Her mane long dress unfurled like a swelling, over-full tide as she moved in a silent rhythm to the tune that echoed within her head. In peaks and troughs it swept across the room, the enormity of its blackness brushing shadows from distant corners, washing words from mouths, and gathering them as they fell soundlessly to the floor. It carried her gently, tenderly, like a huge, nurturing palm, in safety and perfect isolation past the laden table, the sofa, the age-worn armchairs and the arrangement of stools and kitchen chairs which had collected themselves with random precision, but remained static, forlorn, still unsure of their role in the ceremony. Aged bodies sat, neither slumped nor erect, cocooned by the beckoning arms of the chairs grown comfortable through the years, as they sought to wrap themselves within their protection; the chairs themselves surrendering to duty and obligation. Other figures huddled together like a nervous herd across the expanse of sofa, as if the solidarity of oneness would bring them closer to acceptance, whilst their watchful eyes darted and scanned the room, desperate to avoid catching the glance or stare of another. Their were younger bodies too, perched like birds, flocking on the edges of chairs and stools, ready always to make good their escape, eyeing all available exits nervously. The youngest of the group moved between the quietened figures as they stood resembling living statues, awaiting the moment in which to make their move, unsure as to how their actions would be perceived, unsure as to the nature of the gathering; unsure as to the reaction of those around them.
Against the wall the table seemed to be crying out for attention, yearning for the first motion towards it to be made, hoping desperately that relief would soon come. Platters of sandwiches, chilled from the night before, had begun to lose their posture and sagged against one another, as if for support – ham, cheese, chicken, fish paste; freshly laid salad providing a now limp and lifeless garnish, its frame serving only to emphasise the plight of the offerings. Row upon row of bottles – clear, green and brown hues of glass, nestled one another, their clinking conversations intermittent as the occasional hand stretched out as if to comfort them: whisky, gin, rum; beer, sherry and half-empty bottles of liqours, bought in less tense times, and treasured as mementoes; orange, blackcurrant and lemonade.
Her aching black dress moved wordlessly, acting on orders only it could receive; dancing to a past only it could remember. She swayed to memories from childhoods lost, performing a story whose enhancement lay in dreams, a story that could not be spoken – not now, not ever. She drifted noiselessly between the bodies for which she had no recollection, no attachment, no empathy; bodies that had no role in her story. No longer did she feel age or sadness – the ache had gone, lost now to another world; like a different past it lay fading and lifeless, a receding stain on a ground she had once passed over. Her hand reached out, emerging from a darkened sleeve, fingers, thinned by age, tendon tautened, a frail, whitened wrist. Her hand reached out, and, as no eyes saw, was met by all she sought.
Her long dress unfurled like a swelling tide as she moved in silent rhythm to the tune that echoed within her head, as slowly she danced.