Chapter 20 ~ Finding A Way Through
I sat in my office chair, staring out upon the darkening sky, the storm clouds were settling into place, and the news reports stated we were in for a long week ahead of nothing but dark and gloomy rain. Fitting really, for the mood I was in.
With my phone pressed firmly against my ear, I awaited my father to answer.
…Son, how are you?...
“Hey Dad, I’m good, how are you?”
… I’m okay; I miss hearing Danny and Rachael, their morning fits of laughter used to fill this house –now, there’s just silence…
“You’re retired, come stay with us, there’s plenty of room?”
… Who’s going to feed the animals?...
“We’ll get it sorted.”
…Oh son, the world doesn’t work that way. Dan okay?...
“She’s not dad; she’s convinced that the town hates her.”
…You know what’s heartbreaking? From the moment she was adopted, Daniella seemed to be branded as a target, Filly and I, of course, could never understand it…
“That’s bizarre; she’d never purposely hurt a soul. Why would you hate a seven-year-old?”
…Listen, I don’t know, but ya Mum heard something strange, year’s back, about Daniella, hence why we disengaged from the church. There was a ballet company from Russia touring the year before Dan was born, we suspected that since she loved to dance so much – Daniella may have been birthed from one of the ballerina’s. We can’t say for certain, but who knows. We didn’t have to go far from home to collect her, just a few towns over, and it could very well be a possibility…
“Dad? What was it? What did mum hear that was strange?”
…Filly was sitting with the other wives of the congregation, back then they belonged to a quilting club, the pastor’s wife’s position was always next to your mum, I think she was jealous of Pam’s skills. One day, their daughter comes running in and blurts out that – ‘the child that shouldn’t have been born, is here’, the pastors child had overheard some other things too, but before your mum could understand what was happening, the pastor’s daughter was whisked away, and your mother had all eyes fall upon her. We had picked up Daniella, just the week prior. After that day, the other wives began to distance themselves from Filly, sneer and curl their lip in disgust at us – at Daniella, the reception from the towns religious population was less than welcoming, even giving us a wide berth when seated on Sundays. So, we left the church, and never returned…
“You think this has something to do with the pastor?”
…Something tragic happened when they came to showcase here – I can feel it in my bones. Yep, I think there was a cover-up – the pastor Madgwick Charles, the Judge Randall Maroon’s, and Senator Wheeler, once allies and considered friends became colder than an Antarctic blizzard…
“The pastor’s daughter, Briar, spearheaded the attack on the girls open day, Senator Wheelers daughter is Greta, Daniella’s high school bully, and Judge Maroon’s daughter is Greta and Briar’s friend – though I haven’t seen her for years. This is weird.”
…Yep, ya mum and I thought so too…
“Dad, do you still have Butterflies birth certificate and adoption papers.”
…What a silly question, son, of course, I do. Filly kept all of it; you two were her world – she knew you’d always need it…
“Great, I’m going to come by tomorrow and pick it up, if you’re not busy.”
…Oh please, busy? What am I going to do? Fly to Tahiti suddenly?...
“I was just…”
…I know. I was teasing you, Axel…
“It will be good to see you, Dad.”
…Maybe you and I could make a quick trip out to see Filly at the cemetery?...
“Sure dad, I’d love too.”
…You make this old man proud, see ya tomorrow son, love you…
“Love you too, dad.”
As soon as the conversation ended, I was left with some seriously confusing questions swirling around in my mind – all centred around one thing — my Butterfly.
There are many things I could face at the drop of a hat, but sometimes, the ones we love most fall into unreachable darkness, and you don’t know how to heal what had been stolen. There had to be some reason as to why my light was being brutalised in this way, and I had a feeling that the only way of finding out, would be to follow the paper trail of Daniella’s past, hopefully this was a dead end, because I don’t think Danny can handle much more hurt.
“I will miss you, Carly.”
The door to my apartment opened upon a make-out session between my friend and his crazy girlfriend, not exactly what I wanted to see when I got home.
“Come with me then; I don’t want to be home without you.” Carl was massively whipped these days – it was actually kind of nice to see, though I’d never admit it to his face.
I cleared my throat. “You should go, Rachael, I’ll take care of Dan, you and Carl can spend some time alone – maybe revive the studio under your name – and we’ll see you two on the weekends.”
“You want me to drop Stella from the studio?” Rachael questioned, still clinging to Carl for dear life.
“No, but she’s pretty adamant she’s not going back. Ever.”
“But it’s ours…”
“Axel’s not forcing you to baby, but he’s right. We’ve been here for over a week now, Daniella has not left Axel’s room once, she won’t allow you in there and even locks the door when he leaves. She needs time – Dan will come to you when she’s ready. I think this is better left for Axel to handle.”
“But she’s my friend Carly? This is what you do, and this is what protocol dictates – you stay and support the ones you care for. This is normal interaction.”
“And that’s admirable Rachael,” I cut in, “but sometimes our friends need to go through their troubles on their own. It’s a tricky situation, Daniella’s been run out from the only home she’s known twice now.”
