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Each Careful Step*


*Formally known as 'For my Smidge'

This is the 2019 update/reworking of my Divo David story. I'd like to think it's a lot better and reads smoother now. The usual disclaimer applies - don't know/own Divos, names, places and times might have been made up/altered to fit story etc. Also, previous third person POV has been changed to first - trust me, it's better lol

 Hope y'all enjoy.

 emoticon

Prologue

DAVID:


Rushing backstage for a quick change of jackets before we’re supposed to go back out for the encore, I smile to myself as I listen to the applause finally slow from the number we had just performed. Like all the previous nights of our sell out tour, all of the songs are a hit but it seems that ‘A Mi Manera’ has hit a particular chord with the crowd. I know it’s one of my favourites.

I have always loved the song but it has only been over the last several months that I really started to enjoy it. It was probably because now, several months after the first time when I almost accidentally tripped, I’m still incorporating it into the act. It seemed kind of fitting, given I sing the part about ‘each careful step’.

The first time it happened, it really had been an accident. I had on new shoes and as such, the soles were a little slippery on the polished step of the set decor. I managed to save myself the embarrassment of landing on my ass and the audience lapped it up. It was clear they hadn’t realized it was an accident and not part of the choreographed moves to coincide with the line I was singing.

After the show, the guys had all told me they thought it was funny and a good move to incorporate it and I didn’t correct them, instead letting them believe I had done it deliberately. They already thought I was a klutz; I didn’t need to be giving them proof I actually was.

I thought about it later that night and wondered if I should perhaps do it again, or if it would be too cheesy. More than a hundred shows later and the trip had become second nature. It meant I had to practice quite a bit behind the scenes as the last thing I could afford was to really injure myself if my timing was out, but it was proving to be worth it.

Another reason I continued to do it was for the audience and the delight they seemed to take out of it. I often noticed the women; and even a few men; in the front row at our shows lean forward in their seats, as though in anticipation of the move and the look on their faces when it goes well makes all that practice worth it.

What the audience, or my friends for that matter, didn’t realize was that I was really continuing the gag for someone special; the woman who had somehow taken my heart when I least expected it. After the first time, I got to recall something from my past and what she had said to me on that day and it just seemed like it was meant to be.

For me, it was perhaps my own little way to acknowledge her at each show, without naming names, and what she had come to mean to me. Even in the shows she couldn’t attend, I still did the move; it was all part of the act now and would be missed if not performed. It wouldn’t be right to stop doing it and deny the audience that little bit of fun, surely.

What had started out as a genuine misstep that had the potential to be embarrassing had I ended up on my ass was now much more than that. It was a nod to my girl and it made me smile just that little bit wider when I thought of it, as it inevitably led me back to thinking about her. In a crazy, roundabout way, I could liken it to me telling her that I loved her, without actually saying the words. Maybe that was what I should really be practising instead.

~*~*~



---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

9/7/19, 13:46 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 
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Re: Each Careful Step*


One

Several months earlier...

DANI:

“David, babe; can you scooch down just a little bit? Your bony knees are making me uncomfortable.”

“Sorry sweet; is that any better?”

“Much; now, exactly where were we...” came the reply, followed by a nauseatingly girlish giggle.

I couldn’t stomach another minute, rolling my eyes almost to the back of my head. Barely disguising my disgust at the overt showing of affection with a ‘humph’, I left my own chair and headed out of the room, stopping only long enough to grab my bag and keys from the hall table. Slamming the front door five minutes later, I left the house.

Being privy to my cousin Mel and her current boyfriend – who I’m sure she hasn’t known more than five minutes – making out on the couch in front of me was not my idea of a fun night in. To be fair, I guess she has known him more than five minutes but that was beside the point. I’m no prude but was it really necessary for her to act like a horny teenager for my benefit? I didn’t begrudge her having a life but she has a room for the more personal side of things. As it was, I almost felt obliged to hold up a score card.

~*~*~

Once I was in my car, I thought about how it had only been three short weeks since I had accepted my cousin’s offer to move in with her. With the way things are, it was taking all I had not to just pack up my things and leave again. I also couldn’t understand why it had taken the full three weeks to realize that moving in with her was a bad idea.

Mel is family and I love her but I was finding that I liked her a little bit less each day. I wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree but even I could now see that she hadn’t really wanted me to move in for any other reason than to have someone to pitch in with the bills, or to keep her company when she had no other promising prospects. Tonight’s little display had shown me that and I finally hit my limit; I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore. I had to leave.

It had nothing to do with David, my decision. I liked him, actually. He and Mel had met a few years back at some place called the Oberlin Conservatory. A couple of years apart, they hadn’t dated but been part of the same crowd. It hadn’t been until his recent return from Australia that they finally decided to get together. I was ok with that but did they really need to make me a part of their make-out sessions?

I really wasn’t a prude by any stretch of the imagination but having to watch them make out every night was a little bit too much. In the beginning I had simply gone to my room but that was unfair. I was paying to live there too and I resented being limited to a small 10x10 room, just off the kitchen. It seemed to me that my best option was to move out again and leave them to it.

~*~*~

About ten minutes after driving off, it occurred to me that I had perhaps been a little hasty in leaving because I had no idea where I was going. It was too late in the evening for anything to be open; my last place of residence had already been re-let so that wasn’t an option either. Going back to hole up inside my room was there as an alternative but it wasn’t one I wanted to have to resort to; not unless I had no other choice.

My friends all had their own families to worry about or other plans and Mom and Dad were back in Boston, meaning I couldn’t go around to see them and end up crashing in my old room. Yes, leaving on impulse with no destination in mind had definitely been a dumb move. At this point in time, it looked as though my only option was to drive around until a better option presented itself. Hopefully by the time I got back, they would either be in bed or it wouldn’t be weird if I did go to my room.

Unfortunately, the longer I drove around, the angrier I became. It really did escape me why Mel had bothered to ask me to move in. There had been promises of great times, great company and how happy she was to have a room-mate she knew and trusted. I hadn’t even been there a week when David dropped in and he had been there pretty much ever since, relegating me to being little more than excess baggage. If it was company my cousin had wanted, she now had it in spades.

The reality was that I had no one to blame but myself. I should have known after the eye-opener that was my first ‘introduction’ to David that things were going to go pear-shaped. I should have also been smart enough to take the hint then and there that I was going to be in the way but I hadn’t. I was paying for it now.

~*~*~

It had been forever since I had been on what you would call a proper date and so Mel had set me up on a date a week before David came on the scene. I was more than capable of picking out my own dates, even if history suggested I only ever seemed to pick the bad ones of the bunch. My cousin insisted that I go out with Tony, a ‘friend’ of hers. Given how insistent she was, it should have raised a red flag but I ignored the sign and went out with him. Our third date turned out to be a real eye opener.

 At the end of the night, Tony drove me home. Pulling into the driveway and switching the engine off, he slipped out of his seatbelt. I had already removed mine and was getting ready to open the door and hop out, although not before leaning over to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. It seemed like the polite thing to do.

“Thanks for dinner Tony; I had a great time.”

His only reply was a smile as he leant in for another kiss. He managed to capture my lips before I had a chance to pull back, his advance a little more intense and lasting a lot longer than mine. He was no doubt trying to convey to me this wishes, about coming in, without using the actual words. I had news for him and he wasn’t going to like the headline.

Kissing was one thing but if he wanted more than that he was going to be sorely disappointed. We might have hit the magical third date mark and yet there was something odd about him that suggested I should wait before we took things any further. It was definitely going to take more than a fancy dinner and movie for me to go further; I had been hurt once before and learned the lesson well.

Forcefully breaking the kiss, I turned slightly under the guise of unlocking the door. “Well, I should be going in. I have to be up early in the morning. Thanks again for tonight. I really did have a great time.” For a brief moment I did think about suggesting we catch a ball game the following weekend but I truly didn’t want to lead him on, or go out with him again and so I left it.

“You’re more than welcome but you don’t have to go in just yet, do you? It’s still early. How about we try for some coffee?”

Coffee my sweet Aunt Fanny; just the way he said it made me want to give up drinking coffee ever again. I simply smiled. “Another time perhaps; I really do need to get to bed; alone” I emphasized. “I’d rather not disturb Mel either. I hope you understand.”

His look told me he understood only too well and so I could just imagine his mind ticking over, a myriad of unflattering thoughts he was having about me right now. He smiled and told me he would call during the week about going out next weekend. The decent thing to do would have been to tell him then and there and that I didn’t really want to go out again but I chickened out at the last minute and said nothing. Five minutes later he was down the street and out of view.

~*~*~

After letting myself into the house, I was careful not to make too much noise, just in case Mel was actually asleep. Locking the door behind me once I was inside, I made a mental note to have a chat with her in the morning, about her setting me up with her friends and how I wanted her to stop.

Tony was polite and all but even so, there was something about him that just didn’t sit right. I noticed it the first date and should have put a stop to it then but I didn’t want to be too hasty in my judgement of him. I couldn’t even pinpoint what it was but something about his whole being bugged me and pushed my buttons; not in a good way. Maybe it was the insistent way that Mel suggested I go out with him. Whatever it was, it would wait until morning.

There was also the fact that I really did have to be up early in the morning. After a quick trip to the bathroom to brush my teeth and change into my pj’s, I soon found myself curling up between the cool sheets. Trying not to dwell on how eager Tony had seemed to be about joining me between those same sheets, I soon fell asleep.

~*~*~

It felt like only minutes had passed since I hopped into bed before the buzzer went off. I hit snooze and stuck my head back under the pillow. It was Sunday after all, what the hell was I thinking about setting the alarm to begin with; especially at this ungodly hour. Just as the buzzer went off for a second time, I remembered that I did in fact have to be somewhere this morning.

I did a little volunteering at the local hospital and Olivia, one of the patients on the children’s ward was being released this morning. Normally that wouldn’t have warranted a visit from me but she had asked that I be there to see her leave and I had promised I would come.

It broke my heart thinking about it, as I knew the only reason she was being released was because the doctors could no longer do anything for her. That was why before the buzzer had a chance to go off a third time, I sat up, stretched and with a yawn got off the bed to go to the bathroom.

In a daze of fuzziness, I made my way up the hall, noting how overly quiet the house was. I wondered if Mel was home and asleep or if she hadn’t even made it home from her own date. No doubt if she had been out all hours partying, she would now sleep the day away – it was her usual MO.

