It is a humid, sticky night in France, with the rain falling down in heavy, torrid sheets, preventing nearly anyone from enjoying their evening. The lights seem much dimmer than usual, a hollow glow the only thing it provides. The air hangs heavy and hot, making everything appear to slow down. Cars are sloshing the fallen rain down the wet, dirty streets, down alleyways, and onto Melodie’s feet. The steady hum of distant car engines and the rhythmic squeaking sound of a woman’s sneakers on the pavement are the only discernable sounds in the night, due to the overpowering beating sound of the rain. If you listen a bit closer, however, you just might be able to hear the soft hum emitting from Melodie’s pursed lips, a frantic attempt to choke back tears, a sound she makes when she’s close to crying.
Melodie’s sneakers are getting damper as time passes by, and as she shuffles toward the entrance of her oversized home, she starts wiggling her toes inside of the size five tennis shoes, partially out of anxiousness, although it’s mostly due to the fact her tears won’t stop. The butler greets her. She makes mild conversation, of course, but she doesn’t look up at him because she is crying and she needs to be confident. Melodie’s hips sway as she walks; her body never fails her. The tears still haven’t ceased as she reaches the door to the wing of her house, and her sobbing hasn’t calmed down, either. She does not take off her forest green beret or sheer black cardigan when she walks through the door, half embarrassed that her fiancé may just notice she went to an acquaintance’s home in her nightgown.
She looks up through dark drown bands and catches his eyes. His smile falters just slightly, something you may have missed if you weren’t just quick enough.
“Melodie, would you like a cup of tea? Maybe a cake?” Eyes distant, smile soft and broken and forced, he’s the gentlemen type, still trying even after it’s obvious he’s not fooling anyone.
She freezes in mid-stride. Turning swiftly around, she smiles back, not as convincing as his of course, but it’s the best she can muster at the moment.
‘He doesn’t love me. He hardly knows me. He needs me for money,’ Melodie thought.
Of course, Melodie knew this from the very beginning. When they met on the French street on a cracked and dry summer afternoon, she bumped into him and fell onto the ground. He exchanged a few words with her, acted kind, and mentioned he was here to save up money for art school. She was attention starved and was willing to have anyone show her love. In a desperate attempt to get him to love her, she agreed to pay for his tuition if he married her. In reality, she blamed the way she was acting on her father. She knew it wasn’t right that she still holds a grudge against him, ignoring her all of her childhood, claiming he was busy with working as a manager of the company, and eventually setting her aside at age fifteen to live in a completely separate wing of the house, but she just couldn’t let it go. For the first time, this older boy, he pays attention, he knows, he understands; or so she thought.
“No actually, I think I may just go to bed…”
It is silent for a few moments, an awkward, heavy kind of silence. As she’s about to walk into the bathroom and clean up, he laughs void and sad, his eyes looking indirectly at her. It echoes through the walls, a certain melancholy still ringing to it. He’s looking elegant as ever, although it’s apparent he’s miserable.
“Your French is terrible.” She interrupts, running into the washroom. She couldn’t stop the tears from increasing as she grabs the washcloth.
Hazel eyes travel upward, toward the mirror and stops on her reflection. She gazes at the smeared tomato red lipstick for a moment before grabbing the shiny crystal knob on the faucet. Here surrounded by elegance and riches, she isn’t happy. One month into the engagement, and it’s hopeless.
In her room, as she sits on the edge of the bed, the end of her silk nightgown riding up her thigh and feet cold on the hardwood floor, she’s choking back tears as she stares blankly in front of her, eyes unfocused. When the tears come once more, she is anything but silent, loud wails emitting from her unintentionally. As her breath catches, due to lack of air, she regrets falling in love with him. Her breath comes back to her. In a desperate attempt of getting oxygen flowing through her system again, she breathes deep, once, and muses silently that all she ever does anymore is cry and regret the deal she made with his family. She is forgetting that one room over, the source of her despair is sleeping, completely oblivious to the sobs wracking through her body.
However, in reality, he is wide awake, laying stiff as a board against the downy bed, light bags due to sleep deprivation already formed under his light blue eyes. He is listening intensely, and then a pang of guilt hits him as he realizes why she is doing this. He has to remind himself that this was inevitable, and she couldn’t just buy love and expect mutual feelings. Although this was true, he couldn’t help but feeling something for the girl. Although she was needy, utterly spoiled, and entirely childish, he couldn’t help but try, but he was shy and she was equivalent to a five year old emotionally, and it made it so hard sometimes.
When dawn breaks, both of them haven’t even closed their eyes. Nonetheless, Melodie pushes herself up and rubs her eyes once more for good measure before she catches her reflection in the mirror and stops breathing for a moment. She rushes over to the bag of makeup and realizes that her cosmetics have run out. She starts crying, harder. Today, she cannot disguise herself. Intent on missing school that day, she breaks every shiny mirror on her vanity and hides under her bed for a good two hours. It is only when a light rap on the door interrupts her train of thought, and she calls out softly, “Yes?”
“Come down now. Your father is nearly enraged and blowing out my eardrum on the telephone line.”
It just had to be the butler?
“Give me a minute, then,” she whispers back hoarsely. Surely he wouldn’t be here still, would he?
Charles, the fiancé, having enough deviousness in him to lie to the professor, he’d say the reason he skipped his first sculpting class this morning wasn’t to wait for Melodie, but because he wasn’t feeling well. Fortunately for him, Mr. Whatever-his-name-was, understood perfectly well that he is nowhere physically sick, and after Charles completes his sick call with a final and fake cough for good measure, the professor says bluntly and loudly, “Obviously, whatever is wrong, it’s bothering you. Is this about a girl or something? Because quite frankly, I didn’t think you’d get caught up in such things. Work out whatever distress you are in and come back tomorrow with a good attitude. See you then.”
Before Charles could even begin to respond, the professor has already hung up.
Whispering to himself, on a telephone line with a blank dial tone, he says, “Maybe you’re right…”
A loud gasp coming from the top of the stairs breaks Charles out of his daze, and immediately he regrets looking like such and idiot in front of her. There, Melodie stands, looking completely haute couture in her heavy school uniform because everything she touches is. A light pout is formed on her face, and it’s obvious she’s surprised he’s still sitting at the kitchen table, two hours late for his class, a bowl of soggy cereal next to him and silver spoon. Her eyes, bright hazel orbs, still light pink from irritation, are widened, and her mouth agape, a light hum passing through her lips, the sound she makes when she’s close to crying. Of course, Charles knows this because he pays attention to her, as emotional and moody as she may be.
Moments before he pushes himself away from the stool and the marble counter he tells her, “Don’t you dare start crying.”
Dashing to her, a frantic look on his face, it dawns on him that he has never really seen her cry. She always runs away, so much, in fact, it almost seems natural. As he embraces her on the top oak step, surrounded by fake elegance and manners, a pale arm wrapping its way around her lower back, she finally lets the tears fall from her face, feeling them hot on her ivory skin. She cries and clings to him because this is the only thing she can do. With her in his arms, sweat beading across the top of her forehead, she realizes she’d only half tried, and he is already half there.
“We’re moving forward,” she says, digging her face into the place where his shoulder blade and neck meet, soaking the collar of his shirt. “It may not be anywhere fast, but at least it’s somewhere.”
“…The only thing I can say to that, Melodie, is you’re absolutely right.”
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