Sixty Seven Years

August 15, 2016
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 His lips graze the back of my hand. Harry straightens and leads me to the center of the dance floor. Frank Sinatra's crooning voice fills the ballroom as I drape my arms around him and we sweep around the room. The open toed shoes and knee length white chiffon dress I'd spent hours picking out didn't seem so important anymore.
"You look beautiful, like a Queen," he says, leaning over to whisper in my ear.
I smile and brush a strand of my mousy brown hair out of my eyes. "And you, a King."
He laughs, and we keep spinning and spinning. I would be dizzy if I looked anywhere but at Harry. But I don't, and as the last notes of Always play, he twirls me around and draws me closer.
Other couples join us on the floor as Earth Angel begins. We waltz until I can't feel my feet. The songs run together and I'm out of breath by the end of The Twelfth of Never.
As I leave the dance floor for a sip of champagne, a familiar face catches my eye. I turn my face away as I float past her so she can't see my expression. I make it to the long white table in the very center of the room and look back to find Harry caught. A group of girls in purple silk tug at his suit, giggling as they dance around him. Harry looks up at me and shrugs, his dazzling smile wide as ever.
Someone taps my shoulder, and in the distance I hear my name, but the speaker and I are separated by the thin thread of time. My ring catches the light, and I am nearly blind. I reach for him, but he seems so far away. He draws a rose from one of the large vases mother had insisted upon and walks towards me. It seems our families and friends have all vanished. I am nearly blind as Harry extends the rose to me like a promise. Until death do us part. He stands before me, and without dropping his eyes from mine, presses the rose into my hand. I look down at the perfect crimson scales curled around each other like writhing snakes.
The petals are blood that soaks my hand and drips down to the checkerboard floor. I drop the empty stem in horror and tears cloud my eyes. All I can see is black, white, and red. I am in a vacuum that slowly sucks my mind away from me, and the people are getting further and further away. I can hear my blood pumping through my veins and it fills my ears, deafening me to all other sounds.
Harry is climbing on a tightrope. He is climbing to the stars, dissolving into dust as his skin comes into contact with oxygen. The phantasm who danced with me until the floor crumpled is night.
The call comes again, though this time much closer. The thread snaps and I hear this time. I have the power to leave this place. All I have to do is let him go. It's that easy and it's that impossible. I bend down and lift the rose stem from the floor. The thorns gouge cuts in my hands but I force myself to clench my fist tighter until I can feel the branch give way to ash. When I finally open my palm and blow the dust to the wind, my soul feels infinitely lighter.
I close my eyes. When I reopen them, the ballroom with the checkerboard floor is gone, replaced by the brightly lit pavilion of another wedding reception.
"A toast! To Mira and Eric."
My veined and weathered fingers tremble as I lift the champagne flute by the stem and toast to my granddaughter and her new husband. 

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