Ever since Lydia moved to Bridgeport to study ballet, we haven’t kept in touch. I thought she’d forgiven me for exposing her eating disorder, but we were no longer as close as we had once been.
Dad and her mom got her into a nutrition counseling program to help her learn how to eat healthy and stay fit for ballet. At first she resisted going, insisting that she wasn’t a bulimic, but after a few sessions, she stopped complaining and started looking forward to going. She really learned a lot about eating the right sorts of foods to promote the type of body and build that a dancer needed.
Still, Lydia remained angry with me. She rarely spoke to me on her weekends at the house. I missed how we used to hang out.
Just before she left, I decided to do something about the distance between us.
“Lydia?” I got her attention while she was working out.
“Um, I was wondering if you were doing anything tonight. I mean, are you and Sol going out or are you hanging with friends?”
“No. I hadn’t planned on anything except packing up some of the stuff I have here to take with me to Bridgeport.”
“Oh.” I hesitated, wondering if she had a lot to pack up. Then I decided, no, most of Lydia’s stuff was at her mom’s. “Um, I was wondering if you wanted to hang out. Maybe we could go to that new club, you know the one with the karaoke?”
Lydia didn’t answer for a minute, continuing her stretching. “Or maybe not,” I mumbled, turning away.
“No. I can go, Sash. I just need to take a shower and get some things done first.”
I was relieved that she took me up on my offer. A few hours later, we told the dads we’d be home before curfew, and then we headed to the new club.
“I heard it’s a lot of fun,” I told Lydia as we got in the car.
“Just don’t expect me to sing really well. You know I’m always flat.”
“You and me both. But it will be fun to try. Excruciatingly fun.”
And it was. We had a really good time. The club had one of those photo booths that you pass on your way in. Lydia suggested we get our picture taken at the end of the night.
“We can get two,” I said. “That way you can take one to Bridgeport and I can have one at home.”
The karaoke machine was out on the patio of the second floor. I wasn’t sure whether or not Lydia would actually want to do it, but when we got up there she went right to the catalog to choose a song.
“You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling or Fight for your Right to Party?” she asked me.
“Neither,” I said. “How about the classic: Love Shack?”
In the end, we did all three…and it was horrible and hilarious! We probably could have stayed up there all night singing terrible songs in the worst way, but it got sort of chilly, so we went back in and got some food. Then Lydia heard that the DJ was opening the booth to anyone who wanted to try it.
“I’ve always wanted to,” she informed me. Then she went up and gave it a shot. She wasn’t half bad.
As promised, we took our picture before leaving the club. Driving home, I felt that we had figured out how to be sisters again. But unfortunately, it didn’t last.
Lydia said she was busy when I tried to call her at school. Even Dad had a hard time getting in touch with her.
“She is working really hard, Sasha,” he assured me. “She has that big performance next month. She says it’s a huge part of her grades.”
“I know Dad, but I miss her.”
“We all do,” Daddy said, giving my shoulder a squeeze.
A year passed before I really got the chance to see Lydia again. She was home from the Academy for the summer. This was right around the time that I’d begun being noticed and recognized for my blog.
“I can’t believe you are still writing this,” Lydia said.
“Why? Everyone likes it. I’m constantly getting tips about things going on at school. People read my blog to get the inside story about everything.”
“Are you still spying on people?”
I gave Lydia sharp look. I thought we’d moved passed the Bulimia incident. “I don’t spy on people anymore. I investigate things that I see happening around me,” I told her.
“Well, you spied on me. I’m glad that you can’t do that anymore. You were such a pest.” Lydia walked away before I could reply to her comment. I was deeply hurt by it. I had always felt guilty for what I had done to Lydia, but in the end I thought she’d gotten better and we’d mended our relationship. I guess her time away from home had changed all that.
The thing is, I couldn’t get past Lydia’s change in attitude. I’d told her I didn’t spy on people anymore, and I wasn’t lying. I couldn’t help it if I did some of my best investigation without people knowing I was observing them.
I decided to do a little investigation about my sister. Lydia spent the summer working for the Twinbrook Dance Studio, the place where she had been taught all of those years. I didn’t think much of that because I knew that Lydia liked working with young ballerinas. But then I remembered that the Studio was where Lydia started making herself throw up. I began to suspect that she was doing it again.
