The last note of the guitar echoed in the office at the background of the small pub. Slowly, the young man sitting on a small stool took off the cinch of his guitar and put his precious item back in the case lying at his feet. The man behind the huge desk made of glass crossed his arms on his chest and stared at the musician for a while, his face free of any kind of expression. None of them spoke for a long while and that time seemed to last even longer for the artist, who didn’t dare ask anything. He was dreading the answer as much as much as he was dying of knowing it. Finally the owner of the pub broke the silence,
“I liked that song. Like all the other ones you sent me over the past few weeks. You better be ready for the New Year’s Eve. My stage is all yours.”
The stressful expression clearly noticeable on the young man’s face disappeared straight away, replaced by a huge smile which made his blue eyes sparkle. He stood up and walked toward the desk, speaking firmly, “I’ll do my best. You won’t be deceived.” And they shook hand.
“I better not be, Mr Horan.”
After ten minutes spent talking about the details of the upcoming performance, the young man left the small pub eagerly. He had to practice harder than ever in the next two weeks...
“Black or red?” Hayley’s high-pitched voice yelled as she walked into the living-room of the small flat she was sharing with Marie. Without looking up from his laptop screen, the latter mumbled a quick inaudible answer.
Her friend rolled her eyes and ran toward the couch where she was sitting and closed her laptop violently.
“Are you an idiot or what? You owe me one for Christmas!” Marie shouted angrily but Hayley only shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ll get you one!” Marie lifted her left eyebrow up. “Anyway, we have more important stuff to deal with than Christmas!New Year’s Eve is coming closer!”
“Christmas is first, you know.”
Hayley laughed, “Of course I know. But I don’t care about trying to impress my family with one of the most beautiful dress I’ve ever worn! I need to find something better than everyone else! He must be impressed!”
“He?” Marie asked absentmindedly.
The other girl shook her head and sighed loudly, ”don’t you ever listen when I talk?”
“Do you really want to know the answer?” Marie replied on the same tone. Her friend didn’t argue any longer but stood up and walked away, back to the room she was in a few minutes ago.
Left on her own, Marie took out her phone and started to check out her mails. But her lonely and quiet moment didn’t last as Hayley came back, holding a few dresses in her hands. She lay them cautiously on the couch and turned toward Marie. “I need your help. Which one do I choose?”
“I don’t know. You already wore than black one a few weeks ago. And the grey one makes you look like a potato.”
“Thank you for the advice. But you’re right! I looked disgusting with that filthy thing on!”
Marie stood up and moved toward her friend. She stared at the dressed lying on the couch and her attention got caught by a red dress lying under the other ones.
“Do you mind f I take a look?”she asked quietly. Hayley shook her head, busy watching carefully another black dress.
Marie took the red cloth out of the pile and admired the dress. The sleeves were made of lace on both side of the round collar before coming back to a normal material, probably falling right upon the knees. Not too long but not too short either. She was like mesmerized by the piece of cloth she didn’t know the existence of.
The sound of her friend’s voice brought her back to her sense, “beautiful one, isn’t it?”Marie shook her head quickly and mumbled a quick yes. She felt like a little girl caught red handed when sneaking through her mother’s wardrobe.
“You should try it on! I bought it last year but it’s not my size. I don’t know why I kept it anyway...” And she pushed Marie toward her room.
It didn’t take her long to try it on. But she didn’t dare go back to the living-room. She liked that dress a lot but she had never worn something red and she felt uncomfortable in a dress. Maybe this one would be different?
“Are you still alive, Marie?”
“I’m coming!” And she walked out of the room to join her friend. She was sure she had turned as red as the dress as she stepped into the living and the only thought present in her mind was that she had to retrace her steps back to her bedroom to take it off.
“I forbid you to wear something other than that dress for the New Year’s Eve, Marie. I can swear to you, they’re all gonna drop dead when they’ll see you.” A gentle smile was on Hayley’s face as she watched her friend standing in that dress. She was wearing it better than she would ever have done. The red definitely was made for her, with her pale skin and her dark hair.
