excerpt from
Not All a Dream
by Sophia Kell Hagin

I had a dream, which was not all a dream,
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless; and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day…

—from Darkness, 1816
by George Gordon, Lord Byron


Chapter One
The way I would love her

I never liked the company Christmas party, an optional event I nevertheless felt obliged to attend since everyone would be there and absences were noted—as in (typically with one eyebrow arching askance) “Oh gee, I didn’t see you Friday night…”

The company spent some bucks on these shindigs. Upper-crusty hotel ballroom, open bar, nonpoisonous hors d’oeuvres, live band. Two hundred people dressing up to party on down. If I’d been into penalty-free boozing and flirting with men, I might’ve enjoyed it. But I wasn’t, and I didn’t.

So I sidled in late to nurse a glass of chardonnay and nibble bacon-wrapped dates and cheese straws through perfunctory chats with the people I saw daily (most pointedly my boss and my boss’s boss) before departing as inconspicuously as possible for the Saints, the downtown dive bar where I recovered by dancing with my own kind—acquaintances and strangers alike—until closing. For four years of company Christmas parties, I did this.

The fifth year was no different—except for the eye-catching stranger who stood at the far side of the ballroom. Each time I glanced at her, I found her gazing back at me with a slight smile while, leggy-tall and graceful in a sleek black dress, she conducted conversations that inspired men and women alike to laugh and, every now and then, daintily dare to brush her forearm. A newbie from the Framingham facility, I figured, made curious by the customary welcoming gossip about, among other things, the Lesbian.

I forced my eyes to quickly move on, unsure afterward if she was really as attractive as others’ deference and my glimpses alleged. Once when she looked over at me, out of politeness I did kind of smile back, but she never came by to talk—and, as the only dyke in Hetville, I knew better than to rile the boys by approaching one of theirs.

As usual on company Christmas party night, I left as soon as I reasonably could and drove directly to the Saints, arriving overdressed, relieved to be liberated, and hoping to bump into somebody, anybody willing to share a joint in the alley out back. I was in luck, too; the place was full of familiar faces, and DJ Donna’s picks kept me boogying.

Hanging with the usual crew, I happened to be standing with my back to the dance floor when, from somewhere among the undulating women behind me, came a tiny tap on my shoulder and a voice I didn’t recognize—“Hi there…”

As I turned, at first I didn’t recognize her face either. She’d robbed me of context by changing from sleek black dress into jeans and a long-sleeved blue T-shirt that matched her eyes and celebrated her perfect B cups.

“Will you dance with me?” she asked.

When she smiled, a little self-consciously this time, I smiled back (again), said, “Sure,” and stepped toward her. Without another word, we began to move together, to sync up. I didn’t yet know her name, but I already understood that I would never love anyone the way I would love her.

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Not All a Dream

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Not All a Dream by Sophia Kell Hagin
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