I saw her from across the room. She was sipping red wine from a crystal glass, the light sparkling on the residue on her lips. The man beside her was deep in conversation with an elderly lady, gesticulating madly with his hands and laughing rauciously. She pushed her long auburn hair out of her deep brown eyes subconsciously and looked around the room. She took a step back and leant against the wall, her deep red dress gently swirling around her ankles as she moved, her shoulders raising in a silent sigh.
"Are you even listening to me?" said the young artist I had been talking to. He was describing the piece on display beside us.
"I'm sorry." I replied. "As I was saying.. " he continued, "I was trying to portray the lust implicit in every facet of society..." I zoned out, and glanced over to the far corner. The man was now pressed up against the elderly lady, hoarsely whispering in her ear, his cheeks flushed from the wine. There was no sign of the woman in the red dress.

"You'll have to excuse me." I interrupted the artist, now in full throttle about his debauched research. I left him there and slowly moved through the crowd. I passed more artists explaining their works laboriously, women listening to them attentively, fawning over their every word. Old ladies inspecting the paintings and discussing the immorality of modern works, their fat husbands leching and grinning at the more explicit pieces. A little girl was sitting in the corner reading a comic book, and a group of bored teenagers were trying to cajole a waiter into giving them wine.
I sighed to myself, promising internally that I'd never be persuaded to come to one of these parties again. I stepped out on the balcony for a breath of fresh air. I sucked in the frigid air, relishing the cool in my throat after the stuffy, smokey atmosphere in the gallery. I walked over and leant on the rail, gazing out over the snowy rooftops. I watched cars below, multi-coloured against the white blanket, and followed the blinking lights of the city as far as the horizon. I took out a cigarette.

"Do you think I could I have one of those?" said a lustrous feminine voice from behind me. The accent was french and thick. I turned around and leant back against the rail. She was standing in the corner of the balcony, I hadn't seen her when I came out because she was in shadow, out of the moonlight. She had been watching me staring out over the city, dreaming of her. The corner of her mouth raised in a slight ironic smile and she walked slowly towards me. As she left the shadow the moonlight lit up her face. Her small nose and full lips illuminated in the blue light. I wished some jazz would come from nowhere, a soundtrack I could take her and dance to, mingling under the stars, and kiss her gently..

I started from my reverie and took another cigarette out of the packet. I handed it to her slowly, trying to look like I'd sweep her off her feet if John Coltrane burst out of nowhere. She just smiled and took the cigarette. I took out my lighter and lit her cigarette for her, and then mine. She leant on the rail and blew smoke out over the cityscape. It was right out of a bohemian movie, beautiful girl in the moonlight, the streaming opaque smoke wafting on the breeze. she looked over at me.
"What do you do?" she asked. I cleared my throat. "I'm a journalist," I replied, "for a small magazine."
"Good." she said, and looked out over the city again. I looked at her. She smiled again, "I hate artists. So full of themselves. My husband is in there, trying to lower the price of some awful piece of trash."


She lightly dropped the end of her cigarette over the balcony and stepped back.
"It was nice to meet you." she said slowly. I stared at her. She smiled and walked back into the party. I turned around and put my elbows on the rail. I let out my breath, not knowing how long I'd been holding it. The stars twinkled away, the moonlight shone through the steam in my breath, and I sighed.