Time Lapse: One Year
Dear Diary, at last, I have pulled you out again to write. I could say I was busy with the ballet which isn’t a complete lie since it’s still all-consuming. But I’ve already had my off-season break and have begun rehearsals for the new season.
Sometimes writing feels therapeutic, so why then, did I pack this journal away and ignore it for so long?
I thought about this for some time as I went through my daily routines of exercise, dancing, and icing. There were brilliant performances on stage that I could have written about. Or, I could have talked about how happy Chris and Julie are. They’ve added another child to their family.
My sister Rosetta has changed somewhat. Don’t get your hopes up that she has fallen in love. She just seems a bit softer toward the idea. During the past year, she was made Press Secretary to the Leader of the Free World. She still works with our parents although, I don’t know how she fits everything in. She’s closer to her political ambitions and is hoping one day to be Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Free World.
A year and a half ago, this would have been big news to document.
I dated countless people during this time and it was casual and fun. But when it came time for commitments, to advance the relationship to the next level I didn’t feel confident in my own feelings. What happened with Ella had made me overly cautious, I guess.
But there was more.
So, what is it? Why didn’t I feel like anything was important enough to keep in these pages?
At last, I came to the conclusion that three months in Winchester had changed me a great deal. My grandparents changed me in that they inspired a drive in me to find a relationship similar to theirs. How could I do that, though, if I never got close to anyone?
I thought a lot about Ellie and how she never placed expectations on me. My relationship with her was unconditional. I even asked her once why she liked hanging out with me. She had laughed and then said, “Because I like you.” Sure, that might be what anyone might answer to that question. But when she said it, I got the distinct impression she was being completely sincere. She just liked me… for me.
Ellie Duberry changed me and Grandpa’s words declaring that Grandma was never wrong about her matchmaking rang in my head more often than I liked. The more I wrote about Ellie in these pages, the more the realization that I wanted her pounded against me like the waves of the Winchester ocean, each wave bigger than the last, threatening to swallow me whole. And if that happened, I wouldn’t be in control any longer. Yet, I couldn’t forget her or get her out of my mind no matter how hard I tried.
Ellie and I hadn’t even kissed on that island in Winchester. I didn’t suppose she felt the same way I did. Her letters were benign so it was difficult to write back to her without expressing my love for her, my utter devotion. This thing I had for her could never be assuaged because we lived in two different worlds. I couldn’t live in Winchester any more than I could imagine her living in Fortress Rock. She would be lost here.
And so, as my heart ached and longed for the impossible until my chest hurt, I put this journal away. I didn’t want to write down how I really felt because it was too painful and maybe Grandma was never wrong after all.
I had it bad and there was nothing I could ever do about it.
And so there it was, in my brain like a huge, flashing neon light. Ellie Duberry was the only one for me. It may sound like I’m just a two-year-old who wants what he can’t have. Perhaps that’s true. But I don’t want to love anyone else. Even if it means I’ll forever be alone with this aching in my heart.
Sounds dramatic, I know.
“Holden! Is that you?”
Slowly, mouth gaping wide, I turned around to see Ellie standing in front of me. Blinking hard, I was sure I was hallucinating her likeness. OMG, was I losing my mind? Should I take a cab straight to the hospital so they could admit me to the psychiatric unit?
“Aren’t you going to say hello?” the Ellie-apparition said.
After a moment, I was able to shut my mouth and take in the sight of her. “Ellie?” My voice cracked like a pre-pubescent boy.
“I didn’t realize you’d be so shocked to see me,” she said. “I saw you standing there and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Of course, I had to say hi.”
“Hi,” I stupidly said, the heat rising in my cheeks.
“Are you in a hurry to go somewhere?”
Gradually, I began to come back to my senses. “I just had a morning workout at the gym and was on my way home. What are you doing here?”
“I moved here a few months ago to take some writing classes. I’ve decided I want to be a professional writer and so, I’m preparing for that. I want to write stories about my parents and how I came to Winchester – of course, I won’t call it Winchester in my books because it’s a well-guarded secret – ”
” – I still can’t believe you’re here.”
“I know and I’m sorry I didn’t let you know right away. I was going to contact you but life has been crazy.”
I was beginning to understand she was living here now and I felt a little stab to my heart that she seemed to think contacting me wasn’t very important. Still, I was so happy to see her, I hurriedly pushed that thought away.
“Hey, um, do you want to come over and catch up?”
She flashed me a pretty smile. “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t right now. I’m on my way to class. In fact, that’s my ride there.”
She pointed to a vehicle that had pulled up to the curb. It’s hard to hide the fact that you’re nosey but as I peered at the car, I realized it was a guy in the driver’s seat.
“Oh, is he in your class, too?” I casually asked. At least, I hope it sounded casual.
“Yes, that’s Derek. I met him in class and we started dating. I think you’d really like him.”
I bet I wouldn’t, I imagined myself saying. Instead, I nodded with a tight smile and said, “I’m sure I would.”
