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The Last Dance
He rounded the corner and the small Montana town of Bigfork appeared laid out in front of him. On their right was a bay that led out into a massive lake, the Flathead.
“Great, the middle of nowhere,” thought Tim. He was used to the city, being from San Francisco, the city by the bay. He continued down the two lane street, passing the UPS, a bakery, a greenhouse, a bookstore, and the Swan Motel in a matter of seconds.
“Ugh, it was so small.” On the corner stood his living space for the summer, the Bigfork Inn. It was old. Really old. Brown paint glistened in the sunlight, red trim outlining the roof and windows. The old roof was mossy, giving the place a homely appearance. If you were a hobbit. He pulled into the parking lot of the old building, though it only had 8 spaces. Across the parking lot stood a fountain that decorated the entrance to an art gallery, the water tumbling down over the rocks. He opened his door and got out of the car, stepping into the hot, dry summer air. The blue sky stretched out above him, not a single cloud drifting across its depths.
“I’ve seen warmer,” he thought. A cool breeze swept over the town, cheery voices echoed down the main street, for it was crowded. He turned and stepped up the stairs and through the door into the downstairs of the inn. It was dark, though the windows stood open, letting the breeze slip in through the screens. In the room right in front of him couples and families sat at tables, some sipping from glasses, others enjoying the “delicacies” of Bigfork. Whatever they were. He stepped forward onto what looked like a dance floor, a little stage for the band on his left and past that, through a tall entryway, men and women sat at the bar, a man in a tuxedo behind the counter. The dance floor was extended up to the second level, a railing protecting the balcony that watched over the room below. Antlers and mounted deer hung on the walls, a bear’s fur joining their midst.
“Red necks,” he thought as he stepped up to a little podium the sat in the corner. Behind it a women looked down, scribbling on a little notebook.
“I have a reservation. Under Tim Joyce,” he said. The women turned to the shelf behind her, pulling a single key off a ring and handed it to him. She then proceeded to continue scribbling in her notebook.
“Alrighty then,” Tim thought, before turning back to the main room. Next to the floor were a flight of stairs he hadn’t noticed before. He turned and walked up the flight of stairs, passing a couple of mountings on his way. The room key identified his room as number 3. He mounted the top step and turned the corner into a short hallway. He walked past the first two doors and stopped at the second on his left. The key slid easily into the lock and he turned the handle. The door swung open revealing a small, cozy little room, one bed, a sink, and a window that looked out onto the hill behind the house. A second door led into a small bathroom.
“Everything was so small here.”
The days passed by quickly once rehearsals got under way. Tim had been hired to play the lead role, Ren, in the Bigfork Summer Playhouse production of Footloose. The Bigfork Summer Playhouse, or BSP, was the local attraction, bringing hundreds of people to the tiny town of Bigfork every summer. And he was starting to like it here.
Opening night was a huge success. All 420 of the seats in the Thompson Theatre were filled, and every one of the people loved it. Tim ran on to the stage and bowed. The roar of the crowd was deafening, cheers echoing through the theatre. Immediately after the show he went back to the inn, for there was a swing dance tonight and he hadn’t been able to get to one yet. He mounted the stairs and pulled upon the door. Laughter and music escaped through the open door as he stepped in. The inn was half lit, mostly by candles; the band played an upbeat swing tune on his left. Couples danced crossed the open space, smiling faces swinging in and out of view. Joy filled the space. He stepped onto the hardwood floor and was immediately approached by a woman that asked him to dance. After 3 songs and just as many partners on of the band members stood up and approached the mike.
“This next song is dedicated to our star performer, fresh out of the theatre from his opening night of Footloose,” the man spoke, his eyes watering but voice pompous. He seemed a little drunk. “Tim Joyce!” A smile beamed crossed his face. But suddenly something caught his eye. A woman approached him. And she was beautiful. Curled locks of blond hair framed her face. Her eyes twinkled with a rogue beauty, a brilliant shade of green. Her lips were small; she was rather short, just a little shorter than him.
“Wanna dance?” She asked him, winking up at him.
“Um….. ya. Sure,” he replied, astounded by her beauty. She took his hand in hers and led him onto the dance floor. Her hand was so soft, almost like a cloud.
“My father really doesn’t like me dancing,” she whispered, “but who cares about him anyways, right?” Again she winked at him. She was so pretty. He felt stupid, like his brain was full of jello.
“Right.” The word slipped from between his lips. He felt so stupid. Then the music began to play. He recognized the song, it was from Footloose. Let’s Make Believe Were In Love. He had heard it a million times and as soon as the first note rang out through the inn his brain turned back on. His feet began to move in rhythm to the music, but somehow she kept up, mimicking his every step as they flowed crossed the floor. She seemed almost weightless, fluent as water; almost floating crossed the hardwood stage. It seemed like they had all the space in the world, almost like the air around them was cold, and no one wanted to fill the space. The music suddenly slowed, he was ready for it, he had her it a million times, but she stumbled, stepping on his right foot. But there was no pain. It was almost like she didn’t weigh anything. It must have just been the adrenaline that was pulsing through his veins.
