The Light Fantastic

By L.A. Tucker

Part II :  I'm Not Panicking, You're Just Underexcited

For disclaimers, see Part 1

For three days now, Chloe had been trying to contact Marcy. She left her numerous messages, at home and at work, and hadn't gotten a return call. It was now early Sunday afternoon, and Chloe was really getting peeved. Marcy hadn't shown up for the rest of the cast auditions on Friday, even though she left a message with Doris to apologize and to tell Chloe she had an appointment she couldn't miss. Ultimately, casting choices were Chloe's responsibility, but she liked the friendly input of her three dearest friends when agonizing over who ultimately got chosen. Not like there were that many hard decisions to make. The talent pool that Chloe had to chose from was not the largest with which to begin.  Fort Lafayette High School, divided into three grades, probably had no more than 400 students in total. This was the senior class play, so only seniors could be cast in the major roles. They could glean, and did, juniors and sophomores to play extras, dancers, or work as stage crew, costumers and ushers. With around 150 seniors, one could subtract out 90% as those who had no interest in the theatre arts, or thought it would be extremely uncool to be involved with anything as lame as wearing chaps or a prairie skirt while singing in front of friends and family.

So, Chloe had 12 girls, and 8 boys interested in playing the more major of the speaking parts, and as much as Chloe didn't like to admit it, to fill all the roles she needed accept that a general rule of 'show up, be able to carry a tune, and you're in' prevailed. This year, Chloe had to amend that so the 'carry a tune' requisite flew right out the window. After hearing so many tuneless, off key, sometimes bordering on caterwauling would-be singers, she had a minor epiphany at one point, and briefly thought of presenting Fort Lafayette High's production of 'Oklahoma' as it's first  'All Rap Musical Extravaganza'. But she really doubted, down deep, that these kids could rap, either.

Chloe's phone rang. She picked it up, and heard Marcy singing along with the Backstreet Boys on the radio. On key, even.

"Hey, Marse. You can sing! You wanna be a lead in the musical? I'll let you play ALL the girls' parts. AND the boys' parts. It can be a one woman show!!" An amused snicker tickled Chloe's ear before she continued, in a much snottier tone, "About time you called me back. I thought you ran off and eloped with number seven or something." , leaving no doubt she was pissed.

"I'm still trying to achieve closure with the latest one. Cut me a break here. What are you doing? I just got out of the grocery store and thought I would stop out to see you so we can catch up." Marcy was trying to be sweet.

"Get here. NOW.", demanded Chloe.

And so she did.


"When's the last time you spent any quality time under something more interesting than  a tractor?"

Sara rolled out from under the John Deere, and looked up into the grinning face of her older brother.

"I dunno, Dave, I guess I could ask the same question of you.", she shot back with a smirk. "I guess we're in the same club here."

She wiped her hands on an old rag that he handed her, and then took the beer he offered her next. She stayed on the floor, and motioned him to sit down beside her.

He settled in, took a draw off his own beer, and cleared his throat.  "I officially resigned from that club as of last night."

She deliberately and slowly turned her head to give him a wide-eyed unbelieving look, and saw the satisfied smirk on his face. She punched him in the arm.  "You slut. How much was she?"

"Nope. Didn't have to pay."

"Been hanging around the senior citizen center again? Those rich old widows...."

"Nope. I was banned from there, remember?"

"Yeah. Right after you organized 'orgy night' ".



"No thanks, I just had some."

"Finally come to your senses and admitted you're gay?"

"Nope. You have that singular distinction in our little family group."

"Well, brother, I'm running out of choices here. No, wait, you weren't out at the Keller farm, were you?"

Dave was stumped. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and said "Nope. But why ?"

She steeled herself for his reaction. "I know they have some mighty hot looking SHEEP out there."

He snorted his gulp of beer out his nose and gave her a rough, indignant shove on the shoulder. Since she was still seated on the low dolly, she rolled nearly to the end of the large tractor, laughing all the way. She recovered her bearings, and scooted back to sit next to him, hip to hip. He was picking the label of his beer bottle and staring at it, a soft small smile playing on his lips.

She thought for a moment and then said one word. "Marcy."

Dave looked a little surprised, then nodded and the soft smile returned to grace his dark features.  "How'd you know?"

"Well, Dave, I know very few adult females in this town. Not like I know them, either. It's not like I get out much, is it?" She didn't expect a reply to that and didn't get one. " I know you've mentioned her a few times, and I met her that one time when she came over to drop off the designs for your signs." Sara winced at that memory.

"I apologized about that already. I didn't know she was going to just stop by like that." Dave said, annoyed.

"Hey, don't get all defensive. That's my gig. It's OK. I was just upset at the time. I'll live."  She joined him in his label picking.

