Amberscroll lanterns hung on the yacht’s canopy above the dancers. Jacinda wasn’t among them, but seated beside the white railing flogged with the seasalt of Greece, her right leg crossed over her left under the drapery of a black and glinting dress, her blonde hair black beneath a great stratum of starlight. Her teal eyes followed the footsteps of the bride and groom, then upwards along their linked profiles. She plucked between her white nails a cigar nosing out from a velvet box on the tablecloth, regarded it as a women’s voice raised through the musicians playing their guitars and restored pandouris.
With the cigar she gestured a boy as he passed her feet, slender in black, with gelled and matted oaken hair. He halted, regarded her index finger curling and uncurling like the tail of a shrimp, the white wheels of his gaze thick at the sight of her.
“What,” he said, as one does when implicated by a stranger.
“Which is your father?” she asked. Her eyes signaled the dancers.
“None,” the boy said, his shoulders still unslack. “My mother’s…” he pointed to the bride.
“She’s very beautiful,” Jacinda said. “Fetch me a lighter, would you?”
“I don’t think there are any.”
“Does that mean there isn’t? Go on then. Come back when you know”
As abrupt as the boy had seemed startled to be called, so he seemed startled to be sent away. By now Jacinda had concluded the boy’s age as nineteen or very near: his every action incumbent on how well his prior one was met.
He paused, blinking with his fingers. “Here,” he said.
He lifted a jarred candle from the next table over, which unlike the candle beside her, was lit. He held the jar of stained wax toward her, masting the wick with his hand, despite the windless night.
Jacinda breathed until the cigar end pulsed like a hot coal. She held the fumes in and as the back of her eyes began to prickle she released the smoke, first in thin tendrils from her nose, and then from her mouth in puffs that looked like small berets.
“Disgusting,” she said, and dragged once more. Then she regarded him again.
“You posture like you’re in a movie,” she said, this time letting the smoke rush her exits with her words. “Do you know this?”
But then the bride called to the boy. He gave Jacinda no parting look as he went but his profile revealed his expression still worn with the encounter, as if it was ongoing. As Jacinda watched him she rubbed the cigar end onto the side of the jar as if waxing a pool cue. Her eyes turned from the boy and his mother, hand in hand on the shining boards, and as if with instinct she looked to the table on her left where she now realized the boy had been, himself avoiding the company and the lights like strung white hearts pulsing in their sparse nets of iron.
On the tablecloth where the boy had sat were white vasepaper foldouts each wet on both sides with a name. Jacinda rose from her chair, suddenly angry, and collected them from the table, and then from all the other tables leading in their single file row toward the starboard canopy. She did not look to see if the boy was watching; she would not be thought watching anyone without knowing first if they watched her. And in this moment she did not know.
She paused holding the foldouts. So here I am, she thought. So there, at ten steps, a wedding.
The music cut as she returned to her table. She sat, but the chair had gone cold with her away and its coldness was a rude surprise to the back of her knees. She stood and turned to the sea which cracked against the yacht’s hull. But as abrupt as the music had quieted, so it came into full exaltation once again. She stretched out her arm and dropped the papery into the once walked air.
Among the names, her own, the bride and groom, the bridesmaid whose mother owned the yacht. The best man, who was at one time Jacinda’s fiancée and who had still not given up on the friendship, fruitless as it was. And the boy, whose name she had not asked.
But even as they fell, even as they faded onto, under the stars awash, she realized she still could; the paper, as all paper, without meaning to call its own. And all at once, and despite herself, she could not help but feel like dancing.
Like stepping from here to there.