Thursday, March 28, 2013
Angela - Part 1
“Daddy! Look!” The five year-old called out. Her father acknowledged her with a wave and a smile.
“I see that you've landed a pretty big role in the recital,” he stated as she ran up to him and launched her self into his arms. “That's my princess!” He praised, kissing her on the cheek.
Her mother watched them with a smile, wishing that she'd been able to have more children.
A year later, the now six year-old girl wailed as she buried her face in her mother's skirt. “I've failed you mama!”
“No!” Her mother hastily assured her. “You've gotten second place! That's not failing!”
Her father placed a hand on her head. “You've never competed in horse jumping before. I'd say that you were lucky to get so far on your first try!”
Riding horses and ballet continued to be her two favorite things until around the time she turned 12. By then, she had won so many accolades in each that they just didn't challenge her like she craved. She wanted something new.
“Mama, can I start taking fencing classes instead?”
“But you love ballet!” Her mother protested.
“Can you do both?” Her father wondered.
She shrugged. “Probably, but I don't want to.”
Her parents exchanged questioning looks, and then nodded in permission. She exhaled in relief.
“You're not disappointed in me?”
“Of course not, Angela!” They exclaimed. “We love you no matter what you decide to do.”
Fencing proved to be a challenge, but only for a year, and then it seemed as easy as anything else she'd ever tried. She threw her foil across her room in frustration. What good were trophies if they didn't make her happy?
Nothing helped; not winning long distance races, not painting, not even training a new puppy to win the best of show. She was sure that the puppy would occupy all of her time and attention, but he didn't. The moment he won best of show, she brought him to her parents.
“I think you should sell him. I don't want him any more.”
“I don't love him and he deserves to be with someone who does,” she explained with a shrug.
They sighed but agreed.
“Are you mad?” She wondered.
“No princess,” her dad said.
“No sweetheart,” her mother told her with a smile. “We love you no matter what.”
At only 15, she was confused by this. Her parents were the most wonderful people on the planet, but didn't they want her to be the best? At everything? Whenever she won something, they cheered her on louder than anybody, but when she lost, they simply told her that it was okay and that she would do better next time – which she usually did.
Wouldn't they – if they loved her as much as they said they did – wouldn't they get mad at her for losing? Wouldn't they be disappointed that she couldn't be happy with anything?!
She sighed and returned to her room to think of something else to try.
“Hey Angela, do you want to spend the day at my house?” Her boyfriend Enrique asked. This was code for making out since his parents were almost always gone on the weekends selling antiques at swap-meets around the five state area.
“Sure, why not? I don't have dance practice today,” Angela agreed with a shrug. She no longer took ballet, but now focused on learning any and all dances that she hadn't learned before. Only when she lost herself in a new and exciting dance did she come close to feeling joy.
At Enrique's house, their make out session progressed farther than ever before. Angela felt half numb the entire time, wondering when it would start to feel good. She put all her effort in to making him feel good, and figured that she should feel the same by default.
Enrique sensed that something was wrong and tried his best to make her feel the way he did, but after it was over, she lay looking at the ceiling with an expression of hmm... He wondered if she felt he had pushed her too far too soon.
He decided to ask her straight out. “Did I pressure you for sex before you were ready?”
Angela shook her head. “No, I was ready. Sorry, I'm just worried about something else. I shouldn't be thinking about other things right now, but I couldn't help it.”
“What other things?” Enrique wondered, fearing that it might be another boy. It wasn't, but Angela didn't know how to describe it.
“Well... happiness... dancing... horses... Life,” Angela stated, listing off things that came to mind when she tried to define what the problem was.
I thought for sure that sex would distract me and make me feel something, but it didn't...
She sighed, and then kissed her boyfriend. “Nothing for you to worry about. You did everything right.”
Enrique smiled and held her tight. The next three months passed with her spending every weekend with her boyfriend. He made their sex as fun as possible, but even though she liked it, something was missing.
