(Never) Again

It seems it is time to relinquish another tune I have found inspiration within.  Tuesday does seem to be a fitting day for tunes doesn’t it?

The following contribution toward my literary inspiration is the first to warrant a short story based around its powerful lyrics.  Some time ago, a certain talented young lady had every bit as much effect on my inspirational motivation as the song.  Yup, I wrote this for a girl…  A writer girl no less.  In the end, it became devastatingly apparent that I had been barking up the wrong tree with some of the worst timing I have ever had.  Telling real life how its story should go rather than keeping my fiction on paper is a costly mistake.  I may be a proficient writer, but my God do I suck at matters of the heart.

I have posted a link for the song at the end of the short story.  I do hope you like the song for how it was used, but more importantly, I have once again aimed to serve you as readers.  I was tempted to stuff this piece away with the disastrous shame it brought at the heels of its creation, but if you are to know me as a writer then I feel it is my duty to bring you what I have written.


City lights pushed their brilliance into the night sky while an unseen gloom high above, returned its own encroachment in the form of steadily falling flakes.  The volley of light against the descending snow glinted like an endless chandelier above a steadily forming blanket of white over the city streets.

Beth pressed a freshly manicured finger against a button on the armrest beside her, and watched as the limousine’s tinted window withdrew its dulling effect on the splendor beyond.  Closing her eyes, she drew a long breath while the frigid air outside invaded her cheeks.  Pushing her shoulders deep into the soft leather seat behind her, she exhaled and allowed the serenity of the scene before her to encapsulate her mind.

“Sometimes you need to stop and drink in your surroundings”, she sighed with appreciation.

“Quite something isn’t it”, her driver questioned startling her.

Beth saw the man’s eyes glace back at her through the rearview mirror, and a crooked smile pushing at the flesh of his round cheeks.  Suddenly she felt a little embarrassed.  She realized she must have relinquished her thoughts aloud.

“It is truly magnificent”, she replied quietly.

Beth’s gaze turned toward the wonderland beyond the luxury of the stretched sedan once again.  It had been so long since she had been able to go out and enjoy an evening without the nagging anxiety she had shirked some responsibility.  On the seldom occasion she had allowed her friends to drag her out for an evening, her mind never seemed to fully follow her physical self on the outing.  At some point during her involuntary participation within a social setting, she would find herself snapped from a dreamlike trance only to be called to a conversation or introduction already well underway.

She chuckled at one occasion in particular.  Her closest friend Casandra had pleaded with her relentlessly to unplug for one Saturday evening.  Six months ago, after weeks of nagging, Beth finally caved, allowing her agenda ridden bestie to take her out.  As usual, her always churning mind didn’t get the notice, and ended up wandering off at the most inopportune time.

“Beth, this is Derek…

“Beth…“

“Beth!”

“What”, Beth had nearly shouted as she had been ripped from a fog.  “What’s going on?  Were you saying something?”

Eventually her gaze ventured beyond Casandra’s rolling eyes.  A tall, dark haired and very handsome man stood before her with an apprehensive grin.

“Who are you”, Beth asked indignantly.  “And why are you staring at me?”

“Oh dear God”, Cassandra sighed.  “Why can’t you just be normal for once?”

Beth quietly laughed at the memory once again.  She pulled at the button on the armrest allowing the window beside her to ascend to its barrier like position between the warm cabin of the limo and the frigid night air.  Beth had a slew of friends and an incredibly supportive family.  Accusations of her being anything but normal were commonplace amongst the lot of them.  Still, they all appreciated her eccentric passion and incessant drive.  Passion and drive that had finally paid off, even if only in a small way.  Tonight would be different.  Tonight she would mingle, laugh at other people’s jokes and she would not allow her mind to drift away from the here and now.  Tonight she would be normal.

