The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part X : A Doggie is Nothing If He Don't Have a Bone

For disclaimers see Part I

East of town, west of town, two hearts were unknowingly commiserating over the loss of a love.

Tuesday's rehearsals began smoothly. Ben, the 15 year old pianist extraordinaire, was here that day, so Chloe took advantage of his availability and had the principals of the play running through their songs. Wednesday was to be a purely acting day, because Ben had other commitments to attend to on that day, that being his standing 4:30 appointment with a local dermatologist.  So the students practiced their musical numbers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Saturdays would now be devoted to dancing, under the direction of That Famous Former Movie Star, Sara D' Amico. Chloe was going to announce Sara's participation to the students today after rehearsals, and since they'd all missed 'dance time' this last Saturday, that they'd meet with Sara for the first time on Thursday. She knew it would cause a stir amongst them, and she didn't want them distracted until they were done for the day. Hopefully, by the end of next week, they'd be able to integrate some dance moves into the songs they were now practicing, and the play would start taking shape.

Chloe, feeling a not little tired, and not in any mood to be surrounded by people, decided to work one on one with the leads.  She had the rest of the cast congregate down in the cafeteria, where Paul would work with them backed by a soundtrack recording.  Presently on the little theatre's stage was Jeanette, in all of her blonde glory.  Chloe had turned the spotlight on her, and dimmed all the other lights in the small theatre. She took her normal seat near the back , to make sure that their voices carried. Chloe had met with Marcy for a few minutes. It was the first time since Sunday that they had seen each other, although Marcy had called several times on Monday to check up on Chloe.  All they had time for was a supportive hug, a smile, and then they parted, each with their own jobs to perform. The show must go on.

Chloe called out to the blonde on the stage. "OK, Jeanette,  let's start from the top again.  And this time, try not to put the cheerleader moves into it."  Jeanette really does possess a pretty passable voice,  when she remembers to sing it, instead of cheering the boys on for a touchdown.

Chloe noticed someone enter the door behind her, so she turned and saw that it was Nelson, who sat in the very back row, kitty corner from her.  He nodded a hello at her. Chloe smiled, a bit forced, back, and again turned her attention to Jeanette on the stage. Chloe sighed.  Poor Nelson, this play has got to be stressful enough, now he's probably feeling strange and awkward around me. I gotta fix that.  Chloe turned again, and motioned for Nelson to come up and sit in the seat next to her. As he settled his long legs in beside her, she gave him her best reassuring smile. It's not your fault your aunt is a moron.

Ben, although a wonderful pianist, was not the most graceful of boys, and knocked all of his sheet music onto the floor, in a mess, as he was reaching for his soda.  Jeanette saw the papers flying, and graciously left the stage to help the poor boy collect the sheets that seemed to have flown everywhere.  Chloe sighed again, and took the small interruption to sneak a peak at Nelson.  She felt a bit disconcerted. I never noticed how much he looks like Sara. Same androgynous features, same deep high cheekbones, and nearly coal black wavy hair. Even their eyebrows raise in the same, one sided manner. Nelson had a dreamy look on his face, his attention glued to the pretty blonde cheerleader helping the pianist. Chloe looked back to see that Jeanette was smiling a coy, shy smile back at Nelson. That's how love should look, or pretty close to it.

Ben finally had all of his music retrieved, and back in order.  He settled back on his bench, and waited for Jeanette to get back on stage.

"Ready, Ben?"  The redheaded director inquired.

"Ready!" he replied, cracking his knuckles.

Chloe adjusted her ball cap. "OK, Jeanette, let's try this again. Remember, this is a love song, it's supposed to be heartfelt and gentle, so try and keep the rah-rahs toned down. You're singing to your one true love, not the home team."

Jeanette giggled at little at that, and then cleared her throat a few times. Ben played the opening bars, and Jeanette began singing.  She was center stage, bathed only in a tight spotlight, and as she sang, her slight voice warmed, and she began singing with a purity that Chloe had never heard come from her before. Chloe was amazed over the transformation in Jeanette. Where before she had been merely voicing the lyrics, there was now a lush emotional quality to it. Chloe studied Jeanette, trying to figure out what had caused the difference. Of course. She's singing to Nelson.  Jeanette's voice was singing with a new vibrancy.  Chloe sat, transfixed, as she felt herself being carried away by the romance imbedded in the song. She heard, or rather felt, was Jeanette was singing.

