This is by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, inspired by Prompt: The Party Conversation.
She stood up and walked over to the counter with the coffee, deftly avoiding the plastic smiles on watching faces. If I looked closely, I knew I would see white knuckles gripping her full cup, still warm from ten minutes ago when I’d delivered it to her hands. 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. She set the cup on the counter, making no attempt to refill it.
I knew the moment the two sat next to each other that this was an oil meets flame moment. Side by side on 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 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 changes 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 excited, intrigued to see the fireworks these two could spark, yet terrified a real showdown could happen right here 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, and 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, and 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 absorb their experience. Sympathy, yes, overflowingly so, but empathy was lacking in his psychic gene pool.
Introducing Callie to Ray, I stepped back, wine glass in hand, and watched, drifting back into the shadows of the party’s energy, my specialty. “Never let them see you,” was the invisible line on my 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 also 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, and I thought a coffee interruption would part the stormy waters, but clearly it didn’t. Both had smiled at me, fury in their eyes, but welcoming smiles. I’d greeted both with an equally welcoming smile, passed the full coffee cup to Callie, then faded back into the crowd.
By the time she stood up to walk away, ten – I counted – minutes later, her cheeks flamed, hand gripped the coffee cup to breaking, and his face was white, teeth clenched.
Ah, to have been a bee in their bonnets. I watched and licked my lips, eager for more.