Her mind drifted back to when she was just a girl, sneaking out to dances with her older, much prettier cousin Jeanie. She had felt ever so glamorous as she slipped on her one good dress and curled her hair. As she slyly applied a thin layer of Jeannie’s blood-red lipstick, it was as though she transformed from plain, ordinary Edna to grown up, elegant Edna.
She never danced much, preferring to admire the other girls. Thanks to the inheritance of her father’s big nose, she’d never quite felt comfortable in her own skin.
Looking out at the others, she mused over how little she had changed. Still a wallflower, as he ma had called her. Still so much more at home sitting here, watching, than out there joining in. She watched as the colours blended together, in a pretty haze before her eyes. Each time the tinny cassette orchestra recording began to play, she was whisked back to 1942, every one of her aches and troubles melting away.
She had danced to this song with Jim at their wedding. Jim. He had been as uncomfortable as she, with his two left feet. How absurd they must have looked as they fell over each other, cheeks burning crimson from the embarrassment that came from being the centre of attention. Stifling a giggle at the image her mind had created, she sipped her lemonade, savouring it’s crisp, almost bitter taste.
She missed Jim like she would never have thought possible. It was as though when he died, someone had taken part of her too. Without him, she was incomplete, as clichéd as that might sound.
She had started coming to these weekly dances at the village hall, as a favour to her neighbour Minnie, but they had quickly become something of a lifeline to her. Her chance to interact with other people; to belong again. She missed the companionship, the just knowing there was someone else there, that she wasn’t alone. Even if she barely spoke more than a few words.
“Can I have this dance?” the voice startled her. Looking up, she smiled at the owner. A grey haired, pleasant-looking man who she had seen here for the last few weeks. Like her, he had sat in a corner, simply observing the others. Looking at him close up for the first time, she noted how his eyes smiled as he spoke. He was a very attractive man.
Edna, shook her head slowly and smiled. “I’m sorry, I’m not much of a dancer.”
“That, I can’t believe.” he held his hand out to her. It was then she noticed the gold band hanging from his neck. Instinctively, she touched her hand to her own neck, where her wedding ring had sat since Jim had died.
Taking a deep breath she reached up and took his hand, joining him on the dance floor.
He was a much better dancer than she, and he did his best to guide her across the room, weaving in and out of the other couples. As the music came to an end, he leaned close and whispered.
“I thought you said you weren’t much of a dancer?’”
Feeling the colour rise in her cheeks and the tell-tale thumping of her heart in her chest, Edna felt nineteen again.