Flash Fiction: The Dance

A couple of days ago, I published this post about my cruise vacation. I mentioned some interesting people I met and suggested they could end up in a short story.

Welcome to the first cruise passenger short story! This one is based on a retired British woman who was traveling on her own (or if she wasn’t, she did a great job of avoiding her travel mates). She was rather petite and dressed like an older lady, but she totally busted a move on the dance floor, much to everyone’s delight.

Her part in the story is limited to those details. Everything else is completely fabricated. Enjoy!

The Dance

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I lean over the deck rail, admiring the glassy cobalt that gently rocks us as the ship pulls out of port. I don’t mind the motion, but the new travelers among us quickly make themselves known, stumbling and bringing their hands to their heads. I’ve done this a dozen times in my eight decades, though this is the first time I’ve done it alone.

The band strikes up behind me and I turn towards the bar. Young couples – honeymooners, I suspect – carry those silly fruit drinks meant especially for departure. Roger and I indulged in the ritual the first few times, but then our trips became less about extravagance and more about experience – the experience of life together, the earth, and the various cultures we would see.

About now is when Roger would offer me his arm. We’d stroll together across the deck, listening to the music and to young friends shouting to each other in celebration. Eventually we would reach the lounge, where we’d sit in comfort and marvel at the vast ocean ahead of us and at our good fortunes. Some cruises, like this one, host a dance soon after departure. Roger would lead me to the dance floor and hold me as we moved. Maybe I’ll take to the floor on my own today.

I wander across the deck with only my senses to accompany me. A young woman, who reminds me a bit of my daughter-in-law, looks as if she wants to approach me, perhaps to ask if I’m lost. I smile and nod assuringly, a gesture she returns before sipping her fruity drink and gazing at the young man at her side.

Ah. To be there again.

I think she tried to open her eyes.

I regain my footing and shake off the dizzy spell. Goodness. I haven’t had trouble keeping my balance on a ship since we first started cruising.

I make my way through the sunshine and past the pool, where a boy of about six jumps in. A girl of twelve yells from the rail, “Come on! You’re missing the dolphins!”

Of course! How could I forget? The dolphins always jump in the churning waters of a departing ship. I hurry to the side but have to balance on a chair as another dizzy spell gets me.

Mom? Can you hear me?

Mom?

I shake my head and join the girl at the rail. She points at the creatures leaping from the waves. I smile, and my heart fills with contentment.

Mom? 

I don’t think she can hear me.

Bother. The rocking of the boat is really getting me this time. Perhaps I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast.

I look to the girl to say goodbye before I head to the buffet, only she isn’t there. Odd. That spell must have been longer than it seemed. I turn towards the band and the other people, but the deck is deserted. Music plays from somewhere – old music, from when Roger and I were married. I laugh at the nostalgia.

Everyone must have gathered inside for an announcement, so I head for the ship’s interior, but I’m not as alone as I thought.

She’s destabilizing.

A man stands near the pool – a young, handsome man. A familiar man.

Hang on. Please. 

Roger? But this man is young, not the old gentleman I lost three years ago next May.

Smiling, he holds out his arm, and I know. I rest my hand on his bicep, not believing my senses. “Are you real?”

He laughs that deep laugh I so adored, a simple reminder of his strength and wit. “Yes, my dear, I’m real. And I’ve been waiting here for you.” He kisses me and gazes into my eyes. “Come on. We don’t want to miss the dance.”

Together, we walk to the center of the deserted deck. He wraps his arms around me, and we sway to the music of our youth, as if no time has passed. My heart is so full of joy, and I feel we will do this forever.

I’m sorry. She’s gone.

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