Second Chance

She sank into the large leather wingback, crossing one leg over the other, enjoying the glimpse of her favourite shoes as she cast her eyes about the room. Ruby’s sported only arty mood lighting so it was filled with shadowy corners draped in red velvet, but then you didn’t exactly come here for the view.
Drink?  Yes
Dance?  On occasion
Escape?  Always

She closed her eyes and let the music move through her, the walking jazz baseline pulsing through the drink clutched between her finger tips, wrist hanging limp over the arm of the chair. Her tongue darted across her lips to catch a trace of liquor but caught only gloss and she pouted, partly at the now required effort to catch a taste, partly as she remembered the deep shade of red she had painted on for the occasion and knew how fantastic she looked when she pouted just so.

“May I?” The soft baritone was like butter and the tall drink of water it belonged to was gesturing to the chair beside her.
She let a wry smile crease her lips, “You may.”

He was older, dashing, fair hair shot through with grey, laughter lines tickling at the corner of his eyes. He wore his shirt collar loose, draping his jacket over the back of the chair before settling into it. His soft blue stare drank her in, and she loved it.

“To whom do I owe the pleasure?” she asked, that fine line between sultry sing-song and coy that the boys all like so much. This one though. A shadow seemed to flit across his eyes at the question, for so brief a moment that she doubted herself immediately.
He held out his hand to her, “James, and the enchantress before me?”
“Enchantress?” she gasped, a grin spreading wide as she placed her hand into his. “Why sir, I do believe you have quite the wrong impression of me already.”
“And yet I am certainly under your spell” He pressed his lips gently to the back of her hand, lingering a moment before relinquishing.
“Maggie.” There was something about him. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. Something warm and inviting yet teasingly aloof. “So, what brings you to such a fine establishment on a night like this?”
He glanced about a moment before answering, the question hanging in the air among the candlelight. “I was hoping to run into an old friend,” he sighed, “it looks like I’ve missed them.”
She leaned in, placing her hand on his arm, “I guess you’ll just have to make do with me.”

The song finished and she put her drink down to applaud. The enthusiastic slap of her hands rang out in the empty bar but that only increased her effort, an attempt to make up for the lack of patrons. He grinned and stood to join her, whooping and hollering for an encore. The band struck up again and they cheered.

Their eyes collided, breathless, and he thrust out his hand to her, an invitation. She grasped it and together they began to spin and twirl, weaving together as if they were one and had been always. The music slowed and her pulled her in close, swaying together.
“What’s the name of this place again?” his voice vibrating through his chest against her.
“Of course,” a fond smile tickling at the corner of his mouth, “we did always love it here. Made a good martini.”

She pulled away, reaching for her drink, “shame you didn’t catch your friend.” She took a long gulp, waiting for the whiskey sting at the back of her throat but all she could taste was water. Damn ice.
“I didn’t mean…” A frown streaked across his face and frustratingly he looked even more adorable.
“It’s my luck, I always fall for the unavailable ones,” she huffed, “Sailors on leave, cadets shipping off, married, emotionally stunted, I’m some sort of bastard whisperer.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” He stepped towards her and like repelling magnets she stepped away.
“So you’re married then.”  She drank deep again and still the whiskey came up short.  “What the fuck is with this drink?!”

She glanced down at the glass in her hand and confusion swarmed.  It was not the cut-glass tumbler brimming with gold that she had expected.  Instead she held a stout, plain highball containing naught but water.
“What’s this?  Did you get me this?”
“No, you had it the whole…”
“Did you swap out my drink?”
“No, I…”
“Does a woman drinking offend you?” she screeched as she advanced on him. “Are you one of those old boys that likes their women chained to the kitchen sink?”
“Midge, it’s ok.”

Her vision swam and time faltered.  The candlelit club flickered to a dim sitting room, the final turn of the vinyl halted the band.  Fingers of clarity crept in and she looked into his eyes again, and yet for the first time.  “Jim?”

His arms outspread and reaching, he approached her softly, like a bomb that may explode at any moment.  “Midge? I’m here, it’s me.”
She carefully put down the glass and backed away from it into his arms.  “Where am I?  What’s going on?  I thought…”
“It’s ok,” his strong arms folding around her, tears stinging his eyes.  “I’m here.  I’ve got you.”

The lucid days were always bittersweet.  It was a dream to have his wife, his best friend back, but it always began with that same explanation, the same tears, the same heart ache.
As always he told her about the children; how Mark is engaged and their first grandchild is due any day now.
As always she gave him messages to pass on, messages she tried to pack full of love and meaning.
As always she asked about him; had he moved on, had he met someone.
As always he said he never could, that he is her husband.
And as always she chastised him and tried to set him up with a nurse.

They would talk away the time until eventually it returned for her; her grip on his arm would loosen, the mist would fill her eyes and she would sink into her chair.  He would sit with her a while longer, clinging to the chance that it might just be temporary, but it never was.  The real her was the temporary version now.


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