To Feel the Sun
My mother called it my Eponine complex. She liked using characters she played on stage to psychoanalyze me and my sister. It got really old after the fifth time she called Sarah, my twin sister, a "Galinda." Sure, Sarah was a bit preoccupied with fashion and her looks and less on school and things, but honestly, Galinda?
In any case, I suppose I did have something of the same problem as Eponine Thenardier, so in love with the handsome Marius. However, Marius only had eyes for Cosette, and all Eponine was to him was a friend. I'd seen Les Miserables so many times I had the entire show memorized. Not only was it my mother's favorite show, but it was also the first role, that of Eponine, she'd received when she auditioned for the real deal Broadway. Back before she married my dad and popped out twins between touring with "Mamma Mia" and "Guys and Dolls." And Eponine definitely fit me. I just hoped that I wouldn't be killed by taking a letter to the man I was in love with, a letter written by her.
I was hopelessly and devastatingly in love with Carlin Thompson. I had been since I was twelve years old, when we'd been thrown together for a community service project sponsored by our junior high academy. I was sent to the academy because both Sarah and I were rather talented. It's a simple fact. We both inherited our mother's incredible singing voice. Carlin, however, wasn't so much a performer as just incredibly intelligent. The academy catered to talents and intelligence equally, but the twain never met much, if at all. So the fact that a boy taking college level mathematics and sciences would be paired with a girl taking musical theory and voice lessons (but who had such horrible stage fright that she could never perform without throwing up twice and looking as if she'd been caught in the headlights) was highly unusual.
But Carlin was game, and he was enthusiastic and warm where I was shy and apathetic. He managed to coax me out of my shell enough to actually get involved with volunteering at the soup kitchens. To be honest, my shy nature wasn't one to be overcome so easily. I did it because Carlin was a thirteen year old hottie, and I was completely attracted to him. Sarah was jealous of me, though she never let it cause a sore point between us, and constantly used my ensuing friendship with Carlin to flirt with him. But Sarah's interests shifted, as they always do, and Carlin and I were left to nurture an amazing friendship.
Sarah, being my older twin by twenty minutes, would always be my closest friend and true confidant. But Carlin was a close second. I didn't have quite the same freedom as I did with Sarah, but it was close enough. He knew me almost as well as Sarah did, except for one simple fact.
He didn't know I was head over heels in love with him. And even if he did, he most likely would think it all a grand joke, tickle my ribs, and ruffle my hair, saying, "Don't you know you deserve someone so much better than me?"
It hurt, knowing that even if I did tell him of my feelings, nothing would change. People talk about how they're afraid of telling their friend of their feelings, because what if they reject you and your friendship suffers? Sure, that would be bad, but the alternative? So incredibly worth it. And it means there's some reaction. With Carlin... there would be nothing. Indifference is the opposite of love. Not hate. At least if he hated me I would at least know there's something there besides bland affection.
That's why it was my Eponine Complex. Mostly because I was so in love with him, and he would never see me as anything but his little friend. I wasn't even sure he considered me his best friend. Just a close friend he's known for ten years.
And of course, as it is an Eponine Complex, there has to be another woman involved. It just wouldn't be right without that cliché. My Marius' Cosette's name was Danielle Tetra, and she was beautiful, smart, and the nicest person ever. I always hated it when I read books and the man always chose the bitchy woman over the nice girl who was haplessly in love with him. Of course, what I didn't realize was that it was even worse when the girl was nice. It was incredibly hard to dislike Danielle, as she went out of her way to be kind to me. So, of course, I had to be nice back to her.
It was my Eponine Complex, and I had to sit and watch in pain as Carlin stood next to Danielle in front of the church, and pledged to always love, honor, and cherish her. I felt the tears spring to my eyes as he said those words, gazing with a look of utter adoration at the woman he was marrying. The woman that wasn't me. My tears of pain were most likely interpreted as tears of happiness at the beautiful tableau.
Sarah knew better. She knew more about my Eponine complex more than anyone, even my mother. "Don't look so sad, Gracie," she whispered in my ear. "Or Carlin will know something's wrong."
I pulled out a tissue and wiped my eyes, hoping my eyeliner hadn't smudged. That was the last thing I needed, to draw attention to myself in such a way. I stuffed it back in my purse and watched as Danielle repeated her vows. They kissed, and everyone clapped at the handsome couple. The wedding recessional played, and the newlyweds strode down the aisle, the grooms and bridesmaids trailing behind. Sarah grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
"Please don't cry too hard, Gracie," she said. "I hate to see you so upset."
