The way Jagger burst into the dance studio, she thought for sure something was wrong with her mom. It had been a long time since she had seen Jagger without that carefree grin that he wore on his face. But this afternoon, she couldn’t tell if it was fear or downright fury. But he forced her to go to lunch with him and not with Owen, she knew what this was all about, and was pretty pissed herself at the moment. She sat in the booth at a hamburger joint, staring at her brother from across a small table waiting for him to speak, with her arms crossed. But he remained silent and then ordered when the waitress showed up.
“Ugh, what is going on with you? First, you show up at the dance studio, then you tell me that Owen couldn’t make our lunch, and now you’re just sitting here staring at me. Are you going to tell me what’s going on, or am I going to have to guess what your issue is?” She asked, but Jagger stayed silent with a sour look on his face. “Just spit it out already, or I swear I’m leaving.”
Jagger crossed his arms and finally decided to talk. “Dad said something to me last night about your liking Owen or some shit. Is that true?” He asked.
“Why is that any of your business who I like? I’m a grown-ass woman… and I don’t have to tell you anything.” She said calmly.
Jagger slumped back into his seat when the food was served and took a couple fries before he answered. “Because he’s my best friend Jo, and you’re my baby sister… that’s why. There are rules when it comes to sisters that guys aren’t supposed to break, ever.”
“But what if I did like him. Are you telling me that you’d say no because of that? Or are you saying you wanted to be told so you could give your blessing?”
“I’d tell you to leave it alone, he’s not the right guy for you.”
“Why is he the wrong kind of guy for me? He’s your best friend, isn’t he.” She pointed out.
He sat up and shook his head. “Yeah, but my best friend isn’t the same as a guy who’s going out with my little sister.” He said while she raised a brow at that reasoning. “You don’t get it; I know all the shit he’s into and all the shit he likes to do with women. And believe you me, he isn’t the right kind of guy I want my sister getting involved with.”
“But it’s not your decision to make, is it.” She stated.
“Damn it, Jo…” He growled, slumping back in the booth. “You don’t get it, do you? Owen is one tough and rough bastard!”
“He already told me about his fighting. So what?”
“He told you that he goes to abandoned places, and then people gamble on the fight?”
“Well, no. He didn’t say that exactly.” She admitted.
“That’s because these fights are illegal. Like he’d get his ass thrown in jail kind of illegal.”
“Well, the whole time I’ve been seeing him, he hasn’t fought once… so there isn’t any problem of him getting thrown in jail.” She laughed.
Jagger’s eyes sharpened, and his teeth clenched together. “What do you mean by seeing him?”
Her mouth opened, then closed. Owen never said anything about the two of them being exclusive or anything more than friends. But by the way he treated her; she knew there had to be more to it then just friends… right? “Um, just that we spend a lot of time together. That’s all I meant by that.”
“Did you sleep with him?” He growled.
“What!?! That is none of your business!” She hissed under her breath, then glancing at the people around them. “Knock it off Jag, I don’t want to talk to you about this anymore.”
“Did you know that Owen likes having rough sex… and I’m talking like really rough. Like smacking, tying chicks up, and gagging them?”
She blinked a couple times at that statement, then rolled her eyes at all the drama. “Oh, give me a break. I think you’re overacting, and trying to scare me off of Owen, and it’s not going to work.” She sighed with a shake of her head.
“That’s the thing, Jo, I’m not. One time he was walking by a car where this couple was fucking. The woman asked him to join in… and he did. I mean, I was a jealous mother fucker at his luck, and that was one cool ass story to hear about, but that’s not something I want my little sister to get involved with. So are you sleeping with him or not?”
That story made her stop and swallow the bile that rose up in her throat. In all honesty, that grossed her out. But everyone has a past, including her. What if Owen found out about her abortion and thought of her as nothing more than a slut? She cleared her throat and sat back in the booth and sighed. “No, I haven’t. But you’re not listening to me.” She said, trying to get her brother to understand. “When I’m with Owen, we have fun together. We talk, go looking for his records, walk on the beach… and he’s been nothing but a gentleman when he’s with me. Maybe he’s the way you said with other girls, but he hasn’t forced me to do anything.”