What is wrong with me?!
“Angela, will you partner with Vanessa today?” Her dance teacher asked, referring to the new girl in class. “I'm sure you can help her if she needs it.”
“Sure thing,” Angela agreed and the teacher left the two of them to figure out what dance to work on.
Angela looked the new girl over to determine if she was capable of doing complicated dances. Vanessa was sleek like a cat with dark brunette hair and almost black eyes. She looked almost exotic in that she didn't appear to be any particular ethnicity, and at the same time, seemed to belong to all of them.
Vanessa narrowed her eyes at Angela's coppery red hair, freckle covered complexion, and blue eyes. She mentally sighed and resigned herself to the fact that she was partnered with one of those high-strung snobby types. She forced herself to smile and be nice.
“Can you mambo?” Vanessa asked.
“Of course,” Angela stated, and then held out her hand in invitation.
The two of them started the dance hesitantly, thinking that the other girl would suck. Both were surprised to find that the other was a good dancer after all. Vanessa had transferred from a pretty good dance school, and had assumed that this school would not be as good. To her delight, she was wrong.
They started trying to compete with each other. Angela was determined to be the best dancer, and Vanessa was determined to see if Angela could be an equal partner. When the dance ended, both girls were panting from the exertion.
Vanessa giggled. “I misjudged you!”
“Same here,” Angela admitted quietly. In general, she spent far more time thinking than speaking, and tended to speak softly when she had to. Unless she was upset, then watch out!
“Samba?” Angela suggested as their next dance. After that, they moved onto contemporary dances, each trying to challenge the other.
At one point, their teacher was tempted to stop them before they got hurt, but then they flung themselves to the floor in exhaustion. They panted heavily as they rested for a few minutes.
That may have been the best I can remember feeling in a long time! Angela thought. She immediately wondered what her boyfriend would say if he knew that she found dancing better than messing around with him. She started giggling unexpectedly.
Vanessa was also wondering when the last time she'd had so much fun was. Angela's giggling infected her until they were both laughing for no reason that they could determine. Their teacher rolled her eyes, chalking it up to being high off of endorphins.
“I think you two are done for the day,” she stated and then gestured for them to get something to drink before they got dehydrated.
“Hey, do you want to come over to my house for a while?” Vanessa asked.
Angela tilted her head to the side and stared at Vanessa in confusion for a moment. It was rare for anyone to ask Angela over to their house. Most people assumed that she considered herself above everyone, just because she tended to be quiet. Only sheer infatuation had prompted her boyfriend to gather up his courage and ask her out.
Vanessa asked as if it was normal for her. As if she asked everyone to go to her house and hang out. She must have a ton of friends, Angela thought.
“I'd like that,” Angela replied with a rare smile. It was small and quiet, but genuine. She pulled out her phone and let her mom know that she wouldn't be needing a ride home.
They changed into their regular clothes, and then Vanessa drove them to her house in her older car. It was probably as old as they were, but it ran well and seemed reliable... except that it didn't have working air conditioning.
“I don't mind,” Angela assured Vanessa, who seemed embarrassed by this.
Vanessa smiled in relief.
“In fact, I prefer the wind blowing in my hair. It makes me feel free,” Angela explained.
Vanessa chuckled. “You know what? Me too!”
When they arrived at Vanessa's house, Angela had to bite her tongue to stop herself from gasping. Vanessa's house was tiny! It couldn't be more than a two bedroom with just one bathroom! Angela looked around it in a strange form of awe. It may be small, but it was well decorated and felt comfortable.
Vanessa mistook Angela's expression for being impressed, and grinned. “I know! I can't believe this is all ours! We used to live in a one bedroom apartment. My mom slept on the couch while my brother and I slept in the bedroom. It was so tiny that there was barely room for our twin bed and a dresser. My mom saved and saved, and now – finally – we have a real house of our own!”