With the house being as quiet as it was, it didn’t occur to me to wonder why the bathroom door was closed and so I walked in. I almost had a heart attack when I saw standing there, in front of the medicine cabinet mirror with a razor in his hand, a man I had never seen before who was wearing nothing but what the good lord had given him.

My gut reaction was to shout “Son of a !@#$!” which is what I did. Flushing several shades of embarrassed, I quickly turned and headed back to my room, slamming the door as I did so.

~*~*~

With my back to the door and my heart in my throat, I wondered who the hell the guy was and why he was naked in the bathroom. Well, apart from obviously showering and shaving, of course. Logically I knew it was because he was a friend to Mel’s and he had stayed overnight but still being hazy with sleep, I hadn’t been thinking logically.

In fact, I had so many thoughts running through my mind; some of them indecent; I didn’t know whether I should laugh cry or be impressed. All I did know for sure was that I was never going to be able to look the man in the eye that was for damned sure.

It was ridiculous to hide out in my room when all I had seen was a naked man. If he had of been an axe-wielding manic, it would have been a different story but he wasn’t and I didn’t have the time to wonder who he was or why he was here. I was just getting ready to open the door when there was a knock.

“Dani; are you ok? I heard you yell. What’s happened?”

I slowly opened the door and a quick glance about told me that ‘Mr Natural’ was nowhere to be seen. “Nothing; I just saw something I don’t think I was meant to and it gave me a bit of a shock. Sorry to wake you.”

I couldn’t tell her the truth. Apart from being totally embarrassed about my over-reaction, I knew she would never let me hear the end of it; she was that type of person. I just had to hope that her guest didn’t feel the need to tell her himself.

Sitting at the breakfast table some twenty minutes later, I was soon joined by Mel and her companion. The smarmy look on her face told me she knew. Not being able to look the guy in the face, I had no idea if he was smirking as well.

“So” she began as she went to put on the coffee pot, clearly taking delight in my discomfort. “I hear you met ‘Little Davey’ this morning. Maybe I should introduce you to Big Davey.”

I simply got up from the table and headed to the hospital.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

2/8/19, 15:22 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 
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Re: Each Careful Step*


Two

DANI:


I drove around for what felt like hours but was little more than twenty minutes or so. I loved to drive as a rule but tonight, the fun had been taken out of it and I was now in a mood. As I had been driving, I really did try to wrap my head around the reasons for accepting Mel’s offer to be room-mates. As kids, we had been inseparable, doing everything and anything together. Of all the cousins, we were the closest. But then I had to move away.

My father was a soldier which meant when he was transferred; more often than I cared for; I had to go too. Over the years we moved several times, both nationally and internationally but when the major holidays were upon us, we came back here or had family visit us, wherever we were. Each time we moved, Mel and I would keep in contact via letters, which over time became emails or text messages.

Through the hundreds of letters, emails and phone calls, we shared everything – first kiss, first love, prom night; the whole nine yards. Even though there were sometimes literally thousands of miles between us, I had thought our closeness was always there. It wasn’t until my first visit back to the States, about seven years ago, that I got the impression that perhaps it wasn’t.

~*~*~

The change was nothing overtly obvious, just the slightest hint that perhaps one of us had moved on, leaving the other behind without a word. When I went back home to Melbourne and then when I later moved back full time to Boston, we still kept in touch but the emails and calls became less frequent and no longer included details of any substance. If anything, they had become little more than a footnote to say ‘hey, I’m still alive, work sucks, hope you’re well’.

I had a life of my own to live and so while I was disappointed, I didn’t push for more, finally coming to the realization that people and time moves on, like it or not. When I decided to leave Boston and move back to Bentleigh, I found myself a place and got settled with the idea I’d catch up with Mel at some point. She managed to get to me first, calling me out of the blue. For the first couple of weeks, she was around constantly and I thought we had back what we lost but again, her contact died off to become the odd call here, a coffee in town there.

Unlike the first time we drifted apart, this time I didn’t mind so much, understanding that we were both at different stages in our lives and wanted different things. We had clearly lost what we had as kids but that’s the way life works. What I couldn’t understand however was why she had now taken to less than subtly hinting that my life choices could be better, even going so far as to suggest how I could change my appearance, find better employment, etc.

It hurt a little but I let it go, guessing it was just who she had become; no-one stays completely the same forever. That’s why I was more than a little surprised when almost four months after I had moved back to Bentleigh, she gave me a call with her offer.

~*~*~

“Hey Dani, how’s it going chick?”

She had never called me chick before, and it sounded weird. “I’m fine, thanks; and you? I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Yeah, sorry about that; been busy with auditions and stuff; you know how it is. Listen, the reason I’m calling is to ask a favour.”

I actually rolled my eyes, realizing it wasn’t just a social call. “Oh? And what favour is that?”

“Well, as you know, I’m living in this huge house out here and, well, my room-mate has just moved out. I was wondering if you wanted to move in. I’m sure you don’t really want to be renting that roach motel room forever and it would be great to have you here. We will have such an awesome time, like we used to. What do you say?”

Ok, so she was right about me not wanting to stay in the roach motel for much longer. I had been here about four months and I could swear they practically ran the place. Then again, it was the cheapest place I could find when I first came back and I hadn’t had any luck in finding a more suitable place in my price range, although not for lack of trying.
Perhaps I could learn to put up with or ignore her commentary on my life, if it meant sleeping in a clean bed each night and not have to wonder about how much food the roaches would leave for me. That had been the thing that motivated me the most to say yes and yet here I was now, driving around in the dark wondering what the hell I was going to do next. It was almost enough to make me miss the roaches; almost.

~*~*~

After driving around for another thirty or so minutes, I finally headed home. I couldn’t very well drive around aimlessly all night. Besides; if I was expected to pay my share of the rent, then I should at least be able to get some kind of use out of the whole house and not just one room. I would grab the paper first thing tomorrow and start looking for somewhere else to live.

When I got back to the house, I could hear the TV but not a great deal else. Walking past the lounge I noted it was empty and for a moment I wondered where Mel and David had gone. Heading for me room I soon heard, rather than saw, where they had gotten to and so I continued on my way. After closing the door, I found my IPod and after putting in the ear buds, I sat at my desk, turned on my laptop and listened to the soothing sounds of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ while I went through my emails.

Of the 30 or so emails I had received since yesterday, only four were actually for me. A couple of the rest were just newsletters to some sites I visited but mostly, the rest of it was spam. I had employed the use of a filter and yet I was still inundated daily with offers for Viagra, Rolex watches, girls with big hooters and the like.

Maybe it would be easier to set up a new email address, rather than spend twenty minutes hitting the delete button. It was beyond ridiculous but an unfortunate side effect from being hooked up to the world. For now though I was just happy to see that something had come through to me that was actually worth reading. Aside from the couple of emails from my bank, the one I was most excited about was the message from my friend Rochelle, back in Australia.

~*~*~

I had made friends with Chelle (pronounced Shelly) not long after my family had moved to Melbourne, Australia. Being the new kid, she had been assigned to show me around the school, showing me to my classes etc. Most kids hate being given this task but Chelle had taken to me like a duck to water. Having been moved from one school to another herself, she knew exactly what it was like for me. We have been best friends ever since.

Even when my family finally moved back to the States, we stayed in touch. We have even spent the odd holiday together, when finances allowed. Unlike with Mel however, Chelle and I have remained close despite the thousands of miles between us, emailing almost every day and calling at least once a week, if not more. I so wished I could speak to her in person now but would settle for her email, which began;

“Hey chick

How are we on this fine day? Is Mel still being a cow? What about the lovely David? Have you had any more ‘sightings’ of his arse lol? Sorry, I just had to. I swear, I still laugh about that, even though it happened a while back. You forget I’m a visual person and I’ve seen you embarrassed before, so I could just imagine the horrified look on your face when you opened the door. I’m surprised you can even look at him. You do realize you are going to have to send me a photo, so I know exactly what it is I’m visualizing. OF HIS FACE! Wash your mind out young lady lol.

Things here are going as well as can be expected. Work, come home, have dinner and go to bed – alone! I’ve been on a couple of dates, some with a couple of guys from work, but nothing you could call serious. Regan is still doing her utmost to set me up with her brother but me going out with him is never going to happen.

I would rather have root canal without the anaesthetic. He is just too beyond creepy and I’m not that desperate. You met him, right; I think it was on your last visit? He was the letch with the bad comb over and teeth browner than his eyes. I like Regan, just not enough to go down that path. I would almost prefer to remain single; almost.

How about you; any new prospects on the horizon? Are you still seeing that Tony guy? I remember you mentioned having a bad vibe about him so please tell me you’re not seeing him anymore. Just because Mel vouched for him, it doesn’t mean you should discount your feelings. Face it; she’s not exactly the best judge of character and her recommendation or not, if something feels hinky, then it probably is. Just be careful, that’s all I ask.

Has there been any update on Olivia? The last time we spoke, you mentioned it probably wouldn’t be long now, before she was gone. I want you to call me when it happens. I know you, Dan. You will sit and wallow and get into that funk of yours. I also know you keep telling me that you won’t but I know you better than that; BIG HUGS for you. Promise me you will call if you need anything, even if it’s just to talk. I would be there for you in person if I could.

Well, it’s almost time to go to hell, er, um, work... See; I’ve got my happy face on lol. Still, I had to drop a quick line, just to check in and say hi. I’ll try and call in the next day or so. Hopefully by then one or both of us will have some great news to share.
Love ya babe; be good, or at least good at it.

Chelle. XXX”


~*~*~

I smiled. I loved this girl. She was exactly like the sister I always wished I had. Even though we were so far apart, she still had the uncanny knack of being able to cheer me up when I needed it the most. That was a gift I treasured. Perhaps I should just move back to Australia; it wasn’t like there was anything keeping me here. Ok, there were my parents but they were back in Boston, so it wasn’t like I could just pop in for a coffee whenever the mood struck. It was definitely something to consider but in the meantime, I had an email to reply to.

“Hey sweet

Things here are as well as can be expected. Yes, Mel is still being a cow and I can’t see it changing anytime soon. I really wish I could understand what it was that made her change so drastically. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to look for a new place to live, starting tomorrow. I’ve put up with her !@#$ for longer than I should have and that’s not helping either of us. I could say something but you know I don’t do well with confrontations.