"Then out of my dreams I'll go
Into a dream with you
Won't have to make up any more stories
You'll be there!
Think of the bright midsummer's night
Glories we can share ...."

Chloe felt the beginnings of teardrops forming in the corners of her eyes.  She was powerless to stop them as she continued to listen to Jeanette.

"Won't have to go on kissing a daydream
I'll have you
You'll be real
Real as the white moon lighting the blue."

Chloe had to stop listening because the tears were starting to flow in profusion now. All of her concentration was now focused on stemming their flow.  She sniffed, and wiped her nose. Suddenly, a hand, Nelson's, was gently nudging her. In his hand was a blue bandana.  She glanced at him, she knew he could see her tears, and she gratefully accepted the proffered handkerchief. She dabbed at her eyes, and blew her nose.

The pianist was playing the ending bars of the song.  Chloe blew her nose one more time, and cleared her throat. With a shaky voice, she said, "Jeanette, that was awesome. I really mean it.  You do that opening night, and you're going to slay them."  She cleared her throat several more times. "Jeanette, that's enough today.  Would you go down to the cafeteria and get Moreen Dean for me? I need to talk with Nelson for a few minutes. You can work with Paul the rest of the day."

Chloe and Nelson watched the very pleased Jeanette disappear off to the left of the stage. Chloe called down and told Ben to take five.

Nelson, feeling very uncomfortable, slunk farther back into his seat. Chloe quickly glanced at him, and wiped her nose.

"Nelson, I want to thank you. I know this is a very strange situation for everyone involved. I'm going to do my best to keep the personal, personal, and the private, private.  I don't want you to think any of this reflects on how I think of you.  Are we going to be OK?"

Nelson was relieved. "Oh, yeah, OK, that's good." But then he got a troubled look on his face. "I wanted to tell you, well, let you know, that I can't be here tomorrow, at all. I have to take the whole day off from school."

"Is everything all right?" Chloe asked, concerned.

"Uh, yeah, it just that I have to take Aunt Sara to Buffalo tomorrow, to see her doctor. Dad was going to, but he can't." He saw the frown cross Chloe's face. "It's just a check-up, with her plastic surgeon."

Am I that easy to read? "That's OK, Nelson. Don't worry about it. You're doing great, it won't matter if you miss a day. We'll work around you."

Nelson put his hands on his knees, as if he was going to get up.

"Uh, Nelson, there's a couple of other things I wanted to talk to you about."  She coughed a little, and then said, "Tell your Aunt Sara she is to be here at 4 sharp on Thursday.  She's going to be working with the cast in the gymnasium that day. Ask her to have something ready for one of the group dance sequences. I may do the same thing as today, work with you guys individually with Ben here in the theatre.  And we have to do something about blocking out your knife sequence with Jud."

Nelson, who hated to be bringing up his aunt's name once again, said, "Well, I could ask Aunt Sara to give me a few ideas about that.  She used to do all those staged fighting moves on that cop show she used to be on."

Chloe bit the inside of her cheek. "Yeah, Nelson. That's a good idea. You do that."

"Aunt Sara? Please?  Could we please lose the Patsy Cline?  We've listened to her for 4 solid hours today."

His aunt, who had played 'Crazy' for the fourth time in a row, was about to hit the repeat button on Nelson's CD player. She scowled and hit the stop button instead. "I guess I a little silence won't kill me." she groused.

Nelson checked his watch. It was nearly 7:30 at night now, and his butt was sore. They were still an hour away from home, and his aunt hadn't said more than a few sentences, here and there, all day. Guess Marcy was right about our family being unable to talk.

"Aunt Sara?  I have to pass a few things on to you from ... Ms. Donahue."

Sara brightened. "Yeah?  She wanted you to talk to me?"

"About the play, Aunt Sara, the musical numbers ... the dancing."

"Oh." She slunk back down in her seat again and stared out her window. "What about it?"

"Um, she wants you there at 4 tomorrow, in the gymnasium. That's where she said you'll be working with us from now on.  More room in there, I guess. Anyway, she wants you to have something ready for the big group numbers. And then Saturday, too."

