|This week's prompt for a 400 word story.|
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Serena smoothed her dress self-consciously, checking her hands to see that they were clean. Wearing an Armani that cost more than half of her salary hadn't made her feel glamorous; instead, it had caused her more anxiety than usual. Michael had chosen it, paid for it, and laid it on the bed in the cabin for her to wear to the Captain's table. He wanted “every man in the room to want her”.
The ship rolled gently under their feet, but the perfumed and glittering couples continued to glide effortlessly on the dance floor.
“Another drink, Madame?”
As if on cue, Michael looked over the bare shoulder of his foxtrot partner and froze her.
“No, thank you.”
“Care to dance?” A deeper voice. Serena looked up to see a gentleman beside her, arm extended. Tall, powerfully built, with soft eyes and a genuine warmth about him; it was a welcome invitation, and yet...
I am not allowed to dance with other men. How could she say it aloud? It sounded utterly ridiculous.
“I'm sorry, I don't dance that well. Thank you for asking though.”
He continued to stand there, hand outstretched.
She was rigid with fear, but he guided her gently, expertly, one warm hand in hers and the other barely grazing her back. Chandeliers, jewels, music and wine combined to make Serena's head spin. Her partner gazed into her eyes once or twice, with just the hint of a smile, then kindly looked away.
“Did you enjoy your little dance?” Serena flinched at the hostility in Michael's voice, her stomach churning as he gripped her by the arm and steered her out onto the deck. The deserted pool lapped quietly, shimmering under the moon. He slipped a finger under the gold chain around her neck, then yanked it free. “I can dress you up in all the finery in the world, but you're still nothing but a useless, uneducated piece of trash. Sleep on the couch tonight; I don't want you in my bed.” His arm came up, and she thought that he would hit her. Instead, he gave her a shove and stalked off.
Serena stepped into the pool, her scarlet gown flowing around her like a blood stain. The water, warm and welcoming, closed over her head, the world but a murmur in her ears. As the moon reappeared from behind a cloud, she stood up, droplets sparkling on her skin, the dress clinging to her lithe body, fragile, elegant, oblivious to the pop of a flashbulb and the photo that would make her famous and launch her new career.
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