[48—Goodbye Topher]

I'd been awake since way before dawn, listening to Peter, Paul and Mary on my Grip's headphones.

It was 'leaving on a jet plane' played over and over again, in mono.  I'd already cried a ten-year allotment of tears.

All too soon, I had to get up, get dressed, and leave the one person on the planet I was sure about.  Suck isn't even the word.

Tammy was asleep on the couch—she'd decided to take them up on their offer—and I didn't want to wake her. 

So I sat alone in monophonic misery until the sun came up.

I went back into our bedroom and watched Topher sleep.  Hit looked so peaceful.  Hit'd been a dear to me about leaving, and I didn't want hir to wake up alone before hit had to.

I crept over to hits side and kissed hir gently on the lips.

"Sleep, my dearest.  I love you."

"I love you too," hit said, stirring.  "Did you sleep well last night?"

"Not a bit.  I was just coming in to snuggle."

Hit pulled back the bed clothes.  Hit was naked.

I peeled off my pajamas and crawled in beside him.  Sex was out of the question with us, not even an issue, but snuggling, skin-to-skin, is a monkey thing.  I really enjoy it.


I woke up again when Tammy knocked on the door.

"Are y'all decent in there?"

"Decent, forthright and upstanding," Topher sang out at he door.  "Do, come in."

"Yo sista's making breakfast.  Do you want coffee?"

"God yes," I confessed.  "I've been up all night, worrying."

She didn't ask about what.

"What time is it," I asked.  My watch was over on my nightstand, all the way on the other side of the bed, away from my snuggle-bunny.

"About ten o'clock."

Two hours.

Tammy left and we got up and got dressed.  I enjoy watching Topher move, even if it doesn't start a hormonal rush.  Hit's pretty. 

We had breakfast at the bar—ham and eggs and wheat toast, with plenty of coffee and fresh cream.  Nobody said a word.

It was 10:20 when we had finished, and I offered to help Mary Jane with the dishes.

"No, dear.  You should spend your last hour with Topher."

That made me even more sad.  But I didn't cry.

We took a shower together, for the first time, telling ourselves it was to save time.  It was 10:45 by the time we got dressed in street clothes.

"Do you have all your gear," Topher asked as the clock ticked up to 11:00.

"It's in my car."

I wasn't going to cry anymore.

Hit stood around for a while, clearly caught in indecision.  Finally Mary Jane spoke up.

"Topher, are you gonna him-and-haw all freakin' day?  Hit has to leave in ten minutes."

"I know," hit said, his face a dark mask of anguish.  "I'll go get it."

I looked at Mary Jane and she raised an eyebrow.  Tammy was smiling.  Whatever 'it' was, they were both in on it.

Hit came back—grief swallowed—with an earnest look in hits eyes.  He had a small box.

"Dani," he asked in a timid, plaintive voice.  He snapped open the case.  There was a tiny ring inside.  Shiny, but gray, not silver.

"I'm not asking you to marry me, Dani.  I know we can't.  But I love you and I want to be with you.  Will you wear my promise ring?"

"I'm not sure I can," I told hir.  This was going to be harder than I thought. 

But I wouldn't cry.

He was crushed.

"I love you too, Topher, but I can't make a promise when I don't know what is going to happen.  I need to do this, alone.  Maybe when I get back."

That didn't help either.  Mary Jane came over and comforted hir, and gave me the Hairy Eyeball.

Tammy was none too amused either.

"Alright, what do you want me to promise?"

"Nothing," hit said snapping the box closed.  "Forget I asked."

"Topher," I told hir, "nothing would make me more happy than to stay with you, to be with you.   But I must do this now.  Not because it will make me happy, but I hope it might make me complete.  I have to strike out on my own.  Can't you understand that?"

"Yes," hit said and looked at the clock.  "It's time to go."


We were in the car, waiting in line at the bus terminal.  Topher was moodier than I'd ever seen hir.

"What kind of ring is it love?"  I hoped he hadn't spent too much on it.