I didn't answer. My voice would probably crack, and I didn't want anyone else to notice my misery. How selfish was I, that I couldn't even be happy for the guy I was in love with when he found love?
Sarah shook her head, and followed the push of the crowd to greet the couple. I shivered as I stood between the pews. It wasn't cold, and I was wearing a long sleeved linen jacket. But for some reason I couldn't feel any warmth. I hadn't since Carlin told me he was marrying Danielle Tetra, now Danielle Tetra-Thompson.
After the rest of the guests had exited the sanctuary, I looked up at the altar, and behind it, the cross. My family wasn't very religious, but we made a trip to church every Easter and Christmas and sometimes when my grandparents visited from Ohio. I wondered if God was playing some cosmic joke on me. Why should I have to be so deeply in love with someone who didn't seem to care too much for me? Oh, I knew Carlin cared, but he didn't love me. In any way. He wouldn't give his life for me, should the occasion call for it.
I turned away from the cross, and edged into the aisle. As I turned to leave, I caught a glance of somebody in all black up in the choir balcony. I stopped in my tracks and squinted. I couldn't make out his features, except that it was definitely a man. He was packing something in a big black case, and I wondered if it was one of the members of the string quartet that Carlin had hired.
The man seemed to notice someone was looking at him, and he moved to the very edge of the balcony and looked over the railing. I saw blonde hair, and little else. I was still too close to the front of the church. He waved at me, and picked up his case. He made his way to the door that led to the stairs, and disappeared. I shook my head, and went into the Narthex, where there was still a long line of guests greeting Carlin and Danielle and hugging and congratulating them.
I saw Sarah, and snuck into line with her. As I did so, I caught two people coming out of the stairwell, both holding their instrument cases. One was a woman with fiery red hair, and carrying what I guessed to be a viola case. The other was a man with spiky blonde hair, carrying a cello case. I guessed it was the man who saw me, as he winked at me. I felt my face flush. How did he know it was me? I guess it was pretty obvious. My royal blue dress was pretty distinctive.
"Who's that?" Sarah asked, noticing any cute guy within a mile radius. It was her specialty. "One of the strings?"
"Guess so," I replied with a mutter. She rolled her eyes at my lack of enthusiasm. Sarah was the one who was boy crazy. I was the one who was crazy for one boy.
That boy who was now beaming at Sarah and I like his wildest dreams had come true. And they probably had. "Sarah, Gracie, I'm so happy you were able to make it!" He gushed, pulling us both into hugs respectively.
"Of course we made it. What's another boring family reunion to our good friend's one and only wedding?" Sarah was much more eloquent than I was. She hugged Danielle. "We wouldn't miss it for anything."
"You two look so alike yet are so different," Danielle said, glancing at the two of us. We weren't identical, but we looked enough alike that before we developed our personal dress styles that we'd been mistaken many, many times. Sarah was trendy. I tended a more understated, almost gothic look. Gothic only because I preferred darker, less flashy colors. "You both look lovely."
My blue dress, topped with the black linen jacket, was understated and almost plain compared to Sarah's bright floral halter dress that ended two inches above her knee. It was almost painful, looking at the two of us. Sarah would always get the attention, and I didn't mind. I liked not being the focus of attention.
"We'll talk more at the reception," Carlin promised. I nodded, and followed Sarah outside into the summer air. I shivered again, even though the heat was almost oppressive. Carlin's family, as well as ours, were rather well-to-do. That meant the reception was going to be just on par with a royal ball.
Sure enough, two hours later (when the reception was due to start), Sarah and I found ourselves in one of the nicest reception halls in New York City, with fresh orchid arrangements at every table, and expensive silverware and china at each setting. The name cards were embossed in gold and the names were hand written in scrolling calligraphy. The same string quartet was setting up on the stage, along with a DJ, no doubt to have the right mix of classical for the older set and the new rock and dance for the younger set.
Sarah and I took our seats, and I sipped at the water nervously. The other guests were filtering in, gazing in wonder at the five tiered wedding cake and the almost ostentatious decoration. Finally, the wedding party was announced, and they swept in gracefully, with the red bridesmaid dresses that looked more like red dyed wedding dresses and the black tuxedos all fancy. I dropped my head in my hands. I had no idea if I could do this.
