This is by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, inspired by Prompt: The Party Conversation.
She walked over to the counter with the coffee. Appearing relaxed, she’d floated across the room, not a care in the world, back turned to the thirty or forty people chatting away behind her, no ripple in her wake.
I knew the moment the two sat next to each other that this was an oil-meets-flame moment. Against the black leather couch, her swept-up blond hair back-lit by the orange glow of the porcelain lamp behind them, white silk blouse shimmering around her bare neckline, tinged gold in the amber lighting, contrasted strongly against his dark curls, evening shadow along cheeks and chin above the freshly ironed, crisp linen long sleeve shirt. Beauty and beauty, I thought. That is what others will see. The perfect couple. But I knew them. Beauty and the beast with no happy love song or shared interest between them.
He was the gentle one, razor sharp on the outside, marshmallow opinions on the inside. Nothing Ray ever did in his life caused conflict or disorder. It was all about order, precision with self, never others.
She was all angles, knives and chains in her soul, soft and wispy on the outside. Her tongue left bloody slices on the delicate in her wake.
A small part of me was intrigued to see the fireworks these two could spark, yet terrified of the showdown that could happen right in front of everyone. The only saving grace and commonality the two shared was decorum, spelled with a capital D. This wasn’t just a noun to them. It was a law.
“Let no one see you sweat,” was her motto. She meant it in life as well as exercise. A hard-boiled attorney, she could make knees quake the moment she stepped into a court room.
“Never let them see your pain,” was his mantra, determined to not let anyone feel, see, or experience pain, never to share his own as well. Pain was for wimps, those not strong enough to endure. As a doctor, he’d listen but never absorbed the experience of his patients. Sympathy, yes, but empathy? That was lacking in his psychic gene pool.
Introducing Callie to Ray, I stepped back, wine glass in hand, and watched, drifting into the shadows of the party’s energy, my specialty. “Never let them see you,” was the invisible line on my personal calling card.
They were casual at first, toes dipped in the pool of conversational politeness. I knew Ray would never touch politics or religion, so they were safe there, but I knew Callie hated small talk, not caring about weather, sports, modern entertainment, or gossip. She was a political body, a raging Democrat from hair follicle to toe nail. He was a soft Republican, not religious, not greedy, just determined to keep his own.
I couldn’t tell what lit the embers to a slow burn. His face tightened. Her lips froze into a plastic smile. I thought a coffee interruption might part the stormy waters. Both smiled at me, fury in their eyes. I passed the full coffee cup to Callie, then Ray, and faded back into the crowd.
By the time she stood up to walk away ten minutes later, her cheeks flamed, hand gripped the coffee cup to breaking. His face was white, teeth and hands clenched.
Ah, to have been a bee in their bonnets. I watched and licked my lips, eager for more.