There was a dance that night at the Oh Henry Ballroom, so he slicked back his hair, jumped into his red convertible and cruised down Archer Street, hoping he’d meet a pretty girl. He was a shy fellow who found it hard to talk to girls. Bolder men always danced away with the prettiest girls before he got up enough nerve to say hello. But tonight, would be different. Tonight, he would sweep one of the girls off her feet! He was determined on this point.
The dance floor was hopping when he arrived, and he wasn’t having any luck at all with the beauties that lined the floor. He resolutely approached each one and asked them to dance, but they were all taken. After the latest rejection, he retreated to the bar to have a beer and gazed wistfully at the dancers.
“Go on. Get out there and dance,” the barman told him after his second beer.
“It’s not that easy,” he said. “All the girls are here with their boyfriends.”
“Not all of them,” the bartender said. “There are plenty of single girls who come to these dances. But you won’t find any of them if you lurk back here. So, get out there!”
At that moment, his eye fell upon a beautiful blonde standing wistfully at the edge of the floor. She was dressed in an old-fashioned white gown and her skin was pale as the moon. Her blue eyes watched the dance hungrily from her position behind a tall fern, and he felt his heart beating a bit faster. Such a lovely woman should be dancing.
“All right. I will,” he told the bartender, swallowing the last of his beer and dropping some money on the counter.
He made his way through the bustling crowd and asked her if she liked to jitterbug. She looked startled by his approach, as if she had not expected anyone to notice her that night. But she readily assented to dance with him, and soon they were laughing and dancing the jitterbug and the boogie woogie, surrounded by happy couples doing the same.
When the music slowed, he asked her name. “Mary,” she said with a shy smile. She told him she lived in the Brighton Park neighborhood, not far from his own address. He smiled at his beautiful blonde, and executed some fancy dance moves, suddenly conscious that her hands were ice cold, and his hand supporting her back was going numb.
Some people on the sidelines him odd looks as he danced past with Mary. Once, the couple opposite them bumped right into them as if they had not seen his partner at all. He was furious and wanted to force the man to apologize, but Mary just laughed and hushed him.
When the slow dance was over, he hurried to get his fair partner a drink. The barman grinned at him. “When I told you to dance, I meant with a partner,” his friend teased him.
“I was dancing with a partner,” he replied, irritated by the bartender’s remark. “The loveliest girl in the room!”
“You were dancing by yourself out there,” the bartender said.
He glared at the man and turned away without answering. Making his way back to the girl in white, he handed Mary a glass and asked her to sit at a corner table with him. They watched the dancers for a while, then Mary turned said with a sigh: “Thank you for the dance. It has been a very long time since I had such pleasure.”
“Let us dance again, then,” he said infatuatedly. But she shook her head.
“I must leave now,” she said, catching up her white skirts with one hand and drifting toward the exit.
“I will drive you home,” he said. “It’s just a straight shot up Archer. Not out of my way at all.”
She smiled an assented. Heart pounding with happiness, he escorted her to his convertible and opened the door for her. He cruised slowly up the street, reveling in the beauty of his passenger. They were only a short distance from her street when Mary suddenly asked him to stop beside the Resurrection Cemetery. Puzzled, he did as she asked. To his dismay, she got out of the car.
“Where are you going?” he cried.
“I must leave,” Mary said, turning to look at him. “Thank you for the dance, and the ride.”
She walked to the locked gate, and then faded away before his eyes. He blinked and rubbed them. Where had she gone?
His heart thudded with sudden dread. “It’s not safe for her to be wandering the cemetery at night,” he muttered to himself. He started the car and slowly cruised the streets around the cemetery, searching for Mary. But he couldn’t find her
At dawn, he drove to the address she had given him and knocked on the door. An older woman with sad eyes answered after a moment. She was still in her bathrobe. The woman was surprised to find a stranger on her door, and when he asked for Mary, her eyes brimmed with tears.
“Mary died in a car accident four years ago,” she told him. “She was on her way to a dance at Oh Henry Ballroom when the car slid off the road. Mary was thrown through the windshield and died on her way to the hospital. She’s buried in Resurrection Cemetery.”
Resurrection Cemetery. The place where he’d dropped off his beautiful blonde dance partner.
He sat down abruptly on the front stoop, hyperventilating.
He’d spent the whole evening dancing with a ghost.
Copyrighted content: This is an original story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. It may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.
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