On The Answer

A while back, Frank offered up a dance step writing challenge to me. (Here’s his post) Which I’m dishing up now, in a somewhat different look. 

Hannah sat on the glossy wooden bench on the auditorium stage and waited for her name to be called. She prayed for a cataclysm to save her- a grease fire in the cafeteria or maybe a meteor landing right on the football field. Either would suffice.

“Hannah Verlander!”

Miss Favisham peered over her canasta readers as a faux ruby chain swung lazily across her graying temples. Her beady eyes followed Hannah to the center of the stage before she barked out another name, “Zachary Davis!”

Hannah’s silver low heels clicked across the stage as Zachary’s caramel Oxfords clacked. She wore a jade flare dress in honor of Ginger Rogers, letting her blonde hair roam across its silky pasture. Zachary looked like a mannequin in his starched white dress shirt and gray slacks, no doubt the ensemble chosen by his Barbie doll girlfriend, Jenna Sinclair.

They took their places as a smattering of students and teachers looked on. Chuck Berry’s Gibson punctured the silence and when his pipes started advancing their soulful method, Hannah’s leg kicked high into a stomp. She took Berry’s twelve bars worth of sound and raised it as Zachary followed along with the slightest hint of a crush creasing his face.

Two steps to Venus and four steps to his Mars and six steps to the Milky Way and then eight steps towards the Sun, and then . . .

Hannah didn’t even feel herself losing gravity until she was spilled across the stage. She quickly rose up, rejecting her dance partner’s assistance as she looked out into the audience to find Jenna weeping with delight along with her eleventh grade coven. She raced off the stage and ran as if the world would never catch her.

“Hannah!” Aunt Lily yelled up the stairs before climbing them and banging on her door.

“What?!” Hannah shouted.

“Open this door if you value your social life!”

Hannah flung the door open before jumping back into bed.

“I’m confused, are you sixteen . . . or six? Because that was the lamest act I’ve seen since my first husband,”

“You made me try out! And now you’re making fun of me?!”

“I’m talking about how you ran away, Hannah!”

“What was I supposed to do? Stand there and listen to them laugh at me?”

“Stand up, Hannah. You stand up and you take it from the top. You don’t quit when things go wrong, you fight. Your mother was a fighter, and so are you,”

“Yeah, well mom’s dead. And I got you as a replacement . . . lucky me,”

“Here, you left these on the bench when you played chicken shit,” Aunt Lily said as she placed Hannah’s glasses on her dresser. “You’re welcome,” 

“I hate you!” Hannah shouted.

“Good to know. It’ll make things less awkward when I sue your ass for back payments when you’re rich and famous,” Aunt Lily said as she slammed the door behind her.

Hannah rose from the bed, plugged in her playlist and danced madly . Step . . and reach for Orion’s favorite swing. Step . . and kick Poseidon out of bed. Step . . and open the windows of Curacao. Step . .  and jump into the universe. 

She stuck every landing.

It had been six months since Hannah’s epic fail, and she was trying out for the spring musical. Zachary had talked her into this one. They began dating shortly after he told Jenna he wasn’t interested in her modern day Athena act.

Outside of her bedroom, the only dancing Hannah had done since that forgettable November afternoon had been with Zachary: In her backyard after date nights, in the gym after one of his basketball games and in the middle of a snow covered street on Valentine’s Day.

Miss Favisham called her to the stage, alone this time. Hannah looked over the small assemblage to find Aunt Lily and Zachary throwing silly faces in her direction. And then the music started and then Hannah forgot all about November.

One step to my favorite song . . two will make him mine . . three steps ventured, four steps gained and five will be divine. Steps five to four will be the chance, steps four to three my bad romance, steps three to two will make them weep, steps two to one are mine to keep. 

When her feet finally touched down again, the audience collected itself in a momentary gasp before rising to their feet in raucous applause. Aunt Lily wooted as Zachary hollered while Miss Favisham whistled with delight. And several rows back, there was Jenna Sinclair, clapping wildly.