After a short, uncomfortable silence, Dave nudged her. "Um, I gotta ask you. After last night, and all, she may be around here alot more often. Would you be all right with that?"

It was Sara's turn to get defensive. "Listen.  It's not like I live in your house. I've got my own place up at Chez 8th Hole. I don't have to be around when she's around."

Dave's annoyance turned into aggravation. "But I don't want you stay up there all by yourself just because I have a new woman in my life. It would be nice if you two could get to know each other.  Nelson and I like having you underfoot all the time."

Sara twisted her head from side to side to try and relieve some of the tension that she could feel rising in her neck. She took a deep breath and tried to contain some of her racing thoughts. Getagrip getagrip getagrip. You can do this. He likes her. He loves you. Try and act like a normal human being. Don't be so controlling. You didn't used to be like this. Be happy for him. You've already met her. So what if she thinks you're a loon. She seems nice. Except for that hair color. AND ... she seems to be a close friend of that .... adorable Chloe Donahue.

"Adorable?" Sara said out loud, in consternation that she thought that another human being was "adorable". But she is.

Dave turned to look at her, and was giving her a strange look.  "Well, 'adorable' isn't a word I normally use in my everyday vocabulary, but yeah, I guess she is." He blushed and looked away, knowing he had given away something of the depth of his feelings for Marcy.

She smacked him in the shoulder. "You're a GONER!!! Ohmygod.  Do I hear wedding bells? Is Nelson gonna have a little brother or sister in his future? Can I pick out the name? "  Curly, Moe, Larry...

Just a few miles up the road,  more beer bottles were suffering the indignation of losing their coverings. In fact, a small pile of foil pickings were making a nice little pyramid in the center of Chloe's coffee table. By the look of it it consisted of 5-6 bottles worth of pickings.

"Um, Chloe, do you mind if I smoke just one little itsy bitsy cigarette in your house? Hmm? Please?  It must be 10 degrees out there ... Please?" Marcy wrapped a finger around one of her corkscrew curls, trying to look as pathetic as possible.

Chloe, comfortably reclined against a couple of throw pillows in one corner of her couch and her bare feet parked on the edge of the coffee table, had her beer bottle propped  on her stomach and was intently picking away. She had a nice little pile of foil sitting on her chest, she was feeling too lazy to add to the beautiful pyramid on the table just as yet.  She was feeling lovely and woozy and smiley and giggly, just as she should, after imbibing a few on a lazy Sunday afternoon in February, hanging out with her best friend. 'Terminator 2' was turned down low on the TV, and every once in a while they would interrupt each other to point out something fascinating that either Linda Hamilton or Arnold Schwarzeneggar was doing in the name of the greater good.  Normally, she didn't cotton to smoking, or people smoking in her house, but she decided to be a sport and let Marcy have her way. But not until after she begged.

"Give me one good reason why I should, besides the weather, Marcy." Go ahead and not return my calls, wench. I'll make you pay.

"I had sex. I gotta have a cigarette after sex! It's written down in the rules somewhere...." Marcy looked around her for the invisible rule book she had just conjured up, thanks to her beer fueled imagination.

Chloe narrowed her eyes and gave her friend a suspicious glare through her still shaggy bangs.  "That was last night, Marse. Last night. With someone else. Unless something happened between us when I nodded off there for my 5 minute power nap. If that's the case, it was way too fast,  you aren't very memorable, I'm not very satisfied, and come to think of it, it would be just like the last woman I slept with!"

"There's a 24 hour rule about smoking after sex." Marcy again looked around for that pesky missing imaginary rule book. "And it's your fault you aren't sleeping with anyone. You don't get out much. You live in a town where a wild Saturday night consists of going to the drive-in, drinking beer out of a quart bottle, and then stopping to pee behind the Dairy Queen before you get home before midnight."  Marcy paused for effect. "And let's see, you hang around with, oh, an over-sexed love 'em and leave 'em straight woman,  an under-sexed and geeky male English teacher who probably should get over himself and go into the seminary, and a geriatric matron school principal who probably gets more sex than the three of us combined."

Chloe couldn't find fault in any of that, so she nodded in agreement.

"So," said Marcy pleadingly, "about that cigarette? Can I?" You're making me pay, aren'tcha?

"Only if you give me one too." Chloe grinned and watched for the reaction on her surprised friends face. Bingo!

Marcy skeptically handed one over, and lit hers first, then leaned to light Chloe's.  "You aren't going to get all green and upchuck all over the place like you did behind the Stefanski's barn that one time, are ya?"

"God, Marcy, we were, what, eleven or so at the time?" and purposely blew her smoke directly into Marcy's face.

Marcy sat back. "So what do I owe the honor of you smoking one with me now?"

