This vignette is from an unfinished urban fantasy of mine that, if I ever return to, I will probably rewrite completely. The plot of the novel was ridiculously complicated, but this scene should speak for itself…
It was a clear night in Las Vegas, and the Strip lay like a tangle of stars under their hotel balcony. Tourists bustled through the streets in colorful streams, entering one casino drunk and then coming out moreso. Cars gleamed with the flashing lights of the signs and showcases all around them. Girls giggled and men chuckled. The echoes of soft jazz and a bombastic symphony battled in the air. The spotlight of the Luxor pyramid shot into heaven like a laser zapping the moon.
Carmen laughed softly, pulling away from the railing and out of the lashing breeze. Her dark brown curls settled against the curves of her evening gown. Her black eyes twinkled as she turned them on Joel. “I forgot how magical it feels out here on the Strip,” she sighed. “Thanks for bringing me here, Joel. I guess I needed a vacation more than I thought.”
“I knew it would do you some good.” He reached up and brushed a stray curl from her cheek. His hand lingered on the curve of her jaw.
She laughed again, her voice a crystalline chime in the night air. “Oh, but you hate it here, don’t you? What was that you called the Strip one time? ‘The street of the walking dead?’”
Joel grimaced. “I’m not great with words.” He gripped her neck gently. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter what I think right now.” He brushed her lips with a kiss.
She became stiff in his grasp. Her eyes searched his desperately. “Why’d you bring me here, Joel?”
“I … I, uh …” He forced a gulp down his throat. “I needed a vacation, too, I guess.”
“Maybe.” She laughed nervously. “Not here, though. Being here feels more like work to you, doesn’t it?”
“Maybe, but I wanted it to feel magical. For you, anyway.”
He leaned away from her, but continued to grip her hand. His heart thudded painfully in his chest. His palm became slippery against hers. Fear burned up from his belly, clenching his throat. What he was about to do terrified him. But he couldn’t back down. Not now. Not this time. He had to stay strong.
“Carmen … I love you very much.”
“I love you too, Joel.”
Then why did she sound so anxious? “The last few years with you have been a … blur. A good blur, I mean. A blend of great times and bad ones.”
He cursed under his breath. His speech wasn’t coming out the way he imagined it, but there was no going back now. He forged onwards. “What I’m trying to say is, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in life. Both of us lead very busy lives. We care a lot about our jobs. And our jobs are important. But being with you has reminded me that some things are, well, more important.”
His tongue felt like a block in his mouth. God, he really was terrible at speeches! He decided to stop now before he embarrassed himself further.
He began to lower to one knee.
Within the hotel room, Carmen’s cell phone rang.
Joel froze, his knee still hovering above the balcony floor. Carmen’s fingers tightened around his.
The phone rang again.
“I, uh … I better get that,” said Carmen. “That ring tone means Lucy.”
Her fingers slipped from his sweaty palms. She hurried through the sliding doors and into the cool air of their hotel room. She grabbed her cell phone at the last ring and swept it up to her ear. “Hello? Carmen here. Hello? Oh, Lucy! Thank God it’s you.”
Joel finished sinking to his knee, now for a much different reason.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s going well … Romantic? I guess so … I’m not really sure why, to tell you the truth.”
Joel twisted his head to glare at her, but Carmen turned her back to him. She lowered her voice into the cell phone.
“Come on, just tell me how Josephine is doing … Oh my God, who the hell switched her medication? … Damn that Harriet, I knew I couldn’t trust her! … No, you were right to call me, you were right. I can’t thank you enough, really. Put Josephine back on the meds I subscribed. Increase the dosage to 500 milligrams. If Harriet doesn’t cooperate tell her I haven’t finished her evaluation yet. You just tell her that. Thanks, Lucy. I know, I know. See you Monday.”
Carmen hung up and flung the phone onto the bed with a growl.
Joel got up and walked into the hotel room. They regarded each other a moment, silently.
“That was Lucy,” said Carmen.
“That stupid Harriet is screwing everything up, like I knew she would.”
Carmen wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. “It’s cold in here, huh? Let’s go on a walk. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Magical, maybe.”
He gnashed his teeth together.