Read an Excerpt:
I hadn’t needed to prompt her. She began, pulling herself upward, drawing those silks around her small frame as she went. Climbing high into the air as the two women began their duet. The French lyrics pulled me in every time. It was perhaps one of the reasons that while I simply tolerated most opera songs I’d heard, I adored this song.
Every time I heard it, every time I got lost in those little nuances of the language, it brought me back to summertime in Melun, France. Playing on the hills overlooking the city, lost in the grasses filled with wildflowers. Climbing into Meme’s apple trees. Perhaps the time in my life when it had felt so simple. All there were, were the memories of when I’d been happy.
And if there was any place I wanted to be, as I watched Cassandra ascending above me, knowing in seconds I would be right beside her, it was in those memories again. Bringing her with me.
The first stanza finished, and my mind immediately centered. My hands had already been wrapped in the silks without having to think about it. She paused, and I saw her attention drift downward. We fell captive to one another, and it was all I needed to see. I knew it was my turn to go to her. She was waiting for me.
In the same fashion she had moments earlier, I began my way up the silks beside hers, which had been a deep royal purple color. The entire time I made my way high into the room, I immersed myself in the French lyrics, the strings complimenting every rise and fall of the two women’s voices. Some moments, I’d lose myself in what I was doing, taking careful note of all the little adjustments my body was making. Other times, my attention drifted upward. Until finally, I was just beneath Cassandra.
When I paused again, I took a few deep breaths, steadying myself. Focused entirely on the beautiful woman above me, who was just as attentive to me. I nodded to her, signaling I was ready, prepared to follow her in whatever she had thought to do next.
At the precise moment when I had met her, she had already begun moving herself into a sailor pose above me, legs splitting, and much to my satisfaction, every single part of her in perfect position. All the small details I’d shown her the first lesson we’d had together were as pristine as when I’d helped her myself.
I would have taken more time to truly enjoy how proud of her I felt if she hadn’t twisted downward, dropping her torso straight toward me in a graceful fall. Before she’d completed it, I knew what she’d done. A Rainbow Marchenko. A famous move of Jeanne’s for many years. But watching her as she settled into it, I would have thought it was hers alone.
Cassandra’s hands dropped, releasing the silks. Dangling inches away. The only thing holding her in the air was the precise folds of those green fabrics wrapped around her legs.
Looking into her eyes as she hung there, waiting for me to act, all I could do was smile. She’d been focused, lost in her own world, but she’d come back to me. We were together again in the very place I had wanted to be with her ever since I’d seen her flying through the silks at her audition. I had dreamt about it every time since, every lesson we had, every time I’d watched her from the shadows of the theater while she practiced.
I had taken her to those fields in Melun with me, high in the trees. Trapped us both in those treasured memories, made all the better knowing she was there.
“I’ve got you, Cassandra,” I called out to her, gently. Steadying myself, my body locked in place. Breathing slow and rhythmic and calm. I watched her take the same breath as I had, waiting for the little drop in the lyrics before the next few lines began.
The moment their voices bellowed into the theater again, she let herself drop in a salto. In a gentle sweep of my body, I caught her gracefully into my arms. Twisted us together, letting the silks take hold of the two of us as we swung across the room, dozens of feet above the stage below us. Falling like two feathers locked together, dancing into the wind.
When the fabrics released us, I swung us outward. Our bodies drifted apart again as she spun around me, both of us still descending toward the floor. As beautiful as she looked, circling outward away from me, the moment she had, I wanted her back. I used my legs to give myself enough momentum to swing forward, latching on again once she’d appeared.
Cassandra had been so close I’d felt her breath against my face while we dangled above the stage. I got lost in the way it felt to be tangled up with her, a mess of bodies and fabric. Consumed by it. Convinced I might never let go of her again.
As we’d traversed the rest of the way back to the stage, I didn’t. The two of us descended together as a singular unit, just her and I and the fabrics. Improvising the graceful fall we were doing, finding little tricks and motions to carry out, all the while never leaving her side.
We’d both reached the floor, perfectly in sync with one another. I heard a gentle thump as we landed. Followed by the sound of both of our light, audible breaths. Steadying ourselves back on the ground.
Even having left the air, the silks still wrapped around us. Neither of us had freed ourselves. Cassandra was still in my arms, something I realized, when I hadn’t been so caught up in what we were doing all those feet above us, was happening for the very first time.
The sweet smell of oranges overwhelmed me. Her beautiful hazel eyes, those captivating flecks of grays and greens and browns, drowned out the world around us. I watched her breathing softly, holding her to me and those silks holding me to her.
And in those next few moments, every single solitary thing keeping me from her since the day we had met no longer existed in the little reality we were trapped in. Every fear I had, every reservation, disappeared. I tightened her to me, my hands capturing the sides of her face in a gentle sweep, as elegant as every other thing we’d done those last few minutes.
Our mouths fell together, and I lost myself in her. Trapped in those profound and so unbelievably relieving seconds in which the things that had stood in our way no longer mattered.
I hadn’t thought anything could have surpassed the experience the two of us just shared.
Undeniably, it had been the best minutes I had ever spent in those silks in my entire career. As simple as it had been. And we had barely started. This was only the beginning.
But this moment now was just as wonderful. As perfect as I could have hoped.
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