Oh, I'll have something ready for the big group numbers, all right. "So we'll all be in the gym, huh? Guess I'd better wear my sneakers then."

"Well, no, Paul works with the acting parts in the cafeteria, and Chlo... uh, Ms. Donahue works with us, in ones and twos, in the theatre."

So she won't have to run into me, huh?  Probably better that way. I still don't have any idea what to say to her. "Alright."

"So, that was great news from the doctor, huh?  Everything's going fine. Just a barely noticeable scar, huh?"

"Yup." Sara looked at the rows of bare trees lining the interstate.

Nelson tapped the steering wheel, and checked the gas gauge. "Oh, and Ms. Donahue ..."

Sara snapped to, again. "Yeah?"

"Well, I told her you had experience working with fight scenes, and we need one blocked out, so I told her maybe you would help out with that. She said OK."

"Uh huh. OK. No problem."

The miles passed in quiet. Nelson was going a little nuts from it, he was just about to suggest that they listen to 'Crazy' again, just to break the monotony, when Sara actually broke the silence.

"Hey Nelson.  I was thinking I should get my Pennsylvania driver's license again. I've got to go down to PennDot and apply. You think we can do that next week?  It'll take a couple weeks for the application to get processed, and I think I might have to take the test again. I'm not sure. I may have to get my eyes tested.  I haven't driven in a lot of years, and my last license was in California, and that one is expired, I know."

Nelson, a bit surprised at the amount of words flowing out of Sara's mouth, said, "Sure, we can do it on Monday or Friday, there's no rehearsals those days.  Gonna start driving again, huh?"

"Yeah, I'm tired of depending on everyone else to haul my sorry ass around.  I have the panic attacks down to a minimum now, the meds seem to have leveled out, I don't feel as dopey as I used to feel."  She rubbed her chin. "I miss driving. Driving gives you a certain sense of freedom, you know? Like you can just go, and not come back."

Nelson didn't know quite how to take that.  Go and not come back? "Yeah, I know. I haven't been driving that long myself, so I know what a big difference it can make."

"Yup. Gotta start thinking about making some changes."  She hit the play button, and she and Nelson sang along with Patsy the rest of the way home.

"Are you hiding in here, Chloe? Isn't the director of the play supposed to be ... directing something?" Doris Raeburn's voice called across the theatre, and startled Chloe.

Doris shook out her umbrella, and walked down the row to stand behind the small director. Chloe was sitting, flipping through some sketches of backdrops that Marcy had given her for her OK, before the crew made the larger versions. Doris, in her ever present rainbonnet, peered over Chloe's shoulder at the sketches.  "Good. Looks like at least Marcy knows what a tree looks like. Now about that barn, looks to me a little like a ... air plane hangar. Aren't barns supposed to be red?"

Chloe turned her attention back to the sketch in front of her. "Maybe it's an unpainted barn or something. Maybe they don't have red paint in Oklahoma. I don't know. " she said, a little peevishly.

Doris always ignored everyone else's moods. But Chloe was a favorite of hers, so she actually took notice this time. "Time of the month, dear?  Somebody key your car?  Upset I didn't leave a 'patty present' for you last night?  Sorry, it was my bridge night. It totally slipped my mind."

That last statement got a little smile out of Chloe, and Doris was pleased to see it. "Well, you didn't answer my question. Are you hiding out in here?" She didn't wait for Chloe to answer, she never did. "Its absolutely pouring out there. I guess I shouldn't complain, it could be snowing. I've had enough of that, haven't you? It's nice and quiet in here. I don't blame you for hiding in here. Although, you work in a library all day, so maybe you need the seclusion for another reason?  I hide in the nurse's office, on that nice little bed in there, when I need to get away from all these hormonal teenagers. They make me crazy. And I'm a high school principal, I'm supposed to like kids." She sighed, and took off her raincoat.

Chloe took that opportunity to actually say something. "Well, all the kids are down in the gymnasium, getting together with the choreographer. They haven't met her yet, and we're a little behind, what with us losing Mrs. Cumberland, so I thought I would give them all a chance to get acquainted without my butting in.  Paul, and I think even Marcy, are both down there too. So everything's under control. Except for me, I feel like I'm going to lose my lunch. Yesterday's lunch.

