Every night at midnight, the purple Clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. Twirling in clusters to the rhythm of the busy city streets, of party-goers and late-night commuters rushing home. They carried on with their performance despite their audience going about their nighttime activities, and there was little they could do to grab their attention. The program for tonight was one of their easier routines, one they had done a million times for each and every passing generation. Still, they carried on their good work, sharing their ancient art with the world.
With wedding guests laughing and drinking in a glittering array behind her, Sharrah decided it was far too hot and stuffy with so many bodies together. She escaped through the large French doors out to the balcony of the reception hall, resting her champagne glass on the stone railing. Below was the sprawling city, lights among the high-rise apartments flicking off one by one, some turning on again on a higher floor, but only for a short while. She gazed up to watch the Clouds dance, opening her fan and lightly waving it in her face to relieve the heat. Taking in every swirl and wisp of the Clouds, she shook her head, disappointed.
“Nothing like the dawn clusters by the harbour,” she muttered to herself. The grandeur of the oranges and pinks that performed at sunrise far outshone the Midnight Purples. Of course, she was not an expert in the art of dance, but she had been to a ballet or two with her family when she was young. These Clouds had very little spirit to them, and definitely no understanding of the rhythms of the city. At least the Dawn clusters had the precision and skill to afford synchronicity to their movements, and grace and vivacity to move the world awake. The Dawn Clouds knew how to take the Sun’s direction, curling and tumbling while the tide played their symphony. The Midnight show was a mess in comparison.
Laughter erupted behind her; some good joke shared among the guests left one of the uncles howling like a hyena. Glasses clinked together in celebration and the music was thumbing hard, shaking the doors' windowpane. Sharrah winced at the high-pitched banter going back and forth between some of the aunts and bridesmaids, at the drunken revelry. She checked her watch; 12:05. She rubbed her temples as exhaustion settled in. When would this night end?
The humidity thickened, and she looked at the Clouds above her in pity, deciding that perhaps they were feeling just as lethargic as she was tonight. The poor things; this routine, like all the others, would last until three a.m. Her harsh critiques softened to sympathy, and she apologised.
“There you are.”
Sharrah turned to find the best maid, the sister of the groom, smiling proud, leaning against the doorway in her three-piece suit. The baby blue tie hung loose around her neck and the first few buttons of her shirt were undone. No matter how tight her neat twin braids were, they weren’t enough to lift the relaxed droopiness of her eyes.
“Dani, take your jacket off,” Sharrah urged, fanning herself a little faster. “Aren’t you hot? You’re making me sweat just looking at you.”
Dani chuckled and walked over to lean on the rail next to her.
“I was just coming to find you. They’re about to do the bouquet toss.”
Sharrah glanced through the window, watching all the single women gather in a group, shoving and crouching, ready to catch the damn thing. For a moment, she thought she could join in. Instead, her heart sank at the question that had been burning her brain all night. She took her glass from the rail and downed the rest of the wine.
“Why did your brother invite me?” she asked finally, glumly staring at the bottom of her glass.
Dani’s smile disappeared for a moment and she frowned.
“Well, we all loved you too,” Dani said, patting her back, “When he told us you needed to separate, Dad was shocked, and Mom actually cried. We were so sure you two were endgame.”
Sharrah gulped back the sadness forming in her throat. “I did too, but...” her gaze drew back to the Clouds and their dance; they were now gently weaving into each other and separating again in a misshapen image of a butterfly.
“Look, Frankie took a long time to recover from that, but now he won’t shut up about how it was for the best, you were both too immature at the time, blah blah blah. I bet you came to the same conclusion.”
Sharrah shrugged. “Yeah, plenty of times, but...”
A gust of the summer wind blew in from high above. The Clouds were still and silent, and a deep rumble of thunder echoed from afar. Dani shrugged at them.
“I know, she’s hopeless,” she told them.
Sharrah turned her back to the sky, watching through the windows into the reception hall as the girls clamoured closer. With the bouquet tossed, squeals and laughter rippled through them in the mad rush to grab the prize. One triumphant fist burst from the crowd in a fountain of trampled petals, and everyone cheered for the victor.
“Missed my chance,” Sharrah sighed, propping herself up to sit on the balustrade, “Probably for the best.”
“It’s not fair to have you moping around outside,” Dani leaned over next to her, “I’m sorry, I was sort of the one who pushed him to send you an invitation. Believe me, we thought you had moved on totally.”
Sharrah shrugged. “I guess I didn’t. Still haven’t found a reason to. Even with his new wife inside. God, I don’t even know what I was thinking, coming here.”
“Jeez, If I had known you weren’t ready, I wouldn’t have asked.”
She frowned. “What are you talking about?”
A breeze blew in, and Dani shook her head and looked up at the Clouds. “Yeah, I know. Maybe we should help her out?”
A forceful wind knocked Sharrah off her balance. She gasped and gripped tight to the balustrade, but the wind picked up, forcing her over the edge as if she were being sucked into a vortex. Her fingertips grating against the stone, heart hammering in her chest, she cried out for Dani to help, but her companion stood by and watched. Sharrah made the mistake of looking over her shoulder and down into the depths of the streets below, tears stinging her eyes as her body braced for the possibility of her end.
