Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Black Velvet Ribbon

I never speak to people on the plane.  I'm always between some guy who smells like feet and that lady who wants to talk about Stampin' Up! or Creative Memories.  But, this last time, I got Mr. Rock Star and a group of 30 year old moms on their first trip away since having kids.  Thank God they were all fun.

I noticed our flight attendant was wearing a thin black velvet ribbon around her neck.  She was tall and thin, with a graceful neck.  The ribbon stood out.

I chuckled without being able to help it.  Rock Star wanted to know what was so funny.  I pointed out the ribbon, and reminded him of a "horror story" from my youth.  He laughed, too.  30 Year Old Mom wanted to know what was up.  I told her, too.  She said I was mean.  But, she told her friends.  They all laughed and the peer pressure turned her to my side.  Excellent.

The flight attendant was headed our way.

"Fasten your seatbelts," she told us (well, me), "we can't pull away from the gate until everyone is ready."

Scolded, we settled into our seats and prepared for takeoff.  A few giggles continued from my new friends as our flight attendant continued back up the aisle.  I had to raise my voice a bit to make myself heard over the roar of the jet engines, but I continued to relate the story to the people around me...

She was beautiful in a strange, mysterious way. Her hair and her deep bottomless eyes were as black as the velvet ribbon around her neck. He planned to ask her for a cup of coffee after the "fasten seat belt" sign was once again turned off.  At 10,000 feet, the pilot allowed us to move around the cabin, which meant "beverage service" would soon begin... 

He watched her walked towards him up the long aisle. She was dressed in a white uniform blouse, black pants, and pushed a white cart of complementary snacks. Even her face was ivory white. But below it, around the ivory neck, was the black velvet ribbon. He remembered staring at that ribbon as he boarded the plane, struggling to look backward as he was ushered through the front of the plane, on his way to poor man's first class: the exit row aisle seat.

He was not the only one who's eyes were drawn to the black velvet ribbon.  He remembered the curious and shocked looks on the faces of the other passengers.  But then his eyes met hers, and he was drowning in their bottomless darkness.

He didn't think of the velvet ribbon during the rest of his flight. She provided wonderful service, and if people thought she was a bit strange, they kept that to themselves.  During the flight, she took several opportunities to chat; during one such chat, he learned that she had an overnight stay in my destination.  They agreed to meet for dinner, later that night.

That night, when she arrived, she was as mysteriously beautiful as before, elegantly dressed in deep blue and black, but with the ribbon still there, still circling her lovely neck.

"You look stunning, So different out of uniform.  I recognized you by that beautiful ribbon.  It's a good thing you didn't take it off.  Or, maybe you never take it off?" he asked, hoping his question was a needless one.

"You'll be sorry if I do," she answered coyly and with a slight smirk, "so I won't."

Her answer intrigued him, but he did not question her further. It was the first date, there was plenty of time for her to change her ways

Their life together fell into a pleasant pattern. They were happy, as most new couples are. He found her to be a perfect girlfriend... well, nearly perfect. Although she had a great number of outfits and wore a different one whenever was in town, she never changed the black velvet ribbon. This ribbon was her trademark.  But eventually it became the test of their relationship. When he looked at her, his eyes would always fall to her neck. When he kissed her, he could feel the ribbon tightening around his own throat.

"Won't you please take that ribbon from around your neck?" he asked her time and time again.

"You'll be sorry if I do, so I won't." This was always her answer. At first it teased him. Then it began to grate on his nerves. Now it was beginning to infuriate him.

"You'll be sorry if I do."

"You'll be sorry if I do."

One day he tried to pull the ribbon off after she had repeated her answer, like a mechanical doll. It wouldn't come loose from her neck. He realized then, for the first time, that the ribbon had no beginning and no end. It circled her neck like a band of steel. He had drawn back from her in disgust that day. Things weren't the same with them after that.  When he drove her to the airport, they rode in silence.  He sat at the white curb, staring silently into space, until airport security ushered him along.

Her first morning back, at the breakfast table, the black ribbon seemed to mock him as he drank his suddenly bitter coffee. In the afternoon, outside, the ribbon made a funeral out of the sunlight. But it was at night when it bothered him the most. He knew he could live with it no longer.

"Either take that ribbon off, or I will," he said one night to his girlfriend of only four weeks.

"You'll be sorry if I do, so I won't." She smiled at him, and then fell off to sleep.

But he did not sleep. He lay there, staring at the hated ribbon. He had meant what he said. If she would not take off the ribbon, he would.

As she lay sleeping and unsuspecting, he crept out of bed and over to the dresser drawer. He had seen a pair of scissors in there. It was small enough, he knew, to slip between the velvet ribbon and her soft neck. Gripping the scissors in his trembling hands, he walked softly back to the bed. He came up to where she lay and stood over her. Her head was thrown back on the pillow, and her throat with the black velvet ribbon around it rose ever so slightly with her breathing.

He bent down, and with one swift movement, he forced the thin blade of the scissors under the ribbon. Then with a quick, triumphant snip, he severed the ribbon that had come between them.

The black velvet ribbon fell away from her neck....her head rolled off the bed and landed on the floor with a thump. She was muttering, "You'll be sorry, you'll be sorry......."

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