Hannah and Aunt Lily sat on the porch and waited for Zachary to pick her up for Senior Prom. They talked about the future: Zachary was going to Iowa State on a basketball scholarship while Hannah would be attending Iowa where she would major in English and Creative Writing.

“Aunt Lily . . I’m scared. Of what comes next,”

“Good. That’s a good thing. It means that whatever comes next is worth it,” She smiled.

“But what if I’m not good enough when I get out there?”

“Oh, you’ll probably get knocked down a time or two. Just remember to stand up, and take it from the top,”

“Yeah but this is different,” Hannah said.

“Kiddo, the challenges we face in life don’t really change as we get older. The rooms just get bigger is all,”

*****

That evening at the dance, Hannah and Zach took to the dance floor to say goodbye to yesterday, one last time before tomorrow called. She trembled with a thrill only he could provoke in her.

He led, holding to her with a strength that settled her. Each step they took was wisdom, each sway a branch of memories they’d prospered, each turn a photograph whose manifest was written in the cursive of stardust. He supplied the path and she supplied the bloom. 

It was Oakdale High School’s 25th High School Reunion. Hannah and Zach had flown in from Chicago for the week to spend time with his family in the lead up. They were local celebrities: She was a renowned author and he coached the men’s basketball team at Northwestern.

Hannah sat at the end of that same glossy wooden bench and looked out over the darkened auditorium. No longer the clumsy, bespectacled little girl with knobby knees, she wondered where the time had gotten to. She smiled at the thought of finding the right dance partner on an otherwise forgettable November afternoon.

“Hey funny face,” Zach said as he walked to his spot on the stage.

Hannah took his cue, moving into position ten feet to his left, preparing herself for the point of contact that would move two worlds into one. They came together in a slow dance with Zach leading her from one step into the next. She no longer needed to recite the steps in her head. She knew them by heart.

“How did you know I was the one?” She whispered in his ear.

“Because you were quick on the draw, and you had a great ass,” Zach laughed.

They came together in a kiss that was interrupted by Hannah’s one time nemesis, Jenna Sinclair. Now a reporter for The Des Moines Register, she was hoping to get a few minutes with the best selling author from their hometown. Zach gave Hannah a kiss before heading back down the hall to the gymnasium as the girls had their sit down.

“I would ask how you guys met but I already know that part,” Jenna began. They both cracked up with this, a million miles removed from high school intrigues.

And when the interview got serious, Hannah shared her story of being on the spectrum and of taking speech therapy and how writing had set her free. She talked about losing her mother while still in elementary school and how her Aunt Lily raised her; turning a lost child into a free spirit of a young woman. She talked of how Aunt Lily had lost her battle with cancer five years ago, but how her lessons prevailed.

“She’s how I met Zach. She’s how you and me made our peace. She’s what made me come back in this auditorium and try again. She’s what made me keep sending out my work, in spite of all the rejection letters. And whenever I feel as if I hit a wall, I just think back on her words . . and they guide me,”

“Just remember to stand up. And take it from the top,”

 

45 thoughts on “On The Answer

  1. B,

    I so love when you accept a challenge! This is miles and miles away from Frank’s – as I would expect from you (can’t wait to see Frank’s reaction, so I’ll have to come back and snoop 😉 )

    Your writing is spectacular, your words delicious and you make us feel all the emotions your character is going through.

    Your choice of music is perfection, using the pieces to add to the parts of the story, giving us that extra emotional oomph.

    And can I say I adore Aunt Lily? Would that all of us had that one person who was there through thick and thin with wisdom and love and ready to cheer us on through it all!

    Again, beautifully done, Marco. I love your love story.

    Q

    Liked by 1 person

    • Q,

      I went all over the map with my ideas, scenarios and yes, with my steps . . to get to this story about a girl and her heroes.

      The steps she recites in her head come from a time when I would do something similar in order to shut out the peripherals. It focused me on the objective.

      NF and Sara were the easy gets. The other ones kind of fell into place as I thought about the situations.

      Aunt Lily was Hannah’s champion. And this is where a more fleshed out version would have explained her failed marriages and how she succeeded in the one job that ended up counting most of all.