He hasn’t officially moved in or anything but David does seem to be here more often than not. Thankfully there have been NO further sightings. I cannot believe you would actually ask me that. It’s been three weeks since that morning and I still have trouble looking him in the eye, let alone being in the same room alone with him. My cheeks seem to feel as though they are in a perpetual hue of fire engine red.

Mel of course thinks it’s a huge joke and makes her normal tasteless comments but you will be proud of me; I’m learning to filter them out and ignore them. As for David himself, he’s always polite, if not a little charming. Beyond the apology on the morning of the incident, he thankfully hasn’t said anything else about the matter and I’m grateful. I’m sure I will get over it at some point. As for a photo, let me see what I can do for you.

Eww, I do remember Evan; he IS icky. What the hell is Regan thinking? Doesn’t she like you or something? Still, he is her brother I suppose, so she probably just wants to see him out there, having the same sort of life that everyone else seems to be having. He is kind of creepy though; I actually just got a chill up my spine thinking about how much... ewww!
Here’s a thought; maybe you should come up here. I can set you up with David! I understand he’s seeing Mel and it’s probably wrong me of me to say it but he’s too good for her. All I can say is that she must be good at sex because he comes back time and again, even though she’s started to treat him like !@#$. I understand I barely know him but I do know he deserves better than to be treated like that.

You know something; you would actually be great together. He loves Star Trek too, although I can’t understand why lol. I found this out one day when we had a ‘discussion’ about what to watch on tele. I never picked him as the geeky type; he’s too cute for that; still, it just goes to prove that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Wait until I send a photo – of his face! – and you can tell me what you think. Maybe you and I can share a place. I’ll even pay for you ticket to get you here emoticon

Don’t be mad but I suppose I still am sort of seeing Tony. I know I wasn’t going to and it’s definitely nothing serious, just the occasional date here or there. I really do believe he has some kind of secret agenda, which is worrying and yet... I know, I know; stop seeing him already. Before you ask, no, we haven’t slept together yet, despite his less than subtle hints and borderline inappropriate touching. It’s been a while for me but I’m not prepared to just jump into bed with him. Maybe it’s the fear of being alone that won’t allow me to cut him off completely; kind of pathetic, right? Ok, I’ll stop seeing him.

There’s still no word on Olivia. I spoke to her folks the day before yesterday and they thought she would perhaps go that day, but I didn’t hear back. It’s going to be hard when I do hear she’s gone. I realize I don’t know her all that well but it won’t make it any less painful. Still, if I’m going to continue doing what I do in the hospital, this is just one of the pitfalls of the job. If I didn’t love it so much, I would quit and get a regular job. I know the kids get a kick out of it and they’re the main reason I go back. I promise to call when I hear anything.

Ok, I better go. Not too much more to tell really. I’m stuck in my room; again! I could go into the lounge but I’m not in the mood for ‘adult entertainment’ lmao. Hmm, maybe I should start looking at the real-estate stuff now, get a head start on tomorrow. Have fun in hell. Don’t let them get to you. Just think; before long, you might see a photo of David and think he’s worth chucking everything in and coming up here. I know; tell me I’m dreaming lol.

Love you too chick. Catch you soon.

Dani XXX”


I hit send and after clearing my remaining emails, I looked at the real-estate listings. Nothing jumped out at me but at least I had started. Maybe tomorrow I would be lucky enough to find something perfect.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

2/8/19, 15:23 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 
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Re: Each Careful Step*


Three

DANI:


The following morning I got up to find the house in complete silence. Mel and David were either still asleep or had gone out to do whatever it was they did most mornings. All I knew was it meant I could at least eat my breakfast in peace, with no comments from my cousin. I was just in the middle of enjoying a piece of toast as I read the paper when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said, not recognizing the number on the caller id.

“Dan! Hey chick; it’s Chelle.”

“Hey! What’s wrong; are you ok?”

I could hear her laugh. “I’m fine. I wanted to hear how you were so I’m calling. I just finished reading your email. Reading between the lines, you’re not a happy camper. What gives?”

If memory serves, I hadn’t said all that much at all, just responding to her questions and yet she had picked up on my unhappiness. This was something I loved about her; how she could tell how I was feeling without me having to spell it out for her.

“Oh, just the usual; I suppose it just boils down to me feeling sorry for myself. I’m in a situation I’m not overly happy with, but I’m too chicken to take a leap to fix it. I just don’t know what to do.”

“The first thing you can do is to tell Mel to quit being a !@#$! I know you, so I’m sure you’ve only told me the bare minimum of all the things she’s said and done to you; those things were bad enough and she needs to stop. You’re a grown arsed woman, Dani; you are more than capable of standing on your own two feet. You need to get out of there before things get out of control and you really end up getting hurt. Don’t make me come up there and drag you out of the house.”

I had to laugh at that, knowing full well she would do it. “You’re right; I know you are. I’m actually looking over the real-estate section now, you will be happy to hear. I suppose last night was just the final straw. Even I have a limit as to how much I can watch two people making out; more so because I’m related to one of those people.

“Maybe I’m just too old fashioned for my own good because I still believe there is a time and place for everything. Before you ask, it’s not jealousy; I just don’t think I should have to put up with it. My problem is that I’m too embarrassed to say anything and knowing this, Mel continues to do it to piss me off, loving that it makes me uncomfortable. I’m guessing because David goes along with it, he doesn’t mind me being in the same room. Could be his thing...”

Chelle made a choking sound. Once she calmed down, she informed me that she had just spat a mouthful of Coke across the table. I laughed that the visual of her doing it. “Hmm, now I’m really thinking I need to meet this David” she finally joked back, a laugh of her own thrown in.

I got up from the table and took my plate over to the sink. “I think you should too. He’s nice. I really do like him, although I barely know him; and even despite the fact that I still can’t look him in the eye. I doubt I’m ever going to be able to and it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s gotta be at least two feet taller than me.” We both laughed. “Still, if I move out, it shouldn’t be an issue anymore. It’s not like Mel and I run in the same circles anymore so I’m hardly going to see David either, unless it’s at one of those obligatory family events.”

For the next twenty minutes Chelle and I spoke about my options, one of which was returning to Melbourne but failing that, the likelihood of either of us visiting each other in the near future. Between that and general gossip about friends we had in common, it was a great start to my morning. By the time the call was disconnected, I definitely felt better about my decision to move out. All I needed now was somewhere to move to.

~*~*~

DAVID:

Waking up to find the sun streaming through the window and right into my face was not how I wanted to wake up. “‘Bloody Mel” I grumbled as I buried my head under the pillow. She did this !@#$ all the time. Anytime I fancied a lie in and she didn’t, she would get up and open the curtains wide, knowing full well the morning sun would come through and wake me up. Maybe it was time we started sleeping at my place; or maybe re-arranging the furniture so it wouldn’t be an issue any more.

A minute or so later I removed the pillow and looked over at the clock on the bedside table. It was barely 0800am so I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep but two minutes later I was more wide awake than I had been so I gave up. I also heard the phone ring and knowing Mel wasn’t home, I quickly scrambled out of bed to go and answer it.

It didn’t occur to me that Dani would still be home as she was normally gone by the time I was up most mornings, even on the days I did manage to beat Mel out of bed. I was halfway up the hall and heading for the kitchen when I heard her voice. I stopped short and turned to go back to my room; I was naked, after all, and the last thing I wanted to do was put Dani through a repeat of our first meeting.

Quickly putting on a robe, I headed back out. I needed coffee now that I was almost fully awake and I needed it ASAP. For the second time in less than two minutes however, I stopped short of actually entering the kitchen. I could only hear Dani’s side of things but she was talking about me? I wondered who she was talking to but when she got to the part about me enjoying making out with Mel in front of her, I knew I had to leave.

Although I was only able to hear her comments and not those of who she was talking to, it was obvious that the conversation wasn’t meant for me to listen in on. Besides, I didn’t like to eavesdrop; nothing good ever came of it, sort of like Chinese whispers. Instead I went back to my room, grabbed some fresh clothes and then headed to the bathroom to take a shower, making sure to lock the door behind me.

~*~*~

Once I had finished and was fully clothed, I walked back up the hall and into the kitchen. Dani was still there, hanging up the phone just as I crossed the threshold. “Morning, Dani” I said, startling her if the slight jump she made was any indication. As was becoming the norm, her embarrassment was evident quickly as her cheeks flushed and she averted her eyes slightly.

“Oh, hey; I didn’t realize you were home. I hope the phone didn’t wake you.”

I didn’t want to embarrass her further by revealing that I had overheard some of her conversation, so I simply smiled and answered “No. Mel left the damn curtains open again, so the sun woke me up. Are you ok?”

With a fleeting glance back in my direction, she nodded. “I’m fine; why do you ask?”

I crossed the kitchen and grabbed the coffee pot to fill, ready to start brewing. “You left last night in a bit of a hurry. I’m guessing the slammed door was for our benefit?” I didn’t think it was possible but Dani’s cheeks flushed even more, making her face look almost burgundy.

I could almost sense the thought process going on in her mind as her face took on a frown. I half expected her to not give me an answer and was a little surprise at the candour when she did. “Yes and no. I’ll get over it. In fact, to that end, I’m going to look for somewhere else to live. This way, you and Mel can do what you have to, when and where you have to and I won’t have to sit by and watch.”

There was no malice in her tone, just a statement of fact. This time it was me who colored a little. Part of this was because I was ashamed of myself for not realizing how Mel’s and my behaviour had made her feel uncomfortable. I just get so caught up in the moment, it never occurs to me to remember that sometimes there is someone else in the room with us. Still, this was no excuse.

“I’m sorry, Dani; I never even realized. I’m sure Mel didn’t either.”

For the first time since we had met, she looked me square in the eye. “Yes, she did. I know her; or at least I thought I did. Once upon a time she wouldn’t have considered being so flagrant but she’s changed.” Looking away again, she washed her plate and mug. “You’ve seen how she is with me. I’ve just finally hit my limit, is all; I should have moved out weeks ago.”

“If anyone should go, it’s me. This is your home. Mel asked you to move in so you could spend time together. She loves having you here.”

The sound of a scoff escaped her lips. “Right; that’s why she is barely here when I am and when she is, she is all over you like a rash. Not only that but she’s taken to talking down to me, telling me how to improve myself and that’s when she’s not on at me about getting a real job. The real reason I’m here is so that she doesn’t have to pay the mortgage on the house on her own.” After a beat she added “Besides, I’m sure you would like to know you can shower anytime you like and not have to worry about me bursting in at any time.”

