Look, I don’t have time for all of that “Dear Diary” crap right now. Well, I guess I just wrote it anyway. I thought I was too pissed.
Anyway, after I watched Fletcher walk down the street and out of my life, I was filled with a grief I’d never known. This couldn’t be the end of us, it just couldn’t. Then, within minutes, I was angry at him for giving up on us so quickly. Right after that, I was able to dry my eyes on my sleeve before realizing who was really to blame here.
Turning on my heel, I took the front steps two at a time and burst into the house already pointing a shaking finger at my twin sister.
“You!” was the only word I could manage to form, but in that single word, I was sure my point had gotten across because even I could hear the rage, heartache, and despair behind it.
Rosetta jumped backward, away from me, her face a tight mask of shock. “I didn’t think he’d – ”
But I cut her off. ” – Don’t even speak to me!”
Chris looked uncomfortable but if I thought he would shrink away from me, I was wrong. He is almost a cop, after all. “Look, Holden, I think it’s best if – ”
Of course, I ignored him. My entire focus was on the traitor in front of me. ” – You are a backstabbing bitch and the most pathetic excuse for a sister I’ve ever seen!”
I’m sure they wanted to say a few choice things right back to me, but I was done.
I had taken a shower at the studio before getting dressed in my street clothes, so I went straight up to my attic room and stripped down, pulling on a pair of lounge pants.
As I stared at this space I’d created for myself, I realized I wasn’t actually in the habit of sleeping here. I tended to spend my nights in the guest room even if Fletch wasn’t there because being in that bed, with his scent on the sheets and pillows… it made me feel close to him. It dawned on me that I may never have that feeling of connection again.
With unwanted tears filling my eyes again, I sank down to the floor in slow motion next to the unfamiliar bed. Maybe he would change his mind. Maybe he would cool off and come back to me.
I needlessly checked my phone. There was nothing from him. It didn’t surprise me, I had just hoped there would be a call or text. Was it too soon to contact him? Obviously, it was. I knew from past experience he would ignore my attempts for contact until he was ready.
Salty tears rolled down my cheeks and dripped off my chin as I pressed my eyelids shut. Fletcher may never want to talk to me again.
I’d been really quick to blame Rosetta but really, this was my fault. I never stuck up for him with her and he figured I never would. Because if I was going to, wouldn’t I have already?
Fletcher was right. When it came to my sister, I always shrugged off whatever she said or did as if it wasn’t important to me. Usually, it wasn’t important.
Fletcher was important. Now it was too late.
With some irritation, I heard footsteps lightly treading up to my room. Hadn’t I made it clear I wanted to be alone and away from them?
“Holden, I heard everything before you guys went outside. I’m really sorry,” Julie said from behind me.
I couldn’t bring myself to answer her. I could feel her kneeling down beside me and my back stiffened a little. Then I felt her warm hand on my back, just resting there. Pulling myself forward a bit, I shrugged her off. She got the message loud and clear and continued to kneel near me, but refrained from touching me.
She mentioned that Rosetta let her borrow some pajamas. All I could think was, who cares about pajamas? Later, I realized she was trying to make small talk because that’s what you do when you feel awkward. I was too despondent, though, to keep up.
I don’t know how long we silently sat there like that. It could have been hours.
In the wee hours of the morning after Julie left to check on Paisley, I finally pulled myself up and into my bed. I prayed in vain for sleep to overtake me and instead stared into the darkness until the room became lighter and lighter. Realizing it was useless to lie there, I dragged on some clothes and padded downstairs. With any luck, Rosetta wouldn’t be up yet.
As I entered the living room, I saw Julie and Paisley near the front door. I hadn’t often seen Julie with her hair down. It still looked damp from her shower.
“Are you leaving for the studio already?”
Hesitation was evident in her eyes which told me the answer to my question.
“You’re not going home, are you?”
Again, she hesitated to answer as she absently fiddled with the zipper tag on her sweater. “I’m going home,” she eventually said while averting her eyes.
Panic filled my chest, clenching my heart like a vise. “Are you crazy? You can’t go back there!”
“I don’t have a choice. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand at all! He hurt you and he’s bound to be even angrier now.”
“He’s angry, all right. He thinks I came straight here and slept with you.”
I shook my head, my hands curling into fists at my side. “Jules, he isn’t going to listen to any type of reasoning! He’s an irrational person! You can’t ever win with someone like that!”
The despondency I felt in my soul was apparent on her face. She had dark circles under her lifeless eyes and she let out a long, soft sigh. “He didn’t mean to. You don’t understand.” I continued to stare at her in disbelief, my words failing me. “Listen, Boo Bear, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been through this a lot.”
“Which is why it should end once and for all.”
She shook her head defiantly. “You may as well accept the fact that I’m not leaving my husband. I love him – I always have, since high school. I just need to be more careful that I don’t upset him or do something stupid.”
My vise-gripped heart began to sink, leaving a sickened feeling in my stomach. What could I do to stop this from happening?
“What about Paisley?” I asked. “What if he hurts her?”
“He won’t, he loves her.”
“He says he loves you, too, though!”
“Will you back off?” she demanded. “I’m so sick of hearing this. Why do you think I’ve never told you any details?”
Throwing my hands up, I was nearly yelling when I spoke. “I care about you! I love you as my best friend! I can’t stand to think you’re going to get beaten up and that you think you deserve it or something. This isn’t your fault he does this and you don’t deserve it! How many times do I need to tell you that before you believe me?”
