Our weblog friend Jeff of
" A Word In Edgewise" has put together a monthly writing challenge titled:
“ Portrait of Words.”
He provides a series of photographs representing the main character(s), the backdrop, the purpose, specific item, and your choice of wildcards. The challenge is to write a story using the pictures as he has provided. All the rules and guidelines can be found on his POW posting…and his story…along with links to the other participants can be found here.
Tugging at the scratchy white satin I swore softly The ruffled knickers were constrictive… especially for someone who rarely wore panties in the first place. Sighing I tried to straighten the rows of lace around my ass. “Whatever” I thought, “no one is gonna see’em anyway.” I reached for the corset looking thing fingering the solid bone stays. A medieval torture device if I ever saw one.
I love visions of romance more than most but this was beyond ridiculous. There are not many people in the world for whom I would consider wearing this type of get up. But the joy in Erika’s voice when she asked me to play at her wedding and the pleading grasp of her hands swept me along. She had been my personal assistant since the early days, keeping my caffeine levels high and my anger levels low. I owed her.
Owed her enough anyway to be in Vegas squeezing my body into old fashion Victorian undergarments…the pressure similar to sausage in its casing. It was an outdoor wedding at an abandoned estate…and there was no way I was wearing stockings in the hundred degree desert. I brushed my hair and put on makeup like a grownup. Jewelry not quite appropriate to the occasion…but true to my style. Typically, I was running early so I grabbed from my books I had stacked at the bedside. I suffer from sensory overload in a casino environment and didn’t plan to be cruising the strip too much over the weekend....so I brought books.
The hotel rooms must cater to wedding couples and double as honeymoon suites, ‘cause the décor was valentine-like….all red, white and borderline nauseating. I considered calling the front desk to switch. On second thought, that would require packing everything up and besides….I didn’t have the patience to explain to the perky clerk what my problem was. Flopping into a heart shaped chair I lost myself in a few chapters until it was time to finish dressing.
The stiff taffeta slid onto my shoulders and flowed over my hips skimming the floor. “Oh damn” I suddenly realized there was no way I could get the two dozen tiny seed buttons all done up on my own. From the hall I could just make out the sounds of soft Spanish and the rolling of the housekeeping cart. Maybe I could get a bit of help.
I searched for my old high tops. The suite was pretty small…they had to be here somewhere. Most likely in exactly the same place I kicked them off when I arrived from McCarran.
Holding up my dress in one hand and the bed’s dust ruffle in the other, I looked under the bed.
TaDa! Old worn-out and dirty, I loved these shoes. They had form fit to my feet over the years and gave my step a bounce no four inch stilettos ever would.
Grabbing my door card I rushed into the hall….and found myself landing in a heap on the thick pile carpet.
The first thing I noticed were the two large bazooka looking things lying across the threshold into my room.
The next thing I noticed was the tuxedo in a panic above me.
Too late I noticed the neckline of my unbuttoned dress had slipped to reveal most of the absurd corset.
The tuxedo reached down…as if to help me…but no. He was trying to gather the bazookas. “What the hell are you doing?” He snarled at me…pushing me aside to get to the cylinders. I jumped up pulling my dress to where it belonged, inadvertently blocking his path.
“oh I beg your pardon….was I in YOUR way…?” the sweetness dripping from my voice. Housekeeping fluttered around us…mumbling something soothing in Spanish.
“Get out of my way” he ordered
“Get out of my doorway” I countered.
My hands were busy holding up my dress as I stepped backwards into my room over his cases intentionally brushing them with the soles of my high-tops. He set down a bundle of black leather bags. I suddenly realized the large cylinders probably contained camera lens or tripod…and not an over the shoulder surface to air missile launcher.
I threw the smirking maid a pleading look….turning to show her the back of my dress. She rushed around the tuxedo into my room in a show of female solidarity.
“You should watch where you are going” he admonished
“You shouldn’t blockade the hallway”
I matched his tone.
He stared at me in anger. What an ass. I smiled my sweetest and gently pushed the leather tube with my toe until it was in the hallway…and closed the door in his face.
The maid and I burst into laughter…which I was sure he could hear. While she fastened up the back of my dress, I tried to smooth my hair into place. Finally put together, I grabbed my large leather handbag and took a quick inventory…fancy shoes, wallet, camera, sheet music pouch. I threw in my book in case I got bored.
The maid looked out the peephole and gave me the okay. As we crossed the threshold we looked both ways…and started laughing. The coast was clear. The tuxedo was gone. I gave her my thanks…making note of her name. I would make sure the hotel knew what a great employee they had.
