The clap on the shoulder felt sincere enough. ‘Captain.’ Jack Reynolds oiled his smile. ‘Like the old days, eh?’
Harrison eased back, not trusting a reply. Reynolds straightened his jacket, skipping into the lights, accepting the applause. Same slime-ball, Harrison thought and regretted it.
The band’s opening bars died away; Reynold’s arm swept the room. ‘We have some special people in tonight.’ He pointed out several groups, units like Harrison’s.
Harrison stopped listening, his mind skipping back 15 years, his eyes circling the self-same ballroom as he and Janice had those desperate days and nights. The stench of sweat, urine, fear as each couple fought to stay upright, one goal in mind. To be there at the end, to secure an unlikely future.
‘Captain, come on.’ Reynolds called him to stand. Stiffly, he faced the crowd, took in the dead eyes above the almost-believable smiles, saw their despair, the untellable horrors they’d shared in the hope of another unlikely future.
His eyes focused on the spot where they’d stopped him; when they told him Janice was dead in his arms. They’d taken her and disqualified him. His men saw the tears and thought they understood; it was for the seventeen men who’d not returned with their unit. Everyone in the room had a similar story. A shared survivor’s guilt.
He caught Reynolds’ gaze. For one brief second they were back to that dance hall. He’d seen Harrison’s despair, understood it came not from her death so much as the loss of hope that went with it. He nodded, understanding that private, selfish grief; the pain, so much worse than that suffered by any group because it was his to bear alone.
The emcee turned to the crowd, ‘Here’s an old favourite…Maestro, take it away…’
This flash piece was written in response to Microcosms 145 prompt: to incorporate the following into your piece: Emcee, dance marathon, tragedy
PS. Seems I won this week; nice!