Chapter 46: Avalanche - WALK THE MOON
“I need your help, but you can’t act like my boyfriend.” Izzie graced my computer screen, beautiful as ever. I noticed a dance studio in the background.
“Why am I unable to behave as myself?” I crossed my arms casually and leaned further into the couch.
“I need your unbiased opinion on my dance. We start filming tomorrow and I need my routine to be as good as possible.”
“You know I cannot pass up the opportunity to watch you dance.”
“I’m serious. You can’t just say it’s great because you like me.”
“Love me.” She rolled her eyes, with pink-tinted cheeks a smile.
“You’re blushing.” I noted with a smirk.
“You are. It is cute.”
She exhaled sharply. “I still get butterflies each time you tell me you love me.” She nibbled on her full bottom lip.
“Why is that?”
She raised and lowered her shoulder. “Will you critique my dance objectively?”
“Yes, but you owe me an answer eventually.”
“I’ll think about it.” She adjusted the angle of her laptop and went out to the floor after pressing play on the sound system.
She did five slow motion pirouettes with rock solid arms and legs as music box jingle played. She landed in first position. She went through basic warm-ups dancers are taught early on as the high piano notes transitioned into violins and guitars. Her dance moves built in intensity as the music did the same. She purposely fell to the ground and shielded her face with her hands when the words,
“Pushed the brink in pursuit of perfection,
She hated her reflection”
She kicked out her leg as she remained on the ground, spinning on the ball of her foot. She worked her way up to a standing position as the words,
“Fantasies shattered, castle crumbled and innocence lost
From the ashes, a beacon emerged
She fought her demons and healed the hurt
She leapt, making good use of space. The twist, turns, and choreographed stumbles were representative of her journey. My jaw dropped when she successfully executed a butterfly. When the music box tune returned at the end, she spun in the attitude derriere pose, visually displaying her growth.
I was moved to powerful applause. She made her way to her computer with a towel and a bottle of water.
She dabbed her face and neck with her towel after drinking a substantial amount of water. “Thoughts?”
“It was –- wow.” My eyes were still wide.
“Specifics.” She dipped her towel into the top of her tank, absorbing the moisture beneath her leotard.
“I was too enthralled to take notes, but there is nothing I would change.”
“Are you saying this as my boyfriend?” She narrowed her eyes.
“No, I am saying as a person with eyesight. You were phenomenal. When did you land a butterfly jump?”
“This week. I built a lot of core strength for the Cheshire Cat lift. I have been drilling for days.”
“Well worth it. You have somehow found a way to outdo yourself.”
She cracked a smile. “I wish you were here to watch me film. I’m a little nervous.”
“Take your bracelet to set. I’ll be there with you in spirit. And you have no reason to be nervous. They are lucky to have someone of your caliber.”
“I’ve never been filmed close up before. What I don’t look very good that way? I don’t want to embarrass myself or Ev.”
“You know my stance on your beauty. “ I eyed her lustfully.
“The tutu will impede your view. I’m sure my freckles will be covered by makeup.”
“I can imagine. The rest of the world is at a loss.”
She breathed a laugh.. “Saturday was nice.”
I firmly corrected. “More than.” I fought not to think about it.
She leaned forward to stretch out her back. “How is Greece?”
“I would not know. I was escorted to my room. You called while I was unpacking in pursuit of something to wear to spend the afternoon with my mother. Here I am.”
She looked up from her stretched position with her mouth agape. “You were supposed to get in last night.”
“Change of plans. Plane fueling miscommunication. I flew in this morning.”
“You shouldn’t be talking to me. Go see your mom.”
“We have plans to spend the afternoon together. I will gladly spend my free time with you.”
“You better be telling the truth.”
“I know better than to lie to you.”
“If that’s the case, why did you respond to my safe arrival text with, --“ She reached for her phone. “Yes, of course. I love you, Beautiful?” She read from it and looked back up at me.
“I went out with Sal. I thought I told you and that was why you were asking if I got home safely.”
“No, I – I wouldn’t have been that chill about you hanging out with him at night.” She admitted, her expression pensive.
“I didn’t do anything.” I struggled to keep from sounding defensive.
“But he did.” Her tone was flat.
I looked down, unable to argue with her.
“What was it?” She pressed.
“Cocaine. I –“
“Look at me.” She demanded harshly.