I wasn’t allowed to go into the Studio (I got banned from the premises after I had exposed the bulimia problem). I had to watch how Lydia acted around our house instead. At first I didn’t notice anything odd about her behavior, but then I noticed that she often disappeared into her room after meals and didn’t come out until much later.
I asked her once what she was doing, and she told me that she was reading or playing with her parakeet, Tweetie. But sometimes I heard her talking to someone in there, and I didn’t think she was talking to Tweetie. There were too many pauses as if she was listening to someone talking back.
Who would she be calling? As far as I knew, Lydia had broken up with her boyfriend Sol and had pretty much dropped all the so-called friends she’d had in high school. Other than Sol, most of Lydia’s friends were fairly superficial. It was easy to leave them behind to go to Bridgeport.
Even though I suspected something was up, I never once caught Lydia throwing up. She seemed to be eating like she did before, following the diet plan given to her by the nutrition specialist. She didn’t seem to obsess about food or calories or anything else. Her color also looked normal, not sickly. I knew that bulimics often looked ill.
Finally, I couldn’t stand not knowing what was keeping Lydia so occupied. When I overheard one of her strange conversations through her bedroom door (I admit I was totally spying), I knocked on it and swung it open at the same time.
“Lydia, have you seen m…” I said, giving my action some validity. I hadn’t given her enough time to stop doing what she’d been doing. I wasn’t surprised to find her on the phone. “Oh, sorry,” I whispered, making a motion for her to keep talking. Then I deliberately waited in her room for her to finish. I acted oblivious that I was invading her privacy or doing anything rude. I made little chirping noises to Tweetie and acted like I was giving her time to finish speaking to whomever she had on the phone.
“No, sorry. My sister just came in my room. She barged in without knocking,” Lydia glared at me. I mouthed, “I knocked!” and looked offended.
“No, it’s ok,” Lydia continued. She focused her attention on the phone. I feigned disinterest while I listened to her side of the conversation. “Yes…. I’m coming back next week… No, I haven’t told my folks yet…Yes…No, I don’t think they’ll mind…It’s for school…Um hmm….Yeah….I can’t wait to see you either. Ok. Bye.”
She clicked off and glared at me again. “Did you get all that?”
“What? I couldn’t help it if I needed to find my lucky socks. You did the laundry last. I thought you might have them.”
“Give it a rest Sasha. I know you were spying on me. I can hear you walk past my room. No one needs to pass by five times a night, unless you have an incontinence problem I don’t know about.”
“Fine. I was spying. I wanted to know who you were talking to. You come up here every night and never come down. Dad and Daddy think you are studying or something, but I was worried about you. I thought you were….you know.”
“Sorry. I know you’re not.”
“I stopped that last year. I don’t have to do that to be a good dancer.”
“So, tell me what you are doing up here. Do you have a boyfriend or something?”
“No…” Lydia looked away from me, so I knew she was lying.
“Really? Every night you come up here and call whoever that was. That’s more than just a friend, don’t you think?”
“How do you know I’m calling the same person? I could have tons of friends and be calling them all.”
I scoffed. “That’s not like you Lydia. You focus on what you have to do, not on everyone else. You’re nice to everyone, but rarely have a close relationship. You broke up with Sol, who I think was your closest friend. So either you have a new bestie, or you have a boyfriend. Which is it?”
“Always. Tell Sasha all so that she can be accurate in her next blog.”
“You better not!” Lydia threatened. I laughed. “What? It will be titled, ‘Lydia Fields, Ballerina: A follow up’.”
“Absolutely not. You will never write another thing about me. You promised.”
“I’m just messing with you. Now spill it.”
So Lydia told me what she was up to. She didn’t have a boyfriend, but she did have a new dance partner. The two of them were preparing something new for school, which they hoped to use to audition for the advance company. I could tell, even though Lydia didn’t say, that the new partner meant a lot to my sister. I bet she wanted him for a boyfriend even though that wasn’t their relationship.
“So you have to leave early?” I asked. “You know Dad’s going to be unhappy. We all missed you, and you haven’t exactly been Miss Social since you’ve been home.”