Twelve months of hard work and punishing determination were given toward one particular goal.  Earlier this very day, she had achieved that goal.  Time to make good on the celebratory promise she had made three hundred and sixty-four days ago.  New Year’s Eve would be spent in style this year even if it meant she’d be paying it off for the next four months.

Beth hardly felt the limousine slow when she noticed the façade of her hotel framed in the window to her right.  Within moments, her driver had opened the passenger door for her exit.  As she maneuvered her backside across the wide seat, she pulled a pair of dark sunglasses from her coat pocket and slid them upon her face as though she would soon be met by a thousand flashing cameras.  She knew of course she wouldn’t, but it was all part of the plan…  Tonight, her persona wore the accomplishment she felt.  She would blur the lines between fiction and reality as a literary diva, even if reality didn’t fully play along.

The nip in the air found her cheeks once again.  Only this time the encroaching cool was fought back by a flush of excitement tingling all the way to the tips of her ears.  Beth swiveled to her right, gracefully extending her shapely legs beyond the confines of the sedan, and found footing below her brand new pair of Jimmy Choo heels upon a damp sidewalk. The driver politely took her hand, helping her from the car.  With a nod and a smile, he handed her the single bag she had brought for the evening.

“Thank you”, Beth replied politely behind the subtle steam of her breath.

“You are most welcome.  Enjoy your evening”, the stout, pudgy driver replied.  He closed her door behind her and hurried around the car disappearing into driver’s side.

Beth had already lost herself in the scene once again.  Varying sizes of rectangular blocks burned delicately with a crisp white light across the hotels front.  A coal black baldachin hung overhead blasting beams of halogen against the sidewalk it protected below.  On its edge sat a backlit sign announcing The Curtis to the fourteen hundred block of Curtis Street in downtown Denver.  She had waited for so long, and had worked so hard for this night, she thought.  Suddenly her reverie was cut short as she noted a hotel Porter patiently holding one of the glass entry doors open for her entry.

Beth strolled toward the door being held aloft by the pimple faced, uniformed young man wearing a most peculiar top hat.  She thanked the boy, handed him her bag and begun leading the way to the front desk.  Stopping short, Beth swore under her breath hoping the young man on her six hadn’t heard her curse.  The diva glasses were not cooperating as planned.  They had fogged up nearly instantly with the sudden change in temperature.  She discreetly removed the shields, and discreetly returned them to the side pocket of her wool coat.

At least they’d done their job against the paparazzi, she thought while allowing a giggle to escape her lips.

“I gather you are here for the period New Year’s Eve Ball”, A chipper and nearly annoying voice called from behind the front desk as Beth came within several steps of the partition.  “What a wonderful outfit!”

Beth thanked the overly service-minded lady knowing full well the cream colored wool clutch wrapped around her, completely covered every stitch of the 1940’s dress she wore beneath.

Having signed the appropriate paperwork for her night’s stay, Beth accepted her room key.  She made her way toward the elevator with the young Porter still in tow.  A short elevator ride filled with nearly one sided, idle conversation between she and her insanely bashful Porter came to an end, where the duo were deposited on the twenty-ninth floor.

Sure, it may be one floor short of the highest in the hotel, but Beth couldn’t account for the thousand dollar a night price hike the floor above brought.  She’d saved enough for the clothes on her back, the extravagant ride here and the dining and drinks the night would bring, but she’d be paying off the Choo shoes and the room on this floor for months to come.

Beth swiped her key card beside the mahogany door labeled 2908 and pushed the door open.  She turned to gather her bag from the shy young man and placed a ten dollar bill in his hand in the bag’s stead.

“Thank you”, he replied with genuine appreciation.  Before she could properly express her own thanks, the boy hurried down the dimly lit hallway toward the elevators.

