Rated: GC · Short Story · Drama · #853863
"It was my chance to go. I had no idea what was ahead of me."
|Sometimes I wonder why the Mimosa still exists. Reading in the paper about the death of Rachel Wemberly reminds me of that place. She may not have died at the Mimosa itself, but I am still not consoled. Her death happened because of that place, a factory of unparalleled sickness. Primal corruption flourishes there, and I should know. I fueled that orgiastic raging as a youth a long time ago.|
Twenty five years ago (back in 1976), I was an aspiring musician and gearing up to gradute high school. In April, I was given the oportunity to perform with the Lakeland Wind Orchestra at the Mimosa. Even then I was familiar with the activities at the Mimosa, but at that age, it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I found the resort to be intriguing, the touchstone of passion. I knew many people that had cavorted there at some point (hell, my parents first met there while with other people). However, I never had the chance, always putting my craft ahead of developing a love life that would enable me to go to the retreat. This performance, though, opened the door for me to find out what exactly the Mimosa was.
The weeks prior to the performance were hectic between school, rehearsals, lessons, and visiting the college I would be attending in the fall (Florida State). Still, I worked extremely hard on my music for the Mimosa performance. For me, it was a chance to show off. Plus, a couple band members with which I was friendly (Angela and Mabel) were going to be at the retreat that week, which surprised me. They were two people I hadn't expected to attend the retreat, but nevertheless, I decided to make the performance for them special in some way.
The day before the performance, the members of the orchestra (along with the director, Doctor Milano) had a chance to enjoy the amenities the resort had to offer. Being a bonafide music dork, I took my bassoon and joined one of the improv practice sessions in one of the meeting halls designated specially for practicing. Throughout the session, I helped my fellow musicians with some of their music, tweaked some parts of "Molly on the Shore", got into a jazz improv with a cute piano player named Phil, and even conducted all the participants for one song. When the session ended, I toured the Mimosa with Phil, who was on his own while his girlfriend was on the resort's shopping trip.
Phil turned out to be quite a character. Like me, he was a musician, having become adept at not only piano but tuba and cello as well. However, he wanted to teach music as opposed to being a full-time performer. This was understandable, but I was caught up in the feminist spirit and craved the freedom of music performance, not to mention fighting men for the top seats. We shared an almost obsessive devotion to music, but Phil's devotion had lead to some problems with his girlfriend. He brought her to the retreat hoping to solve these problems, but little clues indicated that his plan had backfired on him.
"I don't get it," he said. "Gayle and I have been here nearly a week but have only spent one full day together."
"When was that?" I asked.
"The first day, the day Gayle and I took a tour of the Mimosa. Once she saw the activities list, not to mention some of the other people on the retreat, I stopped seeing her."
"Even at night before going to bed?"
"Pretty much. I sometimes stay up until two in the morning waiting, but I never see her. Sometimes I'm lucky and find her before dinner. I try to convince her to spend time with me, but she never accepts."
"Have you tried to find out where she goes?"
"I've asked at the front desk, but no one will tell me anything. My only chance for seeing her now is the Lovers' Ball."
Phil's glassy eyes and hanging head revealed to me that he suspected what I knew from the getgo; Gayle was cheating on him. I had to be careful, though. We may have gotten along, but I was in no position to tell him that he and Gayle were, to some extent, over. Instead, I nodded and told him to not worry so much.
After finding out that dinner was at seven, I suggested to Phil that we do something. For a bit, we couldn't agree on activity, but we then settled on going to the resort's driving range. The walk to the range was quiet, as Phil and I silently assessed one another. With the sun fairly high in the sky, it was easy to evaluate Phil's dark features: curiously short hair, deep brown eyes that in their slightly retreating nature balanced his round face, and luscious tan skin that reminded me of leather. In spite of his emotional turbulence and vulnerability, he carried himself with relative confidence. Lost in my reverie, I did not realize that his posture was motivated by his appraisal of me. All I knew was I had to watch myself around him; if I did anything, who knew what might be said or done to us.
For a couple hours, Phil and I said nothing and swung at golf balls. Sometimes, it looked like Phil was watching me as I swung, but it was hard to tell. We were at the range until the sun was so low in the sky that it rendered judging our balls' distances impossible. The range was relatively empty anyway, so we decided to go to dinner. I told Phil to go ahead without me, though. I wanted to talk to someone first.
