Dear J, all this time, I thought I was doing what I had to do for my daughter’s future. How did I know my music career would be so successful? How was I to know what that even meant at the time? I never could see around corners. Maybe I was especially dumb, I just don’t know.
What irks me the most now is that the one thing I thought I did right has gone really wrong. Ruby told Blue that once Leela saw me on the cover of Fan Weekly and all the photos inside (over forty!), she just couldn’t see herself living the kind of life I do.
When Leela called me that night and told me she couldn’t date me, I figured that’s what the problem was. But she’s avoided me since. I guess when I blow it, I blow it big.
Since visiting Jillybean’s grave with Blue, I’ve found that life looks a bit different. Yes, Leela gave me the boot over something I can’t control. But I’m a determined kind of guy and I’ve decided she’s worth trying for. She’s been a good friend and she makes me laugh. Oh, and the baked goods….. how could I forget to add those to my growing list of things I really dig about her?
The girls had gone with Leela to find prom dresses (no dads allowed for obvious reasons). Tonight was the big dance, so Leela asked if I would bring Blue to her house so they could get ready there. The only problem was that I wanted pictures of Blue and Ruby and I also wanted to see them off with their dates. There was no way our girls were going out until I’d had a chance to have “the talk” with their dates. That meant I’d have to hang around feeling all uncomfortable at Leela’s. Yes, I said I was still trying to woo her, but that didn’t mean I was willing to be off my home turf to do it.
So, I told her that wouldn’t work out for me. And just as expected, as if everything was normal, she said she’d bring Ruby over here and wait.
And here we were. You know, it’s not easy acting unconcerned and cool when you’re the opposite. I decided to make drinks because that would give my hands and mind something to do while we chatted.
“What are you making?”
The answer was simple. I was making the only drink I knew how and it was something I’d made up.
“It’s called a Kiwi Smooch,” I answered, flashing my best lopsided grin at her.
Taking a sip, she coughed slightly then smiled. “It’s uh… sweet… and tart…. and really strong, Leo.”
“Well, I love them. They’re the only drink for me.” Quickly changing the subject, I said, “So how did the girls do at the beauty salon?”
Leela grinned from ear to ear. “It was so much fun. They got their fingernails and toenails done in the same color, of course. And their hair is absolutely stunning. Ruby insisted her hair be done like Blue’s so that took the most time, since it all had to be straightened. They’re upstairs now getting into their dresses.”
“And they’re going out with boys for the first time,” I lamented.
“Oh, they’ll be fine. Besides, I don’t think they’re too serious about Rob and Evan. They seem more interested in who will be wearing what and who will be attending with whom.”
“That’s a relief. I wish they’d think like that forever.”
“Chips?” I offered.
“No, thank you.”
An awkward silence fell over the room like a heavy blanket and I struggled to overcome my nerdiness in order to bring this conversation around to where it would more productively bring our problems out into the open.
“I’m… uh…. glad we’re still friends at least, Leela,” I said. Her eyes grew a little troubled and I added, “because I know the reason you didn’t want to date me is because of the magazine you saw me in.”
“Oh, that,” she said with a soft voice. It was my turn to look troubled and she touched my arm. “I wanted to talk to you about that.”
“You see, it’s been difficult for me to come to terms with the attention you get. I’m not used to it and I don’t know if I could ever become used to it.”
Great, just great. I took a deep gulp of my drink, closing my eyes.
“But then,” she continued, “I started looking through Fan Weekly and realized that you are just the person I was meant to be with my entire life.”
“Huh?” I said, scratching my head.
“Yes. You see, I took the magazine’s quiz, ‘Are you Leo’s type?’ and we matched up in every category!”
Mortified, I groaned as I put a hand to my head. Then, I felt her warm fingers lightly touching my arms again.
“Leo,” she said softly, “what I’m trying to say, but not very well, is that I’m sorry about how skittish I’ve been. These past few weeks, I’ve realized just how much I miss you. Every time something funny happens, I turn to tell you and you’re not there.”
Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as I’d imagined. “Wait a minute… you missed me?”
Her pretty lips curved into a small smile as she nodded. “Yes, terribly, I’m afraid.”
“I’ve missed you, too. Honestly, I thought this stupid fame thing would fade over time. It still might.”
“Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. The fact remains that you’re my best friend and I don’t want to lose you. That day we spent together when we kissed… it was magical for me. I can’t say goodbye to that no matter how strongly I feel about wanting or needing privacy.”
