Dancing Pink RosesDanny Bracco
Edna returned home that evening with an idea. She and Ed would go dancing. They would take an impromptu trip to town to Bordello’s, the restaurant with the small dance floor she had taken Ed to so many years ago. She had her outfit all planned in her mind. She would wear her black dress—she had worn it to a funeral before, but it fit her so well. She was sure she could still fit into it; it had been just a tad big on her before. She would pair it with her red high heels—her only pair of high heels—and Ed would wear his matching red tie. And they would dance together.
She met Ed, who had the flowered onions in his hands, clumps of dirt falling from their roots.
“Are those the…bolting—yes? The bolting onions?”
“They are,” he said, matching her laugh.
“What’d you do, rip them from the ground with your hands? Throw those in the sink and hop in the shower. You’re taking me out tonight. To Bordello’s.” She threw on a hopeful smile.
She had hoped for more excitement from Ed about her idea, but also knew that dancing in public was not one of his favorite pastimes. But he was showering; he had agreed to wear the matching tie, and he had agreed to dance. She had no reason not to be pleased.
She drove them to town. He hated driving—a quirk she had always found amusing. Halfway through their second glass of wine, a smooth sax solo got Ed to stand out of his chair and officially ask her to dance. Ed bumped into two other couples over the course of their three songs. The bumps were laughed off, but beyond that, they didn’t talk much. They simply moved together on the floor, more in sync than they had been when they danced here years ago, Edna thought. When the fourth song started, Ed pulled her close.
“You look beautiful in that dress, but I’d rather see you in our bed,” he whispered into her ear.
The sheets seemed to favor him more that night. They anticipated his movements with Edna, flowing freely out from between them, enveloping him from behind, staying wrapped over his body as he and Edna moved together in the bed. When his feet explored further reaches of the sheets, he quickly wondered if he would get pricked by another hidden thorn, but there were none. While they slept, however, he felt the sheet sliding smoothly between their bodies. The cotton soothed his skin, and Edna remained asleep as the sheet quietly inserted itself. He made no motion to stop it.
“Edna, I’ve never seen you like this. Ten years looks good on you,” Janet said as Edna walked into the teacher’s lounge for coffee. Edna kept on smiling. When her students weaved in between the rows of desks to get to their seats, she envisioned herself and Ed weaving through the older couples at Bordello’s. She only stopped smiling when she reached into her bag and realized she had forgotten the worksheets she was going to use after lunchtime at home on her desk.
Ed had overslept this morning. The three nights of bedroom activity had finally caught up with him. He knew there was housework that had to get done that day—the downstairs needed dusting and vacuuming, the front porch needed painting. But first would come the sheets.
He went downstairs naked to make himself some breakfast. Edna had slept in as long as she could and didn’t appear to have made any breakfast for herself, either. He ate slowly, savoring the anticipation of his moment in front of the mirror. He cleaned each of his dishes before he ascended the stairs to his room.
He gathered the sheet under his arm and moved to the dresser for the safety pins when he saw the black dress at his feet beside the dresser, not yet put away from the night before. The red high heel shoes lay turned over by the mirror. The sheet scratched at his side. The hand holding the safety pins trembled. He let the safety pins drop back into the sewing kit, put the sheet back on the bed, and bent down to pick up the dress. The dress felt thicker, richer over his bare calves, hamstrings, buttocks and stomach than the sheet had. It pulled against his aching skin even tighter. He slipped his arms through the straps that now rested snug against the tip of his shoulders. He had kept his eyes closed this whole time, since he first pulled the dress over his feet. He turned around and opened his eyes to see from behind. The zipper stayed wedged toward the bottom, just below the patch of hair on his lower back, giving his back a sharp triangular shape.
Ed looked down to the floor at the red high heels. He pushed his feet into the shoes as best he could, his heels sticking out the back, bending the leather down. He kept his head down and closed his eyes. This was it. He was ready to face the mirror. He brought his head up and opened them.
He saw a man, a much younger version of himself, in the reflection of the mirror. A sleek young man dressed in an elegant black dress. The man looked radiant.
“You’re beautiful.” He heard his voice in those words, though he was not sure if they came from him or the reflection. Ed’s vision blurred. Tears streamed down the front of his face as he smiled. His body was humming with energy; tremendous blood and pressure circled around his waist. He breathed heavily.
He continued standing before the mirror, tall, lean, gorgeous in his red heels and black dress, and the tears stopped as he reached his hands up and down his body, over and on top of the smooth fabric before pushing a hand through the opening in the back of the dress and bringing it to the front. He felt the zipper rip further down as he took hold of himself. He smiled and moaned and danced and shouted and sang, climaxing into the dress and onto his body that stood that much higher from the ground than ever before. As sweat mixed with dry tears and his heart beat slowed, his hand lingered inside the dress. He heard himself sob again, but when he opened his eyes to look at himself in the mirror, he saw no tears on his face, only sweat.
Then he heard another cry and a sharp gasp for breath. Edna was at the bedroom door, her body leaning against the door frame. Her worksheets flew and shuffled around her feet. Tears and makeup slashed her face as she tried to pull herself from the room, but her body only went lower and lower until she was at the floor.
Ed rushed to pull the dress off of him, but his arm remained stuck inside the restricting fabric. He panicked. He saw himself in the mirror being taken out of this bedroom, out of this dress, and thrown naked into the garage of his childhood home. He saw his father holding his mother’s dress in his hands, the dress he had just ripped off of Ed’s eight year-old self. His father blasted a power-hose all over Ed’s body. He was spraying the queer out of him, his father said. The hose pierced his skin, electrocuting the soft, fuzzy hairs on his body. Ed had tried to run, but his ankle twisted when his father pushed him onto the garage floor and tore the dress off of him. The ankle throbbed under his weight. His father’s words drowned in the water in his ears. Ed knew his father wanted him to stop crying, but he could not. The lipstick still hadn’t come off his lips, even with the hose spraying inches away from his face, so his father took a wrench from his pocket and slapped Ed’s face with it, ripping the skin above his lip and knocking out three lingering baby teeth. Lipstick remnants remained. His father grabbed him by the groin and Ed felt his stomach cave in. His father gripped him tight and said to dry off and come back into the house when he was ready to be a man, and to tell his mother he fell off his bike, or else.
Ed stood cold, wet and naked in the garage, shaking and shivering, but out of tears. He looked down at the blood that had spilled onto his feet, and saw that blood had turned into red high heels. When he looked up again, he was back in his bedroom, and Edna was gone.
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