Wednesday, September 26, 2012
She downed the brandy in one neat gulp, and immediately felt its effects course through her body, making her warm, tingly and a little more alive. She continued to stare ahead of her like a zombie, aware of all the concerned expressions gazing upon her, hands awkward on laps, wanting to reach out, but helpless.
'Another?', came the low voice of Mark beside her, already pouring another measure with grave concentration.
She left him awkwardly holding the glass beside her, too lost in her own world to acknowledge him.
'Go on, Ellie, a little drop won't hurt' came her mother's voice, for once condoning drink.
She took the drink proffered by Mark, and glaring hatefully at her mother, took the glass and placed it firmly on the table beside her.
'I need a walk', she mumbled to no-one in particular.
She moved to leave, to get out of this hot, badly air-conditioned room, to escape into the open, to be alone, and as she stood up, struggling with the folded layers of taffeta skirt, she was met with the opposing, authoritative voice of her father.
'Ellie, where are you going? Sit down, you're in no fit state to be walking around by yourself'.
Feeling winded, more by her automatic childish submission than by the scolding tone of the demand, she found herself as she was for the past hour or more, slunk unmoving in her chair. Music floated up from the bar downstairs and bizarrely from the back of the room, she could hear the tap-tap-tap of deft fingers sending a text message. 'No doubt filling them all in at home of the scandal', she thought scornfully.
She snatched up the heavy glass, and with an angry 'For you, mother', swallowed the shot back. Carelessly putting the glass back on the table, it teetered on the edge and dropped over, landing heavily on the wooden dance floor. Mark quickly picked it up, unbroken, but now bearing a thick, dark crack down its middle.
He turned to her father with a let-me-handle-this expression, and taking Ellie gently by the elbow said,
'Come with me, we'll get some air'.
A sea of eyes followed them as they left, and as soon as they were out the door, Ellie could hear the urgent whispers, the sibilant gushing forth. like waves, building, building, then breaking on rocks.
Once outside the door of the hotel, she took one of the lanterns from the outdoor seating area, where a few bemused guests lounged. She really didn't care how she must look. Of course they would assume that Mark was her new husband and already on their wedding day, subject to a 'lovers tiff'.
She strided across the road towards the sea, two paces at least ahead of Mark. Her heels sunk into the sand, and not wanting to be slowed up, she slipped out of her shoes, their diamonte bows winking up at her like fallen stars.
Once she reached the water's edge, she stopped short, the rough waves breaking at her ankles, making the dress heavy and plundersome. The shock of the cold water hit her like a slap, and the tears gushed forth. Bawling loudly, she backed away from the edge of the water. The heavy clouds seemed to bear down on her and she fell to the ground, burying her head in her knees, layers of skirt forming a circle around her.
Mark stood a little distance behind her. He let her cry, her shoulders jerking up and down. Whatever he might say could not fix things.
After what seemed like an age, Ellie pulled herself to her feet, and red, wet and shivering, she stumbled back to where he stood. Gently he put his jacket over her shoulders, and she pulled it tightly around her. Her expression was hard to read, probably a mixture of anger and hurt. She just looked dazed and exhausted, as if awoken from a strange dream.
Slowly they trudged back towards the hotel, step-for-step in silence. Their wide, blurry shadows spread along the sand as they moved. In the distance, the sparkle of two fallen stars grew dimmer until they could no longer be seen.