~ Facing Reality ~
Everything in Ally’s head at the time was a jumble. As she sat thumbing through “Hemispheres” on the plane, she tried to clear her head of thoughts that could potentially be damaging – or had already done their damage. Everything that included “Greg” fell into those categories, and she desperately fought the urge to process those thoughts in her mind. Ally lifted her eyes from the magazine and turned her head – not a smart move, since the first thing she saw were clouds. And clouds… clouds brought on thoughts of Billy. “Why am I so vulnerable?” she thought, and silently cursed herself for being the way she is. “I’m Ally. I’m the world’s biggest freak. *That’s* probably why he left…” she immediately thoughts, and again cursed - this time aloud – because of her growing frustration. Why did EVERYTHING have to be about Greg? Was he really *that* deeply engraved in her mind? It seemed so. Yet she promised herself she’d do her best to forget it, and get on with life. Kissing Billy had been a mistake she HAD to make in order to “clear the slate” and finish unfinished business, having sex with Greg was exactly the same way. Although this time, nothing seemed any “clearer” than before the deed. At least with Billy, she got closure and they continued to be friends… With Greg, she got even more tears. Was this really what she wanted to subject herself to?
“Yes,” a soft voice in her head said, and somewhere in the back of her brain she realized it was true – being hurt but being WITH Greg was better than being happy but WITHOUT him. Then she made a startling discovery – she couldn’t be happy without Greg. It was, by definition, an oxymoron. The next discovery was even more startling – she was dependent on him. HE was the key to her happiness, and now that he was gone, her happiness was gone as well.
Or was it? She thought. No, no, it couldn’t be. The world didn’t revolve around Greg.
“Yours does…” the soft voice commented. “No…” Ally answered, unaware that she’d said it aloud.
With that, she turned her head and her eyes locked with a very frightened young woman sitting in the seat next to her. Ally let out a faint chuckle. “It’s uhhh…” she searched for the right words as an explanation. “…uhh, migraines. I can feel them creeping up on me. I try to scare them away.” She smiled at the absurdity of it, yet couldn’t think of anything better to say. The woman made her best attempt at an understanding smile and turned away.
“Another person who considers me a freak. Dandy.” Ally thought, this time making sure it was to herself.
Then her mind wandered back to the topic at hand. No, she thought. “I am NOT dependent on Greg. I just sometimes wish there was someone with me…”
Ally noticed herself use “with me” and not “I wish *I* were with someone…” There was something about that that seemed more… hopeful. “Guys should be honoured to date me. *I* shouldn’t be the one making advances all the time.”
And she realized she wasn’t. There was someone else, but she hadn’t gotten around to that someone yet.
David. David. She repeated the name in her head. Another demonic word to haunt her peace. Nnnnnoooo, she quickly thought. Not this one. Not this time. *This* time I’m gonna go through with it.
As she stepped into the waiting area at Logan, she took a deep breath. Her “vacation” was over – it was time to dive into normal life again. She sincerely hoped none of this would ever come up again…
It took her quite a while to find her car (which Renee had most conveniently driven up to the airport in advance), and just as she was about to unlock the door, a chirp made her jump. “Damn cells…” she thought. She answered it with an impatient “Yeah?”, yet softened her tone when she heard the voice on the other line.
“Ally! I didn’t expect you to be back so soon…”
John, she thought & smiled. Then, hastily answered – “Then why are you calling?”
“Al-lee…” he tried his best to take on a fatherly tone, yet was unsuccessful.
“So how are ya?” she finally asked.
“Me? Fine… I was worried about you. Renee’s calling day & night, asks if I’ve heard anything about you…”
“Oooh... Ouch. What else does Ms. I-need-to-know-everything say?” this time, Ally *was* interested.
“Something along the lines of ‘she’ll get dumped by that Derek guy and we won’t see the end of it…’ Are you really alright?”
“YES,” she answered firmly, “I am FINE, and it’s DAVID, thank you very much.”
Yeah, Ally nodded. “So… how’s the …uh, the…” the search for correct words took longer than she expected. Finally, she gave up. “…Nelle? How is she?”
“The Nelle is fine…” John seemed annoyed.
“’Cause I heard you two were-“
“Never *mind* what you heard!” John cut her off impatiently. “We’re fine.”