"It's titanium.  I got it because it's rare; it's tough and light and isn't affected by stray magnetic fields."

"Topher, I love you."

"I love you too, Dani.  Let's get you on this bus."

"Wait," I said.  "We need to finish this conversation."

"Hey buddy," A thrower said from the curb.  "You gonna unload or what?"

"Just a minute," I yelled and rolled up the window.  "Talk to me Topher."

"I want to be there for you."

"While I'm gone?"


"That's kind of silly.  I'll be away.  What if something happens?"

"Like what?"

A car behind us honked.  A gave the driver the finger.

"I don't know.  But we can't make promises like that when we're not together.  We both need more space than that."

"What are you saying?"

"Let's just promise to pick up where we left off, when I get back."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure.  Whatever happens, I won't find anyone like you.  There isn't one.  I just don't want the pressure of a long-distance relationship."

"Okay.  I can live with that."

The stevedore knocked on the window.

I rolled the window down a crack.

"Give us a second."

I turned back to Topher.

"Okay, try again."

The box was in the console, hit grabbed it up and popped it open.

"Dani, will you come back to me, and pick up where we left off?"

"Yes," I told hir, taking the ring out of the box. "I promise."

It was thin, with tiny rabbits engraved on the surface, half of them running in one direction, the others going opposite.  It was charming.

"Let me," hit said and slid it onto my finger.

The driver behind us blared his horn again.

Topher rolled his window down. 

"Blow it out your ass," he yelled.  "Can't you see I'm trying to get a piece of cotton-tail?"

I laughed and then started crying.  It was sad, overwhelmingly so.  I'd wanted this to be simple, but there is nothing simple about love.

Our love wasn't like any other in the world.  It was based entirely on compatibility and mutual respect.  We liked each other.

Topher was tearing up too.  He dug into his pocket and pulled out a matching ring.

"Let me," I said and put it on hir's finger.

We were both crying now, and a crowd had gathered around to watch.

I got out opened the hatch.  The stevedore grabbed my bags and headed off into the terminal.

I took hits hand and we turned back to the crowd.

"What are you looking at," hit asked them.

"So, are you gonna kiss her or what," a short bald guy with a New York accent asked.  "After all that hassle, I figured at least we should get to see you two's kiss."

"No,' hit said, looking at me.  I shook my head.  No kisses.

"No," I repeated to the little man.  "We're not."


This story continues in the serial blog The Peace Flag.

[47—A Gift Rabbit]

I was leaving the next day, and in spite of my best preparations, I just wasn't ready. 

I had a life now, and didn't want to leave it.

But I had to go; if I didn't I'd always wonder if I had what it took to make it on my own in the world.  And I needed to know that.

Tipper was in town, and he looked me up. 

He took me lunch.

"I'm so glad you decided to volunteer," he said over a tuna-salad sandwich.  "When do you leave?"


"Really?  I guess my timing is good then.  I'm kind of here on official business."

"Why's that?"

"Because, Dani, you have unusual skills, and we always need linguists."

"Yeah, but they know what all languages I speak.  Why send you?  I'm all done with my paperwork."

"Have you heard about Guatemala?"

"Yes."  Earlier in the year, it had been hit by a huge earthquake.  Tens of thousands were dead and many more homeless.  "But the Peace Corps has been there since February."

"True, but there is still a lot to do.  There are lots of German speaking immigrants there, as well as Spanish speakers.  We could use your expertise."

"But I'm not trained yet.  I'll be at Camp Winsome for three months, at least."

"Maybe not."  He reached into his valise and pulled out a form.  "This is an offer, you don't see them often, to waive part of all of your training and get you in the field. 

"You still have some very important skills to learn, but we need to get you in the field Dani, where you can do the most good.  It comes with a probationary rank of Third-Class."

"What's the catch?"  I had learned from Tammy.  There was always a catch.

"Just this; you will go sooner than your fellow volunteers, and get into the thick of it.  It will be hard, but you'll be able to do it after a minimum of time at Winsome."

"Wow, Tipper.  Why me?"

