***So, I’ve been a little eager to upload this post these last few hours and took it as a good sign that I’m feeling better. Sorry for the interruption and for the previous posts, but I do appreciate your understanding and all your kind comments. Hopefully this streak continues (but won’t be making any promises considering an incident that happened last week that I won’t get into), but for now, here’s a post and I hope you like it and love Daniel even more! Soul xo***
My hands braced me over the bathroom sink as I hyperventilated. My back ached and my chest was so winded I started feeling like I could fly away with the breeze. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t angry. I was just unbelievably confused. The only question repeating in my head was, what the hell is my mother doing with a 23-year-old guy?!
“Anna?” Chloe knocked on the door. “Anna you in there?”
I remained quiet.
“Anna, you’re scaring some of the guests, they think you’re doing coke.”
I tried to laugh at her joke—more so because I actually found it amusing!—but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. My mind was going bonkers!
“Anna…” her voice trailed off and sounded muffled. When I opened the door I realised it was because her head had turned and her voice stretched its limbs elsewhere. I grabbed for her arm and yanked her inside and a subsequent yelp sprang from her tongue.
“You okay?” she asked, eyes glistening with concern.
I shook my head and failed to utter a sentence, nothing coming out except a squeak.
“Anna…you need someone?”
Who? Who should I call? What could Daniel do but comfort me? What could my friends do but stare at me strangely, in a way that made it seem like it should be so obvious my mother is not only dating, but can form actual-freakin’-relationships? What could my father do but feel sad that my mother moved on, or happy? Good riddens, he could say. Does he even know?
I never asked. I never even made it to him after I visited mom the last time I was here.
“Anna, just tell me who to call,” Chloe gently shook my shoulders.
“I don’t understand,” I muttered. “I—I don’t understand.”
“Your emotions could just be exaggerated.”
“My emotions?” My forehead crinkled.
Chloe shrugged. “Yeah, like, it ain’t so bad. It could be worse.”
“Worse than a prepubescent boy dating my mother?”
“Mental age is a thing you know,” she said, putting a hand on her hip. “What are you like four?”
“What?” I asked, taken aback and furrowing my brows.
Chloe softened the edges around her eyes. “Well…I mean…I’m not good at this…”
“What’s a more acceptable reaction?” I mumbled.
If I’m shocked and disapproving, I’m overreacting; if I’m okay with it, but secretly not, I’m not being honest or I may not care; if I absolutely love the idea, gosh, I wouldn’t know who would view me as the psycho more, society…or me.
Chloe’s words strung together in inaudible sentences. My ears mimicked that of a jumping castle with each word, none of it landing on me, but all sounding as if it were just one. Chloe moved in slow motion, I saw nothing but long brown hair swishing in front of me, and then she disappeared.
In her absence, a deafening silence drew closer, and all I wanted to do was scream to unblock the sensation from my ears. To pierce my sensory and shock it back into its natural form.
A knock sounded on my door. “Honey, it’s your mother. Honey, can I come in?”
My mother is always uber-polite whenever she thinks I’m about to jump ship. All I heard was a deep voice utter, “Yeah,” and I was shocked to find that it was my own.
My mother locked the door behind her as she moved in. In the glimpse that the door was opened I saw Chloe outside, with Daniel. Running her mouth like a drum. ‘Her mother BOOM is dating BOOM a man her age BOOM-CLASH-PANG!!’
My mom always appears older in her worry. Lines crinkled in deep ridges at her forehead, and her eyes rounded, yet with the heaviness of maturity her eyelids slanted. She kept gulping, and in the little gilded and ivory bathroom, all I heard was her throat clicking and her nose hold a breath and letting go as she swallowed or tried to hinder her breathing from being so loud.
I fitted my fingertips through my hair and shook abruptly. “I don’t know…” I scrunched my nose, “I don’t know what happened, exactly.”
