing with me Bridgette.” Bridgette blushed again.
“You don’t know my last name do you, Mr. Colby?”
“You didn’t ask me.” Bridgette smiled.
“Brown, my last name’s Brown.” I nodded.
“Thank you for dancing with me, Mrs. Brown!” I had to close my mouth, Bridgette had now moved so close to me that our chests were touching, she was still looking directly into my eyes. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, I looked back over to the greenhouse, the music had died down and the partying had also, it looked as if guests were settling down for the rest of the night. Bridgette made my attention snap back to herself. She had laid her head on my chest, her hands falling to it also. She faced the greenhouse, but her eyes remained closed, she was playing with the pearl on the end of her glove.
“I should be going.” She pulled away from me, I was hoping she hadn’t heard how fast my heart was beating and I was beginning to sweat more. Her hand remained on my chest, her fingers moved across the fabric, feeling the material. Her eyes had grown sad and glazed. Her hand dropped and she looked back up at me.
“Thank you, Mr. Colby.” I smiled down at her, she was quite a few inches shorter than I was.
“You already said that.” She smiled.
“I know.” Her hands fell away from me and as she disappeared into the sea of people returning to their motor cars, so did the scent that had bewitched my senses.