Cassandra Lawton is a 23-year-old student in the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. Prior to seeking her MFA, she received her master’s in Social Work from Michigan State University. This is Cassandra’s first creative publication and she is excited to join the literary community.
Once More, We Dance
by Cassandra Lawton
My fingers drift over the disc as I put the CD to rest in the device. I need not look at the buttons; the process is all too familiar.
My gaze lifts toward my husband. Bruce’s tan hand extends toward me, the calluses from days of hard work glisten in the sunlight from the nearby window. He is in his special tuxedo with white, firm shoulders and red accents. Compared to him, I’m terribly underdressed in a thin red slip, but Bruce doesn’t mind and neither do I.
My hand slides onto his left shoulder blade and our hips adjoin just as the violins begin their crescendo. His arm slips around my back, and we lock hands, his cold hand in my warm one. Bruce takes the first step, and I follow as we coast together in harmony.
The piano commences in the background as I perform the first twist of the dance. His arms embrace me, reassuring me that everything is okay. His sturdy chest presses against my back, providing me the confidence to keep moving forward.
I close my eyes, recalling that it was 30 years ago when this very song cascaded through the white and red room. From my gorgeous white gown with maroon train to each of the hundred water goblets Bruce and I painted with swirls, the room was perfect that day.
But the room didn’t win my heart. Nor did the eyes of those watching me as I stepped onto the dance floor. It was Bruce, standing in front of me in this same tux, that melted away my fears. My heart was sold from the moment our hands fit seamlessly into one another and he swept me off my feet with such vigor I forgot everyone was watching.
To this day, I put my trust in Bruce to glide me through the air without issue. I don’t worry about knocking into anything—in part because the room is empty save for a framed photo of our wedding and the CD player. I worry only about staying in the moment with him.
Today, two deep dimples tug playfully at the edges of his lips. He’s happy.
Carla, I can’t keep pretending.
My vision blurs, the words of our family members rush through my mind. I stumble over the beat.
You need to move on.
I won’t move on.
The flutes join in, my personal favorite, and I step back into rhythm.
Bruce doesn’t miss a beat as we float into the kitchen onto the dark indents in the wood where the stove and marble counter island once rested.
Each instrument is chiming in now, pulling me to the left for a twirl and to the right for a foot change. I pivot and Bruce follows in sync.
There’s nothing more to sell; you can’t stay here.
This is our house. I won’t leave him.
We avoid the bedroom; I can’t let Bruce see that our bed is gone. Instead, we sharply curve back to the living room as the piano softens. I take a quick glance to the wedding picture to ensure that the Bruce in front of me is the same as the picture.
Bruce wouldn’t have wanted you to live like this.
The flutes come to a stop, leaving a lone piano note.
Bruce’s brown eyes peer into mine. They’re the same eyes that proved to me time and time again that I’m safe because he is here next to me. As he comes to a slow stop, his eyes soften before breaking my gaze. He releases his embrace and takes a few steps back.
Like pouring rain clouding the view of a mountain, one by one his features become unclear. I struggle to make out his freckles as they fade in and out of my vision. His dimples disappear followed by his pale lips. Little by little, my husband vanishes before me, and is replaced with the green walls of our empty living room.
I rush forward, toward the blur that remains of Bruce as the clarinets chime, signaling the next song beginning. His callused hand extends out, offering relief from the pain. I place my hand where his should be, his features returning as I imagine his arms around me.
Once more, we dance.