“I’m sorry. I’m just worried about this audition. I’ve been practicing, but Austin’s in Bridgeport, and I’m here. We need to do a lot more practicing together. I just hope I can live up to his expectations. He’s really talented.”
Lydia returned to Bridgeport as planned. Dad was disappointed, but he wanted her to do her best. School continued for me. I did my part to help Peggy get elected for student body president. I continued writing my blog, and I was finally allowed back into the newspaper club. I even had plans to intern at the Twinbrook Gazette. I had every intention of graduating and then becoming a reporter.
Funny how life works. I got my diploma along with my two best friends, Peggy and Ian. We had a huge graduation party together. Peggy was going off to Elimira City where she was going to study politics. She’d actually gotten the Lila Fields Scholarship for Future Female Politicians. Ian was headed to Riverview, where he was going to study science.
“I’m really going to miss you guys,” I told them.
“Me, too,” Peggy agreed. Ian didn’t say anything. I knew he was going to miss us, too, but there was something more on his mind.
He was still totally in love with Peggy, and she had no idea how he felt. I tried my best to get him to tell her how he felt, but he was too shy.
“She only likes me as a friend. Besides, she’s going off to Elmira where she’ll meet a lot more interesting people.”
“But if you don’t tell her, you’ll always wonder what would have happened between you,” I said. “Ian, I think you’d be surprised about her reaction.”
Ian gave me a hopeful look, like a lost puppy. “Do you think she likes me?”
“I’ve always thought she likes you,” I said. “I’ve been telling you that for years. Didn’t she go with you to prom?”
“Yeah. But we went as friends. All three of us. It wasn’t like a real date.”
“But Peggy was with you. I was the third wheel.”
“Just tell her, Ian. Yeah, you’re both going to different places, but maybe if she knows how you feel, she’ll always be thinking of you. You can have a long distant thing.”
“Do you think that would work?”
I shrugged. “Doesn’t hurt to find out.”
I was pretty sure that Ian would chicken out of saying anything to Peggy. It’s not that he’s cowardly; it’s more like he doesn’t like to exert himself. But I guess when you’re in love, like I knew Ian was, you’ll do anything. So I wasn’t surprised when he pulled me aside at our graduation party.
“I’m going to tell her tonight,” he told me, clearly needing me to give him a boost of confidence.
“That’s great Ian,” I said.
“Do you think she really likes me?”
“Yes. She’s just so focused, you know? But now that you’re both leaving, I know that she’s going to miss you.”
“But that doesn’t mean she likes me…like that….you know? What if she laughs?”
I laughed. “She won’t,” I promised. “Peggy isn’t like that. But you need to tell her how you feel first.”
“Ok, here goes.” Ian looked over to where Peggy was sitting at the juice bar. “Wish me luck.”
“Good luck,” He said as he took a huge breath and walked toward my cousin. I crossed my fingers.
I stood back and watched as Ian asked Peggy to dance. She agreed, and then they went out on the floor. Ian started talking to Peggy as the two of them moved awkwardly to the music. “No,” I muttered. “You can’t tell her while you’re dancing. She won’t be able to hear you, you idiot.”
Sure enough, Peggy leaned into Ian who seemed to be shouting to be heard over the music. Peggy shook her head, looking confused. That’s when Ian motioned her toward the door leading to the balcony.
“Better,” I thought. I hoped that everything worked out.
As my two best friends disappeared outside, I looked around the party. I could see my dads in the corner talking. Lydia was home from school and she’d brought her dance partner, Austin. He seemed a bit uncomfortable around all of the people he didn’t know. I sort of knew how he felt. But at least he had Lydia to spend time with. They were playing darts together and looked to be having fun.
I had grown up with everyone in the room, knew them all at least by name, but I didn’t really know much more about them. Except for Peggy and Ian, I really didn’t have any friends. What was I going to do when they both left me?
I started to feel really depressed. To cheer myself up, I headed over to the skeet ball games. Other people were playing, and they all looked like they were having a good time.
I didn’t think I’d be very good at the game, but I had never tried it. “Here goes nothing,” I said to myself and tossed my first ball. Imagine my surprise when I got it into the center hole on the first try!
I continued to throw balls into the machine, feeling pretty good about myself as I continued to at least manage to get points for each toss though I never again got a bulls-eye. When I was out of balls, I leaned down to grab the huge line of tickets that I got as a “prize”.
