Word Count: 1650
Her breath was becoming increasingly shallow. Her family stood around her bed.
“It won’t be long now.”
The doctor spoke kindly and softly. He was a long-time friend and this was equally hard on him.
Her mind whirled in a fuzzy haze of confusion, until, as though a veil was being lifted, a thought emerged with crystal clarity.
“I want to Dance with a Cowboy . . . Once before I die!”
Always a dreamer and would-be poet, inexplicitly drawn to the past, especially the West. From the time she was very small, she knew she wanted to live back in the days of the Old West. Cowboys existed, real or fictional, knowing yet believing deep in her soul there was myth more than truth surrounding them. Nevertheless, the lore of the West and the romance that went with the Cowboy enchanted her. “Someday,” her heart whispered throughout her youth. Years passed; life’s reality pushed her secret back into the private corner of her mind. Locked away as it was, the longing never quite left.
Somewhere, far back in her mind, a haunting memory called to her. It was something she had written and long ago dismissed. The door now slowly creaked open. She saw herself sitting by an open window as the night breeze tickled her face; putting pen to paper, she wrote,
Oh, I want to DANCE with a Cowboy!
Once before I die.
To swing to and fro as a fiddle plays low, out under a velvet sky!
To hear my taffeta swish is part of my wish!
The rest of the memory vanished with the mist swirling around her.
God looked down and, with a gentle smile, granted her prayer.
Softly she felt herself lifted, as if transported through time and space, carried from what was to a place where time, reality, fantasy, blended together.
Music . . . Fiddle music . . . Soft, slow, plaintive, one she knew well — “Amazing Grace.”
She was conscious of his nearness before she felt him. Tall, strong, graceful, emanating a mixture of man, clean clothes, leather, horse . . . and long ago.
She found herself swaying slowly as he danced her smoothly around. Without opening her eyes, she knew who he was, a Cowboy . . . a very special cowboy.
She barely came up to his chest; even in her high-laced boots, she felt so tiny.
With her head pressed to his chest, she felt and heard his strong comforting heartbeat. Noticing the faint rustle, hot tears filled her eyes. It could be only one thing — taffeta . . . a deep Midnight Blue; her best friend had sewn it for her a few years ago. Her (stepping out!) dress they had dubbed it with a girlish giggle. It hung in her closet for a while now gathering dust.
Holding her breath, she chanced a peek. Yes . . . It was He! Very handsome indeed.
Eyes dark-hazel — almost black. Raven black hair combed back but for a small wave that fell gently across his forehead, accentuating his long sooty lashes, so very captivating. His tan chiseled face and sensuous lips all added to the intensity of the moment. Complex emotions held in check vibrated from him.
The music ended; he let her go, backing away but held her one hand gently. Placing his free hand behind his back, then raising her hand, he brushed a kiss over her fingertips, bowing to her in a chivalrous gallant flourish. With pearly white teeth flashing, the deepest dimples one could imagine went all the way to where a twinkle lit those deep dark eyes.
In answered to his gesture, she curtseyed demurely. “Thank You . . . Kind Sir.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Ma’am.” Those soft-spoken words, so refined and very gentlemanly. With great ease, he led her to a blue velvet chair beside a huge stone fireplace. Settling into its comforting warmth, various scents wafting on the air surrounded her — wood smoke, coal oil lamps, leather . . . and musk.
“A-are you all right?”
This voice held a hint of hesitation.
Blinking to better focus, she whispered, “Just a little flustered.” Her vision back in focus, she took in the new face, already knowing it. Big doe eyes, sparkling green specks mixed with gold bronze, true hazel. Thick curly lashes complete with riotous soft brown curls tumbling over his creased brow. Slimmer and smaller than the raven-haired cowboy, an incredible boyish face bordering on angelic finished the vision. Pristine white shirt set off by a black string tie added to his youthful appearance. A deep breath drawn in and slowly exhaled saw her recovered enough to continue.
“I’m fine now, thank you.”
Still looking a bit unsure, he stood back as if seeking approval.
