Lady in Red
John A. Ward

Guido danced with Kathleen. A waitress dropped a tray of Margaritas. Suddenly, their connection changed. She felt the change, but didn't see the lady in red. Guido did. When he looked toward the shattering sound, he saw her sitting on the bar stool, her right leg crossed over the left, left thigh visible through the slit that extended to her hip. He held Kathleen but danced with the lady in red. A silver butterfly was embroidered on the ankle of the lady’s black stockings. He’d call her Mariposa.

When the music ended, Kathleen remarked. "That was the first time I've felt comfortable dancing with you, Guido."

"Come," he said, "I'll buy you another drink."

At the bar, Mariposa was gone. A handkerchief was on her stool. Guido picked it up. His hand brushed the leatherette that was still warm from her body. The edge of the linen was trimmed in lace. Above a delicately monogrammed white-on-white "M" was written "Call me, 6316."

He forgot Kathleen and headed for the elevator. He was in 6318.

Clutching her note, he stood in front of 6316. He inhaled deeply, corrected his posture and brushed imaginary lint from his jacket. He knocked on the door, three gentle taps. No answer. He didn't want to wake her. He went to his room, unlocked it and entered. It was dark. No light shone under the door joining the rooms. Either she was not there or was asleep. At the desk he wrote. "I have your note, ‘Call me, 6318.’” He slipped his reply under the suite door. On impulse, he slid the bolt open and pushed softly. It was locked on her side. Just as well. What would he do if it were open?

He got into bed, pulled the covers up and turned out the light. He dreamed he danced with Mariposa. They swayed, left, back, front, right, front, back. Guido was breathing heavily. A red light began flashing and he floated upward out of the dream.

The source of the light was a message. He thought it said "hello." But it was misspelled in mixed upper and lower case, "hElO". Then he realized his bedside clock was overturned. The numbers 0134 were upside down. He reached out and closed his hand over it. The light went out. He lay back and stretched.

The suite door opened slowly. Framed in the dim light was Mariposa. "I'm sorry", she said, "It was open. This is a bad time. I'll leave."

"No," he said, "stay."

"Why?" she asked.

"I need you," he said.

When he awoke at dawn, she was gone.

He never forgot that night, until a week later when he met Janine.

First published: February 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'