Frank Downey

Dance of a lifetime


Book one


MEETINGS(Chapter one)

Sophia Daniels woke up for school hung over.

This was not an uncommon occurrence lately. Still, on a Monday morning, it certainly was a bitch. Sophia stumbled out of her bed, rubbing her eyes, wishing for a beer. Of course, there wasn’t any. She certainly didn’t drink at home. That would have been just asking for trouble.

Attending school with a hangover was never one of Sophia’s favorite things to do. Attending school at all wasn’t high on the list, either. "Ah well," she sighed to herself as she gathered her books together, "maybe someone will have some pot or something. Good ol’ Oceanview High always looks better when I’m stoned, anyhow."

She ran out of the house with a cheery "See ya!" to her mom and younger brother and sister-careful not to let her mother get too close. Bags under the eyes were a warning sign. She had thought she had done a good job with her makeup, but best to be careful. Oceanview High was a fairly short walk from her house, but it didn’t seem all that short when the street was spinning. Plus, it was cold, being as this was Massachusetts and it was January eleventh. Sophia managed to make it to school in one piece, and, as she had hoped, found a bunch of friends passing around a joint. "Better," she thought, "that’s much better." She’d sleepwalk through her classes, but she did that anyway. School was such a bore. She couldn’t wait to be done with it. The problem was, she had a ways to go. She was a freshman. Sophia Daniels was 14 years old.

There were very few things important to Sophia. Beer and pot, sure. Her friends. Her boyfriend Scott, a senior, and an expert in all forms of partying. She’d be content to go through life stoned or drunk, hanging out with her friends, or "riding the ol’ hobby horse" with Scott, as Scott put it. That was all that she really cared about.

Except for one thing-her job. Sophia worked the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown Oceanview. She loved her job. She was good at it, she had regular customers that loved her, and she got along well with her co-workers. She even made sure that she didn’t drink or do any drugs in the afternoon on days when she had to work. If any of her school friends or teachers had seen her at the donut shop, they would have witnessed quite an anomaly. It even seemed strange to Sophia, but she never dwelled upon it. She genuinely did like the job-even if she had no idea why-and she certainly enjoyed the money. And the store manager, Antonio, was a peach of a guy.

Sophia ran into the shop, waved a quick "hi" to Dora, the middle-aged Portuguese lady that worked the counter with her in the afternoon. She went out back to hang up her coat, giving quick greetings to Billy, the afternoon baker, and her boss Antonio. That was the usual crew on the days that she worked, so she was surprised to see another person there, out back by the sink. She only could see his back, as he was evidently washing something.

The place was empty when she went out front to begin her shift. Dora was making some coffee, so Sophia joined in. She really liked Dora. Dora was the only person at the shop who knew what Sophia was really like. She listened, and scolded like the mother she was, but she also couldn’t help liking Sophia right back.

And she worried about her.

"Hey, Dora," Sophia asked. "Who’s the guy washing the dishes back there?"

"Oh!" Dora exclaimed. "That the new boy! Tony finally hire maintenance boy! No more wash floor for you and me!"

"Really! Well that is good news. You meet him yet? What’s his name?"

"Warren. He about your age I think. Nice boy." Sophia was always amused that Dora had lived here for many years but still spoke broken English. "I think Tony say he go to St Michael’s."

"Oh boy, a preppy. All I need." St. Michael’s was a private prep school in the area. Sophia generally didn’t have much use for preppies. "Ah well, I’d best introduce myself." She went out back and found Warren talking with Billy about what pans were ready to be washed. She walked up to him.

"Hi. I’m Sophia Daniels. I work the counter."

"Hi. Warren Kelleher. I’m the new clean up guy."

Sophia looked at him with a practiced eye. Definitely a preppy. Glasses and everything. She almost was surprised he wasn’t wearing a slide rule. Still, he wasn’t bad looking.

"Dora said you go to St. Michael's?"

"Yeah. I’m a freshman. I live here in Oceanview, though, not too far from here."

"I didn’t figure on a St Michael’s boy stooping to wash floors and scrub dishes. I thought all you guys were too proud for that sort of stuff."

Warren just laughed. "Nope, I am not proud. I needed a job, I saw the sign, and it’s convenient. Most St Michael's guys have money, true, but not me. If it weren’t for scholarships, I’d be at Oceanside High. I just turned 14, so this was the first job I applied for."

"Just turned 14? I’m going to be fifteen in April. Aren’t you kind of young for a freshman?"

"Yeah. Started school a year early."

Sophia snickered to herself. Started school early, going to St. Mike’s on a scholarship. We didn’t just have a preppy here, we had a brainy preppy.

"What about you?" Warren asked.

"Hmmm?"

"You’re a freshman too, I take it? You go to Oceanside?"

