Olivia stood outside the studio eying the door handle. It had been five days since she had left the hospital. Today was her first day back to dance. Yesterday had been her first day back to school. She wasn't at all prepared for her peers' reaction to her homecoming. The whole time she felt like she was watching someone else's life. Like a really bad made for t.v. movie with no pause button. People whispering, teachers smiling compassionately. It's ironic how people that didn't even like her were suddenly welcoming her home, as though she was their dearest friend. The next day wasn't any different.
All the events of the past five days played through her head as she stood in front of that door. Finally she swung the door open and stepped inside. The lobby was empty of dancers. Only dance bags scattered here and there. The picture of the little girl and her pointe shoes was crooked as always. And the last bit of sunlight was seeping in from the cracks between the blinds.
She journeyed down the narrow hall toward the students' lounge. She dropped her bag down on the bench. She wriggled out of her jacket and slipped off her yoga pants. She grabbed her ballet shoes and skirt from her bag and put them on. She hurried to the back room, fixing the pins holding back strands of hair.
When she entered the room they were all standing at the barre' going over a barre' exercise. They barely acknowledged her as she found her place at the barre'. "Hello Olivia" Mrs.Emma said. A few of her friends waved or said hello but for the most part they were engrossed in the combination. It was as if she had never left.
"You should have seen your face Soph" Carson said, in between laughing. Class had just ended and the dancers were making their way to the students' lounge. "Hey! I can't help it, Dean was just about to drop me" she shot back. "It's okay Sophie! They just wish they could make faces like that" Meredith said, placing her hand on Sophie's shoulder. Olivia laughed.
How strange it was for them to hear her laugh, to see her face, just to know she was there. For a time they feared that the next time they would see her would be in a coffin. And now here they, together again. Like it should be.
"In all the time I've known you, I've never seen you look so scared" Olivia noted, a nostalgic grin on her face. "You try almost getting your head busted" Sophie quipped. "Ugghh" Carson whined. They all shot her a look of confusion. Carson slammed her pointe shoe in her bag. "I tape my toes, and I tape my toes, and I still get blisters" she vented. "I'm telling you, it's because you use too many pads. You need to build callouses" Meredith reminded her. "Yeah, yeah! I'm going to get some band-aids from the office" Carson said, playfully stomping her way out.
Meredith shook her head as untied her own pointe shoes. Sophie sat down on the carpeted floor and straddled her legs against the wall in a stretch. Carson burst into the room, band-aids in hand. "Go play in traffic" she sarcastically said to Sophie. "I love you too" Sophie replied, the cheesy smile of a five year old on her face. "I remember we used to have contests to see who was more flexible" Olivia remembered. "Gee, I wonder who would win" Meredith teased. "Carson won a couple of times" Sophie interjected. "And oh how I loved rubbing it in your face when I did" Carson added, carefully placing the band-aids on her blistered feet. "The first sleepover we had we all waited until you feel asleep to see if you slept in a perfect split" Olivia said. Everyone laughed uncontrollably.
They didn't even notice that everyone except for the teachers had already left. Pretty soon they were all ready to leave themselves. "Hey! We should all go shopping tomorrow!" Meredith suggested, swinging her dance bag over her shoulder. "I am so in!" Carson exclaimed. "Me too! I could pick you all up" Sophie offered. "Sounds like fun" Olivia replied. "Is 10 good with y'all? I want to get there before all the good sales are gone" Meredith said. They nodded in response. "See ya tomorrow" Olivia said as she walked out the door. They watched her as she disappeared out the door. "She's a walking miracle" Sophie said. "You can say that again" Carson replied, her hand on Sophie's shoulder. "Well I guess I should be leaving" Carson added. "Bye!" Meredith and Sophie called after her. "I need to talk to Mr.Lars about my solo, I'll see you tomorrow" Meredith said. "See you!" Sophie replied. Sophie left.
Once she had gone Meredith hurried to the office and knocked on the door. Mr.Lars opened the door. "They're all gone" he said, smirking. She beamed. He pulled her close to him, kissing her intensely
How could something so wrong, feel so right she thought. Meredith had never thought their age difference was a big deal. In fact she liked that he was older than her. He was more mature and stable than most guys her age. The first time she saw him she was completely transfixed by the sight of him. His broad shoulders, his surfer hair. But it was his overwhelming personality that really hooked her.