Vanessa proudly gave Angela a tour. “This is the kitchen... the living room... and the bathroom. Check this out: My mom has a huge bedroom!”
Angela looked around the room, her head nodding vaguely in agreement. Huge? My closet is bigger than this...
“And look, she has a walk in closet!”
Which was technically true, but not by much. It was maybe 3 feet squared.
“I saved the best for last,” Vanessa announced with a grin. “This is the room I share with my brother. We not only have enough room to have a full sized bed, but we also have plenty of space to walk around even though we both have our own dressers now, and... We have a closet! It's not a walk in, but it's still pretty big.”
Angela had to bite her tongue again and fight to keep a straight face. Four feet wide is big to her? With a bit of effort, she managed to plaster an impressed smile on her face.
“Wow! It must be nice, huh?” Angela asked, wondering why Vanessa didn't complain about having to share a room with her brother. Then again, Angela had always wanted a brother or sister. Badly enough that she might not mind sharing a room if – for some reason – all the other rooms in their house were being used.
Vanessa bust up laughing. “Thank you for being nice. I can tell that you think our house is tiny, and it's true. Even so, it's all ours and so much better than what we had. I love it!”
This time Angela smiled a wide and honest smile. “That's all that matters.”
“Come on; let's go to the backyard.”
Angela followed Vanessa. She bit her lip in thought as she stared at Vanessa's back. What is it about her? Something intrigued Angela.
“Would you mind if I showed you the dance that won me 1st place in my school's talent show last year?” Vanessa asked, gesturing towards a chair in a silent invitation to sit.
“I'd like that,” Angela stated.
The two of them took turns showing each other their favorite dances for a couple of hours. Just when they were tempted to start subtly competing again, Vanessa's brother interrupted them.
“Ness, mom says dinner's in five. Who's your friend?”
Angela stared at him in amazement. Aside from having short hair and broader shoulders – and no breasts – he looked exactly like his sister.
“This is Angela. I met her in dance class. Angela, this is my twin, Vincent.”
Vincent swept Angela into his arms and into a slow dance. “Hi Angela.”
“Cent! You're being an idiot!” Vanessa admonished him with a stamp of her foot.
“No I'm not! I saw the two of you dancing. It's only fair that I get a turn too.”
Angela pushed against him lightly in a silent command for him to let her go. She didn't feel right in his arms. He complied with a flirty pout.
“I'm positive that my boyfriend would get mad at me if I danced with you,” Angela informed him.
“Boyfriend?” Vincent asked with obvious disappointment.
Angela's cellphone rang a particular tone, making her snort a chuckle. “Speak of the devil...” She pulled out her phone and showed it to Vincent. The caller ID said boyfriend.
“Hi Enrique,” Angela greeted. “What's up?”
“Aren't you done with dance class yet? You promised to come over tonight for dinner.”
“Oh my God! I completely forgot!” Angela squealed in mortification. “I'm only a couple of blocks from your house. I can be there in a jiffy.”
“See you in a few,” Enrique stated and then hung up.
“I've got to go,” Angela told Vanessa.
“Hey wait,” Vanessa stated before Angela could rush off. “You know how our dance studio is going to hold auditions for invitationals? How would you like to come over tomorrow and come up with a routine with me?”
Angela frowned just a tiny bit. Invitationals were for newcomers who wanted to be able to compete in the local dance competition. It was a bit like open mic night, only more formal and organized. The problem was that Angela didn't need to participate because she wasn't a newcomer.
Hmm... I haven't even danced in the partners division before. I suppose I could do both... In which case, she would have to attend invitationals with Vanessa after all. Angela felt a slow smile stretch her lips wide.
“I'd like that!”
After working on a routine for the auditions, Vanessa and Angela were given permission to represent their dance school in the invitationals. They had just two weeks to perfect their routine, and spent every minute they could spare on it. Finally, it was the day, and both were so nervous that they could vomit!