It didn't take me long to find that person. I was making my way to the lobby when I crossed paths with Angela. Perfect!
"Camilla!" she shouted. "How ya doin'?"
"Alright," I mumbled. "How's the retreat?"
"Not so good. Jay and I are okay, but Mabel's man has been wandering."
"Some other girl's room. It's safe to say she's cheating on her man."
"Catch the girl's name?"
"I think it started with a G...."
"...Yeah. I think so."
"Have you seen her?"
"Once. Kind of hussy lookin', if you ask me. Her version of casual wear seems to be a dress that barely covers her with thigh high boots."
"Yech! Get any other info. ?"
"She goes to Pasco County High...Camilla? Camilla, what's wrong?"
It took me a few minutes before I answered. "I'm alright."
I then ran to the dining hall in search of Phil.
When I arrived, it didn't take me long to find him. He was sitting by himself at a small table near the entrance. As opposed to most of the diners, he was very casually dressed, almost on the verge of being somewhat slovenly in a too big tee shirt and faded jeans. He looked so lost as he stirred his water in the glass. I joined him with some trepidation, wondering what exactly made him look so hopeless.
"Sorry I'm late," I said upon my arrival.
" 'Sokay," he mumbled. "You haven't missed anything."
I cocked my head at his hollow voice. "You sure?"
"Yeah. It's always a clusterfuck of socialization before the dinner actually begins."
"Then what are we supposed to do?"
"Well, we're supposed to mingle, but hell if I'm doing that. Most of the people here are fucking assholes."
"Like that 'f' word, don't you?"
"Yeah. Hey, Camilla, would it kill you if we skipped dinner? Watching this nonsense is making me nauseaous."
"Well...thing is, I'm kinda hungry. Perhaps is there some other place we can go?"
We ended up at this little homestyle restaurant in downtown Lake Wales, but only I was eating. Phil idly sipped soup that I coaxed him into ordering, staring at me with the hope that I could lift him from his glum state. I knew such a task would be impossible to do, especially when I had seen Gayle with Mabel's boyfriend in the main dining hall back at the Mimosa. That, however, did not diminish my desire to make him feel even a slight bit better.
"I bet you're wondering about Gayle and me."
"I was, but I didn't want to impose."
"It's alright. For the most part, it's a happy story."
"Yeah. We first met in elementary school during an assembly back in third grade. I had been separated from my classmates when I about ran into her."
I couldn't help but laugh at that. "I'm sorry," I said once I could stop.
" 'Salright," he said before continuing. "Anyway, I still remember that she was pretty, even then. She still possesses that long brown hair and those innocent looking green eyes..."
"Too bad it was only innocent looking." I bit my tongue. Smooth one, Camilla.
"I know. Back then, though, there was some innocence, and from that day forward, we were friends."
"I remember the time towards the end of fifth grade when we had signed up for band in middle school. Without realizing it, we had chosen instruments so typical to our genders, something we both said we weren't going to do!"
"Way to go, Phil."
"Yeah, I know. You, on the other hand, did what we had planned on doing."
"Not too many females play bassoon, and I got all these strange looks during marching season whenever I was hauling my quads around."
"You played quad toms?"
"Absolutely. In fact, I'll be auditioning on them in a couple of weeks."
"For Marching Chiefs?"
I simply nodded.
"Damn! No offense, but I can't picture you as a quad player. It escapes my mentality..."
"Don't worry about that. The headache isn't worth it."
At that, we both cracked up, and dinner was slightly less strained. Once dinner was over, we wandered around the downtown area for a while simply enjoying each other's company.
Upon returning to the Mimosa, I was accosted by Cherri, one of the flute players. I had no opportunity to ask what was going on as she dragged me into one of the larger practice halls. Once we arrived, I saw everyone there...except for the director.
"Where's Doctor Milano?" I asked.
"Well..." Cherri sighed.
"He had a heart attack this afternoon," a second voice piped up. "We need to decide what we're going to do."
"I can't conduct," Cherri cried.
Yeah, because the baton you use is in the local hospital, I inwardly grumbled. Aloud, I simply asked, "What are our options?"
