The Music of Quarter of Six

Runner-up-Booksie 2020 Flash Fiction Writing Contest Runner-up-Booksie 2020 Flash Fiction Writing Contest

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 14, 2020

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Submitted: April 14, 2020

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Her knees creaked when she rose from the wooden bench, but she still carried herself like a dancer. There was no mistaking that sway, her near-perfect posture, the way she beveled her foot just standing at the snack stand. Such elegance for an old girl from Weehawken.

The train station was bustling as it always was at that hour, the afternoon sun situated in such a way that it seemed to pour onto the lobby floor. She had arrived early to meet her granddaughter on the 5:30, but it was now pushing quarter of six and there was still no sign of it.

So she began to walk. Not pacing, per se, but placing her feet in the spots of sunlight on the floor, one step after the other, a meandering game to play with herself. She loved the way the shadows played against her calves and carved themselves into the crooks of her ankles. It was a dance, a soft shoe; she arched her wrists, pinkies up, cocking her head with a delighted smile, fine lines dipping into her dimple. She believed she heard the old orchestra begin to swell.

It was only a few steps before she bumped with a thud back-first into someone, a tight-lipped woman with aggressively high heels. The contact elicited a hiss and a dismissive grimace, an indignant exit; the storm stormed off in a huff.

The old woman stood, her cheeks reddening – what was she, this old woman, doing dancing in the center of a crowded train station, anyway? Moving to music that wasn’t even there. She must be losing her bearings.

As she looked around, it seemed everyone was rushing by at double time, hurrying past her, avoiding her. Or were they simply unaware of her? Was she so forgettable, forgotten, forsaken? Her eyes darted, looking for something she might want or need. Perhaps just a seat. Or a friendly face.

And then he approached her. He was a youngish man in a brown suit, a matching briefcase. He may be there to scold her, damn old woman sashaying around a crowded lobby, bumping into unexpecting bystanders. Or maybe he would help her to her seat, a Boy Scout cum businessman. She looked tearfully up into his eyes with helplessness.

But when he looked down to meet her gaze, his expression was nearly timid. He blubbered a word, then stopped to clear his throat with a shy, sheepish smile. He paused; she paused with him.

“I saw you dance. When I was little. My grandmother took me. You were her favorite.”

It was a moment, one she had left behind for so long, but that now wrapped around her like a hug. She straightened a bit, lifted her chin, and with just the slightest tremble in her lower lip, she reached into her purse to withdraw her brass fountain pen and pad, for the gift of an autograph by a dancer who still danced to music only she could hear.


© Copyright 2020 Jen Harrison. All rights reserved.

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