"Hand me the rule book." Chloe waved impatiently.

Marcy made a show of picking up pillows, moving bottles around and finally she lifted her butt off the couch and pretended to pull something out from under it. She handed 'it' to to Chloe, who wiped 'it' off on her green sweat pants leg before pretend to page through 'it'.

"Aha!  Here we go, 'Chapter 14: Best Friends and The Sexual Experience'," Chloe pretended to read, "Rule 21 states that if one's best friend has sex when one's own pitiful self isn't getting any, the friend who is going without is allowed to live vicariously through the friend who is getting some."

Marcy nodded solemnly. "That's a mouthful. And that means? Please continue."

Chloe cleared her throat, turned the imaginary page and went on, "This may include some or all of the following :  making the best friend who is 'getting some' recount in detail the sexual experience... " Chloe frowned and stopped. "Although in my case, you may want to leave out any descriptions of male anatomy. I think that may be covered in Chapter 24, 'Sex and the Single, Desperate Lesbian' ... AND, said best friend is to extend all privileges of the after sex experience to the best friend who is going without. This includes ..."

She lifted a single finger in the air.  "Number one ... the 24 hour rule applying to cigarettes ... been there, doing that."

Two fingers now in the air.  "Number two ... Afterglow."

"Afterglow, now how do I share afterglow with YOU?", remarked Marcy, glowing, but truly puzzled.

Chloe pointed with a big toe to the row of empty beer bottles sitting on the coffee table, and then leaned and tossed her half finished cigarette into one. "Beer. Simulated afterglow effects. We improvised."

"Aha, we're very tricky." said Marcy approvingly.

"Uh oh. Number three." Chloe said, ominously narrowing her eyes.

Marcy provided the needed fingers this time, and waggled them in the air.

"Thank you. Number three:  After Sex Guilt." Chloe let out an exaggerated sigh.

Marcy, who really should have stopped after her second beer, but hadn't,  tilted her head to the side to show she needed further explanation.

Chloe, who was functioning just fine, at least in her own mind even after 3 beers, was quite happy to elaborate on After Sex Guilt. "After Sex Guilt ... am I a slut? Does he/she really care for me?  Do I really want to wake up with so and so, or do I kick them out after the After Sex Cigarette and Afterglow?  Were they satisfied?  Am I satisfied? What's the point of all of this?  Was I too loud, too passionate, a dead fish, too fast, too slow... ?"

"Oh god.", moaned Marcy. " I haven't had my after sex guilt trip yet! What's the matter with me???"

"Marcy, Marcy, Marcy. Calm down. It hasn't been 24 hours yet. You still have time."

"I think I'm starting right this very minute. And we have to share it.", whined Marcy.

"Well, start without me, I have to go pee." Chloe grabbed the pile of label pickings off her chest, added them to the pyramid on the table. Very nice. She slowly stood up, and airplaned her arms through the air to check her balance, found out that it was good enough to get her to the bathroom and back with no problem. Life is good.

Chloe stopped after a few steps, walked back to the couch, and grabbed the imaginary rule book off the throw pillows.

Marcy looked at her, "Huh?" written plainly all over her face.

Chloe shrugged, "I need something to read in there." and strolled off.

Marcy chuckled to herself.  I should know better. Chloe has an answer for everything.

Dave, Sara and Nelson were gathered around the kitchen table sharing an old-fashioned Sunday dinner together. Well, it was old in their fashion.  Nelson, who had achieved the reputation of being a teenage bottomless pit, was making his sixth piece of peanut butter toast to go along with the salad that Sara had made for all of them. Dave was spooning out the nuked remainders of some take-out Chinese stir fry from Friday, and kept getting up to check on the burgers he was frying on the stove.  Sara snitched a piece of toast from a grumbling Nelson,  and surreptitiously scouted out the box of Cap'n Crunch that was sitting on top of the fridge. Hmm.

"Anybody want a Little Debbie while we're waiting on the burgers?", asked Dave, his voice sounding strangely like like that guy from 'Father Knows Best'.

"Gee, Pop, what kind you got?", piped up a suddenly 8 year old Sara. Please be chocolate,  please be chocolate.

"Swiss cake rolls. Want one, Suzy, dear?", intoned Dave.

"That'd be swell, Pop. But are you sure it won't ruin my dinner?"

Nelson finally looked up from the magazine he was reading.  "Will you two knock it off?  Dinners in this family couldn't possibly get any worse as it is."

Both Dave and Sara looked at Nelson with falsely hurt faces.

Dave looked at Sara and said "Gee, Suzy, whatever can he mean?"

"I dunno, Pop, gosh, maybe he's having some sort of latent teenage hostility crisis and is going to hack us to pieces while we sleep tonight." , blinked Sara/Suzy.

