Chapter 5 - Tiny dancer
It felt good to be amongst family again. Being down in the wine cellar with dad was like second nature. Back in England, we’d spend hours during the summers in the vineyard. It never really interested Finn, but he sure loved tasting the finished product.
“So, how’s school?” dad asks hunched over at one of the barrels.
“School’s good. Finals was hard, but I should be okay”
“You met my future daughter-in-law yet? Or are the Cambridge girls not good enough?”
I laugh as I shrug dad’s inquiry into my love life off.
“Harvard keeps me plenty busy dad… not really time for girls and such”
“Ha! Someone should inform your brother of that”
Dad and I could always share a joke. I loved that about our relationship. I had the utmost respect for him, but he was also one of my best friends.
He hands me a bottle of red wine. “Here, give to Carlotta to serve with dinner tonight will ya”
I nod and head upstairs.
As I head toward the house, I hear music playing from the old storage shed. My nosier side crept to the fore and I followed the haunting sound of a girl singing to the backing of a piano.
I recognized the song as I got the door; it was one of my favorite songs… Skinny Love - the cover done by the English girl performing under the stage name, Birdy
I peek inside… and there she was, like the angel I envisioned her to be. Alex had her ballet tights and shoes on; her hair tied up into a messy bun.
She moved flawlessly and effortlessly across the barnyard floor, in total synchronous to the music.
I stood at the door, in complete and utter awe of her beauty and in admiration of her remarkable talent. How did Julliard not fight harder for her to remain at their school?
She was light as a feather, floating across the room not even emanating so much as a sound.
And then I noticed it, the pained, hurt expression marring her exquisite face. She was sad.
How could something that displayed such beauty and grace, make her so sad?
The track stopped and as Alex bent down to pick up her hand towel, she spotted me out of the corner of her eye. Bewildered, she stopped the iPod standing in its dock.
She dabbed irritably at the droplets of sweat on her forehead and along her slender neck.
I cautiously enter the shed and walked toward her.
“That was pretty spectacular”
She takes a drink of her bottled water before giving me an annoyed look.
“Were you spying on me?” she retorted
I shake my head profusely “No… no… I… I was passing by with this” I point out the bottle of wine in my hand.
“You’re an alcoholic?”
I concede to the clever brunette and a chuckle escapes my lips.
“You’re a wonderful dancer”
“Yeah… well… it’s nothing but a hobby now”
She sits down on a bale of hay. I decide to join her. The light pink chiffon of her wrap-around skirt just covers her thighs. The black tights running the length of her legs make them seem longer. And her cream-colored ballet shoes keep her feet pointed.
She crosses her legs as she takes another sip of water, before placing the bottle down on the ground. She proceeds to untie the ribbons of her ballet shoes.
“What happened at Julliard?” I regret the question as soon as it exits my mouth.
She shrugs and gives a shy smile. “I messed up… there was this thing… with the director’s son… in the director’s office”
I laugh, “So the rumours are true then?”
“There are rumours?” she asks, genuinely shocked.
I nod instantly feeling sorry for solidifying that her reputation was completely in tatters.
There was an awkward pause in the conversation. I had dredged up regrettable memories.
But as it were, I was on a roll now and the probing inquiry continued relentlessly. Stupid!
“Why’d you do it?”
She had this cute face before answering a difficult question, sucking her top lip burying it underneath her pouting bottom lip.
“I don’t know… boredom…”
I raise a quizzical eyebrow and we both laugh at her vague, unjust answer.
“Julliard is filled with all these perfect little Prima ballerinas…”
“It is a school known for it’s dancing…”
She smiles “They have very strict rules and regulations… that one must conform to. And they frown heavily on anyone that dares stray outside their perfect lines”
“Watching you dance, you were so flawless… but so sad”
“I love dancing… I’ve always loved dancing. But I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Another thing Julliard frowns upon is promiscuity, booze and tattoos…” she smiles confidently “these are all things that I’ve mastered during my time at Julliard”
“You’re a rebel”
“I wouldn’t say that… I just like the freedom to be myself… whoever that may be. And I didn’t like that they dictated who that is”
I sit and ponder this. It must’ve been hard for Alex to pretend to fit into an environment she so clearly didn’t belong in.