I smiled. “Oh, I don’t know about that. If nothing else, it will keep me on my toes.” We both laughed. “In all seriousness Dani; please don’t go. I have an audition tomorrow and if I get the part, I’m going to be around here a lot less. Mel is also out a lot so you will have the place pretty much to yourself.

“If nothing else, it will save you the trouble of having to do the rounds, trying to find something else that’s clean and cheap. I know putting up with Mel’s crap is hard but I’m sure she doesn’t mean half the stuff she says or does. Promise me you will at least think about staying?”

Dani looked at me, really seeing me and not just giving me her usual fleeting glance. “Ok, I’ll think about it. I make no promises though.” Almost as an afterthought, she added “Please don’t mention this to Mel. I really don’t need the hassle.”

I went over and hugged her, although it was inappropriate. At first she didn’t move but then she hugged me back. “I won’t” I promised. “I’m sorry we made it so bad for you to live here that you got to this point.”

After accepting my apology, she excused herself and went to her room. I could do little more than watch her leave, wondering how I was going to make it up to her. Moments later the freshly brewed coffee had all of my focus.

~*~*~

DANI:

As I walked into my room, I scouted around for my bag, locating it and then looking inside to make sure I had my phone and some money. While I was doing this, I relived the conversation with David; one I had hoped never to have although I knew I had to at some point, even if it was just to get us over the awkwardness.

We had more or less been sharing a house for the better part of three weeks and yet, until now, the most we had ever said to each other could be summed up in ten words or less. This was because my embarrassment at having seen him naked always seemed to get in the way. With our slightly longer conversation just now, I hoped the breakthrough had been made.

In a weird way, I did actually feel a little better about things. Sure, I would no doubt still color up, or find it hard to be in the same room alone with him but at least now the urge to run away had gone. Who knows; in a couple of years from now, we will probably look back at this and have a good laugh.

I couldn’t wait for that day, when I would be able to think of him as a friend and be comfortable enough to joke around. Today at least got us stepping in the right direction so that was something.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


Four

DANI:


A couple of days passed since the talk and things seemed to now be at some kind of new normal. I wasn’t sure exactly what he had told her but David had clearly spoken to Mel, about at least some of what we had talked about, because the minute she looked like she was ready to start making out somewhere other than her room, David would stand up, take her hand and in fact lead her to her room. I knew she didn’t like the change and yet she never said a word. I simply stayed there looking at the TV, pretending not to notice.

On better news, David did indeed get the part he auditioned for and would start full-time rehearsals in the upcoming week. He was so excited about this opportunity you couldn’t help but be happy for him. Mel thankfully kept her true feelings to herself. She hadn’t been as successful in any of her auditions and it was making her crabby.

I did have a brief moment where I thought about suggesting that perhaps she needed to find something else, to tide her over, but I wasn’t stupid enough to open that can of worms. Whatever she chose to do, she had to hurry up and start earning because I wasn’t going to be able to afford to pay the bills on my own while she sat around doing bugger all.

~*~*~

Having just finished my second job of the day, I headed home but halfway there I turned around and headed back towards the storage place where I had most of my belongings. When I moved in with Mel, she already had a lot of things and said we wouldn’t need mine too because there wasn’t enough room to put it.

Part of me suspected it was because she didn’t think I had any taste but I put my things into storage all the same. With money fast becoming short in supply, I couldn’t afford the expense of storing my things elsewhere but until I knew for sure if I was going or staying, I had no choice. For the moment though, there were a couple of things I wanted, so I called in.

Saturday afternoon Mel and David were going to have a barbecue/pool party with a few of their friends form Oberlin and I had been invited to join them. Mel didn’t have a lot in the way of glasses, plates and cutlery so I decided to pick up some of mine when I was getting a few other things.
 
I was a little nervous about attending this party. Most of the guests were actors, or aspiring actors and I didn’t think I was going to have anything in common with them and didn’t want to just stand around, pretending to have a good time while the conversation buzzed around me. David assured me they were all just regular folk and talked about other things, besides work and so I figured why not. Besides, it was sweet of him to ask me in the first place.

~*~*~

The trip to the storage unit didn’t take long and I soon found myself in the driveway at home. David was just pulling in behind me as I was getting out of my car. After saying hello, he offered to help me carry in the box full of my things, which was a good thing as it was quite heavy. I had almost dropped it twice trying to get it into the back seat of my car.

“You must have the whole Waterford collection in here” he noted, commenting on how heavy the box was.

As we approached the steps to the front porch, I simply smiled and told him he wasn’t far wrong. I also said “Careful you don’t trip.”

True to form and my bad luck, he had barely touched the first step when he tripped. Unsurprisingly, his first impulse was to drop the box so he could brace himself as he fell, hoping not to break any bones. In the end the only things that were broken was all of my glassware.

“Sonofabitch!” I exclaimed, more from shock than anger at David.

After ensuring he was ok, I then took a look at the box, lying on its side with bits of glass spilling from it. Tipping it back to its normal upright position, the sound of tinkling glass was audible enough to fill me with dread. With the shock wearing off, I started to curse up a storm; sometimes out loud, sometimes muttering to myself, telling him he was a clumsy oaf with big feet and complaining that all of this stuff had cost me a fortune, etc. As I tried to pick up the box, I couldn’t help but be surprised to note that now that the contents were broken, the box was heavier, not lighter.

David apologized profusely and tried to take the box from me but at this point, I was too angry to let him. It was just glass and I should be thankful that he hadn’t in fact done himself an injury, but no matter the price, some of my favourite glasses and plates had been in this box and couldn’t be replaced. In the end I had to let him take the box as it really was too heavy and I didn’t need to hurt myself trying to show him how mad I was.

Once inside with the box of debris on the table, I opened it up. Everything but two plates and one glass had been broken, cracked or chipped so bad that they were rendered unusable. The crystal platter I had received as a 21st present from my grandmother had split neatly, but completely, in two.

David, seeing the look on my face as I pulled the broken glass from the box and put it into a rubbish bag said “I’m truly sorry, Dani; I’ll replace everything. I promise.”

Without looking at him, I told him it was ok. It wasn’t but I realized that making him feel worse wouldn’t bring the stuff back or magically repair the items that were only slightly damaged. At the end of the day, it really was only glassware. Sure, some of it had been gifts from family or friends but it wasn’t as though I had just lost a pet or someone close. I also knew deep down that he hadn’t done it deliberately and I should be thankful that he hadn’t done himself some damage in the process. Without a word, he left me to it.

~*~*~

That Friday afternoon, David showed up at the house with a present for me. I asked what it was for and he simply told me to open it. I did so and found inside the box two sets of crystal goblets, a new dinner set and a couple of glass platters; everything that had been broken earlier in the week. There were even a couple of extra items in there too.

“David, you didn’t have to do this” I told him, having already forgiven him for the mishap.

“Yes, I did. I saw the look on your face when you lost the other stuff. If it wasn’t for my clumsy clown feet, you wouldn’t have lost the lot. It’s the least I could do.”

I smiled at the clown feet comment, knowing he must have heard me utter it in my tirade. I didn’t know what to say however, so I simply kissed his cheek and gave him a quick hug. “Thank you” I finally said. “I appreciate the gesture.”

He smiled in return and told me I was welcome, before helping me unpack the items and washing them all, ready for tomorrow. It was a sweet thing for him to do, although he shouldn’t have. I had already moved on from it by the following day, although I was going to miss some of the more personal items. It still meant a lot to me that he did it though. I wondered if Mel truly realized just how lucky she was to have him.

~*~*~

The following day we held the barbecue and as it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the other guests. Mel and David’s friends were all very nice and made me feel like I was part of the gang almost from the get go. Although I hadn’t invited him, Tony showed up and was more interested in actively flirting with Julie; one of Mel’s theatre friends; than speaking to me, which suited me fine. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to see him anymore, only I hadn’t gotten around to telling him that. He didn’t strike me as someone who was going to lose any sleep over the revelation.

With thoughts that I might go for a swim a bit later in the day, I went to change into my bathers, opting to add a sarong to wear over them. I had felt decidedly out of place amongst the others girls in their barely there bikinis and that was while fully clothed, so the sarong felt like a smart bet.

My own suit was a bikini, of sorts, in that it was a two-piece but it covered more than it revealed, which is why I bought it. Black in color, it was very similar in design to something that Annette Funicello might have worn in one of the many beach movies she made – the halter/bra like top with the boy leg bottoms. Despite how much it did cover, I couldn’t go past the added protection of the sarong. I was just tying a knot in it at my waist as I was leaving my room, when I ran into David.

He had clearly come in to grab his video camera, as it was in his hands. Given it was pointed at me at this point, my guess was that it was also on. I put my hand up to try and cover the lens, suggesting he go and film someone else. He only laughed at me and continued to film, actively following me as I tried to walk away. I shook my head and tried to pretend like he wasn’t following me, heading towards the fridge to grab a drink. He finally stopped filming but he continued to follow me.

“So ‘Gidget’; what’s with the sarong? Don’t tell me you’re cold? It’s got to be at least 110 outside.”

I looked at him. “Gidget?” I asked. Was he trying to be funny, or worse; to get a rise out of me?

He smiled. “Yeah; you remind me of Gidget. The hair in pigtails, the bathing suit; the fact that you are indeed a girl and short...” He stopped then, realizing he had probably overstepped the mark.

I could see that he hadn’t meant offence and so to lighten the mood a little, I shook my head and smiled back. “Face it, David; compared to you, everyone is short. And I’ll just pretend that you meant it as a compliment.”

“You should because it was. I loved Gidget as a kid. I think it was probably because she liked to surf. Still, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, really” I admitted and once he was ok that I was ok, he took his camera and headed out.

 I grabbed the drink I had been after and followed. What I hadn’t told him however was that rather than be offended, I had been a little flattered. I had never had a nickname before; at least not one that wasn’t hurled at me as insult when I was in school; so this felt special. Even if he was never to call me by that name again, it was nice that he had. I was glad now that I had stayed and been a part of the day.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


Five

DANI:


With a fresh drink in hand, I rejoined the other guests. I was about to take a seat when Mel physically pulled me to one side and wasn’t so gentle about it.

“Dani, what the hell are you wearing?”