"We've been trying to find a director," Dan (a clarinetist) told me. "We've asked all the high school directors in the area and even called some of the colleges, but we haven't had much success. Unless we want to give up this gig, someone from the group will have to conduct."
For a moment, no one said anything. I knew Doctor Milano would try to make Cherri conduct, but all of us knew that was not an option. Melanie, our first chair clarinetist that conducted on stage warm up, had many solos during the performance, and Dan only knew one of them. Most of the others had little to no conducting experience, and I sure as hell wasn't about to let my first performance with professionals be canceled. There had to be another way...
At that moment, I remembered the feeling of a baton in my hands. I first felt it when I was ten years old. I had gotten dragged to my older brother's bassoon lesson, and to occupy my time, I began to conduct an imaginary band. My brother's instructor, Ms. Delany, saw me and replaced the broken bocal I had been using with an ivory conductor's baton. It was heavy in my childish hands that first time, but it was that experience that lead me to pursue music, a journey that even included conducting my peers on a couple occassions. I may not have been able to hold a candle to Doctor Milano...but perhaps I could hold that baton...
"Guys," I said, "I know this is crazy, but I'd be willing to conduct the performance."
"There's no way you can do it!" Cherri cried. "You're just a kid!"
I could hear the others' voices mumble in assent, but I was determined. All other options were exhausted. What did they have to lose? How willing were they to give up this gig? I opened my mouth to ask this, but Dan put a finger to his lips. I reluctantly kept quiet and received a delightful surprise.
"So you want to give up this gig," Dan said. "You're about to reject a conducting offer from someone who can actually conduct? I've watched Camilla conduct her peers. She is, if nothing else, confident while holding a baton. I say we give her a chance."
"But-" Cherri squawked.
"No buts," Melanie said. "If Camilla didn't have a clue as to how to conduct, would she have volunteered? I doubt it. As it is, we're shit out of luck, and frankly, I don't want to cancel this performance."
By now, everyone was looking at me, but my attention was diverted to my neck. I felt a poking sensation. What was causing it? I reached around and felt...a baton!
I forgot to give it to...what's his name? I had borrowed the baton from this nerdy oboe player but must've left it tucked behind my collar when the session ended. I removed it from its hiding place and looked at it.
"Hmmm..." I mumbled. "I forgot I had that with me."
"Alright, fine!" Cherri cried. "Let her do it! I just won't be performing."
With that, Cherri dashed out of the hall. The rest of us simply watched her depart, but when she was gone, our slightly stunned gazes shifted to each other. Truthfully, no one was all that surprised to see her react in the manner she did, and her motives were pretty obvious.
"What a whiny whore," Dan muttered.
After discussing rehearsal with the group, I made it to my room fairly late in the night. My shoulder ached from conducting and hitting golf balls, my head throbbed from all the thinking I'd been doing over the course of the day, and consequently, my mind was in a whirlwind state. The day had ended up a little too exciting, and I really wanted to be rested for the performance.
As I settled into bed, the phone started ringing. Cursing, I reluctantly answered it.
"Hello," I mumbled.
"Hey, Camilla. It's Phil. Did I wake you?"
"On the contrary, I was just getting ready for bed."
"Sheesh! It's almost midnight!"
"Yeah, and I need to be up by nine. What's going on? Gayle not there?"
"No...Well, I just wanted to wish you good night and good luck."
I couldn't help but smile. "Well, thanks. I appreciate it. Good night, Phil."
I hung up the phone on the nightstand and tilted my head back. That smile refused to leave me, and I found that my head didn't hurt so much. I brought my head to the pillow and was out like a light.
That fateful Saturday arrived entirely too quickly. When I woke up, I was in a daze and unsure if I was actually awake. Amazingly, I was able to shower and dress on my own. Once a bit more aware of myself and my surroundings, I left for rehearsal.
When I arrived at the gym, Melanie was directing Mimosa employees in setting up the necessary equipment for rehearsal. Seeing that the director's podium and stand were already set up, I walked over to familiarize myself with this relatively unfamiliar perspective. On the podium was Doctor Milano's baton case, and the scores for the performance pieces rested on the stand. I pulled a baton from the case and opened the score of our opening number. For a while, I conducted to myself, noting the meter changes and Milano's notes. I went about this quiet conducting for nearly an hour as fellow orchestra members filed in, taking their seats. At one point, I I looked up and saw everyone seated, going about their individual warm ups. I looked at Melanie, holding the baton towards her. and she came to the podium to lead the warm up. When she was finished, she handed the baton back to me, and I took to the podium.
