The bandoneón grinds out a sultry Piazzolla tune, and Consuela chassés across the dance floor in leather evening gloves and smoky Chanel sunglasses, like she’s forbidden fruit. We swoon along the back wall, expanding and contracting in our Amish pencil skirts and Mary-jane slippers, studying her every move. Our parents willing us home before curfew. Consuela knows we watch.
On the beach the following afternoon, Consuela is flexing her long legs like a grasshopper, toning and sculpting in an itsy-bitsy polka-dot string bikini atop her vintage Hermès picnic blanket. The sizzling mid-afternoon rays sweeten and ripen her, like she’s forbidden fruit. We are sprawled like beached sea lions basking on gritty khaki sand, our clotted-cream skin burning under layers of Oil of Olay, our hair piled high like beehives. We dream of places we’ll never go, boys we’ll never kiss, and gawp at the long line of hungry suitors foraging on her blanket like army ants. Consuela knows we watch.
It is early evening when Consuela slips beneath the silky layer of waves embroiled in ribbons of sea kelp, her skin shimmering and goose-bumped. But we are busy doing calisthenics, jumping jacks and burpees in stretchy-knit bloomers and daisy-pink headbands; the hand-crank radio blaring “A Little Less Conversation”. We do not see the puckering of the water, the glassy surface turning velvety-blue. We do notice the olive-skinned dreamboat tearing down the embankment plunging into the breakers after her, like she’s forbidden fruit. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation lasting long into the golden hour. Saturated juicy colours streak across the sky. Consuela knows we watch.
On our way home, we detour through the alley behind the soda shoppe and discover Consuela on her knees, head bobbing. Bad boys lining up around the block. Gasps ball up in our throat. Like viewing a head-on collision and its mangled driver, we cannot avert our gaze. Consuela’s dark curls slip from her Dior headscarf, silk twill and hand-rolled edges wrapped in gold-tone blend and metallic thread shimmer and fade. The swarm of hungry boys taunt and jab. Ferrari-red painted lips kink and bruise. Forbidden fruit are highly sensitive and lose their grandeur with the slightest misapplication of pressure. No one has to tell us to move along. Consuela cranes her neck. The posse, gone.
Karen Schauber’s flash fiction appears in seventy-five international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies, including Bending Genres, Cabinet of Heed, Cease Cows, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, New World Writing, Spelk; and three ‘Best Microfiction’ nominations. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings (Heritage House, 2019), her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology, achieved ‘Silver’ in The Miramichi Reader’s Very Best Book Award for Short Fiction, 2020. She curates Vancouver Flash Fiction–an online resource hub, and Miramichi Flash–a monthly literary column. In her spare time she is a seasoned family therapist. Learn more at https://KarenSchauberCreative.weebly.com and Twitter @KarenSchauber.