WFOL 2024 Challenge
DANCING WITH THE PAST
Russell stood near his mother, chatting with those who came over to see them. Sebastian leaned closer.
“How is Alice doing?”
Russell sighed. He’d had this conversation dozens of times this evening already. “I’m afraid this might be her last Winterfest. Since my dad passed, she’s deteriorated quickly. We’re not going to stay much longer.”
Sebastian reached out to grasp Russell’s hand in sympathy. “May I ask her to dance?”
“Yes, but I don’t know how she will react.”
Sebastian nodded. He turned to the elderly woman sitting in a soft chair. Her white hair was neatly pulled back in a bun. Her deep blue dress was slightly faded and decades out of fashion, but still as beautiful on her now, as it had been years ago. He watched for a minute as she started blankly ahead, seeming not to notice the party that was happening in front of her.
He took a deep breath and stepped up in front of her. With a flourish, he greeted her and offered her a rose. When she didn’t respond, he gently placed it in her hand and held it up to her nose.
“My beautiful Alice, would you do me the honor of a dance?”
She still remained passive, but Russell helped her to stand. Sebastian led her a few feet away from the chair and made a motion to the musicians. They began a familiar waltz that had been played at every Winterfest and other celebration Below. Slowly, he began to sway with her and to hum along. After a few moments, he was relieved to hear her begin to hum along with him. They swayed together to the music, and the musicians began the song again.
She spoke quietly, still not quite seeing him, but becoming more aware.
“Yes Alice, I’m here. You look beautiful tonight.”
“Charlie’s not here, but you’ll see him soon. Tell him I said hello.”
They finished their dance. Sebastian wished they could keep going, but he could feel her strength fading. He motioned to Russell, and they helped her back to her chair. When the familiar song stopped, her attention did as well.
Sebastian bent down and kissed her on the cheek. “‘Til we meet again, sweet Alice.”
When he stood, Russell held out his hand. “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much that meant to her and to me. She loved Dad, but she always cherished your friendship. I wanted to bring her here one last time. I hoped that it would help to be somewhere familiar.”
With tears glistening in his eyes, Sebastian nodded. “It has, my boy. Take good care of her, and make sure you come back next year, for yourself.”
Russell nodded, his own eyes filling with tears. A call to Sebastian from one of the children came from across the hall. After a final, loving glance at his childhood friend, Sebastian quickly wiped his face and cleared his throat before pulling a balloon out of his pocket and starting a balloon animal as he crossed the hall.