Beth shrugged and turned to see one part of the hotel she had been waiting to see for a very long time.  The room tantalized her mind with the same quirky feel portrayed throughout the rest of the hotel.  Pop culture met extraordinary elegance.  Lime green retro chairs, bold patterns and a burnt orange stripe within the otherwise dark colored carpet gave way to marble countertops, modern lamps and brushed nickel fixtures.  Beth felt fatigue in her cheeks from the smile on her face as she strolled throughout the massive suite.  Had her hair not been professionally done, she would have instantly kicked her shoes off and swan dived into the California king sized bed situated in the middle of the room.

Tossing her coat over one of the lime green chairs, and glancing at her faux diamond encrusted watch, Beth’s smile didn’t dissipate one bit.  Time to freshen up and let the evening begin.  Her escalating excitement for what lay ahead didn’t allow her mind to encapsulate the lavish seven piece bath surrounding her as she examined herself in the mirror.  Despite her earlier paparazzi evasion stunt with the sunglasses, Beth could be characterized by anyone who knew her as anything but vein.  Most times, humility and servitude comprised her demeanor.  Tonight however, would be an exception.  Even she found the reflection before her to be nothing short of exquisite.  Her golden blonde locks were curled into huge rings and pulled high atop her head relinquishing the bold structure of her perfectly complected face.  Fierce mahogany colored eyed stared back at her from beneath freshly shaped brows.  A seemingly perpetual smile brought the dimples she was so well known for front and center, exposing the genuine kindness within the otherwise intimidatingly beautiful creature in the reflection before her.  Beneath her alluring topside her curves found cover beneath a navy blue, 1940’s sheath, knee length dress.  A cream colored bow set at the base of a modest neckline.  Beth turned sideways, cocked a knee and posed with a finger to her dimpled cheek.  The reflection in the mirror caught every subtlety including the demure look strewn across her face.  Her curves were perfect for the 40’s.  Back when women were shaped like women.

Screw you Victoria Secret models, she thought.  I make this dress look damn good!  Beth giggled at her silliness then felt a sudden tinge of sadness that her friends and family couldn’t be here with her.

It had to be this way.  She determined tonight’s celebration at the heels of all her hard work would be enjoyed by her and her alone for two reasons.   One, her manuscript had finally found completion.  She could be the protagonist in her own story tonight without being asked why she just couldn’t be normal.  Secondly, she wanted to prove to herself that she could interact as a part of society on her own two feet after living under a rock the past twelve months.

With one last glance toward her own reflection, Beth grabbed her small clutch purse, flicked the light off and made her way to the door of her suite.  Within moments, she graced the first floor once again.

Venturing past the front desk, she could hear the music playing in the Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom.  Thank God it had caught her attention prior to the shrill voice of the woman at the front desk greeting another guest.  Ignoring the nasally, high pitched bombardment, Beth’s blood coursed with excitement.  The Cervantes had been a valiant host to some of music’s greatest minds all the way back to the Cotton Club days of the 1930’s.  Fitting it should be utilized to host a period themed New Year’s party.

Beth slowed her excited ascent upon the room to a sultry stroll.  Crossing the threshold, the grand room nearly stole her breath away.  The space felt as though she had taken a time machine seventy years into the past.  Thick red velvet draped the walls at every window, crystal chandeliers burned dimly above an enormous parquet dance floor, while each and every one of the rooms inhabitants were clad in dress appropriate to the period.  Women adorned elegant, modest dresses not dissimilar to her own.  Most of the men wore double breasted suits or tuxedos, while others were clad in armed forces uniforms.

Good lord, there are even camera girls, she thought to herself behind a gasp while witnessing a young lady using a period correct camera to snap pictures of patrons.

Moving further into the room, Beth found her way to a cocktail bar a short distance away from where her feet had temporarily become lead from her awe.  Surely a drink would settle her excited nerves.  Perhaps she would even have the courage to strike up a conversation with someone at the bar.  Within moments a bartender in a stark white tuxedo jacket and black bowtie approached.

“What can I make you this evening”, he asked attentively.