When he was done he gently rested his head against her's. "What are you doing tomorrow?" he asked. "Well I have plans for the afternoon, but I'm free after that" she replied. "Great! My place at 6?" "Perfect". He ran his his hand slowly over her cheek, which made her blush sightly. "I love when you blush" he gushed. He kissed her one last time and she was gone, letting the door slam.
Once he was sure she has gone he hurried towards the back door. He opened it and motioned to Carson, who was waiting in her car. She got out of her car, locking it behind herself. "I love when you get to lock up the studio" she exclaimed, as she walked to him. "Me too" he said, reaching for her. He kissed her, no differently than he had Meredith. She pulled back from him. "Hey! What are you doing tomorrow night?" she asked. "Tomorrow night my parents are coming for dinner" he fibbed. "Awww, that's too bad" she pouted. "I know! But maybe Sunday night!" he suggested. "Sounds good!".
"So what do you think?". Carson was prancing in front of Meredith and Olivia in a powder blue off the shoulder sweater. "Oh I'm in love with that color" Meredith said, her eyes big. "Wait! What color?" Sophie yelled from inside a changing room. "Powder blue" they yelled back. "Oh pretty!". "I like it, but I think it washes you out a little" Olivia observed, her chin resting in the palm of her hand. "Really?" Carson exclaimed. "Yeah! I think a nice jewel tone would be better on you". Carson thought about Olivia's remark for a second, then started to head back to her dressing room, when Sophie came out.
She was wearing a strapless knee-length blush-colored dress. She spun around in a girly fashion. "Love it, or hate it?". "Love" Olivia, Meredith, and Carson exclaimed in unison. "What is it for?" Meredith questioned. "Oh, no reason! Just wanted to see how it would look" Sophie replied. "Well it looks amazing" Carson assured her. "Are you sure it's not for a guy? Say, my brother" Olivia said, trying to appear nonchalant.
Sophie's face turned scarlet. "Uh no! What makes you think I like your brother?" Sophie protested. Olivia got up and started looking at some mini skirts. "I never said you liked him". "Is there something I'm missing?" Meredith asked, her arms crossed. "Nothing" Sophie answered her quickly. "My brother and Sophie are in like with each other" Olivia blurted out. Sophie rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Oh come on Sophie! We've all seen how you two look at each other" Carson told her. "So? A look doesn't mean much!" Sophie said, not quite sure whether she was telling them that or herself. "You know it would be kinda epic if y'all did start dating, and then y'all got married and we would be sis-in-laws" Olivia said excitingly. "Awww I wish I had a brother you could marry" Carson said. "While I would love to be sister-in-laws with all of you, I don't plan on marrying anyone's brother" Sophie informed them. "But you have to admit it wouldn't be such a burden to date Ian" Meredith added with a flirtatious wink. "I never said it would be a burden" she said, contemplating her reflection in the full-length mirror.
"Speaking of burdens, how's the soon-to-be step-sister?" Sophie asked, slyly changing the subject. "Out of sight, and out of mind. Well, until you just mentioned her" Meredith sarcastically answered. "How do you feel about a new step-dad?" Carson asked. "If he wasn't Bianca's father he'd be great. He's relaxed, funny, nice, not at all like her".
Olivia picked up a magenta halter top and swiftly threw it at Meredith. "Here! Try this on, it's so you!" said Olivia. Meredith gave it a once over and then shot Olivia a look. "Okay, maybe it's more me, but you'll look great in it" she assured her. Meredith reluctantly headed towards a dressing room, the halter top in hand.