I was able to look her in the eye, knowing I did not partake in it. “I did not even drink. I was livid when I discovered he had it on him. I drove us to the venue.”
Her face relaxed when she saw the truth. “Where was this?”
“A club. The palace is in holiday preparations mode. The buzzing was making me anxious. I needed to get out and he invited me.”
“What if you were pulled over by the police?”
“Why do you think I was furious? My juvenile criminal record was just expunged. I cannot handle having an adult one.”
Her face was still grave. “What did you do with him?”
“He was out of his mind. I had to use force to get him into my car. I drove him home, notifying my aunt of his state to ensure he was watched by staff.” I scratched the back of my head. “He had many things to say to me when he awoke from his slumber.”
“At least he is speaking to you.”
“Hm. I would not be so sure. He called me a ‘hypocritical traitor that has been atop his ivy tower too long to realize he is not as enlightened and exemplary as he believes himself to be’.” I quoted from memory.
“Did he use my past against you?”
“He had no idea what he was talking about.” I stated firmly.
She looked down. “It was my pictures, wasn’t it?” She squeaked.
“Those were his pictures. Their existence is no fault of yours.” I craved to reach out and touch her.
She brought her knees to her chest and hid her face in the arms she placed atop of them. I listened helplessly as she cried.
“Baby, he does not know you.”
“N-n-ot everyone will get the chance to -- and -- I can’t escape them.” Was her muffled sob.
“Look at me.”
She did so slowly.
I released the breath I did not realize I was holding and offered her a soft smile. “It is not your fault and never has been or will be. I will stay in front of this computer as long as I need to in order to convince you.”
She wiped her face. “I love you.” She sniffled.
“As I love you. Have you talked to your mom lately?” I changed the subject.
She nodded. “She’s staying here for the holidays. My grandparents are too. I really wish you were here.” She cleared her throat.
“You would allow me to meet your grandparents?”
“I want you to. I think you would like them. I know Yaya would love you.”
“How is your grandfather?”
“He’s in the final stage.” Her voice was sharp. She looked down.
“I’m right here.”
She tucked her hair behind her ear, keeping her eyes on her lap. “He’s almost gone. A year or less.” She sniffled.
“I will attend his funeral with you, hold your hand.”
“Can you hold me in your arms instead?” She looked up with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Yes.” I smiled, trying to be brave for her.
“I am such a mess.” She used her towel to wipe off her face.
“Do not talk about the woman I love in that manner.”
“How would you like me to speak of her?” She cracked a smile.
“She is a smart, strong, and beautiful and she is doing the best she can.”
“Go see your mom before I beg you to stay in front of your computer screen for the next couple of weeks. Did you remember my plant?”
“Yes, I will put it in its new home this afternoon. I will be sure to take pictures for your scrapbook.”
“Thank you, Sweetie.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” She blew me a kiss and disconnected our webchat. I closed my laptop. I changed into a blue jumper and khakis pants, an outfit my mother would approve of. I brushed my hair and put on my watch before retrieving Izzie’s plant and stone plaque.
The plaque inscription read,
“I crave to feel the sun and travel the world. Doing so will enable me to fly, soar higher than my wildest dreams.”
- Elizabeth Evangeline Hightower
Gone Too Soon, But Never Forgotten
The buttercup anemones in the plastic pot were well on their way to blossoming, their growth was a testament to Izzie’s care and love. Eliza’s diamond necklace was fastened to the plaque. I unfastened it and put it on my dresser for safekeeping. I knew she would regret giving it up in the long run.
I collected the plant and I went to the location my mother asked me to meet her, which coincidentally was the garden.
I instantly smiled when I saw her. She was always notably beautiful, but she radiated a glow I had never seen before that moment. I sat the plant and plaque down on a patio table before hugging her; scared I would drop them otherwise.
She greeted and complimented my appearance in Greek, kissing my cheeks and fixing hair.
“English, mitera.” I was able to understand her completely, but I wanted to make sure I said everything in the right manner. I had plenty to share.
“Are those for me?” She pointed to the items I brought from my room.
“No, they are Eliza’s.”
“It is a long story I fully intend to tell you.”
“Good. I have missed you. I am so happy to have you here with me for Christmas. ”
“I did not want you to be alone.”
“I am not, but you are kind.” She touched her hand to my shoulder, still smiling. “You have grown so much.”
