“Love ‛Treat.’ Slow dance,” I say. Feel a hand on my shoulder. Laura Essex. The perfect small, chocolate brown velvet party dress, matching cameo broach, pale white stockings, dark brown suede dance slippers. A vision. We talk at school, but she likes to stick to business during the workday. The nighttime is different. The right time.

“Good evening Mr. Charles,” she whispers. Where did she learn that? Must be genetic. Her mom is a knock out, and Doctor Essex is prominent among cardiac surgeons in the city. He handles uptown cases these days, on the house. H.T. sings his praises. Her brother Chris is close to Britt. I live in a small universe of quality individuals, and squeeze in on the edges.

“Miss Essex. How do you do?” “Treat” starts spinning, who cued that up? Great timing. Laura – her family calls her Candy – takes my left hand and we glide onto the Suffolk Club’s parquet floor, drifting off in an adagio headed for another galaxy. Is it this easy? Tonight it is.

“Enjoying yourself, Evan?” Again, the whisper. I return to earth. Laura is gamine, with flaxen hair, peaches and cream complexion and a demure expression. The fangs don’t come out around boys. Her friends are few, and select.

“Sorry … I am a little punch drunk from this afternoon. A small scuffle. Say, you are a pretty good dancer. Where did you learn?”

“Very funny. Heard you guys got your asses kicked, is what I heard. What’s Frank like?”

“Frank’s a good man.” Funny saying man, but maturity is an attitude, one Frank has. “We have great times together. A trip to D.C. and Virginia with H.T. Breakfast in bed at the Hay-Adams. H.T. gets the same suite every trip. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all. He is pretty quiet in class. Remember that time Finch put him in his lap and started stroking his hair? I was so grossed out. Ick. Britt and Chris are going fishing tomorrow morning. Sounds cold. Brrr. Too early for me.” Laura shakes her long thick hair, and it spills on my shoulders leaving a few stragglers behind. The blond strands on my blazer are new epaulets.

We start the piano passage of the jazz/blues number in closed position, talking with our mouths close to each other’s ears, but when Carlos starts his guitar solo, Laura shakes her hair again, whips off a few pirouettes, and does some marking steps, her limbs synchronized with the rhythm section.

She had a few years of ballet in the city, has an extra room for a studio at her house, and still takes privates. Starts pumping her arms and fists up-and-down with sensuous tension and energy, a free-form Watusi, building to a climax with the guitar while I shuffle around, grokking her force field, tuning into her reverie. She dashes off another series of bravura pirouettes, spotting off my forehead, as Carlos’ rapid riffs climax at the end of his solo. Stop beat. Greg Rollie resumes his piano playing, and Laura’s right hand clasps my left again, as his first notes sound. Her left arm reaches around my shoulder, drawing me closer; my right hand on the small of her back, a flourish as we start a slow waltz. Blown away. She is not out of breath, but I am winded. Enveloped in the moment.

Another tap on the shoulder. Frank. “Mind if I cut in?”

Laura pulls me close before he does. “Call me Candy from now on, Mr. Charles,” she says in my ear.

“Um, sure. Will do. Candy,” I whisper back. Wow. Her family calls her that, and no one at Mill Hill except her cousins. Flattered to take that step in knowing her better. Will Frank be next?


Painting – Eva Ruiz


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