“What happened exactly is—”
“I mean,” I interjected as if she hadn’t even spoken, and she ceased to carry on as if I hadn’t finished, “I don’t understand how it came to be that you’re dating someone and he happens to be my age. How do you expect me to take this?”
She shook her head. “Take it any way you want, honey, I’m fine.”
“How’s dad taking it? Has he said anything?”
Her jaw ticked. “He—he doesn’t know.” She straightened up even though the action appeared to make her seem more exhausted.
My mother, without a word and with her eyes glued to the floor, nodded.
It was then I realised that I’ve never seen my mother so worried about my reactions. As if she were my daughter and I were her mother; our roles entirely swapped, each of us looking for a sort of acceptance or approval of the other. I don’t want to be the source of my mother’s unhappiness, but I also don’t know how to take this new turn around. I couldn’t decide there and then how I felt about her dating a guy my age, or the guy. Okay, I’m being rude. Jim, his name is Jim.
I’m glad that my mother at least didn’t push it. And I didn’t push her. We carried on the evening without so much as a word to each other, but we both knew it was going to take some time for the moment to rise.
Back in New York City, I wanted to do nothing but dive into work straight away. Halloween has always been one of my favourite events of the year, and yet I couldn’t even enjoy this one. Our offices were of course still open and as soon as I stepped out of the elevators and on my way to my desk, I was summoned by David into his office. All this time I was under the funk, I had completely forgotten about Richard and his unfortunate presence within the company. He shuffled out, smirking at me, as I walked in. I narrowed my eyes as we shifted past each other and could only hope David didn’t notice.
“Please, sit down,” David said, a tone grave and serious.
I gulped and without word did as he asked. “Is something wrong?” I asked after a bit.
“Richard has been…honest with certain things.” Oh boy… “He’s asked if I could speak to you.”
“Speak to me about what?”
David sighed. “Anna, you’re one of the best assistants I’ve ever had in my life. You’re professional, creative and punctual. You’re hard-working and don’t take any crap.” As I was about to ask where my fault lies, he blabbed them out. “Richard has apparently been getting some complaints about the way you dress.”
I tilted my head. “The way I dress?”
“He says some clients wouldn’t want to be represented by someone who wears skirts that are too short or shirts that show too much cleavage.”
I looked down at myself. I’ve always thought I dressed decently and respectfully. I was half way between a club and the church. And David has never even mentioned anything about the way I dress before now.
“But I’m not representing any clients,” I said.
“You’re representing this company. And me.”
I chuckled lowly. “I see.” It was all coming into view.
“I thought it best not to bring HR into this conversation. Since we can…talk.”
My heart jumped at the mention of HR. Was Richard so serious? He was ready to have me fired all because of the relationship with his son? I wish I could fire that man. There will always be a hierarchy in the scheme of things, though, and I was way below Richard it seemed. No, it was apparent. Richard has been here all of two seconds—barely!—and he’s already ruffled some feathers and gained favourable reviews with the right people. That’s what it’s all about anyway. In any industry, isn’t it? Get everything and all from the right people and you’re set for life.
My smile, fuelled by rage, broke my lips. “I see.”
David ran his eyes over me. “What you’re wearing now is fine.” He slapped on an encouraging smile.
“I never knew it was a problem until now.”
David furrowed his brows in thought. “Me neither.”
“Even so, I’ll try and be more…professional-looking.”
He grinned widely and nodded. “Good.”
“He’s absolutely vile!” I complained to Daniel as we undressed and dressed into our birthday outfits. I selected my outfit a month ago. Daniel selected his as we spoke.
“Don’t worry,” Daniel said, “I’ve contacted him an hour ago. We’ve scheduled a lunch downtown.”
“He’s disrupted the whole flow between David and me. We were so good!”
“At least in his little speech he said that you’re the best.”
I rolled my eyes. “One of,” I mumbled.
“Let’s not focus on this tonight of all—”
“And that Jim guy,” I interjected. “My mom keeps asking me how I feel and stuff. Like I’m supposed to give an answer there and then. I’m supposed to decide how I feel about this Jim right now?”