"Morning," I said. "Let's run through the program."
The rehearsal got off to a rocky start, and I lost count once or twice. Halfway through the sixteen song program, I felt shaky, and my eyes were watering. Moving the baton became absolute torture, and the numbers and notes on the scores began to blend into one another. By the tenth song, I had enough. I put down the baton.
"I can't do it," I whispered before running from the podium. I didn't make it very far from the group when I heard some calling me.
I turned to find the source of the voice and found Phil. He stood serenely by the orchestra, his expression bright and alert. Judging by the smile I could see lurking on his lips, he had been watching me conduct and was delighted by it. The group would've understood why I didn't answer to them, but Phil was not going to let that happen.
"I can't do it! I can't fill the shoes of a cheating scoundrel!" I wailed.
"Course not," he said, "but how often will you get to do this in musical performance?"
"And perhaps you could be a morally musical leader," Dan added.
"But I-" I croaked, and I began to cry. Phil came over and gave me a light squeeze. For a little bit, I quivered and wept noiselessly. In that, I realized what I had to do. I looked at my watch and walked back to the group.
"It's twelve-thirty," I said. "Let's all get lunch and resume rehearsal at two."
At that, everybody nodded and began to disperse. I, meanwhile, rejoined Phil. When I joined him, he put his arm around me and gave me a tight squeeze. I looked at him with somewhat glassy eyes but managed a weak smile.
"Easy, Camilla," he said. "Let's get some food."
Having lunch did make me feel better, and by the time two o' clock arrived, I felt more prepared. Walking back into the gym, I contemplated how to run rehearsal. I opted to cut several pieces that were clearly too difficult for me to conduct with my rather underdeveloped skills. It would save time at rehearsal, giving us a good amount of time to relax and prepare for the seven o' clock performance. Plus, as long as I didn't get carried away, I'd have time to run an errand before the dinner.
This time, rehearsal went a lot more smoothly. I still lost count a couple of times, but it was easier to recover from it. I even tried deviating from Doctor Milano's stylistic suggestions, and I was surprised to see the group following my lead.We ran through the new program (with only ten songs) a couple times after the first run through, and by then, it was almost four thirty. We had two hours of free time.
"You've got two hours before warm up starts," I said. "I assume everyone knows the protocol: be dressed, have your instrument and music, and so forth. Warm up will be in the O' Brien Conference Hall. The percussionists will check in at the hall and then report to the main dining hall for set up. Melanie has the diagrams you'll need. If there are no questions, you're all set."
At that, everyone departed the gymnasium, and Mimosa employees began to collect the chairs and stands. I watched everyone mill around for a bit before realizing I had to get going. Phil had offered to take me into downtown again for my dinner, not to mention I had to run my errand. I left the gym in a sprint to find Phil.
In what seemed like no time, I reached the parking lot and found Phil standing by his green Chevy Nova. He was already dressed for the ball, donning a white oxford, black necktie, black slacks, and black dress shoes. I was surprised to see him so neat, orderly, and spruced up considering how I had seen him the night before.
"Hey, Phil. You look good!"
"Thanks," he replied, trying to play off his blush. "Ready to go?"
With that, we got in the car and drove to downtown in record time. Once we got there, Phil dropped me off at a clothing boutique not far from the restaurant where we had dined the previous night. I ran in and scanned the area. A fairly young brunette woman peeked out from a door and smiled.
"I was looking at that black pantsuit in the window," I said. "Have any more?"
"That's the last one," the woman said. "Would you like to try it on?"
A few minutes later, I emerged from a dressing room donning the pantsuit. I almost fell over, though, when I saw Phil in the store, mouth agape. Did I look bad in the suit?
"Mirror?" I asked aloud.
The woman looked up from a nearby display. "To your left," she said as she stared like Phil was currently staring.
