Lisa & Alice (Short Story)

For the Creative Writing course that I’m enrolled in, we were asked to write a short story with inspiration from a music piece chosen by our module instructor. Can I just say I disliked the song choice? It was Xavier Cugat’s rendition of Perfidia. It’s like an orchestra instrumental music piece. And I just could not. I like instrumental but I don’t like jazz. I really don’t. I had an idea the moment the instructor played it in class. I thought ‘rom-com’. But I had no motivation for a rom-com. It just wasn’t an idea I wanted to develop. And during the week, I had actually read A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall (review coming soon). A Little Something Different was like a rom-com but I didn’t like it.  It’s a love story told from 14 different viewpoints but none of it from the point of view of the two involved. I wanted to do something inspired by external viewpoints of a love story for this music too. So that’s how Lisa & Alice came about but very quickly it became something more than that.

LISA AND ALICE

Alice stops midway in her sentence again. Her eyes fling wide open. She freezes as she does every week.

“He’s here.”

I look behind her at the door.

Yes. Hugh has just walked into the noisy classroom ten minutes before class. Chewing gum, he glances at me and nonchalantly looks away to the rest of the class to find his friends. It’s effortless since his boisterous gang calls out to him from the front. I let out a deep exhale.

“He smells so good,” Alice says taking a strong whiff of the air.

I eye her with repulsion but with her eyes closed to enjoy the clean, crisp scent Hugh wears – probably to mask the fact that he doesn’t shower – she doesn’t notice. She starts to sway her head and her body to an inaudible music that she says fills her body, mind and soul whenever Hugh is in the same room as her. I can’t help but smile seeing her so lovesick even though I don’t fancy him. I just know what she means to ‘have a song stuck in your head when you think of someone you love’.

I had one the first time I saw Alice.

***

Alice doesn’t know. I haven’t yet garnered the courage to come out to her. We’ve been friends since we met in college two years ago and I’m okay with that. But once in a while, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if we were closer.

I push my chair towards her. She opens her eyes.

“What’s the song he reminds you of?”

“Hmmm.” She brings her fingers to her thin pink lips. Her brown eyes behind her circle framed glasses focus on the ceiling as she tries to come up with a title.

I know the title of mine; ‘Better Than Love’ by Haley Kiyoko – although unlike what the song suggests, we’ve never been together.

Her gaze sharply turns to me and she points out her index finger as if she had had a Eureka moment. “It’s more of an instrumental orchestra piece than a song.”

“Oh.” Nothing like mine. Mine’s definitely a peppy song. But Alice is a music major, while I’m doing literature. Hugh’s a math major, which makes sense since he’s always looking like he’s brooding over what x is. “What kind of instrumental music?”

Alice brings her chair closer to me and speaks softer. “A jazz slow tempo music played in the key D with-”

“Would you mind translating it to English?”

She lets out a grunt but a wave of excitement washes over her. Her lip curves into a smile and her eyes seem to sparkle. I wonder if that’s how I looked like when I explained my song to my best friend. I return the smile with one; that she might have noticed to be forced if she were paying attention.

“Ever stood in line for the cashier at the supermarket and had a glaring light hit your eye? So you move and see a tin of chocolates looking right back at you?”

“Uh-”

“But you’ve been queuing up for ten minutes already and there’s a bajillion people behind you and you know you shouldn’t leave the line but… but-”

“But you leave anyway?”

She closes her eyes and dramatically shakes her head.

“No. You don’t leave, Lisa. You steal glances at it every few seconds. It whispers your name.” She grabs my hand tight. “It whispers to your soul,” she says softer. “It’s not a choice you make, Lisa. You’re pulled. That tin of chocolates… that tin has got you hook, line and sinker and before you know it, you’re standing in front of it.”

I open my mouth to say something sarcastic but she’s right. My song might be different but she was the glare that hit my eye.

“Then you go back to stand in line” -she takes her hand off of my arm- “with that tin of chocolates in hand. You’re two bajillion people away from the cashier now but it’s okay because it gives you the opportunity to think about how the chocolates will taste when they melt in your mouth. Every second, your desire grows.”

I look to the spot on my arm still warm after her touch.

She lets out a sigh.

“That’s it?” I ask. “Wha-what do they taste like?”

She adjusts her glasses with the back of her fingers. “I don’t know.” She looks to Hugh sitting at the front of the class. He doesn’t notice. “There are two bajillion people in front of me. No matter how much I want it, maybe I’ll never find out.”

I look at her. She doesn’t notice. Maybe, I’ll never find out.

So to relate it to the music: I found the music very seductive. It lures you in. It flirts with you. You’re excited. There’s a slow but certain build-up as the music goes on. You’re having a good time. Similarly, Alice is lured in by the tin of chocolates. (Lisa is lured in by Alice) And her wait in line captures the build-up, the flirtationship (Lisa’s friendship with Alice captures the build-up). She’s savouring every second as she imagines all the possibilities of how the tin of chocolates will taste like (Every day Lisa keeps her feelings to herself, gives her possibilities for a relationship might feel like). The ending of the music doesn’t feel like the end to me. It sort of leaves you feeling high, leaves you wanting and that’s what I wanted to do with Lisa and Alice. Both of them are left wanting for something that’s possibly risky, something that that may not be what it seems (cue shiny tin, cue fresh smelling but no showers), something that may or may not end well. You never know. Possibilities.

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