|Posted on June 4, 2010 at 2:47 AM|
Author's Note: This story is based on a well-known Chicago "urban legend." Is it true? Perhaps we'll never know for sure.
She sure loves to dance, thought George. He watched the beautiful, waif-like girl across the room from him, gliding gracefully back and forth on the dance floor in tune with the music of the band; sometimes with a partner, sometimes alone. But at all times, she was caught up in her own private wistful world, gliding and sliding, stepping daintily, and paying little heed to her surroundings. George thought she was exquisite.
George studied her from a distance. In all the times he had been to the Willowbrook Ballroom on Archer Avenue, he had never seen a more beautiful creature. She had bright white hair, cut in a short, sassy bob, which belied her shy, aloof nature. She was young and slim, and wore a white party dress that somehow seemed old fashioned despite its revealingly low cut neckline and high hemline. Her blue eyes were wide and doe-like, and were generally glancing shyly downward toward the floor. He decided that he had to talk to her.
He made his way through the crowd to where she was dancing alone in a corner. The graceful gyrations of her shoulders and hips were incredibly erotic. "Excuse me," George said politely. "Would you care to dance?"
The girl didn't say a word, but melted into his arms and began gliding across the floor with him. George, who considered himself a moderately skilled dancer, felt himself in the presence of an expert. He let her delicate hands guide him, subtly, as they slid across the floor together.
As the song ended, the girl turned to go. George held her tight. "Please," he said. "One more."
Without a word, the girl was back in his arms, and they continued their magical journey around the room. George marveled at her beauty, her sadness and solitude, and the grace of her dancing. He could have held her forever. After three more songs, though, she broke away without a word. He stared after her.
George danced with a few of the other girls, but his attention was always riveted on the blond waif-like girl. She danced with some of the other fellows, and frequently danced alone, but never settled down with a special partner. When the time for the last dance arrived, George managed to be standing next to her.
"May I?" he asked suavely, holding out his hand. Then her slight form, so warm and soft and delicate, was once again in his arms, and the magic began all over again. The last song seemed to continue forever; George thought that he was in heaven, holding an angel in his embrace as they danced across the sky. But eventually it ended.
"Thank you," she said shyly, as she attempted to pull away.
"Wait!" said George, holding her hand tightly. "At least tell me your name?"
"Mary," she said softly, over her shoulder, as she pulled her hand free of his grip and scampered from the dance floor.
George stood there, staring after her as her slim figure disappeared through the double doors of the dance hall. But only for a moment. He didn't want to lose this magical creature. He ran after her, and caught up with her in the parking lot. She was walking slowly toward the sidewalk along Archer Avenue.
"Wait! Mary!" he called as he ran after her . She didn't turn around until he had caught up with her and touched her shoulder. "Are you planning to walk home? Can I offer you a ride?"
She looked briefly at the ground, then raised her beautiful doe-like eyes to his. Momentarily, their eyes locked. "Okay. Thank you," she said quietly. Then she stood on her tip-toes and kissed his cheek. She took his hand, and George led her to his car, his mind swirling.
George opened the passenger door for her, and she daintily took her seat. Walking around to his side, he started the engine. "Where do you live?" he asked.
"Just up Archer Avenue a few miles," she said, staring straight ahead.
As George drove, he attempted to adopt a jaunty, casual tone. "So, Mary. I enjoyed dancing with you tonight. Will I see you here again?" He stared at her. But Mary was merely staring out the window in silence, a tremendous sadness in her eyes. It was as if she didn't even know he was there. Her sadness, her shyness, and her great beauty were breaking his heart.
George had been told by more than one of his friends that he had a "Galahad complex;" a pathological need to rescue the "damsel in distress." But this time, it wasn't that. He was sure it wasn't. This exquisite creature was truly worthy of his love, not his pity. And he intended to do all he could to see that she shared his feelings.
As he drove, he drank in the beauty of her shining white hair, her delicate nose, her large, wide-set blue eyes. Her tiny chin and long graceful neck. He noted the deep plunge of her cleavage behind her old-fashioned lacy party dress, and the creaminess of her thighs below her skirt. Yes, he thought, this woman was a gift, sent by the gods just for him.
"Mary?" he whispered, hoping to engage her in conversation. He wanted to know all about her; her past, her present, her hopes and dreams.
It took a long time for her to reply. "Thank you for the ride," she finally said softly. "It's the first house past the cemetery. On the left."
George looked to the left of the road. They were just passing the tall iron gates of Resurrection Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Chicago, full of fine old marble monuments and granite headstones. He stared at it for a few seconds. He had always thought it was one of the creepier places in town.