I turned and faced the mirror. The pantsuit...WOW! It was fabulous! No wonder they were staring! It was slim throughout, and I liked the smooth, somewhat provocative feel of the satin lining. I noticed the blazer was a bit low cut, which was a little disconcerting, but I figured I could handle it. As long as my breasts were (for the most part) covered, it was good to go.
"I like it," I said. "It's just-"
"It was designed for you!" the woman exclaimed. "I know what you're thinking. Relax. It doesn't show that much skin."
Uh, right..." I mumbled, but when I faced them both, I noticed Phil was trying to hide something. With a blush, I noted to myself that the suit had potential.
"Well," the woman pressed.
"I'll take it."
Phil and I arrived at the hotel around six fifteen, giving me only a few minutes to get dressed for the performance. I shooed Phil away and dashed to my room. Something told me this would be the only time I'd have to myself for the rest of the night.
Six thirty arrived with me a little ahead of schedule. Now in heels, I opted to take the elevator and moving walkway to the conference hall. When I got there, I could hear the warm up commence. I made my entrance as quietly and discreetly as I could manage to avoid disrupting the group. As soon as I entered, Cherri ran over to me. She was in her concert black attire, but she had no instrument in her hands.
"Camilla," she said, "I'm sorry about last night."
I cocked my head a little. "'Sokay. No offense taken."
"What, Cherri?" I had a hunch where this was going.
My eyes went wide and darted around the room. So much for knowing where this was going. "Do they know?"
"Good. Let's keep it that way."
"Especially when one of my comments provoked it."
"I told Vic-Doctor Milano about you volunteering to conduct. which pleased him, but I was angry at his delight. I yelled at him. I gave him another heart attack."
Now I was pissed. The murderess! I didn't know how else to think of her. "Get out," I bellowed.
"Just go. I'll tell Melanie. Now leave."
Cherri scowled but left the room. I turned my attention to Melanie, who was leading the group in a Bach chorale. Eventually, I knew, I'd have to tell her, but now was not the time. There was a performance on the horizon.
When the warm up was finished, I lead the group down a secret hallway to the main dining room. Arrival and set up occurred relatively quietly, and while everyone got seated, I looked through the room's interior windows and saw hundreds of people mingling. Many were spectacularly dressed in formal dresses and tuxedos, anxiously awaiting the opening of the dining room's doors. I turned back to the orchestra and made eye contact with the lead tuba player.
"F concert," I said, prompting a brief tuning session. When that was finished, I faced the doors. The maitre d' (on any other night) gave me a thumbs up signal. It was seven o' clock. It was time.
As soon as the dinner began, I knew things weren't quite right. The orchestra was performing splendidly, but they were following a lead I wasn't really controlling. The soft sections of the pieces were conducted in such a small pattern I knew some of my fellow musicians got lost, and the loud sections were conducted so forcefully I feared I was going to dislocate my shoulder. Still, the orchestra played on, and before we knew it intermission arrived. I looked at my watch and silently dismissed the group.
When they left, I scanned the dining room, hoping to find Phil. In my reverie, I never noticed that Angela had joined me on stage. Only after she smacked my shoulder was I aware of her presence. I jumped a bit but turned to face her. Her eyes were a little glassy, and her posture was tense. Something terrible must have happened.
"What's goin' on?" I asked.
"Ryan dumped Mabel," she whispered.
"I think so. Mabel's really upset."
"Understandably. What do you want me to do?"
"There's nothing you can do. After all, for some reason you're leading the band."
I rolled my eyes at her word choice then returned to my somber professionalism. "That's because Milano's dead," I said.
I resumed looking in the crowd when a cluster of people in one of the back corners caught my eyes. There were about ten people creating a ruckus, and I saw a girl begin to remove her short navy blue dress. I was unable to see her face, but I had an inkling. I dismissed Angela distractedly, and I looked for the orchestra members. Luckily, they were near the stage, and I whistled to them.
"Let's get going," I said.
It didn't take long for them to reassemble. As they got ready, I took one final look at the crowd. That back corner was becoming more active, causing people to depart from the dance floor. Only now did I see Phil, who was alone in the middle of the dance floor with a drink in his hand. His face was moist with tears, and his eyes were glassy with a fresh batch ready to fall. Had he seen what I'd seen? I had to find out.
