Playing the club was the most exhilarating high she’d ever known, the most alive place she’d ever been. She felt beautiful when she played, desired, powerful, a sorceress casting her musical spell over them. It always clicked just right with Mac and Joe, and they sent it out like magic, their music piercing the darkness and the haze, enchanting the ladies, coy and dressed to the nines; emboldening the men, flirting, bragging, and generous with the liquor. Beneath the heat, the sweat, the perfume, the tobacco; beyond the clinking of glasses, the flashing of teeth, the elated intoxication, was the seductive fever of the music that transcended rules and boundaries and cares of the world.
But her magic only existed in the night, in the clubs. Most nights, after the people emptied out, the musicians would spill onto the streets, heady from the set, the applause, the booze. They would laugh and part ways, the men heading off to the bar, she back to the dull, modest apartment she shared with her girlfriends, a violinist and a teacher.
On this night, however, she was slow to pack up after a set, and when she emerged, still buzzing, there was Mac, leaning against the lamppost, waiting for her, changing colors under the flickering neon and lamp-glow. She flushed at the sight of him, this lean, tall saxophone player, stunning in his fedora, jacket held carelessly over one shoulder, cigarette dangling so casually from his other hand, saxophone case parked at his feet.
They were a hit for a while. Her and Mac. Her and the trio. But it wasn’t destined to last long. It was a different world inside, where the usual rules didn’t apply. Outside, even in this, the most cosmopolitan of all cities, people looked askance at a single female jazz musician.
It was a good run, and when they broke up, there were no hard feelings. Mac headed for L.A., Joe signed on with their friend Charlie, who became a real star. And when Armand came along soon after, and meant to marry her, not only did she truly love him, but the time was right to quit this fairy tale life and start a real one.
She reached out one frail finger and touched the antique negative, as if she could still feel the pulse of the music through her parchment skin. She was in a new kind of modest apartment now, the last one she expected to live in. Not too many people remembered her, only the die hard fans, the ones that lived it and breathed it like religion, like a purpose. Weren’t you…? Someone occasionally asked.
No, she’d smile. You must have me mixed up with someone else.
She placed the film slowly back in the cardboard box, taking care to fix the lid just so, and resting her palm on it for a moment before putting it away.
Club Carousel is my entry for LitStack Flash Fiction Challenge #4.