I suffered through the speeches and the gaiety, and finally, tables were excused one by one to get their food. Instead of waiting patiently like Sarah, talking to a few of our other schoolmates, I excused myself and ran for the bar. Open bars were my friend.
I soon lost track of the time as I tipped back each subsequent mixed drink. I was pretty sure I was getting tipsy, as I didn't even realize that the dollar dance was being announced. The DJ took over for the string quartet, which had played during dinner and for the couple's first dance and the father-daughter, mother-son dance. Sarah was no doubt in line with a hundred given to her by our father. He gave me, one, too, as he was most oblivious to my Eponine Complex. My mother, being smart, said I could just bring it back home and she'd slip it back in his wallet without him even knowing. She knew I wouldn't be able to bring myself to dance with Carlin.
So I was sipping at my fourth Fuzzy Navel when the blonde cellist wandered over to the bar. It was still too early in the evening for the rest of the lushes to grab their drinks for the night.
"Hey there," he said to the bartender, in a buddy-buddy voice. "I'll have a Rum and Coke."
He caught my glance, and turned to me. "Oh, hello. What are you doing over here?"
"Drinking," I said, pretty sure my sarcasm was in fine form tonight.
"Well, obviously." He let out a noise that sounded suspiciously like a snort. He took his rum and coke and sat on the stool next to mine. "How come you aren't lining up to dance with the groom?"
"Because I'd rather shove an ice pick in my eye," I said, not one to mince words.
I saw him wince, and shook his head. He took a sip of his drink. "You are a bitter one, aren't you?"
I didn't dignify him with a response, just stared at him. He was tall, and slender. He had musicians hands, cupping around his glass all graceful-like. His eyes were most peculiar, as I looked closer. One was a brownish-green, almost hazel. The other was solid, almost grass green. I don't think I'd ever seen anyone with two different colored eyes before.
"Well, can I buy you a drink, then?"
"It's an open bar," I retorted.
"Well, can I order you a drink, then?" His mouth quirked at the corner, and I felt irritated that he found me amusing.
"Because if you're this bitter only after one drink, then more will surely liven up the mood."
"It's my fourth."
The man's eyebrow's shot straight up to his hairline. Great, now he thought I was a lush. I wasn't usually one to be so conversational with a stranger, so I turned back towards my drink. I wasn't very outgoing, and was rather shy, but I still could be bitchy with the best of them when I was in a bad mood.
"What's wrong, then?" He asked, his tone now different.
"None of your business."
"Well, maybe not, but I hate to see a pretty girl upset."
I don't know why I said what I did next. It was so out of character for me, even being raised around opulence like I was. But I reacted strangely when guys flirted with me, or I thought they were flirting with me. I knew, somewhere, that I was pretty. After all, I couldn't help but see how beautiful Sarah was, and I was practically identical to her. But I didn't really believe it. So I lashed out, in the worst possible way. "Go away. You're just the hired help."
The man actually pulled back, away from me when I said that. His eyes went even wider. "Okay then," he said, very quietly. I glanced at him through the curtain of brown hair, and saw he looked incredibly hurt. I felt horrible for being such a snooty bitch. He stood up, drink still in hand, and walked away, definitely lacking a spring in his step.
"You're such a bitch, Gracie Dasher," I said to myself and my drink.
"The first step is admitting you have a problem," the bartender said. He grinned at me, and handed me another drink.
"God, do I ever. The question is, which one is worse? Unrequited love? Snooty bitchiness, or a precursor to alcoholism?"
The bartender shrugged, and wiped at the counter. "Don't turn this into one of those movie shticks where you unload all your problems on me, kay?"
Man. If there was anything worse than rich people's opulence, it was the fact that their bartenders were just as bitchy as me.
Author's Note: Unfortunately, my laptop crashed and with it, most of the next chapter of Fragile as We Lie. Fear not, my dad is extracting my files from my hard drive. It's going to take some time as we're all busy with the impending holidays, so as a break from practicing for my final juries I started writing this little piece. Of course, I always have to write about musicians, it seems. I guess it's that whole write what you know thing?
Anyway, this is probably going to be ansty in parts, humorous in others, sweet in yet others... and just a whole mixed bag for you. I tend to do that anyway in my writing. I hope it will be, anyway! Let me know what you think.