I ran this beautiful story by Cat Cavendish one year ago, and present it for your bittersweet pleasure again.
Dance Me To The End Of Time
I’ve always loved Christmas. The tree, tinsel and a roaring fire… Candles flickering and the sound of carollers striving to hit the top register in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
This year’s no different. Of course, there’s no roaring fire anymore. That’s been replaced with one of those living flame gas affairs. Quite nice, but you never could beat the real thing.
“Penny for them.” My husband, Charles, interrupts my reverie.
“Oh, nothing. I was just musing and remembering Christmases past.” I smile at him.
He adjusts his tie and smoothes his glossy black hair, all gestures I have seen him perform countless times. “Do you think it will snow this year?” he asks, studying his reflection in the mirror.
I turn to look out of the window. “It’s too dark to tell, but it looks damp out there. It must have been raining earlier.”
“I didn’t notice,” Charles says, “but then I suppose I wouldn’t, would I?” He smiles at me and takes my hand, brushing it against his lips. Then I catch him examining my dress.
“Something wrong?” I ask and instinctively look down at my white, floor-length gown. I see some creases in the silk which I attempt to smooth away.
“That’s better. It was just a little wrinkled.”
“Hardly surprising,” I say. “It only gets an outing once a year.”
We laugh, and Charles strokes away a long, dark brown lock of hair which has escaped my elaborate coiffure and has wandered across my cheek.
“Shall we dance, Emily?” he asks.
“Certainly, Charles, it will be my pleasure.”
We waltz to a phantom orchestra. In my head I can hear the strains of the Blue Danube, and I am transported back to another time and place. I can see a young girl and her young man, their eyes locked in an embrace as they swirl around a ballroom in Vienna while a conductor, violin in hand, steers the orchestra through his latest composition.
“I miss the scent of roasting chestnuts,” I tell Charles.
His mouth widens in a grin. “But can’t you smell them, Emily? Concentrate really hard.”
I close my eyes and let him lead me round and round as the music grows louder, and now I can smell them. Chestnuts, little fried potatoes and the warming aroma of cinnamon from the Glühwein. I can hear the bells of St Stephen’s Cathedral and feel the chill of the night air on my cheek. Little flecks of snow are falling onto my face, and my feet crunch on the icy ground.
Charles is waltzing me faster and faster. And now I can hear the voices. The orchestra has faded and a choir is singing in German: “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht…”
“No, Emily, don’t open your eyes.”
I obey. “Don’t let it stop, Charles, please don’t let it stop,” I cry, “Not this time. Not this year.”
“Dance with me, Emily. Dance with me.”
The choir has faded, and the orchestra builds to a crescendo. I know if I open my eyes, I will see the wild black hair of the conductor, falling over his eyes as his violin bow slashes through the air.
But I mustn’t open my eyes. Charles told me not to.
“Oh Emily, Emily,” Charles says, “Let us never lose this moment. Never.”
And then I open my eyes.
“No, Emily, no!” Charles’ agonized face is before me. But the moment has passed.
The orchestra is silent. There are no roasting chestnuts, no carol singers, no hot spiced wine.
Vienna has gone.
“Oh Emily, you did it again. Just like last year. Just like every year.”
I am crestfallen. He takes my face in his hands. He kisses my lips, and I close my eyes again, trying to recapture the dream. But it’s too late.
“Never mind, my love, there’s always next year.”
“As long as we’re still here,” I say, my old fears returning.
“I expect we will be. They seem to like us well enough.”
From the hallway, I hear the unmistakable sound of a key in the lock. It’s time.
“Come, my love. We must return.” Charles once again takes my hand and together we gaze at the empty picture above the mantelpiece.
“Until next year and the magic returns,” he whispers.
“Until next year. Happy Christmas, Charles.”
“Happy Christmas, Emily.”
The door opens and a young couple wanders in, each holding a glass of red wine. They are both dressed smartly, she in a navy suit, he in dark grey. She has short blond hair, and his is dark. They look very modern to me.
The woman’s gaze is drawn to the painting. “I’ve always loved that picture.” She sighs, raising her glass to her lips and taking a sip.
“That’s why I bought it for you,” the man says and nuzzles her neck.
“Dance Me to the End of Time,” she murmurs. “Such an evocative title. And it really looks as if that’s what they’re doing, doesn’t it? You feel they could just step out of that frame and glide around the room.”
Her husband laughs. “You and your imagination.”
The woman moves toward the fireplace and is peering closer. “There it is again. The damnedest thing!”
“What?” he asks.
“I noticed it last year, but only on Christmas Eve, and it’s happened again this year. Look at her eyes.”
The man does as he is bid.
“Can you see it? There at the corner of her eye. A tear. It looks as if it’s just about to spill down her cheek, but I bet you it won’t be there in the morning.”
The man laughs. “You’re imagining it. Too much wine at dinner.”
“Say what you like. I know what I saw.” She steps back.
She’s right, of course. It’s the tear I cannot cry every Christmas when the magic ends.
And we are frozen here in time and space.
Catherine Cavendish writes Paranormal Fiction. Her Paranormal/Horror novella, ‘Cold Revenge’ is out now, published by Etopia Press and is available from:
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Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written over sixteen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, and Liquid Silver Books. She also takes private clients.
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