By T.C. Stevenson
Dedicated to Holly Massard
When the bombs fell in Dublin, they danced the Charleston. When Big Ben buckled and fell during the air raids in London, they waltzed in the ballroom. When Berlin was overrun, they salsa danced. The world was ending all around them, but dancing was all they knew how to do. It was all they could do. While the television blared on in the living room, narrating the end of the world, they would turn on the stereo and dance until their legs turned to jelly. Such was their only escape; it was the only thing left living for.
They met in college at Temple University’s school of music and dance in Philadelphia. During many productions, the two had been paired together in leading roles. Within a month of recitals, they were best friends. By the end of their first performance, they were in love. At the end of their college careers, they were engaged to be married.
That had been nearly two years ago and neither Leon Proscue nor Holly Massard would have ever guessed that time could go by so fast. After their marriage, Leon and Holly went on to become two of the most successful and renowned dancers of their time. Together they opened the biggest dancing studio on the east coast and taught everything from classical ballet to swing to break dancing. They choreographed dance routines with the biggest and brightest stars of the music industry. Their productions drew in the wealthiest and most refined men and women in the world. The success of their professions had bought them a lavish lifestyle of splendor and a loft in Manhattan, half of which they had transformed into a dance studio.
Leon and Holly Proscue were two of those rare and blessed individuals whose lives revolved around their passions. Their luck was further compounded by the fact that their love was as genuine as it was profound. They never grew tired of each others’ company, they shared nearly identical interests, and their arguments, if they could even be described as such, were always resolved in a compromise that resulted in mutual contentment and growth. In short, theirs was a love that few believe in, but everyone seeks.
However, their fate was not to be in the company of a world as peaceful and compassionate as they. During the summer of their first anniversary together, war broke out in the world once more. Intricate ties of alliances dragged country after country into the throes of conflict. With the majority of the world’s nations involved, there was no hope for diplomacy. Within five years’ time, World War Three threatened to destroy humanity in its entirety.
From the rooftop of his apartment building in New York City, Leon smoked a cigarette and contemplated the chaos that had begun to unfold below him. Military vehicles flooded the streets to prevent the looting that had begun shortly after the simultaneous invasion on the western coast of the United States and the occupation of Canada. The country was set to fall. Luckily for him, Leon had foreseen the impending defeat long before his countrymen; when he had time to prepare for the hardships that come with being a suppressed people.
The desperate looters below had not been so fortunate as to predict the ensuing anarchy. The streets were flooded with the desperate. Some protested for peace and order. Most, feeling trapped and hopeless under the weight of a collapsing society, protested against the injustices of their dire circumstances in the only way they knew how, violently. Their mingling angry cries were constant, occasionally accompanied by a burst of gunfire or a small explosion. Most had given up on foraging for food; it was all gone. Leon felt his heart wrench at the thought of the wall of canned goods stacked up in his closet. He wanted to help them, but he knew there was no saving the city; he knew there was no saving himself either.
Leon ran a hand through his thick, brown hair and walked back down three flights of stairs and into his apartment. The sound of Otis Redding singing “These Arms of Mine” caressed his ears and he was overwhelmed with a deep, yearning nostalgia. He was carried back through time to the night of his honeymoon with Holly. His senses had been dreamily intoxicated with wine and sweet liquors. He was following Holly from room to room of the suite, catching only the passing wave of her inviting fingertips or the curve of her bare leg from door to door. She laughed as she drunkenly pranced from room to room. Otis was singing songs of loss and love; hardship and wonder. The night had ended with their lovemaking as they basked in the light of a full moon cast perfectly over the ocean in clear, starry skies.
His vision was interrupted by the abrupt end of the music. The deep, practiced voice of a television reporter replaced Otis’. Leon walked down the hallway and into the living room to investigate. There, he found Holly standing in the middle of the room facing the television.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the reporter began with a look of grave urgency “I am grieved to report that the President has been assassinated.” The reporter continued the announcement with details of the assassination but Leon paid no attention to it. As far as he was concerned, the end was inevitable, president or not.
Holly turned towards him, sensing his presence behind her. Her large, gray-sometimes-blue-sometimes-
green eyes swelled with tears and she rushed towards him. 'She was dancing' Leon thought to himself as he took her into his arms. She drew in a deep, wheezing breath in an attempt to control herself before breaking down into sobs. Leon swept her up and carried her to the couch where he laid her down and rested her head on his lap. He ran a soothing hand through her wavy hair and looked down at her with a smile.
Holly sat up and turned her head away from her husband to hide her sorrow. Leon chuckled silently to himself, amused by her lingering attempts to hide weakness; Holly had always been a stubborn and prideful woman. Gently, he grasped her chin with his hand and turned her head to face him.
