The Dining Room

by j.b. sweetser

   Tonight, the atmosphere was just right - sparkling chandeliers, candlelit tables, and a dance floor with festive white lights.


   Lisette looked up, flashing those notorious blue eyes at John Henry. Then it came, her laugh – deep-bellied, full-throated, piercing the room with its glee. The others at the adjoining tables paused their conversation. There was a unison tilting of heads, then smiles of acknowledgment. Ah, just Lisette, flirting with John Henry again. They turned back to their dinners, buoyed by the merriment of Lisette's table. 


   John Henry was telling another joke or perhaps one of his stories about his brief stint at the Goldwyn Mayer studios. He claimed to have known Mr. Goldwyn personally and made sure everyone knew it. Tall, tan, with jet black hair falling rakishly over his eye, when he stood up to lead Lisette to the dance floor one could easily imagine him a leading man. Almost as suave as Gable or that new guy, Cary Grant. 


   More laughter erupted now at the big table with JoJo, Ernie and Maggie. On cue, Ernie stood up and bowed, then he zipped across the room and fussed with the contraption connected to the big speakers. He was the only one who understood the darn thing and he changed the music to a big band beat. 


   “Hey, it's Saturday night,” he shouted, as he always did on Saturdays. “Dance night!” 


   JoJo and Maggie vied to reach him first to dance. JoJo won and swooped him away into a light-footed swirl. Maggie grabbed quiet Jim who was close by and they joined the other two couples on the dance floor.  Usually stubborn Marty gave in to Meredith and soon the beautiful couples were twirling and passing suggestive looks as they swung and swung with abandon. 


   Meredith, fresh-faced, red-lipped, blonde and beautiful, gave exotic Lisette a run for her money. Lisette, slim and dark, with her smoky blue eyes and slight French accent, usually garnered the most admiration from the men, but tonight Meredith was on fire. Slinky in her tight turquoise sheath, Meredith radiated charm. Even John Henry had turned his eyes toward her, a gesture not missed by Lisette, who pulled him closer in their mad dance.

 

   Saturday night. It always brought out the passion, the tempestuous looks and the taste of freedom, of dancing one’s own dance, of feeling alive, desirable, worthy of jealousy. A heady mix. 


   Once back at their tables, Meredith, JoJo and Lisette held their iced tea high and clinked glasses to all, seeing only champagne bubbles. Occasionally, one saw a red, ripe strawberry floating in a crystal champagne flute as if suspended in the same world they had slipped into at four-thirty. 


   Beautiful, handsome, fully alive and desirable. It was dinner time again. 


   Soon the lights blinked, and Ernie slid over to the speakers, turning off the Bluetooth and picking up his phone, stopping the playlist. JoJo’s smart phone beeped - her daughter texting again, checking in. She meant well but didn’t understand at all. 


   Six-thirty. Dinner over. Lisette left the dining room first, pushing the button to open the door and grabbing her walker as she headed down the hall. She had to wait a moment while her milky eyes adjusted to the light. Her glaucoma was so bad now sometimes she could hardly see, even with her thick glasses. John Henry followed, picking up his cane and stooping to gain his balance. His thin gray hair barely covered his high forehead, shiny with sweat from the effort to walk. Within minutes they all filed out of the dining room, heading back to their single rooms, with only their walkers and hearing aids and paper-thin skin to keep them company. 


   “See you tomorrow!” Ernie waved, knowing they would all be young again tomorrow evening when they entered The Dining Room.