“I think I am done growing, but I am content. I have succeeded in surpassing father in height.”
“I knew you would. Would you like something to eat or drink?” She motioned over a servant.
“Coffee and a pastry of some sort would be nice. Thank you.” I requested for myself. “Oh, and may I have a shovel, gloves, and a hand towel?” I added upon second thought.
When they remained in place with a confused expression, I translated in Greek, sure to apologize. They were on their way.
“May I know why you need a shovel and gloves?” She sat down on one of the lounge chairs. It overlooked both the sea and her vast garden.
“I need to transplant the flowers. The will run out of space soon.” I sat down in the seat beside her.
“No, I mean why are you so insistent on gardening? You have never expressed an interest before and you said it is for Eliza. Have you parted ways with Isabella?”
“No, I am very much with Izzie. This was her idea. Eliza is our friend that passed away this fall. She liked Greece. Iz conceived the idea of creating a memorial here in her honor.”
“Was she one of the ones I met this summer?”
“No, she was another complainant in Izzie’s trial. She was just fifteen.” I adjusted my watch.
“That is tragic.”
I nodded. “It has caused me to think about many things.”
“All that I want to do before it is over.”
“What does that list entail?”
I took a deep breath. “I want to marry her one day, do all that I am supposed to with her.” I said it aloud for the first time.
“You are a romantic like your father.” For the first time, a behavioral comparison to my father did not sound like an insult. It was a calm observation.
“What do you mean?” I looked in her direction.
She exhaled and melted further into her seat, completely at ease. “I saw settling down as what was expected of me. I choice the best circumstances in which to do it. I cared for your father, I still do, but our union was simply one of convenience. He wants to marry a person he is eager to wake up to each morning, someone who pushes him to his capabilities, and inspires him with their own actions.”
“You do not want that?”
“I want peace. I enjoy company, but only on my own terms. I have not been in control of my life in years. That is what I love most about my life now, what makes me happiest.”
“Father said you have taken a companion.”
“He is an opinion, one of several. I am free to make choices. I love every minute of it. This is about you. Why do you wish to remain with Isabella?” She touched her hand to my arm.
I described the ways in which we grew together, accepting my food and shovel in the middle of my tale. She remained engaged and receptive throughout. I was amazed by it.
“You may have my ring if you would like. I no longer have a use for it.”
“I have one. It was given to me for my birthday. It once belonged to Rosalina I.”
“Fitting. And its worth far surpasses the others that have remained within the De Luca dynasty.”
“Because of its age?”
“Though small in size, the jadeite stone at its center is priceless. And Rosalina was greatly beloved by her husband and the people. It would be a waste to give it to someone who is not worthy.”
“It is something to think about.”
“Take your time. There is no rush, especially with her moving to Listonenia.”
“I suppose you are right. Do you truly approve of father and Jacqueline’s union?”
“Believe it or not, yes. It was a matter of time. Her biological clock is ticking and they want a child. I wish them the best. I will be sending them a gift to congratulate them on their nuptials.” She sipped her water.
I picked up her hand and held it.
A smiled eased onto her face. “You have become quite the protector. I assure you, I am well. You do not need to tend to my feelings.”
“I want to. They are important.”
She gestured me over and kissed my forehead. She kept her hand on my cheek when she pulled away. “They will try to change you as soon as you return to Listonenia full time. Do not let them corrupt your heart.”
“I will not. It is mine to keep and part of it has already been stolen.”
She shook her head at me with a smirk.
I parted ways with my mother to plant my flowers when she was approached with plans she needed to finalize for a big holiday party. Per Izzie’s request, I found a picturesque spot that had a prime view of the sea. I crouched down in the grass and dug a significant hole. The flowers removed from their temporary home and nestled into their permanent one. I packed soil around the stems, filling the hole I created. The plaque was lastly nestled in front. I sat back and observed my work once I was done, proud of the decent job I did. I cleaned my hands with a napkin and retrieve my phone from my pocket. I snapped plenty of photographs and sent them to Izzie. She called me minutes later.
“I-it looks better than I imagined. It’s perfect.” She cleared her throat.
“It was a minor request.”
“Thank you.” She whispered.
“I love you.”
I smiled uncontrollably, the familiar feeling of warmth coursed through my veins. “I love you too.”