Doris Raeburn sat in the chair behind her, and grabbed the sketches from Chloe, and started paging through them. "Shame you lost Mrs. Cumberland for this year's production.  I think she invented dancing, she's that old. I feel like a twelve year old around that woman, not that that's a bad thing. What's this?  Looks like a trundle bed with bicycle wheels on it. Surely that can't be the 'creative' director's vision of the 'surrey with a fringe on top'. She paged through a few sketches. "Not bad, all in all, but let's see if her vision actually transfers to the stage. These corn stalks look like yellow feather dusters."  She handed the stack of sketches back to Chloe. "So, what poor sap did you rope into being the 'choreographer' for this year's little masterpiece, hmm?"

Chloe cleared her throat, and didn't look at Doris. "Sara." she mumbled.

"What, speak up dear, I don't hear as well as I used to, all that damned feedback from doing morning announcements. Who?"

Chloe sucked her teeth, looked at Doris this time and said, louder, "Sara."  When no recognition crossed Doris' face, Chloe continued. "Sara.  Sara
D' Amico."

Doris grabbed her coat, her umbrella and then Chloe by the arm.

"C'mon, little girl. THIS we gotta see."

"What IS that racket? " complained Doris.

Chloe, being half dragged up the hallway to the gymnasium, heard the din as they approached. A smile split her face when she recognized the song.

"Chloe, quit being so pokey. I want to see what is going on in there. Let's sneak in the side door here, we'll end up under the bleachers and I can do a little spying."

They opened the side door, and were greeted by loudly playing dance music in the brightly lit gym. They stood under the bleachers, and peered through the gaps in the seats in front of them.  There in the middle of the basketball court was this year's cast of the senior class play, all dancing their asses off to the deafening music being piped through the PA system.  And in the middle of all those seniors, juniors and a few sophomores, was Sara D'Amico, dressed in white T-shirt and blue jeans, dancing her heart out to "Who Let the Dogs Out?"  All the kids, Sara, and Paul and Marcy, were dancing, hips thrusting, arms waving, and voices providing the barks between beats. It looked like everyone was having a blast. Chloe stood enthralled, as Sara danced through the crowd, alternately dancing with Paul, then swirling and dancing with a short junior girl,  then spinning over to Marcy, bumping butts and then shoving off to find Nelson, and grinning like a madwoman, she stopped and pumped her arm in the air, barking like a wild wolf.

Chloe's breath was taken away. She had never seen Sara so relaxed, so radiant, so smiling and laughing.  Chloe never took her eyes off of her, she was easy to find, even as she wove through the crowd of students on the gym floor. She towered over most of them, swaying and playing with all of them.  She looks wonderful. It feels like I'm seeing her for the very first time.  As the song wore down, everyone was breathless and laughing and giddy. The song finished, and Sara, grinning, walked over to the bleachers to the right of them, and turned off the portable CD player that was hooked up to the PA system.  Everyone clapped their hands and whistled. Sara waved her hands to settle them all down, and waited for them to quiet. She hopped up onto the first bleacher step, and began speaking.

"All right everyone, now that we've all loosened up and gotten to know each other a little better, we can talk about what we're going to do, dance wise with this play.  I know it's a little intimidating having to dance with your friends, much less in front of a crowd.  But if we all look to each other for help, and depend on each other, we can do this, and have a LOT of fun, too!  Now, if you want to take ten minutes, get a drink and hit the loo, well, we can get started with the real stuff when you come back. OK?"

Most of the students replied with barks. Sara grinned, stepped back down to the gym floor and pulled her damp hair off of her neck, waving some cool air onto it.  She was wiping sweat out of her eyes, and that's why she never saw Doris Raeburn, with Chloe in tow, arrive in front of her.

"Still up to your old tricks, huh, Ms. D' Amico?"  Doris said through clenched dentures.

