Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Emily sat, quiet and alone in a corner, waiting for the evening’s last song to begin. She watched the immaculate boys prowling the dimly lit room, chatting up pretty girls in hope of securing companionship. No one wanted to be alone.
Emily wasn’t like those girls. She’d been beautiful once, in her own way. A rising star perhaps, soon to be debutante, but never quite comfortable in that skin. Her socialite parents, always considering their daughter more ornament than offspring, hired the finest of artisans to re-craft her after the accident. She was a masterpiece, a fine blend of flesh with fantasy; her own body augmented and elaborated upon with improbable features forged from gleaming materials. She was equal parts girl and gallery piece. She showed wonderfully in public, cleverly hiding her wounds from admiring eyes. Whole again, but no more complete.
Hands folded in her lap, she closed her eyes as the band continued to play a song she knew by heart. She imagined herself dancing with one of the immaculate boys, imagined one would truly care to do so. She’d been asked of course, as though she couldn’t see them in their groups, daring each other, sometimes so brazen as to draw straws. She knew what they were after, the bets they would have made. Curiosity. Bragging rights. A night with the freak girl.
She was glad not to be as stupid as they assumed her to be.
Someone stepped into her space, and she opened her eyes to find a young man standing before her. He started a little as she raised her eyes from well worn and polished shoes to a face nervously hopeful, her look equal parts curiosity and distrust. For a moment he looked away, then returned her gaze and held it steady.
“Can you dance?” he stammered. “Would you, I mean. With me. Would you dance with me?” He relaxed visibly, apparently relieved at having gotten the question out more or less intact. He shifted his weight from foot to foot as he awaited her response.
“I can dance,” Emily answered cooly, scanning the room for the group of boys she expected to find watching him, but finding no-one that seemed to be taking an interest.
“I’m Colin,” he put out his hand as he spoke, letting it hang awkwardly in space until she took it. Reluctantly Emily allowed herself to be coaxed from the safety of her chair.
“Emily,” she offered after a moment, as she let him lead her toward the dance floor. People were casting glances now, she could feel their eyes on them.
“I know,” Colin smiled, “I’ve watched you at all the dances. I’ve wanted to ask you forever, but I daren’t as you turn all the better boys down.”
The band began again, a lengthy familiar ballad she’d listened to from the shadows so many nights before. Colin slipped a hand around her waist to the small of her back, the other holding her one hand aloft. He was sweating, ever so slightly, and smiling. His jacket beneath her free hand was soft from too many washings, and gave off the delicate aroma of mint and coffee.
“Thank you,” he whispered into her ear as they set off, the room twirling around them in complementary orbits, “you’re so beautiful, I was scared you’d turn me down too”.
He squeezed her hand gently, guiding her gracefully around the crowded dance floor. She found herself feeling every bit as beautiful as she’d been fabricated to be, her unbreaking heart beating in time with the music, and the most beautiful boy she’d never known could exist.