“Look, Jojo, what I’m trying to say is, I think you should stop hanging out with him.”
“Because I said so, that’s why.” He growled.
“Because you said? Because you said so?” She hissed. “I’m a grown-ass woman who has lived on her own since she was eleven years old! I think I can choose who I want to see or don’t want to see. And just so you know… I’ve had just about enough of this crap with you.” She said, starting to get up from the table when Jagger took her wrist.
“You’re not getting it. I told him to hang out with you when you first came back home.” He finally admitted.
She stopped, staring at her brother, not sure she understood what he just said. “What are you talking about?”
Jagger ran his hands through his hair then over his face before he answered. “When you came back, I didn’t want some asshole picking up on you. So, I asked Owen to take you out and show you a good time, and make sure the players stirred clear of you. But it was only supposed to be until you were feeling more sure of yourself from being back home in the states.”
“You asked Owen to take me out?” She asked, dropping back into the booth.
“Yeah, I did.”
“So, the first night he came over to talk to me?”
“I pointed him out to you earlier, and he said he would help me out.” Jagger frowned.
She was so mad she couldn’t even lash out and start yelling. But at the same time, her eyes filled with water making the world look like it was drowning. The first tear fell as she turned her head and wiped it away even more angry with herself for letting herself think that Owen could be interested in her. Now it was obvious that he was just doing charity work for Jagger. “I want to go home.” She told him, wiping off more tears, trying to get them to stop so she could deny that she was crying.
“Jo, I’m sorry, okay. I didn’t mean for this to go as far as it did.” He said, taking her hand, but she pulled it away.
“Take me home now, Jagger.” She said, trying to keep clam.
“I was only trying to protect you.”
“Well, thanks a lot! I feel really protected!” She snapped, taking her purse and getting up from the booth. “Are you going to take me home, or do I have to call Vivi?”
Jagger’s eyes were big, but then he nodded, reaching into his pocket and handed her the keys. “Why don’t you go wait in the car, and I’ll pay the check.”
She took the keys from his hand and, without so much as a word, turned and left. She got into her brother’s truck wanting to text Vivi when she saw all the calls and text she’d missed from Owen. She slid the cell back into her purse and wiped a couple more tears from her face before slipping on her sunglasses so no one could see her real misery.
The ride back to the house was long and quiet. She didn’t say anything, and neither did Jagger. When they pulled out into the driveway, she jumped out of the truck slamming the door shut and ran into the house. The last thing she wanted was her parents seeing that she was upset, so she closed the door quietly and hurried to her room. She grabbed a pillow from her bed and sat there, staring at all the posters on her wall. They were words of encouragement next to battered and worn ballet slippers, or ballerina’s practicing with the word strength written underneath. With a deep breath, she got up getting some clean clothes and went to take a shower.
The hot water was running as she unwrapped her feet, stretching them out and started peeling off her tights when her cell vibrated on the counter. She sat on the toilet seat, not wanting to see who was texting her. If it was Owen, what was she going to say to him? “How about you’re a bastard, and I don’t want to see you ever again.” She mumbled, but then with a sigh picked up the phone. What she thought was going to be a text from Owen, wasn’t. The text was in Russian. It was from Marya, a girl who was in her dance studio, and had always hated her with a passion and made sure to make her life in Saint Petersburg a living hell for the last year. It wasn’t until after she and Vasily broke up, did she find out Marya had been sleeping with him as well.
She read the text and could feel her heart starting to beat out of her chest.
I guess it was because he didn’t want either of us…
That was all Marya texted.
At first, she didn’t understand what it was about. She knew that Vasily didn’t want her, but what did that have to do with anything? Then another text came up and then another, then a third. At first glance, all she saw was Vasily and Katerina and wanted to text back that she already knew that they were married. But then the title caught her attention, and she had to remember her Russian to read it.
“Vasily and the Great Katerina having a baby!” The title read. Then her eyes darted back up to the photo and caught the sight of the big baby belly under the black dress that Katerina was wearing. That’s when it hit her. It wasn’t that Vasily didn’t want to have a baby, he just didn’t want to have a baby with her.