“Ooohkay. John, I will… um, I’ll be first thing tomorrow morning. ‘Kay?”
Suddenly, she seemed to be turning into a cheerleader. “Ick…” she squirmed at the thought.
“Alright. Good night.”
With that, John hung up and Ally turned off her cell. Things *were* getting back to normal, she could sense it. It had become a scientific fact by then – something kids should be quizzed on in school - once Ally starts worrying about someone *other* than herself (in this particular case, The Nelle was the subject of worry), you can count on the world going back to spinning in it’s normal direction.
Before she knew it, she was pulling up by her house. As she dragged the first two bags up the stairs (before calling Renee to help with the rest), she thought about how great it would be to be back in her own soft, warm bed.
“…Alone…” came the first depressing thought in hours. Damn, she thought. “Why can’t I just give up and live happily ever after?!”
Really, she thought, why was it so easy for everyone else and so hard for HER? Why was everyone else’s life smooth as butter, and only hers had jagged edges? Why were there people out there HAPPIER than her?
She retold this train of thought to Renee upstairs, once the suitcases were safely brought up.
“They don’t even *deserve* it!” Ally cringed.
“Yes, indeed, they don’t.” Renee couldn’t help but add in sarcasm.
What’s so damn wrong about that? Ally thought. “YES”, she addressed Renee in her thoughts, “they simply don’t deserve it…” Only *she* deserved it. For only *she* was supposed to be happy.
“That’s a terrible way to look at others…” Renee answered her thoughts.
“I…” Ally started to attempt to explain, but gave up. “I know. I *don’t* actually *think* that… I just – “she paused for a moment. “… it brings me hope, when I look at things that way. But I love my friends dearly. I love the people I’m blessed to be around. I just want the same things they enjoy…” There. *That* was the statement she’d been struggling to get out for hours. She finally said it… she was beaming. *Nothing* could make her prouder…
“Ally, at times I think you don’t *know* what you want…” Renee also hit the mark there. Good point, Ally thought.
Finally, she decided to disagree.
“I *know* what I want. I want to be happy-” Ally again was cut off.
“With a gorgeous, wonderful guy, of course…” Renee smirked.
“YES.” Ally answered. She didn’t see anything wrong with that. So, she wants a man in her life. She wants a lover, a CONSTANT lover, not just someone who spends a night with her and then cowardly drags his sorry ass out before dawn, unable to face reality. But Ally *knew* she could face it. She, in fact, already *did*.
“Also,” she continued, taking on the tone of a professor giving a lecture, “I want the world to look at me with ENVY…” Again, a pause. She lowered her head. “And not vice versa…”
“Ally, you know what your problem is?”
Lovely, Ally thought. This was just what I need right now – a diagnosis.
“Wha-at?” she asked, annoyed.
“You don’t see the good in your life.” Renee saw Ally’s facial expression jump, and quickly started to explain before Ally had the chance to object.
“… well, you do. But you can’t see it often. You can’t see *past* the bad parts. Look, in life, there are dark roads and there are light roads, there are dull roads and happy roads, there are nice roads and mean ones. What *you* have to do is not think about the dark road when you’re on it, but rather think of what lies ahead – the light road. The nice one. The happy one. If you can see the happy road on the horizon, you’ll be on it in no time…”
How sentimental, Ally mentally whined. Yet, the worst part about that was that Renee was *right*. “Arrrgh,” Ally growled through a mouthful of ice cream. Yet she knew that there was happy road out there. And she’d find it one day. She was certain.
“And still,” she thought, falling asleep… “I want the world to envy me.”
- - - - - - - - -
Lots of men have women in their lives. We’re not talking relations – the mother, the aunt, the sister, the cousin, all the other breeds of whiny self-centered female relatives – but rather the objects of their undying – for the most part – affection. And usually, there’s only one, so let’s drop the plural form.
The woman. She’s adored yet despised, hated yet loved… yes, loved. Loved is the key word here. Show me a man who can live without loving a woman, and the world will automatically stop turning. For no man – no matter how obsessed he is with other aspects of his life – can live without loving a woman.
Surely, every man loves a woman.
Yet no one is as blessed as he to love Nelle, to have her love him back.
She resembles a fortress to some – something that can’t be accessed or stepped into by worldly means. And many attack the question with such futility as though they’re trying to uncover the exact value of Pi – how could *John*, of all people, get *Nelle*, of all goddesses?