Sara opened her eyes, and saw both Doris and Chloe standing in front of her. Chloe was looking everywhere but at Sara.  Sara somehow found the wherewithal to greet Doris with some grace. "Mrs. Raeburn! What a great surprise! It's been years! "

Doris eyed her up and down, and tapped her on the knee with her umbrella. "You look exactly the same, a little older, maybe, but not any wiser, that's for sure." A big smile broke across Doris' face, and she reached out and hugged a startled Sara. Sara bent and returned the hug, and said into the older woman's ear, "You were always my favorite thing about this place, you know."

Doris stepped back, and this time, poked the rather stiff Chloe in the thigh with her umbrella. "Well, some of you kids like this place so much, you never leave. Huh, Chloe?" She turned to Sara. "We can't seem to get rid of this one, no matter WHAT I do to her."

Sara smiled her half grin, and stole a glance at Chloe. "Why would anyone want to get rid of her?  Although, the cow patties, now that was a nice touch."

"You heard about that, huh?  I swear, I still think about wringing her damned neck every time I see her. Have to bodily hold myself back." She squinted at Sara. "You don't look so bad, what are all these stories I keep hearing about you?  That thing, you can hardly see it. It looks fine to me, why aren't you out there making any more movies, making the big bucks? I heard you were playing groundskeeper out on that little golf course your brother is building on that old cow pasture out west on Route 20.  Hiding from everyone. What the hell for?  You should be out, having fun, breaking hearts."

Chloe shifted uncomfortably at those last words, and it helped mute her nervousness, and brought her buried anger to the surface. When Chloe was angry, she felt much stronger. So she let her anger and disdain bubble up, and her whole attitude shifted from uneasy to firm and sure.

She cast a cold eye on Sara, and said, with more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice, "Oh, Doris, give her a little credit. She may not be making movies any more, but she sure can still break a heart when she puts her mind to it.  She's famous for it, hell, she's PROUD of it."

Both Doris and Sara were taken aback at the amount of venom that seemed to be flowing through Chloe's voice. Chloe didn't feel shy about continuing, either. "And I just about had to promise her the moon, stars and my body, just to get her to help me out with our little production here.  Didn't I, Sara?" She looked at an astonished Sara, right in her baby blues. "Luckily, for me, it didn't come to that."

Chloe realized she was plainly fuming, so she turned it down a notch, and plastered a cold smile onto her burning cheeks. "I have some work I have to do. Looks like most of the kids are back in here, and ready to begin again.  Sara, thank you again."

She walked backwards slowly, still talking. "And oh, Doris?  I should have told you this before, but I wasn't the one who put that bull's head in your office and scared the livin' bejesus out of you." She stopped in front of the CD player. "It was SARA."

Chloe waited for the expected reaction to appear on Doris' face, and there it was, a magnificent furious flush.  Doris raised her umbrella threateningly and began advancing towards a suddenly befuddled Sara.  Chloe hit the play button on the CD player. 'Who Let the Dogs Out?'  started booming through the gym again.  Chloe watched as Sara began nervously retreating from a now clearly livid Mrs. Raeburn, who was waving her umbrella in a thoroughly menacing manner and shouting at her. The kids all started dancing again, and when Chloe saw the surprisingly spry Doris Raeburn begin to chase the wide-eyed Sara around the perimeter of the gym, the suddenly happy redheaded director danced her way towards the exit, barking and pumping her arm with a triumphant "Yip-Yippie -Yi -O!" on her way out.

Nelson and Sara were driving home from rehearsal.  Patsy Cline, now the only thing that Sara would let Nelson play on the CD player in the truck, was singing "I Fall To Pieces" for the third time.

Sara, who should have been feeling good, because the rehearsal went so well, wasn't. "She hates me, Nels. You should have heard her. I couldn't believe it. Chloe  hates me."  She rubbed a sore spot on her arm where Doris Raeburn had soundly nailed her with her umbrella.

Nelson didn't know what to say to his clearly miserable aunt. "No she doesn't. I don't believe that. Not Ms. Donahue. She doesn't hate anyone. I'll bet she's never hated anyone her whole life."

"Well, there has to be a first time for everything, Nelson. I'm it. I'm Chloe's first hate object. I'm history. I'm mud. I'm dirt under her feet. She hates me, and she should. She looks fine, acts fine, and there I am, a big, quaking dufus, scared to death of her." Sara almost wailed. "We had something beautiful, and I ruined it!"