Beth hardly ever drank.  When she did, she predominately leaned toward a cold beer or something fruity.  With a smirk she decided she would pay homage to the period she was now immersed in.  “I’ll have a Tom Collins if you please sir.”

“Excellent Choice”, the bartender retorted with a wink.  He took off like a shot gathering the ingredients.

Another young lady about Beth’s age bellied up to the bar next to her.

“Hi”, she began in a chipper tone. “My name is Elizabeth Bryant.”

“Stacey McConnell”, the lady next to Beth replied while gently shaking her outstretched hand.

Suddenly something caught Beth’s attention in her peripheral.  The newly introduced Stacey must have noticed her sudden absence from the newly begun conversation.  Hell, Beth hadn’t even noticed that the bartender had already brought her Tom Collins.

“Someone has an admirer.”  Stacey playfully nudged Beth’s shoulder.

Beth laughed and felt a sudden heat flush across her cheeks.  “He could be looking at you.”

“Ha!  That handsome man has been throwing you glances ever since you walked in the room.”

Beth risked a peek over her shoulder while she shyly cowered over her drink.  He wasn’t looking her way at the moment.  How could this man be so damn captivating, she wondered?  Sure, his boyish face, tall, slender stature and broad shoulders were easy on the eyes, but there was something else…  An unexplainable charisma it seemed.

“Oh crap!”  Beth quickly turned to face her drink once again.

Stacey laughed loudly.  “What is it?”

“We just made eye contact.”

“What’s so wrong with that?  You should’ve batted those pretty lashes of yours at him.”  Stacey turned accepting a martini from the bartender, took a long sip and continued.

“You know, if you keep showing him that voluptuous backside of yours, you’ll be doing little to thwart his attention.”

Though a dimple exposing smile creased her lips, Beth scoffed at the idea of playing cat and mouse with the gentleman on the other side of the dance floor.  “I don’t have time for men right now”, she retorted.

Stacey grabbed her martini glass and a cocktail napkin.  “Ten bucks says he comes over here for a chat the second I go back to my table.

“Oh God, don’t do that”, Beth pleaded.  “Can I come with you?”

“Nope; Cheers Miss Elizabeth Bryant.”  Stacey held her glass high in gesture, and wore an elated smile while she spun to abandon her new acquaintance.  “Remember, you are supposed to be out celebrating tonight”, she called out over her shoulder just before disappearing into a steadily thickening crowd.

“Wait”, Beth called loudly.  “How did you…  Know I am celebrating tonight?”  Beth finished the last part of her inquisition quietly while she plopped down on a barstool in front of her still untouched drink.  She had probably just been referring to New Year’s Eve, she rationalized.

Coincidence or not, Stacey was right.  She is celebrating; for her own reasons along with the fact that a new year and new chapter of her life was dawning.  Why did the same old thought always plague her mind when she notably caught a man’s interest?  Why couldn’t she balance the pursuit of her passion as a writer with someone special?

Working her courage up, Beth downed the Tom Collins in front of her, crossed one shapely knee over the other and spun the swiveling barstool beneath to face across the dance floor.

“Damn”, she cursed under her breath.

Just her luck; he had gone…  Probably scamming on some floozy, no doubt, she surmised with a pout.

For the first time this evening, Beth found reason to frown.  She uncrossed her legs letting them dangle from the stool and stared at the ornately patterned floor beneath.

I certainly don’t need someone special, she rationalized.  I am already so blessed.

“Good evening”, a confident, manly voice announced to her right.

Beth looked up, and quickly found herself unable to muster more than a gasp from her lips.

During  her unintentional pause, the mesmerizing voice belonging to the devilishly good looking man who had previously stood clear across the room continued.

“My evening had been going quite well until it suddenly had potential to become so much better”, He began through an enticing smile.

“You don’t say?”  Beth couldn’t help the tingling fire burning across her cheeks, but she also noticed something else.  He seemed every bit as nervous as she.  Oooh, how cute!