Even *he* himself couldn’t answer that one. A law degree didn’t mean knowing everything…
There was something enchanting, captivating about her. Something that drew attention, that made all heads twirl around as she entered the room. It wasn’t just the hair, the body, the face – there was something inside, that source of a magical glow that lit up anything it touched.
It was very careful in selecting what to touch, though…. So morally bruised in her early years, she didn’t want commitment or loyalty as she was afraid she’d end up scarred again. She became all too willing to put up a wall around herself, trying to resist falling in love.
But this time, she couldn’t help it. So she let herself go – and, amazingly, her life turned around.
She still kept her very cool, icy exterior in court and at meetings – she was, after all, a quite capable lawyer and a *very* professional person – but with John, the guard was let down and tossed away. The electric fence around her heart was torn down as well – John had an amazing ability to not be affected by high voltage…
She was the gorgeous woman amongst beautiful women, the fascinating woman amongst the lovely ones.
There was *nothing* ordinary about her. As there wasn’t about him. Yes, they *were* alike. And John was embracing that – yet, they taught each other their differences step by step, and did their best not to let that affect anything or come between them in any way…
Yes, he indeed was the luckiest man alive. No one could ever rival him, or even come close. He had the love of *the* woman, and nothing could get in his way now.
Listening to Richard gab away about mountains of money, shopping malls of money, pools filled with money,… [you get the point], was probably the least useful thing you could spend your existence doing. The only thing rivaling that was lying in bed and spitting at the ceiling, which was probably what Richard was entertaining himself by doing as he spoke with John over the phone. Richard’s expected dimensions turned to “countries of money… continents of money… hey, can you imagine that?” as he patiently waited for an answer.
“Uh-huh…” came a barely audible reply from John, who wasn’t at all captivated by the discussion. He was busy with something else…
She stood in the dining room in her cream-coloured silk PJs, barefoot, sipping champagne. Her golden hair was untidily tossed over her shoulders, her eyes were fixated on a point he couldn’t identify. She radiated warmth, even from several feet away.
John’s heart skipped several beats.
She sometimes did that – stood in a barely lit room, staring into space, drinking champagne. John often wondered what she was thinking… while it was quite possible for him to get into her heart, her mind was still closed off. Unless, of course, she told him what she was thinking herself.
But that would never happen. Nelle wasn’t one for sharing much. She was warm, but not that sentimental.
Richard was vividly describing his plan for sucking the most money possible out of a new prospective client, going into such graphic details that it horrified John. But he wasn’t really listening, either, just barely catching that all too familiar tone Richard normally used when he excited about money – more money.
Finally, Richard found an ounce of caring in him to ask John a simple question.
“How’s the… uh, young blonde mini-wattle?”
“gorgeous...” was all John was able to breathe out. Observing her from the behind the door was sending butterflies down his esophagus.
“That good, eh?” Richard smiled. Behind the piles and piles of money actually *was* a caring soul. He was happy for John & Nelle, especially considering the fact that not that many people *were*. Ally, the gang and several out-of-firm friends – that was about it. Everyone else looked at John with cold-hearted envy, especially the pretty-boy lawyers seeing nothing but hair and a pretty exterior – as well as a sexual object – in Nelle.
Richard was proud of himself. He felt as if he could make a difference.
“I gotta go,” was all John said before hanging up.
Richard was left to stare at the phone, bewildered, in solitude.
If there was one thing John had learned by now, it was that Nelle didn’t answer questions of the “what’s wrong?” or “what are you thinking about?” type too often. So he didn’t even ask. He could tell by her eyes – which were now fixated on *him* - that nothing was wrong. She was simply…
“…happy.” She finished the sentence for him, then sealed it with a kiss. “I’m happy, John.”
She smelled like cinnamon & Brut. There was something thrilling about that smell, the way it softly traveled into his nose, which by now wasn’t in any state to whistle.
It was *her* he was admiring. Her beauty. Her inner strength. Her ability to stay cool yet warm, and most of all…
Most of all he enjoyed being the one blessed with all of this. As crazy and brutal as it’s been sometimes, the conclusion he came to was always the same.