Vanessa was so focused on their routine that she retreated into a shell until their names were called. They walked out onto the dance floor and then waited for their music to start.
“Why do I always get so nervous?” Vanessa muttered to herself.
Angela took a deep breath and located her center. Now that she was calm and at peace, she whispered to Vanessa, “Hey... look at me. We're totally going to win this, so don't worry!”
Vanessa met Angela's eyes and felt all her fears melt away. “You're right.”
The music began and they started to flow through their routine. It was an energetic routine designed for two people to perform in perfect synchronization. They didn't touch at all – except for a couple of hand pats that were part of the routine. Instead, the dance showcased their ability to move quickly and perform complicated steps as if they were one person.
When they finished, the roar of the crowd reminded them that they were dancing in front of an audience. Both blushed that they had gotten so lost in the dance that they had literally forgotten everything else! They joined hands and curtseyed to the audience.
“We took third place!” Vanessa announced excitedly when the huge digital board finally displayed all the rankings at the end.
Angela sighed in disappointment. “I failed you...”
“What are you talking about?” Vanessa demanded. “We're going to the local competition!”
“Maybe, but we should have taken first,” Angela murmured sadly.
A laugh rang out from behind her. “You always put too much pressure on yourself!” Angela's mother said.
“Accept this as a win and vow to do better next time!” Her father added. They pulled her into a hug. As always, they were there to cheer her on every step of the way.
Angela sighed impatiently. “But I must have done something wrong!”
“You looked perfect to me,” her mom assured her.
Angela pushed out of her father's arms in frustration. Just take me home! I need to watch the video of my performance to see what I need to work on!”
Her parents sighed but followed her as she stormed towards their car.
Vanessa felt abandoned for a moment until her mother and brother finally fought their way through the crowd to be at her side.
Vanessa rolled her eyes and laughed. “The first moment I saw her, I thought that Angela was high-maintenance. I guess I was right!”
“You did awesome!” Vincent praised her.
“Let's go home and celebrate!” Her mom added.
After dance class, Angela followed Vanessa to her car. Both girls had been unusually silent during class because they didn't quite know what to say to each other. Angela finally thought of something to say.
“Let's go to my house,” she suggested. “I have more room to move around.”
“You mean I finally get to see your place?” Vanessa asked with a laugh. “I was beginning to think that you were ashamed of where you live!”
Angela simply shook her head. Her phone rang, so she checked the caller ID. It was Enrique.
“Hi,” she answered.
“I'm hoping that you can come over tonight,” Enrique stated.
“I can't tonight,” Angela informed him.
“I'm going to be working on a new routine with Vanessa.”
Enrique pouted. “You're always with Vanessa.”
“Competing is serious and it takes a lot of hard work,” Angela reminded him.
“I know! … It just feels like you're avoiding me lately,” Enrique confessed.
“I'm not avoiding you, I just need to practice as much as I possible can. I seriously sucked at invitationals! You probably won't see much of me at all until after then next competition.” Angela pointed out turns as necessary to Vanessa.
Vanessa listened to the conversation in silence. A frown slanted her lips. It sounded like Angela was about to break up with her boyfriend in order to dance with Vanessa – which made her feel guilty and inexplicably happy at the same time.
“What's the point of being boyfriend and girlfriend if we never see each other anymore?” Enrique asked, obviously upset.
Angela was silent for a moment as she thought about this. “Hmm... That's a good question... Maybe we should break up.”
Enrique sighed in frustration. “Somehow I knew you were going to say that. Whatever. Good luck in your stupid competition!” He hung up the phone before Angela could reply.
She stared at her phone for a full minute before Vanessa got brave enough to say something.
“Sounds like that ended badly. Sorry...”
Angela shook her head almost imperceptibly. “Don't be... It's strange... I expected to feel something. Sadness, regret, loneliness... I don't know, something! But all I feel is... nothing...”