Nelson had to do something.  Maybe this will help?  "Aunt Sara, I didn't tell you this the other day, but at rehearsals, I was sitting with her, and Jeanette was singing "Out of My Dreams" and Chloe was crying. A lot."

Sara smiled. "I'm a jerk, Nelson. A certifiable bad person."

"Why do you say that?"

"I'm a bad, bad person, because when I hear that Chloe was crying, it makes me happy, because then I think she might love me after all."

Marcy stopped at Presutti's Corner store, and bought two packs of cigarettes, enough to last her, she hoped, until tomorrow and she left for Saturday dance rehearsals. Why do I have to go? I'm the ART director for god's sakes. She stopped on her way out of the store, opened a pack and took one out and lit it. Dave never says anything about my smoking, but I can tell he doesn't like it. I try to keep breath mints handy, but well, they wear out in about 5 minutes, and I smoke, what, every 7 minutes? This is ridiculous, and costly. But it's the only thing keeping me sane lately.

She walked up and down the convenience store sidewalk, and took in a breath of spring-like air. The skies were blue, it was around 55 degrees, and forecasted to be nice all weekend. Dave and I should just take off somewhere.  But she knew that wasn't a possibility, his weekends were taken up tending to his fledgling enterprise, his little golf course. He'd told her many times that he felt guilty leaving so much of the work to Sara and Nelson, and now that the snow would come less and less, he'd feel the demands even more. Thank god he has Sara.  She has so many ... skills.  I doubt I'd be seeing Dave at all if Sara hadn't been around fixing this and that, and attending to the more mundane tasks.

Dave had one more week with UPS, and then, good lord willing, decent weather and a working mower, he would be in the golf business.  This Sunday he had plans to build a little counter inside of the barn, where golf patrons could sign in, and pick up some tees or golf balls.  Nelson, Sara and Dave would alternate times and days to work the counter.  Between the golf course, and the demands of the musical, weekends free for playing were going to be an impossibility for a good long time. Why do I keep getting involved with guys whose busiest times are weekends?  Stan, her last boyfriend of any duration, owned a bar. He kept suggesting they do things on Mondays and Tuesdays. Oh yeah, that's an off time for school teachers.

Maybe this summer Chloe and I can take off for a week of 'Spin the Car'.  This was one of their favorite things to do, and they had done it countless times.  The first time they'd done it was their  summer vacation after their first year of college.  They had packed up a two person tent, sleeping bags, a cooler, Marcy's mom's gas card, and a bag of clothes.  They'd driven out to a wide deserted intersection east of town.  Chloe, full of excitement, drove Marcy's mom's sedan into the middle of the intersection, pulled the wheels into a hard left turn, and told Marcy to close her eyes, and count to 19, their ages at the time. Marcy closed her eyes, and began counting. The car began turning in a tight circle, and Marcy kept losing count because she was laughing so hard. But when she reached 19, the car stopped. Marcy opened her eyes to find Chloe laughing merrily, and she said, "Well, it looks like we're going.... South!"   And they did. Chloe did all the driving, her hair long then, and pulled into a ponytail by her ball cap.  They never seemed to have any particular destination in mind, no timetable, no maps, and most of the time, not much money to speak of.  A few times, they had even lived without any clocks whatsoever. They put electrical tape over the clock in the car, and left their watches at home. It was odd for the first few days, but after that, they enjoyed trying to figure out what time it was by watching the movement of the sun.  They also relied on  the precision- like timing of Chloe's digestive system, which announced mealtimes, well, like clockwork.  Are we too old for 'Spin the Car'?  No, I'll never get that old.

She thought of Chloe. What would I ever do without her?  I don't even want to think about it.  I've never had to compete with anyone for Chloe's time or affections before. What if Sara and Chloe get back together, and Sara wants to leave this area, and take Chloe with her?  Marcy butted out her cigarette on the ground, and walked to her car. At least if Chloe were with Audra, I know they would stick around this area.  I like Sara, I do, but is she good for Chloe?  I've never, ever seen Chloe fall even half this hard for anyone. Even old whatsername, the old college girlfriend of Chloe's, she couldn't get Chloe to leave here for her.

Marcy pulled out of the parking lot, and headed west, for Casa D' Amico, and for adventures unknown.

