Two Dancers (from 'Light and Dark')
Add: 5 August 2015 / 17:20
Annalise and Daniel have been married for six years but now she is alone again, as she has been so many times before, her wine-washed thoughts tumbling like kaleidoscope colours in a long, hollow chamber. She looks across the table to the chair he deserted over three hours ago, and reflects on the marriage he deserted long before that. The clock on the wall is whispering; a gentle ticking like the sound of a lone cricket in a field as dusk gives up its last moments to darkness. It is almost two o’clock in the morning. She knows that by now Daniel will inevitably be in one of the city’s casinos, and despite his promises she knows he will not return to the hotel again before daybreak, probably later. His promises, like everything else in her life, are empty. Inside her the hollow spaciousness makes everything in her life echo, even the thin, tick-tick motion of the whispering clock.
The low-lit hotel bar, now wearing a dark cloak of shadow and memories, is almost empty. A middle-aged barman, immaculately presented in black and white, begins quietly humming a tune that Annalise vaguely recognises but cannot name. She is sure she heard it in a film once. The barman is bathed, almost ghost-like, in a small pool of faded yellow light, as he stands behind the counter, assiduously polishing warm wine glasses into smooth, brilliant clarity with an almost obsessive eye. Every so often he glances across to where Annalise sits and offers what seems to her to be the faintest hint of a smile.
At a small booth in the corner, two women in their late twenties sit at a table, still chatting animatedly and drinking red wine. Every so often, sudden bursts of laughter break the thin layer of fragile silence, before even these, too, turn to a dull, empty echo within the empty space of Annalise’s thoughts.
The women are two dancers from Prague who had come to Paris as members of a Czech company which had recently begun a month-long tour of France and the Low Countries. They had left the company almost immediately after its arrival in Paris a few days ago, amid a sudden swirl of scandal - heated unhelpfully by rumour and salacious gossip - surrounding the two dancers and the wife of the director of the company. Fearing for the future of the tour and the reputation of the company, but more for the potential loss of profits, the director dismissed the two dancers, following which his wife returned quickly to Prague. The two dancers had thereafter managed to secure several nights work as dancers at the hotel bar, and had now earned enough to pay for their return journey to Prague.
Following Daniel’s disappearance into the Parisian night, Annalise had been ready to go back to her room and allow sleep to swallow her whole; but just as she was about to leave the two dancers were introduced by the hotel manageress.
Dance had always consumed Annalise like a wild, unrelenting lover. It was her schoolgirl passion, the longing of her heart, the irresistible force of life that seemed to give her the air she really needed to breathe; the motion of nature she needed in order to both live, and to feel alive. Nothing else fed her like the sound of music flooding into her body, her veins, her core, her soul, and then allowing it to take over and control every movement of her body and thought of her mind. It made her feel both empty and full, at one and the same time. And suddenly, in front of her, she could see two dancers, swept up in the music, and she knew that at that very moment they were oblivious to the world outside themselves, and were surrendering to everything their nature truly was. They were free, and nothing else mattered.
A single guitar accompanied them as they danced, moving together almost as one, swirling, gliding effortlessly around the floor; touching it, but only barely. Over and over, but only momentarily each time, the skirts of their dresses; one a scarlet red and the other mint green, would be swept up and lifted by their motion, revealing their slender and toned thighs. They would arch their backs tantalisingly, revealing the curve of their breasts, almost offering them, before pulling away again. Starting slowly, almost deliberately, they gradually surrendered to the music, becoming lost to everything but the pulsating, passionate strings of a Spanish guitar. On and on they went, until their motion became frenetic and feverish, tiny beads of sweat, like miniature glistening pearls in half-light, forming on their skin. It was as though the two dancers were becoming endless wisps of smoke and colour in motion, curling and moving into and through each other effortlessly. But more than that, they were wild, uninhibited, carefree, abandoned. Nobody could ever stop them, and if anybody tried, they would fail.
