AlvernoINK Spring / Fall 2017 - Page 18

“Have you seen la belle femme over there?” Her lips are wet against Madeleine's ear, and she melts into her. “She’s been staring at you for hours.”

Madeleine’s vision swirls in laughter and light, and heat pools in her gut from the weight of Elsie’s body pressed along her back. She toys with Elsie’s stockings.

“What if I wanted to take you home tonight, huh?” She slurs out. “You want to ruin your chance?”

Elsie cackles. “René’s tired of me at your breakfast table. You two need to spice it up.”

A clumsy, grasping hand under Madeleine’s jaw forces her attention to the left and, blinking through her stupor, she catches her. The woman is tall and dominating an empty booth, tresses of dark curls pinned deftly atop her head, eyes like coals in the glow of her cigarette.

They burn a hole in Madeleine, hollowing her out, carving through the shadows to leave her raw and awestruck; she shivers deliciously.

Elsie is talking again, but her voice is far away, fading with the music. All sinewy-limbed and calculated grace, the woman takes a puff of her cigarette and arches an eyebrow, tilting her chin up.

“Are you going to stand there all night?”

And then Madeleine’s in front of her table. She glances over her shoulder with a frown - the crowd had crested and pulled back, Elsie happily swallowed in the current. Madeleine rights her top hat.

“Come,” She’s met by the woman’s outstretched hand when she turns back. “Sit with me.”

Madeleine takes it, and is guided onto the bench. Up close, the woman’s jaw could cut glass.

The rouging of her lips is impeccable, the kohl around her eyes just the same; her brows are thick and dark, and she smiles at Madeleine in a brilliant, reassured, and impossibly familiar way that makes the edges of the room melt.

“Who’re you?” Madeleine asks.

The woman snuffs out her cigarette. In lieu of an answer, she reaches into a bag at her side and posits a thick songbook on the table, pieces of sheet music sticking out every which way.

“I was their pianist, earlier.”

“Oh?”

As if summoned by that thought alone, Elsie surfaces onstage in a flurry of motion, drink in hand. Cheers of delight ring high on the ceiling and the room swells, the audience swarming at her feet in reverence. She theatrically primps her red bob and steps up to the mic, indignantly passing her champagne to an insistent stagehand, and finally answers the ensuing ruckus with a shimmy and a gesture to the band. A hush falls over the world.

you must remember this