"Yup. Good ol’ Oceanside School for the High, member in good standing. Oops, I’ve got customers.

Nice meeting you."

"Nice meeting you, too."

A couple hours later, Sophia took a break to go outside and smoke a cigarette. Warren was out there picking up trash and changing the barrels.

"Nasty habit, you know."

Sophia glared at him. "What are you, my mother?"

"Not the last time that I checked, no. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a nasty habit."

"Oh, rest assured, Prep Boy, that smoking is the least of my nasty habits."

Warren looked up, bemused. "Do you have a list?"

"OK, are you my mother, or the cops? What is this, twenty questions about Sophia’s wild and wooly life?"

"Oh, you know, being Prep Boy and all, I wouldn’t know from nasty habits. I figure your list of depravities might be educational."

"Oh really", Sophia said with a raised eyebrow. "And what do you do for fun?"

"Oh, the usual. Burn, rape, pillage. Accost little old ladies trying to cross the street. Call my mother nasty names in Russian. Read Shakespeare."

"Read Shakespeare."

"That’s right."

"That’s the one off your list I can believe."

"Well, I call my little sister nasty names in Russian."

Sophia had to laugh at that one. "Oh, you’ve got one of those, too? A little sister, I mean? I’ve got one of each."

"Yup, me too. Matched set."

"What’s a good nasty name in Russian?"

"Glupaya suka."

Sophia waited. "All right, Prep Boy, what’s it mean???"

"Stupid bitch."

"That’s not a very nice thing for a Prep Boy to be calling his little sister, now is it?"

"Yeah, but I told her it means darling sweet sister."

Sophia blinked. And then laughed. "No way. You’re too goody too-shoes for that kind of stuff. I bet you wouldn’t say shit if you had a mouthful. No way you do that to your sister."

Warren looked up, deadpan. "Obviously, you’ve never met my sister." And went back to changing the trash bag.

Sophia put out her cig, went back into the shop, and stopped in the doorway, shaking her head. He certainly was…er…interesting, in a preppy sort of way. For sure, she had just been successfully teased, and skillfully. So skillfully she wasn’t quite sure how.

A couple hours later, Sophia was gathering her stuff up to go home, and ran into Warren doing the same thing.

"Where do you live?" Sophia asked.

"Up off Tremont."

"You get picked up?"

"Naah, I’m gonna walk it."

"That’s a pretty long walk. I walk home, too, but I only live halfway up Washington."

"You mind company from a Prep Boy?"

Sophia grinned. "I guess I can stomach it." They left the shop and headed out up the street.

"I’m surprised you walk," Warren began. "I know it’s not far, but still. It’s dark."

"You don’t think I can take care of myself?"

"No doubt in my mind. But, let’s face it-Oceanview isn’t Mayberry, and you’re a gorgeous girl."

Sophia blinked. Gorgeous? Her? But she kept her face blank. "Anyone who tries anything with me has to contend with my boyfriend. I’m not worried."

"Boyfriend, huh?"

"Yeah. Scott. He’s a senior. He’s a lot of fun to party with. And he loves the hell out of me. He’s insanely jealous. I’m only letting you walk with me because I know he’s not around."

"He’d be upset?"

"Sure he would. Wouldn’t you, seeing your girlfriend walk around with some other guy?"

"Depends."

"Depends on what?"

"Circumstances. If I saw my girlfriend walking with a guy, and then she told me that the guy was a co-worker that was headed the same way and was just keeping her company-no, I wouldn’t be upset."

"But if you love her, wouldn’t you be jealous?"

"Jealousy is not my idea of love."

Sophia stopped walking. "What is your idea of love?"

"Well, I would think trust would figure into it somewhere. I figure if I loved someone, and she loved me, I could trust her to walk down the street with a guy friend and not go on a bender about it."

"You’ve got some strange ideas about love."

Warren grinned lopsidedly. "That, no doubt, is why I don’t have a girlfriend."

Sophia grinned back at him. "Well, that, plus you’re an unredeemable Preppy." They both laughed.

"This is my house. Working tomorrow?"

"Yup"

"See you then".

"See ya."


SECRETS REVEALED (Chapter Two)

Two weeks later, Sophia made the normal trek from school to Dunkin Donuts. It had been another wild weekend, lots of partying and lots of Scott. Probably too much of Scott. She walked in the back and put her stuff away.

"Hey, Wild Woman." It was Warren.

"Hi, Prep Boy," she waved-but instead of their normal teasing session, Sophia quickly rushed out front.

Warren was perplexed. They’d worked together for two weeks, and he was still trying to figure this girl out.

She made a point to take her cig breaks when he was out in the lot. They had walked home from work every day. She obviously enjoyed their teasing repartee, as he did. And now she was rushing past him like he had the plague.

