Saturday, February 28, 2009

Miriam Part Four

The music again filled the room, but now it was interrupted by another sound – feet in the hallway outside, accompanied by a loud male voice. Josh kept playing. "Miriam! Are you down here?" The voice was at the door now, and Miriam turned to it with a forced smile. "Oh, there you are, baby! We were wondering where you were – oh, sorry, I didn't know you had company."
"Um – hello, Nick", Miriam said, suddenly aware that she was still tugging on her hemline. In his party clothes Nick looked like he'd just stepped out of a GQ advertisement – but then he always looked like he'd just stepped out of a GQ advertisement, right down to the three-day stubble. He was grinning and holding a beer bottle, just as he'd been when she slipped away. Feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed, she looked back and forth between Nick's grinning face and Josh, who kept playing gently.

"Hey, sorry, I didn't mean to barge in", Nick continued, walking up to her and slipping his arm around her waist. "It's just that – oh, hello there, Josh."

"Hello, Nick", Josh gave Nick a brief glance and continued playing.
"Long time, no see! I brought Miriam to the party", he pulled her close to his side. "What are you doing here?"

"Playing the piano", Josh answered with the slightest of smiles, not bothering to turn his head.

"Well – ah, right. Anyway, baby, the band's back and about to start another set. I thought you might want to get out on the floor with some of those signature moves of yours. Whaddya say?"

"Um, I dunno, Nick", Miriam hedged. Difficult as it was to stay here with Josh, feeling all the turmoil his presence caused in her, the prospect of leaving filled her with bleak despair. She felt she could not face the pounding rock music, the empty laughter, smoke and flickering lights from the mirrored balls. "I've got a bit of a headache coming on."

"Oh, come on, baby, don't be a spoilsport", Nick urged, tightening his arm around her waist and grabbing her elbow with that grip of his that was just a little too firm for comfort. "I know how much you love to rock and roll, and the band's well warmed up now. I was looking forward to the chance to – y'know, get down a little." He gave a little dance wiggle, his tight grip on her forcing her to do the same.

"I don't know, Nick", Miriam protested weakly, trying to wrench her elbow free from his grip. "I was hoping to lie down for a while."

"Baby, baby", Nick chided with one of his perfect grins, "I didn't bring you to this party to have you lie down in a room by yourself. I brought you to show you off, and have a little fun! That's why I asked you to wear that dress I got you. Great dress, eh, Josh?"

"We were just talking about the dress. It's beautiful", Josh said, not turning, continuing his beautiful playing in a more subdued key.

"See, baby! Even ol' Josh here doesn't think you should be hiding in a corner! So c'mon!" Nick slipped his arm from her waist but grasped her hand in an iron grip. "I'm not leaving without you." He was looking into her eyes now. His lips were smiling but his eyes were cold and determined, almost reptilian. She knew that look – Nick used it when he intended to get his way, and he always did. Resistance flared within her, but old habit overruled it. Her heart collapsed – she was too tired to fight right now.

"Miriam" is a short story by Roger Thomas, author of The Last Ugly Person: And Other Stories

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