"Phil!" I called out, and he ran over.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Do you know what's going on in the back of the room?"
"Well...just go. If you want to know what's going on with Gayle, go."
With that, I turned from him and faced the orchestra. For a moment, I wondered how the music was affecting the cavorters. Considering no one had acted up until the intermission, I figured that something loud and vivacious would at least curb some of the activity. I wanted Phil to find out what Gayle was doing, but I didn't want him to watch her being sexed by other males.
"Please bear with me," I told the group. "I'd like to change the order a bit. Take out 'Molly on the Shore'."
To my surprise, no one asked why I was making this switch. Instead, everyone got their music ready and waited for my cue.
"And one more thing," I told them. "Ignore the dynamics on the page. We will start very softly at the beginning and crescendo from there."
I raised the baton and gave my tempo in an extremely small cut time pattern, increasing the pattern's height almost imperceptibly. As the song progressed, I once again found myself not completely in control. The tempo quickened drastically, and I was conducting in one. I soon stopped listening to the group and started to conduct a version stuck in my mind. This reverie was interrupted when I pounded the stinger note, causing the baton to fly from my fingers.
"Where'd it go? I mumbled.
I looked on the stage but didn't find it. Frantic, I asked the group and others within the vicinity of the stage. No one had seen it, but just as I was about to find another, the entire dining hall fell silent.
"What the hell is that in Ryan's back?"
Looking for the source of the voice, my eyes shifted to that corner. There I found the baton stuck in the back of a towering, burly percussionist. Holy Christ! How the hell did it get all the way over there?
"There it is," I muttered, and I leapt off the stage.
I made my way to the corner where Ryan, several other males, and an undressed girl had been congregating. Off to the side, I saw Phil in a state of surprised shock. Taking a good look at the girl (who was holding the dress up to her torso in an attempt to cover herself), I knew Phil knew. I realized I had committed the action he wanted to take, but now I had to deal with Ryan, who was glowering at me, not allowing me to see the baton.
"Hey, Ryan," I said. "Can I have my baton back?"
"You wanna pluck it from my back?" he growled.
I nodded, and he turned to make his bare back visible to me. Wordlessly, I plucked the slightly blooded baton. Not wanting to wipe it on my pantsuit, I wiped the baton on a discarded tux shirt.
"Bitch, that was my shirt!" he roared.
I looked at the shirt in my hand and said, "Sorry 'bout that."
"No, you're not," he hissed.
I smiled. "Actually, you're right. I'm not sorry."
There was a collective gasp from nearly everyone in the room. Only Ryan and I remained silent.
"You should be," the quasi nude Gayle said.
"Why?" I asked. "He's not sorry for cheating on his girlfriend. You don't look sorry for cheating on your boyfriend. A member of the orchestra that was providing your orgy tunes isn't sorry for fucking the director. In fact, I seriously doubt there's a single soul in this room that has any regret for the actions he or she has committed."
This time, no one uttered a sound. Gayle and Ryan looked indignant, but many of the partiers had become solemn. I was hoping they were proving me wrong.
"But I am sorry," I heard Phil say.
"Me, too," Mabel whimpered.
"For what?" Ryan bellowed.
"For dating you," she said. "What made me think you ever cared for me?"
"What made you think he did?" Gayle asked her.
"Probably the same thing that made Phil think you cared about him," I said. "Phil and Mabel both trusted you, and you betrayed that trust."
"Oh, and Phil can't say this for himself?" Ryan mockingly cut in. "He needs a girl to speak for him."
"No," Phil said. "Camilla just beat me to it."
"Oh, so you've been gettin' some behind my back?" Gayle asked him. "Did you just pull her from a random band room somewhere?"
"Like you did with Ryan? Actually, no," I said. "We happened to meet at a practice session, and we ended up friends."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Phil become even more crestfallen. I was on thin ice now.
"She actually gives a shit about how they feel," Angela said.
"And you don't think Gayle and I gave a shit how our partners felt?" Ryan asked.
"No," I said, and I made my way toward Gayle. "You two did not give a fuck about Phil or Mabel. All you wanted to do was fuck. Why not make it with the ones that had put their faith in you? Is that no fun? Do you just enjoy screwing with people's hearts? Or do you just like being a couple promiscuous sonsabitches?"
