This short is based on the first half of the song “The Bitter Suite I: Meeting Ms. Leading and Through the Dime“
“What’s your name?”
The patter of rain on cobbles almost drowned out his words. Rain ran in rivulets between stones along gutters, drowning the world with wind-swept sheets. Overhead, the smog of industry mingled with the grey of storm clouds.
His clothes clung to his body, every fibre soaked. The heavens had opened the moment he had stepped from the train. It smelled different – this rain wasn’t the same as had fallen on his home by the river. It was somehow acrid, dirty, corrupted.
She had emerged from the downpour as if the rain parted before her. A small umbrella, clutched in glove hands, protected golden hair. Twisting this way and that, dancing between the crowd, she had appeared before him. The bitter smell of polluted rain was replaced with the scent of spring – fruits, flowers, lavender.
She wore a blue linen dress, bound by a black sash at the waist. A light scarf, speckled by drops of moisture, rested lightly on her shoulders and neck. She had a silhouette to serenade the soul and one which lifted all his worries in an instance. A welcome loneliness fell upon him – her gaze was like a spotlight, clearing the stage to bathe him in attention. These two actors were, in his world, the only ones in existence.
Her words washed over him, running over his nerves. A summer’s smile and winter’s skin. She had taken his hand – a gesture implying an answer he did not have.
She had spoken softly, sadly. The man, more a boy, was untainted by the sobering reality of the City. He was strong, in both body and soul, she could see it. A small flame in world both numb and cold. Breathe in, breathe out, she had thought. Let them all fold.
She could feel the crushing weight of this façade on her shoulders, the filth and the ire and the lechery of her profession and its sinful home. His eyes had darted to its lights, its garish paintings, its shining silver sign. Hearts finish in this place, she thought. Here is where love decays.
She held his hand tighter as they descended into the belly of the beast, through its doors and its perfumed curtains. She danced, twirling in his grip. Breathe in. Breathe out. She could feel his trembles. She carried him, endearing, past tableaus and last days and scenes of mercantile lust. All the while she prayed that the masked proprietor, the twin of sin, would not see her.
Finally, through a final set of doors, she laid him down. She asked if he needed a rest, somewhere to stay the night. The boy, drenched and wide-eyed, could simply nod. Naïve, blissfully trusting, innocent. How had such a man ended up in such a place?
She tossed the damp umbrella to the floor. With practised ease the binding at her waist came loose.
Lace by lace she revealed herself to him until at last, in the dimming light of a waning candle, they fell together.