Leela never ceased to amaze me. I hadn’t needed to guide this talk in any direction at all which made me realize that I had affected her just as much as she had me. I could only hope that nothing would happen to change that. I guess time would tell if we could make this work or not.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to talk (or Kiwi Smooch) further because the doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of Rob Killian and Evan Elliot.
Rob was the skinny kid on the left. Leela and the girls had instructed me to be nice but I swear, that guy was so skinny, if he turned sideways and stuck out his tongue, he’d look like a zipper. (Speaking of zippers, he’d better keep his in check!)
All in all, they were pretty good kids. They went to school with Blue and Ruby, so I’d been acquainted with them since they were in grade school.
Leela made small talk with them while I did the stare down thing. They were pretty antsy, which suited me just fine.
“I don’t want them home even a minute past eleven,” I said sternly.
“Yes, Mr. Capra,” Evan squeaked.
“Be nice!” Leela said, fake-smiling at me.
I closed my eyes and counted to ten.
“I’ll see what’s keeping the girls,” Leela offered.
While she was gone, I renewed my stare down, careful to make sure she didn’t see.
“Uh, you don’t own a gun or anything, do you, Mr. Capra?” Rob asked with large, nervous eyes.
“I sleep with it under my pillow,” I lied.
Lucky for these guys, the girls finally made their appearance.
And they were beyond gorgeous.
As the girls made final touches on their appearances and giggled, I stepped much closer to the boys, glaring down at them with very little expression.
“E-lev-en,” I enunciated. “Got it?”
Rob and Evan nodded quickly, shrinking away from me.
I was feeling quite satisfied that I’d gotten my point across when Blue bounded across the floor toward me. Who knew she could move so fast in that dress?
“Daddy, stop it!” she hissed.
“What?” I innocently stated, my eyebrows going up.
“Everything will be fine,” she said. “We’d better get going. Have you threatened the limo driver yet?”
“No, of course not, I know him.”
She groaned and grabbed skinny-boy Rob’s hand, leading him outside. Ruby awkwardly took Evan’s arm and Leela gave her a little wave as they followed Blue.
Leela stayed for a little while, but on Fridays the bakery was open late, so she had to check on business and then get home. I spent the evening working on my of my scores and glancing at the clock.
Eleven came and went. I figured it was probably normal that she might be a few minutes late, but when eleven thirty came around and then twelve, I began to pace. I called my limo driver who informed me he’d been jilted. I spent the next few minutes yelling at him for not calling me, then I paced some more.
Then I called Leela who told me Ruby was home and in bed already. She left me hanging while she woke Ruby up to ask her where Blue was.
“Ruby doesn’t know,” Leela said. “I’m coming over there and we can look for her together.”
“No… umm… just stay there. I’ll call you when she gets in.”
I tried calling Blue’s phone and it went straight to voicemail without ringing, meaning she’d either turned it off or it was dead.
Just as I was getting my keys to go look for her, I heard the front door squeak open. She’d taken off her shoes and was tiptoeing across the floor when I stepped into the foyer.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, not expecting to see me.
“Where have you been? The chauffeur said you never came back to the car and I’ve been worried sick! Where’s that scrawny weasel that you went with? I want some words with him!”
“I’m sorry, Daddy. Rob wanted to get a burger after the dance and I lost track of time.”
“He wanted a burger? And you couldn’t call me?”
“My phone died and he lost his at the dance. Maybe it’s in the limo, though, I don’t know.”
“Or maybe he just told you he lost his phone because he didn’t want you to go home yet!”
“Oh, Daddy, he didn’t do that.”
“Why don’t you trust me?”
“Don’t turn this around on me,” I growled. “You were supposed to be home at a certain time and you weren’t. On top of that, I couldn’t get a hold of you! What if I’d gone to the police? This is really not cool, Blue!”
“It’s not that big of a deal!”
“It is! For more reasons than one!” I disagreed.
“Well, what then?” she demanded.
“I thought something happened to you, for one thing! For another, the paparazzi has left you alone because you were a kid, but you’re older now and this is news to them! Do you want to see yourself spread all over the rags talking about how you were out partying and carrying on with some guy?”
“It wasn’t like that!” she yelled.
“It doesn’t matter! It is whatever they make it out to be. The people who read that crap don’t care what the truth is!”
“I loathe and despise that you’re famous!” she screamed. “Do you understand? I hate it!”
She stomped up the stairs as I closed my eyes. I knew I should go after her and figure out some kind of punishment for her. But I couldn’t make my feet move in that direction as I realized how far I was out of my depth. Perhaps we could talk more calmly about this after she had a night’s sleep.
Maybe I would have this figured out by then.