With that, I kicked Gayle in the lower torso, causing her to reel in pain.
"What'd you do that for?" Ryan roared.
"No deed," I hissed, "goes unpunished, especially adultery."
Ryan lunged at me, and I turned to face his onslaught. Just as Ryan was going to tackle me, Phil jumped between us and bore the brunt of Ryan's lunge. Despite now being pinned to the floor, Phil managed to get one hand on Ryan's throat and started to choke him. I could only look on in surprise as the boys were locked in this semi-compromising situation.
"Enough," I whispered. "Enough!"
Both of them looked at me, obviously still caught up in the momentum of the fight.
"Why stop?" Phil asked. "He was gonna kill you."
"But he was fucking your girlfriend," I told him.
"And yet you're the one defending him," Ryan added.
"No, boys. You're missing my point."
With that, I walked over to Ryan and did my best to pull him away from Phil. Once he was upright by his own volition, I fired two kicks: one in the chest, the other in the groin.
"Here's so that you're unable to fuck for the rest of your sorry little life," I growled.
I pulled Phil to his feet and stepped outside the cluster. In a daze, I saw him look at Gayle, who was now on her knees, clutching her dress very tightly against her body. He was quaking and on the verge of tears. His breath was short as he struggled to form his words.
"It's over," he said. "No more."
"Wha-?" Gayle croaked.
"It's not worth it," Phil continued. "To hell with you. Go fuck as many different guys as you want now."
Phil walked out hanging his head. I decided not to follow him, for I suspected my company was the last thing he needed or wanted. Shifting my focus, I looked at Gayle. For the most part, she played indifferent. However, I spotted a twitching under one of her eyes, her only (unconscious) expression. She found my eyes, and I turned away in disgust.
"You heard Phil," I announced to the crowd. "She's all yours."
With that, I walked away and returned to the group on stage. When I was back on the podium, everyone looked at me in surprise. I simply arched an eyebrow and looked through the scores to find the next number on the program. The sound of breaking glass interrupted my thoughts, and I looked in that back corner again. By this time, people were swarming to Gayle, attacking her and each other. I felt ill.
"Melanie," I mumbled, beckoning her with my hand.
Melanie quickly joined me on the podium. "Yes?"
"I think our performance is over. Have everyone return to the hall where you had warm up. However, I need to speak to you alone."
Without question, she dismissed the group as I watched the chaos in horror. People were getting bruised, cut, and broken from the fights and sex acts that had inflitrated the dining hall. I thanked providence that Phil had left. What was happening to Gayle was truly unspeakable, but not nearly as striking as my emerging remorse. Looking back at the stage, I found that everyone except Melanie and me had left. I nodded to her, and we departed the stage, me informing her about Doctor Milano.
"Man," I whisper. "Those were the times."
"What were the times?"
I look up to see my husband standing by the chair in which I'm sitting. What a surprise!
"When did you get home?" I ask.
"A few minutes ago," he tells me. "I couldn't resist watching you daydream."
"I wasn't daydreaming. I was reminiscing."
"Tsk, tsk, Camilla. You and your semantics. What were you reminiscing?"
I hold up the newspaper in my lap and point to the article on Rachel's death. My husband looks at it and nods. He rubs my shoulder and flashes a knowing smile.
"Remember, Camilla, it's not all bad."
With that,he gives me a couple delicate kisses, reminding me of the good.
"That's very true, Phil."
An audible wail interrupts us, and I instinctively rise from my chair, leaving the paper behind. I walk into one of the rooms in our new house, wondering what prompted the cries. Upon arrival, I go to the crib only to find my son staring at me with that happy look that reminds me of his father. I pick him up, and he coos in approval. As I turn to walk back to the living room, I see Phil in the doorway with a similar look my son just gave me. I can't fight the sudden rush of contentment that has taken me by surprise.
A performance may have been botched twenty five years ago, but for some it reaped great reward. In the end, despite what I did, Phil and I won. We watched as all the debauchers plunged into unfathomable agony and despair, their life potential ruined by their bestial desire. Now, though, that hardly matters. Maybe now, after a death, the Mimosa will close its doors. Not everyone that goes there is as lucky as Phil and I. He's right, though; it's not all bad.