Turning back toward the passenger seat, George received the shock of his life: There was nobody there! He slammed on his brakes, screeching the car to a halt. Passing cars honked angrily at him, and he quickly pulled off to the side of the road. He sat there for a few moments in a cold sweat.
George looked around. Back seat: nothing. Out all the windows: nothing. He peered up and down the road: nothing. He even got out of the car and walked around it twice. No sign of the beautiful waif-like girl he'd danced with. He got back in the car and sat in stunned silence for ten minutes.
Finally, he regained his composure. If he was crazy, so be it. He'd be crazy. But he had to find out what was going on. She had said she lived in the first house past the cemetery. He got back on the road and drove to the house; a fine old greystone with a columned porch and a nice lawn. He pulled into the driveway, walked up to the front door, and rang the bell.
A nicely dressed older woman answered the door. She stared at George. "Yes?"
"Excuse me, ma'am," he stammered. "I'm not sure why I'm here. I was giving a young lady a ride home, and she said this was her house. But she, umm, disappeared before we got here." He looked up at her sheepishly, knowing how stupid his story sounded.
But the woman was not offended, and did not even seem surprised. "Come with me," she said. She led him into the parlor.
There on the fireplace mantel was a collection of photographs in silver frames. The woman pointed out one in particular, an old faded photo of a pretty young girl in a party dress.
"That's her!" exclaimed George, his head swimming again. He looked at the woman in wonder.
"That's our daughter, Mary," she explained. "She died thirty years ago. She loved to dance. One night, she was walking home from the ballroom, and was killed by a hit-and-run driver out on Archer Avenue." George's head spun even faster. "We buried her at Resurrection," she said.
George stared at the old woman, his eyes wide, wondering why she could speak so matter-of-factly about the incident.
"You aren't the first young man to come here with the same story," said Mary's mother, as if she were reading his thoughts. "That girl sure loved to dance."
George thanked the old woman and returned to his car. He sat there, knuckles white on the steering wheel, for what seemed like an hour. Finally, he started the engine, and drove back to the main gates of the cemetery. As he parked the car at the curb, he thought that he saw a slim figure, ghostly and insubstantial, dressed in white, behind the bars of the iron gate. But by the time he exited the car and walked to the gate, there was no one there.
He tried to open the gates, but they were firmly locked. He studied them, looking for a way to open them without a key. There was none, but he did notice a small pair of hand prints, gripping the bars of the gate, four feet above the ground. They could easily have been made by the dainty hands of a slim young girl.
Encouraged, George grabbed the bars of the gate as high as he could reach, and pulled himself up. Grunting and huffing, he managed to pull himself up over the top of the gates, and dropped down to the ground on the other side. He stared at the dark, silent grounds, illuminated only by the widely spaced street lights along Archer Avenue, and the full moon.
He walked slowly into the cemetery, along the silent pathways, past the granite headstones and the tall marble monuments. He saw no one, but he kept walking. Presently, he called out. "Mary!" he hissed into the darkness. "Mary! Are you here?" The stones and the monuments watched him in silence. But he kept walking, and periodically hissing. He thought about Mary, her delicate beauty, and the deep sadness of her eyes. And he thought about how wonderful she had felt in his arms as they danced.
The moon was full and high in the western sky, but soon it would be setting. George felt that he must find Mary before the sun rose, or he would never see her again. As he wandered through the cemetery grounds, he thought he heard faint sounds of singing coming from his left. He followed them.
As he crested a hill, he saw a silhouette against the full moon. It was a slender young woman, dancing and pirouetting, arms extended, spinning on her toes and humming wistfully to herself. She was surrounded by tall granite stones, casting deep moon shadows all around her. He approached her in a trance.
When he was close enough, he could make out her large doe eyes, her delicate chin. Her faded white party dress was nearly translucent, as was her body; he could see the stones behind her clearly through them. She saw him, and extended her arms, motioning him forward.
George broke into a run, and soon he was in Mary's arms. They embraced and whirled, and danced back and forth among the stones, under the bone-white moon. They kissed. George was in heaven. The moon grew larger and larger, obscuring all else in his vision, except for the exquisite beauty of Mary's face. Soon all that he knew was her beauty, her sadness, and the bone-white light of the full moon, engulfing them both. He felt that he could dance with her forever, that she was his destiny. The girl sure loved to dance, and he loved dancing with her.
The next morning, the cemetery caretaker came to open the office and unlock the great iron gates. As he turned his key in the lock, he happened to catch sight of some slight shadows on the bars of the gate. There in the middle of the gates were two pairs of handprints: a small, delicate pair, as of those of a young girl, about four feet from the ground. On each side of those, on the next set of bars outward, were a larger, stronger pair of handprints, those of a man, surrounding the inner pair, as if in an eternal, loving embrace.