He loved her. He probably always would. But he never wanted to guess ahead. Living in the present tense was a lot more interesting…
He knew she was happy. During the last couple of days, she’d been constantly buried in either work or thoughts – thoughts she didn’t share with him until the last day – and it was wonderful to see the warm glow again. She slowly ran her fingers through her hair, smiling, marveling at the softness of his facial features. His arms tightened around her waist, his caresses started off slow but soon picked up a steady pace.
“This,” she quickly thought to herself, “is heaven…” Giggling, she let herself fall into the little-girl act again, where she would let *him* take full control and just enjoy it... This, really, was the only thing she needed. Let the world do whatever the hell it wanted, she had this and she wouldn’t let go.
Neither would he. They were complete. *This* was something to be envious of.
Anyone who’s ever been miserable knows that it’s even more painful to see others be happy. John & Nelle were constantly smiling at each other, looking lovingly into one another’s eyes, and everyone else seemed too cheerful to notice anything. Spunky dialogue rang through the firm. Even Richard was short of speeches today, something he wasn’t known for being.
The sight was enough to make Ally want to puke.
Last night she’d promised herself she’d only aim for the happy parts of life, not the sad ones. Yet all this mush, all this happiness… ick. It was too much to take. Consulting Elaine didn’t help much, either – she was overly hyper with her latest inventive projects to help much. Her usual resort, John, was too busy being “in love…” she thought, sighing through a knot in her throat.
“I just don’t get it, Elaine…” she finally let out when Elaine took her mind off of being happy. “I saw… I saw Jenny, and Greg, and they seemed happy together, and I ruined it, and –and then I met this great guy, “ she settled an accent on the word ‘great’, as if implying she’d made yet another mistake, “… and I just took off. Maybe I *was* too scared to face reality. Maybe… maybe I always *will* be. And you know, I look at John and Nelle, and I know they’re supposed to be my friends, but I can’t help but feel angry. Especially at Nelle. She comes in being a bitch, spends the first two years proving us right, and then… then *finally* gets John for good. It’s just not FAIR. I’m just as entitled to happiness as she is, if not MORE…” Ally looked down.
Elaine stayed quiet throughout this whole outburst, but when she was finally ready to offer her take on everything, a quiet but stern voice cut her off.
“How do you figure that?”
Ally turned a very rich shade of beet red.
“Hi.” She flashed a smile. Ally knew her too well to accept it.
“…really,” she continued, “how *do* you figure that?”
“… and how do you make everything about *YOU*?” she added hesistantly.
Nelle, I despise you for being terminally happy.
“Nelle, I… okay. I…”
“I… had a horrible vacation.” It’s the best she could do.
Nelle didn’t buy it.
“I… came by to give you the Peterston file. Depo’s tomorrow, you might wanna get ready.” She placed the file on Ally’s desk and turned to walk out. Finally, she stopped.
“Ally, I’m happy. Blame me all you want, but I am. Happiness isn’t an overnight thing, and you sacrifice so much to finally get it. Yet it’s also extremely easy to lose…” she paused. “There’s always a second chance. Don’t blow it.”
She walked out, and Ally sat there, bewildered.
She was taking advice from *Nelle*. “What has the world come to?”
- - - - - -
Much to Ally’s surprise, Nelle’s advice worked. She focused on being happy for others instead of being unhappy herself, and the day flew by in a few minutes. The Peterston file got her going on several others, and before she knew it, it was already 7.
John stood at her door.
“Hi.” She smiled.
“Hey. Going downstairs?”
“Pretty much…” he nodded.
“John, I…” Ally started. She *had* to hear what she really wanted to from at least one other person. “John, do you think people get second chances to not make the mistakes they’ve made before?”
Lame question, she thought.
“Of course.” John answered.
She stood up, quickly organized her files and followed him out the door. Downstairs, the first person they ran into was Nelle – whom Ally didn’t hesitate to thank.
“You’re welcome.” Nelle, again, was radiating warmth. John’s smile was brilliant. Ally looked over and caught the two sparks in their eyes. That was it, she finally thought. She decided on letting people be happy.
After all, there was enough happiness to pass around, wasn’t there?
…Then how come she never got a piece?
Ally went over to a random table, sat down and quickly shooed off an annoying waiter. As she looked around, she analyzed everything – the faces, the crowds, the people, the atmosphere. As she ran her eyes over tables, she got completely lost in thoughts. The whirlwind in her mind was difficult to sort out even in silence, and the music certainly didn’t make it any easier.
