The clock on the wall shows five minutes past seven. Too early to think about the fact that he may be stood up, but he can’t avoid the thought. Trying to distract himself he looks up the last chat he had with Fabienne, and nervously double-checks the date and time they agreed on, concluding he’s just on time.
The contact picture shows them both the night they met, leaning their heads together, huge smiles on each face.
His whole body was drumming with the deep bass booming out of the large boxes framing the stage. Reverberated inside his chest, it made his whole body swing. Right now, slightly buzzed, his two best friends by his side, life couldn’t get any better.
“What drinks can I bring you?”
As he looked up, his breath caught in his chest. He recognized the waitress as the woman that performed on stage just a few minutes ago. Over and above that, however, he noticed that she was – assuredly – the embodiment of perfection. Never had he seen eyes quite like hers. Deep and dark like a siren’s call. Lavishly plaits kept her hair from falling into her eyes but otherwise, her dark curls ran free. Moreover, what truly left him speechless was the self-assurance she carried herself with. Her movements were all grace like she was still dancing on stage.
“What do you want to drink?”, she asked for the second time, albeit not annoyed. Flustered, he looked down at his empty beer bottle, lifting it up.
“Sure, love. Be right back.”
As she left, she kept eye contact with him just a little bit too long to be unintentional. Then, a game of cat and mouse began. He would glance at her, trying to catch her gaze. Sometimes, for only a few seconds, their eyes would meet until one of them broke eye contact. After what seemed to him like almost an eternity she returned, their drinks in hand.
“So, I’ve never seen you here before. You don’t come here often, right?”
She brought her own drink, a clear liquid with a lonely lime slice, gin tonic, he assumed.
“No, we are celebrating a bachelor party.”
The answer had her raising an eyebrow and he clarified pointing to his friend: “His bachelor party.” Stumbling over his next words he carried on: “I won’t marry.”
She clinked glasses with all of them, again, holding his gaze just a smidge too long.
“My name is Cassandra by the way.”
The name was too fitting and for a moment he wondered if it was her stage name but he discarded the thought.
“Nice to meet you, Dean.”, rolling her tongue around the name for a moment she seemed deep in thought. Then, she smiled brightly.
“Care to join me for a cigarette?”
They made their way through the crowd, and she took his hand, an excuse to touch him as there weren’t so many people that they might lose each other. As soon as the heavy metal door closed with a resounding thud, silence enveloped them. Dampened by the thick walls the bass seemed far away, the night crisp, rain hanging in the air.
“Do you smoke, Dean?”, she had fished out a cigarette and he tried not to think about where she had hidden it because her dress was too tight for pockets.
“No. Usually, I don’t.”
“Can you light it for me?”
Stepping forward, he took the lighter that she handed him, and she leaned forward further still until they were nearly touching. She smelled of warm promises and faintly of smoke. As he led the flame upwards, his hands were steady, and he wouldn’t avert his eyes as her lips pressed against the cigarette, inhaling, kindling the flame until the end glowed steadily red. Even when he lowered the lighter she remained, nearly pressed into his side.
Later, he would learn that her real name was Fabienne.
“Sorry, I’m late.”
He startles, the thought he had just moments ago escaping him. Putting away his phone – still showing Fabienne’s contact info – he stands up to welcome her with a hug; assuring her, he doesn’t mind her late arrival. She looks as beautiful as he remembers. Without the stage makeup and in a plain white shirt, her natural features seem to shine even brighter.
After they take a seat in the booth, an uncomfortable silence stretches out between them, and Dean wouldn’t be surprised if he could hear the clock ticking away. For a lack of something better to do he takes the menu and hands it to Fabienne.
“The vanilla milkshake is to die for.”
“Yeah? I might try it.”
The smile she gives him from under dark lashes makes his heart skip a beat. Unsure about whether he should interrupt her studying the menu, he decides to wait, fiddling with the napkin until it dissolves at the rim. Concealing his hands under the table he wipes the loose fibers on his pants.
“So. You work at the club full time?”
Fabienne eyes him over the top of the menu.
“No. I only work there to fund my studies.”
“Ah. So, what do you study?”
“Nice. I actually am a member of a party. Not at a high level of course. But it’s fun, doing party work.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. What party are you a member of?”
By the time the food arrives, he wonders why Fabienne showed up. The conversation is slow and her answers are mostly monotonous. Gone is the open woman from the bar and even though her allure is still there, she seems subdued. Admittedly, she is interested in him and asks questions, though reserved and almost distant. Maybe she is bored.
As Dean takes a sip from his drink, the conversation comes to a halt. Then he decides to ask:
“Are you alright?”
Inspecting the potato wedges on her plate, she averts her eyes.
“It’s alright if you want to end the date if you are feeling uncomfortable.”
“What?”, Fabienne says indignantly, her face betraying her confusion: “No. That has nothing to do with you.”
Silently, he awaits her further explanation.
“It’s just.”, she considers her next words carefully: “This is the real me. I’m not as shining when I’m not Cassandra.”
He shouldn’t have offered to end the date since now he has made her uncomfortable. Surely, she wouldn’t want to meet him again if she thinks of him as pathetic.
“I think you are plenty shining.”
“No, don’t try to appease me, it’s quite alright. I know I act differently as soon as I put on the makeup and the costume.”
Another pause, to weigh her next sentence.
“She is just so much more open than I am. Knows her own worth and how to get what she wants.”
“Like my telephone number?”
“Yeah.”, Fabienne smiles and looks at him. Then her sight blurs, lost in thought.
“Is it difficult? Being someone, you are not?”
“No.”, she clarifies. “It’s not as if we are two separate entities. More like two sides to the same coin. I quite enjoy being her. There’s a certain freedom in being confident and not caring about how others perceive you.”
“Yes, I can imagine.”, Dean wonders if now is the right moment to take her hand.
“I just thought you wouldn’t find me as interesting. Meeting her first and only afterward the person I am on a daily basis.”
“No.” He takes her hand, gripping her surly and she returns his affection with a squeeze of her own.
“You are the most interesting person I ever met.”
“Thank you. I find you very interesting, too.”, she chuckles awkwardly, and he smiles.
“I’m glad you decided to show up.”, slips out of Dean's mouth, involuntary, a cliche. However, this time, he means it with all his heart and it’s too late to take it back anyway.
“Because I feel like there is a real connection between us. That night and today.”
“Yeah. I feel it, too.”
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.