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#np – Beneath

np-beneath

The ballroom is decked in blue and gold garlands. Thick velvet blue curtains are parted by gold holders to let light in from the tall windows that line the far wall of the oval room. The cream, marble floor glitters beneath excitable feet prancing and sliding across the room, with reflections from the lights hanging low from the ceiling.

Tony stands on the balcony, leaning over the golden spiral banister, only feigning slight interest in the women chattering away around him, watching her like he’s in a trance and can’t break free. He watches as she sits by herself, just at the edge of the dance floor, taking slow, deliberate sips from the flute she’s chosen to hold on to all night and never actually set back down on the table, and smiling politely to approaching suitors who eventually leave disappointed. He watches her intently, noting how her lips curl slightly at the right end when her face creases into a smile, the calculated way she crosses her left foot behind her right ankle when a man pulls up a seat next to her in spite of obvious disinterest, and the way  her dress shifts with even the slightest move.

Slender arms wrap themselves around Tony’s neck, forcing him back to reality. The familiar smell of lavender and honey pulls several images of tossed sheets and tangled limbs through his mind as he turns around, face first, into eagerly waiting lips.

Chioma glances up at the balcony for what must be the hundredth time that evening, if anyone took the time to count, again trying to be discreet. Her eyes lock on Tony and his date, now deeply engaged in a kiss that looks as unending as it is inappropriate. At the back of her mind there is a very audible, heart-wrenching rip, the sound of which bounces off the emptiness she feels repeatedly. Sighing, she lifts her glass to her lips once more, seeking solace in the now warm, golden elixir it contains, only to find it empty. A smile plays on her lips as she carefully selects every fantasy that had ever played in her mind, silently moans over each one, and deletes them.

As she rises from the table, another would-be suitor all but throws himself in front of her, grinning from ear-to-ear, emerald-green liquid splashing out of the tumbler in his left hand as he waves it about excitedly for no clear reason, slurring through a speech she’s sure sounds more convincing in his head. Not tonight. She thinks to herself. Or ever, to be quite honest.

Even amidst the drinks and laughter and overwhelming attention with thinly veiled indecent intentions being offered on gold and platinum platters by those the majority of the people in the room would consider the most eligible women in the town, Tony’s mind continues to wander. Stone cold. He repeats the words over and over in his head as he watches her tolerate yet another man below him. Difficult; almost completely impossible to please. Yet, every time his eyes rest upon her, he’d fail to see what everyone else described as impenetrable. He chuckles to himself as he watches her turn away.

A cold shiver runs down Chioma’s spine and she sneezes. She sees this as the perfect opportunity for her to make her escape and gently turns away from the gentleman who is adamant on being a bother and grabs it. As she makes her way towards the exit, someone grabs her wrist abruptly and she spins around, startled, bumping right into a broad chest she somehow quickly settles into. As his arms find their way around her slender waist, all she can think is how he smells of earth and mint and something else she can’t quite place.

Gone are the worries and fears as they spin around the ballroom. It’s no secret every woman wants him. She’d run into him several times with a different  woman on his arm, several more crooning and swooning around him, but all that seems a distant memory now in his arms, being so close to him. All she feels is the beating, and steady rise and fall, beneath her palm on his chest.

His hand moves to tilt her face up to meet his and she braces herself, ready to run, but all he does is smile. It’s a small smile, almost invisible, more of a smirk really, but she sees it nonetheless, and she knows.

 

 

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