CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO
It happened like this:
Bernie’s sisters fulfilled their potential of being horrible by asking, in a quiet moment when everyone could hear, Maresol if she was an illegal alien. Maresol responded by informing Bernie’s sisters as far as she was concerned, they were the illegals. Maresol loudly continued that her family was living in Colorado long before any white person set foot on the continent. Amused, Bernie raised his eyebrows in challenge. Seth got there before it came to blows.
On the other side of the room, Bernice’s daughter-in-law, Chazelle, spoke in quiet whispers to Ivan and Sissy. It seems that her fifteen year old daughter, Sylvie, had studied ballet for most of her life. The daughter-in-law was looking for a teacher to help hone her daughter’s skills so that the daughter might be able to try-out at a ballet school. Melinda, who was sitting next to Dale, convinced Ivan that Ivan was well enough to at least look at this girl’s skill. En masse, Ivan, Sissy, Dale, Melinda, Charlie, and Chazelle and Sylvie stood up.
The ballet crew happened to stand up at the very same moment that Bernie’s sisters responded to Maresol’s proclamation. Seeing an out, Seth pushed and dragged Bernie and Maresol toward the ballet crew. When Noelle, Nash, Teddy, and Nadia got up to join the ballet crew, they were joined by Malik, Valerie, and Mike. While, Ava, Sandy, Claire, and Aden would have loved to join the escape party, they didn’t feel like they could leave Seth to deal with the guests on his own.
Looking at the crowd, Ivan suggested that they meet at the Imagine Mosaic just off Strawberry Fields in Central Park. There were enough benches for everyone and an open space where they could dance. Sissy and Ivan stopped for flowers while Dale and Charlie got brooms and towels to dry up the rain. Maresol and Bernie picked up warm drinks for everyone. Nadia and Nash grabbed warm blankets from Seth’s house. They fell into taxis which took them to the edge of Central Park. From there, they walked a short distance into the park to the Imagine Mosaic.
It was a cool night. Dale and Charlie ran ahead clear the space for them to dance, but it was really Bernie’s instruction that made it work. Sissy found just the right music for her phone and pressed play. As everyone settled, Sissy and Ivan warmed up. Melinda joined arrived with ballet point shoes for Sissy, herself, and Sylvie. Everyone else settled into the benches around the open space.
When they’d arrived in New York, Teddy had received a digital camera from his step-mother Bestat as a late birthday present. Privately, he thought the gift was kind of lame because he had a camera on his phone. But he absolutely adored Bestat, so he thanked her and tucked the camera into his pocket. Noelle reminded him of the camera when Sissy started dancing. Unfamiliar with the camera, he pressed the buttons without realizing the camera was already set up. He ended up posting short films to an Instagram account he mistakenly created called, “Outdoors Ballet.”
The film was an instant success on social media. Soon people started arriving from all over the city to watch or participate in the dancing. Venders arrived shortly afterward to sell food and drinks. Sissy’s friends from the ballet showed up as well as many of Ivan’s ballerina and danseur friends.
That’s how they ended up having a big party in Central Park at the Imagine Mosaic near Strawberry Fields.
Saturday night — 9:24 p.m.
“I wondered if I might speak with you,” Malik said to Nadia.
Nash had just gotten up to get hot beverages from a vender who’d just arrived. Her eyes shifted from following Nash to looking at Malik.
“Please,” Nadia said with a smile. She held up the thick wool blanket. “It feels a little weird at first, but it’s too cold to be here without it.”
Smiling, Malik slipped under the blanket.
“I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Nash,” Malik said. Nadia turned to look at him. “It’s none of my business, I know.”
When Nadia didn’t say anything, Malik pressed on.
“I guess it’s because I am a teacher,” Malik said. “But it bothers me that Nash is so young.”
“Yes,” Nadia said with a nod. “Me, too.”
“I asked Sandy about Sissy because …” Malik’s eyes flicked to where Sissy was dancing with Ivan.
“She’s very young as well,” Nadia said.
“Right,” Malik said.
“What did Sandy say?” Nadia asked.
