When the woman sat beside me on the plane, I had to try and stop myself from staring. Not only was she unusually beautiful, she was unusually dressed for plane travel. The top half of her red dress was, well, body-hugging some impressive curves. The bottom half was tight around her hips but, below, it exploded into cascades of ruffles. She looked like a dancer … a flamenco dancer. I found this just slightly odd, because even assuming she was traveling straight to her performance venue, wouldn't she have means after her arrival to change from her street clothes into costume?
As she sat beside me, taking the window seat, I tried not to look ridiculous. It's hard not to look ridiculous when you look like me – a ginger-headed, pasty freckle face – but, I mean, I hoped I wasn't drooling or looking like a fish that had forgotten to close its mouth. She turned her face towards me, and, for a moment, it was like she was in a shampoo commercial, one where there is a fan blowing and, instead of blowing the style apart, every hair flows into its perfect place. Maybe, it was a York Peppermint Pattie commercial that was supposed to have wind whipping through your hair. I know I was getting sensations even without eating a York Peppermint Pattie. I tried to speak, but nothing came out.
I tried again. “Are you a dancer?”
She shook her head at me, and her dark, wavy hair was still perfect. “Yes, I dance, but that is not my main business.”
“Oh, well … I … ahem, I thought you looked like a performer.”
“I am a performer. I'm a magician.”
“You mean a magician's assistant?”
Her eyes turned icy for a moment. “You think women can't do magic?”
“Well, I … you're … It's just that you're so beautiful, and aren't magicians supposed to have beautiful assistants?”
She smiled at that.
“What do you have, beautiful male assistants?”
I gave a sideways glance to my buddy Jack, seated by the aisle, and I thought I detected a slight eye roll on his part. Jack probably disapproved of my infatuation. He usually did. Though I hated it, I knew he was motivated by a sense of protectiveness, wanting to shield me from what was often my poor judgment.
“Are you applying for the job?” As if to prove her skills of magic, a business card announcing her as The Great Zarelda suddenly appeared in her hand. She tucked it into my front shirt pocket and then pressed it with her hand. It felt like a warm iron against my chest. I was going to melt right here on the airplane floor, and Jack wold have to mop me up to bring his buddy home.
“Fascinating,” I said, pressing the card in my pocket.“I'll have to look you up and see one of your performances.” My tongue was loosening up. “We have something in common. We're in the toy business.” I pointed my thumb at Jack.
Jack looked her way and grinned. We were just returning to New Jersey from a Toy Expo in Dallas, and Jack had traded in his fedora for a white cowboy hat, a souvenir from our trip. The cowboy hat had a hatband decorated with silver worked in the style of western buckles. I thought he looked more like a cartoon character than Chuck Norris.
The Great Zarelda touched my arm. “We have something in common how?”
“Well, you know … entertainment, fun, kids ...”
“Oh, I don't perform for kids.”
I really wasn't certain if she was saying that her tricks were much too sophisticated for children's birthday parties or if her shows were inappropriate for kids … and I was afraid to ask. I shifted my focus to the in-flight magazine in the pocket in front of me, not really sure what to say.
A cowboy ballad, one Jack had subjected me to on the trip, came to mind. “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl. Night times would find me in Rosa's Cantina. Music would play, and Felina would whirl …” I wasn't absolutely certain the Great Zarelda was Mexican, but her Latin-style dress and our former location seemed to suggest that idea to me.
Suddenly, I felt the lovely Zarelda's leg rest against my calf. Flamenco dancers were playing castanets in my chest, and I thought I might just implode. This woman was so bold and forthright. Ordinarily, it look me years to make this sort of progress with a woman, which, I suppose, would explain why I'm nearing 40 years old and am still single. On average, it took me five years to realize a woman was actually flirting with me.
I glanced to my right and could plainly see Zarelda's legs were not near me, and it was only her voluminous skirt that was touching me. Her ankles were daintily crossed and almost seemed to be angling slightly away from me. Even so, I still felt something warm and even pulsating against my leg. Did beautiful women drive men to madness just like the sirens did for Ulysses and his men? If so, I must have progressed to the delusional stage.
I looked over at her lap and the cascades of ruffles on her skirt. Could my imagination be that confusing? Did she have deceivingly wide calves beneath that ankle-length skirt? It seemed incredible, considering how lithe and slender her upper half was. Was that nearest black T-strap heel attached to a prosthesis and her natural leg in a different position than I supposed? I decided that no matter what deformity she might be hiding, I was her devoted slave. Nonetheless, If I were a cat, I'd be on my eighth life just now, having lost number nine to curiosity.
As I bent down and retrieved my Daniel Silva thriller from my carry-on bag, I had the notion to have a peek under her skirt, not lifting it scandalously high like Marilyn Monroe's dress over the subway grate, but just a momentary "accidental" flipping of a ruffle, so I could see a bit of a calf or ankle. I felt like a twelve-year-old boy, an evil twelve-year-old, as I fumbled my book below her skirt and gave her ruffles a flip as I pulled it out. "Pardon me," I said. I saw nothing unusual but a pair of shapely legs, what I could see of them. Sitting up with my book, however, there was now a bright blue feather sitting on its cover. I secretly pocketed this treasure. Zarelda was either wearing some very exotic undergarments or she had lost a feather from a hat or hair accessory that had somehow clung to her skirt. Clearly, Zarelda was not your run of the mill woman.
She turned to me, smiling, a curious look in her eyes. Did she know what I just did and that it wasn't so accidental? "What's your shirt size?"
"Excuse me?" I didn't realize we were in the "What's your shirt size?" stage of our relationship. A slightly modified pop song came to mind, "I just met you, and this is crazy, but what's your shirt size and call me maybe."
"If you're going to be my assistant, I will need to get you a costume."
"Oh. Costume. You're serious."
To Be Continued ...© 2016 Susan Joy Clark