The First Dance

The First Dance

The First Dance

by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne 2001 & 2018, all rights reserved.

Genre: Romance

About this story: This was written in 2000 and published in 2001 by Woman’s Way Magazine, Ireland. It was a particularly exciting milestone for me, being my first ever published story!

It had been a tough few months for Siobhan, but a new job signalled a new beginning – unless she blew her chance.

Siobhan was excited for the first time in ages. I was a funny feeling, she felt like a teenager finding her freedom and found herself giggling at silly things. She felt… happy. Claire was giving her peculiar looks underneath a rock-hard face pack. This only made Siobhan giggle even more as Claire’s face wrinkled and cracked.

“This is like Christmas. You’ve enough makeup here to open a small market stall!” Siobhan exclaimed, rummaging through boxes and small bags.

“Siobhan, calm down, you’re making me nervous,” Claire said slowly, keeping her face as motionless as she could.

Siobhan ignored her and turned up the radio. “Time for another drink,” she announced, marching towards the kitchen.

“Not for me, I’m still on my first, believe it or not,” Claire replied.

Siobhan had had a tough month. Her boyfriend of two years had ended their relationship, telling her that they weren’t going anywhere, whatever that was supposed to mean. She suspected he has been seeing someone else but had no proof. Claire had worried about her. She wouldn’t phone, hardly wanted to go out. Then she got a new job, starting next Monday. Her ‘dream-job’ she’d called it. It had given her self-esteem a kick start and they were going to celebrate her success, even though Claire didn’t really approve of her buying a £100 outfit for tonight, courtesy of the Visa card.

Siobhan finally had the dress on. She looked truly stunning with her auburn hair tied loosely above her head and long tousled bits dangling down, framing her pretty face. Claire’s mouth dropped when she saw Siobhan.

“Wow, girl! I have to hand it to you. You look like a film star.” She sighed as she looked down at her own outfit, dreary in comparison.

The party mood was certainly catching, and Claire found herself changing outfits several more times than usual. She lavished make up on her face and applied more body glitter to her neck and shoulders. It was as though the two were off on a hot date. Claire looked over guiltily at the photo of her and Martin, her fiancé. Still, what would he care if she wanted to dress up? He was having a great time on holiday with the lads. Probably out clubbing every night. A pang of jealousy swept over her and the shorter of the two skirts won out.

“Well I don’t know about you but I’m ready,” announced Siobhan, checking the full-length mirror for the last time. Claire’s flatmate had promised them a lift into the city centre. That would save them bothering with buses and taxis.

“So am I. Wait here and I’ll give Angela a shout,” said Claire.

Before long the car was in the city centre. “Where do you want dropping?” asked Angela.

“O’Callaghan’s will do fine,” said Claire, looking at Siobhan for any hint of protest. There was none. For weeks Siobhan avoided O’Callaghan’s because it was where she had met Robert. Claire was glad she didn’t care. It was her own favourite pub. But she was pleased that they didn’t see Robert in there, whether Siobhan would have minded or not. It might just have been enough to tip the apple cart.

The two friends didn’t see anybody they knew and soon moved onto a night club. They chatted quietly in the queue, eavesdropping on other conversations. There were four girls in front of them, very young looking. “God, I feel like an old granny,” Claire whispered. “You watch, they won’t even make it past the door.”

Sure enough, the girls were refused entry. They walked off looking very sorry for themselves. Claire and Siobhan couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Evening ladies,” said one of the bouncers as he ushered them in. The girls smiled smugly.

“Can’t be too bad to be a granny,” breathed Siobhan.

Claire queued at the cloakroom while Siobhan went off to get the drinks. A double gin and tonic for Claire, and a very large cocktail for herself.

Poor Claire was still in the cloakroom queue by the time half of Siobhan’s cocktail had disappeared. She waited for Claire by a door, spotting a very good looking young man in the process. She glanced over coyly. He caught her eye, looking for a moment, then carried on walking. She wasn’t giving up that easily. She dashed up to Claire to tell her the news. Claire was just putting the coats in.