Nelson, normally a good humored young man, just grumbled some more and said, as he got up, "Don't think I haven't thought about it."

And he left the kitchen.

Dave got up and flipped the burgers.  "What do you suppose is up his butt?"

Sara just shrugged. "I blame all bad male behavior on testosterone levels. He either needs more, or needs less. My guess is less right now, with the way he's acting."  I know what's wrong with him. He's fretting about this play. I know he's a shoe -in for the part of Curly. Not that he wasn't good, he was great, but he had little, alright, no strong competition for the part. I know, I had to sit through all of those auditions until Nelson could leave and give me a ride home. He's got it. He probably knows it, too. But he's just insecure enough not to get his hopes up about it.  And then there's that small problem of that if he does have the part, he's going to have to break it to his dad, who can't seem to see him as anything but a jock. "So, are you going to tell him about you and Marcy? She does teach at his school after all. And there is that problem of her seeming inability to commit to anyone."

"She just hasn't met the right guy yet.  Maybe she's just not the marrying kind.", cautiously mused Dave, who secretly had been worrying about the same thing.

Sara watched the hamburger grease skittering from the skillet.  And she didn't see YOU as being the married kind all those years back, big brother, when she was the direct cause of your eventual divorce from Mary, huh?

Dave brought a small stack of burnt burgers over to the table.  "Sorry no buns, use bread. NELSON! Burgers!"

Nelson appeared in a flash, slapped a burger on a piece of bread, squirted some catsup on it, grabbed another piece of bread and disappeared into the living room again.

While Dave was rummaging around in the refrigerator, Sara assembled their burgers.

Dave sat back down at the table with a can of  Cheez Whiz.  "Sorry no cheese but this. Want some?"  Sara shook her head no, then sat amused as Dave sprayed a ton of it on his burger, then sat back to watch his face as he took a large bite of it.

He saw her staring , and mid chew, he stuck out his tongue and said "Twain weck."

Sara laughed and slapped the table top. "We're such fine examples of adults.  Mom and Dad would be horrified if they saw our idea of a family Sunday dinner."

"Sara, they moved to Orlando twelve years ago just so they wouldn't have to be subjected to the way we turned out. Smart move, I'd say."

They ate the rest of their meal and did the dishes in companionable silence.  Dave went to his office to do some paperwork, and Sara went out and sat on the couch with Nelson. She reached over and patted him on the knee.

He half smiled, half grimaced at her, and his eyes flashed onto her scar for half a moment, then looked back at the TV again.  "It's looking better every day, Aunt Sara. It's healing nicely. Maybe it'll be like the doctors in Buffalo said, and it'll fade to the point that it'll hardly be noticeable." God, please make it so. She doesn't deserve to live like this, so cut off from everything, so scared.

Sara ran a finger lightly down the length of the scar. Nelson is right, it is healing, and fading more and more every day. Maybe if they'd done the job right, the first time, years ago, I might be on a different path right now. I might be the strong, confident, yeah, even wild woman I used to be. I might have a life, a career, maybe even a lover if I wasn't like I am right now. I might I might I might...

Sara put her head on the couch arm, stretched her long body and tucked her feet onto Nelson's lap. He's such a great kid.



"Tell me everything you know about Chloe Donahue."

Chloe had a weird sensation as she was making a sober-up pot of strong coffee. Her ears were warm. No, they're burning. She shook off the feeling and carried two cups out to the living room, where Marcy was stretched out dozing on the couch. She had cleaned up the empty beer bottles,  and the empty pizza box, and turned the lights low so Marcy could get some sleep. That was nearly 2 hours ago, and now it was time to have the actual conversation with Marcy that had been nagging at her for days now.

She sat a cup on the coffee table nearest to Marcy's head, and went down to the end of the couch, gently lifted Marcy's feet, sat down, and placed Marcy's them into her lap. She gently squeezed a big toe.



"Wake up, hon. There's coffee. Time to wake up."

Marcy slowly opened her eyes, and felt the nice gentle stroking of her feet. She groggily sat up just little, she didn't want hinder Chloe's tootsie massage. "I should be so lucky to wake up like this all the time. Getting stroked, fresh coffee, warm smile."

"Yeah, whoever lowers their standards and settles for me is going to be one lucky woman."  Chloe made a face, and crossed her eyes at her friend, then took a sip of her coffee.  "Tell you what, until you get a little more with it, I'll tell you what I've been deciding about the kids in the play. Feel free to interject at any point. Also feel free to keep your opinion to yourself."

Marcy nodded in mute agreement and clutched her coffee cup under her nose.