"Because, you speak all those languages.  There's not another linguist in the pipeline who can speak both German and Spanish.  Like I said, we need you."

"So what do I get out of it?"

"More money for college.  Third-Class earns twenty-five percent more their first year than a Recruit.  You'll take your pay and benefits at the higher rank from the start.  Plus, you'll make Second-Class sooner.  Field experience is the number one criteria for promotion; you could make it in six months, maybe less."

"You think so?"

"You have what it takes."

"Do you need an answer right now?"

"No.  Take the offer with you.  If you sign it and turn it in when you in-process at Offutt, they'll get it going."

"Wow, Tipper, thanks."

"No problem, kid, but it's not me; you are the one who speaks all those languages."

I considered it, and finished my meal.  In the end, I didn't sign, I just took it and wished Tipper well.

Then I drove off to find Tammy.  I hadn't seen her much since I graduated, and I was worried she might drop out of school, or worse.

I had in my glove box the title, signed over to her.  I was going to make sure she had a chance.


I found her in a derelict park in East St. Louis, sitting on a tire swing, drinking bourbon.

"You tryin' to kill yourself with a bottle?"

"No," she said and took another swig.  She smiled at me, but it was a hollow rictus.  She was definitely on the edge.

She held up a bottle of pills.  "With these."

"What are those, Tammy?"

She handed me the pill bottle.


"So you are trying to kill yourself?"

"Maybe."  Even the sad smile was gone.  "What else should I do?"

"Dammit, Tammy, what's wrong with you?  I came here to cheer you up."

"Yay for you," she said flatly, taking another swig of whiskey.  "What do you care, anyway?  You're leaving."

"Not forever, I'll be back."

"Yeah, in four years, then it'll be off to college and I won't see you till we're Topher's age.  I won't make it that long, hon.  I'll be old and toothless with six kids and drawin' welfare."

"No you won't, you're going school."

"Oh yeah?  For what?  How?"

"For whatever you want.  But first you have to finish high school."

"You mean, go to college?  That's rich, girl."

"Not a girl, hon," I reminded her gently.  "And yes, you're going to college."

"That'll be the day."

"It will.  Look, Tammy, I've made some arrangements, with Topher and Mary Jane."

"What kind of arrangements?"

"For one thing, they said you could stay with them until you graduate.  And they'll help you find a job.  You'll be eighteen this month and you can start looking for something better than McDonald's.  They have connections.  I can't help you out with college, but if you get good grades, you should have no problem getting grants and loans.  Your parents surely don't make enough to keep you from that."

"Look, Dani, I know you're trying to help, but I don't want that."

"Maybe not, but you'll take it.  I insist.  And I'm your bestest friend."

"Dammit, Dani.  Why?"

"Because I love you Tammy, and I care about what happens.  But you gotta do me two favors."

"What's that?"

"One, you have to take my car.  I won't need it, but I want it to it to find a good home.  You can have it for free."

"I don't have a license," she pointed out.

"But you will, if you have a car."

"Okay, and two?"

"You have to promise me you'll go to college."

"No.  I said I don't want to go."

"Just one semester.  Promise me that."


"Because I know you can do it.  You may even like it."

"Yeah, right.  Look Dani, I know what you're trying to do, but I'm not like you; I'm not college material."

"Well, then, go to a trade school."

"Trade school?"

"Yes.  It only takes a year or two, and it a lot more fun.  You could be a potter, like Topher, or a technician like Daddy.  There's no end to what you could do."

She was looking a little less down in the mouth.

"I could, couldn't I?  I always wanted to fix things."

"Yes, Tammy, that's the spirit.  Are you with me?"

"Yeah," she said, dropping the bottle of pills into the sand.  "I think so."

"But you need to get help too.  I've seen how much you can drink, and you didn't learn that by watching.  I want you to look up Bobbi when I'm gone and go to her meetings."

"What, you mean talk to people with problems like mine?"


"And they'd understand?  Like real problems, not 'oh, I broke my nail' kinda shit?"

