Marlene Dietrich’s voice oozed seductively from the speakers. Gracie held the soft cloth of her dressing gown around her neck and closed her eyes. She hummed the words as she swayed gently to the music, letting Marlene’s songs take her away to a time long gone; a time of dreams and romance.
As the last song ran out of breath, Gracie let go too. She sighed and walked over to the window. Looking out at the street she noticed the drizzle had stopped. But with the air still frosty cold, the hurrying, scurrying people puffed trails of misty clouds from their lungs, and steam rose from the grates on the footpath.
Gracie’s apartment was furnished with grand old pieces from the 1940’s, all remnants from her parents. She had an obsession with that era, its films, its music, and its fashions. Gracie was a collector of anything to do with those times, and her walls were lined with framed film posters – “Killers", “Whistle Stop", “Show Boat", “Mogambo", featuring great actresses and actors like Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, and Gregory Peck. She modeled herself on the Grace Kellies and Ava Gardners of the world. She loved the raw sexiness of those women and the dignity with which they’d carried it off. Not that she didn’t appreciate the talents of current-day stars, she just didn’t see the same alluring qualities in them.
She sat at her dressing table and prepared for her date, carefully applying make-up in the style of Ava Gardner. Satisfied with the effect, she combed her hair similarly for the final touch. Gracie didn’t think herself old-fashioned. She was different, an individual, that’s all.
A little dab of Channel No 5 behind each ear, silk stockings, and she was ready for her tailored outfit hanging on the cupboard door. She strapped on her shoes, fetched the matching handbag and draped a silk scarf casually around her neck. Studying herself in the mirror she was pleased. She looked slender and elegant. One item was missing though – her little beret. This she arranged coquettishly on her head. It gave her a cheeky look that she liked. Everything else she needed was in her handbag. She picked up her keys and locked the apartment door behind her. This was her pattern every Thursday afternoon.
At the tram stop near the Grand Hyatt 18-year old Amanda sat and waited impatiently. She was half frozen in her little short skirt and bare midriff, but after 3 weeks she’d finally plucked up enough courage. Today she was going to ask. What was there to lose? She was shivering and nervous. She checked her watch again. 3:30 pm. She’ll be here soon, she thought. Oh my God, what if she gets angry? What if she’s offended? Doubt crept in. No, I must!
The tram came to a halt and Amanda’s heart beat faster as she watched the passengers disembark. Oh, how gorgeous! Such an eccentric old woman! I simply can’t miss this opportunity. She watched as the woman drew closer, all prim and proper and clad in her purple outfit. Amanda smiled as she studied the woman’s wrinkled old face with its dolly-red cheeks, heavy eye-make up, and ruby-red lipstick bleeding into the creases around the rim of her lips. That purple beret, askance on the silver hair, was more than any artist could resist! But the old woman walked with such great grace and dignity about her, that the whole image just became a delight to see. Amanda had watched Gracie for the last few weeks and was smitten by her. She felt compelled to capture this woman on canvas. She wanted to draw her, and to photograph her!
“Excuse me please?" Amanda said as Gracie passed by.
Gracie stopped. She wondered if this girl was going to ask her for money. A pretty girl, she thought as she looked at Amanda. “Yes Dear? Can I help you?"
Amanda stuttered a little, not quite knowing how to ask. Then she blurted, “I’m sorry……this is a little embarrassing, but my name is Amanda Jenkins and I’m a Fine Arts student. I’ve seen you a few times now and I would really love to draw you. We only ever get young models………….but I’d love to do something different and I think you’d make a wonderful study!"
“Oh my! I’m surprised. Dear me!" Gracie was taken aback, but flattered at the same time. “My name is Gracie. Amanda…….your name is Amanda, isn’t it?…….. Well, yes, I think that should be fine. But I need a little time to think about it too, you know. I have an important appointment with someone now though. I’ll be free to talk to you about it later if you like, or another day?"
Amanda was shaking inside from pure excitement. The old woman was not angry! “I understand…er…Gracie. Can I please talk to you again when you come back for your tram at 5:00 pm? I know you normally catch the tram then."
“Of course Dear. That would be a pleasure. But I must be off now or I’ll be late." With that Gracie continued on her way. She was smiling. She was thinking how much they had in common, how neither of them was shackled by convention. This young girl appreciated the Arts, and had the strength to pursue her passion. It would take a lot of guts to approach a total stranger like that, and ask to draw them! Gracie liked Amanda’s spirit. She felt a similarity to her own.
Amanda watched Gracie walk up the street to the corner. She felt so relieved, so elated, so free. She’d finally managed to caste aside her fear. And what a reward!
Gracie felt even more beautiful and elegant now as she made her way to the Grand Hyatt. She certainly didn’t feel 74. Blurry green lights told her it was safe to cross the road. She would, of course, never admit to failing eyesight. But she must hurry along or she’d be late.
As she entered the hotel lobby the hostess greeted her. “Hello Gracie! And how are you? Your usual table today?" She ushered Gracie to the table in the corner, already set with cup and saucer, ordered tea and walked away quietly. Gracie spent the next hour sipping at her tea, chatting softly and intimately to the empty chair opposite her, as she always did. The hostess smiled as she watched, but she would never understand or ever know that these were Gracie’s secret dates with Clark Gable, her long-time lover…….
Word Count: 1100