Chapter 8 ~ The Winds Of Change
Sometimes, I really loved Rachael.
She had drunk far too much and when she voiced about feeling sick, Axels faced almost turned to panic, so much for not getting out, cocky ass. I had also managed to escape without continuing our conversation, which I don’t think I would have been able to handle anyway – Axel was hurt. I did that. Carl escorted us back to our room, of course – I had a feeling I would be seeing him more than I wanted to, considering Carl had a house a few minutes’ drives from Mum and Dad’s place, and his extreme liking to my friend, he was definitely going to use the close proximity to his advantage.
We walked in the next morning to find Aunty Judies at the breakfast table, looking worn out. She hugged us both warmly. “Rough night?” I questioned.
“I didn’t know he was this bad.”
The face of concern told me more than I wanted to know, “he try to escape again, didn’t he?”
“Found him playing chicken with oncoming traffic.” I hissed knowing how terrified she must have been for her brother in law.
Aunty Judies left saying she will be back Friday next week and that Rach and I should plan for a big weekend. I guess knowing what we were dealing with now, she thought that by the time next week comes, we were going to need a break.
I was going to need more than a break though, I was going to have to find a job and in a town this small there was not a lot of options open to me. Maybe the city would be more forgiving, but that was too far away, my only other option was the town over, it wasn’t too far, but would they have vacancies?
Rachael didn’t need to work, she had her father’s income to live off and boy did he provide some generous income. Despite him limiting her fortnightly budget it was still more money than I could ever hope to make, damn her rich parents, though I understood. Rachael’s brash approach and lack of social filter rubbed people the wrong way sometimes – she had been fired from every job she’d ever applied for, well, all except dance – which she was remarkable at.
We were lying on Axel’s old bed, roaming through the job listings, in truth, Rachael could have stayed in this room but I simply didn’t feel right about her being in here, so I gave her my room.
“What if we start a dance studio of our own?”
“Because we don’t have a venue to work from,” I stated.
“Yes, we do, Carly…”
“Carly? We are calling him Carly now?”
“Anyway, Carly said his workshop had an empty space attached to it if I ever needed to practice, we could at least check it out.”
“Oh, what a great idea, and in the meantime, you can lock lips with Carly again,” I replied sarcastically, despite knowing my sarcasm would fly over her head.
“Exactly,” she beamed back brightly.
Lord, give me mercy. This girl was head over heels and she didn’t even realise. There was one thing though, she did have a really good idea, but – and this was a major but – would the townspeople be so receptive of me?
Carl, of course, was ecstatic to see us, or rather Rachael. I had no idea he had done so well for himself, and remain single in the process. His artwork was amazing, as it turned out, he was a highly sort after artist, ranging from fantasy painting to portraits. His workshop and gallery were massive, he even had a collection of anime, stating his work was featured in some classic movies. Well, I didn’t know much about anime other than it was popular with my generation. He seemed to such a gift for capturing beauty though, a gift I never really knew he possessed.
It suited his style, he was a free spirit but the way his face lit up as he described his most treasured pieces, I felt shame. I had overlooked his talent, never saw him as anything but the goofy, fun-loving, larrikin. My eyes lingered as he continued his tour, on a particular piece.
It was us. Me, Marshall, Regan, Carl and Axel, we must have been about seventeen, Carl was on the left-hand side, smiling away with his guitar in hand, Marshall, with his arm slung over Regan’s shoulders as he stood there with his fingers held up making a peace sign, me, with the biggest cheesiest grin being piggybacked by Axel, who looked so happy, almost as though the sun just beamed right out of him.
My chest burned as emotion boiled up inside of me. Carl had managed to capture, with exquisite precision, the happiest time in all of our lives and the tears came thick and fast. This was how I remembered us, these were the people that cared for us, that was there for Axe when I was too weak and ran away, these were the people I loved – and I let them all go.
I wrapped my arms around myself, squeezing tightly, chin to chest as my heart bled. Bled for what I was too afraid to face, bled because I was too weak to fight and bled because the man I remembered, the man I loved most in the world, stood in front of me, immortalised on canvas.
“That is my favourite piece, out of everything I’ve ever painted.” Carl’s words broke me from my crippling realisation.
“What did I do?” I whispered with a quivering chin.
“I don’t understand what happened, ballerina, why did you go? We all stood by you, you didn’t just leave Axel, you left us too.”
“I had too.”
“I think it’s only fair you tell me your side, because ‘I had too’ isn’t an answer.”
“If I tell you, you must promise me you won’t tell Axel. I have to, I have to fix this, fix us, even if he doesn’t love me anymore. He thinks I deserted him, I had no choice.”
“Come on ballerina, I’ll show you the space, it has a small kitchenette. We’ll make some coffee and then, I need you to tell me everything.”
I nodded as he walked away, I pulled out my phone from my back pocket and snapped a picture. This one, would forever be my most treasured memory.
The space for our studio was set, that incredible man had even said he wouldn’t charge us anything until we started making a profit, which sent me over the edge with more tears. I felt lighter, I had finally shared my side of what happened that day with someone other than Rachael and he had hugged me, assuring me that everything was going to be okay.