“Do you miss it?”
“Julliard? Not so much… but dancing… yeah… I miss it a lot”
She takes another sip of her water. “I guess I never thought I’d end up here, following in my mom and sister’s footsteps. So needless to say, I’m a little disappointed”
“At the risk of sounding cliché… everything happens for a reason”
“That is cliché”
“Do you ever think you’ll go back there?” I press on
“I don’t think Director Steward would ever accept me back, in fact… I think they have my mugshot at the security gate”
“So, you’re a Harvard man, I hear”
I nod “Started Pre-Law… but I had this growing fascination with English Literature”
I shake my head as I realize how incredibly geeky that sounded.
“Finn’s the cool brother” I clear things up for Alex
I got a smile from her beautiful face, so all’s well that ends well.
“I think you’re cool…” she smiles up at me.
If I were half the man Finn was, I would gently tuck the stray piece of hair falling into her face. But I was the mousy, book-reading, poetry-quoting geeky older brother.
God, she was beautiful. She had the perfect, golden tan skin; her cholate-brown eyes under the neat dark shape of her eyebrows and… her smile… her smile took my breath away.
But most of all, I loved her hair. Her soft, luscious, endless hair – the kind of hair you bury your face in. Yes, that is weird.
“What’s going on in that Shakespearean head of yours?”
I shrug, afraid to admit to my deepest desires.
“I really wanna show you around the Plantation.” I make up a quick, little white lie.
Her smile turns solemn. She swings her legs to and fro, staring at her lap.
She shakes her head “Nothing… Just…”
Alex looks up to meet my gaze. And I swear I was drowning in her deep, soulful brown eyes.
“Your family and your life… everything seems so great… so homely. I never realized how much I missed home, my real home in Sicily…”
“Maybe now that you’re no longer at Julliard, you could go back to Sicily…”
The suggestion sounded as absurd out loud as it did in my head.
Her tiny giggle validated just how absurd it was. “If only… but, I’m a bad girl Callum. I have to pay my dues”
“Well I’ll try to make ‘doing your time’ here in Belle Meade enjoyable”
“You’re sweet” when she squeezed my hand, I could feel ten thousand volts of electricity jolt through my body. The slightest touch of her hand sent me reeling.
As though she could see my pleasurable discomfort, she removed her hand and took another sip of her bottled water.
“So, tell me about you… and Finn… and growing up in Belle Meade. I mean… how did a British family end up in Tennessee?”
I smile at the cuteness of the question. “We moved here from London about four years ago” I squint as I tried to remember the exact day we relocated to America.
“Dad got this massive opportunity to make and sell his wine out here… and we had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend two of your best universities. It was an easy fit for everyone else, but I took a little time adjusting to the lifestyle here. Let’s just say I’m a proper, uptight Pom” I laugh
“Growing up was always a laugh with Finn around. My kid brother has always had the knack of making an entire room light up. He’s the charmer, the ladies’ man…”
“Well I wouldn’t take you out of the running just yet… I saw the reaction you evoked from Carla. I’ve never seen her get so giddy around a man… like ever”
I smile coyly, rubbing at my stubble. Her eyes never leave me. I could feel them lingering.
I finally suck in a deep, long breath and look up at her.
“So, tell me about Alessandra Laurenti…” I flip the script on her.
She loosens her messy bun and lets her hair fall down over her shoulders. I wish she hadn’t done that. My head was spinning. Her hair smelled of honey and coconut. I could feel my nostrils flair at the scent.
“Alex Laurenti is the typical black sheep of the family. I’m the person you can rely upon to always royally screw things up. And I always deliver” she winks
As if her flowing locks of hair and endless legs didn’t already have me at the brink of self-combusting, she winks at me.
Alex was partially right about her self-evaluation. I was screwed.
I needed to say something and quick, before she caught on to the tug-o-war going on inside my head and my heart.
“I don’t think a screw-up would’ve made it as far as Julliard…”
She twirls one of her locks of hair around her index finger. That just drove me crazy.