“Don’t look so worried.” Feeling his discomfort, she smiled kindly. Returning her smile with a flashy grin that enhanced his boyish features, he offered her his hand.
Once on her feet, they stepped back into the great room as music began to float on the air, this time a beautiful, spirited waltzing tempo. His arm around her waist, they laughed gaily as he swept her along effortlessly, light as a feather. The skirt of her dress billowed out as they danced. The fading music left her slightly breathless and just a bit dizzy.
“Hey Little Brother you take it easy, I want my turn too ya know!”
“Ohh my!” A giggle escaped as her hands flew to her mouth.
A booming western drawl filled the room, as did the frame from which it came. His face blushed up into his wispy blond hair. Big blue eyes crinkled as the huge mountain of a man shyly smiled. An overwhelming aura of gentleness and tenderness radiated from his every fiber.
As before, the young cowboy bowed courteously, winking at her as he also brushed her fingertips, stepping aside. Her reply mirrored the first a deep curtsey and quiet, “Thank You.”
Her next partner, not quite sure what to do next, stood looking down on her so very shy, overly aware of her size, his hand swallowing hers as though a toddler’s.
After a moment, she offered, “Well, shall we dance?”
Music again filled the room; slowly he took her hand, somewhat apprehensively, as if fearing she might shatter.
“I’m not really that fragile.” The assurance once again brought a blush to his sweet face. He continued to hold her gingerly at a respectable distance, although he beamed as they danced. More of a slow walk, it was very obvious that he working hard at being careful concentrating on not stepping on her toe or dress.
“You are exactly what I always knew you would be, and it is an honor to have this dance with you.”
“Awwww, shucks, I ain’t so good at this,” he offered
“No apology needed. It is what I see in your heart that counts.”
All too soon, the music began to fade away. The room grew darker as they stood together. Drawing in some much-needed breaths, she tried to quell her now racing heart.
It was then she heard it.
“May I have the pleasure of the Last Dance?”
Warmth filled the room as the deep voice, velvety smoothed, compelled her to turn and look.
There he was off to her left. Deep brown eyes steady, unwavering, holding such comfort. Silver hair matching the silver brocade vest.
He radiated strength; his smile tender, reassuring. Drawn into his eyes, engulfing her entire being with un-believable feelings of protection and perfection.
Those eyes and features held her mesmerized as he extended his large warm hand — rough, strong and yet so very soft. His mere touch sent a shiver, along with a warm glow, coursing through her all at once.
Stepping up to her, towering over her, he folded her in his arms. Her hand could not reach his shoulder so it rested as close as she could get. Her right hand was clasped in his, folded against his heart; she found her own in step with each beat, holding her almost hypnotically. Time stood still.
“Soon?” It came out as a whisper.
“Don’t think; right now, let’s just dance.” The deep resonant voice tingled her very soul and kindled a flame in her like none other.
Soft strains of “Amazing Grace” filtered back in. Gradually, the soft glow of the coal oil lamps dimmed, yet the light still reflected in his eyes. They danced slowly around the room; he moved her with gentle effortless grace, never taking his eyes off her, drawing her in, deeper and deeper. Floating again, she felt she was drifting away back to another time and place. Slowly, slowly they continued to dance. Total darkness crept in as the lamps went out, no longer able to see him, only the feel of his warm hands, his closeness, his smell — soap, man, and bay rum. Music continued to echo further and further away. Her hands slipping back to her side, face now glowing with an aura of serenity, lips parting, a slow sigh let her last breath of air out. A single tear slid from the corners of her eyes. “I got to dance with a Cowboy.” She laid quiet heart stilled.
In a far dark corner, four unseen shadows nodded.
“Did I just hear music?”
“That was odd.”
Those holding the vigil now gave her a last kiss and filed out. The nurse shut off the monitor, the green light faded, the flat line disappeared.
Four figures emerged from the corner to place their own tender kisses on her forehead. “Welcome home.” Then vanished like vapor into the night air.
Looking around, the nurse shrugged and covering the still form, shut off the light, closing the door behind her.