The two dancers urged each other on and on until they were breathless and feverish. And as she watched, swept up in the passion, fire, and increasing haze of colour and motion of two bodies teasing the night, Annalise could feel herself becoming breathless too. She had not wanted to come to Paris with Daniel, but now she felt as though her presence there, in that place, at that time, had been somehow predestined from the beginning of time. Annalise had no idea how long they were dancing. Time had seemed to stand still, the hands of the clock slowed and stopped by a force more powerful than life. And when they had finished, to rapturous applause, Annalise felt as though she herself had been dancing; breathless, whole, and alive.
Only slowly did the kiss of the wine begin to bring her back to the reality she longed to leave behind. The bar had slowly emptied, leaving behind only memories, three women and a barman with a soft smile, humming thoughtlessly yet seductively.
Annalise exchanges brief glances with the dancers, their eyes dark and wild. The vibrating strings of the guitar may slow and still, but for those who dance, truly dance, the music never stops. Annalise can almost hear the beating of her heart as she runs her finger around the lip of her wine glass. It is like her life; a perfect crystal circle, needing only a delicate touch to provide music she can dance to.
The two dancers get up and link arms. They move towards the barman, still humming at the counter who smiles, reaches under the counter and hands the woman in the mint green dress a bottle of champagne. Annalise watches as they then make their way slowly, arms linked, to the table where she sits. As they reach the edge of her table, they stop.
“My name’s Jana,” the dancer in the scarlet red dress says, as she slips her arm around the other’s waist. “This is Sonia.”
Annalise offers a smile, but remains silent.
“He’s not coming back, is he?” asks Jana, knowing the answer.
Annalise shakes her head.
“Do you want to come and dance?” asks Jana softly.
Annalise smiled and stood up. “Yes, I want to dance.”
Sonia slips her arm into Annalise’s, and the three walk in silence out of the hotel bar, through the now dimly-lit hotel lobby, where a grey-haired concierge sits behind the reception desk reading a crumpled copy of yesterday’s newspaper, and towards the hotel lift. Once inside, Jana pushes a button and the doors slide shut.
Annalise hears Grace Jones’ “I’ve Seen That Face Before” being piped softly through the speakers in the ceiling of the lift. Sonia puts the bottle of champagne carefully on the floor and now arches her back against the mirrored wall opposite the lift doors. As though she is alone, she slowly moves her hands to her breasts and begins to squeeze and caress them, her shoulders pressing ever more firmly against the mirror, her nipples responding to her desire.
As she does so, Jana moves her hand to the hem of Sonia’s mint green dress, gathering it between her fingers and lifting it easily, rolling it up, gradually exposing Sonia’s firm, lightly bronzed thighs. They part slightly as Jana brushes the back of her fingers delicately against them.
Sonia moves her face to the side, her cheek now touching the glass, her arousal betrayed by soft moans. Annalise watches as Jana lifts the skirt of Sonia’s dress ever higher until her glistening, smooth sex is now fully exposed. Slowly, Jana slides two fingers up and down over the wet, wanting lips. Every now and again she allows them to graze Sonia’s clit, causing her to press her back firmly against the mirror and push out her hips almost involuntarily; inviting, urging, needing.
Sonia lets out a longer, lower moan now as Jana slides two fingers deep inside, penetrating her, almost sucked in by the lust building inside, moving them around against the smooth walls of her tight sex. Curling them deep, probing and teasing. Jana now slowly withdraws them, leaving an almost audible moan of disappointment on Sonia’s lips, as the skirt of the mint green dress falls back down over her thighs.
Jana turns to Annalise, smiles at her and slowly offers her two fingers, wet with sex, to Annalise’s mouth, sliding them between her still wine-stained lips and against the moist warmth of her tongue. Annalise closes her eyes and sucks on Jana’s fingers; the taste somehow both familiar and unfamiliar.
The lift bell sounds. The doors slide open. Jana smiles again and looks into Annalise’s now dark, hungry eyes.
“Do you want to dance?” she asks.
“I always have,” Annalise replies.