I looked at her. “A suit of armour; what does it look like I’m wearing?” She didn’t answer straight away so I asked her a question. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

The look she gave me suggested that she was about to say something to me that she thought was for my own benefit, not hers. “Nothing, if this were 1960. Honestly, Dani. You do realize that you are allowed to dress for this side of good taste, right? Ok, so you don’t have the body for a normal bikini but there are some very flattering one-piece suits out there. Perhaps something with an added skirt would be better suited to your body shape.”

Wow. Just…wow. I wanted to slap her so badly my hand was twitching for the chance. The only thing that saved her was the backyard full of people and David, who was hovering about shooting with his camera. !@#$! It was bad enough that I thought I wasn’t good enough to wear a more revealing type of bathing suit but for her to say it, and like she was making a helpful suggestion, it was just too much.

As expected, I could feel my cheeks flush rapidly but it was mostly from anger, not embarrassment. Who the hell did she think she was? I had to clench my hands into fists to stop them flying out and striking her but unlike other times when she had embarrassed me like this, this time I didn’t just walk away. No, today I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.

“Thanks for the fashion advise, Mel; I’ll be sure to look into it once I can get my head around the concept of computers and on-line shopping.” I left it at that, although I so badly wanted to say more. Instead, I went over to sit beside Dean and Casey. I wasn’t about to let my smug, self-important cousin ruin for me what up until now, had been a good day. I just had to hope that she wouldn’t try to say something else, in front of witnesses, in the hopes of really sticking it to me.

Thankfully, however, the rest of the day went by without further incident. Mel and I avoided each other, leaving me to chat with her friends while she openly flirted with half the guys there, half the time when David was nearby. As we had been talking, my being a hairdresser came up and so Casey had asked me to help her with her hair and makeup before she went to her next audition, something I was only too happy to help with. All in all, despite Mel’s attack, it had been a fun afternoon and I felt like I had made a few new friends in the process.

~*~*~

DAVID:

Sitting at the kitchen table late Saturday night, I flipped open the lid to my laptop and pushed the button to turn it on. As it warmed up; groaning and creaking in protest the whole time; I fished around in my camera bag for the cords I needed to link my video camera to the machine, thinking the whole time it was probably time to upgrade my equipment. Recently I had been bitten with the bug to film anything and everything and if I wanted to edit the footage into something worth watching, I was definitely going to need to visit my local camera store.

I smiled as I looked over the camera. It was older than dirt but it had been a present for my 16th birthday and I cherished it. I used it for about a month back then, only to forget about it when my interests led elsewhere. It had only been the last seven or eight months that I’ve picked it up again, only to quickly realize it was more than a hobby now; more like an obsession that I was hoping to fine tune.

It even crossed my mind that if my singing career in the theatre didn’t pan out, I could probably pursue filmography instead. Ok, so I had just been given a part in ‘La Boheme’ but who knew how long that would last, or even if there would be another role when that was done. Theatre was a tricky business and fickle so one success didn’t automatically translate into another. For now though, I would give it my all and keep the film making as a way to make home movies of family and friends, knowing that at least if they were the only ones who ever saw my work, they would appreciate it.

The laptop really was taking forever but finally it was on and so after hooking everything up, I rolled back the footage I had taken today at the barbecue, smiling as I did so. It had been nice to have so many of our friends together in the same place, at the same time and not be working. Most of them were in shows, were auditioning or working in the part-time jobs they had until the big break came along. Because of this, we didn’t see as much of each other as we used to.

We had all met back at Oberlin and been as close as family. As is it is want to do, however, once we graduated and started the process of becoming adults, we slowly drifted apart. Not to the point where we only saw each other at weddings or funerals but it wasn’t every other day or even once a week. I had even been to Australia for several months and had barely had the time to speak while I was away.

Not from choice, just that between schedules and time-zones, it was hard to co-ordinate our lives to meet half way. Today just proved that time and distance didn’t always have to be a bad thing, that sometimes true friendship can withstand anything.

~*~*~

I continued to look over the footage, trying to decide what to keep and what could be deleted when I came across some footage of Mel and Dani. Clearly my girlfriend had no idea that I was close by, and filming because she seemed to be saying something that wasn’t nice. With the background laughter and chaos from our friends, I couldn’t quite make out what was being said but I didn’t need to hear it to know it wasn’t anything nice. The look on Mel’s face as she spoke, along with the blush flooding Dani’s cheeks told me as much. I had seen that look on both of them far too many times of late.

I really can’t work Mel out. Her behaviour of late is something I’ve never seen before and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. When it’s just the two of us, she will talk about her cousin in glowing terms, bragging about how she had done this or that, or how good at her job she was etc. When we’re out and about however, or Dani is within earshot, she will go out of her way to make hurtful comments, put her down in some way or make a remark that is beyond being called for.

The comments aren’t given in a vicious way but they are still uncalled for all the same. It’s almost like Mel feels as though she is superior in some way, and has to offer the ‘benefit of her wisdom and experience’ to her younger relative. I really couldn’t understand it because from all I had heard about the two of them, they had been best friends, inseparable almost; at least until Dani had moved away; and now it had come to this.

Although I knew Dani often heard all the comments, she would often ignore or make some light-hearted comment back, trying to prove it hadn’t hurt her. The thing is though, she has a very expressive face and so while her words might be upbeat or funny, her face tells the truth.

I realize now that this is one of the main differences between the two of them – Dani will internalize things whereas Mel will get up and smack in the mouth anyone who has a bad word to say about her. Clearly, she believes that she’s perfect and everyone should love her. It is making me wonder more and more lately why I’m even with her.

~*~*~

As I mindlessly continue to scroll around the footage; there were some great shots of Dean and Jeremy trying to throw Casey into the pool; I got to thinking about how different the Matthews girls really were. They had similar features of course; the eyes, the dark blondish hair; but that was about it as far as I could tell.

Mel was tall, thin and had legs up to there; a feature I had been attracted to from the get go; but she was also smart and could sing like an angel. Her biting wit often left a lot to be desired, as did her need to make others feel inferior and yet I was drawn to her. Maybe it was because at the time we got together, she had reminded me of home when I needed it the most.

And then there is Dani. A lot shorter, and curvier; although not in a bad way; with a pretty face that had dimples that would pull at the corners of her mouth when she smiled. There was also a ‘presence’ about her, that drew you in. She too was smart and had a winning, affable personality that just shone from her. Unlike her older cousin, she rarely had a bad word to say about someone, although I would have to admit that she has a bit of a temper.

Whenever the girls were out together, it was easy enough to see why most guys would pick Mel first; guys being guys and usually only thinking with their dicks, Mel was always going to be first option for most. This wasn’t to say that Dani was ugly at all; far from it; it’s just that as a gender, we don’t tend to be all that deep too often, looking beyond the facade. This was fine if you were only out for a brief fling but over all, there wasn’t a whole lot to Mel that would make you ever consider her ‘long term’ material.

Actually, now that I’m thinking about that, I have to wonder what it is that I still saw in Mel. Yes, she was hot and the sex was good but we couldn’t spend the rest of our lives in bed. If I wanted to be truthful with myself, some of the spark had gone between us and it had been dwindling for quite some time now. If Mel was also of the same opinion, I had no clue; she was too busy doing whatever she was doing when we weren’t together and when we were, there usually wasn’t all that much conversation happening.

On the flipside, there was Dani. It had been awkward at first and I didn’t think there was ever going to come a time when she could actually look me in the eye, after the bathroom incident but we had talked since then and now she seemed to be a little more relaxed around me; at least less nervous than she had been. This wasn’t to say that she still didn’t blush a lovely shade of crimson every so often, which I think is adorable.

So, between the two of them, Dani was definitely the more stable of the two and a potential life partner. It was just a shame that I couldn’t see her as being anything other than my friend.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


SIX
DANI:


Sunday morning after finally getting out of bed, I showered and had breakfast and thought about what to do with my day. In the end I decided on a movie as it was going to be another hot one; while it should have been a no-brainer to just laze by the pool all day, maybe read a little, I wanted to get away from the house. I had just grabbed my bag and car keys when the phone rang.

“Hello; Dani speaking.”

“Hi. Is David there?”

“I’ll check; can you hang on a minute?”

“Sure.”

I put the handset down and did a quick tour of the house, even knocking on Mel’s bedroom door but there was no answer. Perhaps they had both gone out for the day.

“I’m sorry” I began after picking up the phone again. “He doesn’t seem to be here. Can I leave him a message?”

“Damn! Can you get him to call his sister ASAP? I need to speak with him.”

I promised her I would and so after hanging up, I went in search of a pen and some paper, so I could write a note to leave on the fridge. I had just finished writing it when Mel walked in. “Hey, Mel; I didn’t realize you were still here. Is David with you?”

She grumbled something I didn’t quite understand and I asked her to repeat it. “No, he’s not here. We’re not joined at the hip you know; although you clearly seem to think we are.”

Great, she was in one of those moods. I rolled my eyes rather than respond and then handed her the piece of paper. “Can you please give this to him when he does get in? It’s from his sister. She needs to speak to him as soon as.”

All but snatching the piece of paper from my hand and giving me a paper cut in the process, she said she would before heading in the direction of her room. I left, hoping she was going to at least pretend to be civil by the time I got back.

~*~*~

MEL:

Barely glancing at what was written on the piece of paper, I screwed it up and tossed it across my room. I hated Kat; and she me; so I didn’t feel all that obliged to pass on any kind of message, regardless of how important it was. Besides, I’m not David’s secretary, I’m his goddam girlfriend. He could take his own messages; or keep Dani around to take them for him.

Dani. Why can’t I be more like her, I think as I throw myself onto my still unmade bed. Sure, she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous like me but that’s probably half the problem. Guys see me and think I’m some object to be taken and used at will, just not for anything important. My cousin is homelier and while I’ve seen guys talk with her, I’ve noted that it’s real conversation and they seem to treat her as an equal, not a plaything.

On top of this is the fact that she has a job she loves and can come and go as she pleases, answering to no-one but herself. I love my choice of career too but I’m always going to be at the beck and call of someone else and whatever whim they have. Dani is also always so eager to please everyone else, sometimes at her own expense and it’s a little nauseating. Then again, she’s always been like that and likely always will be.