Carl had taken Rachael out on a date and she was glowing with excitement when he showed up, I prayed that this was it for her, for them, they deserved love, they deserved the happily ever after.
I was sitting there in my room, well, Axel’s old room, playing around with advertising material for the new studio. Dad had refused to eat anything again but this time I did notice he had drunken some water so that gave me hope. My screen lit up and Axel’s name flashed, immediately my stomach churned with flittering butterflies, I collected my phone and answered it.
“Stella’s pimps and prostitutes, Stella speaking.”
…So that’s why she calls you Stella hey?…
“Mr Hutchinson, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
…What are you doing?...
“Currently, I am signing autographs for my millions of fans throughout the world. I’m very popular and famous you know?”
…Oh are you just…
“Yep, no, I wish that’s what I was doing. Carl is letting us have his back room of his gallery for a dance studio, so, I’m just trying to do up fliers.”
…You’re staying then?...
“Yeah, I am. Considering he and Rach are on a date right now and she burnt down her apartment, I’d say she was staying too.”
“The same, although he drank water today, so I guess things are looking up.”
…Good… There was a pregnant pause, filled with steamy tension, I wanted to talk, needed to talk properly, but I chickened out.
“So… how was work? No crazy, shoe throwing lunatics today?”
…Not today, maybe tomorrow. One can only hope, it’s not every day you get to shock an antique vase collector with the reason why you need so many replaced…
“You didn’t tell them, did you?”
…Oh I did, said she came in with five ninja’s and they demolished the place…
“Aunty Judies said she’ll watch Dad this weekend,” I was hoping he would take the bait and we might have a chance at rectifying our broken friendship.
…Are you coming here?...
“Do you want me to come there?”
…If you want to…
“Do you want me to?”
…If you want to… I knew he’d never say it, he always twisted things around.
“So you don’t want me to come there?”
…I never said I didn’t want you too…
I groaned, “Will you ever answer my questions properly?” Again we were left in silence, then I heard him heavily sigh.
…It would be nice if you came here, Danny… I felt like I was about to burst.
“Jesus, you’re so pushy, okay, okay, I’ll come,” I teased.
…You’re such a shit head sometimes…
Axel and I talked for hours, it was nice. He laughed and I laughed, it felt as though we were building a bridge, it was the beginning stages but I would take that over the relationship we had. Seeing our picture today had really affected me, it made me want that back, that closeness. I knew I had hurt him far too much for him to truly forgive me or head back to where we were, but I still loved him as much as I denied it, tried to forget him, the reality was, I loved him and it didn’t matter that we had been adopted into the same family, he was my everything and has been all these years.
After Rachael and Carl’s first date, he had asked her to be his girlfriend and they were getting hot and heavy quicker than a shooting star blazing across the sky. I had barely seen her, but we had decided that come Friday, we would all ride to the city together, spend the weekend and come back Sunday.
Tuesday, a truck showed up with groceries. I thought it was odd but when the driver stated they had already been paid for I knew instantly who it was. I called Axel a few times but he didn’t answer and I felt a little discouraged but that night, he called back, and I got to thank him.
Every night since then he has called, he always asks how Dad is first up and I continue, nothing had changed, he would listen to the hellish night’s events and offer encouragement but when Friday morning rolled around, Dad was sitting up in his bed.
“Dad?” I asked warily.
“I miss her you know,” he spoke so softly and so full of emotion.
“I know you do.”
“I just don’t know how to carry on without her.”
“I know,” tears began to well in my eyes without warning.
“It hurts, she’s not here, she’s always been here.”
“You still have us, Axel and me, we still need you.”
“Not been much of a father to either of you lately though.”
“Oh yeah Dad, like we’re going to hold that against you? How dare you be upset,” the edges of his lips curled slightly, he knew I was just kidding.
“Thanks, pumpkin, I know I haven’t been easy.”
“It’s really okay Dad, I think I’d be more concerned if you just moved on as if nothing had happened.”
“I just miss her so god damn much.” I wiped the tears from my cheek with the back of my hand and, rather difficultly, swallowed the thick knot that had wedged itself there.
“Don’t feel like meeting my friend Rachael do you? She’s kind of been living here for a week.”
“Oh, that’s who’s been squealing,” I laughed.
“Yep,” I sucked back the outpour of happiness bubbling up inside, it was so good to have some interaction with him.
“Do you mind… if maybe… you just come and sit with me... just for a little while?”
“I’d love too,” I sobbed, “but only, if you actually eat something.” He looked up at me with what seemed like appreciation in his eyes.
“Go and get your breakfast pumpkin, because I know for damn sure you would have brought me mine before feeding yourself… and I’ll eat something.”
I was practically jumping on the balls of my feet. I raced down to the kitchen where Carl and Rach sat, kissed them both on the cheek, grabbed my plate and flew back to Dad’s room.
He didn’t eat much, but the fact he ate anything at all was a win, a miracle, so I was the happiest I had ever been. He listened to me jabber on and on, he smiled a little, even chuckled some – I had forgotten just how much I missed talking to both of them. I lost that chance with Mum, I wasn’t going to let any more time slip between Dad and I.
I left him when his eyes began to close and padded back to the kitchen. Today was an exceptional day, a day filled with possibilities and finally, things, for the first time in years, were looking up.