Ghosts could walk freely tonight, without fear of the disbelief of men; for this night was haunted, and it would be an insensitive man who did not know it.
Seven years ago tonight, every dream I ever had came true. That's not something too many men get to claim. I'm very lucky, blessed, whichever you believe. Probably a lot of both. Tonight marks the anniversay of my debut performance at Caesars Palace." On his cue, the crowd whipped into congratulatory rapture.Blindsided by his recollection, Isabel was motionless. That's what he recalls happening on this date? "Indulgent, lazy, self-centered ... jerk!" she said, grabbing her purse, thinking she'd climb over the seat. "I'm going home!" Before she could turn, hoisting herself over, a spotlight landed on her. In the darkened arena Aidan and Isabel were face-to-face. He stared. The same way he did years ago in his pickup truck, holding tight to her wrist, the same way he did on the dance floor at the gala. The same way he did the moment she left him."If you can believe it," he said, still staring, "something even more improtant happened that day. As dreams of fame and fortune go, this topped everything. I've always known that." Then, in a softer voice: "And I'm a fool because I should have never given up." Even from her vantage point, Isabel could see the gulp roll through his throat. "It's my great privilege this evening to introduce my wife, Isabel Royce." He gestured to the box. Isabel responded by sinking to her seat."What's he talking about?" she hissed to Mary Louise. "We're divorced!" From her right, Tanya nudged her. It was like being on a palace balcony, Isabel offering a deer-in-the-headlights wave to the subjects, a thoroughly baffled look at Aidan. In return, he smiled at her clear confusion."My wife ...""Why is he calling me that?"There was a mixed reaction, lots of gasps, some applause, and the disappointed groans of female fans. "She's done me the tremendous honor of making a rare appearance at one of my shows. Seven years ago, she agreed to marry me. At the time, my life was more trouble than promise. We were just two scared kids who had nothing but each other. Really, it was all I needed. We were married in true Vegas fashion." Hoots and hollers echoed, his glance dropping to the stage floor. Sharing this was making the performer uncomfortable. He pushed on. "While most women would have been satisfied with a ring ..." His long fingers fluttered over the snake. "This was Isabel's idea of a permanent bond." It drew a wave of subtle laughter, Isabel included "Do you remember how the story went?" he said, speaking only to Isabel in a crow of thousands. "As long as I had it, I'd never be without you. Turns out, it wasn't a story, it was the absolute truth. Lately though," he said, turning back to his public narrative, "circumstance, some serious, some calculated, has prevented me from getting my wife's attention. So tonight I resorted to an old performer's trick, a captive audience. I planned this moment, Isabel, knowing you'd be here. Regardless of anything you may believe, I meant what I said on our wedding night, in the moment I said it. I love you. I always have.
As she walked to the stairway, he pulled her back with a light tug on her shoulder. "They're responding to you now."Turning to face him, she said, "Responding to me? What did I say?""The hallway was full of them. When you said we were going downstairs to eat, they started filing down the stairs.""They all took the stairs?"Eddie nodded, his shining, gifted eyes watching the ghostly procession.He said, "They don't want to be far from you, Jess. And I'm not entire sure it's well intentioned.""Come to use," the voices whispered.