Chloe wiped a hand through her ever errant redblonde locks, only causing them more disarray. "Well, I know you know that Nelson is going to be Curly. That's a given. I mean, the kid has talent. He sure was nervous, but he can sing. He seems to be able to act a little. I think with a little work and a little confidence building, he's going to blow everyone away."  She leaned over and grabbed her clipboard from the floor by her feet. She flipped it open to the page she needed, and then went back to rubbing Marcy's foot. Marcy sighed, pleased at the continuing attention. "I've penciled in Justin Makela as Will.  And Jason Hellman as Ali Hakim. And last but not least, Justin Swanson as Jud Fry. He's wrestler, and built like a Land Rover. Perfect for the part."  She scratched the tip of her nose with the pencil eraser. "Now, for the girls. Principal roles. This was tough. You weren't there on Friday to witness the carnage ... I mean... auditions of the other girls. I think you might've been recovering from a two day migraine right now if you had.  I know I am.  But I've decided on Jeanette Stavros for Laurey, Heather Hedlund for Aunt Eller ... and ..."  She stopped and took a big gulp of her now cooled coffee.

"And?", urged Marcy.

"And Mo Dean as Ado Annie."  I cain't say... NO!!!  Chloe closed her eyes, scrunched her shoulders and waited for the negative reaction. And waited. It didn't come.

Marcy took her time and swirled the last sip of coffee around in her mouth before she said,  "I think that's she's a good choice for that part.  She's like you said ... on Thursday ... energetic? That part needs someone just like her. Now you just have to find a way to have a volume control knob installed on her, and you're all set."

Chloe pinched Marcy's big toe really hard.  It was a good thing Marcy's coffee cup was empty, because it would have been all over the both of them by now.

"What was that for?", complained Marcy, pulling her attacked toe away from the grinning librarian.

"Who are you and what have you done with..."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I usually argue with you about everything, just for the sake of arguing. I don't feel like it. I agree with you. Good choice."

"YOU don't feel like arguing with me? Since when?" Chloe pinched a toe on the other foot for emphasis.

"HEY! I might not feel like arguing with you, but I can still beat the snot out of you if you don't quit grabbing my toes!"

"You and what branch of the armed forces?", challenged Chloe. She flexed a  handsome bicep.

"Hey, I've got a  new  boyfriend now. He has big muscles, big forearms, he's got a really big ..." Marcy trailed off, smiling wickedly.

"Wait, you would sic your boyfriend on me? That's great, you big wuss. Have some man do your dirty work for you. Nope, doesn't work that way."

"I argue, I don't fight. Did I mention that he has a really big ... sister?  Maybe I could get her to come to my rescue."  Marcy, the sly one, that's me.

Chloe's eyes got wide at the mere thought of Dave's sister.  She raised her eyebrows suggestively at Marcy.

Marcy knew exactly what she was doing.  "Uh huh. Now we finally get to the point. You are just dying to know about Sara D'Amico, aren't you Chloe? What is it? Curiosity?  Mystery? You got it bad for her after just one meeting?  You've been dying to talk to me about her forever now. 'Fess up."

"Yes." Chloe said immediately. No sense in trying to fool Marcy. "Tell me everything you know. Right now. This minute."

"I could really use another cup of coffee first ... and ... a cigarette ... and I gotta pee.", teased Marcy, glad to have the upper hand over her wildly curious friend.

Chloe jumped up from the couch, grabbed Marcy's hand and pulled her up off the couch and pointed emphatically towards the bathroom. Chloe headed off to the kitchen, empty cups in hand.

When Marcy came back,  Chloe handed her a fresh cup of coffee and then, an ashtray.

Marcy jutted her jaw out, and squinted distrustfully at Chloe. "I didn't even know you owned an ashtray. Been holdin' out on me?"

"Park it, and get on with it." Chloe wanted answers. Now.

The only other time that Marcy had seen Chloe this impatient was when Marcy was 'late' a few years back and they went out and bought a home pregnancy test and nervously waited for the results together. Thank god it was negative.  Marcy snuggled into the crook of the couch and lit a cigarette. "OK, but first you have to tell me, upfront, before I divulge anything. Are you ... interested in her?"

Chloe gulped and admitted it out loud. "Yes. Definitely. Well, it would help if I knew if she could be interested in me, too..." Chloe mentally crossed her fingers.

"Good. That's good to hear, I mean, I want you to be interested in somebody, you're my best friend and all. I don't like seeing you so alone." Marcy paused, and considered keeping the redhead in suspense just a little longer. When Chloe looked appropriately impatient, she continued.  "From what I understand, she is 'family'." Marcy caught the small grin that Chloe made no effort to hide. "But I don't know if she's ... someone I want you to be interested in."

That cryptic statement wiped out Chloe's grin. "Just tell me what you know and let me make that decision, OK, Marcy?"

