dancing star

She entered La Cazuela, relishing the lightness of her skirt swinging against her bare legs, walking the tall walk of a girl out in town on her own. It was dark in there compared to the still bright sunshine of this late-May early evening, almost Memorial Day weekend, her birthday. She was meeting her best friend and confidante for a celebratory margarita.

She spotted Jason at the bar and pranced over, their embrace and kiss evidencing the bond between them. Jason waved to the bartender, hollering, "Two Annie's margs!" as he handed her his gift, simply wrapped and tied with a neat bow.

"Thank you, love," she squeezed his hand. The margaritas arrived and they toasted. "To a good year!"

"To the best year yet!" They drained their margaritas and ordered another round. "How you doing, babe? Okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. It's just weird, you know, Jason. It's like, I don't know, it's the right thing, I know it's right. But it's still hard to get used to."

"It will be for a while, I'm guessing. And you know it's right." The bartender served their drinks and they sipped. "Is Austin coming to meet you?"

"Oh, yeah, will you come with me in a bit to meet him over at Packard's? We can all have a burger, and then you can be on your way and I'll take him home." She winked.

"Yeah, that's good." Jason nudged her with his knee. "Open it."

She opened the card first. It was a simple Hallmark greeting, heavy on the sentiment but truthful, too, signed, "I love you, Jason." She unstuck the tape and slowly unwrapped her gift, carefully re-folding the paper like she always did. It was a journal, with a quote from Nietzsche on the front: "One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star."

"Chaos!" He joined her in a giggle. "Perfect, that's perfect for me. Thank you, Jason." She flipped the book open and found his inscription.

"Love, I thought this was the perfect gift. When you use it, remember that the next few months are not an ending, but a beginning of a new adventure and further chapters in a rich life. I cherish you and the moments we share and look forward to the years ahead. To many more birthdays. Love always, Jason."
"Aw." She felt the sting of tears and breathed them away. He had been there for her, they had been through so much together, culminating in this, the end of her marriage. No one had expected that. "It is a beginning, isn't it? It is."

"Yes, it is. I'm proud of you." Jason embraced her again, his arm around her shoulder, and she allowed herself to settle into his arm as they sipped their drinks.

"I'm just, it's just that, well, I never wanted it to end. I guess I was crazy to think I could have everything I wanted." She sat up again, invigorated. "I mean, wow."

"Yeah, I know. But I think it turned out the way it was supposed to turn out. And now you have to be careful not to make the same mistakes, right?"

"Right." They clinked highballs again and drained their tequila. "Ready?"

"Ready! Let's go."

Jason settled their tab and they headed out, turning right and heading up Main Street, stopping for a moment to window-shop at Broadside Books, then turning right again on Masonic and up the front steps of Packard's, "Everyone's Favorite Neighborhood Bar." As they entered, she could feel the ages of smoke and drink and billiards and patrons' neuroses.

They found a booth in the back and she felt her pulse race in anticipation of Austin's arrival. She didn't try to hide it, as she knew Jason understood. They were of one mind, the same species, she and Jason. She knew he knew the rush she was experiencing now, what the waiting felt like.

Soon enough, there he was. Austin strolled in and kissed her on the cheek, handing her a wrapped gift and sliding into the booth next to her.

"Happy birthday." He kissed her again and squeezed her thigh so hard she squealed.

Austin and Jason exchanged pleasantries while she reveled in her good fortune, the luck that brought her these two beautiful souls who loved her and would be here for her, come what may. They ordered sandwiches and beer, and Austin nudged her.

"Open it." He whispered directly into her half-drunk ear and she turned to kiss him. "C'mon, open it."

"Okay!" She looked at the package, and then raised it to get a closer view. It was obviously a CD, wrapped in the liner notes from Neil Young's latest CD, "Are You Passionate?" She giggled and he squeezed her thigh again. She and Austin both revered Neil Young, but Austin thought his latest CD was horrible. She carefully unstuck the tape and peeled back the paper, revealing a glittery purple jewel case.

"The Cars! Box set! Aw!" She squealed some more. It was exactly the right thing.

They ate, chatted, finished, paid their bill and rose to leave. She embraced Jason.

"Thanks, I love you."

He squeezed back. "Love you, too. Have fun tonight."

She stumbled on Austin's arm through town, giggling and chattering all the way to the parking garage and her Jeep. They buckled in and he broke the seal on her new CD. They drove, windows down, through and then out of town, meandering along the familiar route through Florence, Haydenville, Leeds, and Williamsburg.

She turned up the volume as they headed up the mountain on state route 143, windows down, cold spring air in their lungs, flying through the night.

she's driving away
with the dim lights on
she's making a play
she can't go wrong
she never waits too long 
They drove into the night, into the mountains, his hand on her thigh, wind in her hair and the music of her youth playing very loud. This was a new adventure, all right.

They stumbled into her cabin, hand in hand, anticipation like gooseflesh on their arms and everywhere. She flicked on the kitchen light, turned and grabbed him, pulling him close, kissing him with urgency, wanting him and showing him just how much. As she pulled him toward the hallway and her bedroom beyond, the red light of her answering machine beckoned in her peripheral vision.

"Oh, hey, wait just a sec, I have a message." She disengaged from Austin's embrace, a weight dropping in her belly. It had to be her ex, who else would have called her? It had to be something bad. There was no good thing her ex could be calling about. She strode across the living room and pressed the button.

After its whir and beeps, the machine came to life. "Hey. Uh, well, I need you to call me back right away. I have to talk with you, it's important." Tears were evident in the crackling voice. She bent over, her stomach sinking precariously.

"I'm, uh... I'm... I'm pregnant."

This week in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, Lille challenged me to "write about an experience from your past, but change the outcome, twist it, turn the story around, make it funny or terrifying." I challenged Melissa Brodsky with "you can never find a band-aid when you actually need one."