Dave and Sara were in the garage when they heard Marcy pull in.  They were putting the final touches on the two used golf carts that Dave had somewhat impulsively bought the week before.

Marcy announced herself by irritatedly yelling, "DAVE!  When the hell are you going to fix the potholes in this goddamned driveway?  I almost lost the Miata in one of them." She entered the garage, scowling, with her hands on her hips.

"Nice to see you, too, hon. And those aren't potholes, they're 'underground parking'." Dave pulled Marcy into a quick kiss, which at least seemed to alleviate her scowl, if not her foul mood.

"Good, the two D' Amicos I wanted to talk to are here."

"Hello, Miss Congeniality," smirked Sara.

"Shut up, you. I'm still mad at you.  I will be for a LONG time to come. So don't bother playing nice with me. I just talked to Chloe, and she sounds horrid.  And don't you take any pleasure from knowing she is still all ripped up about you.  If we don't fix this soon, I'm hiring a hitman to put YOU out of HER misery."  She wished Sara was sitting in a chair, so she could kick it, hard.

Sara gave her a wide berth. God, she looks like artsy fartsy granola, but packs the wallop of an M-80. "I don't take any pleasure in knowing Chloe is miserable. But it gives me hope. You understand THAT, don't you, Marcy?"

Marcy ignored her and turned to Dave, who was polishing the vinyl seats on one of the two golf carts. "Dave, hon, explain to me why you bought your, uh, 'fleet' of golf carts?  All two of them?  For a par 3, 9 hole golf course?  A toddler could walk this course in less than two hours."

"Well, you know, for practical reasons.  They're faster hole to hole than the tractor or lawn mowers. You know, putting the flag poles out in the mornings, checking for damage, you know, golf course stuff." Dave replied, a bit unsure himself.

"In other words, once you get your driveway fixed, you and Sara are going to race around in them like two little kids." Can't fool me.

Sara, who didn't feel like minding her own business, said, "Precisely."

Dave looked at Marcy, and then pointed at Sara. "What she said."  He walked over to Marcy and put his arm around her. "Just think, sweetpea, one more week with UPS, then I am on my way to being a tycoon. Stick with me, baby, I'm 'sugar daddy' material."

Marcy finally grinned. "Alright, I know when I'm beat. Now before I can relax, we have to take care of some business. Sara, I understand that Chloe did a splice and dice job on you yesterday in front of Mrs. Raeburn.  Doris cornered me in the art supply closet today and threatened to pour turpentine down me if I didn't tell her what all the 'tension' between you and Chloe was all about.  Don't worry, I didn't tell her a thing.  She did say something about 'I swear, I probably should have smacked her harder when I had the chance',  which I can't quite figure out. But I digress. What's your plan for tomorrow?"

"Well, I have something planned." Sara said, rubbing her Mrs. Raeburn inflicted sore arm again. "Nelson and I have been working on it. I figure I have at least 4 hours, uninterrupted, with Chloe tomorrow. I mean,  Saturday is 'dance' day.  The whole day is devoted to it, and hey, I'm the dance monkey for this thing, she HAS to be around me."  Whether she likes it or not.

Marcy frowned. "Well, I hope your little 'plan' is good, because if it doesn't make some kind of an impact,  you have a four long days until you see her again next Thursday.  Unless you wanted to suffer the alternative, and use Beavis, Sr. and Butthead, Jr. as your back-up plan for those days."

Dave amiably said, "Hey, I resemble that remark."  Racing stripes! They would look GREAT on the golf carts.

Chloe was in the cafeteria. It was 11:30, Saturday morning, and she was giving herself a pep talk before she made the short walk down to the gymnasium and had to spend a good chunk her day with Sara D' Amico.

I feel empowered now. Yeah, that's it. I handled her pretty well on Thursday. Who knew I could come up with such nastiness on such quick notice? I don't like being nasty, but if that's what it takes ... I'll do it.  It was tough being around Sara. All it takes is a smile, or that cute little way she raises her eyebrow while she stares down at me. I melt like an ice cube in a hot frying pan. I can't think about that. Knock it off. The woman screwed me over. She can bag that eyebrow, for all I care.  I can be pretty intimidating. It sure worked on Thursday.  She won't catch me off guard. I'll be ready for whatever she comes up with.  I always have the option of just walking away. God, this is ridiculous. I'm half excited, half repulsed by the idea of seeing her. I have to act businesslike, professional, and just ignore how long her legs are in those jeans, and how crazy I feel when I see her dance. Maybe she won't dance today. What am I thinking, that's what everyone is here for today!