“You know what? I’m free later this afternoon. Are you busy? We could meet up then. I really do want to catch up with you.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” I enthused.
Just then, Derek honked the horn.
“I’ve got to go!” she said.
I gave her my phone number so she could call me later to set up a time and then I watched as she got into the car and it drove away.
After rehearsal, I practically ran home at full speed. I wanted to make sure the house was straightened up and I looked decent before Ellie got there.
When she finally arrived, she seemed very different than the bubbly and spirited girl I’d seen just this morning.
As we sat on the sofa, I asked, “What’s wrong? You seemed so happy this morning.”
Secretly, I was hoping she and Derek had broken up. That would make me the rebound guy, so that wouldn’t be ideal, but I’d take what I could get.
“Oh, Holden, have you ever wanted something so bad you couldn’t stand it?”
Yes, that sounded like me all right. I merely nodded.
“Only to find out you just weren’t good enough?”
Whoever had hurt her, I would kill him. Was it Derek? He was dead meat. “Who says you’re not good enough?”
“One of my instructors. He thinks my writing is shallow and that I’m not digging deep enough. He was really critical of me today and I guess I it has me down.”
“What do your other instructors think?”
She shrugged a little. “I get pretty good grades, honestly.”
“Then why does this have you so down? It’s just one person’s opinion.”
“Because he is the one I wanted to impress the most.”
“Oh,” I mumbled.
“I kind of know what you’re talking about,” I said. “I mean, dancing is a bit the same way. There are critics who come to the show and everything rests on your performance. But, everyone has an off night once in a while when things aren’t as smooth as you hope they’ll be. The next day, you read the paper and the critic has scathed your performance for everyone to see.”
Hanging her head, she said, “That sounds awful.”
Without thinking about it because it’s just in my nature, I put my arm around her. “It can be. You should see what happens around here when that happens. I always know I’ve gotten a bad review when one of my roommates hides the paper or just the section the review is in.”
She laughed a little at that, but she still looked miserable.
All I wanted to do was pull her close to me and comfort her. I didn’t think that would go over so well, though, so I restrained myself.
“Hey, can I read whatever it is you write?”
“So far, all I’ve done are mainly essays.”
“Great! Can I read them?”
“Well, will you give me an absolutely honest opinion?”
My heart was breaking for her. I couldn’t stand seeing her so sad. “Yes,” I whispered. “I’ll be kind of a sounding board for you.”
“Okay, then, I’ll bring them by sometime soon.”
Before I could answer her, Rosetta came briskly through the front door, startling us right off the couch.
“Oh! Hello!” she said to Ellie.
“Uh, Ellie, this is my sister Rosetta. Rosetta, this is Ellie.”
Rosetta’s eyes flashed and seemed darker. “Is this the girl that – ”
Luckily, I’m pretty good at reading my twin but I barely caught her before she got it all out in a sentence. ” – No! That was Ella. This is Ellie… from Winchester.”
Relief passed through her face but I was still worried she might say something more about my experience with Ella.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Ellie,” Rosetta said, to my relief. “Are you in Fortress Rock for a visit?”
“Actually, I have a small apartment near the gym where Holden works out. We ran into each other by chance this morning.”
“Oh, how nice. And what is it you do?”
Was this really my sister speaking kindly or had aliens taken her away and replaced her with whatever this was?
“Well, I work part-time as a server at Thai-Riffic. I can walk there from my apartment and the tips are really, really good.”
“Oh! Yes, I know that place. Sometimes we get carry-out from there,” Rosetta said with a smile.
“I should get going,” Ellie said. “Thank you for having me over, Holden. Rosetta, it was so nice to meet you.”
“Don’t forget I want to read your essays.”
“I won’t,” she said with a smile.
As I walked her to the door, I could only hope I’d see her again soon.
“She is an absolute doll!” Rosetta said once Ellie was gone. “Tell me you didn’t know she was coming over, though.”
“Because I think that’s the most ridiculous shirt you’ve ever worn.”
Ah, there she was.
“Why are you so happy?” I asked.
“Don’t be so suspicious.”
Instead of answering, I raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to respond.
“Okay, okay! I’ve just come from the salon, don’t I look smashing?”
Realizing for the first time she was in an evening gown, I said, “Oh yeah, you do.”
“I’m on my way to a State Dinner. We’re hosting the Prime Minister of Asmistan. I was key in getting him here to negotiate a treaty with his country. If he enjoys tonight’s dinner and the musical performance we have lined up right after… if he signs this treaty, I have been promised the Chief of Staff position!”
“That’s terrific, sis!”
As she spoke on about how instrumental she was in bringing the Prime Minister of Asmistan to the Free World, my mind drifted to Ellie. She had a boyfriend and her own life. But I wasn’t completely out of the picture yet. So, there was hope.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank Bee for the beautiful poses in this chapter where Holden and Ellie are sitting on the sofa talking. If you would like to use Bee’s poses, you can find them here: Poses by Bee.
Thank you for reading,