“Take a look at yourself instead of standing there like a lost soul!” she laughed at Marie while pointing out at the mirror in the entrance hall.
Marie nodded and slowly walked toward it. She usually hated seeing her reflection. Every day, she would shut her eyes when walking past the piece of furniture to go to her college. But this time, she simply couldn’t believe she would have stared at her own reflection that way. For once, she was fond of what she was seeing. As weird as it may sound, the dress must have been made for her. It was not too large and it wasn’t too tight-fitting either; perfectly adapted to her curves.
Maybe New Year’s Eve would be worthwhile for once...
Two weeks later
Alone in the flat, Marie was adding her last touch of make-up in the bathroom. She had spent the last hour getting ready, following Hayley’s advices on what to do for her hair and her make-up. The latter had been ready long before her and had left earlier to be sure “to be sure to be at the party at the right time when he would enter the place” according to her own words. Marie still was wondering who ‘he’ was, but she had not dared asking because she surely was supposed to know already.
Finally, ten minutes later, she was ready with her coat on in the entrance hall, staring at her reflection a last time before leaving. She couldn’t believe she was really the one reflecting in the mirror. But she knew it couldn’t be someone else so she surprised herself by hoping this wasn’t just a dream. She felt like Cinderella after beautiful transformation. Fortunately, her dress wouldn’t disappear after midnight but she knew the magic wouldn’t last forever either.
She quickly closed the front door and stepped into the cold night of December, muffled in her dark coat to hide her dress.
The streets were empty apart from a pedestrian or two she would cross from time to time. It was hard to believe that she was walking in the centre of Dublin. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was far from being scary and creepy. Everywhere she walked nearby; she could hear the loud music on in the surrounding houses. That time of the year surely had something special and she loved it more than any other time of the year.
Ambling along the street and watching around her, she jumped out when her phone rang loudly in her purse. She answered without even looking down at the screen,
“I’m on my way.”
She had expected not being able to hear her friend properly as she was already at the party but silence was surrounding Hayley as she spoke, “I’m not there anymore, Marie. I left.”
Marie stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk, “what happened? Where are you?”
“I...I’ve been invited somewhere else at the very last moment. So I decided to go instead... He will be there too!”
“Are you kidding me?” Marie’s sharp tone was clearly audible but it was the last thing she cared about.”I was only going to that party because you forced me to. I know no one there. What am I supposed to do right now?”
As if she hadn’t heard the annoyance in her friend’s voice, Hayley exclaimed happily, “you can still go! They’re all pretty nice, you know!”
“But I don’t care! Why are you being so selfish? You told me we would spend a cool evening together and then you told me we had to go to that party and now you leave me alone? But what kind of friend are you?” Marie felt like crying. Hayley had told her at first she would like to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve watching movies because none of them had a boyfriend to spend it with. But Hayley had been invited to a party with a few of a college’s friend that she couldn’t stand. But Hayley had begged her to come and she had finally agreed. But now, she was alone in Dublin’s streets with nothing to do on the 31st of December’s night.
Without waiting for an answer, Marie hung up and turned her phone off. Maybe she better had to go back home. There she could spend the quiet night she wanted and enjoy it on her own.
Or she could just go and drink a bit in a small pub of the town. After all, she was already out. Marie started to walk toward one of the closest pub and pushed the door to enter after a few seconds.
The place looked warm, with sifted lights, and was not overcrowded with drunken people. A wave of warmness overrunning her, she started to make her way toward the counter.
But she stopped straight away less than thirty seconds later; a soft melody filled in the small place. As if mesmerized by the sound of the guitar being played, Marie focused on the little stage where a young blonde man now was sitting. The whole pub had turned silent and all were now staring at the guitarist. After a few seconds, he started to sing, eyes closed, his Irish accent slightly audible at each word.
Completely still, Marie didn’t move an inch during his song. She couldn’t take her eyes off the guitar player; his voice had her hypnotized.