"Alright. Here goes." She took another sip and another puff and began rattling off facts about Sara D' Amico. "Well, let's see. You know what everyone else does through the media and the tabloids. She graduated from here, did a few years of college then took off to California, did some modeling for the big magazines for a while. She did small parts on TV shows. She was a regular on that horrible cable cop show for a few years until she got her first movie, and stole it out from under that big actress ... Meg Whatsername. They then cast her in Star Gazers, she was still up and coming so she got paid very little for it.  Star Gazers was a huge, huge hit, and it was part of a planned trilogy. Two years after the release of Star Gazers, she was now a household and grocery tabloid name and supposedly got into trouble doing drugs. The preproduction for Star Gazers II kept her from doing very much, so she never really did another movie after that. Now this would bring us up to..."

"Four years ago."  Chloe was already aware of everything Marcy had mentioned, she wanted something more illuminating.

"Yeah. The accident. She's on the freeway, in L.A., in a convertible, talking on her cell phone, going too fast, not paying attention when ..."

Chloe grimaced at her memory of the description of the accident, and tried to steel herself for what Marcy was going to say.

Marcy sighed and continued. "She slams into the back of a van that had suddenly stopped in her lane. The airbag goes off, saving her from being killed instantly. But the antenna on the front of her car snaps off , and flies backward with such force that it slices her face to the bone from forehead to chin. By some miracle, her eye wasn't damaged."

Chloe looked so troubled, that Marcy leaned forward and squeezed her arm.  "I'm sorry if I sound so cold-hearted here, Chlo, but I'm just trying to get the background out in the fastest way possible. Hang in there with me, OK?"

"OK." I've heard most of this before, well, I didn't exactly know the details of the accident, I thought she had broken bones or something. Hearing about this before was one thing, but hearing it now, and actually attaching the events to a real live human being that I've met ... that's another thing.

"Now, from what Dave tells me, the ER doctor at the hospital did such a hack job at ... stitching her face back together... that it healed asymmetrically.  I have no clue why they didn't call a specialist in right then and there." Marcy saw that Chloe had shifted on the couch and was now hugging her knees tightly to her chin. "This is the tough part Chloe, hang in there, OK? " She waited for Chloe to respond, it came in a quick nod. Marcy regained her place in her story. Her face, uh, healed poorly because, oh hell, who knows why, but, I don't know how to say this, other than, well, you saw where the scar was the other day? Its been fixed again, recently, in Buffalo. But Dave says... this is why I was avoiding talking to you about this ...  that side of her face, just to the right of her nostril,  was pulled upward into a little constant smile, her eyebrow up was up too high, and ... the skin stretched around her eye on that side so tightly that she could hardly blink or close that eye all the way."  Marcy's gut clenched at her own words, she wasn't fond of having to recount the details of such a difficult story, even about a woman that they both barely knew.

Chloe almost choked at the picture her mind was forming, and swallowed hard.

"But you saw her the other day, right Chloe? It's all fixed now, except for the scar. Everything's in place. Everything is ... where it should be. She can smile naturally now, blink her eye, she's so much better now." I think.

Chloe pondered the truth of this for a moment, then a thought struck her.  "Why'd it take so long for her to get it fixed?  I mean, she was living in L.A., home of plastic surgery..." Chloe felt like they were talking about some stranger now, not the flesh and blood beautiful woman she'd met the other day.

"From what Dave said, Sara left L.A., soon after it happened. Seems all her movie star pals were ... fair weather friends, and couldn't handle the way she looked, the way she was ... behaving afterwards. Dave said she pretty much disappeared for a few years, and no one, including Dave, knew where she was. The only contact he had with her was ... through some anonymous P.O. box.  He finally used some of the money he borrowed to build the golf course and hired a private detective to find her. He just found her last spring and went and convinced her to come back here , and live on the family land. He told her all about the golf course he was building, that he needed help with it. She had the surgery this past fall, well, after Thanksgiving. You saw the results. Just a scar now, and it's fading. I noticed the difference, and I've only seen her twice in the space of a month."

Chloe had known of the second meeting, Marcy seeing Sara at the audition but...  "Tell me how and when you first saw her."

Sara awoke on the sofa and noticed from the clock on the VCR that it was after midnight.  She felt the old brown afghan either Norman or Dave had thrown over her. She stretched a little, and considered getting up and going home to sleep in her own bed.  Nah. It's too cold out there. She listened. The rest of the house was quiet and dark, and the cold wind was whistling outside. There were plenty of nights that she had sacked out here on the big old couch after falling asleep watching a movie or having played cards late into the night with Dave and Nelson. I like it here. It doesn't feel as lonely as my place, although it's just a couple hundred yards up the road.  I've spent too many nights all alone. I came  back here to change that.