“You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I’ve got to go.”
Short of physically blocking the door, I didn’t see how I would be able to stop her. I began to tremble again just like I had when Fletcher broke up with me. This was all too much.
With determination in her set jaw, she turned and scooped Paisley up, then left.
Rosetta chose that moment to sit down on the couch behind me. It wasn’t even eight o’clock and everything had already gone from pudding to poop real fast.
“Quit staring at me and sit down.” When I didn’t move, she added, “Please.”
Reluctantly, I sat next to her.
“Won’t you even look at me?” she asked.
Anger bubbled up in me again. Not because of the night before, but because her tone of voice tugged at my heart. No matter what happened, I would always have a special connection to her. She wasn’t just my sister, she was my twin, older than me by almost six minutes.
“Did mother ever tell you about our birth?”
I merely shrugged my shoulders.
“Of course you weren’t paying attention,” she scolded. “Great-grandpa Leo arranged with the bank for Father to wait in the vault in the basement. Then he talked a clerk into luring Mother down there as well.”
“And the alarms went off by some fluke, locking them inside the vault,” I said, turning toward her at last.
She smiled slightly, clearly satisfied with herself. “Yes, that’s right. And she went into labor. Father had to deliver us, the poor soul.”
That would have been pretty nerve-wracking. “That’s a great story but what does it have to do with right now?”
“Family is important, Holden. You are necessary for my well-being.”
“You’re pretty necessary, too.”
“Of course I am. However, you wish I wasn’t.”
I shrugged, not wanting to say anything cruel. Especially after what I said to her last night. “Are you apologizing for how you treated Fletcher?”
Her eyes grew wide with astonishment as if the thought of ever apologizing for anything never once went through her head before. “Is that what you want me to do?”
“OMG,” I groaned. “I shouldn’t have to tell you one way or the other. If you do something wrong, you should say you’re sorry. Like, I’m sorry for what I said last night.”
“Hmm…” she said as if deep in thought. “I am… touched by your contriteness. And I, too, am… contrite.”
Sighing, I said, “So you are…”
“Apologizing. I behaved appallingly.”
“At last,” I said, barely above a whisper.
But Rosetta was already changing gears. “Now! Where is dear Julie? We must advise her that she may stay as long as she likes.”
“She’s already gone.”
Her eyes narrowed as she regarded me. “Did she go back to that malefactor?”
I wanted to ask her what that meant. Instead, I just assumed it was something bad because how could it not be?
“Yes, she went back. I’m hoping, though, I can talk her into leaving him for good.”
“Well, let us hope so.”
I was feeling like crap after my all nighter but like the trouper I am, I went to the studio anyway. It’s not like I could call in sick. I’m committed. Things were not the same, however. When I arrived the only other dancer there was one of the principals, Ella Dean.
“What’s going on?” I asked Myung, the Dance Mistress.
I could see caution in her eyes and an almost unwillingness to look at me.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this. Julie Graves resigned from the company this morning and does not intend on returning.”
I’m sure my jaw dropped.
“It’s okay, though, Holden,” Ella said, joining us. As every other time I see her, she looked me up and down, smiling unabashedly. “I’ve been wanting to try you out as a partner anyway.”
“Ella, maybe this isn’t the best time,” Myung said, obviously reading the shock I knew must have been all over my face.
“Nonsense,” she said. “Everyone wants to dance with me at some point, why would he be any different? Besides, if it works out, he’ll be leaving the corps behind and become a principal.”
Myung smiled patiently while I picked my jaw up off the floor again.
“Ella, I think I’d like to speak to Holden alone for a few minutes.”
“Fine,” she answered, leaving us.
“Have a seat, Holden.” She didn’t continue until I’d done as she said. “What’s troubling you? I mean besides learning about Julie quitting and Ella’s obnoxious display?”
Did I really want to get into this with her? I had to talk to someone and I was out of people at home.
“Well, umm, at home, things have gone all Lord of the Flies.”
“I see!” she exclaimed. “Do you need a day?”
“Do I ever, but how can we manage that? If I’m being partnered with Ella, I have a lot of new choreography to learn.”
“Yes, but you also need the correct mask and costume, too.” She began flipping through her appointment book.
“Tell you what, go see our masseuse to work some of that stress out and go home. I’ll arrange everything here.”
“Do you mean it?”
“Yes, I mean it. I need you in tip-top shape for what’s coming up, so it’s important to me that you take care of yourself. Take a mental health day and be back here on Monday.”
I think I smiled for the first time in the past few days.
She walked me to the locker room door and gave me a reassuring hug.
“Okay, now go.”
As soon as I got home, I called Julie but I wasn’t prepared for what happened.
“Hi, Jules. Myung told me you quit – ”
” – How dare you call me after what you’ve done!”
“How could you call Child Protective Services on me! They’re investigating me for supposedly not protecting my child from my abusive husband! I can’t believe you would do this to me!”
“But I – ”
” – But nothing! I never want to hear from you again!”
And with that, the call ended.
Author’s Note: The survey has ended and I really appreciate everyone who participated. Every single one, whether it was nice or more critical, was very helpful. So, thank you. While the specific comments provided are confidential, I will be able to tell you results of some of the other areas very soon.
As always, thank you for reading,