“I wish none of this had happened.” Holly said; fresh tears began to accumulate at the corners of her eyes. She struggled to retain them, but failed, freeing them to stream down her flushed cheeks.
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” Leon wiped away Holly’s tear with his thumb.
“You stole that.” Holly accused. The corners of her lips curled into a subtle smile that Leon recognized and loved.
“I did.” Leon laughed. “Gandalf, Lord of the Rings.” He admitted. Holly rolled her watery eyes with a sniffle and a laugh.
“Leon, I'm scared.”
“Holly, you've never been scared before.” Leon marveled. “I've always been the one that was scared. Do you remember our first performance together?”
“Of course I do!” Holly laughed and took Leon's hands in her own. Her fearful visage had been replaced with one of joyous recollection. “You were so scared you were shaking from head to toe.”
“But you were there for me. You had the confidence in me I didn't have in myself. I never would have been able to do it without you.”
“And I never could have done it without you.” Holly replied. Leon shook his head, but did not verbalize the truth he knew in his heart. Holly was destined for greatness from the moment she was born; Leon had merely ridden on the coattails of her success.
“How?” Holly asked. “How can you not be scared now with the world ending all around us?” Leon's answer was nearly lost in the oceans that were Holly's gray, disbelieving eyes.
“How do you know I'm not?”
“I know you Leon. I know you better than I know myself.” Leon chuckled in response. It was true, she knew him inside and out yet she had never, at least not outwardly, appeared aware of her own talent and strength.
“Look, it’s not that everything that's happening isn't scary.” Leon began and motioned to the television with a nod of his head. His hands tightened around Holly's as he spoke. “And I know this is corny, but I'm honestly not afraid of anything when you're with me. There's no one in the world that I'd rather face the apocalypse with than you Holly.”
Holly stared into the hazel mirrors of Leon's eyes as he spoke, seeing the truth in it all. Leon watched with amazement as understanding dawned in his wife's eyes. The possibility of a threatening future remained, but the acceptance of their hopelessness alleviated them of the responsibility of fear and left them with a feeling of fulfillment. Yet, as if on cue, as one metaphorical light went on, all others went out. The television cut out with a hiss and their apartment, along with the entire northeastern United States, was plunged into darkness.
The two remained where they were, staring into the only lights left in the city. When they had finished silently communicating to each other, 'It's going to be okay', Leon rose to find candles. An overwhelming fear overtook Leon from the moment he left Holly’s side. It was as though every moment apart was a moment in which their lives could tragically end in separation. Less than half a minute later, he returned running to the room with two lit candles. Holly’s face reflected the same horror he had experienced in their brief time apart. Upon understanding each others’ mutual empathy, the two broke out into laughter.
“Dance with me?” Leon asked and offered Holly a candle.
“How? We have no music.” Holly accepted the candle and offered her free hand. Leon lifted her off the couch with a smile and silently led her through the apartment to his closet in their bedroom. After some searching, Leon lifted a dusty record player from the shelf. He offered it to his wife with a smug grin.
“And to think I made fun of you for buying that thing.” Holly sighed. She always pretended to hate when Leon was right. Leon winked at her in response. “Will it work though? There's no power.” Holly lifted the cord up to Leon.
“Back up batteries.” Leon explained and tapped on the bottom of the record player. “Come on.” Together they climbed the stairs to the roof with a growing excitement. They both knew that a great moment was upon them. In the face of adversity, they would dance.
It was a clear, early October night. The air was cool and crisp, but not yet uncomfortable. The stars, which had always been masked by the artificial luminescence of the city, were shining above them with an indifferent brilliance. Leon placed the record player on the ground, rested the needle on the LP, and turned it on. A moment later, their favorite song sprung forth into the night air. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata mingled with the sound of a siren rising in the dark. Without a word, Leon extended his hand as the curtains rose to reveal the final act and Holly came to him.
Never before had they danced so well, so perfectly. Even as the world began to tremble with the coming of doom, they could not be moved from the grace of their step. A rebellion against the very nature of destruction, the serene beauty of their dance echoed unseen throughout time- a celebration of all wonder man has wrought; an inurning for all that he has undone. The dance was as elegant and complicated as their most intricately choreographed performance and yet it was a dance they had never performed before. Their bodies and minds moved as one with the music with a fluid grace and inherent beauty that matched, if not surpassed, the wonder of Beethoven’s classic.
They were so enveloped in their defiance that they did not hear the planes approaching from the north. They did not hear the explosions of artillery and anti-air cannons or machine gun fire; nor would they have cared even if they had. As the last notes of the song came to an end, Leon dipped Holly into a dramatic close and the world exploded into a thunderous, one hundred megaton applause. It was their finest performance.
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