Carson took one last look at herself in the sweater and then went back to her changing room as well. Olivia edged her way to Sophie, who was still evaluating the dress in the mirror. "Hey! I'm sorry for embarrassing you about my brother" Olivia spoke barely above a whisper. Sophie looked up at Olivia's image in the mirror. "It's fine, don't worry about it!" Sophie replied, in a similar tone. "Listen! I can tell that you and Ian have grown closer since I went missing. I can also tell that you feel a little guilty over it, but I want you to know that you shouldn't feel guilty, I understand" Olivia confided. "You're a pretty remarkable person, you know that?" Sophie said. "Yeah, I know" Olivia joked. "You don't know how many times I wished I could talk to you". Sophie could feel her eyes beginning to fill with tears. "Stop that crying right now. You can't get this dress wet or you'll have to pay for it". Sophie laughed exuberantly at Olivia's quip.
Suddenly Meredith burst out of the dressing room in the halter top Olivia chose for her. "Whoa" Sophie exclaimed. "Please tell me that's a good whoa" Meredith replied anxiously, her arms slightly swinging by her side. "Yes, it's a good whoa" Sophie assured her. "See! I told you it would look great it you".
Carson finally emerged from her dressing room back in her skinny jeans and purple flowy blouse. "You look great" Carson gushed. "Okay, it's decided! I'm getting it" Meredith announced. "Great! Does that mean we can leave and check out the other stores?" Olivia asked eagerly. "I'm ready to leave I just need to change" Sophie said as she disappeared into her changing room. Meredith followed suit. "Hey Car! I need to go call my mom, I told her I'd check in every once in a while, I'm just going outside for a minute" Olivia informed Carson. Carson nodded.
Olivia sauntered towards the door, the bell sounding to announce her departure. Carson wrigled her phone out of her back back pocket. One new message. It was from Lars. "I miss you baby". She smiled coyly at her phone when she read his message. "What are you smiling at?". Carson snapped her head up to see Sophie standing in front of her, her slender arms folded neatly. "Oh nothing". "Is it you know who?" Sophie questioned. "Yes. And don't say that out loud" Carson whispered. "I'm sure no one knows who I'm talking about" she replied.
Meredith popped out of her changing room. "Okay, I'm ready" she said. Meredith made her way to the check out, Carson and Sophie in tow. Meredith had just paid when Carson glanced out the store window to see Olivia talking to someone around the corner. She waited anxiously to see who it was. Olivia appeared agitated, almost mad. Carson nudged Sophie and Meredith. "Look!". They turned their attention to Olivia outside. Then the person around the corner came into view, it was Dean. He stormed off, headed to the parking lot.
None of them were quite sure what they had just witnessed. They didn't have much time analyst it when Olivia walked back into the store. They pretended to be looking at some things up at the counter while she made her way to them. "Hey! Y'all ready?" she asked. "Yeah" Meredith said, looking from Sophie to Carson. They all filed out of the store towards the main mall. Sophie, Meredith, and Carson keeping a watchful eye on Olivia.
"When will I ever remember that it's the Burger Hut that puts the weird spice blend on their fries". Olivia shook the spices off of her fries as though they were diseased. The other watched her carefully. None of them had mentioned what they saw earlier. They thought maybe Olivia would say something about Dean, but she never did. Instead she browsed through each and every store like nothing had happened. They weren't overly shocked by her totally zen nature afterwards, seeing as she had hardly been fazed be her own disappearance almost three weeks ago, at least to the naked eye. How could she not just break down after whatever it was, had happened. Or better yet, not knowing what had happened.
So here they were. Sophie sifting through her salad. Carson stirring her soda. Meredith swirling her pasta with her fork. And Olivia, with her weirdly spice fries. "So do you remember anything?" Carson inquired.
They were all a little taken back by Carson's sudden inquiry. "Like I told Sophie, I remember pieces"." And what is that exactly?" Sophie pushed further, seeing as the door was already cracked. Olivia stopped playing with her fries and brushed the spices off of her hands. "Well, I remember being in the woods and trying to find my way out, and then seeing you and Ian". "But you still don't know what happened to you?" Meredith asked. Olivia shook her head. "Do you think you were kidnapped?" Carson boldly inquired. They all were desperate to know the answer to that question, but cautious not to let their faces say so. "Hmmm good question, I'll get back to you when my memory comes back" she snared. "Sorry" Carson mumbled. "Liv, we saw you and Dean" Sophie admitted. Olivia stared questioningly at Sophie. "Yeah! So what! I ran into him". "You seemed pretty mad at him" Carson added. "Maybe he was asking too many questions". She was practically glaring. "I'm sorry, it's really none of our business. It's just sorta odd that we'd see the two of you fighting and then you act so secretive about everything" said Sophie, trying her best to calm the situation. "Yeah, you're right. It is none of your business. Was this the reason y'all wanted to hang out today? So you could pry me for information!". They all shook their head. Olivia quickly stood up, grabbing her purse and coat. "I'm leaving. I'll call Ian to give me a ride". "Olivia! Don't go!" Carson called after her. But it was too late, she was already head out with no intentions of turning back. Meredith leaned back in her seat letting out a deep sigh. "Well that was a nice lunch".