“!@#$ it!” I curse, half to myself although I’m alone in the room. It’s not right that I should be so jealous of her. I love her, I truly do which is why it’s so hard to explain why I feel like this. Maybe it was because she got on so well with everyone with little effort, while I had to fight to get people to like me. It hadn’t always been that way for me, admittedly; only since ‘that’ day.

~*~*~

Everything changed for me that day and mostly not for the better. This is probably what my issue with Dani is; illogical as it is, I still resent her for having moved away, which meant she couldn’t be here for me when I needed her the most. It’s not her fault Uncle Dom got posted and had to move himself, Aunt Robyn and Dani all the way across the world.

“!@#$, !@#$, !@#$” I grumbled again, looking at the note laying on the floor. All those other things had been reason enough to dislike Dani but I realized now that what irked me the most was that she was getting on so well with David; MY David. We were great together, especially in bed but I was getting a very real sense that those two were going to end up best friends and I wasn’t going to stand for it.

Sure, at the moment it didn’t look all that likely because Dani couldn’t seem to look at him or stop blushing like a bloody tomato every time he was around. If it wasn’t so infuriating, I might think it was cute. Despite this however, there was definitely something there. Over the last few weeks, any time I had come across them talking, or even just watching TV together, it felt like it was meant to be. I didn’t like it; not one !@#$ bit!

Maybe I should call Tony and get him to pick up his game and make a damn move already. If he was more attentive to her and stopped flirting with anything that had a double X chromosome, then perhaps Dani wouldn’t be around the house so much and her being around David wouldn’t be such a problem. Why was life so unfair?

‘Well, screw you both’ I think ungratefully as I finally get off the bed. Grabbing my bag, I storm from the house like the hell hounds were after me, the note I discarded so adamantly no more than ten minutes earlier, still lying in a ball in the corner.

~*~*~

DAVID:

After a day on the golf course with a couple of mates, it was nice to be home. That all changed when, after having just taken a seat on the lounge, the phone rang. I took myself into the kitchen where I had left the handset and answered. It was my sister.

“Hey Kat; what’s up?”

I didn’t need a video phone to know my sibling wasn’t happy; it came through loud and clear in her tone, if not her words. “I left a message several hours ago for you to ring me back. What gives? Do you think I have nothing better to do than wait around for you to get your !@#$ together long enough to return a call?”

I raised an eyebrow, although Kat couldn’t see that. She had to be pissed if she was going to start swearing. “What message? I just walked in and there’s nothing here that I can see. What did you need?”

Rather than give me a straight answer, my older sister then flew in to a tirade about being stuck out in the middle of nowhere, unable to get back into town because her car had died. Having called AAA first and being told they would send someone straight away, it was two hours later when she had called for me. Only problem was, I never got the message.

“That !@#$!” Kat all but yelled into the phone, forcing me to remove it from my ear or go deaf. “I bet she didn’t pass the message on deliberately. You wait until I see her. She is going to learn not to mess with me.”

I was confused. Exactly who was she mad at? “Kat; calm down. Who are you talking about?”

“Dani! She answered the phone when I rang and promised me to pass on the message. I don’t understand why she would then deliberately leave me hanging out here. Do you know how !@#$ hot it is out here?”

Hot enough for her to bring out the big guns in curse words, I wanted to say but wisely didn’t. “I can’t believe Dani wouldn’t pass on the message, Kat. Are you sure it was her? It was probably Mel you spoke to.”

“David, I may well be a couple of years older than you but there is nothing wrong with my goddam hearing. Besides, she answered the phone with her name. I have a good mind to come over and tell her what I think. Lucky for her I’m too hot and bothered.”

Knowing my sister as I did, I knew she would in fact come around and that was good for no one. “Just stay where you are. Besides, she’s not home at the moment. Hasn’t been all day, from the looks of things. Listen; I’m sure if Dani forgot to pass on the message it wasn’t deliberate. She’s not like that. I’m sorry you got stuck out there, but you should have tried to ring again.”

“Umm, that’s a little bit hard to do when you have next to no signal and a battery that dies because you’ve been STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE ALL DAY!” she shouted. “Just forget it. I’m too upset to think about this now, and sunburned to a crisp. I’ll speak with you tomorrow. And don’t you dare think about warning Dani. I want to see the look on her face when I get there as she tries to explain herself.”

I tried to warn her not to but it was in vain as she hung up. For as mad as she was now though, I knew she would calm down eventually and probably end up laughing about this. Despite this however, I still had a need to warn Dani. No-one deserved Kat’s temper when she was on a roll. Returning to the loungeroom with a beer from the fridge, I thought about how odd it was that Dani wouldn’t have left a message. Mel, I could believe would ignore the message but not Dani.

~*~*~

DANI:

Leaving the old movie house, I thought about how great an idea it had been to come into town today. I truly loved the old movies and Gene Kelly was one of my all-time favourites. Seeing him just now tap-dance on roller skates was such a joy. I would love to be able to dance like him; or anyone with talent, for that matter; as he made it seems so effortless but of course it wasn’t. Maybe it was something I could enquire about when I next go back to my dance class.

I stopped in at the café at the end of the block and after having had something for lunch, I next went to the local markets to look around. The heat soon became too oppressive to just wander around aimlessly so I decided it was probably a good idea to head home. I did stop long enough to grab something quick and easy to cook for dinner but with what was about to happen, I would have been better served staying out to eat.

No sooner had I walked into the kitchen and dropped the shopping onto the kitchen bench when David came in. “Hey, David. Are you and Mel going to be in tonight? I thought I could make up a salad for dinner, maybe cook a little chicken.”

Rather than answer, he looked at me as though he was trying to read my face. “Dani, when Kat rang this morning, why didn’t you leave a note for me? Or at least try and ring me on my cell? I’m sure she told you it was important.”

I stopped at the fridge, hand on the door, ready to put the tomatoes in. “I did leave a message. I wrote it down as I was leaving this morning. And I can’t ring you on your cell if I don’t know your number.”

“There was no note here when I walked in. Where did you leave it?”

I was beginning to not like his tone. “David, I swear; I did write the note. I gave it to Mel to pa…” I didn’t finish. I didn’t have to. His girlfriend had obviously not passed on the note or left it for David to find. I wasn’t sure why I was surprised. Before I had a chance to explain again that I had indeed passed on the message, Mel came in, looking far too pleased with herself.

“Hi, people.”

David didn’t answer but straight away asked her where she had left the note from his sister. “I don’t have any note, David; Dani’s mistaken.”

That lying cow! “I gave it to you as I was leaving, and told you it was important. You snatched it from me before sulking off to your room this morning. Why are you lying?”

With a butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth look, she raised her hand in mock defeat. “Hey, I don’t have it. I’m sorry if you think I do but I don’t. You really shouldn’t make other people take the blame for your stuff-ups, Dani. It’s not right.” She turned and walked from the room before I had a chance to respond.

I looked at David. “I’m sorry; I did pass on the note. I don’t know why she would lie.”

Shaking his head, he didn’t say anything but his face told me plenty. He followed Mel up the hall, leaving me alone in the kitchen. I cursed under my breath as I slammed cupboards and even broke a glass bowl as I put the shopping away and made a start on dinner; not that I was all that hungry any more. All I could think was ‘when am I going to learn that Mel is never going to change, and why are you even still here?’

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


SEVEN

DANI:


Although I had prepared a meal big enough for all of us, I ended up eating mine alone. David tried to apologize to me, once he had found the note I had written, just where Mel had thrown it this morning. I was in no mood so simply told him to forget it, taking my dinner to eat outside. It was still quite warm but I wanted to be left alone. Mel was still being Mel and I was more than over it but clearly David didn’t care and ate his meal with her.

While I ate; or at least picked at; my meal, I wondered just how much more I was supposed to take. I should have moved out when I said I was going to but as usual, I allowed myself to be talked into staying. I also wondered exactly what it was going to take for me to start being more assertive. I couldn’t keep going on like this; it was doing my head in.

Mel obviously had an agenda but I was yet to work out what it was. It really was obvious that we were never going to go back to being best friends. We were cousins, and we loved each other but that wasn’t enough anymore. I had absolutely no idea what it was about me that she seemed to resent so much and if she had all these issues with me, why ask me to move in?

I liked to think I hadn’t changed all that much from the person I was, back when we were kids; other than a little taller and older, of course. It was clear she thought I had. It had to be more than the fact that she wasn’t working at the minute while all of her friends, and even David had picked up roles in theatre. Maybe I should suck it up and just flat out ask her what the problem was. Maybe pigs would learn to fly.

~*~*~

Once I had finished eating, I sat outside for a good forty minutes, just looking out over the pool, trying to think good thoughts. In the end, the mosquitoes started to bite so I headed in. I was just in the middle of clearing the dishes when Mel came into the kitchen.

“Dani, can I borrow your car tomorrow? My car is in the shop for a service and I have to go out.” Clearly her acting like none of the drama from earlier had happened was how she was going to play this.

“I have a dance class tomorrow night.”

“What time will you need it back? I shouldn’t be out all that long. It’s just that I have a late audition and I don’t want to miss it. You know how unreliable public transport is around here.”

“By 6pm. My class starts at 7 and it takes me a good thirty minutes to get there.” I was going to say no, out of spite, but as usual I just gave in. I figured if she got the job, then things around here would start to look up.

 “I guess so; as long as you’re back in time. I don’t want to have to catch a bus across town at that hour.”

She thanked me and told me she would be sure to have it back in plenty of time. I tried not to give any credence to the feeling I now had; the one that told me I was a sucker and that she wasn’t going to be here on time at all.

~*~*~

Surprise, surprise; here it is 6:15pm and Mel is no-where to be seen. I tried to call her cell but it was either off or she was out of range. Then again, she was probably ignoring my call. I suppose I could take the bus after all but I didn’t like to do that at night; especially alone. Going to class would have been fine but coming home after 10pm on my own was probably not advisable.

To top it off, it was actually raining. Yesterday we were melting in the heat; today there was a very real threat of flooding in some areas. It had started just after lunch and hadn’t abated at all since then. I suppose with Mel not being here I could always take a cab and get the money from her later. Knowing she wouldn’t pay, I gave up that idea.

I was just getting ready to call Sheila and tell her I couldn’t make it tonight when David walked in. We had made peace, of a sort, again this morning and things were back to the same between us again.

“Hey, Dani; aren’t you supposed to be in class tonight?”

I sighed. “Yes but Mel’s not back with my car yet. I don’t suppose you’ve heard from her at all, have you?”

