Last Dance

Marc and Lusi leaned together on the edge of the dance floor—watching. Ben and Tami had come early, too, and were pointing at the other dancers that had been on the floor the night before, making fun of the drunken stumbling of some.

Then they spotted themselves.

Tami cracked up at her own dancing style, making Marc and Lusi both smile broadly—Tami’s laugh was irresistible. They’d all had a little too much last night and Ben had constantly had to keep preventing Tami from falling over. As the pairs’ holograms passed the four of them, they could all see the liberties Ben had taken as he manhandled her back to an upright position.

Tami gaped at him—the real him—and pointed at his image as she accused him, “What were you doing? Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”

His eyes widened—he’d been caught like a deer in headlights.

But Tami couldn’t maintain her air of offense for long and she laughed again—she was having him on, it seemed.

He shook his head as he relaxed into a sheepish grin.

Marc, however, played on with the ruse and jumped onto the dance floor behind the hologram of his friend. He pretended to tap him on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, young man.” He put on a self-important voice—he was trying to imitate Lusi’s father. “What do you think you’re doing with my daughter?”

This cracked the other three up again, and even more so when the holograms of the next pair of dancers began to pass through him and appeared in pieces out of the front of him: first the back of the man’s head, then his elbow popped out and back again, her hand on her partner’s rear end…and so on.

Marc played this for all he was worth, making it look like he could feel them and trying to push them back through his body. The positioning of her hand was extremely suggestive.

Lusi joined in then, pretending to be affronted by how this strange woman was ‘touching’ her fiancé so intimately. She attempted to slap her hand away, but misjudged her swing, causing Marc to grab her forearm suddenly in self-preservation.

“Look out, Lusi!”

She covered her mouth with her other hand, “Sorry!”

Tami and Ben were doubled over now, out of control.

Marc enfolded her in his arms. “You could make it up to me.” He looked into her eyes and shrugged his eyebrows suggestively. She smiled warmly up at him.

She is so beautiful! Marc’s heart dissolved yet again.

He held her close and they began to dance. It was way easier when there was hardly anyone on the floor to bump into. Marc noticed that Ben and Tami jumped up on the floor, too, once they’d recovered their composure.

This made the holograms dim just a little. The more real people got on the dance floor, the less visible the holograms would become. That was what the holograms were for—to make people comfortable enough to start dancing. The more visible the holograms were, the less you realised you were the only one up there.

This was one of the things the two couples liked about coming to this club: the fact that the club took the trouble to make a holographic recording of the previous night’s dancing and played it the next day, over and over, until there were enough people on the floor. Most clubs simply used a generic one with complete strangers in it.

They had a fabulous evening—yet again—dancing the night away.

Lusi was nearly falling asleep on Marc’s shoulder, so he decided he’d better get her home—especially as she had work the following day.

Tami and Ben went with them and the foursome tracked their way down the main road, talking and laughing.

They passed the eatery they’d met at earlier in the evening and Tami reminded them of the ridiculous suggestion Ben had made for Marc and Lusi’s wedding vows: “Slip it on and don’t slip up!”

He swore that he hadn’t meant it suggestively. “I meant slip the ring on and…oh never mind!”

The other three roared with laughter and stumbled about the pavement.

Marc was certain later that he’d heard the audio warning that sounded in a car when it veered off course. He’d wondered for a millisecond why he could hear it when he wasn’t even in a car.

When Lusi was swept away from his side, all he felt was a slight breeze. The movement made him turn his head in puzzlement. It was only when her body landed in a heap, metres further down the path, that he realised what was going on.

That was when the world had gone into slow motion. He just couldn’t get to her fast enough. He couldn’t stem the flow of blood from her head. He couldn’t return her limbs to their proper place.

He couldn’t make her heart beat again.

Marc rode in the ambulance with her, the medics doing everything they could around him. He held Lusi’s hand when he was allowed to.

Ben and Tami joined him not long after the ambulance arrived at the hospital. The three of them sat in the waiting room together, but it didn’t take long for them to be officially notified of her death.

Ben covered his face with his hands and cried.

Marc wanted to see her body, but they told him that, because he wasn’t actually her next of kin yet, he would have to wait for her parents to arrive.

He sat in numbed silence, not perceiving the passage of time. Ben or Tami would occasionally hand him a cup of tea or squeeze his hand, but he mostly had nothing to say to them. What was there to say?

Her parents arrived and Marc stood to meet them. Her father’s face was grey with grief, her mother leaning into him, her face crumpled and wet. When they saw Marc, they gathered him into their arms and held him for a long time, her mother punctuating the heavy silence with, “Oh, Marc!” over and over.

When they finally let go, Marc found his own cheeks wet, his throat constricted and sore.

The orderly took the three of them down to the morgue to see Lusi’s body.

Marc stood and stared at the thing they were shown. It wasn’t Lusi. She wasn’t there. Her face was all wrong. Where was the light that shone out of her eyes, the warmth of her gentle soul? The beauty was gone. Only the shell remained.

Marc wanted her back. He felt it in his stomach, like a hunger.

Before her parents left for home, Lusi’s mother turned to Marc and reached out to hold his face in her hands.

“Marc. You made our baby so happy.” She fought to continue and her voice reduced to a whisper, “Thank you, sweetheart. Please come and visit us soon.” She kissed him on the cheek.

Tami and Ben had waited for him and they bustled him out to a taxi and took him home. Not his home, his parents’. It seemed they didn’t want him to be alone.

Good friends.

He was grateful, but he really did need to be alone.

He stood in the kitchen as his mother made him a sandwich. Her head bent over the bench, she could barely control her own hands. But he needed to eat, she said.

Once the sandwich was made and she’d watched him take a couple of mouthfuls, his mother left the kitchen, saying she would be right back.

As soon as she was gone, Marc quietly slipped out the back door and walked away. When his phone rang five minutes later, he turned it off.

Walking around the entire school grounds, he remembered the stolen hours they’d spent there. He stood in ‘their spot’ trying to conjure up some feeling of her presence, wanting to sense her again.

He didn’t stand there long.

The sun was starting to go down and the air cooled as he continued to wend his way through the town that tasted entirely of the two of them—always together. Everywhere he went, memories of Lusi crowded about him, jostling for his attention, but never filling the yawning hole that grew colder within him.

He hadn’t realised where he was going until he got there. The club’s lights sparkled in the near-darkness. He walked in, wandered over to the dance floor and sat down at one of the small tables next to it.

There was no one there. It was far too early. But when one of the staff spotted him they went out the back and the barman emerged.

Marc knew him and they nodded to each other. Then the barman stared at him for a moment before turning and flicking on the hologram program.

It took a while to start up and there were some fragments of previous recordings that eerily played bits and pieces of dancing bodies before the last recording came through, bright and clear and rotating around the dance floor.

There she was. There they were, dancing close, holding each other.

Marc got up as the holograms slowly passed him, took his own place on the floor and began to dance with her one last time.

Lusi was talking to him, but he couldn’t hear her. She was holding him, but he couldn’t feel her.

But he could see her face clearly and it was almost like she was looking into his eyes, smiling at a joke he hadn’t said—that he didn’t need to say.

Marc lost himself just looking at her, moving around the dance floor with the rotating recording, keeping up with her image, standing within his own.

He had no idea how long he’d been there when her image suddenly dimmed. A whole crowd of people had arrived and started dancing and she simply faded away.

He stopped in the middle of the floor, staring at the last place she’d been.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, “Time to go home, son.” His father put his arm around him and led him off the dance floor.

**********************************

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