Daniel sighed. “It’ll probably give her a piece of mind.”
“I want to know if my dad is at peace with this.”
“Jim sounds like an okay guy.”
I turned and narrowed my eyes. I’d taken off my work shirt but not my pencil skirt and stood there in my black bra with my hands on my hips. “You spoke to him?”
“Yeah, why not.”
“And you like him?” I sounded so petulant and disapproving but I couldn’t help it.
Daniel laughed. “Yeah, he seems to make your mom happy.”
“I can’t believe this. You honestly like the guy?”
“Come on, it’s Jim.”
I threw my hands up in the air. “Wow.”
Daniel laughed again. “Look, he seems decent, your mom’s happy, and your dad hasn’t said anything. Why don’t you see the good in this?”
“Because I…” I shrugged, struggling to find the words, “I…feel strange. There’s something wrong here.”
It was then I realised that maybe that something wasn’t Jim.
Long, creamy arms embraced me and the hands of which latched onto my shoulders, holding me in a tight bear hug.
“Admit it. There’s nothing wrong and you might just be worried about someone or something, mainly your mom,” Daniel’s lips were close to my ear. I rested my head on his shoulder. “If a person has a shot at happiness, wouldn’t you want them to take it?”
“Yeah, but, Jim is my age!”
“Forget his age. Forget the way he looks, how young he is, and all that superficial stuff. Think that maybe, just maybe, this guy is a good guy. Just think about your mom being happy. If she has a shot at happiness with Jim, wouldn’t you want her to take it?”
I sighed grumpily. “I hate your logic.”
Daniel snickered and planted a kiss on my neck. “Get ready,” he slapped my ass. “Tonight is your night—your birthday—and I have a surprise for you.”
“A jazz club?” I asked. “You’ve truly outdone yourself.”
Daniel squeezed me at the waist. “Hey, don’t make fun. It’s supposed to be classy and legit. I know we’ve been to quite a few, but I also know that you wanted something jazzy for your birthday. I couldn’t very well play the trumpet—”
“—you played me just fine thank you—”
Daniel grinned. “—but I think you’ll like this place. Gift is at home. But first, jazz!”
The place was a blue lagoon. A dark, thrifty one. These kinds of places are my favourite because they make me believe the night can go on forever. Extended into eternity with nothing but stars, jazz, good company and great drinks.
Daniel pulled out the chair of a table at the front that had a plaque proclaiming that it was reserved. I pointed this out to Daniel when he said, “It’s reserved for us.”
We were up front and centre to the jazz band on the stage, elevated slightly. There was a turn over as we came in, new musicians were fitting themselves onto the stage and the ones that were on filtered out onto a table in the corner with drinks on the house. I gazed up at their instruments—a bass, a drum kit, an upright piano, and microphones standing for their wind instruments, especially for the saxophone and trumpets—and I watched in awe as they polished and prepped their instruments for play.
“You’re like a kid in a candy store,” Daniel whispered into my ear, reminding me of his presence.
I smiled and felt my face heat up. “I blame you.”
“For my impending sugar coma,” I winked.
Daniel laughed and pulled my chair closer towards him just as the musicians started playing their set. I fitted myself into him as he stretched his arm and held the back of my chair. I’m the worst jazz fanatic in the world, I love jazz but couldn’t recognise or distinguish one song from the other. Oddly enough, that’s my favourite part of jazz. I could hear a song a few times and still think I’ve heard it for the first time on each listen.
“Did I do right?” Daniel asked as the music began to filter out.
“You did right,” I replied above claps.
Daniel pecked me twice on my forehead. “Hey, I’m going to go the bathroom, okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be two seconds.”
Half of my back felt cold as it missed his warmth. I watched as he disappeared into a dark corner and I turned to watch the next set. The musicians continued polishing their instruments and over the crowd chatting away drinks were being served.
A martini landed in front of me with an olive inside. “Courtesy of Daniel,” the waitress said.