“No, not since this morning; my guess is she hasn’t called you either to tell you she’s running late.”

I shook my head, surprised that perhaps he was finally twigging to who she really was, at last. “This is Mel we’re talking about, right?” I asked, giving him a look. “Maybe she did so well on her audition they asked her to stay on.”

David gave me a look as though to ask ‘what audition?’ but he didn’t actually say the words. Instead he offered “I can drop you off if you like. I have to be downtown anyway. If you like, I can then swing by and wait until you’re finished, when I’ve done what I have to.”

It was sweet of him to offer but I didn’t want to put him out and said as much. To this he replied “It’s no trouble, Dani; honest. I really do have to go that way anyway, so...”

I smiled and told him that would be great, as I really did want to go. After grabbing my bag, we set out together.

~*~*~

As we made our way into town, we discussed the dance that I was currently learning in class, which in turn led to a discussion about what type of music we liked. I was into a lot of the older stuff – 50’s to 80’s, waltzes, swing etc where as David preferred Techno. Given he was a classically trained opera star, I thought that was funny.

“You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “You honestly like that doosh doosh stuff? That’s not music. It’s all the same; same beat, different name. And it’s not like you can dance to it.”

He laughed, “It is not all the same at all, I will have you know. And of course you can dance to it; hundreds of club goers can’t be wrong. I’m guessing you’re not a fan then.”

I screwed up my nose. “You guessed right. Honestly, it’s like scraping your ears with a cheese grater. I also don’t believe that jumping up and down in one spot to the same beat constitutes dancing. It’s not conducive to romance at all.”

“Ahh; there you go. I knew it! You are one of those people.”

I looked at him as he continued to drive along. What exactly did he mean by that? “Excuse me?” I asked.

Pulling into the drive of the dance studio, he stopped the car but left the engine idling. “You’re one of those people who live in the past. Music has evolved since the 60’s you know.”

I shook my head but smiled. “I’m well aware of that, although the fact that it has evolved into rubbish is hardly a selling point.” As I unlocked the door, I added “All I can say is that I’m glad I’m not dating you; you wouldn’t be catching me in doosh doosh club, no matter how much I loved you.”

Again he laughed. “You really don’t know what you’re missing. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Before you make up your mind completely though, I have a proposition for you.”

I gave him a raised eyebrow as he continued. “You come out to a club with me, and see what it’s really like. In return, I will go to a place of your choosing, where we dance or listen to whatever you like. Once we’ve both tried each other’s preference, we can continue this discussion.”

I looked at him to see if he was joking but he didn’t appear to be. “Hmm; sounds like an idea. Sure, I’m in if you are. But I get to pick the dance I like, right?”

He nodded and so it was decided. Before I got out of the car, he asked what time I finished and told me he would be back to get me then. I simply thanked him for the lift and quickly ran inside, managing to not get too wet.

~*~*~

By the time class was over, I was exhausted. It had been a fun class and I was happy but still worn out beyond measure. I really needed to think about upping my exercise. This month we were learning swing dancing, which meant being constantly on the move, barely having the chance to take a breath.

I had wanted to learn how to dance, ever since I was a kid and I watched all the old movies with my Mom. Swing, waltzes, tap; all the good stuff because at the end of the day, dancing like that usually involved a partner. Mom joked once and told me I was an old soul and a romantic one at that and I guess she was right. With today’s music being what it was, I suppose the romantic side of me was sad to see the days gone when you danced with another, entrusting them to lead you, support you and generally turn you into one.

Having finished the last dance of the night, I turned to Scott, my partner. “That was great, Scott. When did you learn to do that twist thing?”

Wiping his face with a towel, he answered “I saw it in an old movie once. I didn’t think of it until tonight but it seemed to fit in with what we were doing, so I went for it. It wasn’t too much, was it?”

I gave him a warm smile. “No, if anything, it made the routine a little better. You might have to chat with Sheila and see if she can’t incorporate it into one of the lessons. She did say she was always on the lookout for new ideas.”

He agreed it was a thought and was just about to go over and speak with our teacher, when David joined us. I hadn’t even noticed he had come in, engrossed in the dancing as I was. “Hey, I didn’t see you come in. Oh, David; this is Scott Holstein, my partner. Scott, David Miller, my… a friend of mine.”

The men shook hands and then Scott excused himself, wanting to speak with Sheila before she left. He kissed my cheek and told me he would see me next week. I turned back to David, who was smiling.

“So, I’m guessing from the smile on your face that you had a great time tonight?”

I laughed. “I did, actually. It’s hard work and I know my knees are going to hate me in the morning but it’s oh so worth it.” As I continued to wipe my own face, I added “See, this is what you’re missing out on. Maybe you can join us next week? I’m sure there’s a spot open for you.”

He shook his head. “Uh, never going to happen. Watching is one thing, doing is something else completely. Please tell me this isn’t what you have picked out for me to try?”

Telling him I wouldn’t be that mean, I added “No, I have something else in mind, but it’s a secret. You are just going to have to wait and see.”

I actually got an eye roll for that which made me laugh. The truth was, I had no idea what I was going to choose for us when I had to actually pick. Then again, there was a bit of time yet, it wasn’t like we had to do it tomorrow. Whatever I chose, it had to be perfect; I wanted to show him that there was more to dancing than simply jumping up and down in one spot like you were in a trance.

~*~*~


---
"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


EIGHT

DANI:


As we headed out of the studio, I noticed it was still raining and clearly had no desire to let up anytime soon. Thankfully David had managed to park his car not all that far from the entrance, so we were able to get to and into the car before getting soaked right through. Turning the car over, he let it idle for a moment, then left the carpark and merged into the late-night traffic.

Knowing now that music was something we couldn’t agree on, we next decided to try movies. This seemed like a pretty safe subject and for the most part, we did actually agree on a lot of the choices each made. This was until we came to our all-time favourite movie, or series and realized that again, we differed completely. I was all for Lord of the Rings whereas he was Star Trek all the way.

We each tried to persuade the other to come to our side, using the merits of each but in the end, we knew it was going to be something neither of us were going to budge on. Unlike with the music discussion, this was just as animated but funnier, given we were trying to see each other on who was better – Captain Kirk or Aragorn. With neither of us willing to concede points, we let the matter drop.

~*~*~

We had only been driving about twenty minutes when David’s car started to make a funny noise. This was followed by a couple of jerky movements and then the engine stopped dead, leaving him to coast the car to the side and out of traffic. Both of us immediately looked at the fuel gauge and noticed that the little marker was sitting well below empty.

 “Dammit” he cursed. “I thought for sure I had enough to get us home and them me to the station tomorrow.”

I simply smiled. I had done the same thing myself, on numerous occasions, so I knew how he felt. “Bummer” was all I said. Then, “Maybe you can call your sister?”

He looked at me, trying to see if I was taking the mickey. I shrugged. “Sorry; I had to” I added “Hang on, let me call AAA.” I went into my bag and searched but came up empty. Where was my phone? I tried to think where I had it last, only to remember putting it on the kitchen bench to charge, after I had tried calling Mel. “Crap; it’s at home. How about you?”

Searching his pockets, the glove box and even under the seat, in case it had flipped down the side, David came up short. It would seem we were stranded. “Oh well,” I began, undoing my seatbelt. “Let’s go; I’m sure I noticed a house a bit further back. We can go and ask them to use their phone.”

I was just opening the door when David said, “No, I’ll go. You stay here; there’s no sense in both of us getting soaked to the bone.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“Dani, it…”

I didn’t let him finished. “Besides, Darling; the owner of that phone might be a beautiful woman and you might never come back again.”

David looked at me and then laughed; a real, hearty laugh. I just grinned. “Hey, I had to do it. When else will we get a perfect chance to quote something from Rocky Horror and have it be in the right context? It’s almost like it was fate, us breaking down out here, on a night like this.”

He could only shake his head before replying “True.” Despite this though, he went on “Still, I don’t think you should come with me. It would be quicker if I just run back there. There really is no need for both of us to get drenched.”

By the time we argued about this, he could have been to the house and come back again, so I agreed. “Lock the doors when I get out” was all he said before he hopped out and closed the door. I did so and watched as he sprinted back the way we had come, soaked through even before he was out of sight. All I could do now was wait.

~*~*~

Not quite fifteen minutes later, I had the life scared out of me. I was half dozing, half listening to the radio, when there was a tap on the driver’s window. I near on jumped through the roof, although it was only David. I leant over and unlocked the door.

Quickly getting in and closing the door, he smiled. “Honey, I’m home!” As we laughed, he added through chattering teeth “They should be here in about ten minutes, according to the operator.” He was soaked to the bone, the shirt he was wearing now completely transparent. I tried not to stare.

I looked around in the back of the car, and spotted a jumper, so reached for it and handed it to him, telling him to put it on. “Take off your shirt and put this on; it should help a little.”

As he took the jumper, he thanked me. Then in a flailing of arms, he managed to get his shirt off and put the drier, warmer jumper on. At one point, he came close to hitting me in the head but I managed to duck just in time. David is all arms and legs, so in this confined space it was funny trying to watch him change. No harm had come to either of us by the time he was done and now he sat there, his hair all flat against his head and that big grin of his plastered all over his face. He looked so damn cute; was it any wonder Mel fell for him?

With no petrol to run the engine, there was no heat and he was probably going to catch his death if AAA didn’t get here soon. As it was, he was sitting there shivering and although he tried to make light of it, I could see he was uncomfortable.

“Sorry, David; you wouldn’t be sitting here freezing if you hadn’t needed to come and get me.”

“And I wouldn’t have had to come and get you if Mel learnt to be a little more considerate. Its fine, Dani; honestly. Like I said, I had to be in town anyway. Besides, you would have missed out on all this fun if you had stayed home.”

I laughed. It actually felt good to be able to talk to him like this and just act normal. I felt a flutter when he took his shirt off but I put it down to a shiver because I was cold. He really is a good man and I was glad that I could now finally relax and be myself around him.

This wasn’t to say that I was about to share my inner most secret and desires, but I also wasn’t going to avoid him or not talk to him, all because I was embarrassed. That ship had sailed and we had all moved on. Tonight was a true turning point so perhaps I should actually thank Mel when I saw her, instead of having a go at her for yet another broken promise.