She ripped the towel off the wall and screamed into it. When she was done, she threw the towel to the floor and got into the shower ignoring the flow of tears that didn’t want to stop. “What a bastard… what a fucking bastard!” She hissed pouring shampoo into her hand and finished her break down where she couldn’t be seen or heard, she turned off the water and started to dry off.
She glanced at herself in the mirror, and a fire started to burn deep inside of her. She was going to be a top ballerina, she was going to show everyone in Russia, especially Vasily and his bitch of a wife. She opened up her email and went to the message about her going to New York Dance Company for an audition. She paused for only a minute before calling the number to set up a date to go in.
She had changed into a new leotard and a wrap-around top and pulled her hair up into a tight bun, and walked into the front room. Her father was sitting next to her mom, watching an old black and white movie together when they saw her. “Hey baby, what’s going on? I thought you’d be getting ready to go out tonight, not practice still.” Her dad said.
“Well, I think I’m going to work on a couple things… I forgot to tell you guys, but I’ve got an audition at the New York Dance Company.” She smiled, fixing the elastic in her overly baggy pants.
Her mother’s eyes lit up, and her grin went to a full-blown smile that took over her face. “You didn’t!?!”
“I sure did. I called and made an appointment for my audition.”
“When is it?” Her mother asked, struggling to sit up.
Jojo walked over and sat on the bed and took her mom’s hand. “It’s in four weeks.”
“Oh my gosh, really? That’s amazing, sweetheart!” Her mom gushed, laying back down with her cheeks looking red.
“I think so too. They’re flying me to New York and home.”
“Well, fingers crossed, right?”
“Yes, fingers crossed.” She grinned, kissing her mom’s forehead and then looking up at her dad. “Do you mind if I take mom’s car?”
“You think you can drive it?”
“I think I can manage.” She smiled, giving her dad a hug and starting to walk to the kitchen to get the keys.
“Has Owen been getting you back into practice?” Her dad shouted.
Funny on how just hearing Owen’s name an hour ago would have made her hear sputter with excitement, but now made her chest ache. “Yeah, he’s been working with me. So, don’t worry.” She said, getting the keys, her duffle bag, and headed for the door before any more tears could fall. “By guys, don’t wait up I might be gone for a while!”
“By twinkle toes… don’t practice too hard.” Her dad called out.
She went up to her mom’s old silver ford escort, throwing her bag in the back when she heard a horn honking. She turned around and saw Vivi pull up next to her. “Hey, cousin. That doesn’t look like the kind of dancing outfit you should be wearing to a night out with hot males!”
“Oh, well, I think I’m going to skip tonight. But thanks.”
“Come on… I know the gorgeous Mr. English wants to see you tonight.” Vivi giggled.
Jojo could feel the tears start to well up and quickly wiped her eyes. “Ah, no, I don’t want to see him.”
Vivi walked over in her short sparkly dress and high, high heels, wearing a frown. “What’s wrong?” But Jojo didn’t answer, just shook her head. “Did Owen do something? Because if he did, I swear I’m going to kick his ass.”
“Please, Viv, I don’t want to talk about it right now. How about we have lunch tomorrow, and then I’ll tell you all the gory details.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, go have fun. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She grinned.
Vivian nodded and then kissed her cheek. “Okay, but I want all the details… tomorrow.”
“You got it.” She said with a forced smile as Vivian nodded and walked back to her car. “Oh, hey, Viv. Don’t say anything to Owen, okay.”
Vivian stood at the car door and stared before slipping her sunglasses back on. “You got it, chickie!” After that, Vivi got into her car, waved, and drove off down the road.
Jojo got into her car and started the engine. There was a part of her that wanted to go eat a large pizza, and drink a pitcher of beer! Just go and let loose, not worry about calories, or working out, and just be free. But that thought didn’t last long. Instead, she put the car into drive and started to drive down the road. “Well, Josephine, when it comes to men, you absolutely suck at picking out one for yourself.” She growled, thinking of dancing her ass off. “But I’m getting the biggest milkshake I can after I’m done!”