It was the time of night when the drinks blurred together, and out on the makeshift dance floor of the backyard wedding, David’s daughter, the bride, danced past with the groom, and David’s ex-wife Annie twirled past him with her new husband. The way she smiled at the husband made David walk to the nearest table and set down his drink.
He crossed the dance floor, through bodies swaying slowly as the specks of yellow light cast by the disco ball endlessly looped the room. He reached the husband and jabbed two fingers to his shoulder, harder than he meant. “My turn,” David said.
Annie stepped away and her husband followed, leaving David standing there. It reminded him of when she first left him. He didn’t have the will to fight it, back then.
But tonight. David followed the husband and jabbed him again. This time he turned to David, his face flushed.
“You really want to do this?” the husband said. “Really? Here?” A purple vein pulsed in his temple.
“This is my family,” David said. “My wife.”
“Was your wife,” the husband said. “My wife now.”
“I get that,” David said. “No shit.” It felt good to say this, to swear. David lifted his chin. “No shit!” He yelled it up into the sprawling white canopy. A couple of people glanced over.
Annie was before David then, unexpectedly in his arms, negotiating them, pulling one around her, grabbing his other hand with hers.
“You really want to dance with me?” she hissed. “Let’s dance.”
She stepped backward and yanked David with her, three long steps and a step to the side, paused to rock back and forth. She stepped back and did it again, pulling David with her, and this time he remembered the steps from their own wedding, the movement and rhythm, and he picked up with her as if in a dream, as if years could melt away, with nameless, interchangeable relatives under the same white canopy, under the same starlit sky.
Then the hope came rushing in. It caught in his throat and he swallowed. He pulled her closer and she let him. He stepped forward and led her around the floor in the same steps they had memorized so many years ago. For a moment he closed his eyes to pretend they hadn’t lost all they had lost. In his mind he said one word: Please.
There was a tap on his shoulder. Light. David assumed it was the husband, so he shrugged it off.
“My turn,” a voice said. “Dad.”
David stopped dancing and turned to see Caitlyn there, all grown up in her white dress. He stepped aside and thought that she meant to dance with him, but Caitlyn instead grabbed her mother, kissed her cheek. The two women embraced, smiled, and Annie shrugged a secret shrug that made them both giggle. As they spun away, laughing, David realized he could only watch.
Jennifer Kircher Carr’s fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and is published in numerous literary journals, including The Rumpus, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Hobart, Alaska Quarterly, Literary Orphans, Jellyfish Review, and The Nebraska Review, where it also won the Fiction Prize. Her non-fiction is published in Ploughshares online, North American Review online, and Poets & Writers, among others. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of linked fiction, which includes this story.