When the music stopped, she held his hand and led him off the dance floor into the bar. They sat down on one of the couches that looked out upon the floor.
“I misjudged this place,” Tim thought to himself. “Everything is so joyful, so happy here.”
“How do you like Montana?” The woman’s voice was hypnotic, he loved it.
“It’s beautiful!” He said, “I love it here.” It was true, he had never noticed before but he loved this little town.
He lay in bed that night, thinking about the girl. Ariel had been her name. Such a pretty name.
The summer danced on, and he saw Ariel every night at the little swing dances. He invited her to his show more than once throughout the days, though she always had an excuse. The first time he had asked she had said she had to work. They had been swing dancing crossed the floor, with just as much room as they always were given. It was odd really. Same excuse the second and third times, she had to work. One night, about mid July, he decided to visit her at the fifteen minute intermission between acts. He ran down the street and up the stairs, pushing the screen door open, revealing the inside of the inn. His eyes searched the room, looking for the beautiful women, the women he liked so much. Then he saw her. She was sitting at the bar, staring blankly into space.
“She must be on break,” as he turned and walked out of the inn.
He mentioned Ariel to the bartender later that night as he sat on his stool, enjoying a drink after the performance.
“How many breaks can a waitress take in a night?” he asked, creating conversation.
“None, the manager doesn’t allow the girls to take breaks, the shifts aren’t long enough,” answered the man as he bent down below the counter, digging for something.
“I thought I saw one of your girls on break tonight,” said Tim, for the answer had taken him off guard. “She was sitting right here at the counter.”
“I didn’t serve any of our girls tonight,” the man replied, “not even the usual drinks after their shifts. They all went to drink at the Garden.”
Tim’s feet splashed in the puddles as he ran down the street. The show had been canceled due to rain, one of the only rains this dry August had seen. He was drenched though he had only been in the rain for a minute. He finally reached the door and burst through dripping onto the hardwood floor. Laughter and voices filled the room, as usual, as people danced crossed the space. Ariel was working again, so there was no point staying to dance. He strode crossed, angry at the cancelation of the show, fuming at the rain, but, as he mounted the stairs, he saw her. She was at the bar again. Staring into some faraway place. He got from the stairs to her in three steps. Three furious strides.
“What are you doing?!” he said, arms folded crossed his chest.
“Oh, hello,” she said, a smile playing crossed her thin lips.
“I thought you had to work,” Tim hissed through his teeth. Her eyes widened in terror and her mouth fell open though nothing came out. “You don’t even work here. You’ve been lying to me,”
“Um. . . I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” she said, her eyes downcast.
“You know, I don’t even want to see you again,” he said, his anger beginning to turn to sadness.
“We are in two different worlds anyways,” she whispered. A tear formed in his eye and dripped down his face. The hot trail forged a path that others were soon to follow. He turned and strode quickly to the stairs. Without looking back.
They danced, movements fluent as water, looking deeply into each other’s eyes. They were all alone in the ground floor of the inn, waltzing to the music that seemed to resound from the interior of the room. She wore a beautiful gown, a rose pink, her blond hair done up into a bun on the back of her head. He wore an old suit, a rose in his pocket. This moment was perfect. Suddenly a crackling, popping filled his ears, though they just continued to dance. As they turned he looked into the bar. A fire raged behind the counter, growing taller, jumping to the walls. Though he was calm. His feet continued to move, bringing him full circle once again. Now the fire had taken the room. Sparks jumped out, setting the tables ablaze. They turned away once again. He was going to die here. Yet he was at peace. He turned again to see a mountainous wall of flame. He looked into her eyes one last time. She was beautiful. They stepped into the flame and were engulfed.
He jolted awake, sweat beaded on his forehead. He was hot. He slipped from under the covers and looked at the clock. 1:11. He sat on the edge of his bed, staring at the floor. He was so hot.
“I would like the eggs and ham with orange juice and hash browns,” he read, looking down at the menu.
“How would you like your eggs?” The women asked.
“Over easy.” She turned and walked away. He looked around the room as he sat at the table. There was the dance floor, and the counter, and bar, and the shack for the band to play. It was all so familiar. He looked down at his menu and flipped it over. On the back was a history of the inn that he had seen a million times but never taken the time to read.
“The inn was first established in May 1935 by Emanuel Lewis. 3 years of successful business passed in peace and the inn slowly grew in popularity. On August 14, 1938 at 1:11 A.M. a fire started in the bar and engulfed the building within a matter of minutes. Only one patron died in the fire, 21 year old Ariel Tutwielder (see left).” His eyes widened in terror as he looked at the picture. Her green eyes sparkled, even in the black and white photo. Her blond hair was curled around her face, thin lips tensed in a smile. She was beautiful. He stared down at the menu, trying to believe his eyes.
“Eggs over easy, ham, orange juice, and hash browns.” The women sat the heaping plate in front of him. “Oh, and some women paid for it up front as she walked out. She said something about thanks for the dance. An Ariel something.”