It's a gentle piece.
Guitar chords that register a little low, a little deep, but it's all tender and it sort of carries the listener away. It seems to defy metaphorical gravity, tugging the audience up into the clouds and sending them floating off into the lazy mist of a daydream. It's a song of love and fantasy as told by some jazz musician from the heart of New Orleans, Creole if he's anything, and head in the music, seemingly unaware of the environment he's created, the web he's spun. His own self awareness is lost to chords and strings, lost to the hills and valleys of a melody, the nuances of an instrument he's obviously been playing for a while.
The crowd at Ultra Violet eats him up. When jazz night had been introduced a couple of months ago, it'd been hit and miss but once it hit a groove, word got around and it became increasingly difficult to find an empty seat. As the voice of the night, Al Holden fits right in on the jazz scene. His deep, sultry voice blends right in with the dark vibratos and rich baritones. It's such a perfect fit, Marcie Walsh can almost hear it. Even though, he’s sitting next to her at the bar, sipping his soda and stealing french fries when she’s not looking - she is.
Al can practically see the gears turning in her head, knows exactly what she’s thinking, but just to confirm, he swallows the french fry in his mouth, washes the salt from his throat, and slips into his Voice of the Night persona.
"So, should the voice of the night play more jazz?" his mouth tickles the shell of her ear, large hand splaying across the center of back, where he can feel the shudder creeping up her spine.
Al can't help but laugh a little. It hadn't been hard to guess - Marcie was practically an open book, sometimes. Her eyelashes flutter, once, twice, little blonde crescent moons against her cheekbones and a pretty flush stains her face and chest.
"Maybe I will." It's only because she's so damn beautiful, that he agrees. If it had been anyone but Marcie, he would have said no. Hell, he’s dated girls that ended the relationship just because he wouldn’t agree to do something that he’s since done because of Marcie - because she asked him to. “If you dance with me?”
“Al - “ she tries to protest, because dancing isn’t really something she wants to do, especially in front of people, some of whom don’t know how to keep their cruel comments to themselves.
“Nobody’s going to laugh or make fun of you, Marce. I won’t let them.” his hand rubs soothing circles between her shoulder blades. “C'mon. Let's dance.”
His hand slips down her arm and into her smaller hand, interlacing their fingers as he tugs her out of her seat and leads her out onto the dance floor. She looks divine in her black dress, the one with the thin straps and the matching V in the front and the back, the one that makes it clear she is most definitely not wearing a bra. Well, that was going to make things interesting.
“Do you make it a habit of not wearing anything under that dress?” it's not quite his voice of the night persona but it's deep enough to get her attention.
“No,” she blushes again, dipping her head demurely. Her thoughts gather and she gives him a saucier grin as she meets his eyes. “Only for you.”
“You're trouble, Marcie.” Al grins playfully, tugging her in closer and kissing her head.
She giggles - he considers it a win.
He likes to make her blush and giggle and feel pretty. She's insecure, even on her best day, and he knows he's blinded by love because he just doesn't see in all those other girls, what he sees in Marcie. He doesn't see the kindness and the fire and the passion in anyone else. She's worried about looking as pretty and as thin as everyone else when the truth is, he loves her because she doesn't look like everyone else. He loves the softness of her body and her quirky little voice and all those things that make her stand out from everyone else.
He loves her.
And, to the tall, brunette stranger at the bar, it is painfully obvious.
She noticed them when she walked in. Tall, dark, and handsome with the short, curvy blonde. To anyone not looking beyond their outward appearance, one would think they’re a misfit couple. It is not the case, though, not to her. She sees in them, what she wishes she still had with her husband. She supposes she’s not the woman she used to be, after two kids, but her husband couldn’t be bothered to even look at her at all, much less like she sees tall, dark, and handsome looking at his companion.
The little blonde gives his shirt a light tug and he bends down slightly, turning his face into her hair and it’s clear he’s hanging onto every word. Whatever she says, it must be something good because his entire face lights up and a deep laugh carries over the music.
“Rum, on the rocks.” the bartender calls her attention away from the dancing couple.
The alcohol burns a warm trail down her throat and washes away, if only for a moment, the thoughts of her husband and how he doesn’t look at her, anymore. She refuses to dwell on those moments, choosing instead to focus on the alcohol and how warm it is in her throat.
When she looks at them, again, tall, dark and handsome is whispering something in his companion’s ear. She’s flushed and the woman can clearly see a hand fisted in the lapel of his black shirt. They’re clearly lost in their own little world, everything else around them fading out.
“We’re being watched, Marce.” Al laughs quietly into Marcie’s ear. “Woman at the bar.”
Marcie glances over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of the brunette at the bar that is, indeed watching them. She’s older, obviously, and watching them with something of a wistful smile on her face. “Why is she watching us?”
“Who knows, baby.” he kisses her head, smiling into her hair. “Think she sees it?”
“Sees what, Al?”
His dark eyes are bright when he meets hers, and his smile is tender as he leans his forehead against hers; “Sees how much I love you.”
Marcie brushes a gentle hand down the side of his face and leans up to kiss him, again. The ‘I love you,too’ is unspoken. They don’t really need words, anymore. They’ve been through so much together - Al’s drug addiction, Marcie being hazed, and a staph infection that had almost cost Marcie the love of her life. But yet, here they were, alive and together and that’s all they really needed, anymore.
“They’re cute, huh?”
“Yes, they are.” she spins on her stool, picking up her rum. “Very cute.”
“Yeah. They’ve been through hell.” the bartender leans on his elbows, dragging a hand through his ruffled blond hair. “The girl - that’s Marcie Walsh. She was targeted by Deke Carter and his idiot friends. I’m sure you saw it, the hazing case at Llanview University. It was all over the news.”
“I did.” oh yes - she remembers the case. A fraternity had lost its charter, several of them had been arrested for possession of an illegal substance, and a sorority had lost its charter soon after, with a few girls expelled and the other dispersing to various other sororities. “I didn’t realize that was her, though. They never said her name.”
“Yeah, that guy dancing with her - that’s Al Holden.” he watches them for a moment. “Honestly, I don’t know if Marcie would’ve made it without him.”
She just smiles.
Of that, she has no doubt. Even without the bartender telling her what he knew of their story, she'd have to be blind to miss how they're so intimately intertwined. Physically and emotionally. There's no codependency, not that she's seen, but rather a loyalty that she wishes she had more of from her husband. Her observation skills go far beyond the patients that come in her office and she knows what she's seeing on the dance floor.
The quiet conversation. The touches and the adjustments for the way the other moves. The twinkly sort of wonder in their eyes when they look at each other. All of the intimate little things they do that maybe nobody else would notice, but she does. She sees it.
It's devotion, commitment, and being so deeply in love, you're blind to everyone else.
They'll be together for a long time to come.
She's sure of it.