Dancers, Why?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Photo by ali pazani on Unsplash
She told him it was the war. She said the war had been hard for her. This war was so hard.
He brushed the tears from her cheeks with the back of his hand, ‘Come on, let’s get you home.'
from the forthcoming anthology: Is It Today?

Submitted: March 06, 2019

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Submitted: March 06, 2019

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Dancers, Why?

Sarah wandered through the freezing night, down the empty streets. She was nervous, she bit her lip, smudging her teeth with poppy red lipstick. She took a deep breath, composed herself, and entered the village hall. The place throbbed with music, the sound of swing. Numb with cold, she removed her woolly beret, knitted gloves and winter coat, and dashed to the powder room. Fortunately for her there was an empty cubicle. Sarah lifted up her lime-green polka-dot dress, rubbing the circulation back into her legs. Luxuriating on the warm wooden seat, she felt her charm and breathed, a long sigh of relief.

Sarah walked out into the bright lights. Thirty-four and fading fast. Would love pass her by? He watched her from the dancefloor. She looked lonely, different from the other girls. He strolled up to her and said ‘Hi!’ Her heart butterflied! She went all pins and needles!

‘Come on, babe. How about you and me stepping out, huh? Gee you’re cute, no kidding.’

This man could shoot a line! Sarah admired his rugged looks. ‘Thank you, I’d love to.’ 

He smoothed on. ‘Can you dance jitterbug, babe?’

‘Might be able to, if you show me,’ she teased. Sarah was playing stupid. She knew how to jitterbug, she’d practiced the moves all day long. Pulse-step, step-drop, one-two, rock-step, up-down, lifting her knees. She couldn’t help herself. Hopelessly in love for the very first time. She felt dizzy, light-headed. Her heart thumped like a toy drum. Her mouth was moist and ready for his kiss. She swiped on more rouge. He could smudge it off her if he liked. Sarah had fallen head-over-heels in love with the most wonderful man in the world.

He took her by both hands. Pulled her sharply to her feet. She let herself fall into his arms. Savoured the clean scent of his skin. His smoky breath. Her soft hands pressed against his chest, rubbing the shiny breast buttons on his uniform.

‘Come on then!’ he barked. He was firm with her. She liked that: the manly, protective type. ‘Let’s hit the floor. What’s your name?’

She struggled to make herself heard over all the noise. ‘Sarah! Yours?’

‘John!’

Her face glowed. He was her wildest dream come true: tall, dark, handsome, strong. They joined the swirl of the dancefloor. John was a masterful jitterbugger. Sarah took to the dance like a bee to nectar. She held his hand. Her arm went limp. He was gentle with her. Didn’t pull her arm off. No more quick-quick-slow! She felt so alive! The dancefloor heaved with service men and women swinging to the big band beat. This could be their last night. Tomorrow they might go missing, believed killed in action. As if sensing their fear, the band stepped up the tempo. Music filled the air: blaring trumpets, raucous trombones, a sexy sax, thrumming bass, beating drums. So loud, the dancers could hardly hear themselves shout. Sarah closed in on her man, wrapping her slender arm around his broad shoulder. John put his arm round her waist. Step-pulse, turn-out-a-little, face each other, step-pulse, rock-step, step-pulse. The dance finished. They panted like two lions after a heavy lunch. Hearts full of love. Lungs full of smoke.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ he asked, adding, ‘There’s Coca Cola or Coca Cola?

‘I’d love one,’ she said, gasping. Soft drinks flowed like champagne that night. There was plenty to eat. Sarah felt as if she’d discovered an oasis after a long trek through the desert. The lights went down and the band played a slow romantic number. She was in the mood for love. Her house-mate flashed her a nervy smile as she left the hall on the arm of a young GI. Daisy wouldn’t be home until morning! Sarah winked at her and they burst out laughing. The dancers smooched. She slid her hand down his back to encourage him a little. Felt his arm tighten round her waist. Felt him draw her close. Felt wonderful!

‘I’d like to go home now,’ she said, ‘Would you walk me home, please?’

‘Course I will.’ He could barely conceal his surprise. ‘Take my arm, won’t you?’

They stepped out into the starry night, the frost’s chill on their faces, gazing at the full moon as they walked, arm-in-arm, down the deserted street. Lights shone out of every window. The endless nights of curfew, constant blackouts, wailing sirens, screams of the injured and dying, would soon be over. Soon there’d be celebrations, street parties, congas. Huge crowds, waving Union Jacks in the Mall. The band would strike up Moonlight Serenade for the young airmen and their forces sweethearts. They stopped and basked under the lamplight on a street corner.

John produced a packet of Camels. ‘Cigarette?’

‘Yes please!’

Sarah slipped his fag between her lips, cupping her hands round his to keep him warm. Their red embers glowed. They blew halos in each other’s faces. John reached inside his greatcoat, pulled out some crinkly packets, and stuffed them in her coat pocket. Sarah was delighted. She always wore anklet socks. There hadn’t been nylons in the shops since war broke out.

‘Happy Valentine’s Day,’ he said, sounding choked. She was puzzled; Valentine’s wasn’t until next month. He looked down at his feet. ‘Think of me, won’t you, while I’m away.’

