Center Stage – 7

 

“I knew it would be good. I never doubted it. But…” she met his gaze. “It’s phenomenal. Will is right. It needs to be seen.”

Alex realized he was holding his breath, so he let it out slowly. “Thank you. I can’t tell you what it means to me to hear you say that.”

“I’ll do it, like I said I would.”

“You won’t regret this,” he promised.

“That remains to be seen.”

“Mollie asked me if she could read it. I told her that was up to you.”

“Thank you. I think she’s old enough to understand it. It might even help her connect to Danny better. Thank you for thinking of me before giving her carte blanche.”

Alex savored the taste of the margarita, letting the alcohol warm him. Part of him was afraid to speak for fear he would ruin the moment. There they were, two old friends having a drink, chatting. He was terrified he would say the wrong thing and she would storm out.

“How are your parents? They must be over the moon to have you home.”

He nodded. “Elena was not happy to hear I was immediately moving in to Everhouse, but I figured it would be more conducive for the show, and spending time with Mollie. Brooklyn is awesome, but it can be a hike and luckily Adam had a one bedroom available.”

“It makes sense.”

“I thought so,” he nodded, draining the last of his beverage. He motioned to the bartender. “Ready for another?”

Marina studied her glass, “Why not?” She shrugged, gulping down the rest of her margarita.

“What about you? Are you happy living uptown?”

“I don’t hate it,” she shrugged, noncommittally. “Our apartment is gorgeous, our building is safe, the view is to die for, but it’s not Everhouse. Jared and I were just lamenting about that the other day. I am grateful though, that I’ve been able to give my kids a safe, comfortable home, so I won’t complain.”

“You don’t strike me as one of those uptown snobs I grew up hearing about.”
“Thanks, I think,” she giggled.

Alex grinned madly, starting to relax as the bartender brought their second round. “Everhouse

seems like a palace compared to the place I had in London. I guess I never really expected to stay as long as I did, because I never moved out of the studio I found when I first got there.” He frowned. “I always intended to come home. It just took me longer than I expected.”

She nodded, sipping her fresh drink.

“Sorry,” he shrugged self-consciously.

“It’s okay. You did what you had to do.”

“Let’s talk about something else. Know any good jokes?”

Marina smiled. “Mollie is better at jokes than I am. You two had fun today?”

His whole face lit up. “Yes! We just walked around, talked, shopped, had lunch. It was interesting to see the City through her eyes. She is a firecracker.”

“That’s one way to put it.”

Alex let out a hearty laugh, which consumed his whole body.

“I’ve missed that,” Marina commented.

“What?”

“Your laugh. I forgot how infectious it is.”

Alex picked up his drink, trying to hide a smile.

“I used to get so jealous of Mollie every time she went off to London with your parents. You were all she talked about leading up to trip and all she talked about when she returned. She loved every minute she spent with you. I found myself jealous of my kid. I missed you. I missed that laugh. Danny had a sense of humor, but nothing like yours. He’d give a polite chuckle, but you laugh with everything in you.”

He felt his cheeks flush with pleasure at the compliment. When they had been in Everhouse’s production of Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca with Jared, they had spent a lot of time together laughing to balance the heaviness of the show. Marina was cast as the Bride, Alex as Leonardo and Jared as the Bridegroom, in a tragic story of a woman and the two men who loved her. It was a dark production, with angst-ridden characters and Alex’s sense of humor had been a welcome distraction.

“You and Jared were the worst onstage. You both always kept trying to get me to break character,” she remembered chagrined.

“That was J. He was the worst,” Alex argued. “He would mutter one liners under his breath every time.”

“Uh uh,” Marina countered. “It was you that would always tickle me whenever we were supposed to be… you know, intimate.”

“That was my way of masking how much I wanted you in real life,” he retorted and instantly regretted it, his face flushing deeply.

 

Marina let herself into the apartment.

“Hola, Momma,” Mollie greeted her from the couch, where she was curled up with a book.

“Hey, baby,” she smiled, hanging up her coat. The ground felt slightly uneven after the multiple margaritas she had consumed with Alex. “How was your day?”

“Awesome! Uncle Alѐ is el loco.”

“That he is,” Marina agreed. She felt conflicted again. The margaritas had helped remind her of the Alex she had been friends with, but she still couldn’t get past the Alex who ran away.

Marina sank into the couch beside Mollie. “I’m glad you had fun. You can see Alex and Abuela and Abuelo whenever you want, you know that, right?”

“I know,” the teen nodded, frowning slightly. “You know what I would really like?”

“What, baby?”

“Going to dinner… you, me, and Uncle Alѐ.”

Marina let out a long tense breath. Alex admitting how he felt about her during Blood Wedding, had brought their evening to an abrupt end. Her memories of Blood Wedding, a violent story of love and loss, were tempered by the fun she had with the whole cast, but especially with Alex and Jared. On the A train home, she found herself reliving every scene she shared with Alex, looking for all the clues she’d missed.

“Anything is possible,” she told Mollie, placing a kiss on her temple.

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