Monday, July 18, 2016

Nothing Good Ever Happens Here: Part 3 by Katherine Harbour


The cocktail party at the hotel that evening was attended by a number of people in fancy clothes. Attempting to procure liquor, Christie and Leon were shot down by the bartender.
   Christie straightened his tie as he and Leon turned away. "I guess I don't look as grown up as I thought."
   "You nervous about reciting your poem tomorrow?" Leon, who was wearing what Christie suspected to be a designer suit, looked around the garden.
   "No. You?"
   "No. Marisol is." Leon suddenly smiled. "There she is."
   Marisol was weaving toward them. She wore a little black dress and her hair in a single braid. Glancing at Leon, Christie said, "Why don't you go tell her how nice she looks before I'm tempted to?"
   Leon rubbed a hand over his scalp, then grinned and moved toward Marisol.
   Christie snagged one of the non-alchoholic drinks carried on trays by waiters. He wove toward the table scattered with a paradise of appetizers and began stacking them on a plate. Life was good.
   As he nibbled shrimp on a toothpick, he saw Clara moving toward him through the crowds. She was a pale flame against the chic darkness of the other guests. She selected a tiny pink cake from the spread and idly asked, "Are you having a good time?"
   "Not really, no." He spotted a large bird moving across the grass. "That's a peacock."
   "I saw someone leading a zebra  couple of minutes ago. This is very extravagant." Clara ate her cake.
   Christie was disappointed he hadn't seen the zebra. "It is swank."
   "There are others." Clara nodded toward a group of people their age--the other winners, he assumed, of the young writers' award.
   He said, "I should go over and introduce myself."
   "Or you can come with me." Clara set an Emily Strange lunchbox on the table and opened it. She began putting appetizers and little cakes into it. She shut the lid. "Come on."
   Thrilled, he followed her. As they passed the bar, she snagged a bottle of wine while the bartender was distracted. Her high-heeled red shoes clicking on the paving stones, she led him back toward the hotel, which seemed quiet.
   "Clara," he felt compelled to ask, "where are we going?"
   She opened a door and glanced back at him. She grinned and moved up a spiral of wrought-iron stairs. He followed her up the staircase, to round room at the top of a tower, where a chandelier of pink glass cast a rosy light over them as Clara opened the lunch box and set the canapes and petit fours on the balustrade. He walked to her side and gazed down at the grounds, which seemed more extensive than he'd thought. He saw fireflies sparkling in the trees. He looked out the other side of the cupola and saw the city of Detroit, lit up and modern.
   He glanced back over the grounds, where the small wood surrounded the pond that gleamed like a black mirror. The sight of it made him uneasy.
   Clara leaned back against the balustrade and tilted her head, watching him. "You see that pond? The Huron-Wyandot tribes worshiped something there. Later, it became a witches' meeting place. Not good witches. People have seen something that looks like a goat walking upright."
   "I live in a town where all sorts of werid stories like that get around. I'm not impressed."
   "No?" Clara turned and picked up one of the canapes, bit into it. "In the 1920s, a young man who was on the verge of becoming a movie star drowned there."
   "So, do you think if the white people had listened to the natives, they would have been advised to not build anythinge there?"
   Her cherry lips curved. He decided to take a chance. He kissed her. Heat dazzled him as she knotted a hand in his hair.
   His heart plummeted when she stepped back and said, "That was nice. Why do you like poetry?"
   He breathed deep and reached for the bottle of wine. He took a swig. Then he said, "Because it's powerful. Words, combined in a certain way, are like magic spells."
   "I never thought about it like that. Do you know what 'abracadabra' means?"
   "Tell me."
   "It means 'I create as I speak' in Aramaic."
   "You're an unusual girl. I like that."
   They finished off the bottle of wine and talked some more. They didn't kiss again, although Christie kept thinking about it.
He chivalrously escorted her to the elevator which went up to the penthouse where her family lived. She kissed him again before stepping back. The doors closed over her.
   He returned to his room and, dizzy from the alcohol, collapsed on the bed.

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