The last of her strength gave way, and up the wind whirled and tossed her about in the skies. Screaming as she flew further into the Clouds, she tumbled and crashed through the clusters of a roiling storm, thunder ringing in her ears as they soaked her over and over again until finally, peace.
Above it all, she floated. The heavens opened above her and she bathed in moonlight; wondered at the masses of stars twinkling in response to the shimmer of her gown. The Clouds entwined together to stitch up whatever holes she made with her soaring body, covering the world below and shifting like a soft tide lapping around her ankles. She could hear it; the sound of the streets far, far below. There truly was a song of the Earth that the Clouds were privy to, and she could hear it in all its splendour. Closing her eyes and swaying to the voice of the planet, the beat of collective hearts, she envied and appreciated the Midnight Clouds more than ever.
And yet, her own heart longed for something beneath her.
"Mind if I join you?"
Sharrah opened her eyes. Standing behind her was the groom of this wedding, Frankie, or at least a perfect imitation of him. His soft brown curls combed back, his suit pressed and perfect, his hand outstretched to her and a kind, inviting smile that she fell in love with all over again. She looked him over, hesitating, wondering how it was they both made it up here at the same time. Her eyes darted to her feet.
"Don't look down," said Frankie, "No one knows we're up here. You can have this one dance with me."
Sharrah took a deep breath and placed her fingers in his palm. He was soft as the Cloud floor, gentle and warm to the touch. He took her into his arms, and they waltzed to the unseen orchestra below.
She almost forgot how good it felt to be held by him, like returning home. Resting her head in the crook of his neck, her hand on his heart, beating together with hers, she was safe at last. They swayed together above the world for what felt like hours.
"I'm glad you came tonight," he said, "I missed you."
She smiled, holding onto his words, and chuckled to herself. "I can't believe it took you getting married for me to admit it."
Tears swelled in her eyes. "I...I shouldn't have left it the way I did. All those years ago. We were always right, and I don't even remember what made it wrong. That could be me down there. That could be our wedding."
He shook his head. "But you're not down there. You're up here."
Sharrah's breath rattled with emotion as she took in whatever air she could to press down the words aching to burst out. She fought with everything she could, her head spinning with all the memories of them together, and her isolation since. The doubts crept in, the self-pity that spiked in the back of her mind, stinging with the pain of unworthiness kept taunting her to say it.
She stared into his eyes; a beautiful brilliant green, looking back with so much patience and understanding, just like he used to. In them, a reflection of all that she was; beautiful, honest, worthy of her desires, worthy of the love he gave her. With it, she found the courage that let her words soar.
"I love you," she confessed at last, "I always will."
The man said nothing, lifting a hand to hold her face and bring it closer to his, planting a soft, sweet kiss as the music below reached a crescendo.
This kiss was unlike anything they shared before. It held a replenishing energy that held her firmly in the sky, as though her feet sprouted roots in the Clouds. At the same time, she was floating at the very centre of the universe. A stream of magic flowed free and effortlessly between them. The feeling of his lips on hers disappeared and was replaced with the endless, the infinite, the complete, coursing through her whole being.
She pulled away and opened her eyes, but the figure she had been dancing with changed. A woman with a messy blonde bun, a shimmering gown, a smile that drew her in, as though the world around her could never harm her. Her heart pounded, confusion knocking about in her mind, looking around for the man she loved.
"What was that you said?" the woman asked.
Sharrah hesitated, but eventually shared her grin, understanding at last.
"I love you."
Her mirror nodded approvingly and pulled her into an embrace.
"And I love you," she returned, "as you should and will always be loved."
The mirror pulled away and gave Sharrah another kiss on her forehead before shoving her backward.
Sharrah fell through the Clouds as the world below opened up to her once more. She plummetted towards the Earth, arms flailing around for balance, her body spinning uncontrollably as she screamed for salvation. The lights of the city blurred their colours harshly with the wind abusing her eardrums. Dizzy, sick and just about ready to faint, she caught flashes of the balcony she was abducted from and braced herself for hard stone.
She hit the ground, her arm on the balustrade like she had caught herself from tripping, and not as though she had just plummetted almost fifty thousand feet from the sky. In one hand was her empty champagne glass, and in the other, a bouquet of peonies, roses and lavender sprigs. Confused, she gazed up, searching for answers. The Clouds above her gently dispersed, revealing the same sky full of stars and the bright Moon shining down upon her. Their dance had come to an end.
Sharrah sighed and shook her head, a knowing smile, her smile, stretching across her lips.
"Okay, you win."
She tossed the bouquet over the balcony as a warm breeze swept past her and carried it up to the dazzling stage above. Her forehead, blessed with that kiss, filled her with an inner glow she would never doubt again. She applauded, the tears in her eyes dripping with immense gratitude and awe.
"Bravo!" she cheered.
About the Creator
Artist | Writer | Lover | Fighter
Born in Sydney, Australia, I write about what inspires me, to inspire others. Poetry, stories, deep introspective works, the lot! MUSE POWERS ACTIVATE!
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