“Quick, oh perfect, he’s on the dance floor. Come on, I’ll go and test out my charms.”

Claire watched her friend saunter over to the dance floor and gradually work her way around until she was in sight of the man who caught her eye. She got closer until there was direct eye contact. The cocktail had gone straight to Siobhan’s head and it made her feel brazen. She flung an arm around his neck and danced close to him. Then teasingly turned her back on him. When she turned around again she noticed a sheepish smile on his face. A woman came storming up towards the two of them and pounced on Siobhan.

“Excuse me, I think you’d better find your own fella to be draping yourself all over. He’s mine, now get lost!” she snarled. Siobhan blushed and turned to Claire for help. Claire was busy chatting to someone she knew and hadn’t seen any of it. She explained, and Claire thought it was hilarious, which helped Siobhan to see the funny side. But that was the last man she approached that night.

Monday morning came around quickly, Siobhan had bought the lovely outfit she’d seen, and the boots. Nevertheless, she felt nervous going into work. Like a girl starting school for the first time, not knowing anybody. Damien Moriarty welcomed her in warmly, and made her a sup of tea.

“The assistant manager, Carol will be in shortly,” he said. “She’ll be showing you around the office. She’s very nice, don’t look so worried.”

“Right so, thanks for the tea. I’ll wait here will I?” asked Siobhan.

“Yup. I have to go unfortunately, but you’ll be fine. She’ll be in to you in just a minute. Bye now.” Off he went.

Siobhan felt so nervous. Suddenly she heard another door in the corridor close. Footsteps. The office door swung open. To Siobhan’s horror it appeared that Carol was the girl in the nightclub whose boyfriend she had taken a liking to. Carol smiled, and then examined her closely.

‘Don’t recognise me, please don’t recognise me,’ Siobhan chanted over and over in her mind.

“weren’t you in.. it is you, isn’t it?” Carol asked, a smile dancing across her lips.

“I’m afraid so, listen I’m really sorry about that,” Siobhan stuttered. Carol laughed out loud. She laughed until tears came into her eyes. Siobhan wondered if she should just leave.

“No really, I’m the one who should be apologising. Cormac isn’t my boyfriend at all. He’s my first cousin, we’re good friends. I had a bet with him that I’d ruin every chance he had to get a woman. He was so angry about that. He really liked you. But he couldn’t find you afterwards. I really ought to introduce the two of you.. that’s if you want me to.”

Siobhan realised she’d been holding her breath. “Yes, that would be really nice, yes please.”

“Great, we’ll discuss it over lunch. Now let me show you the layout of the place before we both forget exactly where we are.”

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The Seer

The Seer

The Seer
by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne, 2016 and 2018 all rights reserved

Flash Fiction Ghost Story. John is struggling to move on, and his girlfriend Jeanette isn’t helping. He finds one of her friends supportive, as she has a very unique perceptive ability, and a way of communicating with other realms.

‘I love you to the moon and back, don’t ever leave me John,’ she says, and flings an arm out over me. Her love spills out all over the floor and the walls and the bedclothes, like the blood of someone all shot up.  She is wearing that lace black tiny slip that doesn’t cover much. Long curled auburn hair spreading out over both pillows and over her shoulders. Eyes closed, biting her lip.

I’d love to give her one. But there’s nothing left to give.

My clothes are in a pile ready. A bottle of water, and my gloves.

‘Off you go, so,’ she said. Always encouraging me to train hard, pushing me towards my dreams. And off I go. Out of our flat, onto the street, grimy from holiday-makers and slovenly locals from the night before. Chip papers, pizza boxes, cans. Outside the gym the neon sign reads ‘open’ and has the same flickering body builder lifting weights over his head.

