1st Dancing in the Moonlight

Beatrice straddled the balustrade to study the new arrivals; an unladylike pose she never dared assume in life.

A nimbus of contrived emotions enveloped the newlyweds, who feigned oblivion to their gloomy surroundings. Behind his pasted smile, the groom exuded trepidation, while the bride preened like the winner of a tacky reality show facing a phalanx of cameras..

The too familiar seed of jealousy unfurled in Beatrice’s chest as she drifted downstairs, her heels silent on the polished marble tiles, and peered over their shoulders as they signed the register, the first time officially as Mr and Mrs.

The smugly possessive bride made a production of displaying her ostentatious sapphire and diamond ring, while her new husband tugged at his uncomfortable collar.

As the lift clanked and groaned laboriously to their floor, the bride’s smile faded. No appreciative audience equaled no Oscar-worthy performance. Beatrice lurked in a silk flower-filled alcove as the doors creaked open and the couple stepped into the corridor. Her jealousy blossomed like a hothouse orchid when she witnessed the bride’s attitude.

The bride clutched a garishly coloured brochure and compared the bright photograph to the dingy reality, shaking her head. ‘This must be the wrong hotel,’ she hissed. ‘It’s at least a hundred years out of date.’ She thrust the pamphlet under the groom’s nose. ‘Don’t these dolts know who you are?’

Beatrice sidled close and heaved a grave-cold sigh over the back of the bride’s neck, who shuddered and rubbed her arms. ‘The bloody heating doesn’t work, either.’

‘They had our reservations.’ The groom shoved open the door and dropped their luggage. Exhausted from the forced festivities and long drive, he flopped onto the bed. ‘This is the right place. Let me warm you up.‘ He patted the space beside him and waggled his eyebrows.

Beatrice smiled at his enthusiasm, while wondering how he tolerated his entitled bride. She shrugged, admitting to herself she had zero expertise in marriage. Her fingers unconsciously drifted to her neck and the thumbprint bruises she still bore.

‘Can you hear that godawful music?’ The bride ignored her hopeful husband. She opened the balcony windows and the pulsating rhythm of swing-time swept in. ‘Nobody listens to that old time crap anymore.’

‘I rather like it. Reminds me of those old romantic Hollywood movies; y’know, Fred and Ginger? Where the guy sweeps the girl off her feet?’ He jiggled his toes in time to the spectral music.

The bride sniffed disapproval of her husband’s tastes and slammed the doors shut. ‘I’m gonna take a shower, and then I’m going to complain to management. Someone ought to be fired over this shemozzle. This is not the standard I expect from a bridal suite. I mean, look at this.’ She lifted the corner of the bedcovers between thumb and forefinger. ‘Flounces! When did you last see frilly bedding?’

The groom was snoring when the bride emerged from the bathroom, pink and shrouded in a lace confection.

‘Typical. I’ll suffer until morning, and we can go together. More likely to listen to a man, anyway. Just wait until I tell them who you are.’ The bride crawled into bed beside her husband. ‘Not exactly the wedding night I hoped for, either.’

Beatrice waited patiently until bride and groom were breathing slowly and evenly before wrapping her icy fingers around the bride’s hot neck and squeezing. The bride’s thrashing woke the groom, who promptly suffered a fatal aneurysm. Beatrice arranged the covers tastefully. No need for a salacious scene. No doubt the maid would indulge in a silver-screen scream in the morning, and thrill to her temporary centre-stage star status, while the police failed, yet again, to identify the perpetrator.

She tapped the groom on his cooling shoulder. ‘Would you care to dance?’

Blinking slowly, the groom rose and took Beatrice into his arms. They danced in the moonlight to the sounds he secretly loved.

‘I could do this forever,’ he whispered in her ear.

‘I hoped you’d say that.’

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