This is the sequel to the story “A Picture”
She is not a vision. I am at least ninety percent sure of that. I saw her again tonight. I was attending a salon at the Reynolda House. It’s located just outside the city, near the water. The house is surrounded by lush lawns, magnolia trees, and box woods. Reynolda House is known for it’s parties and high society.
The party I was to go to would be a fairly small but elite party. To be invited is always considered an honor. I was not honored, I was required to be there by the hostess, my grandmother. The entertainment would consist of a live string quartet. For days before the concert I tried to think of a way to successfully sneak a book into the house with me. My role at the party was clear. My grandmother would dress me up and I would be there to represent the family and the words between the lines would read “single white male in need of being married off”. It’s disgusting. I love my grandmother dearly, and I know she means well, but I have no intention of marring any of the silly women, bred to be socialites from birth, who attend these events.
Upon arriving at the house, I immediately went into hiding. My best friend is a cello player and featured artist at this event, so I went upstairs to seek refuge with the other performers. We stood on the loft of the grand staircase watching the guests as they arrived. I thought about what I would say to each guest; the least amount of conversation without sounding rude. Not that I wanted to be rude, it’s just that I feel awkward at events like this. I don’t like feeling like I’m on parade.
I wasn’t expecting her when she walked in, I wasn’t expecting to see her ever again. My heart skipped a beat. I was slightly surprised there wasn’t a crown of golden leaves placed upon her head. She looked as regal as the first time I had seen her. Her dress was burgundy. No. Red. Burnt Red. Always red. She didn’t see me watching her from above the crowded room.
“That’s her,” I said.
“Her. The Vision”
My friend nodded and went back to his glass of wine.
I ran to the stairs and descended as quickly as I could without tripping. I had to get to her. I had to touch her. I had to see if she was as real as I thought she was or if she was truly a vision. I stopped at the bottom of the stair and she looked at me and smiled. We walked toward each other. I opened my mouth and said something to her, maybe my name, maybe a comment about her dress or the evening. She smiled at me and I offered her my arm. She lightly placed a hand on my arm and we began to walk into the salon.
She stood in the foyer. A man came and presented himself to her. A man that was not me. She smiled at a man that was not me. She smiled and lightly placed her hand on a man’s arm who was not me. She walked with the man who was not me into the salon and I knew I had missed my chance.
Eventually I had to make my way down to the guests. We mingled around waiting for the night of music and sophistication to begin. Everyone told me how glad they were to see me. I just kept nodding my head, my eyes always seeking her out. I chose a chair and placed it as close to the wall as I could. I sulked as I watched them. Everyone loved her. I knew they would. She was at ease in this atmosphere. Just as easy as she was that day in the park. I knew this wasn’t her true element. Her true element is the forest and woods, comfortable and warm, not with these synthetic people. She was graceful and gracious and they loved her. I loved her, why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t the man who is not me love her? Because he had not been given the chance to look into her heart as I had. Because she did not draw a picture for him that was true.
The music began and I watched her. She knew these pieces of music. I watched her head sway slightly, infinitesimally to the music. Her toe moved under the hem of her gown, swaying with her head and the music. She kept her eyes closed, savoring the notes, the trills, every breath the bow took as it glided over the strings. She had melded with the music.
I don’t know how long I sat there looking at her, holding my breath. Minutes passed, hours, days. Wars have been fought in the time I sat there, just looking at her. Drinking her in. It was like drinking a milkshake through a straw, you have to suck harder than you’ve ever sucked just to get the smallest taste of the triple fudge chunk.
Her face turned slowly in my direction and her eyes flew open. She looked directly at me. She may project rosy colors wherever she goes, but make no mistake, her eyes are blue. Bright, icy blue. With all warmth. Why is she such a paradox to me? Why can’t I understand this person that took only one glance at me and knew me inside out?
I looked away, and knew that for the second time that night, I stood down. I had taken the coward’s way out. She had offered me an avenue to place my hand in the fire and not get burned, but I had turned a blind eye to it. I had turned a yellow eye to it, like a wolf.
No amount of encouragement could make me go talk to her after the concertos had been performed, after every instrument had been packed away, after every bottle had been emptied. She did not drink at all that night. She always had a glass in her hand, but she never drank from it. I drank enough for both of us, she knew that.
I stood on the far wall next to the window, leaning on the green velvet drapes that stretch two stories upwards beside the great windows of the salon. Green suited me well. My teeth of jade showing whenever the man who wasn’t me glanced my way, and greedy eyes starring at the lovely couple.
I was just starting to feel the effects of a good buzz when I saw her bid everyone goodnight. She walked towards the door leading to the foyer. Just before leaving, she turned slightly, and looked at me, turning her head to one side. I think she was disappointed in me. I was disappointed in me, she should be too. She left the room without another clue for my wild hands to grasp.
I followed her out of the room, into the lobby. Every head turned to see what I would do. Every eye watched me intently as I walked up to the woman who knew me so completely and I couldn’t even bring myself to be a man around her.
The maid brought her coat to help her put on and I took it from her. I held it behind my vision as she slid her arms into the sleeves and looked into the mirror. Her eyes flickered to my face, just over her shoulder. She blinked in surprise at seeing it there, but she knew I would follow. She held my heart strings too tightly not to know that I would follow her. She knew I would follow her out the door, that I would follow her to her house, to the far reaches of Zambia if I was brave enough.
”Thank you”, she said, turning to me.
I bowed to her, and when I stood back up, she was gone. The butler was closing the door behind her. I watched as her driver handed her into the rolls royce and drove away under the magnolia leaves. I watched my vision fade into the night. I watched her turn into stardust and music. She left her scent in the room. She smelled of lemon and ginger.
If she was red to me, I was yellow to her. I knew she had taught me another lesson.