I laughed as I stood in a small circle around my friends at the surprise birthday party they threw for my 30th birthday. Cami had immediately put a “Birthday Girl” sash over my body once we entered the venue. Emerson had a drink ready for me, which I kindly dumped out when he wasn’t looking.
“You’re about to be lit for your dirty 30’s girl,” Cami shouted over the loud music as we all spoke. I smiled and was so thankful that even with the mess everything is in my life, there were some core things in it that remained the same.
I met Emerson when I came to New York for the first time with my dad when I was 17. We were in the same elective class, and we just so happened to talk to each other and become friends in the short amount of time we knew each other. As I got older, I learned that Emerson is my Aunt Jennifer’s grandson, so technically we are related in some way or another. I look over at Emerson, who has his arm around Cami as they talk to the other people at the party. I just hope they get married one day; they were meant for each other.
I feel someone tap my shoulder. I turned around to see it was Scott. I smiled and gave him a hug to greet him.
“Scott! Hey!” I greeted him as I broke the hug. He smiled as he approached me; I was happy to have him here tonight.
“Hey, Grace,” Scott said back. “Happy Birthday! Were you surprised?”
“Oh yeah,” I answered. “Cami had this huge lie planned out that she was secretly hanging out with you and Em didn’t know.” Scott’s eyes widen; clearly, he wasn’t in on the scheme.
“Emerson was in on it? Because if he wasn’t–“
“Oh no, he was,” I reassured Scott. “You and I both know that he loves that girl to death.” It was nice to see someone in my life actually happy with someone they loved. I look at Scott and smile as he speaks. I’m constantly reminded that this man was my high school sweetheart, and here we are now as adults genuinely happy for the paths that we are on.
“So, have you heard back from that company after your audition?” Scott asked. I shook my head no.
“It’s been a couple of weeks as well, so I doubt that I made it in,” I answered. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing nothing but look down at my phone everytime it rang or vibrated in my hand. The wait was making me anxious. I was worried that maybe my time was truly up; I’m literally standing in a venue celebrating my 30th birthday; what would anyone want from a dancer that is way past their prime in thier career? Maybe I should just stay in New York and go back running the academy. Maybe I was just meant to teach dance or manage a business related to dance, but I know a part of me knows that’s still not enough. But, as the weeks pass, the more I accept that maybe this is the end for me as a performer. That’s depressing to think on the day that you enter a new decade of your life.
“Let me buy you a drink,” Scott insisted. I didn’t say anything, and I don’t know why I haven’t said anything to anyone about my sobriety. We are literally in a venue with a bar; I guess it would’ve been weird to tell my friends “yeah, I don’t drink, but it’s cool that you chose a venue with a bar to celebrate my birthday in!” Scott walks to the bar and orders two drinks. I get nervous, trying to think of ways I can take the drink and dump it without anyone seeing me. It was exhausting to have to accept drinks with people thinking you are drinking them and having a good time. I wouldn’t risk my recovery though; not after almost losing everything dear to me–
Well, after losing something dear to me. I refused to allow anything else i loved slip through my fingers because of my alcohol problem.
Scott came back and handed me the drink. The alcohol smell nearly made me nauseous. I smiled through it, trying to hide my anxiety from Scott. He raises his glass, ready to give a toast of some sort.
“To wherever like takes you in your 30’s,” Scott said out loud. I raised my glass and cheered with him. He began to sip on his drink, looking at me as if he was waiting for me to do so. Fuck, Grace; how the fuck are you gonna get out of this one?
All of a sudden, my cellphone rings in my small purse. I look down and reached for it to look at the screen.
“Fuck, sorry I gotta take this; it’s my cousin,” I said. Scott shook his head and smiled.
“I’ll see you around, Grace,” Scott said as he walked away from me. I run towards the front of the venue so that i can actually hear and talk to Skylar on the phone.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Happy birthday, bitch!” Skylar happily said over the phone. I smiled; it was refreshing to hear that Skylar’s been in a good place after everything that happened in the summer.