Fifteen minutes in and the lights started to dim. I scanned the darkness of the blue and purple neon club and Daniel was nowhere in sight. I pouted my lip, wanting him near. He’s going to miss the show.
“Ladies and gentleman we have a special announcement,” the dark man began to say through the microphone as I continued to turn my head in search of Daniel. He had a small beard around his mouth sprinkled with white; he wore a hat and sunglasses black as a crow’s wing, “is Anna in the audience tonight? Anna Parker?”
My heart dropped and then drummed with the beat of a club-banger. I raised my right hand hesitantly. “H—here?”
“Ah,” the man pointed and offered a wide grin through thick dark lips, showing off large white teeth, “there she is! Give it up for Anna celebrating her birthday tonight.” A round of applause hit me from every direction. I let my head lay limp in equal parts embarrassment and humbleness. “Anna’s partner, Daniel, has a special surprise for her,” the man carried on. “Please welcome him to the stage, everybody. Give it up! Yeah!” he started clapping and I watched as Daniel peaked from the left side of the stage and a huge grin found its way onto my lips. My cheeks lifted high and I straightened up in my chair, bright and eager.
“Oh my God,” I mumbled, laughing and shaking my head. “What is he up to?”
“Now, Daniel here,” the man slapped Daniel on the shoulder, “isn’t very skilled in the musical section—” a small laugh erupted— “but the surprise is, and get this ladies and gentleman, he’s been practising for months—what was it?”
“Eight months,” Daniel said.
“Eight months to perfect a jazz song, people. Give it to the man!”
Another round of applause hit the club, and it was then I noticed the trumpet in his hand. In Daniel’s hand. Gold and shiny, ambient in its glory.
Is Daniel serious? He’s going to play a tune? For me?
With my mouth wide open, I watched as they began to prepare themselves, including Daniel. And he polished and prepped his trumpet as if he were part of the band all along. When we caught eyes, he winked at me and I giggled, still in disbelief and in major awe. Then, he held the trumpet at his lips and blew.
Even to the untrained ear you could tell he messed up a couple of times, his fingers would trip and he’d chuckle; or he’d lag behind the band but eventually find his way; but even so, those mistakes were the best because his efforts shone through even larger than life, and I couldn’t have been more appreciative. More in love. More happy.
When Daniel finished the set, everyone clapped and whoo-ed and whistled. A faint red coloured his cheeks and he rustled his hair vigorously. That’s when I knew he was nervous—when he wanted to completely mess up what was orchestrated into perfection and let loose.
After he shook hands with each member, thanking them and they congratulating him, he dropped off the stage and came to sit next to me. I still retained my dopey smile, elevated by the electricity running through me.
“You said you want me to play the trumpet,” Daniel winked.
“You are so sneaky!” I said.
“What?” he shrugged nonchalantly.
“How did I not know all this time that were you practising?”
He tilted his head. “We’re busy people, I guess.”
Why did it annoy me that I didn’t know Daniel was being sneaky around me? I’ve been operating with blinkers on the sides of my head this whole time. Or maybe Daniel was just that good.
“You did amazing. Way beyond my expectations. Way beyond anything.”
“I get points?” he asked with a glint in his eyes.
“You definitely get points. Big ones. Can I just stay here forever?”
“I’m glad you’re happy, Anna.”
“It’s an incredible way to end the year.”
“Close to the end.”
“I’m happy,” I nodded.
In that moment I realised, I should let my mom live and be happy. Inhibiting this feeling, especially for the person you love, to feel, is a crime against humanity. Worse to my own mother.
“Don’t scuff the trumpet,” I said, staring at it in its case on the table. “You need to return that beauty in excellent condition.”
Daniel laughed. “Return? What do you mean return? It’s mine.”
I laughed. “What?”
Daniel pressed his lips against mine. “I bought it. For whenever you need a pick-me-up,” he winked.
“Daniel…I…” I struggled to find the words.
“Just say you love me, it’s all I’ll ever need from you.”
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”