Akira dips under my arm and twirls to face me again. She throws her head back in laughter as I put my hand back on her waist and we sashay across the dance floor. Her cheeks are bright pink, her coal-lined almond eyes shining, and she kisses me as the song ends. As the band segues to a slower ballad, she puts her cheek to mine and closes her eyes as we continue around the dance floor.
The hotel ballroom has been transformed for my company’s holiday party. Glittering snowflakes hang from the ceiling. Garland winds itself around the four pine trees that stand guard in the corners of the room, twinkling white lights hang from the branches, and blue and silver orbs dangle artfully. Atop each tree is a silver star that seems to sparkle in the dim lighting of the ballroom.
The song ends and another begins. Akira is tired and we return to our table, glasses half full of wine sit waiting and the others from our group are still on the dance floor. She looks at me and smiles, a soft sheen of sweat visible at the edge of her cotton candy wig. It’s the biggest smile I’ve seen on her face in months.
That morning she hadn’t wanted to get out of bed.
“Go without me.” She mumbled with her head buried beneath the covers. “I don’t feel well.”
I stood at the end of the bed and pulled the down comforter off her. She curled into a ball and stuck her head under the pillow.
“You should come. ” I told her. “It’ll be fun.”
“I look sick. I don’t want people looking at me with pity.”
I left her there and went to the kitchen to make a phone call. Forty-five minutes later I had encouraged Akira to at least move to the couch to watch a movie and there was a knock at the door. Akira watched me with suspicion as I got up to answer the door, and returned with Ellie.
“Follow me.” Ellie said with a smile as she led Akira into our bedroom, carrying a small suitcase of make-up with her.
Now I look across the pale blue tablecloth, and she knows that I am thinking about this morning.
“She did a pretty good job, huh?” Akira says. “I don’t even look sick.”
“You look amazing.” I say. “Absolutely beautiful.”