Ding dong rang the door bell. It was a few hours later and Sophie was growing even more worried about Olivia by the minute. She wasn't worried about her being angry, more so why. What could they have been talking about that she couldn't share with them. But she wasn't here for answers right now, just to make peace.
"Hey! I wasn't expecting you". Ian seemed more delighted than surprised to see her, if truth be told. "Haven't you ever heard? Expect the unexpected". He laughed amusingly at her reply. "I guess you're here to see Olivia". "You would be right". "She told me what happened, by the way". "We really weren't meaning to pry". "I know that, Don't take it personally, she's been pretty testy whenever someone questions her about her disappearance". "Actually she seemed madder when we question her about Dean". A puzzled look swept over Ian's face. "She didn't tell you?". "No. She just said y'all kept bugging her about what she remembered".
"Ian, who's at the door?" sang Olivia's voice from the house. Olivia came bounding into the foyer. She stopped when her eyes feel on Sophie standing shyly on the porch. "Hi" Sophie greeted, with a friendly wave. "I'll let you two talk" Ian said, heading to his room. "Come in" Olivia said, closing the door behind her. "I came to apologize". "I'm sorry but you won't get the chance". Sophie carefully tucked her hair back, preparing to go a head anyways. "Because I'm the one who needs to apologize" explained Olivia. Olivia was nothing if not full of surprises. "You are?". "Yes. I completely overreacted. I stormed out of there like a child". "It's okay. We shouldn't have been so pushy". Olivia smiled appreciatively.
"How about some coffee" she offered, motioning to the kitchen. "I would love some". The two of them walked into the Webbs' kitchen. It was a good size kitchen, with an island and bar stool in the center. Olivia pulled two beige mugs out of the cabinet and sat them down on the island. "You still take your coffee the same way?" Olivia asked, as she scooped coffee into the coffee maker. "Of course" she answered. Olivia plopped down on one of the stools and patted one to her right, meaning for Sophie to take a seat. "I heard your brother Ted is back in town" Olivia mentioned. "Yeah, he's been back since Saturday" Sophie informed her. "Talk about ironic" Olivia said, referring to her homecoming. "I know, pretty weird huh. Maybe Alanis Morsiette can write a song about it" Sophie quipped. "Don't tell me, he was wearing a purple dress too" Olivia teased. Sophie flashed back to Meredith's confession in the hospital bathroom. "No, his was red" Sophie sarcastically replied. "Your hair looks great by the way" Sophie added. Olivia non-chalantly ran her hand over her glossy bobbed hair. "Thank you".
"Can I ask you something?" Sophie asked. "Sure". "What happened between lunch, and now?" Sophie questioned. "What do you mean?" Olivia shot back as she got up to get their coffee. "Well, at lunch you were kinda guarded about discussing your disappearance, and you're joking about the whole ordeal" Sophie explained, watching Olivia tediously pour her coffee. "I cam home, vented to Ian, watched a few soap operas. And I got over it. Simple as that" Olivia said, handing Sophie her coffee. "Really?" Sophie asked. "Really" Olivia echoed.
Sophie took a shallow sip of her coffee. "Where's your parents?" Sophie questioned. "At the police station" Olivia replied. Sophie nodded, although inside she was praying that they weren't there to talk about bringing herself in for more questioning.
Then out of nowhere Ian came rushing into the kitchen. "Hey Liv! Mom and dad just called, the police have some possible evidence they want you to look at".