Sylvie met Sam while volunteering at a local children’s theatre company. She was sixteen; he was twenty-three. She liked him the minute he had come over to the flat she had been working on and told her to stop. She did – the hammer halted in mid-air; the nail saved from being mashed into the wood frame. He didn’t yank the hammer out of her hand but rather motioned her to take a couple of steps backward. “Take aim; it’s a one-inch nail; doesn’t need a lot of force; just a tap; use the wrist, not the whole arm,” he instructed.
Afterward, they skipped the group feed, opting instead to go to a bistro where Sam knew the owner who said he would prepare them a plate of something special they could share.
She thought her mother would be the one with all of the objections, but it was Sam who made a thing of their age difference. Eventually, time won him over. Although he made it very clear right from the start there was to be no hand holding, no long hugs or other PDAs especially when they were alone.
Sylvie didn’t care. It was worth it. She felt alive when they discussed literature, jazz music, and movies; two old souls together, fixing what was wrong with the world through their involvement with the Arts.
Never a girly-girl, she took extra care with her appearance when she and Sam were to meet. She preferred dusky purples for her eyes; dusky rose shades for her cheeks; soft pinks for her lips. She liked to sweep her hair up in a bun. When she looked in the mirror, she felt elegant, taller, her oval face accentuated in a flattering way.
One day, as she was about to leave, her mother appeared in her bedroom door, arms crossed across her chest, a frown on her face. “You do know, don’t you, that wearing your hair in a bun just makes you look old, not older? There’s a difference,” her mother told her.
Her aunt, living with them at the time, chose that moment to pass by Sylvie’s door. “Auntie June, Mom says this isn’t a good look for me. What do you think?”
“You look very pretty,” June replied.
But upon her return, June, watching a sitcom on television with the sound down low, glanced up as Sylvie walked into the room. She was about to settle herself beside the older woman when her aunt confessed, “Your mother was right. Wearing your hair in a bun doesn’t really suit you.”
Sylvie recalled how the candlelight flickered across Sam’s face in the pizzeria; how he leaned toward her as the saxophone began to play; how beautiful she felt. She stared at the top of Aunt June’s head, and for the first time in her life, felt true hatred for someone she was supposed to love.