He went about his work, and found his way to the lot. Sure enough, Sophia followed him out and lit a cig.

Warren noticed, however, that she was carefully avoiding looking at him.

"Yo, Sophia, so how was the weekend? One of your traditional chemically-infused bacchanalias, I take it?" He had gotten a good idea of Sophia’s lifestyle on their walks home.

"Yo, Prep Boy, could you speak English, please?"

"That was English."

"Coulda fooled me. My weekend was fine. I think I drank two six-packs Saturday night. Great sex with Scott, too." Warren blushed. Sophia thought that was cute. "Just my typical Wild Woman weekend."

"Uh huh. Soph, why are you hiding the left side of your face?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You avoided me in the back room earlier. You came outside, but you’ve been giving me your right profile the whole time. I walked towards you to change this barrel, and you tucked the left side of your face into the building."

"You don’t know what you’re talking about."

"Don’t I. Then let me see your face, Sophia."

Sophia turned towards him. The makeup was skillfully applied, but the black eye and the bruise on the cheek was plainly apparent.

Warren gaped at her bruises. He looked down and noticed another one, on her arm. He looked at her for a minute and thought. Her mother? He knew she didn’t have a father. He had met Sophia’s mother a couple of times after walking her home. Was her mother doing this to her? Somehow, he just doubted that. So, he took a stab in the dark.

He looked in her eyes, and said, "Great sex, huh?" and saw the moment of startled recognition in her eyes, and knew that he had hit paydirt.

Sophia attempted to cover it: "Oh, look, it’s my mother again! For your information, Prep Boy, I got hit in the head by a door."

"OK."

"Happened at school. One of those swinging doors, you know? Wasn’t watching where I was going."

"OK."

"I’m clumsy that way."

"OK."

Sophia glared at him. "Look, that’s what really happened!"

"I’m agreeing with you."

"But you don’t believe me!"

"Not for a second."

"This is none of your business, Warren!"

"Probably not."

"This is my problem!"

"Yeah, walking into doors can be a problem," Warren said with a snort.

"I’m fully capable of taking care of myself!"

"Oh, yes, you’re doing such a damn fine job of it, Sophia. You’ve even got the bruises to show for it. If taking care of yourself includes getting beat up by your boyfriend, you’ve certainly got it covered."

Sophia stopped, and blinked. Damn he was perceptive. Shit, what was she going to do now? She gathered up her fury and shame, and blasted him with it, desperately hoping to just end the conversation. "Dammit, Warren, it’s none of your business! Who the fuck are you to make judgements about me?"

Warren gathered up his cleaning supplies, walked towards the door, and looked at this bruised, furious, ashamed girl glaring at him. "I’m your friend, Soph. That’s who I am." And walked into the shop.

Sophia stood outside the shop for five minutes, desperately trying to blink back the tears.

Warren gathered his stuff together, getting ready to go home. Sophia hadn’t said one word to him for the rest of their shift. It was probably just as well, Warren thought. He was in way over his head. He turned to head out the door when Sophia grabbed him by the arm.

"Walk me home?"

"I wasn’t sure you’d want me to."

Sophia smiled. It was a genuine smile-she hadn’t had many of those, lately. "What are friends for, right?"

Warren smiled back.

"You want to talk about it, now that you’ve calmed down?"

"I don’t know. I don’t think so. What’s there to talk about?"

"Was I right?"

Sophia paused. And practically whispered, "Yes."

"What are you going to do about it?"

"What can I do?"

"Dump him. Now. Vamoose, scram, do svidanya. Get lost, asshole."

"I can’t do that."

"Why not?"

"Because he loves me. He’s all I have."

Warren stopped, grabbed Sophia’s arm, and spun her around so that he was looking into her eyes.

"Sophia, someone who loves you does not give you a black eye! This isn’t love!"

Sophia forced a grin. "Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re the great expert on love, aren’t you, Prep Boy? Come back and talk to me once you find yourself a girlfriend, OK?"

Warren knew she was teasing him to lighten the mood, but he wasn’t buying it this time. He touched her face with his finger and said, "You can rest assured that if I did get myself a girlfriend I would never do this to her."

"No. No you wouldn’t." She started walking again. "Then again, any girlfriend you got wouldn’t be anyone like me, either."

"What’s that mean?"

"It means I’m not much of a person. You’d do better than me."

"I beg to differ. I like to think I choose my friends pretty carefully, you know."

She laughed at that. "You don’t know me. You look at me and see…well, I don’t know what you see.

But you don’t see me. Warren, I’m a burnout. I’m stupid. I’ll never be anything. The only things I’m good for are parties and sex. And getting beat up, I suppose. You don’t see that."