“Axel’s right baby,” Carl offered in support, we had already had this conversation about this very thing. He was just as worried about Butterfly’s recluse behaviour and feared Rachael’s continuous hovering was hindering her progression.
Rachael stomped in disbelief to my room door and banged on it. “Stella? Stella, I don’t know what to do. Would you be angry if I left? Will you still be my best friend? I want you to love me, but should I go back with Carl.”
We all waited with bated breaths, listening for any sign of life from our elusive girl in wounded hibernation mode. Suddenly, a weak voice filtered through “go Rach.”
“But don’t you need support? You know, how you showed me a friend should be?” I guess having Rachael’s form of Autism did make it bloody hard to decipher and work through social expectation.
She waited in vain, for no answer was given from the other side of the door, Daniella had been as forthcoming as she was going to get right now and finally, the both of them left. I made us some dinner because I very much doubt Daniella had eaten the breakfast I left or had vacated the bed at all, finally extracting my key and entering.
As I suspected, Danny remained buried under the covers, the full but now cold scrambled eggs, bacon and juice still untouched on the bedside table, the rose though that I had left on the tray had been moved to the pillow. This made me smile.
“I see you’ve been productive,” I teased, placing the fresh tray on pasta down. “You’re starting to worry me Butterfly.”
“I’m just… lost Axel,” she mumbled back.
“I know, but this isn’t good. You know you start work on Wednesday with me; you only have one day to train from my secretary before her husband’s surgery.”
“I will be there, I just need…” Daniella trailed off.
“Time?” I offered. Climbing into the bed after undressing, I reached under the pile of blankets and pulled her up and into my arms. “I can give you time, but I don’t understand why you keep pushing everyone else away?”
“Rachael has Asperger’s, and she can’t comprehend what’s going on inside.”
“I know this, but she still cares.”
“I missed you,” Danny whispered.
“Butterfly, your response to what happened is normal. No one can tell you how to feel, what to think, or how you are meant to deal with the situation, but I love you, and I’m not going to let you go without a fight. So spend tomorrow in here if you want to, but Wednesday, Wednesday we go to work – where no one knows who you are or your history. You can start afresh – a brand new clean slate.”
“That sounds nice.”
I stared at Daniella while she slept, the rain was bucketing down, splashing the window with thick droplets of bleakness. Slipping out of bed and exiting my room, I tiptoed down the hall, to a room I had specially built when I purchased this apartment. A space of significance.
Back then, I didn’t understand why I had done it, guess even with my broken heart the promise I had made was ingrained into the fibres of my being. I flicked on the light, and it immediately flooded with brightness. It had never been opened, shut off the moment this room was finished – until now.
“Axel, our home must have a space for me to practice in. A wall lined with mirrors, barre for me to centre on and stretch as well as a portable barre for positioning and laminate flooring. There needs to be disco lights, and the walls must sparkle like the night’s sky.”
“Any colour in particular Butterfly?”
“Yes, Axel, lilac and white, and a place for my shoes.”
“Whatever you want, Danny, I’ll get it for you.”
Daniella straddled me, and I gazed up at her in adoration from my position, she was the most exquisite creature I’d ever seen. “Promise me Axe, promise me our house will always have somewhere I can dance.”
I snaked my hand up and around her neck, bringing her lips to mine and capturing them passionately. “I promise Daniella – you will always have a room to dance in.”
My mind drifted back to the present, smiling softly at the memory from our past. I had done it, I had kept my promise, lilac and white, with a wall of mirrors, a barre secured to the wall and one that could be moved. The electrician installed a gentle light show behind the walls, colour changing so that it represented twinkling stars in the sky as well as disco lights and a sound system – not missing the cupboard for all of Butterfly’s point shoes and extra sweat towels. Somehow my shattered and broken heart knew she’d return one day – I was proud of what I had accomplished, even if this room was never used.
“What’s this?” I spun around quickly, staring at my greatest love, gawking in awe at the room, despite her dishevelled hair and unwashed face, she remained breathtaking.
Daniella stepped forward, mesmerised by the opulence. “Axel, it’s beautiful.”
I nervously scratched the back of my neck. “I promised.”
“It’s for me?”
“Just the way you described.”
“Even though I had torn your heart to shreds? I wouldn’t have blamed you for not following through.” The tears began to well in her alluring and magnetic brown eyes.
“I promised you.”
“Oh, Axel, I’m so sorry,” Danny cried, leaping into my arms.
“Shh, you don’t have anything to be sorry for. Just promise me that you’ll dance in here, it’s been empty for years, no one has set foot inside since the builders completed it.”
My Butterfly gaped up at me, “I love you so much. I love you, so, so much Axel – more than I know how to express. Thank you for keeping your promise.”
This reveal was simplistic and necessary, Daniella needed a reminder of what she truly was – a prima ballerina – and the only woman to ever occupy my heart. If it took every ounce of strength I had, every penny I owned, I would make her happy again; this vow was as pure as the one I made all those years ago – I will rebuild Daniella, and I will never let her fall.