Woman in the Red Dress
The snow is falling thick and fast behind the window pane. Pure white flakes hit the glass with a muffled ‘thud’ as the winter air catches them in its icy breath. He gazes out into the bleak night, lost in thought and comforted by the delicate candle glow and gentle buzz of voices in the jazz bar. He swirls the remains of his pint around the bottom of the glass and sighs. It’s been such a long day.
The bar is a quirky, old-fashioned room, with bottle green curtains clothing the oak panelling and old wooden bookcases standing against the wall. Every now and then, the heavy wooden door swings open as groups of rowdy friends walk in from the street, their faces pink from the bite of the December air. He watches them move towards the bar as they remove their coats, catching snippets of their conversations.
He is lost in thought; lulled into a trance by the warmth of the fire burning in the hearth and the soft acoustic music pouring peacefully from the speakers in the corner of the bar. The third pint of beer has begun to loosen the knots in his head which are brought about by the stresses of work and lack of sleep. Slowly, slowly, he starts to unwind.
As he gazes nonchalantly across the bar to the glowing fire, he begins to feel uneasy, as though he is being watched. The hairs on the back of his neck grow erect as he senses an intense gaze skim over his face and down his smart pinstripe suit. And then he catches her eye.
She is sitting in a low green armchair by the side of the stone mantelpiece. Her dress is of red satin, stopping mid-thigh and cut off at the shoulder, plunging into a low neckline. Her legs are crossed, one over the other. She is wearing silver heels which emphasise the shapely tone of her perfect pins; she is sophistication itself.
She holds his gaze for a second before looking down into the glass of white wine she holds in her hand, a secret smile playing with the corners of her lips. He tries to tear his eyes away from her but he is captivated: drawn in by the feminine curve of her waist and the dance of the firelight which flickers on her cheeks. Her straight, dark-blonde hair elegantly frames her oval face, a side fringe resting upon an exquisitely high cheekbone.
Her flawless skin seems to flow like a liquid; a pale, creamy pool which covers her classically beautiful features. She glances up and sees him staring, smiles, and tosses her long sheet of shiny hair over her shoulder. She knows the effect she is having on him, and yet there is nothing overbearing or egotistical about her presence. She is merely a stunning woman who has learnt charisma and elegance over time.
In that fleeting instant where she looks directly at him, he is taken aback by the intensity of her gaze. Even from across the room, he feels the passion behind her piercingly blue eyes and catches a glimpse of her sparkling personality. He is sure he knows her from somewhere but he cannot place her, surely he’d have noticed such a beautiful woman had they met before?
She shifts her position slightly, uncrossing her legs and taking a sip of wine as she holds her phone in the other hand, reading something. As she moves her glass up to her mouth, a strap falls from under the short sleeve of her dress. It is red and black lace – suggestive yet subtle. Entranced by this, he allows his eyes to skim the length of her curvy legs, starting from those silver heels… Until he reaches her thigh, where a faint line just above the hem of her dress reveals that she is wearing stockings. The playful smile has not yet left the corners of her lips.
He slowly stands, emboldened by alcohol and drawn to her hypnotising beauty. To his surprise, she places her empty glass on the table next to her and does the same. She looks at him and smiles. He smiles back. He recognises that smile, he knows it well. Who is this girl? She’s walking towards him and his brain is turning to mush, he knows that if she approaches him he will stumble over his words and talk nonsense. He cannot look away from the curve of her waist, the dark shadow within the V-neck of her dress…
And suddenly, a gentleman in a dark gray suit squeezes past him, brushing his arm slightly and breaking the spell. He is holding two large glasses of white wine. The lady in the red dress walks towards the gray-suit man with an enormous smile on her face which showcases her pearly white teeth. She leans in and softly kisses his cheek, whispering her thanks as she accepts her glass of wine. The couple walk back to their table and sit, sipping their wine as they bathe in the afterglow of the embers in the hearth.
His heart sinks in both embarrassment and disappointment. He feels as though someone has just flicked a volume switch up as the clamour of festive cheer in the bar bangs against his skull like a wooden bat. He grabs his coat from the back of his seat and leaves through the heavy wooden door without a backwards glance.
What frustrates him more than anything is the overwhelming familiarity he felt towards that beautiful lady, as though there was a connection between them from the past which he can’t quite grasp. As he walks quickly through the swirling snowflakes, he cannot help but feel as though his life is going nowhere. All around him people are changing. Friends are following their dreams and aspirations, meeting new partners, moving abroad and advancing in their careers. He is lost; stranded. The woman in the red dress symbolised everything he aspired to be: elegant, charismatic, intelligent, passionate and beautiful. She emanated confidence with such ease that his low self esteem made him feel pathetic and worthless. He is nothing, and she was everything.