That 11th time

It was only midnight, and Leo already wanted to leave the party. He didn’t know anybody, didn’t like the music or the drinks. He basically didn’t belong there.
Trying to be as normal as invisible, he scanned the living room for the eleventh time, looking for something a little bit interesting. Only that eleventh time was different. That eleventh time he spotted something worth looking at, something worth looking for.
Outside the crowded room, on the balcony, a girl in a flowered dress smoked a cigarette. He could only see her profile, not her entire face. The large window created the illusion of a painting, a very intriguing depiction that made Leo wonder if he should go to her or stay where he was.
He was standing in a sublime spot: not too close to the speakers, which allowed him to not go deaf, and not too far from the guests, which allowed him to not interact with anybody and yet look as if he was having some kind of fun. 
The girl in the flowered dress was about to finish her cigarette. Terrified of not discovering what her whole face looked like, Leo decided to leave his hiding, his warm, comfortable refuge and move towards the balcony. As he did so, the hit song everybody was dancing to slowly melted inside his brain, becoming a much smoother, melancholic melody -maybe played by a piano. Without even noticing,
Leo was developing his own soundtrack. A track specifically composed for a moment he obviously considered special enough to remember, to matter.

As he stepped into the balcony it became obvious to him that going there may have been a terrible idea. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t have a jacket. He didn’t even smoke.

- Hi. Said the girl in the flowered dress. And so the conversation started.

For the sake of the story I guess I can omit these unimportant, superfluous comments that usually happen at the beginning of an innocent chat. 
He said blah, blah she answered, let’s say. 
Her name, by the way, was Susanne.

Earlier that day, Susanne was standing in her underwear in front of her wardrobe. She stayed there more or less eleven minutes, deciding what to put on. It didn’t really matter, she thought, and picked a flowered dress that had fallen from one of the hangers. It was a short dress. An hour later, as she smoked a cigarette on the
balcony, Susanne couldn’t bend over and look over the rail without showing her butt to all the dancing guests in the party. As it turned out, it did matter.

We have already talked about Leo finding Susanne, spotting her profile. 
Well, she couldn’t see him, so he had time to think about her, to decide what to do and, even if he didn’t, to think something to say.
Susanne’s first contact wit Leo was, however, faster, sudden and definitely a surprise. Consequently, the description of this encounter is short and simple: Susanne thought that Leo was interesting in a “funny” way. 
Whether she meant “funny” as a compliment or an insult shall remain a mystery forever... or maybe she just couldn’t decide it yet.

It was after all the introductions and the blahs that these two particular individuals, brought together that night maybe by faith, maybe by a certainly beautiful coincidence, started getting to know each other.

They talked about small things first.
Leo learned that Susanne loved black olives, but not green. He came to know that she loves to play with candle-melted wax and prefers dogs to cats. He discovered that she is allergic to some deodorants and loves the scent of orange blossom.

Susanne learned that Leo didn’t have an opinion on olives. She came to know that when he was a little boy he wanted to become The Hulk, but in another color. She discovered that he prefers cats that act like dogs and that he wouldn’t mind getting a hypoallergenic blossom orange deodorant for a girl.

Susanne wasn’t used to attending parties. Not unaccompanied anyways. She wasn’t used to being by herself. Now she was alone, and the people around had started to worry. She needed to get out of the house occasionally so her friends and family wouldn’t think she was depressed or suicidal. That afternoon, while she put that flowered dress on, she got ready for a night of fake smiles, promenades and stupid conversations. She just needed to show up, stay a while and then disappear. Easy but tiring, doable but exasperating. That afternoon, Susanne prepared for a fake charade that was already a routine.

Some guests started leaving the party. Others kept dancing in the living room. Susanne and Leo were still on the balcony, talking. They were no longer standing up, but sitting down on the tile floor. It was not the chat, or the information that they were sharing that made them stay next to each other, close to each other... it
was more of a comforting feeling. They felt nice, safe, tranquil, untroubled.

- I’m glad you came alone to the party. I’m having a great time. Said Leo.

- I used to come with my fiancé, but he died. Replied Susanne.

In all those charades, in all those meaningless parties, she had never dared to tell her story to anybody. But there she was, in front of that guy, and she had just done it... without even thinking. Her heart started beating really fast. She was nervous.

- I’m sorry. He said. To which she responded with a smile. Not a fake one this time, but a real one. She wondered if Leo could tell the difference.

It was 5 am, and almost everybody had left. Leo said goodbye and went away, and Susanne stayed a little bit longer. As he walked down the stairs he came across a curious thought: Was he able to remember her face perfectly? He stopped and closed his eyes. Then he did. Leo could remember every spot of her face, every single spot. 
He continued going down the stairs and opened the main door of the
building. It was cold outside. However, he hadn’t noticed it on the balcony. As he walked home he couldn’t help but feel good about himself, feel good about his future, about the present, about the sidewalk he was stepping on... for it was clear now that this warm night on a random balcony was not over. In fact, it hadn’t even
started yet.

By Laura Fernández.
My first short story in english.