"Trust me, Tammy.  Some of these kids make you look like a prima donna."

"You're really not going to give up on me, are you?"

"No.  And Topher isn't either.  Neither are my folks.  They offered my room, if you'd rather stay there, but I figured you'd want to room with Topher and Mary Jane."

"Okay, bestest friend."  She smiled; her forecast was still melancholy with a chance of thunderstorms, but with a ray of hope glimmering in her eyes. 

"If'n you ain't givin' up on me, I ain't either."


Gina was growing up, in spite of my wishes to the contrary.  But she was determined, so I tried to accept it with certain amount of dignity.

She had spent the night with us a couple of times since I'd graduated, and always with Sanjin.

It wasn't my idea, but Topher's and Mary Jane's.  They said Gina and Sanjin needed some space together, without either of their parents, or they would find it on their own.  I think they both thought the poor kids might elope.

I thought they'd all been reading too much Shakespeare.

Topher insisted on letting them have our room when they slept over.  I was a little miffed at first, but after the first night, I understood.  They must've made love ten times that night, loudly.  I know they were using condoms because Sanjin kept coming in and taking them out of the bowl Mary Jane kept beside the front door. 

She didn't use them, but they were handed out copiously in the GBLT community and she kept us well stocked. 

Topher and I used plenty, but only as socks.

I mentioned they were loud; sometime they would both make a lot of noise.  Sometimes it would be Gina screaming, and I hoped he was thinking with the right head.  Other times only Sanjin would moan, his ecstasy building into punctuated throes. 

I was terribly embarrassed to overhear it.

But I was more alarmed, no shocked, when Sanjin stood up during dinner at my folks house and said "Mr. and Ms. Kheywood, I haff somezink I need to say."

"Sure son," Daddy told him, "what is it?"

"We have decided we are goink to spend our lives together."

"What was that young man?"  Mother, already suspicious, was like a bloodhound on that scent.

"I love hyour daughter, and I hwant to marry her."

"Don't you think that's a bit premature," she asked straining to be civil.  "And besides, when did you two become, ahem, an item?"

"I hlove her, she hloves me.  What else is there to know?"

"That she's only fourteen, and that's a felony in this state.  I was afraid something like this would happen.  Why is it that my children, my wonderful, obedient, smart children, insist on age-inappropriate relationships?"

She looked at me and Gina both.

"How serious is this?"

"I vant her to marry me.  Vhen she is old enough."

"Oh?  Well, at least one of you has heard of waiting."

"Mother," Gina defended herself, "you've seen us dance; we are so good together.  Sanjin wants to take me with him, when he goes off to school.  He's the best in the city.  Possibly the state.  We have what it takes to dance professionally."

"What about  your school?"

"I will finish high-school, for all the good it will do.  But I want to go to Juilliard with him."

"Juilliard," Mother asked.  "Are you sure you can get in?"

Gina and Sanjin both nodded enthusiastically.

"You would only have one year together there," Daddy observed.

"I'll take it, if that's all I can have."

"You two are determined," Mother asked.  "Aren't you?"

They took each other's hands and nodded again.

"Listen, Romeo, if you hurt her, or cross that line I know you're thinking about before she's of age, I swear I'll break both of you knee caps."

"It's a deal," he smiled, and shook her hand.  "I hlove you Gina."

"Oh my God, Mitchell, what are we to do?"

"One day at a time, honey.  And, besides, we still have Robbie."

She turned to my baby brother.

"You're not seeing someone on the sly, are you?"


Of course he wasn't.  He was just a kid.

[46—Auld Lang Syne]

Gina's birthday was the Twenty-ninth of December, but I was just too busy to attend her party that year.  I figured she wanted to spend it with her new beau.  They didn't seem to be cooling to each other any.

The next time I saw her was on New Years' Eve.  The year had been indescribable.

The folks threw a huge bash and pulled out all the stops.  There must've been thirty guests standing around in glittered hats, noisemakers at the ready when midnight finally hove into sight.