Sarah realised. He was flying bombing raids over enemy territory. She threw her arm round his neck and kissed him. To her surprise, he pushed her away.

‘I’m sorry I led you on. I should go. Be seeing you.’

She called after him as he crossed the street. ‘Please, don’t go. I love you.’

Sarah stood alone, staring at the clear night sky, and wished upon a star: come back safely to me, darling, you’re all I have left in the world. Her lip quivered, her nose ran, and she started to cry. Crying never failed to break a man’s heart. He appeared by her side, ‘Hey, don’t cry…’

She told him it was the war. She said the war had been hard for her. This war was so hard.

He brushed the tears from her cheeks with the back of his hand, ‘Come on, let’s get you home? How far is home?’

‘I share a house with two other girls.’ She sniffed. ‘I have my own room. It’s a short walk from here.’

They arrived at the bleak, terraced house. The windows were blacked out. Daisy and Vera were smooching the night away with their GI dates. They wouldn’t be disturbed tonight. Sarah turned the key in the lock, turned to face John. ‘Would you like to stay the night?’ she asked.

He saw her shadow in the gloom of the porch. She had changed, seemed distant. He was scared, but compelled by a stronger force. He desired her, found her irresistible. She let him inside, shutting out the night. It was cold in the hallway: dank, musty smells. Sarah switched off the light, took his hand in hers, and led him up the dingy staircase. A cobweb brushed his cheek. What kinda place is this? he wondered.

‘You live in this dump?’

‘What choice do I have?’ she replied, solemnly, ‘What choice do any of us have in this war? I manage, I get by. I have my little room, a roof over my head, enough to eat. Which is more than many have after the bombing. Some of my closest friends have lost everything: family, home, possessions…’

‘I’ll take you away from all this, I’ll take you home, I promise. When this crazy war ends.’

That’s what all the airmen said. She looked him straight in the face. ‘Will you, John, really?’

He looked away from her, remembering Oklahoma, golden fields swaying in the summer breeze. Josie’s soft, round, brown face crying him goodbye behind the kitchen window. Sarah squeezed his hand as they reached the landing, switched on the light. The modern house had three bedrooms, a bathroom, a separate toilet. The door facing them was her room.

He felt awkward, about Josie. ‘I’m sorry, I think I should go.’

She gripped his wrist, holding him like a naughty schoolboy refusing to go to school. ‘Please don’t go,’ She started to cry again. ‘I want you to stay. I’m lonely. Stay with me.’

‘Okay, don’t cry! I’ll stay.’

Sarah let him inside, locked the door and switched on the light. They slipped off their winter coats and shoes. She removed her mauve beret and shook out her wavy blonde hair. He gawped at her bare legs, the flimsy dress, her radiant face. To his surprise, her little room was cosy and warm. A coal fire smouldered in the open fireplace. The heavy curtains added to the snug feel of the place, her warm welcome. He felt himself relax. The room was sparsely, if adequately, furnished with a single bed, tallboy, mirrored dressing table and chair. He noticed some faded brown photographs on the mantelpiece over the fireplace: a young mother holding her baby, a blonde athletic youth, a pair of identical twins in a cot, a couple holding hands. He studied the last photograph closely. The faces were indistinct.

Sarah distracted him. ‘I have a surprise for you.’

He felt energised by her, but remained suspicious. ‘What kinda surprise...?’

‘Stand still and I’ll show you.’  

He smiled contentedly as she undressed him, removing the airman’s jacket, hanging it over the back of the chair. She unknotted his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, easing it over his shoulders, exposing his solid, hairy, well-muscled chest and flat stomach. Carefully, she folded his clothes, placing them in a neatly-folded pile. He reached for her, wanted to hold her tight. She resisted him, stayed his advances.

‘Not yet!’ she ran her finger down his chest, counting his ribs. ‘Valentine’s Day isn’t until next month, is it?’

He explained. ‘I wanted you to remember me while I was away.’

She felt the surprise bloom inside her like a white rabbit inside a magician’s hat. ‘How could I forget you, darling?’ she grinned.

Seeing the passion, burning in her sapphire eyes, he fell back onto the soft bed, forcing himself up onto his elbows. She leaned forward, kissed him, tasted his smoke with the tip of her tongue. Felt his hand wander up the inside of her thigh.

‘Stop it, John!’

For a moment, Sarah stood perfectly still at the foot of the bed. She reached behind her back, unzipped and took off her dress. He stared up at her in disbelief. Other than her bullet bra and anklet socks, Sarah was naked. Her stomach was daubed with a living painting, a shimmering, undulating tattoo, a magnificent scarlet rose in full bloom, its petals dripping dew. At the rose’s heart lay a solid diamond charm sparkling with violet, indigo, amber, emerald shards of light. Sarah’s beautiful phenomenon took John’s breath away. He sank into the bed, transfixed, dumb. Her petals unfurled. Her intimate charm protruded. She extracted her surprise, laying her gem in the palm of her hand.

He saw his fate at that moment, saw his fate entirely within her charm…

*****

Valentine’s Day, 1945:

Sarah wandered through the rain, down the empty streets. She bit her lip, smudged her teeth, took a deep breath and entered the village hall.

There were dancers.

Dancers, everywhere.

Dancers, why?


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