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  • That afternoon, they’d driven along the pitted drive, and stopped in front of the hotel she’d got out slowly and leaned against the car for a moment. Watched the dust settle, breathing deep, smelling salt and sun and sea.

    Hope it’s in better shape inside, he’d said, hauling their bags from the trunk.

    Charm, she thought as they walked up the stairs to their room.

    Charm she thought, standing in the center of the room and turning slowly. Worn and polished wood work. Windows from the floor opened wide. Long lace white curtains. Sunlit and billowing. A bunch of lavender in the little vase by the bed. Lemon and lavender like a promise in the air.

    “Bed’s firm anyway,” he said giving it a bounce. “All the comforts. Hey,” he turned to her.

    She was almost into the old worn armoire. An arm reached out and picked up the waiting stack of clothing. All sorted and stacked.

    “Do you think there’s an iron?” her voice was muffled.

    He aimed the remote.

    When they walked back from the dining room that evening, the dunes stretched long and empty past the neatly stacked loungers and the sea swept the sand clean of footprints and castles. The waves curved across the bay and raced for the shore in tumbles of foam lit with green phosphorescent fire.

    She stopped to watch waves.

    “All lit with green fire from below,” she whispered.

    “Honey,” he called. “You coming or what?”

    Back in the room, he kicked off his shoes and sprawled on the bed with a grunt, already scrolling through the chatter of news and sports and old movies.

    “Wonder whose playing?” He patted the bed beside him.

    Across the room, she opened the window, stepped toward the night.

    The music swept in with the wind. She rested a hand on the frame to lean out. The wood was grainy and rough with a crust of dried salt. She licked her finger and tasted the sea.

    In the dark, the sea was loud along the beach and the wind rattled the windows in their frames.

    The walls are thin, he said and glanced at her.

    She only saw his fingers feeling for the remote on the bed and his eyes return to the screen.

    Down the beach, toward the town, a faint glow showed and the music drifted in with the restless surge of the sea.

    “Do you hear that?”

    “What’s that hon? Hey could you close the window I can’t hear the game.”

    “There’s music.”


    “Down the beach.”

    “Oh come on, not to Donavan.”

    He looked up as the door clicked shut.

    Alone on the beach, she picked her way above the sea, careful to miss the waves, following the sure and hard packed sand. She couldn’t believe she’d done it and the thrill of the headlong rush down the stairs still pumped through her. Her steps echoed the wild beat of her heart.

    The pavilion was set at the end of a narrow road in a small park among the dunes. All around, hanging from the decorative ironwork below the roof, lanterns swayed in the wind and the beat of the sea and the music and the wind all twined to a feeling more than a sound. A bit of driftwood from a more gracious age, left on some forgotten high tide line when the little town was more full of itself and young.

    The music stopped as she reached for the wrought iron stairway leading up to the worn marble floor. The social chatter of neighbors and friends who she didn’t know, and had no connection to filled the air. The magic receded. She slowed, lost momentum, turned, pulled back by the gravity of habit and familiarity.

    But the music began again, sad and searching, the talk fell away. As if on cue, the couples rejoined, held a beat or two or three and stepped away.

    Each one, she thought, they each trace out a different thread of the song, each couple finding their own way in the music.

    She stood quiet, in the shadow of a post watching.

    Young, old.
    Short, tall.
    T-shirt and suit.
    Sparkles and faded jeans.

    Mismatched but all holding one another with a kind of reverence she thought, close and tight but oh, so sweetly gentle. Step and turn around the floor again, lost in one another. Each so focused on his partner. A younger man dancing with a woman old enough to be his mother but not looking over her shoulder, past this dance, to the younger lithe ladies who are clearly watching.

    The song ended before she was ready and the dancers seemed to break out of their trance and stepped back from one another to a safer social distance. Men lead their partners to the side and began to walk round smiling, nodding. She sensed something was happening but she wasn’t sure what.

    “It is cabeceo,” the old man answered the question she hadn’t known to ask. His wide black pants were creased, a worn blue vest over a black shirt, red tie. Thick white hair swept up and back.

    “The man, he asks with his eyes. The lady, she nods, they dance. She look down, the man he knows but no one else.”

    His blue eyes sparkled.

    “Like that,” she asked.

    “Like this,” he answered

    He held her close, and she thought to say, I don’t know the steps, but his eyes told her not to worry and for once the voice inside went quiet.

    She swayed as she felt him shift, a slight rocking side to side with the music.

    There, in the quiet space that held them as he held her she closed her eyes and listened to the wind and the sea and music and felt his heart beating so close to hers and without her realizing it they had started. He walked and she followed.

    Nothing flashy, no studied moves.

    Just walking.
    Stepping and pausing and stepping on.
    And each lead connected to the last
    Like words in a sentence
    Sentences in a story
    Round the floor
    Playing together
    In phrases
    And notes

    It took a second to realize the music had stopped. She felt as if she’d lost her bearings and had to look around the room to confirm she was here, now.

    He held her arm lightly and the touch balanced her, centered her.

    No small talk, no chatter, just together until the music called and took them away again.

    She smelled his sweat and the cologne and the salt of the sea and the lavender flower she had tucked in her top button so long ago it seemed.

    A new song filled the floor and she felt them pressed even closer by the crush of dancers. Each in their own defined space, turning tight and small now.

    She felt the beat of his heart and press of his breath filling his chest, all one with the rush of the sea and for a moment she felt him hard against her thigh.

    Not insistent not pressing, just there and maybe before she would have stepped away or yelled or been disgusted but here it was suddenly natural and instead of feeling used or cheap, she felt her power, the power to create desire, the power to be desired.

    Suddenly she wasn’t looking back on fifty
    Not looking for wrinkles and sags in the mirror
    Not the turning sideways how does my ass look in this dress
    But a goddess
    There in the flickering light and the wind in her hair and the blood rising up and this man in her arms
    She is.

    She danced with others later. Choosing with a glance and some were smooth and graceful and some were young and fine but only once did she have the feeling of the dance and sea all as one. Only once. But it was enough and more.

    She walked back along the edge of the sea so it foamed up against her legs. Came back to the room flushed and streaked with salt.

    He looked up.” I didn’t, I mean.” He stopped. Swung off the bed, straightened his hair. “Tomorrow,” he began again.

    “Yes, she said. “I’ve got plans for us.”
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