~*~*~

The minute we finally made it back home, I ordered David to go and have a hot shower, while I made him something warm to drink. My car wasn’t in the drive so we knew Mel wasn’t around. No doubt she was out having a good time, no consideration for anyone else. She was going to show up when she was good and ready, an excuse all good and handy, to explain why she hadn’t been able to get back in time. At this point, I didn’t care.

When David re-joined me, he looked a lot warmer than he had earlier, having even lost the blue tinge he had acquired, due to sitting around in wet jeans for almost an hour. I hoped he didn’t get sick now, because of it, especially as he had finally landed the job he so desperately wanted.

As I handed him the warm milk, he smiled. “What, no coffee?”

“Well, if you want to be up all night, then feel free to add some. I’m still wired from all the dancing, so I know I don’t need any extra stimulation.”

Putting the milk down temporarily, he went to the cookie barrel and pulled out an Oreo. He then joined me at the table. “What made you join a dance class?”

“A lot of things, really. I love the idea of dance but have no talent, so a class seemed like a good idea if I didn’t want to look like a dork when out. It’s also great exercise, a way to meet new people and it’s fun. I suppose I was hooked the minute I saw ‘On the Town’ with Mom when I was a kid. Even since then, I’ve just had an urge to move my feet to music; real music.” I threw in the last comment for his benefit.

He smiled. “Hey, we’ve already had this discussion once tonight. Don’t forget, we have to compare both. You can’t just flat out say you don’t like it, or that you can’t dance to it without at least giving it a go first.”

I nodded; he had me there. “Ok, but you have to come with me too. A little waltz, a jitterbug perhaps…” He rolled his eyes.

We ended up sitting there chatting for close to an hour before I headed off to bed. Mel still hadn’t been sighted and I hoped that she would have at least returned by the morning as I had a couple of appointments I needed to keep, both of which were on the other side of town. After a quick shower, I was soon in bed, listening to the rain still teeming on the roof outside.

~*~*~


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"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

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Re: Each Careful Step*


NINE

DANI:



Mel still wasn’t home when I got up the following morning and I actually started to worry. What if she had been in an accident? Surely she had contact details in her purse and yet there had been no call to say she was either in hospital or jail, for that matter. I was just picking up the phone to call the police to find out if there had indeed been an accident, only to have Mel stroll in like she had only been gone ten minutes.

“Where have you been? I was just going to call the police to see if you had been in some kind of accident.”

With a shrug she answered “Sorry; I just lost track of the time. I went out with a few friends after the auditions and we had a bit too much to drink. I didn’t think it would be responsible to drive; especially as it was raining.”

Was she !@#$ kidding me? It had never stopped her before; in fact, it was something she bragged about – how she could drink and still get home in one piece. True or not, I wasn’t going to accept this.

“And what; you were so !@#$-faced you couldn’t even manage to lift a finger and dial the phone to let us know you were ok? You really are a selfish wench Mel! When are you going to stop thinking of just yourself and remember that there are a still a couple of people who care about you and what happens, although I can’t see why we should when you pull this !@#$ all the time.”

She gave me a look that was something akin to surprise. I had spoken back to her before, although perhaps not with as much heat. It clearly didn’t register however as she shrugged once again. “Sorry” was all she said before she went to her room. I left before she came back out again and I really gave her something to think about.

~*~*~

“Thanks, Dani; you’re an absolute lifesaver! My regular hairdresser couldn’t fit me in today and I got a last-minute call for an audition. I want to look good for the part.”

I smiled at Casey. “You’re more than welcome. I’m happy for the work because it keeps my hand in. I have a few regulars but they don’t need a cut every week. It’s always nice to get new business.” She returned my smile as I added “Ok, lean back a little bit for me.”

Leaning back into the basin so I could rinse her hair, we talked about all manner of things. I finally got around to asking her what she was auditioning for, only to learn it was a part in a local theatre company’s rendition of ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Casey was hoping this role would maybe lead to being picked as the understudy for the main production team that was now touring the country.

“I absolutely love Phantom” I admitted. “It has to be my all-time favourite musical. I would kill to see Michael Crawford as Phantom. He’s perfect in that role.”

“Oh, I agree. You know, I heard somewhere that they’re going to make a film version and it’s due to be released early next year. I truly hope they get someone who can do the role justice and not just pick a name because of who they are.”

“Totally. The last thing we need to see is someone like Bruce Willis playing the role. Still, good or bad, I can’t wait to see it. I still get goose bumps every time I hear that last line.” Casey simply laughed and agreed with me.

~*~*~

When her hair was finally washed, she walked back over to the stool in the middle of her kitchen. As we continued to chat away, I couldn’t understand how someone as nice as her could be friends with Mel. Then again, she was probably more David’s friend that my cousin’s. At least it didn’t appear as though any of Mel’s attitudes towards me had rubbed off on her.
“Dani, if I ask a question, can you keep it between us?”

I told her it would go no further than this room and so she asked a question that almost made me drop the scissors I had been holding. “How stable do you think Mel and David are? Is there any chance he might not be happy with her?”

I actually had to stop cutting, lest I take a big chunk out of her hair. Wow. Was that question out of left field or what? I wasn’t sure how to answer this. For as much as Mel didn’t make it easy to like her at the moment, did I have it in me to betray her?

“I honestly couldn’t tell you” I finally replied. “I’ve only seen them together over the past month or so and they seem to be ok. Then again, I’m not with them all the time and they do spend time apart themselves. With David having his new role, who is to say what will happen if they have to tour. Why do you ask?”

Casey’s cheeks blushed slightly, making it obvious she was embarrassed at having to ask a relative stranger for information. “I don’t know. I just got the impression the other day at the barbecue that they weren’t as happy as they once were. Face it; Mel was flirting with most of the guys and David didn’t even seem to notice; or care, if he did.”

This was true. I had also noticed that they didn’t seem to be as amorous as they were when I first moved in, although they did disappear quite a bit now, so who knew for sure? Not that I was going to share this bit of information. Instead, I asked “Do you like David; as in ‘like’ him, I mean?”

She only nodded but she didn’t need to say the words; it was written all over her face. The way she had been looking at Dean the other day, and touching his leg or arm constantly, I had thought they were a couple. Clearly they weren’t, or it was just a ruse to put people off, although to what end I couldn’t imagine. I thought about asking but realized we weren’t close enough at this point for me to be asking questions like that.

“Have you told David how you feel?”

That question earned me a horrified look, Casey almost losing all the color to her face. “No! I can’t. Please; you can’t say anything either. Promise you won’t!”

I promised again I wouldn’t mention any of this conversation to anyone and went back to cutting her hair. Understanding it was an embarrassing topic for her, I quickly changed the subject, for which she seemed grateful. It didn’t mean I stopped thinking about what she had said though. Perhaps I could suss out just how happy Mel and David were and if he didn’t seem all that happy, maybe I could hint that there was someone better out there waiting for him.

~*~*~

Later that afternoon I was sitting in the kitchen going through a recipe book when David walked in. He wasn’t staying, just stopping off long enough to pick something up and then be on his way again. He did decide to stop long enough for a quick cup of coffee though, so while he went in search of what it was he needed, I made a fresh pot.

As we enjoyed our coffee, I asked how his day was going. He explained that rehearsals were tiring but that the really loved it, and the process and that this was what he was happiest doing. You only had to watch the look on his face as he spoke of the show, the people and the whole atmosphere to know he really did love it. He then asked how my day was.

“Great, actually; I called in on Casey this morning. She had a last-minute call for an audition and wanted me to cut her hair. I hope it goes well for her.” Taking a sip of my tea, I then ever so subtly said “I like her. She seems like a really nice lady.”

David smiled. “Yeah; I’ve known Casey the longest, out of our group. We actually went to high school together. When I found out she was also going to Oberlin, it was nice to know that someone from home was going to be there. Made it seem less daunting, somehow.” He spoke of her with such an obvious affection I thought that perhaps it could be possible for him and Casey to be together.

“I bet” was all I added. I wondered if I should try and broach the subject of friends being more than friends; without implicating Casey of course; I had promised her after all. I couldn’t even believe I was even considering bringing up the subject, given that until recently, I couldn’t even look him in the eye when talking about something as simple as picking up a carton of milk. Even so, I was curious and so after a little consideration, I went for it.

“David; do you think it’s possible to be friends with someone and yet not know how they truly feel about you?”

He got up to put his cup in the sink. “How do you mean? If they’re friends, then surely they can talk to each other about anything.”

I could feel my cheeks start to color and wondered what the hell I was doing, walking myself into this field of landmines. I thought about telling him to forget it but I had come this far. “Yes, but things change, right? What if one person’s feelings changed; went deeper, over time? If the other person doesn’t realize, do you tell them, or do you wait and hope that they finally catch on, hoping the whole time that it’s not too late to do something about it?”

David turned and looked at me, almost as though he didn’t understand what I was talking about. He then had the look on his face like a light bulb had gone off. “Oh! Um...Dani, I have to be honest here; I like you, I really do, but we are just friends and that’s all we can be. I’m seeing Mel, for one thing and...”

I couldn’t let him finish. I was now certain that my whole body was fire engine red. OH MY GOD! In my promise to not name Casey, he clearly thought I had been talking about myself. I was beyond mortified. “David, I wasn’t talking about you; me... Oh, god. I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. I was just asking because... Never mind. Dammit. I knew I should have kept my thoughts to myself. Can we just forget we had this conversation?” I wanted to throw up.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you, Dani. It’s just that, well...” This time he couldn’t finish his thought because Mel walked in.

“What have you two been up to?” she asked in smirky voice. “You both look like I just caught you with your hand in the cookie jar.”

David answered “Nothing; we were just chatting but I have to go. I’m already late. I’ll catch you both later.” He was gone before I could stand up from the table.

Dumping her bag on the table, Mel looked at me. “Chatting about what? From the color of your cheeks, it must have been something juicy.”

“It was nothing. It’s just a little hot in here is all. We might need to get the air conditioner looked at.”

“Whatever” was all she came back, clearly not interested in my answer after all. Grabbing herself a drink from the fridge, she then asked what was for dinner.

“Whatever you feel like cooking; I’m going out.” With that statement, I went to grab my keys and hand bag. I needed to get out and clear my head; I was too embarrassed to stay and look Mel in the eye.

~*~*~


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"Driver picks the music. Shotgun shuts his cakehole."

17/8/19, 10:23 Link to this post Email HeavenLea27   PM HeavenLea27
 


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