“She said that Sissy had almost died,” Malik said. “I actually followed the story of Sissy getting shot. It’s something my students were very concerned about. I felt … well, I was relieved when she got better. I hadn’t realized what had happened when Ivan was stabbed. The whole thing is …”
“Horrible,” Nadia said. “Yes. Ivan has been Sissy’s teacher for most of her life. Their relationship transformed after they almost died.”
“I can see how that would happen,” Malik said. He fell silent for a moment. “I hate to admit it, but I guess it seems … better because he’s a man.”
“You mean, it would be easier if I was the young person in my relationship with Nash?” Nadia said with a laugh.
“It sounds awful,” Malik said.
“Honest,” Nadia said. She turned to look at him. “It sounds honest.”
“How did you and Nash get …?” Malik started. “You know what, I don’t really know what you’re doing. Like I said, it’s not my business, but I am a teacher and I feel very strongly about …”
“As do I,” Nadia said with a nod. “I see a lot of molested and abused kids in the ER. I know the damage that can be done when a child is be taken advantage of.”
“So let’s see …”
She smiled softly.
“There are lots of answers to your question,” Nadia said. “The most defensive would be that I’m a beautiful, intelligent woman who is not only a doctor, but the majority owner of a few profitable corporations. I have a lot of money both in the bank and invested in property throughout Manhattan and the world. I’m an eligible bachelorette who has been courted by many of the world’s rich and famous.”
“I imagine that’s true,” Malik said. “And if I offended …”
“You haven’t,” Nadia said with a slight shake of her head. “If anything, you’re helping me get clear on what I think about … all of this.”
Nadia fell silent for a minute. Then, she remembered that Malik taught high school English. So, she decided to try the truth.
“Would you believe that Eros went insane and started shooting people with what are called ‘Dark Arrows’?” Nadia asked. When Malik didn’t say anything, she pressed on. “The Dark Arrows were to create soul love between people with whom the relationship would be impossible. They either live on opposite sides of the world or …”
She gestured between herself and Nash. Nadia didn’t say anything. She snuck a look at Malik.
“I can’t tell if you’re making fun of me or simply insane,” Malik said. Nadia took a breath and Malik held up a finger. “But …”
He looked at Nadia for a long moment.
“Under your irreverent tone, I see your sincerity,” Malik said. “Ivan and Sissy?”
“The same,” Nadia said.
“Nash and I don’t know what we are or what we’ll be,” Nadia said. “Right now, he’s the most precious thing in my life. A bright star in the midst of a lot of work and gloom. I don’t feel motherly toward him. He doesn’t feel like I am his long lost mother-figure. We are close, really close. From the moment we met, it’s been as if we’ve known each other a life time. We speak almost every day. Sometimes more than that. It’s not easy. There’s a gap between us in experience. I don’t want to always be the teacher and he loathes being a student. Yet, when we don’t speak or see each other, I miss him. As for physical stuff, we hold hands, mostly. We’ve kissed. And, we both agree to wait on anything else until he is older. This is why he continues to live in Denver rather than moving here. It helps us stick with our commitment to allow him to grow up before being saddled with an old bag like myself. Will we be together for the rest of our lives? Who can ever say?”
“Why you?” Malik asked.
“Nash is close to the source of Eros’s rage,” Nadia said.
“Which is?” Malik asked.
“His daughter,” Nadia said.
“Hedone,” Malik said. He squinted his eyes and asked a harder question to asses Nadia’s knowledge. “Why would Eros be angry with his daughter over his own mother who tortured his wife?”
“Hedone knew where her mother was hiding and wouldn’t tell him,” Nadia said. “As I understand it, Eros cannot risk being angry with his mother because she’s more powerful than he.”
Malik didn’t say anything for a while.
“Why you?” Malik asked.
“My mother and father were shot with a Dark Arrow,” Nadia said. “The story is well known. You can look under my father’s Wikipedia page. My father was an aging bachelor. He purchased my mother sight unseen from the Ukraine in order to have children. They fell head over heels in love. He worshiped her from the first moment he laid eyes on her. I will tell you that she never got over my father. The years with my father were the happiest years of her life.”
Malik nodded. The crowd cheered at something Melinda had said and for a moment their attention turned to the crowd.
“My sense is that you’re telling the truth,” Malik said. “But my mind …”
Malik shook his head.
“Plus, I can’t really go back and tell Janet that,” Malik said.
