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Dance of the Nymphs
Mr. Davies analyzed a painting hanging in the exhibition hallway while he waited for his wife Alyssa and their daughter to come out of the concert hall. It was of a green-skinned unidentifiable person screaming in anguish. There was an excellent attention to detail and shading to the point where individual pores were visible. The teeth were stained yellow, and the mouth painted black. “Whoever this Jennifer Duba is,” he thought to himself, “she needs to stop smoking.” Still, the painting evoked sadness in him, as well as awaking suspicion; “Hadn’t I commented to Alyssa that one of the girls looked a bit yellow?,” he wondered. He looked at the dancers who had walked out, accidentally whipping his head a bit too fast and displacing his glasses. He saw them as amorphous splotches of pink, purple, and black for a moment, then fixed his blocky black frames and could see them again. Of course, none of them really looked any paler than the others, but he suspected all of them because of it, and wondered if his daughter had ever tried a cigarette.
He checked his watch, anxious to leave. It was ten o’clock, and he groaned. He had work in the morning, and he was tired after a surprisingly long dance concert. There was supposed to be a thunderstorm they had to beat as well, and he wanted to get home. He looked around for his daughter, Julie, for a moment, then gave up and tried to decide what he was going to do when he got home. “Brush my teeth, put that folder with my briefcase, take my pill…”
Mr. Davies realized he was staring at one of the girls. The first thing he noticed was that she was practically spilling out of her pink dancer’s tank top, and the second thing he noticed was that she was smiling at him. He smiled back, and she giggled and tossed back her short hair; the streaks of gold lying amongst the mop of brown shone brightly thanks to the fluorescent lighting, and the red lipstick made her smile almost fluorescent thanks to her white pearls.
Mr. Davies felt confident. It felt good to feel attractive, especially to someone other than his wife; “while the opinion of your spouse is the most important opinion,” he once told his single brother, “it is the opinion of the stranger that is the truth.” Plus, he thought, she’s young; that’s even better than just being classically attractive. It means I’m hip, too, and he laughed at that thought.
He watched as Tea Cup lit up and waved over a couple of her friends. One of them was a girl he recognized named Kim Bressler. Kim and Julie had been friends since they started dancing in the same class back in third grade. The story went that some creep outside the studio had tried to bait Julie with some electronic toy (she always said the thing looked like it belonged to a boy) and Kim escorted her away; according to her, she was “the only one who had paid attention to those stranger-danger videos.”
Even though she was still the youngest looking, it still caught Mr. Davies off guard that there were always so many drastic changes. She was blonde again (her natural color, but last time he saw her she’d been a redhead) which offset her green eyes as well as he remembered. She still had her rounded face and jaw line unlike most of the dancers in their year, but she had attained the svelte body type she shared with so many of the other dancers.
Most of them had changed into their street clothes by that point, but Kim was still in her dance attire, a pink tank top and dancer’s shorts. He wondered how she wasn’t cold in them. They were black, but the light in the room almost made them reflective. The light highlighted the inseam, which his eyes followed down to a glimpse of juicy, clean thigh.
Mr. Davies reminded himself that she was his daughter’s age.
To distract himself, he looked around the hallway. Aside from the life the concertgoers brought into the room, the only passion that was visible was through the window frames hanging on the wall. Aside from the view into St. Francis’s students’ inner workings, the room was sterile; brownstone made the hallway almost stifling, and the fluorescent lights hanging from the white ceiling were dim and a bit green. Looking at them made Mr. Davies a bit sick, so he looked back down to the ground. Even the blue-and-white tiled floor was unsettlingly clean for a high school. He guessed the janitorial staff had cleaned up before the concert, but it was still unsettling to him.
Eventually, his gaze wandered back to Kim. He remembered being their age. Sam Davies had lived in Tennessee as a boy, and the shorts reminded him of the jean shorts all the girls would wear in the summer. He remembered days outside O’Malley’s Burger Hop (a name he ridiculed even then,) flirting with blondes he’d never met, and it made him feel warm.