“Hey, you did pretty well,” someone said from behind me.
“Oh? It was my first time. Beginner’s luck,” I replied, turning to see who had spoken.
It was my cousin Brenton, Peggy’s older brother, and someone I didn’t know. I guessed the other guy had to be Brenton’s friend from college.
“You’d never played before?” the stranger asked me, looking skeptical.
“No. I’m pretty lousy at sports or anything that takes eye-hand coordination.”
“Looks like you did pretty well, cuz,” Brenton said.
“Thanks. I’m Sasha,” I introduced myself to Brenton’s friend. I figured he wouldn’t do it, and I decided I should get some practice meeting new people. I couldn’t keep being so anti-social if my best friends were leaving. I’d have to find other people to spend time with. Besides, I’d have to meet people as a reporter, too.
“Oh,” Brenton looked embarrassed at having not introduced his buddy. I knew that Aunt Laura had taught him better manners. “This is Linc. Linc and I are at the Academy together.”
I shook Linc’s hand. I’d forgotten that Brenton was at the Police Academy. I vaguely remembered Daddy saying something about it. He thought Brenton had what it took to make a good officer, like our great uncle Julian who had been chief of police in Twinbrook before he died.
“Let’s see if your luck continues, Sasha,” Linc smiled at me. “Want to play again? We’ll see which of the three of us is the best at skeet ball.”
“Now, that isn’t fair,” I smiled back. “You and Brenton probably play this game a lot. And you’re boys. You’re stronger at me and probably have better aim.”
“Are you saying that you will lose because you are a girl?” Brenton laughed. “Mom would slap you if she heard you. Come on, Sash. It will be fun. Who knows, you might kick our butts.”
“Fine, but I think I should get a handicap or something.”
As I suspected, both Brenton and Linc were better than I was at skeet ball. My earlier performance had been a fluke. But for the first time, I didn’t feel like an idiot because I lacked basic athleticism. I had a pretty good time with the two men, laughing and losing quite badly.
When the party was over, I realized that I hadn’t seen Ian and Peggy since they’d gone outside to talk. I looked around for them, but didn’t find them. I hoped that this was a good sign. I resolved to call Peggy when I got up the next day to find out what happened.
Dad and Daddy had already left, trusting me to get home on my own, so I went out to the curb to wait on a cab.
“Hey Sasha, want a lift home?” Brenton called to me when I stepped outside. He and Linc were standing in front of the nastiest rust bucket of a car.
“Sure,” I agreed. I smiled at Linc who opened the passenger door and told me to get in. Brenton opened the back door after a couple of tries.
“You sure there’s room for you in the back?” I asked, looking skeptically at the leg room. “I’m shorter, I can sit back there. Besides, you’ll drop me off first. No sense in just having to switch seats again.”
“Just get in the car Sash,” Brenton said as he climbed in and shut his door.
Linc didn’t say much on the ride home. My cousin, on the other hand, couldn’t shut up. In the middle of his verbal diarrhea, I looked over at his friend and we both rolled our eyes. I laughed.
“What’s so funny,” Brenton asked, leaning up from the back, to see what we were so amused by.
Chuckling again, both Linc and I answered, “Nothing.”
When we got to my house, I was surprised when Linc got out of the driver’s seat.
“You don’t have to walk me to my door,” I told him, uncomfortable with the gesture.
“Sorry. I was taught never to let a lady go unescorted. My mom would smack me upside the head if I didn’t at least make sure you got in ok.”
I had no idea what to say to that, so I just said, “Oh.”
Once we got to the door, I managed a more eloquent ‘thank you.’ “I had fun tonight,” I added, and it was true.
“Me, too,” Linc smiled, then he looked a bit uncomfortable. Finally he blurted, “Uh, do you mind if I call you sometime?”
I was confused. “Call me?”
“Yeah. Um, I’ll get your number from Brenton. Maybe we can hang out?”
Holy cow. It finally dawned on me that Linc was asking if I wanted to go on a date with him. I didn’t know what to say. I’d never been asked out before. I had never even had a boyfriend.
“Sure.” I managed, blushing.
“Great. See you later,” Linc said, heading back to his car. I mumbled “see ya” and then ran into my house.