“Indeed!  You see, while I stood enjoying the music and minding my own business, the most alluring young lady suddenly graced this great room with her presence.”

“My goodness what will you do?”  This time feigning her shock, Beth’s questioning words were laden with playful sarcasm.  “Do you think you may buy this young lady a drink or something?”

“Well”, the man relieved his own nerves through a small cough into his fist.  “As I see it, the assuagement of this grand, old ballroom now pales in comparison to the woman I have before me.  The floor for a more intimate meeting is set, and the music of intrigue is playing…  Shall we dance?”

Beth nearly choked as the admirable man held his hand out for hers.  She had never in her life been approached so articulately.  While shock consumed, another anxiety wracked her nerves with the concern she felt toward her aptitude amongst a dance floor.

“But I don’t hear any music at the moment”, she replied.

“Oh, it will.”

Smiling, he grasped her hand and brought her to her feet.  As if on cue, the music did begin to play once they had reached the center of the dance floor.

Beth felt weak in the knees upon hearing the first few notes.

“Are you okay”, the charming man asked while he so caringly placed his right hand at the small of her back and held her hand with his left.

“It’s just this song”, Beth replied quietly.

“Again by Doris Day”, he stated assuredly.  “Your favorite song from this era if I’m not mistaken.”

He was right.  There was no reason to ask how he knew; she’d already surmised the root of this charming man’s knowledge.  Beth simply pressed her head against his chest and let the lyrics penetrate her soul.

 

We’ll have this moment forever

But never never again.

 

A tear formed at the corner of her eye.  She knew what was coming.  With her face pressed against the man who had just swept her off of her feet in a way she’d never been swept, she could see that they were the last remaining souls in the grand ballroom.  The music seemed to consume them, and the light was slowly fading.

Beth looked up and gazed into the hazel eyes of the man who swayed with her to the most perfect song for such an occasion.

“What is your name?”

“But you already know my name dear Elizabeth.”

“We don’t have much time do we”, she asked.

“I’m afraid we do not.”

“Kiss me.”

He brought his face close to hers.  The light surrounding them winked in and out.  Beth felt her whole body tingle.  Anxiety rose from the pit of her stomach.  Her lips did not taste his.

“Wake up”, he whispered.

*******

Beth blinked the fog away bringing her favorite coffee mug into horizontal view.  She pulled her head from her writing desk along with a sticky note attached to her cheek. Removing the sticky yellow square, she glanced at the lower right corner of her open laptop screen.   4:53 PM, November 18th.

“Oh Beth”, she sighed to her empty home.  “You’ll never get done by New Year’s if you keep wasting your time dreaming.”

She stood, filled her lungs with a yawn and stretched her arms over her head.  With a smirk, she clapped her laptop closed and made her way into the kitchen in search of some much needed chocolate.

“But oh what a dream”, she called out with a laugh from behind an open refrigerator door.

*******

An alarm sounded quietly while it caused the phone it was springing from to vibrate across the desk.  Charles grabbed the tiny device and thumbed the touchscreen.

“Wow, four hours already.”  He habitually checked his left wrist to confirm the time, only to find that his watch wasn’t there.  It never was when he was writing.  Charles was always amazed how engrossed he could become in a story.  This little piece however was affecting him in an entirely different way.  Would Beth make her deadline?  Would she open her eyes just long enough to see what she had right in front of her?  Would she ever allow someone special into her life amongst the real world?  Only time would tell.

Charles closed his laptop.  He reached for the power button on the radio next to him, but hesitated for a moment.

 This couldn’t happen again

This is that once in a lifetime

This is the thrill divine

What’s more, this never happened before

Though I have prayed for a lifetime

That such as you would suddenly be mine

Mine to hold as I’m holding you now and yet never so near

Mine to have when the now and the here disappear

What matters, dear, for when

This doesn’t happen again

We’ll have this moment forever

But never, never, again

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