      Thank you, thank you and MUAH for the encouragement!

      B

      Liked by 1 person

      • So weird. I didn’t get a notification that you had commented, only that you had liked… I thought it weird as the two go together and here is your comment! Damn those WP gremlins!

        You danced through this more than well, lemme tell you!

        I wanted to mention that I loved the step-counting in her head – maybe I should try that technique when I’m being hounded by outside stuff!

        Well, as per, you found the right ones for the right spots to bring it all together. You have a knack not only for the written word but for the musical accompaniment.

        Aunt Lily was her angel on earth. I don’t think, for the purposes of this story that Lily’s background was all that important, only that she had the wisdom to impart and did so. Course, if you want to do another story just about Lily, I won’t object!!

        Always in your corner… MWAH right back!

        Liked by 1 person

        • They’ve been showing up more and more. I was locked out of the blog a few days ago.

          Well, that was the challenge. 😉

          The step counting is a real thing. She being a fan of numbers, she paints them in different personalities. They behave as fluid security blankets.

          Graziano! It was easy on a couple and the others just spoke up when I needed ’em.

          Aunt Lily IS a story unto herself, ain’t she? I could definitely do one just about her, and how she got to where she got.

          M.U.A.H!

          Liked by 1 person

          • They have, little a-holes. This one came through, though!

            Yes, it was. And I bet Frank could not possibly imagine yours would go where it would (then again, none of us could, really.)

            Preggoyoyo! Still… I know some search is involved, but it’s nice when the tune pops in your head as you need it.

            She is! You could!

            M.W.A.H. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • I had to change the freaking pw!

            Whenever Frank decides to come back. 🙂

            And of course, Amy. She is always there when I need her in a pinch, and when this song came to mind. Well, apologies to Etta and Sarah, but Amy . . I had to go with her.

            She can! And to think I didn’t have her character in mind when coming up with the idea.

            Good spelling! 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • Da hell? Pain in the ass… Did you know I cannot like or comment on your posts from my phone now? A few of them are like that. I have to go into Reader to do anything. Pain in the arse.

            He might sneak out just for this…

            Amy. And fittingly, Frank. – Come ON!

            Sometimes characters just barge in willy-nilly and, while they don’t take over, they sure make themselves heard!

            Thanks 😉 I try to keep up but it ain’t easy. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • I stopped trying to comment on anything from my phone a while ago. It was an ordeal.

            Hmmm. From his remote, undisclosed locale?

            Of course, but mostly Amy 🙂

            The best characters are the ones who crash the party you were throwing. At least I have found that to be the case over the years. I guess their personalities are such that they forge their own place out of nothing, thus becoming uber interesting stories.

            You do more than just fine. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • It truly is. But I don’t understand why only on some sites.

            Exackery…

            Mostly Amy. All Amy 😉

            This is true. Something I am discovering as I write more. Gonna have to get us another challenge going as that’s when I truly feel I’m trying out my writing chops. (Think that Painted Lady or the Macaroni ones.)

            I try 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

          • WP never let me comment without signing in. Which I thought I was. And then it STILL didn’t let me.

            Highlight the -ery.

            Amy won this round. She’s allowed.

            I was thinking of writing a reverse challenge. I gots to look back, there was one about a woman getting cheated on and I forget what I did for her revenge. But I have another idea, way wilder than the original.

            You do.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, Marc. You writing style is wonderful and you have a gift of weaving wit and charm … and of course, No Sarcasm!

    You had me going because I wasn’t sure of the direction you were going with the story – which (for me) made the ending even better because it tied everything together. Plus your music selections were outstanding. A subtle love story! Well played!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know I keep saying the same thing over and over, but your writing is epic. I feel, I live, I become, just from your words and the way they wrap together. Thank goodness for all the Aunt Lily’s out there who stand-in for all the mothers who can’t, or won’t. I am forever grateful to Arliss, my own Aunt Lily! Thanks for reminding me to remember my own awkward days of fumbling around, standing up, and taking it from the top.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a tissue.

    Liked by 1 person

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