Every light in her room was on and she was sitting in the middle of her bed, eyes wide open as if it was six in the morning already.
“Are you in or out?” she asked, a question I often plagued her with when she held the outside door open too long.
I pulled a chair up next to the bed and sat on it, facing her as I already knew this was going to take a while.
“Are you annoyed, Daddy?”
“Only a little. Turns out, I wasn’t sleeping either but we’re both in for a big day which means we need rest beforehand. What’s keeping you awake this time?”
“It’s my brain doing it,” she said. “It doesn’t want me to sleep. It wants me to tell stories.”
“That’s what I thought you were doing. What can I do to help you go to sleep?”
“Well, I already used the bathroom and got a drink.”
“Hmm, that limits things, doesn’t it?”
Once her lengthy rendition of Rapunzel was complete, I sat with her in the darkened room. Soon, her breathing changed and I could tell she was finally sleeping.
But I stood outside her door for a little while to make sure she wasn’t faking me out like she’d done in the past.
“Howdy, neighbors!” J.P. said as he and Jem strolled in.
“What’re you doing here?”
“It’s good to see you, too,” he laughed as he ushered Jem over to the table.
“I mean, I thought we agreed I’d get Bea off to school if you could pick her up from the bus afterward?”
“Oh, that,” J.P. said with a grin. “Calpurnia is already on her way to work and I’m bored, so here we are. Besides, the kids like to eat breakfast together.”
“Uh, J.P., you’re here… so early,” Ellie stammered as she closed the bedroom door behind her. “How nice to see you… so early.”
Liar, I thought to myself with a smirk while I winked at her.
“Hey, Ellie. So, Holden, what does a dance master do, anyway?” As he spoke, he grabbed a clean mug from the dish drainer and helped himself to the coffee. “It sounds important.”
“It is, but we all have a part to play to bring a production to life. I guess you could say I’m responsible for the dancers’ level of competence. I teach a morning class and then run them through rehearsals.”
“Cool. Where’s your sugar, bro? You’re still in pajamas.”
I pointed to a cupboard behind him as I said, “I don’t start till ten. That’s why I was going to get the kids off to school.”
Dumping an insane amount of sugar into his coffee, he nodded. “Now we can both get them on the bus.”
After Ellie left and I’d finished getting ready, I came out to find both kids chomping on cereal.
“Hey, you’re both wearing bright green,” I said with a smile.
“We planned it, of course,” Bea said around a full mouth.
“Yeah, it gives us superpowers,” Jem agreed.
“What kind of superpowers?”
“The kind that keeps Ron Jones from being mean to us.”
Whoa, wait. Someone was being mean to my little girl? Where was he and what did he look like? I was ready to stomp this kid, whoever he was.
“What does Ron Jones do that’s mean?”
Before they addressed me, Bea and Jem exchanged a look I could only describe as comradery.
“He doesn’t like red hair,” Bea said. “He says Jem is a total freak of nature.”
“Are you hearing this?” I asked J.P.
“Yeah, I went through the same thing when I was a kid. It’ll blow over.”
“Has this kid ever hurt either of you?”
“Nah,” Jem said. “He’s a name caller.”
At that moment, I remembered a time in my own life of bullying because of ballet…
As I reflected on those times, I knew things could work out between Ron, Bea, and Jem if they tried. My bully, Fletcher, had become my friend and then, later, my boyfriend.
I wondered what was happening in Ron’s life that caused him to behave the way he was? For Fletcher, it was because he was actually gay but couldn’t tell anyone. He felt his parents would never have understood and so, he lashed out at me, someone he thought was gay.
Bea and Jem were smart. It would be hard, but J.P. could be right that this would blow over.
Still, I had to be sure no one was going to get hurt.
“So, what are you guys going to do about this mean kid?” I asked.
“We’re gonna make him wish he was our friend and allowed to wear our green superpower color,” Jem said.
“But no matter what,” Bea added, “he’s not allowed to play with us. Even if he starts being nice.”
“Do you think that’s fair?”
“Aunt Rosetta says life isn’t fair,” Bea said with a shrug.
“She didn’t lie,” J.P. said, refilling his cup and digging out more sugar.
I shot a glare at him, hoping he’d notice but also figuring he wouldn’t.
With the kids off to school and the early morning activities behind me, I took a cab to work. So far, we only had one car and I insisted Ellie use it. In all honesty, I wasn’t a very good driver because living in the city, I’d never had to do it. Ellie was more adventurous that way. Besides, there were too many times I’d found myself the wrong way down a one-way street. That’s not cool.
Gazing around the mirrored studio where my class would soon take place, I let the familiarity sink in. Every fiber of my of my soul longed to arabesque across the shiny, smooth floor. Taking in a deep breath, the air smelled of rosin but also of the toil and sweat that came with this art form. With it all, was the lingering scent of Tiger Balm for soothing muscles. If I closed my eyes, I could almost hear the soft tapping sound well worn pointe shoes made as ballerinas danced.
It wasn’t completely the same, but I was where I wanted to be.
Opening my eyes, I could hear the dancers approaching and my stomach did an excited little flip.
Today, I was alive again.
As always, thank you for reading, liking, lurking, and commenting,