“We don’t want to piss off Janet,” Nadia said with a laugh. “I’ve seen her angry. It’s not pretty.”
“You know her from the hospital?” Malik asked.
“I guess she said that,” Malik said. He smiled. “Just out of the blue, love comes.”
“There’s a truth,” Nadia said.
“Give me something else,” Malik said.
“Well,” Nadia said with a sigh. “You can assure her that nothing’s really happening. Nash and I are close friends. That’s all. It seems untoward, but there isn’t really anything happening.”
“I don’t think anyone who’s seen you together would think that,” Malik nodded.
“People have dirty minds,” Nadia said.
Nash appeared with a cup of coffee with cream, just as he liked it, for Malik, and hot chocolate for himself and Nadia. Malik was so touched that Nash had remembered him that he wasn’t sure what to say. Nash slipped under the blanket on the other side of Nadia.
“Thank you for helping me with my mother,” Nash said.
“I never heard how that turned out,” Malik said.
“I didn’t either,” Nash said. “My dad is like that. He’ll tell us when he thinks we need to know.”
Nash looked around.
“At least she’s not here,” Nash said.
“Will she come?” Malik asked.
“I doubt it,” Nash said. “If she’s New York, she’s staying in a halfway house or maybe rehab center. She would be locked up at night.”
“I’ll keep an eye out.” Malik nodded.
“You really are the nicest boy,” Malik said to Nash.
“You aren’t so bad yourself,” Nash said with a laugh.
They fell silent watching the party, the dancing, and drinking their beverages. After a while, Malik smiled.
“I like you,” Malik said. “As a couple, I mean. Okay, that’s weird.”
Nash and Nadia laughed. Smiling, they settled in to watch the dancing.
Saturday night — 10:04 p.m.
Sure that she’d heard her name, Sissy looked up. She was immediately surprised by the crowd of people surrounding them. Her eyes sought Ivan where he was talking with Sylvie, Bernice’s granddaughter. Melinda was standing next to him. Melinda hadn’t called her name either. Sissy shook her head and went back to stretching. The night was cool, so she had to make sure she stayed warm — or so Ivan had just told her.
Sissy grinned at his back. Feeling her look, he turned and pointed to her warmups. Shaking her head, she heard her name called again. She looked up to see …
“Ramona!” Sissy said.
She ran to hug her ballet apprentice friend.
“I don’t want to disturb you or anything,” Ramona said. “I just … well, I saw your video and I knew it was you right off the bat so I …”
Ramona threw herself at Sissy.
“I’m so glad you’re alive,” Ramona said.
It took Sissy a moment to realize that she hadn’t seen Ramona since before she’d been shot. When the girls separated, Ramona looked at the crowd and smiled.
“I may have sent the video around to the entire ballet company email list,” Ramona said. “Maybe. Somehow, they are here.”
“How did you do that?” Sissy asked with a laugh.
“I have ways,” Ramona said in a fake Russian accent.
Her accent drew Ivan’s attention and he turned to see who was speaking. Seeing Ramona, he came over to greet her and to “remind” Sissy to stay warm. Sissy knew better than to argue so she returned to her warm ups. A few minutes later, Ramona joined her.
“Ivan said I could dance with you,” Ramona said.
“That will be fun,” Sissy said with a big smile. “How is school?”
“I miss you,” Ramona said. “A lot. And it’s …”
Ramona lifted a shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” Sissy asked.
“I’m just not very popular … Well, you know,” Ramona said. She leaned forward to stretch. “I defended you, you know, with Ivan. And …”
Ramona made a sneer and turned away. Sissy put her hand on Ramona’s arm.
“At least you’re here now,” Sissy said.
Ramona’s eyes searched Sissy’s face. Seeing Sissy’s infectious smile, Ramona grinned.
“Look who’s here,” Ramona whispered. She nodded to where Ivan was speaking to a ballerina. “We call her ‘Slinker’ because she’s always sneaking around and plotting against someone.”
Sissy gave the woman a closer look. She was the woman who’d caused the hearing at the school. Janet. Sissy shook her head at how different this Janet was to the nurse who lived in Seth’s building. Slinker is right. A woman came to stand next to Slinker.
“Sabrina,” Sissy said as an exhale.