I shift my focus to one of the bales of hay in the corner of the shed, trying to distract myself from the siren sitting next to me.
“So, it’s just you and Carlotta? No other siblings?”
“I have two older brothers, Giuseppe and Tomasso, they live in Sicily… helping Papá with the family business.”
“Family business?” I try not to sound too intrigued, but it did sound a lot like something Michael Corleone would say.
She laughs “Relax… I’m not part of the Sicilian Mafia.”
I wipe my brow dramatically which gets the desired effect, a hearty laugh from Alex.
“My dad, just like yours, is into wine-making… though business has been kinda slow of late…”
“So, you know a thing or two about wine as well?”
“Oh God no…” she laughs “I moved to the States when I was six years old… with Mamma and Carla. Papá and the boys stayed behind in Sicily.”
She starts kicking her legs to and fro again.
“My high school guidance counsellor said that’s one of the main reasons I was acting out. He reckons I have daddy issues”
I try to make light of the conversation that has taken a rather sullen turn. “You know I never really got the sentiment… daddy issues…”
She laughs “Neither did I”
I could see her mulling her guidance counsellor's assessment from way back when in her head.
This strong-willed and rebellious girl still cared what people thought of her. I found the quality refreshing. Most strong and independent women don’t always know how to let their guard down, so they decide to stop caring as a whole.
“I would’ve thought you guys would be slinging pizzas there in Sicily” I laugh “How very ignorant of me”
She smiles “I thought you ‘Poms’ only drank tea and played polo…”
“I do like my tea” I add with a hint of a smirk
She studies my face for what seemed like an eternity. “What else do you like?”
Alex finally breaks the torturous stare. When she looked at me too long, or any girl for that matter, I’d always feel that I had something green stuck in my teeth or a loser sign stuck on my forehead.
“I like books… reading them and writing them… I love poetry and art…”
I could see her zone out and lose interest. I was such a bore.
“I played rugby and cricket in school…. Of course, left that behind in England, as ya’ll have American football and baseball… not so good at those I’m afraid”
Finally, I cracked another smile again.
“Good to hear you’ve caught on to the Southurn slang instead of the Bastan accent” she jokes
“You’d think with those accents they’d be quite reserved about their comments on mine…”
She smiles “They tease you about your accent?”
I nod “Relentlessly… stupid things like ’shrimps on the barbie’ and that’s not even British, it’s Australian…”
Her laugh echoes through the room. I loved the feeling of satisfaction I got from making her laugh. The sound sent shivers down my spine and made the unruly butterflies go ape in my gut.
“And when I’d bother to correct the idiots, they’d retort with “Aye matey” like they’re bloody Jake and the Neverland pirates or something”
She coughed into her waterbottle as she chuckled. “You’re so funny”
Well at least I had that going for me.
“Whenever I come across ignorant fools, I just start slinging random Italian phrases… it leaves them dumbfounded everytime”
“I only know English really”
“Ncaw” she squeezed my knee. And even though it felt so good, I really wished she wouldn’t have.
Gross-out thoughts… Santa is a fat, naked, overweight, green sludge in his belly… Phew! Erection threat deactivated.
I jump off the bale of hay. I didn’t mean to leave her startled, wondering why the sudden upheaval… but I couldn’t sit next to her any longer, with her hand on my knee… and not want to strip her clothes off.
“Dad asked me to take this to Carlotta… for dinner…” my excuse sounded equal parts pathetic and lame.
“And that only occurred to you now?”
I couldn’t tell if she was upset or joking. Ofcourse not, I haven’t known her long enough to tell the difference.
“Are you angry with me?”
She forces a laugh as she jumps off the bale of hay with ballet shoes and water bottle in hand, grapping her iPod and towel. “Angry with you? I’m not your housemother Callum… who cares”
I grab her wrist as she passes by me, wanting a quick exit to the door.
“It just slipped my mind… we started talking and… I forgot what I was meant to do… And, I care… I kind of like you and I was hoping we could be friends…”
Her lips slowly curved up into a smile, her eyes met mine and I nearly melted on the spot.
This girl would be my undoing.