He noticed that a new, slender girl had walked into Kim’s conversation. He looked up, and noticed it was his daughter. He started to walk over to them, but he was stopped by an unseen hand. “Give her a moment with her friends,” said Alyssa Davies. Sam turned away from the girls, and looked back at his wife. He saw how beautiful she was even still, how young she looked to that day. He smiled at her, and then he kissed her more passionately than he had in a long time.
This got a reaction out of the girls, who were now giggling and waving Alyssa over. Alyssa, frazzled, exclaimed “Well.” She cleared her throat. “I think I’ll go see what they want.” She walked away, straight-faced, but with a grin in her eye.
Sam watched his wife walk towards the girls. He often forgot that she was about their height, and in fact, about their body type too. Sure, her yoga makes her firmer than them, thought Sam, but by how much? Alyssa had youthful facial features too; wide baby blues, dimples, the rounded face…
It’s almost as if she’s one of them, he realized. He watched them talk for a bit, and then Alyssa and Julie walked over to him. They even walk the same way, he thought to himself.
“Julie would like to know if she can have Kim and Joni over for a sleepover tonight,” Alyssa pinned on Sam. He thought of giggling all night, of wondering who had the shower in the morning, and of the joyful classic, the pillow fight.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Sam said, smiling. Alyssa asked him, her smile of frustration burning a hole into any who did not appease, “Don’t you have work in the morning,” and then added with a tinge of malice, “honey?”
But Sam was not fazed. “If they get too loud, I’ll just go shut them up.” As he saw Julie’s face light up, he imagined interrupting their reindeer games at three in the morning; everyone tired, the room a mess, their clothes disheveled…
Before Sam had the opportunity to censor his own mind, his daughter leapt onto him, thanking him profusely at a high pitch and at supersonic speeds.
Kim walked over with Tea Cup and said “Thank you, Mr. Davies.”
Mr. Davies almost told Kim to call him Sam, but he held his tongue. Tea Cup then introduced herself as Joni, and thanked him for letting them stay the night.
Mr. Davies assumed the authoritarian parental duties. “Now,” he interrogated, “you’ve talked to your parents about this?” Both girls nodded “yes,” and did so for every following question.
He rounded up his all-femme fatale squad, and took them to the car.
The entire drive home, he thought only of pillow fights, and he hated himself for every second of it. Alyssa glared at him from the passenger’s seat, while the girls talked and laughed in the back seat.
The thunderstorm had come. Rain was pouring over the house, and with every bolt Brother Z tossed down from Olympus, the girls screamed and hollered.
It was twelve now. Alyssa was next to him asleep in bed, but Sam couldn’t sleep.
They had made love that night, but it was not passionate like it usually was. Alyssa had felt it too, so she turned away afterwards and went to sleep. This had happened before, but not often; it felt the way comfort sex had, but there wasn’t anything to be comforted about.
Sam decided he couldn’t lie in bed anymore. He rose from the bed, threw on his flannel pajamas, and put on his slippers. He made sure to pass by Julie’s room quietly, and walked downstairs. He opened the front door, and didn’t care that there was a storm enough to grab an umbrella before stepping outside.
He walked into the front yard, and wondered why he’d stepped into the rain. Sam stood there for a while, letting the steady fall help cleanse his mind. He let thoughts of infidelity blanket him, and didn’t bother to censor himself. The lightning crackled in the sky as he stood there, thin cracks in the clean horizon, breaking apart the union of darkness the night had made with the rain clouds. Finally, Mr. Davies had no more thoughts within him. He felt empty, and he felt weak.
“Come back to bed,” Alyssa said from behind him. Mr. Davies turned around, and he echoed the rainfall with tears of his own. He saw his wife standing in the doorway, looking out at him in the rain. He looked down at himself, soaking wet. The light beckoned him back in, but he resisted, ashamed.
“Come back to bed,” Alyssa repeated, and he could tell she was no longer harboring anger or resentment, but instead he saw pity. Still, he resisted, damning himself for his weakness. He fixed his glasses, but remained in the rain.
She repeated it once more: “Come back to bed.” Mr. Davies could now see it was not pity in her eyes, but genuine worry and love. He looked at his sopping flannels, and walked back towards her in his squishing slippers.
They embraced for a long time, and then she led him back inside.