Then, her eyes stopped. At a table several feet away sat a group of attractive thirtysomethings, caught up in an intriguing conversation while sipping martinis. All still held distant traces of morning meetings, court cases and other unattractive stuff people start carrying around towards the end of the day, and yet they all easily shrugged them off and just gave in to the moment. There was something magical about them, something that’s usually not found in most lawyers, something unique. The way they looked at one another – whether they were friends or lovers, the looks combined compassion and adoration. They knew that these people whom they now shared a table with were their LIFE. If anyone were ever in trouble, they’d all rush to the rescue, forgetting themselves and the world around them. It was priority. Of course, there were times when everything was seemingly going to hell, when shreds of hate waltzed around the office, creating a rather depressing, heavy mood. Yet all of that was, too, shrugged off.
No one could ever call them a family. Yet there was something about the bonds they shared that came awfully close to family ties. Over the years, they’d all picked up each other’s little quirks. But whatever they looked like on the outside couldn’t be exactly what they felt inside – they were skilled actors who knew their trade well.
It’s amazing how much information Ally could extract from several seconds of watching them.
But, at the same time, there was nothing too amazing about it. These people, she quickly realized, were her friends. No, not just her *friends* - they were everything. They were the people she admired, the people she couldn’t bear to live without. And if there was one thing Ally was sure of, it was that these people would stick by her.
Ally stood up and walked over. Everyone looked up and smiled. Quickly, conversations started, this time with Ally taking part in them. As she spoke, she looked around and analyzed everyone’s glances. What she saw was amazing… Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing. This was Ally – the heart and soul of the firm. The endearingly wacky one whom everyone adored. How could they not? Ally couldn’t be described, but she could be summed up into one word – “Ally”. *That* was the unique part about her.
“And so that’s *it*?” Nelle winced an “ouch”. Uncharacteristically sympathetic of her, Ally thought, but then again – Nelle had changed in her eyes that morning, which made Ally aware that there was still a lot she didn’t know about her.
“Pretty much…” Ally sighed.
“Why not just call him?” Richard asked in a matter-of-fact sort of way.
“Who? ME? Call *him*? Richard, the guy dragged his cowardly ass out of room at dawn. Why? Because he’s was too much of an ass to face the fact that we…” Ally stopped to search for the right word.
“We get the point,” John replied impatiently.
“And what about this Jenny person?” Elaine felt she had to add in her two cents.
“What about her? She probably hates me…”
“I… am not sure yet. She’s a FRIEND – well, *was* a friend. And now…”
“You did her husband. How soapy… Was there money involved? ” Richard inquired. He received a slap on the shoulder in return.
“ANYWAY,” Ally continued firmly, “I can’t really do anything but wait…”
“For him to show up at your doorstep again?” Elaine asked.
“NO. For anything. *If* anything happens…”
On that joyous note Richard asked Elaine to dance, and she happily accepted. Random couples, including a shining Renee and her beau-du-jour, waltzed out onto the dance floor, and Ally was left alone.
“Life is for the living,” she finally decided. This was nothing to commit suicide over. *She* didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t *her* problem, and she shouldn’t have to deal with it. There would always be another guy. There would always be *lots* of other guys.
For now, Ally would have to settle for the Dancing Twins. Hey, two’s better than one, right?
And there would always be the little piece of paper with 7 numbers scribbled on it that was now resting in Ally’s coat pocket at home. But Ally didn’t think of that then.
As Ally took one twin’s hand and stood up to dance, a petite slim figure left the bar. She needed solitude – she wanted to think. Being vicious didn’t mean not having a heart. And all hearts are meant for loving & being loved.
She wanted a second chance. After their terrible break-up with Richard, Ling hadn’t warmed up a bit, at least not to the outside world. And now, seeing her friends in semi- or completely happy relationships was more than she could take. She *needed* a second chance. And if Ally got one, so should she.
There *would* always be a second chance, she was sure of it. She just had to wait for it to come along. Waiting took time, though, more time than she expected. Waiting also took the commitment to wait, which Ling wasn’t completely sure she could make. But she’d work on it. And she *would* get there one day.
- - -End of Part 6- - -