“Thanks, Sky,” I responded. “How are you holding up? Everything’s going good over there?” Skylar laughs before she says anything back.
“Oh like you don’t know,” Skylar said slyly. I scrunched my eyebrows together and placed the drink on the bench next to me.
“What?” I asked, not understanding where Skylar was taking this conversation.
“I just wanted to call you to wish you a happy birthday, but I definitely don’t want to take away your time with you-know-who,” Skylar went on to explain. I was now confused; Skylar was not making any sense to me.
“Sky, what are you talking about?” The line went silent. I think Skylar finally realized I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Did he not get to you or something?” Sky asked. I was losing patience for Skylar’s cryptic language. I didn’t say anything until she continued. “I thought… I thought he went to you.”
“Jamie,” Skylar finally admitted. I haven’t heard that name or had anyone around me say his name in the time I was in New York. I didn’t expect Skylar of all people to mention his name after everything that happened in California.
“Why would he be in New York?” I asked, anxiously waiting for her answer. I heard Skylar sigh into the phone. “Sky?”
“I’m sorry, I thought when Shawn came to California, Jamie would’ve went to New York–“
“Wait, hold on,” I interrupted Skylar, trying to understanding what was even happening. “Shawn?”
“Yeah, I thought you knew that already. Shawn came to California a couple of weeks ago. He’s staying. He’s looking to get all the paperwork done and stuff to live in America. We’re… working things out,” Skylar confessed. My mind did not process everything that was being said to me. I didn’t know Shawn was coming back for good, and I know Skylar’s the reason he came back. It hasn’t even been three months since they left to go back home, yet Shawn didn’t even hesitate to come back to America. Shawn came back for Skylar because he loves her. I squeezed my eyes shut, wanting nothing but to disappear and never have to have this conversation again. “I’m sorry, I… really thought Jamie was going to New York when Shawn came to California.”
“Listen, Sky; I’m actually out with my friends for my birthday, so I’ll talk to you when I get the chance,” I simply responded. I didn’t want to get into it any further with Skylar and quite frankly, I didn’t want to hear how happy Skylar was. She sounded like she had the whole world in her hands; she technically did if that world was Shawn back in America. How easy was it for him to make the decision to come back to America to be with the woman he loves? Did he go back to Korea and immediately knew he wanted to be with her? Is that what a man does for a woman when he loves her and wants to be with her? Was I just not able to be loved the way that Shawn loves Skylar? I felt sick to my stomach.
I grew angrier the more I thought about it. I was jealous of Skylar. She had her heart broken for 2 months before he went back for her and told her he was now staying for her. She sat with her broken heart and got it out back together, and here I was; traumatized at anyone leaving my life because the person I loved,; the person I thought loved me back, kept leaving for months, even years on end. A man will go after what he loves if he really loved it to begin with.
I looked at the drink next to me, still there just waiting for me to drink it. What’s the fucking point? My life was never meant to be stable; it never was stable to begin with, so why keep trying to make it stable. I grabbed the drink from the bench and swirled it around. You’ll forget tonight even happened, Grace. You’ll forget that you know that Jamie never loved you enough to come back for you, even after he knew it destroyed you.
Before I’m able to taste the alcohol hit my lips, my phone rings again. I stop, looking down at my phone to a phone call from Morgan, my dance instructor from California.
“Hello?” I answered the phone.
“Grace!” Morgan called out. “I apologize if I’m calling you at the wrong time, but I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to let you know this.” I waited for Morgan to tell me whatever she needed to tell me so that I can spend the rest of my night breaking my sobriety; one that only Jamie really knows about. It kills me he’s the only one that knows just how important my sobriety has been to me. Fuck it.
“You got picked for the production,” Morgan spat out. “You’re going to be a part of the biggest dance production in the world, Grace!”
I dumped the drink into the bush behind the bench.
— End of Season 2 —