'Ten," the crowd shouted as the countdown began on the television.  Daddy stood by with a bottle of champagne, ready to pop its cork.


Mary Jane pulled her date close and kissed her.  She was a short, stacked read-head with perfect alabaster skin without blemish or freckle.  It was a passionate kiss and lasted several seconds.



I took Topher's hand but we didn't kiss.  We had taken our relationship to a new level—we slept together in the nude and were working at exploring each other's bodies—but it was peculiarly innocent.  We never kissed.


Mr. Richter was there, hugging his wife.  He'd told me, with a flicker in his eye, that he had news, but it should wait till after the New Year.


I looked at Tammy.  She was the only one alone, except for Robbie, and looked infinitely sad.  She watched all the couples with an air of resignation. 

She would be losing me soon, and it showed on her face.  I'd promise to write her, but that didn't lessen her apprehension.  What would she do without her bestest friend?


And then there was Robbie.  He was dog-tired, but grimly determined to bring in the New Year on two feet. 


Gina and Sanjin were discretely holding hands, sitting together in a corner by the punch bowl.  They looked happy, but Sanjin nonetheless glanced nervously at Mother.


Mother looked back at him, but didn't scowl.  She moved over to Daddy and touched his elbow.


This was it, Heywoods—the end of the Bicentennial, and start of a brand new year; a whole new life for me.  I squeezed Topher's hand.


The crowd buzzed with excitement, blowing their noisemakers and throwing confetti. 

The cork sounded loudly, ricocheting off the ceiling and echoing back from the dining room.  Champagne gushed from the bottle and Daddy poured everyone a glass. 

"To 1977," Mr. Richter toasted, and we all drank.

"And to Dani, may it be hits year."

"Three cheers for Dani," Mother concluded. 

"Hip! Hip! Hurrah!"

I don't take such paeans lightly.  I could feel my cheeks turn pink.

"Speech," someone yelled, and I found myself alone at the center of an expectant crowd.

"I don't know what to say," I started timidly, wishing Topher was still holding my hand.  "Thank you all.  You've all done so much for me.  And this is very special." 

I paused, not sure if I could continue without crying.

"I want to say thank you Mom and Dad.  For everything.  You have always been there for me; I am truly blessed.  Thank you Gina, and Robbie, and especially Topher.  I am going to miss you all."

That was it—I burst into tears and was unable to continue.  Mr. Richter took me aside.

"Great news, Dani; two things."


"I filed on your behalf for the upcoming class-action law suit against Martin Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Rarin..."

"Okay.  What does that mean?"

"Closure, mostly, but it could mean money for research and possibly a big cash settlement with all its victims."

"I don't think I'm a victim, Mr. Richter.  It's not like Mother took Thalidomide.  I'm missing some organs, but I don't miss them."

"Sorry.  And I just got word yesterday that a Judge Hoskins from North Dakota has endorsed your case to the Circuit Court of Appeals.  It means we get to skip the appeals to Missouri."

"That's great, but why North Dakota?"

"It could have been any judge in the circuit, as long as he believes the case has merit.  He won't hear it, of course.  You'll be assigned a judge at random.  I thought you might like to know."

"What about me being gone?  What will happen with me out of country?"

"It won't come to trial for a bit yet.  You may have to come back to testify, but I think we can just have you file affidavits.  You're legal now."

That's right, I was.  It felt so odd, being responsible for myself.  Soon, I would be alone too.

"Congratulations," Mr. Richter said, and gave me a bear hug. 

He left, and Topher came in and hugged me too.

I saw Robbie, watching us around the corner.  He was really distraught at what he saw.  He ran upstairs.

I followed him and knocked on his door.

"Robbie, are you okay?"

"No," he said through the door.  "Go away."

Topher came up behind me.  Hit knocked gently on the door.

"Robbie?  Hey buddy, what gives?"

He opened the door.

"You're taking my sister away!"

"It's not like that, little guy.  She's all grown up now.  She needs her space."

"But why can't she have it here?"