“I really hate her,” Ramona said. “You should have heard her after you almost died.”
The words came out of Ramona’s mouth without thinking. Suddenly, Ramona burst into tears.
“I was alone!” Ramona said. “Everybody had something to say and … that woman … and …”
Sissy grabbed Ramona’s hands and held on until Ramona’s tears eased.
“Let’s dance,” Sissy said.
“Just like that?” Ramona asked.
“Who’s going to stop us?” Sissy asked. “In fact …”
Sissy went to Ivan. He turned away from the Slinker to talk to Sissy. Ivan nodded. He followed Sissy back to where Ramona was standing. Ramona blushed through Sissy’s introduction to Ivan. He kissed her hand. Ivan glanced at Sissy and then back at Ramona.
“Let’s dance,” Ivan said.
He whistled and Melinda left where she was talking to Dale. Eva and Isadora, the ballerinas who’d supported Sissy in that horrible hearing, appeared from the benches around the Imagine mosaic. Ivan said a few fast words to the ballerinas. They stripped off their outer clothing and started warming up. Ivan went to where Noelle was managing their music. Ivan bent his head down to Teddy and he nodded.
“Ramona? Do you need shoes?” Melinda asked.
Embarrassed, Ramona pulled her shoes out of her jacket to show Melinda.
“You’d better get ready because …” Melinda turned and gestured.
Ivan was talking to some tall handsome men in the crowd. The men walked over and took off their jackets and outer gear. Ramona gawked. They were solo male danseurs from other companies. Ivan went to an older man. They spoke in fast Russian and the older man nodded. While the younger men stared, the older man threw his outer clothing on top of the pile. The men jumped up and down to warm up.
“Do you know who that is?” Ramona asked.
Smiling, Sissy nodded. The older man was a very famous ballet star. He and his partner had brought dinner to their loft a number of times while they were healing.
“I have been asked to dance with you, butterfly,” the older man said. “Would you like that?”
The older man picked up Ramona’s hand and kissed it. Ramona looked at Sissy and Sissy nodded.
“Do not worry, little one,” the older man said. “I have exactly what I want at home.”
The older man pointed out the handsome man he’d been sitting next to. Ramona blushed.
“Let’s get warmed up,” the older man said. He leaned into Ramona. “Just stay with me. We’ll make sure you look beautiful and not force the dance. Never force the dance.”
Sissy looked around. Ivan had matched the ballerinas with handsome men. A married pair of soloists jogged down the path toward them. Ivan pointed to where the group was standing. Feeling someone close, Sissy looked up.
“Ivan has asked if I would dance with you, Sissy,” a young man said. “It would be a great honor for me.”
“I guess I was hoping to dance with Ivan,” Sissy said.
“I would if I were you,” the young man said and gave Ivan an appreciative glance. “He said that he’s not dancing now.”
Sissy’s eyes sought Ivan’s. He smiled at her. The young man said something she didn’t hear.
“He said to tell you that he is well.” The young man shrugged. “I’m a principal at …”
The young man said the name of one of the ballet companies in New York.
“I … Well, I actually asked — begged — him if I could dance with you,” the young man said.
Surprised, Sissy’s head jerked to look at him.
“I’m not even … anything,” Sissy said. “I’m just starting out.”
“You’re the most talented female in the city,” the young man said. “Trained by the most talented teacher in the world.”
“That’s nice of you but …” Sissy started.
Ivan clapped his hands and she knew to pay attention.
It was nothing short of magic. In the back row, Sissy and Ramona followed the ballerinas in an easy dance. The men joined at the appropriate moment. Even the stars above seemed to dance with them. When the song finished, the dancers were laughing at talking at the same time. Teddy nodded to Ramona. He’d gotten her dancing with this famous danceur in the middle of Central Park.
The young man kissed Sissy’s cheek and thanked her for the dance. He trotted back to where his beloved waited for him.
Sissy smiled. Imagine —all the people you know living life in peace … The lyrics to the John Lennon song “Imagine” came into Sissy’s head.
“You may say that I’m a dreamer,” Sissy sang in a low voice.
“What is it, my love?” Ivan asked.
Sissy pointed to the Imagine Mosaic. Ivan smiled and kissed her cheek.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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