Soon – too soon to Marie-, the song came to an end and the audience applauded loudly. The Irish singer opened his eyes and looked up, his blue eyes shining with joy, before starting playing another song.
Marie surely would have stood there listening to him for hours if someone hadn’t knocked on her shoulders after the second song started.
“Maybe you’d like to sit down, Miss?” She turned around, feeling slightly annoyed to be disturbed. Right next to her was standing a man around fifty, who was holding a tray in his right hand.
“Anything to drink?” he asked. Marie nodded, and without really thinking about her answer, whispered, “a glass of red wine, please.”
“You can go and sit over here; I’ll bring it to you. You’ll enjoy the concert better!” He pointed out a free table at the right side of the stage before smiling widely and walking away.
Doing what she had been told to do, Marie slowly walked toward the table while taking off her coat. She stared at the singer while making her way toward the stage and the blonde guy’s eyes followed her as well.
As she sat down, she looked up at him and their eyes met. She couldn’t retain her smile.
The second song came to an end and everyone cheered loudly before he started another one. Marie was so absorbed by the man softly strumming his guitar that she didn’t notice the glass of wine that had just been brought on her table. She drank a little draught of the red liquid without caring about its taste at all.
All that matters was the melodies echoing in the room accompanied by the deep voice of the blonde singer. During his whole performance, he kept on either glancing toward Marie’s direction, either singing eyes closed. To her, it seemed there only was the two of us present here at that night unless every time he stopped singing.
To her disappointment, his performance came to end and he walked away after bowing at the audience. He disappeared at the back of the pub but Marie would have sworn she had seen him winking at her right before walking away. It may just be the effect of the wine on her.
Slowly, she stood up and out her coat back on, ready to leave. She had spent a wonderful evening listening to his song but she now had nothing more to do here. She walked toward the counter, while searching for money in her purse. Walking with her head down, she didn’t notice the person in front of her and bumped into her.
“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed at once, lifting quickly her head up to apologize. Her eyes met the blue ones and she froze for a few seconds before recognizing the singer, who now was standing inches from her.
“I’m fine, don’t worry!” he answered playfully, smiling slightly. She smiled back at him, not knowing what else to do.
They stood there awkwardly without moving for a minute before Marie stuttered, “I really liked your concert! Your songs were beautiful and fitted very well with your voice!”
She had completely forgotten about going to pay for her drink.
His smile became huger. “Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. I was so afraid of what people would think of my performance, actually...”
“I’m sure everyone liked it! They all seemed very happy and smiling during each and every song!”
Laughter echoed behind Marie’s back as she finished her sentence. “How would you know what happened in the room, Miss? You didn’t look anywhere else than at the stage. Mesmerized you got her, son, didn’t you?” Right there was standing the same man that had taken her order earlier that evening.
Marie turned all red and didn’t reply, looking down at her hands. The guitarist didn’t stop smiling.
“I’m Niall, by the way. I’m more than delighted to meet a fan, then!” he said playfully, trying to make her feel less uncomfortable.
“I’m Marie. Nice to meet you,” she said in a whisper, still feeling ashamed.
“Are you really leaving or do you have time to have a drink? It would be quite sad to spend the rest of a night like this one alone, wouldn’t it?” A touch of hope was audible in his voice as he asked her.
“Yes, it would be. But I have plenty of time ahead so I accept your invitation.” She smiled widely, her shame fading away at once.
Her New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be as bad as she thought it would be...
“Marie? Marie? Do you hear me, love?” Niall’s voice got Marie out of her thoughts. She shook her head slightly and smiled up at him.
He was sitting beside her on the couch with his guitar in his hands, having surely just finished playing a song.
“What were you thinking about?” he inquired, chuckling.
“Memories,” she simply answered. He raised an eyebrow, looking amused. “What kind of memories?”
“Midnight memories.”And without adding any other words, she rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, her lips still forming a smile like every time she was thinking about that night, all those years ago.
* The End *
Happy 18th birthday, Marie-Astrid! I hope you liked your story! ;) <3