Before Vanessa could think of anything to say, Angela pointed at a gate on the left side of the street. “Turn there.” She pulled a small remote control out of her bag and pushed a button so that the gate opened up as Vanessa turned.
Vanessa had heard of gated communities, but she'd never seen one before. She was kind of curious... until she realized that there was only one house at the end of the driveway. A big house.
“This is where you live?!” Vanessa asked incredulously.
“Yeah...” Angela confirmed, looking at her hands in her lap. She felt almost ashamed for some reason. “It's not as big as it looks. It's only a five bedroom, seven bathroom house. It's not like one of those 40 bedroom mansions – even though that's what it was modeled after.”
Vanessa snorted a chuckle. “Five bedroom... Did you say seven bathrooms?! Why on Earth do you need seven bathrooms?!”
Angela tilted her head to the side in confusion. It seemed like a normal amount to her. “One for each bedroom and then one near the kitchen for the staff to use and one near the entertainment room for guests to use.”
Vanessa parked where Angela pointed. After she got out of her car, she stood staring at the house in awe for a moment. Up close, it didn't look overly huge like a mansion, but at the same time, it was at least 4 times bigger than her house. Also, there was a garage that was almost half the size of the house, and a couple of other buildings strewn about the lawn. One of them even looked like a pretty version of a barn.
“Angela!” Her father called out happily. He was on a balcony that faced the driveway, but also had an excellent view of the sun and sky. “Do you see that gorgeous view? I'm painting the clouds, only I'm making them look like angels. I plan to add a faint image of Jesus in the middle. Do you want to come see?”
“Maybe later, Daddy!” Angela called out as she waved to him. “My father is a painter... sort of. He only paints things for charity auctions.”
“Nice,” Vanessa remarked. She thought he was sweet, taking time out of his surely busy schedule to paint things for charity. “What does he do for a job? Is he some business executive?”
Angela shook her head. “No. He inherited a fortune from his parents, so I don't think he's ever actually worked a day in his life... Aside from painting. He considers painting his gift from and duty to God.”
Vanessa didn't know what to say, so she simply nodded.
Angela led the way into her house. She gave a tour as they went. “This is the sun room, the entertainment room, bathroom,” and so on. In the kitchen, she accepted a snack to share with Vanessa from the cook. It was a ripe peach cut into slices and then covered with plain yogurt and a tiny drizzle of maple syrup.”
“I'll have one of those too please,” Angela's mom stated as she walked into the kitchen. She put her arms around Angela and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I'm so excited! One of my books has been picked up by the Faith Channel to be made into a TV movie.”
Angela smiled and returned her mother's hug. “That's great! Which one?”
“The one in which the main character gets engaged to a really good man, but then decides that she'd rather enter a convent and devote her life to serving God.”
Angela frowned slightly and bit her lip in concern. “But wait, doesn't she struggle with her choice to be a nun? That sounds like a bad idea to make into a movie for the Faith Channel.”
“I can see your point, but at the end, she realizes that all her struggles were God's way of testing her faith.”
Vanessa had carried the plate to the table and now sat next to a college aged woman eating a sandwich. She waited patiently for Angela to sit next to her before starting on the snack. Her curiosity got the better of her.
“You write, Mrs. Brewster?” Vanessa asked.
Angela's mom smiled so happily that it literally shone. “Oh yes! I love to write stories of faith and inspiration. I'm not a best-seller or anything, but I do alright.”
“That's cool,” Vanessa stated truthfully. She loved to read and often thought about writing a book when she got older.
“Anyway,” Angela's mom finished her original subject. “I'm going to be in conference with the Producers for hours, so please don't interrupt me. If you need anything, ask your father.”
“Okay mom, good luck. And congratulations!” Angela wished her mom – who accepted her snack and rushed to get back to her office. They could hear her shut the door with a small excited slam.
The woman at the table finished her sandwich and looked at the cook. “Do you want me to wait and wash the dishes, or should I finish cleaning the guest bedrooms first?”
