Thanks guys and girls, really appreciating the feedback, and it's helping! I also finally settled on a title.
esoterica (as in "secret") n. : secrets known only to an initiated minority
I redid the first chapter in past tense, because I find it flows better that way. Here it is updated a little bit, with the 2nd chapter following. I know the chapters are short... but it is a short story!
edit: changed up the 2nd chapter tonight, I was writing pretty well and felt like adding detail. enjoy.
Delicately outstretched, her hand lay on the ground, cooly embraced by the grass. The moon hovered menacingly overhead, grinning down over the blades of grass seemingly swaying in rhythm with the growing whine of sirens. Her dark auburn strands flowed freely, framing her delicate face. He stared, standing a mere handful of footfalls away. The red fabric blew briefly in the wind, staggering with life while trying to escape, and he couldn't help but feel as if the dress was somehow ailing, and had stolen her vibrance. The Washington Monument peered down, joining with the moon at the peak, each complementing the other's magnificence.
Night sky filled his eyes, overflowing to carve deeply into him. With a will of their own they travelled up her dress, the fragile folds like paths from her lifeless body. Her warmth remained as he willed her to breathe again, willed his unfledged love to rise, to no avail. The dress did not relent in accentuating her form, and the deep crimsons blended to conceal her wound. Laying on her back, a dark fracture in her heart flowed outward, crying into the darkness. Blood coursed down her left forearm until the pooling finally slowed to a stop as a kind of perverted, entwined meaning. The staunched flow often either meant progress or regress, but the night was too sour.
That damned dress, taunting his mind, daring to somehow accentuate the violence and sickness that was her death. In his mind, beauty had no place here. She would not want to be remembered this way, despite her outspoken attraction to the possibility of a passionate, romantic release such as this.
Breathing deeply, he stepped slightly closer. Alternating blue and red lights danced from the abysmal dark, reared onward by the phone cradled tightly in his hand. The lights grew stronger and the sounds closer, but his mind was singularly focused on her.
She stared on, still, gazing desperately upward to the sky, either in accusation or acceptance. Thomas could not know which, but he was convinced to pursue this to the end. Together, Juliette and the moon exchanged glances, both lifeless and growing colder. Thomas silently cursed the marauding stranger in the sky for being alive and well, for incessantly trekking through the stars while real beauty is wasted.
Crouching, he reached down and grasped Juliette's hand, hesitating before kissing it softly. The scent remained. Breathing it deeply, he struggled to hold onto it, onto her, before harsh disinfectants and strangers could disturb it, folding her away neatly in the ground. Fighting tears would have been futile, but none came to cloud Thomas's view of her, only a grimly quiet sense of loyalty. Overcome with shock and stupor, spurred forth by loving determination, he would not let grief usurp his will to expose those responsible.
The dark brown of her eyes reflected the moon, their perfect shape slightly tired, now. Her subtle beauty flowed freely from her eyes, from the windows to her very soul. Using the back of his hand, he brushed a pair of dark, loose curls from her face, his knuckles sliding against her smooth, silken skin. One final time, his fingers traced up her cheeks to her eyes, where he slid them shut. Juliette and her red dress.
Thomas stood as the paramedics' transportation quickly came to a halt behind him, their harsh headlights banishing any remaining beauty from this space without granting any solace. A shade of red deep enough to be mistaken for blood marked her lips, remnants of their lone night together.
Chapter 2. 24 Hours Prior.
His tie folded aside as the cool autumn wind blew through it, bringing life back to his senses. She preceded him, red dress flowing perfectly. Her smile spread wide, she walked gracefully to the balcony, heels clicking lightly against the unforgiving concrete. Breathing deeply in the lull between performances, she turned to face him. Thoughts flowing momentarily, she found herself curious about him. How little she knew, in truth. Facing Thomas, she made it a point to quest deeper as the night wore on.
Thomas sidled up at her side, not touching her, but not making it a point to keep his distance, either. Juliette's gaze felt as if it was cutting through him, stealing answers from his mind before any questions had been asked. Her stare broke to gaze over the water, her eyes seemingly hungry for something more, perhaps for life, with a voracious appetite. Her scent filled him as he stood nonchalantly.
"So, are you glad you came out tonight?" he enquired, trying to gauge her interest in their date.
Still somehow connected to the tranquil water, she managed to break loose her stare of the river and peered into him as she responded. "I definitely am, this was a great idea," she replied cooly, her indifferent tone concealing how much fun she was really having. She had yearned for an outing like this for far too long. Although too prudent to reveal her delight, Thomas caught the idea.
Around them, people were teeming, the wind carrying sections of conversations as a cultural collage. She loved the capital for the multitudes of curious cultures, brought together despite vast differences. Here, she found a little bit of everything. A lot of everything. Young couples strolled during the intermission, older couples watched from inside, both in envy and admiration.
The river ran below, bobbing freely with the bends of the bank. Together, Juliette and Thomas watched the imperfect mirror streaming past, rippling as the wind skimmed across the surface. Close by, the Lincoln Monument sat, lit. The 16th President rested for decades, perhaps silently observing and pondering the vast city, overflowing with life. The river drifted by, a churning fluid serving as a mirror to the monument. To Thomas, it was possible that Lincoln saw the perversion reflected in the deformed night water, the politics and power playing tag with the carelessness of oblivious schoolchildren.
A cigarette burned nearby, the amber shreds flowing with the wind, furiously trying to stay alive on a path to the lawn below, ultimately destined to fail in their endeavours. Reflectively, smoke rose and diffused as the burning ashes fell. Still, it was strong enough to play with Juliette’s senses. The flavor of tobacco had always pleased her, while the smell of smoke worked the opposite. She viewed it casually as it drifted by, the tamed purple color carrying with it a curse, and she avoided it, as if it could steal away her vigor.
She and Thomas stood silently for a while, letting their silence speak volumes at a time, letting it convey more meaning than a conversation. Often, she thought, people spoke to strangers about the most random and specific topics entirely too long, just to keep them around. Yet tonight, she felt as if she could learn vast and colorful tales from Thomas in silence, could learn much about his personality and by the way he handled himself in silence. Calm and cool, composed, really. With an air of sophisticated mystery she could not easily place. Not a dangerous manner, but perhaps dangerous in the way the unknown was exciting.
The smoke made a stronger return, burned forward from the fingers of a seemingly misplaced man standing to their right, his eyes also absorbing the value of the night. His tattered black slacks rose from scuffed leather wing-tipped shoes, giving way to a distinct green button-down shirt with no tie. Coatless, he appeared as if he should be cold, but he shrugged it off without moving, simply repeating a drag from the lit cigarette.
Thomas’ eyes darted from the golden tip of the tobacco to the man’s eyes. The man raised the hand holding the cigarette to catch his glasses sliding from the bridge of his nose, hitching them back up to again focus his eyes upon Thomas and Juliette. Thomas felt unsettled by his perceptible observation. Juliette caught onto his air and followed his darting eyes, locking solidly onto the peculiar man. To Thomas, Juliette's stare seemed to penetrate into the man deeper than it had into himself, or the river, a possible hint of recognition - or fear - playing in her eyes. She stared away.
Thomas took her arm in his, pulling her to him and cutting off her view.
"Why don't we head back in, they should be starting back up soon," he guessed, noticing fewer stragglers than before. The peculiar stranger had stolen their attention as the majority of the crowd had streamed back inside.