Short Fiction ~ Alexis Wolfe
(Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition -6)
Most passengers have already retired to their cabins or berths. But the band are still performing and Henry is a night owl. Sixty-something, my dear husband sparkles with an energy almost rivalling mine, despite our thirty-year age gap. We take a table near the stage. I watch the band, basking in Henry’s warm gaze, suspecting he’s commenced undressing me in his mind. When I’m naked, he often says there is nothing he would rather look at and I find it holds for when I’m clothed too. I'm wearing the black dress he bought me in London, perhaps deep down I suspected that he’d choose tonight to surprise me with something gold. The bracelet glistens. Lucky girl, lucky girl, tinkles the piano. Thankfully, the up-tempo rhythm and Henry’s mild hearing loss prevent him overhearing the man from the neighbouring table, muttering ‘a fool and his money.’
The vessel lurches violently and I grab Henry’s forearm. Bottles of fizz pirouette across tables. The band ends one number and begins another. Henry anchors me closer to him. I bury my head into his neck and feel him swaying gently to the music. Officials shout: Women, Children, Lifeboats.
The buffoon from the adjacent table shakes my shoulder,
“Miss … Go!”
He grapples with my wrist, but I push him away. The violin has got his number, what an ass, what an ass, it trills. I see a small red clutch bag float past our ankles. We ignore the chill of rising water, and raised voices coming from beyond the ballroom.
“It’s not too late,” Henry speaks softly. I look up into his green-grey eyes, stroke his beard. I tell him to pour us more drinks.
The cellist doesn’t stop despite the icy water swirling around his kneecaps. The music is somber, slower now, even more beautiful echoing off water. The cello tremors sacrifice and honour, sacrifice and honour. It's hard to tell if it's the ship or the water or the music which is making us sway.
“You could still have many years,” Henry whispers. A lone shoe sails past.
“We both go down together,” I tell him.
Yellow spotlights illuminate the musicians’ calm faces. Still they play on. Henry cradles me in his lap, my head tucked under his chin like a fiddle.
Alexis Wolfe lives in Berkshire, UK. She has been published in The London Reader, The Wild Word, Spelk Fiction, Lucent Dreaming and New Flash Fiction Review. Her writing has been shortlisted in various competitions and has won the RW Creating Characters competition, 1000 Word Challenge and London Independent Story Prize. Twitter: @LexiWolfeWrites www.alexiswolfe.co.uk