Page 92 of The Dancer

“I think our Annabelle was a very sheltered person before all that mess happened. She never really had to fend for herself, and now with her safety net gone, she’s floundering around to find her footing. In her mind, she has to do all this for her and her brother since they don’t have anyone.”

“It’s scary feeling alone in the world like that, I know. I can still remember the fear of failing, of making the wrong choices. You’re always worried that one wrong step will make everything worst than it already is.”

“Mom I can’t watch her go through that. I know you told me not to push, but I can’t… Do you know how hard it was for me to watch you all those years? How tired you would be, but you’d still have to keep going?”

“Or when you were sick and still insisted on going to work? The first time I ever picked up a ball, the first time I realized I could get paid for doing it, all I could think about was making it so that I could make your life easier.”

“I know that son, I know how that heart of yours is and I’m glad for it. I’m happy that you’ve found someone that you feel that strongly for, but we have to be careful with her…”

“She’s breaking my heart mom. Because every time I see her I see you and the way things used to be, and all I want to do is make it better. I can’t watch another woman I love work herself into the ground like that.” I stopped talking when I saw the tears in her eyes. “What is it? What did I say?”

She dried her face and smiled through the fresh tears that fell from her eyes. “That’s about the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Huh? What the hell was she talking about?

And then I realized what I’d said, what I’d let slip. Well shit! It didn’t exactly send me into a blind panic, saying it out loud, but it was close. She took pity on me and didn’t bring it up, for which I was immensely grateful.

“Okay, we’ll work on her together. Go get the door.” I walked down the hall and opened the door to a frowning Tony. “What the fuck bro!”

“Calm down, I drove Anna to her job.”

“Her what?”

“Exactly!” I recounted the story I’d told mom to him and got pretty much the same reaction. The three of us sat at the kitchen table hashing and rehashing ways to deal with her.

Travis joined us not long after half asleep and bleary eyed. He showed me the note she’d left on his pillow and I balled it up and shoved it in my pocket. “You’re with me today.”

“Cool, I wasn’t looking forward to sitting in a stuffy college library all day.” Mom got up and made him breakfast. Tony had already polished off most of the rolls and I was satisfied with coffee.

I missed her. The apartment had a different feel without her in it. As I listened to what amounted to my family discussing ways to save my girl from herself, I knew that there was only one thing to do.

There was only one way to handle this, my way. I’d been too caught up in my head, couldn’t separate her from my childhood memories and the mother I’d watched go through way too much.

But she’s not my mother and I’m not her father. She’s the girl I’d come to feel for when I never thought I could feel this deeply for anyone. Her pain is now my pain and I don’t like pain one fuck, so I have to put an end to this shit right quick.

She doesn’t have to prove shit to anyone, that shit is dead. Anyone with that much intelligence has to

know that shit on some level.

I listened to mom and Tony pump the kid for information, trying to find the right approach, but my mind was already pretty much made up.

Nothing she was doing was acceptable. She had a noble reason, no doubt, for all that she’d undertaken, but at the rate she was going she’d be dead or close to it in just a matter of time.

Since I’ve decided that she’s for me, it was now up to me to put this shit right. I’d handled her with kid gloves because of the chaos in my head but that shit ends now.

I checked my watch before getting to my feet. ‘Tony we have to head downtown in an hour. I’ll go get ready. Mom you and the kid stay here until we get back, it shouldn’t take long.”

I took a quick shower and dressed in one of my power suits. Usually just my name alone was enough to change people’s attitudes, today I was going for the kill. I want Ray Morrison fired before I hit the exit.