Page 58 of The Dancer

“Uh!” He looked to where his sister had disappeared before turning back to me. “Not really.” He looked down at the bread basket the waitress had placed on the table.

“Oh? Then you plan on going back to Ohio tonight?” He fidgeted around on his seat before looking up at me and away again. I could tell that he was trying to gather the courage to say something.

“What is it? You have something on your mind?”

“What do you want with my sister?”

“Come again.” He lifted his head and looked at me this time. I had to give him points for guts.

“I see the way you look at her. I watched you two in the car on the way here. You look at her a lot. I just want to know what your intentions are. My sister’s not like those groupies who follow athletes around.”

“I’m aware of that.” I didn’t give him any more,

waiting to see what else he had to say. I couldn’t fault him for looking out for his sister, after all I still vet anyone who gets too close to my mother, male or female.

“That’s good then. It’s just….Annie acts tough but she’s really not. At least she didn’t use to be, but in the last year and a half or so she’s changed a lot…” He stopped talking and I could almost feel the sadness coming from him.

I looked towards the hallway where she’d yet to reappear. “What happened a year and a half ago?” He too looked in the same direction before picking at one of the bread rolls and pulling it to pieces.

“I’m not sure if I should be telling you this stuff. Annie…”

“I’m not going to hurt her, but I can’t help if I don’t know.” He studied me now as if trying to see into my head.

I guess he liked what he saw because with one last look to make sure she wasn’t coming, he opened up. “Back then everything was fine. Sis had just left to come to New York.”

“Did you know she got accepted to six Ivy League schools? The only reason she didn’t get invited to the others is because she didn’t apply I think. Anyway, she was accepted to six schools and Juilliard.” I knew my girl was smart.

“Have you ever seen her dance? She’s great. That’s all she’s ever wanted to be is a dancer. My parents allowed her to choose to follow her dream, so she denied the other top level schools and went to Juilliard.”

“Then right out of the blue, almost overnight, everything changed. Our dad left us for his assistant who isn’t much older than Annie. He took everything, the house the cars, everything.”

“By the time mom knew what was going on he’d already cleaned out the bank accounts. He hid his money in offshore accounts and the lawyers claimed they couldn’t find it.”

Again he clenched his fists and his anger was plain to see. “Mom took it really hard. Annie wanted to come back home, but mom wouldn’t let her.” He stopped there and that sadness was more evident now.

“I thought at least dad would take care of the two of us, but no dice. His new fling wouldn’t let him have anything to do with us apparently.” He looked for his sister again before continuing on.

“I was too young to be of much help.” He swallowed hard and there was a sheen of tears in the eyes he kept turned away from me. He wasn’t fast enough to hide them.

“Then one morning I went to wake mom before heading out the door for school and…” His hands trembled and he hid them in his lap while I got a bad feeling in my gut.

“She didn’t wake up. She’d taken a whole bottle of sleeping pills the night before.” Well fuck!

“Anyway, after the funeral where dad didn’t even show up, Annie changed schools.”

He spoke faster now as if afraid she’d return before he got it all out and I tried to stay in my seat and not go after her. His words cut me to the core and the thought of my sweet girl going through something like that only made me want to take care of her even more.

“She talked to me about it. She said going to Colombia and studying Chemical Engineering was more stable than being a professional dancer. Did you know she’s a prodigy? I wish I had half her brains, then I’d be able to help her.”

It was almost as if I was no longer there, he was just talking to get shit off his chest. “I tried talking her out of it because I know how much dancing means to her, but she wouldn’t listen.”

“Anyway, because she was too late accepting she missed out on housing and some other expenses that would’ve been covered if she’d gone there in the first place.”