Her stomach growled a little. Hmm, another advantage to falling asleep on Dave's couch. I can go raid the refrigerator. There's food in there. I have jack squat in mine. She lightly padded into the kitchen, and her eyes lit upon the box of Cap'n Crunch sitting invitingly on top of the fridge. Ahoy, Cap'n,  we have a date with destiny, little man.

She poured herself a bowl, and settled in to some satisfying crunching, and took inventory of herself. I'm feeling pretty relaxed. This feels good. It's nice feeling part of something again.  I haven't felt like part of anything for a long time. All my time has been spent avoiding things, people, events and life. And when I haven't been doing that, I've been planning ways to make sure I can continue avoiding things, just so nothing has to change. So I don't have to change. For a few years there, all my avoidance planning just had to do with me. But now that I live with, or around, Dave and Nelson, I end up just expecting them to go along with my little, or big, .... what's the word I want here?.... neuroses. I've been resenting them because they have lives outside of this land, this house. They have friends, they have jobs and school, Dave even has a girlfriend now. I'm really jealous of that.

She felt her nerves rising, and the small increase in her heartbeat. She pushed her empty bowl away.

I hate this. But it's the only thing I know anymore, the only way I know how to live. Secluded and always on guard. Always protecting myself from the unknown. To do that, I have to control everything around me. And the only thing I can really control is me, so I don't let anyone or anything else come in to perhaps rock my protected little world. Even poor Dave and Nelson have been the victims of my wrath when I feel that they aren't respecting or understanding my need for having a surprise free life.  At least that's what Dr. Logan said.  She's right.  And my angry outbursts, my loss of control when I perceive that my safe little world is threatened, my peace of mind, well, we've seen what happens when the unexpected meets up with my unreasonable demand for nothing but the predictable. I didn't react very well, did I?

Sara pushed herself away from the table, and folded her arms. She began rubbing her elbows absently, remembering the day that Marcy had shown up at the house unexpectedly, and the scene that unfolded. Yeah, scene, that's the perfect word for it.

It had been late in the afternoon and Sara heard a car in the driveway. She was working in the garage, and had the doors propped open to let the fumes out from the engine she was working on.  Good, Nelson's home. He can help me with this, and it won't take half as long, and I can get myself out of this friggin frigid garage and into the house where it's warm. She had on her orange coveralls, and a heavy winter coat and a black stocking cap, but was still chilled to the bone. She strolled out to the doorway of the garage, expecting to see Nelson getting out of his old Ford pick-up truck. Instead, she was startled to see a feminine figure departing a small red Miata. The curly headed woman saw Sara standing there, and smiled and waved at her. She then started gingerly walking towards Sara, trying to navigate the large ice and mud puddles that made up the ground separating them.

Oh god. Sara impulsively ducked back into the garage. What do I do? Who is she? What is she doing here? An uncontrollable urge to flee, to hide, to avoid this woman in anyway possible, hit her.  She looked around the garage. No back exit. No escape. Her heart was hammering. Something bad is going to happen to me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. Her head felt like it was being squeezed, her world was spinning. From behind her, she heard the woman let out a small curse, and say,  "Damn, I knew I couldn't make it all the way over here without getting a soaker in at least one boot."

Sara didn't turn around, she was concentrating on the pounding noise in her ears, and willing herself to calm . She was on the beginning edge of a full fledged panic attack. Here it comes here it comes here it comes.

"Hey there, is Dave around? I'm Marcy, I wanted to drop off some designs for him to look at..."

Sara still didn't turn, she just barely heard what the woman had said. She doesn't know. She doesn't know. She can't talk to me right now. Let her just go away so I can breathe again.

Marcy, thinking that the tall woman in the orange coveralls hadn't heard her, stepped up closer, almost directly behind Sara and tried again.

"Hey, hello there, I'm looking for Dave. I'm Marcy, a friend of his. Is he around?"  She reached out and tapped the tall woman on the shoulder.

"DON'T TOUCH ME. GET AWAY!!" Sara whirled around, and Marcy stumbled back a few steps, staring, frightened, at this wild-eyed woman in front of her.

Marcy, stunned by the woman's outburst, immediately recognized who she was. This terror in front of her was Dave's sister Sara, the movie star. With a straight red line running down her face, just to the right of her nose. Oh, no, the accident.

"Are you all right?  I won't touch you again. Are you here by yourself?  Is there something I can do for you?"  She could plainly see Sara was in some sort of trouble, it showed so vividly on her face --her eyes were scrunched tight, her hands were in tight fists, her shoulders were raised and trembling. She looked like she was desperately trying to hold herself together.  Marcy vainly hoped that Dave or Nelson was around somewhere. Marcy's natural inclination was to get the hell out of there, away from this troubled woman, but her good sense kicked in, and she knew that the woman needed some help. But what can I do for her?  Will she try and hurt me?