I got lucky at the taxi station and relaxed in the air-conditioned backseat. Pulling up to the white tented gardens my taxi driver gave a long whistle under his breath. He had spent the entire ride telling me forty years worth of stories about winners and losers…but this seemed to impress him. Set up outside an old empty mansion were flowing while tents, and several rows of dark wooden chairs facing a houppa. Over to the right a dozen white tables with flower and ribbon centerpieces. I handed him the fare and climbed out on my own. It was over an hour before the wedding would start and dozens of people in navy uniforms were scurrying around finishing final touches.
I headed toward the baby grand situated in the shade up against the mansion wall. I wanted to plunk through a dry run or two before the early guests arrived. I pulled the leather pouch from my bag…removed the music…and placed it above the keys. I knew this piece, every note, by heart. But now I was starting to get serious butterflies deep in my belly. What the hell was I thinking…agreeing to do this gig? Almost no one outside of my immediate family even knew I played. In fact I had not performed in public for over twenty years.
As I fingered the keys I thought about the afternoon Erika had had discovered the music. We had been sharing a bottle of wine and watching a movie. She had been to my home often enough to feel comfortable snooping in the piano bench and found the pages of sheet music I kept private. She had barely glanced at the contemporary pieces making a beeline for the leather pouch buried in the bottom.
“ooooohhhh what is this…..” Gently and gingerly Erika extracted the yellowed pages.
“Music” I responded from the kitchen. If I reacted in any way she would know it was a big deal and hound me without pause until I told her the entire story. Softly she read out loud the handwritten note on the margin…and looked up at me in concern.
I rolled my eyes and waved my hand in a never-you-mind sort of gesture. To distract her from any explanation I put down my wine and played the piece for her. Of course when it came time to plan her nuptials…she would settle for nothing else. So here I was at the keyboard staring at the music and taking very deep breaths.
From behind me I heard a crashing sound coming from inside the old house. Tall windows of decaying wooden panes lined this side of the house. I got up from the piano and made my way to an open door. Looking inside at what must have once been the ballroom I saw half a dozen of the uniformed men hanging large sheets of golden fabric.
Apparently one of them had used a folding table rather than a ladder and it had collapsed. Next to the table on the floor were several frightingly familiar black leather equipment bags. Set up over by one of the windows a state of the art digital camera with an incredibly long lens. Oh for crying out loud. Of course. The photographer and the musician would be at the same hotel…and on the same floor. Bet he wasn’t wearing a corset though.
“YOU” the voice behind me was really angry this time. “You need to get out of here”
I turned slowly with my hands raised in the international gesture for “no foul” trying not to laugh at the situation. “I didn’t do ANYthing….I just in came to see with at the noise was all about” Tuxedo turned his anger on the guys hanging the fabric and I snuck back out the way I came in.
I saw one of the catering staff setting up the bar under a grove of trees and tried to look nonchalant as I strolled over. “What are the chances I can get a Jack over?” I raised my sunglasses up to give the bartender a hopeful look.
“Sorry, beer and wine only.” I dropped my sunglasses and my shoulders in exaggerated disappointment. “But I am pouring the Perrier Joulet…” I peaked over the bar and saw my favorite flowered bottle. I was flattered the bride had taken my suggestion and nodded a grateful thanks.
“I was watching them hang fabric inside the ballroom…but the place is a disaster?” I was curious.
“The fabric gives the reflection from the inside a warm glowing effect. ” he handed me a perfect crystal champagne flute. I thought about the golden fabric and how that would work.
I could hear someone approaching behind me. However I was unprepared to hear the tuxedo voice. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Grimacing at the bartender I replied, "No. Thanks.
I think I got this one covered.”
“Well then…you need to allow me to apologize”
Facing the tuxedo, I raised the flute. “of course….”
I could see him looking uneasily over my shoulder at the bartender. Obviously having the audience bothered him.
“Back at the hotel….I was angry you had knocked my lenses over. While I realize you didn’t know my equipment was in the hallway… you really shouldn’t have come out of your room without looking. Especially in those shoes”
Shaking my head, I just walked away…in “those” shoes.
He followed. ”wait….please…”
I kept walking.
“I need to practice…you need to take pictures”
“oh c’mon….don’t be like that….”
I stopped and turned. He ran right into me, sloshing my champagne all over the front of my dress. I gasped and sputtered at the ice cold going down the front of my dress. He tried to wipe the bubbly off my bodice. I smacked his hand away and he stepped back thinking I was gonna smack his face next.
He may have been right.
I practically sprinted over to the piano…thankful I was still wearing my high-tops and not those damn stilettos Erika had issued. Grabbing a handkerchief from my bag I dried off my neck and down the front of my dress. I smelled of alcohol and felt sticky.