I go downstairs to the basement where the ring and the bags are. Patcheen is there training already, sweat flying out of him. He’ll fight that fight now. It was going to be me. I don’t resent him. He swings again and again. I want to show him how to develop his left hook. But he can’t see me. I move in between him and the bag, letting his fists go through me over and over. He thinks that someone has come in and put the aircon on. I made the air cold.

‘Hello?’ he calls. ‘Rory?’

No answer. So he keeps going. I like that he can feel me.

The ball is hovering nearby. It changes to a distasteful swamp green/brown colour. The ball follows me everywhere. I have no idea what it is. It doesn’t talk back, it just changes colour and shape.

I can see things now that I never knew were here. Pockets of grey that follow people around. Some of them are spirits, cling-ons. These have crazy long hands and claws. They don’t look human. Patcheen has this grey cloud over the middle of his back. It moves with him.

Then there’s the alco’s, that lay in wait for another drink. They hang around bars and around drinkers. Hold on till the person is drunk, and then lodge in them. Tasting and unfurling. I tried to pull one out one day. He hit me so hard I thought I was dead all over again.

‘Mind your own business, hero,’ he laughed, showing yellowed rotten teeth. The girl, a tourist, lay there on the grass. Her eyes rolled over to white. It was ages before anyone found her.

Sparkles – silver and gold, bounce out of happy people. They fill up the room sometimes and even help the people with the grey stuff. It’s like a Disney movie when that happens. It’s a weird thing, being able to see all this shit. Kind of interesting. But I know I don’t belong here. All of us that linger are lost. We don’t fit any more.

Later I am back home again. Jeanette has a friend over. Trisha. Jeanette has gone to make coffee, so it’s just me and her. The TV is on silent, some chat show flicks across the screen. She is watching that, then she looks over. Her eyes fix on me. She blinks, then looks at me again.

‘Can you see me?’

She smiles. I know she can. I don’t have a body, but the seers can distinguish your old body outline, and some of your features. The sensers channel information about you, and have a knowing about you. They are both rare enough, so far anyway.

‘Can you let me know that you can see me for sure. It’s so fucking lonely.’

‘I see you John.’

‘I want to go. But she won’t let me. I don’t want to hurt her, but I don’t belong in this place. Tell her she needs to let me go.’

‘I can’t tell her that, she wouldn’t listen and it would upset her too much.’

‘If you don’t tell her..’ I was about to threaten her, tell her I’d mess up her head, and then I watch as she just smiles and closes her eyes. There’s a weird feeling in the room. Then all these angels. Gold. Then a massive blue angel with a white sword. Michael. The ball is unravelling. It’s no longer a ball. It’s an angel too. It makes me want to cry, but I don’t have any eyes or tears.

Jeanette shrieks from the kitchen and Trisha goes to her. They are on the tiled floor. Jeanette is crying, Trisha’s hugging her. They rock back and forth. I look at Archangel Michael, and his eyes are like pools of sapphire. He points to her and I see another massive angel wrapping his wings around her.

‘Let’s go now,’ he says.

‘I can’t leave her.’

He gets his sword and cuts a grey cord that I see now tethering me to Jeanette. It shrivels up and disappears. She lets out a loud sob and takes a deep breath as though a great pain is just leaving her.

‘Now you can.’

‘Will she be okay?’

‘Of course. Look at all the help she has.’

I don’t know if I believe him, but I follow him. A feeling of peace comes over me, followed by euphoria.

I see the place on the street where I got hit by the truck. I see the bystanders doing all they can. The bawling kid that someone should have taken away somewhere. The paramedics, the body bag on the trolley being zipped up. Jeanette screaming. Like its happening right now. But I am risen above it. There are all these angels there. The ball is my guardian angel, and it is beside me always.

My baby. She’ll see when she gets here.

About this Story: This story was a response to a writing prompt for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in July 2016, and it successfully made it through to the next round. 

The Prompt: Genre = ghost story, location = a boxing ring; object = a neon sign.

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