Her strokes were crisp and clean. Her tears mingled with the chlorinated water surrounding her. She swam until her arms were tired and her legs refused to kick anymore. For the first time in memory, the pool had been unable to make her forget her troubles. Alanna was lost, with no one to turn to. At least, no one nearby.
She sat on the bench in front of her gym locker and keyed in her sister’s cell number.
“Alexis? It’s me. Can you talk?”
“Hey, baby sis. Is everything okay?”
“No, it’s really not.”
“What happened? Are you physically okay?”
“Yes. Mentally? Emotionally? Not so much.”
“Okay, take it from the top.”
Alanna told her about Damon; from their first meeting to the concert earlier that evening. Alexis was torn. On the one hand, she saw what her aunt was trying to do. Damon was a chance for Alanna to finally heal after what happened. But this could be too much at once. Alanna was not in control of the situation and had no one to turn to for support. Alexis was worried that this would end up doing more harm than good. Alanna was already talking about delaying her studies by another year and her sister was worried that if she came home, she’d never leave again.
“Lana, Aunt Jackie mentioned that the on-campus daycare was looking for a caregiver. I hadn’t decided whether or not to take it. But I don’t want you to give up your studies and I think you can manage it if I were around for moral support. What do ya say?”
“I’ll give it a try, Lexie. But I can’t promise you anything. It’s just … so hard to see him every day. It brings all that pain and humiliation back again and again.”
“It’ll be okay, Lana. I can be there by tomorrow night, ’k? I’ll book my flight right now. Go home and get some rest.”
“Thanks, Lexie. For everything.”
“What are big sisters for?”
“What did you say to her?”
“I just asked her if she had something against me or white guys in general.”
“Are you sure that’s all you said? You didn’t make fun of her falling on the stairs again? Or tease her about something else?”
“Dude, chill! I swear that’s all I said! Why are you jumping down my throat like this? Even I have limits. And intentionally making girls cry is far beyond mine.”
“Sorry, she just seemed really upset. I’m worried about her.”
Damon was surprised at how upset Terrence was about the Alanna situation. He barely knew her. Could he…
“Terry, are you interested in Alanna? Is that why you’re so upset?”
“What? No. I just don’t want you ruining my chances with Maria.”
“Hmm. Okay. Well, if it’ll help, I’ll call Maria in the morning for an update and to apologise. Maybe she can tell me why my question upset Alanna like that and what I can do to make it up to her.”
“You? Apologise? Wow, you must really like this girl. I’ve never heard you apologise to any girl. Not even when you accidentally double booked yourself that time and left Lindsay waiting outside the movie theatre for two hours.”
“Seriously, what kinda girl doesn’t have enough self -respect to leave after half an hour of waiting on a guy? The only girls who stay are the ones that are worried that the guy’ll show up after they leave and be pissed that they didn’t wait. Who cares if he’s pissed? He shouldn’t have left you waiting. You deserve more. And if you don’t think you do, then why should he?”
“You know, you should write a self-help book.”
“Now, there’s an idea…”
“I was being sarcastic! God, please don’t inflict your musings on the fairer sex on anyone besides me. It’ll be the first time a white man gets lynched.”
Maria was frantically pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace when Alanna finally got in. Anger and relief fought for control as she watched Alanna place her bag on the shelf by the front door. Relief won out as she rushed over and gave her a huge hug.
“Don’t you EVER do that again!”
“Run off without telling me where you’re going and then be unreachable by cell for hours!”
Maria shook Alanna’s shoulders as she continued her rant.
“I was having a heart attack! Terrence called twice! Damon has been texting me every half an hour!! We were all so worried!”
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to ruin your night. I didn’t realise that you guys would be so concerned. I figured you’d just enjoy the rest of the concert.”
“Are you kidding? You should have seen the look on your face as you fled. We were all panicked.”
“I’m sorry, Maria. I promise it won’t happen again. And I’ll give the guys a call tomorrow and apologise for ruining their evening.”
“I’m just glad you’re okay. You are okay, right?”
“Yes, thanks. I had a chat with my sister. By the way, she is going to accept a position at the school’s daycare centre. Would you mind if she moved in here? I know you’re using the third bedroom as an office but it would help me out and she is a great cook.”
“Oh, that’s no problem at all. Now maybe we’ll actually go grocery shopping, instead of ordering in every night.”
Alanna smiled but Maria could see that she was still struggling with whatever had sent her running from the stadium that night. Maria felt lost. She didn’t know how to help Alanna but she couldn’t stand doing nothing.
“Ice cream sundaes and Glee?”
“I’d like that.”
Alanna got changed into her pajamas and bunny slippers, and joined Maria in her bedroom.
“I can’t believe you’ve never seen an episode of Glee!” Maria exclaimed as they got settled on her bed.
“I was busy reading comic books and finally watching Frasier, Friends, The OC and all the shows that I missed while I was overachieving in high school.”
Maria was relieved to see Alanna smiling and poking fun at herself. Maybe things would be alright after all. In the short time that she’d known Alanna, she’d come to love her like a sister. And Maria worried that one day her fragile friend would finally break into so many pieces that she’d be broken forever.