He approached me warily…the flowered bottle in his hand. He reached for my glass and filled it back up. I took a sip and eyed him over the rim of the flute.
“I have to practice now.” I said. He nodded and tipped an imaginary hat. I have to admit his walking away was a fairly nice view.
The bride was beautiful….the groom resplendent. The bridesmaids were dressed like me. My part came about halfway through… the couple exchanged rings while I played. The angle of the setting sun gave me good reason for keeping my sunglasses in place…and no one but the bride would know my eyes filled with tears.
Duty done I downed my second glass of champagne. Out of no where, one of staff appeared to fill it up again with a smug look. I pivoted around to locate the photographer…he was no where to be seen.
As the minister completed the ceremony I headed over to where the other guests were seated. Erika and her new husband came down the white runway and I gave them both a warm hug and wished them all of God’s blessings. The families swarmed…and I smiled at the love that surrounded them.
At my elbow was yet another young server topping off my champagne. I laughed and put my hand up for him to wait while I guzzled the glass…and held it out for him to fill. I was feeling giddy. Partially from the champagne…but more so from the relief of having my performance behind me.
I mingled with people I was previously acquainted with and nibbled on appetizers. Each time my glass was half empty…some server was there to fill it up. Obviously I was being given special treatment.
As the traditional festivities began, a half dozen photographers appeared with small unobtrusive cameras. During the cake cutting and stuffing in each others’ mouth event, the tuxedo sat down next to me…with his very own flowered bottle. And an empty glass. He set both down on the table. “Truce?” he whispered.
I picked up the bottle and filled his glass. I wasn’t making any promises.
The dancing had begun… with half the women taking off their shoes. He glanced under the table to look at my feet. “You didn’t ever change your shoes?” I pulled my feet out and plopped my dirty worn high tops on his knee.
“Apparently not” It was almost a challenge…which he accepted gracefully. I realized I had imbibed more than my fair share…put my feet back where they belonged…and took yet another sip. He filled my glass.
We shared a few personal details of our private lives. I picked at the food and continued to enjoy the champagne. He leaned over and said, “You need to let me apologize.” I let him.
A group of giggling, grabbing women gathered to catch the bouquet. “aren’t you going to join them?” I shook my head disdainfully. I explained I had been married once…a long time ago. I had the tendency to attract men I didn’t respect and didn’t want to risk catching the bouquet. Not that I was superstitious….but…still.
Before long the happy couple were whisked away in a long white limo and the guests began to party in earnest. He pulled my hand and before I could object we were on the dance floor. I don’t really dance in public and fought the instinct to run. He was so much taller than me I found it hard to match his steps. “You need to let me lead.” I let him. It was just easier to follow than to fight.
The sun had set and the gig was in full swing. The food was scrumptious. Perrier Joulet in the flowered bottle was still my very favorite. I knew I had had enough. I disengaged myself gently and thanked him. I gathered my things while calling the taxi company. He walked me to the driveway, first with my hand in his…and then with his arm around my waist. As my cab swung around he lifted my chin and kissed me slowly. The combination of alcohol and passion combined to make me a tad dizzy.
On the drive back toward the strip I started to wish I hadn’t left him standing there. The thought of going back to the valentine room by myself made me sad. I asked my driver to take the long way and sat back looking at the strip’s bright, garish neon and contemplated my life.
I walked through the lobby. My dress and shoe combo getting a smile or two. Pushing the up arrow for the elevator I examined my reflection in the shiny metal. I didn’t look too bad considering the day I had. As the door slid open I started to step in...and was almost knocked over…by the tuxedo.
Grabbing my shoulders to steady me he said, “You need to stop running into me.” I stood with my arms akimbo ready to point out he may be the one at fault. But he was kissing me and I lost my train of thought. The elevator door opened again and I pulled away realizing people were watching.
“C’mon” he whispered “we need to get out of here.” He pulled me by the hand out through the lobby. I let him. I remember the kisses in the taxi cab. I remember the fountains at the Bellagio. I remember the dinner and dancing. I remember him holding me while we looked out over the entire city. I remember the hours of conversation. But there were somethings I did not remember.
I remember waking up in my hotel room bed. The bone stays of the corset pressing into my ribcage. I felt overly warm and kicked off the sheet. I was still too warm. I opened my eyes. The tuxedo was there next to me…without the tuxedo. And I was without my dress. I pulled my face into my hands…oh geeezzzz. What had I done? The left hand on my cheek felt….heavy. I focused. On my ring finger….a gold band. I looked past my hand as he woke up. For a full five minutes we just lay there staring.
He touched my face gently…and pulled me closer.
“We need to start our honeymoon” he whispered.
I let him