A Sigh is Just a Sigh

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A Sigh is Just a Sigh
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio

Café Américain, 1941

The darkened club is empty save for the lone woman and her friend. Samantha places an open bottle of Gordon’s and a glass in front of Rickie, who quickly pours and downs the gin. Having Ilsa walk back into her life after so long has left her moving between numbness and pain. She sighs and peers through the fog of memory….

Gare de Lyon, Paris, 1940

Rickie is standing alone on the platform. She looks at her watch, anxious since the last train from Paris is poised to depart in less than a quarter-hour. The rain cascades off her head and shoulders, but she seems not to notice. The steady sound of the rain is interrupted by a gentle nudge and a near whisper as Samantha thrusts an envelope into Rickie’s hand.

“Where is she? Have you seen her,” Rickie asks. Samantha half-frowns in disappointment on behalf of her friend.

“No, Miss Rickie. I couldn’t find her. This came right after you left to come here.” Rickie struggles to open the envelope. The envelope seems to fight her, but finally gives way.

“I cannot go with you or ever see you again,” it begins. Rickie winces from the hurt that permeates her soul,

“You can’t ask why. Just know… trust that I do love you… Go my sweet darling, and God bless you, Ilsa.”

She had steeled herself and was not going to give into the emotion by crying…ever. The quiet is interrupted by a gentle nudge and a near whisper as Samantha thrusts an envelope into Rickie’s hand

“Come along, Miss Rickie. That’s the last call. We’ve got to go, “ Rickie shakes her head, not to argue about the departure but rather to what she had just read.

“Quick, Miss Rickie,” Samantha presses Rickie’s arm urgently as she ushers her toward the waiting coach.

“Come on, Miss Rickie,” Samantha helps her along. The rain and tears pour off the letter, blruring the ink as the train whistle sounds one last time.

and again, Café Américain

Rickie stares at her drink. Samantha has gone home, leaving Rickie alone The dim atmosphere is disturbed by the glare of a flashlight as the beam crosses Rickie’s face. As the beam moves, her eyes dart to the other side of the room where Ilsa stands in the doorway. Rickie blinks in disbelief. It can’t be her,”she thinks.


Rickie refocuses to see Ilsa’s figure barely lit by the dim light in the center of the club. Rickie gets to her feet with a little bit of shock. She shakes her head.

“Rickie? I have to talk,” Ilsa says almost casually, her voice moving between uncertain and tentative, but with a quiet determination underneath. Rickie mirrors the casual moment.

“Here… I saved my first drink to have with you, here,” Rickie says as she offers Ilsa the bottle.

“No, Rickie. Not tonight.” Ilsa sits down and ignores the bottle and glass and instead scans Rickie’s face, looking for some hint of emotion. Rickie instead appears almost impassive. She sits down across from Ilsa and offers the bottle again.

“Especially tonight,” Ilsa implores. Rickie drains her own glass and pours herself another drink. Ilsa looks away slightly, wishing Rickie would stop. She turns to face her again.

“Please stop?”

“Why did you have to come here? There are other places.”

“I wouldn’t have come here if I had known you were here. Believe me. That’s the truth. I didn’t know.” Ilsa half-frowned.

“So ,,,, funny about your voice. How it never changed. I can still hear you say, ‘Rickie? I’ll go with you anywhere. We’ll get on a train and never stop.”

“Please don’t. Don’t Rickie,” She watches as Rickie takes another drink, but it was more about her words at that point that troubled her.

“I understand how you feel,” Ilsa said quietly.

“You understand how I feel? How long were we…did we have together, honey?”

“I didn’t count the days,” Ilsa said with an embarrassed curtness.

“Well I did. Every last one of them. Just a wonderful finish. With a girl standing on a station platform in the rain with a stupid look on her face, because her heart had just been torn out.” Rickie grabbed the bottle and poured another drink. She stared at the glass through the tears she swore she’d never shed.

“Can I tell you a story,” Ilsa practically begged. Rickie shrugged in semi-surrender, What difference did it make at this point?

“Does it have a wow finish?”

“I don’t know the finish….yet.” Ilsa half-smiled.

“Well go ahead,” Rickie snapped. “Maybe it will come to you as you go along?” Ilsa ignored the sarcasm…hoping to win her over.

“It’s about a girl who came to Paris from her home in Oslo. At the house of some friends she met a woman she had heard about her whole life….well, mostly. A great and courageous woman who opened up a whole new world of knowledge and ideas and thoughts. And everything she would ever know or become was because of that woman. And she worshipped her with a feeling she supposed was love.”

“Well, that’s very pretty. I’ve heard a lot of stories in my time,” Rickie said bitterly. They all went along with a tinny piano in the parlor downstairs. And “Hey Lady, I met someone when I was just a kid.’” Ilsa begins to shudder, struggling but still getting up. She starts to walk away.

“What? I guess neither of our stories is funny. Tell me? Who was it you left me for? Was it Lazlo? Or maybe some guys in between? Or are you the kind who doesn’t talk?” Rickie bit her lip to keep from sighing.

Ilsa stops with her back to Rickie, pausing long enough to wipe the tears from her eyes. She stands at the doorway and stares back at Rickie before walking out. Rickie puts her head on her arms on the table; weeping. The bottle spills onto the tablecloth before rolling off the table to shatter on the floor.

Adapted from the working script from the motion picture, Casablanca, Warner Brothers 1942. Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch, from the un-produced stage play, Everyone Goes to Ricks, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

As Time Goes By
Words and Music by Herman Hupfeld
as performed by Halie Loren

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This story is 1112 words long.