"This is not where she belongs anymore.  We all have to grow up sometime.  I need you to be big and understanding.  This is hard on her too."

He opened the door.

"It is?  But she gets to go to camp and join the Peace Corps.  I have to stay here."

"I'll write you, Robbie, I promise."

"No you won't.  Nobody ever writes when they say they will."

"I will.  I have my Grip now, and we can send tapes to each other.  Would you like that?"

"Yes," he said, wiping his nose on his sleeve.  "That would be cool."

"I'll write every day, and send you a tape once a week.  How does that sound?"

"Okay, I guess.  What about Topher?  Is he going with you?"

"No," I sighed.  Of all the people I was leaving, I'd miss hir the most.  "Hit's staying here."

"But you can come visit me," Topher promised him.  "You can spend the night and we can stay up late, watching scary movies."

"Really?  That would be cool."

"Yes," Topher answered him solemnly.  "You can sleep over tonight, if you'd like."

"I would like that.  I don't have nobody to talk to anymore."

"What about Gina?"

"She's okay, but all she wants to do is play kissy-face with Sanjin.  She's no fun anymore.  Can we go out for waffles in the morning?"

"I can go you one better," Topher said, hugging Robbie close, "I'll make you some of my famous French toast."

It was nice to see Robbie being a little kid again.

"Why's it famous?"

"Because it's so good.  The King of France once stopped chasing a ship full of pirates, just to try my French toast."

"Wow!  Did he eat it all up?"

"Of course, he even came back for seconds."


I could see they both were in good hands.

[45—Feliz Navidad]

Yuletide at the Heywood's has always been a small affair; homey even.

But there were nine people around our table for Christmas dinner that year.

Santa had come and gone, stockings were stuffed, their contents now lay spilt on the floor by the tree, and the presents had all been opened.  The rituals thus satisfied, we ate our dinner.

It was not, as feasts go, a hugely indulgent meal.  Mother liked for us to limit our binge eating to Thanksgiving.  There was a ham, sweet potatoes, a few vegetables and a single cherry pie.

I had three guests, or to be more correct, I was one of four. 

I hadn't completely moved in with Topher—with me leaving in ten days, that made little sense, but I kept a toothbrush and half of my wardrobe over there.

But the folks had invited us all, and Tammy. 

She was looking glum, as she always did around the Holidays.  Her mother had to work, and she didn't want to be alone around Leroy.

The last guest was Sanjin; in a daring move I'd have never contemplated, Gina had invited him to share our family time.  I wondered how much she'd shared with Mother. 

She was far less fragile now that her pregnancy scare had passed, and they were using protection every time; at least they told me they were.

He was only over for a couple of hours—his family had their own holiday traditions—and Gina was going to meet them after we were done here.  She was growing up so fast.

It wasn't exactly obvious they were a couple.  Gina was still clinging to the pretense that they were only dance partners.

"So Sanjin," Daddy asked, whether out of curiosity of a sense of protectiveness, I don't know, "what are you going to do when you graduate high-school?"

"Dance ze ballet."

"Professionally," Mary Jane asked, looking up from her plate.  She seemed fascinated by our family.

"Of course.  Vhat else?"

"The competition is pretty stiff," Mother observed.  She looked at him and they locked eyes for a moment.  "Are you sure you're good enough?"

"Yes.  Qvite sure.  I live for ze dance."

He was like a miniature Mikhail Baryshnikov.

"You're from Russia," Robbie asked him.  He was suspicious of all Communists and any boy who wore tights and danced on his toes.

"Bosnia," Sanjin offered.  "Is best country in Europe.  But not as gute as America, no?" 

He raised his glass.

"To my new country.  May He see all of my dreams come to pass."

He gave Gina a lingering look; it wasn't lost on either of my parents.

"So Sanjin," Mother joggled his elbow, so to speak.  She was just a bit nervous and didn't seem to know how to take him.  "How long have you and Gina been dancing together?"

"Since ze beginning."  That was pretty vague.  He was either clueless and heading into a trap or playing a game of his own.