Sara slid full blown into her attack, and there was no going back. The world in her head was sheathed in blackness, interrupted with small dots of light flashing in front of her clenched eyelids. I'm dying. This is what it feels like to die. Dying would be a relief. But I need to breathe and I can't. I can't get a breath.  Her breaths were coming in rapid, useless spurts. No air was getting to her lungs. Her head felt light. I need help. I don't know what to ask for. Or if I can even ask.

Marcy saw the woman's distress, and some herefore unused maternal instincts kicked in. This looks like it might be ... a panic attack? I've never seen one, but I've read about them. I hope that's all it is... She looked around, and saw a low work stool, stepped over and grabbed it. She reminded herself not to touch Sara.  She carefully approached Sara, and quickly deposited the stool right behind her stiff form.  Sara never moved. The trembling continued. Stool in place, Marcy backed away a few feet in front of Sara, and still unsure that her course of action was correct, starting talking in what she hoped was a soothing tone.  "You're Sara. Right? Right. Sara, I think you need to sit down. You don't look like you're breathing all that well. I just put a stool behind you. Why don't you try sitting down?"

Sara's lips lifted into a grimace, although nothing else about her changed. WHY DOESN'T THIS WOMAN SHUT UP?  I CAN'T BREATHE HERE. SHE'S NOT HELPING. The blackness, she could feel it, moving throughout her body. Through her arms, settling in her stomach, then lurching, tingling down her legs. It was a black void she was falling into, and all she could do is hold on for the ride.

Since Sara gave a small reaction, although the snarling grimace that appeared on her face gave Marcy no comfort,  she decided to keep talking. Keep it simple, Marse. Keep it simple. "Sara. There's a stool behind you. Sit down. It'll help. Sara. Sit down.  Sara?  Honey, sit down." Marcy somehow thought that a term of endearment might be more comforting to Sara.

Sara heard the voice. She took a huge gulp of air, and willed her eyes open a slit, and then closed them again.

Marcy kept on. "Sara, that's good, I'm Marcy. Sit down, hon. Sit down. There's a stool right behind you. I won't touch you unless you want me to."

Sara somehow found the strength to listen to Marcy, and she bent her knees and sat down on the stool. She put her elbows on her knees, pulled off her stocking cap and placed her pounding head into her sweating palms. I still can't breathe. This is hell.

"Aunt Sara? It's Nelson. Breathe. Nice and even." Marcy almost jumped into Sara's lap on the stool at the sound of Nelson's voice behind her. She never heard him show up.

Nelson stepped up and stood next to Marcy, and patted Marcy on the shoulder in silent greeting. But he never took his eyes off of Sara, whose head was still cradled in her hands. She was breathing now in a measured cadence.

Nelson had seen this one too many times. "That's right, that's great, Aunt Sara. Think good things. It's almost over now. All you have to do is breathe, slowly, and everything will be over soon. These things don't ever last too long, do they?  You're coming back. Just relax. Breathe."

Nelson turned his head to meet Marcy's eyes. He gave her a  grim nod of assurance that things were getting better. Marcy let out a long tense breath she didn't even realize she had been holding. Their eyes returned to the woman just in front of them, who was breathing much easier now. Sara's head lifted, she wiped her hands on her knees, and she ran splayed fingers through her long black hair from her cheeks to the very ends. She sat up a little, eyes still closed, and took a long, cleansing breath.  A small, exasperated chuckle came from her. She twisted her head from side to side, and then her deep blue eyes slowly slid open,  searching out Marcy.

Marcy suddenly felt shy.  The big screen doesn't do those eyes justice.

Sara gave her a small forced half smile, her lips curling up on one side only. "Well Marcy,  seems you've seen me at my worst. At least I hope so. I'm Sara, and I can't really say I'm glad to have met you." Her voice sounded low and dry, like the crackling of kindling.  Sara reached out a long arm towards Marcy, but remained seated.

Marcy stepped forward, leaned and shook her hand, captivated by the embarrassed and still tense blue eyes. After the hell she seems to just have endured, she still can be charming. Wow.  "Oh, hell, Sara,  I can't think of one person I know that wasn't sorry they met me."

"Oh, yeah, and just before I left that day, Sara pulled me aside, hugged me around my shoulder and said,  'And Marcy? Next time ...  call first.' " Marcy chuckled at the recollection. "Can you believe it? "

Chloe just shook her head. My brain's too full. Again her mind heard the echoes of Sara's melodious laughter that had floated up and touched her soul from the very recesses of the theatre.  Yeah, I can believe it.

Continued in Part III

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