I am delighted to welcome Jessica Holmes as a guest to the blog - with a short story to tell. A night of love. A night of tears. She tells us here of...
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
By Jessica Holmes
Tonight will be a night to remember. A knock comes at the door, and I finish painting on my smile. "Glad you could come, there's champagne in the kitchen," I say as I fling the door open.
Guests pour in, eyes drawn to the TV. "Honestly, we're here for a party. Your eyes'll go square, didn't your mothers ever tell you that?" I say as I yank out the plug, cutting off the commands of grim-faced newscasters telling us to stay safe. A nervous titter flits around the room. "Well, then." I turn the stereo on. "Shall we get started?"
The music swells and we lose ourselves in dance and booze, eyes averted from the windows. It's a beautiful night, but we can't bring ourselves to look at it.
I catch a few moments to myself, and exhausted, I slump onto the couch. Oh, God. Everything's too bright, too loud. This feels like a dream. I wish it was. The cushions sink beside me, and a warm hand lies over mine. My heart flutters, my breath quickens. I'm not ready. I thought I was. I'm not ready for this.
"When will the party end?" I whisper.
He murmurs, "Around midnight."
"And the music stops?"
He sighs. It goes on for too long, wasting precious moments. "Yeah. Don't think about it too much. Here, have a drink."
The scent of booze makes me retch. Glass shatters at my feet, attracting glances from my guests. I notice for the first time that tears are running down my face. How long have I been crying? I wipe them away, staining my hand black. Goodness knows what sort of state my face is in. The guests snap out of their reverie, and fear settles over their faces, gazes flash to the darkened windows. I've failed them. One job. I had one job: keep their attention away from the windows. And I've let them down.
"Excuse me one moment." As I wobble to the bedroom, the heel of my shoe snaps. Damn, those were expensive. Why do I care? I can't take them with me, can I?
I can't keep up the mask. More tears come, and I don’t wipe them away.
A click behind me, and I look around. He's here. He's always here to check on me. What did I ever do to deserve him? What did we do to lose our future?
He doesn't say anything. He doesn't need to. We curl up together, passing a bottle back and forth, exchanging sad smiles and the occasional kiss. Sirens rise up outside. They've been near continuous this past month.
After a time, laughter bleeds through the walls, song and voices raised in mirth. "See? They're fine. They're happy. I think you did a good job," he says, stroking my cheek.
I cling tighter on to him. "Yeah?"
"It's better than being alone, isn't it? That wouldn't have been right."
"No…no, it wouldn't."
"Ready to go back?"
I nod, and relinquish my hold on him. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm ready." If they can find it in themselves to have fun, so can I.
It's not long now, but the alcohol has taken the edge off my fear. I can keep it teetering on the edge of my mind, in the abstract.
Our eyes drift to the window more often as the night draws on. The sky is sprinkled with few stars, but the stars aren't what we're looking at. We're waiting for something brighter.
Light flares at the window, casting long shadows as we fall still. The music stops. We crowd around the window. "You know…I've always wanted to see a shooting star."
He squeezes my hand as the sky catches fire. "Make a thousand wishes."
The lights streak across the sky, and I open another bottle. “Last orders!” I cry, and a chorus of hysterical laughter rises up. Dozens of glasses cluster under my nose, and champagne foams into each of them.
Let's go out with a bang. Let's make the most of these precious minutes. "Firework show, anyone?"
I lead the party to the roof, bringing our music with us, cranking up the volume. We dance under the stars, shouting at the sky, daring it to wipe us away. The greatest star is yet to come. It'll be quite a sight. I don't need to be looking at him to know he's there. Feeling his presence, I reach out, and our fingers lace together. A new light dims the others, brighter than a thousand suns. We close our eyes and bask in the light of the falling star.
This is a night to remember. It’s a shame none of us will be left to remember it.