52 Stories from 52 Photos: ‘#27’
“Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for our very own sultry-sweet songbird, Miss Thorn”
The compere’s rehearsed and monotonous announcement heralded the slow opening of the old red curtains, grey with dust. They revealed behind them an old man in a tux sat at a piano, and in front of him a single solitary spotlight illuminating the singer. She was tall, even without the high heels she wore beneath her silver sequinned dress. Her angel-blonde hair called to mind Monroe, but her beauty was one that transcended the beauty spot; it reached down and grabbed you like a poster coming to life. She could have any man the world over — young, old, rich or poor. But she only had eyes for one, and she scanned the crowd until she saw him perched at the bar. With a wink she launched into her first song, and all in attendance discovered that her voice matched her stunning visage.
He came to watch her sing every weekend, every show; wherever the bar, whatever the time. Quite often she’d perform at dive-y bars at the end of the night and this Saturday was no different. He liked to sit at the bar so he wasn’t distracting her from the front row, but so she always knew where to find him when she looked. This venue had cabaret seating in an attempt at faded showbiz glamour, but the effect was more like the ball room of a shipwreck. There were two guys buying a round at the bar next to him and sometime around the second chorus of her opening number, he overheard their conversation. Letting out a long wolf-whistle, one nudged the other,
“Damn, with pipes like that imagine what she’s like in the bedroom”
They both laughed sneeringly and high-fived, looking her up and down like dogs. Standing right next to them, he was about the only person who heard their exchange — unfortunate, as he was the worst person who could have. In one swift movement he turned and struck the pint glass out of the jeerer’s hand. Beer and glass showered the bar top as he continued to launch a fist hard into his belly. The second man snapped out of shock and avenged his companion with a heavy punch to the eye of their attacker. Suddenly, a fourth figure appeared from nowhere, pulling the boy — still clutching his eye — up by his collar,
“You, I saw that. You’re done, get out.”
He dragged him to the door and threw him out into the night.
An hour later, as the side door to the club opened, the boy hastily tossed his napkin of ice to the kerb and leant casually against the wall of the alleyway.
“Here she is! The star! You were great doll, better every night,”
“You can cut that out right away, I saw you getting kicked out. Just look at your eye! It’s gone purple!”
He brushed this off and turned to give her his good side,
“Hey hey c’mon now, forget all that. Those guys had it coming — no-one heckles my girl. Are we going for a drink?”
She frowned and crossed her arms in an attempt to be serious,
“You know what these places are like, it’s midnight in the wrong part of town. If you must come to every show you’re gonna have to put up with a few silly comments”
“Yeah yeah yeah I know,” he trailed off “So let’s go to the right part of town huh? Le monde est à nos pieds!”
She broke into a smile and took his arm as the headed off under the light of the street lamps.
In their favourite late night pub they huddled into a tiny wooden table with a solitary candle in a bottle. He bought the best Prosecco they stocked (change back from a tenner) then bought another when it was gone. They joked about the show as he reenacted his scuffle; engaging in an overblown battle against huge, invisible enemies. She laughed until her sides hurt and he sat down pointing at his cheek. She pulled his head towards her with both hands and kissed it hard. Conversation turned to the future as they tipsily painted out their shared master vision again of marriage, kids, and a place with a yard. They looked long and hard into each other’s hope-filled eyes and smiled a smile that twinged every part of their bodies. The time was half past three and it was time they went home to be alone. Grasping the barman’s hand with both of his own in thanks he stumbled outside, more than a little drunk, and pulled out a rolled cigarette. He patted his pockets for a lighter, then looked at her pulling her jacket on clumsily. He paused, and tossed the unlit smoke to the kerb and they began the short wander home together.
Stumbling through the front door of their little apartment, she fell into the bedroom and collapsed fully-clothed onto the mattress on the floor where they slept.
“We’ll have a proper bed one day right?” she grinned up at him, “one with a big, fancy upholstered headboard?” she spread herself out as if to demonstrate.
He stood over her, trying taking off his shoes without tripping,
“Anything you want baby, it’s yours”
Sidling in next to her, he lay at her side and touched his nose to the tip of hers. She wrapped her arms around his chest and he stroked her hair down.
“I’ll give you everything in the world, you deserve it.”
“I just want you,” she yawned sleepily “and the fancy bed.”
Lowering her head under his arm and back onto his chest he recognised the slow breathing of her falling asleep.
“I love you,” he said gently as he flicked off the lamp, “my partner in crime.”