"You and Gina dance well together?"

"Hyes," he said plainly.  "Hwe are perfect togezer."

"Perfect," Daddy asked.  He snorted—then looked embarrassed.  "Nothing is perfect, son."

"Hyou've never seen us dance."

"No," Mother admitted.  "We have not.  I should be interested to know the details of your dance."

Did she know they were having sex, or did she just suspect?

"Ve can show hyou."

"What," Mother looked shocked when he upped the ante.  What was she talking about?  "In here?"

"Zere is plenty room.  Gina, do hyou have music?  I gave to hyou on cass-ette tape."

Gina nodded, smiling like she'd birthed the world.  Mother gave her the Look, and for the first time in my life, I saw it falter.

"Mother," Gina asked plaintively.  "May we?"

"Yes, dear."  Mother coughed uncertainly and cleared her throat.  "You may."

Gina fairly bolted from the room and came back within seconds with a cassette tape.  I offered to play it in my Grip, but she said she preferred the stereo in the living room.

We all moved into there and Mother served coffee while Gina and Sanjin cleared themselves a space and paced it out.  Gina was a bit jumpy, but Sanjin had nerves of solid brass. 

They took off their shoes and stretched while we all looked on, piled up on the couch and even standing behind it.  I noticed Sanjin was wearing mismatched socks.

They turned the lights low, crouched in the dim circle in the middle of the floor, and waited for the music to start.  When it did, they burst into a flowing repertoire of well-choreographed story, told only in body language.

I'd seen them dance before, but not like this; they were making love, totally dressed and in front of a roomful of family—they were simply incredible. 

Baryshnikov looked like a walrus in comparison. 

They spun and twirled together, keeping perfectly in step.  Never stopping to look at their feet, never closing their eyes or breaking the intense gaze they shared.  It burned like fire in their eyes.

At one point, he picked her up and held her above his head for a fleeting second; his arms trembling, hers outstretched, as if she were flying. 

Then they collapsed into a pile, and I thought he'd dropped her.

But they rolled away from each other with exacting grace and came up in counterpoint.  They moved like cats, dancing around a point that shuffled across the floor but never beyond the bounds they'd set.

They thrashed about feverishly, like they must dance the tarantella throughout the night and on to dawn, touching each other lightly sometimes, clasped together desperately at others. 

It was as if they lived for each other's touch and the dance forbade them any consolation.  They drifted past each other, darting in and back out, in fits and starts, but always perfectly balanced, perfectly aware of the other's presence.

And still they danced on.  The piece was long, at least ten minutes, but they never slowed, or even seemed to tire. 

At one point, they threw themselves bodily at each other, only to turn aside at the last moment, and pirouetted in opposite directions in a move that I was sure should have wounded Newton's pride.

They ended in the middle of the floor, freezing at the exact moment the last note died away.  Sanjin was holding her gently, one hand on her abdomen, the other in the small of her back.  Gina was on one foot, her other leg held straight behind her, arms thrown back like swan wings, the backs of her hands touching.

We were all gob-smacked.

Topher was the first to find hits voice.

"Bravo," he thundered, standing up and clapping with great gusto.  Mary Jane was next and within two seconds, the entire house was on its feet, delivering a standing ovation.  Mother had tears in her eyes; so did we all.

Gina and Sanjin bowed.


After they'd left, I cleared the table and started on the dishes.  Mary Jane volunteered to help. 

Mother cornered me in the kitchen and tried to nail me down.

"Dani, what do you know about this Sanjin?"

"He's a helluva dancer, Mother."

"Yes," she admitted, "but there's more to it than that, do you think?"

"I think it's not my business Mother."

"Fair enough, but it is mine.  Should I be worried?"

"No," I assured her.  "They are great together, and both have good heads on their shoulders.  I shouldn't if I were you."

"Are you sure?"

"No, Mother, not at all.  When can you ever really be sure?  But I trust Gina to do the right thing."

"Do you?"

"Yes," I told her, taking both of her hands in mine.  "You raised her right."