“Don't worry about the dishes. I'll do them,” the cook replied, waving her away.
A cook and a maid... Vanessa thought jealously.
“It looks like we'll have plenty of uninterrupted time to work on a new routine,” Angela remarked with a pleased smile.
“Looks like...” Vanessa muttered.
At the local competition, Vanessa waited anxiously in the back for their turn. “Where in the world is Angela?!”
There was still plenty of time for Angela to show up since they had just started with the single dancers, but even so, Vanessa wanted her partner there to keep her calm. The announcer caught her attention just then.
“And now for last year's local champion: Angela Brewster!”
“What?!?!” Vanessa exclaimed demandingly. She rushed out to watch the performance. “Why didn't she tell me that she was competing in the single division too?”
Angela stood on the dance floor waiting for the music to begin. She wore a fabulous white silk and satin belly dancer's costume and her hair was done up in a way that was off her shoulders but also flowed down her back. Vanessa inhaled a surprised gasp.
She looks gorgeous!
The dance began and everyone in the audience ooo'd appreciatively as Angela performed a complicated maneuver.
She's such a good dancer... Vanessa thought in admiration. And yet... her performance seems cold somehow... emotionless...
Angela finished her dance and walked over to the side to wait for everyone else to finish and the results to be posted. She saw Vanessa watching her and smiled. A minute later, she was by Vanessa's side.
“Wow! You look really good in that costume!” Vanessa complimented her sincerely.
“Thank you,” Angela murmured with a shy blush.
They waited for close to an hour, but finally the results were in, and Angela was named the champion for the second year in a row. She walked to the middle of the floor to curtsey gratefully to the audience and receive hugs from her parents, but then she insisted that they leave her alone so that she could get ready for her next dance.
They had an hour before they were scheduled to perform, so they had plenty of time to get ready. Both girls changed into a glamorous flapper-style dress. Then they arranged their hair and makeup to match each other in a manner befitting women in the 1920's.
Finally, their names were called and they made their way out onto the dance floor. The moment the music started, they launched into an energetic dance inspired by the movie Chicago, and enhanced by other dances popular in the flapper era. It was easy for everyone to see that they were having fun with the dance.
The audience loved them, as evidenced by the roaring cheers. When they were finished, they bobbed a few quick curtseys to the crowd, and then retired to the back room to wait for the results. There were only 3 other pairs performing after them, so they didn't have to wait long.
Vanessa held her breath when they were announced as second place. She was beyond excited, but held her breath because she was afraid that Angela was going to throw another tantrum. Angela also held her breath for a moment, but then exhaled and smiled.
“This is good. This means our intense practice is paying off! We're going to win first place at the state competition for sure!” Angela exclaimed excitedly.
Vanessa sighed in relief, and then grinned. “I'm so happy I want to scream and shout for all to hear!” She jumped up and down a couple of times, and then threw her arms around Angela. Without any thought or planning, she kissed Angela full on the lips.
Angela felt as if time stopped completely. Her entire body wanted to cling to Vanessa and hold on forever. Just when she felt like time started moving again and had the urge to wrap her arms around Vanessa, Vanessa moved back and tugged on her hand.
The two of them went to give a grateful wave to the crowd and accept their small trophy. Angela performed the actions out of sheer habit since her mind was still completely occupied with Vanessa's kiss. She wanted nothing more than to drag Vanessa to a secluded spot and try kissing her again.
Vanessa mom ran up to them, squealing happily. “I'm so proud of you!” She roared as she glommed onto Vanessa.
Angela's parents approached her cautiously. “You know that we love you and that you could never do anything to disappoint us, right?”
Angela shook off her strange lethargy and laughed. “I know.” She hugged them both tightly, suppressing a laugh as they sighed in relief that she wasn't ranting over not winning first place.
“We'll do even better next time,” Angela promised her parents, and they simply nodded in agreement.