Chloe pushed some chairs around, just to work off some nervous energy.

Damn!  I'm going to have to sit her down at some point today, and set up a meeting for us, so we can discuss her ideas for each of the songs, the logistics. I can't cut into actual practice time to do that, we're already behind. The kids are tired of standing in one place while they sing their songs. They want to move around. So, the meeting.  Oh, well, I will just have to gauge how to approach it after I see what's actually happening, in real time.

Chloe pushed open the cafeteria door, took a deep breath, and walked to the gym. Another deep breath, and she entered.  She saw Sara, in blue jeans again, but with a light blue, long sleeved henley shirt, standing by the CD player on the left side of the bleachers.  She has her hair in a braid. She looks wonderful. She looks so fresh and innocent. Chloe paused her steps, then started again. But I know she's no innocent. Sara looked up, and saw Chloe walking towards her. She smiled at Sara, a smile of formality, not familiarity.

Sara waited, hands hitched in pockets, waiting for Chloe to get over to her. I'll bet she still gets carded in bars. And she should wear green, everyday. It's her color. But that look, that smile on her face is so fake. She makes me feel like a puppy who just got caught peeing on the new carpet.


"Hey, Chloe."

Chloe's face twisted. "Since we seem to have a little time, how about we excuse ourselves so we can talk?"

Sara, uncertain if this was good or bad, said, "Sure, where do you want to go? "

Chloe looked around. Girls room, no, students in there. Locker room, ditto. "How about the top of the bleachers?" The gym was small, the bleachers only had 14 rows, all told, in them, so it wouldn't be far to go.

"Lead the way."

Chloe climbed even these small bleachers hesitantly, she hated stairs with no backs, and hated heights of any kind even more. Sara hit the top,  using her long legs to ascend two steps at a time. She got there ahead of Chloe and sat down.

Chloe got there, finally, and stopped one bleacher down from Sara, and straddled it, so she could face Sara. "So, I thought it would be a good thing if we talked." Chloe nervously pushed her hair out her collar and composed herself.

"I'm so glad you want to talk, there's so much I want to ..."  Sara said, a bit too eagerly.

"Not that kind of talking. I'm not interested, now or ever, in having that kind of talk with you."  She saw Sara's face flinch. Good. Chloe's face was  stiff and her voice was stern. "Let's get something straight. Do you plan on staying with this thing, no matter what our ... relationship is, or isn't?  Or are you going to blow out of here when you find out that I don't plan on giving you the time of day?  Think about it, before you answer." This is good, I feel  very strong.

Sara had already considered that possibility. She had already come to a conclusion about it. "I'll stay.  No matter what."

"Fine. Thank you. We have to set some time aside to meet. I don't want to take any time away from these kids with you today, we're already behind and they need as much 'dance' time as you can give them.  We need to exchange ideas, things I've been thinking about that I'd like to see, things you would like to do. What do you have planned for them today?"

"Well, some stuff, but not completely thought out.  I want to concentrate on some fundamentals, and a few different styles. It should take up the whole afternoon."  She has no intentions of cutting me a break.

"Good. Feel free to discuss anything with me.  I will avail myself to you, purely as the play's director, as the day goes along. You stay professional, and I will. We can talk at a break and set up a meeting."  Chloe stood up and started down the steps. She had gotten down around half way, when she heard Sara call her name.

"Chloe? Wait, one more thing."  Sara took two long strides, two steps at a time, and stopped a bleacher step below Chloe.  She was almost, but not quite, at eye level with her. She still stood an inch or two above the redheaded librarian.

Chloe folded her arms across her chest. "Yes?"

Sara looked her dead in the eye. "I love you, Chloe.  I'm in love with you."  Then Sara turned and made her way down to the gym floor in three long strides.

"Alright, everyone."  Sara clapped her hands together. "Let's get started. It's going to be a long day today."

Continued in Part XI

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