Catch a star if you can
Wish for something special
Let it be me, my love is free
Sing a song to yourself
Think of someone listening
One melody, you're all for me
-”Are You Ready for Love”
Once I had unpacked, and changed, Evan and Viola told Uncle Taylor they were going to take me to the beach to meet some people. He nodded and reminded us to be back by 6:30 so we could go out to dinner together. I was very excited, because it was warm, and around 3 o’clock and we were going to the beach. I followed Evan and Viola down the long path that lead to the beach, talking happily with them about our relatives back in Tulsa.
“You’re going to like Sting Ray Brenna, he’s really cool. Do you surf?” Viola seemed shocked that I didn‘t know how to surf.
“Sting and Evan can teach you, they’re way better than I am. Sting is the best of all of them really.” Viola pointed to the water where a few surfers were waiting for a wave.
“You can borrow someone’s board.” Evan said motioning to take off my shoes as he and Vi were doing.
“Yeah... Oh, I’ll just keep my shoes on...it’s okay.” I nodded, I didn’t want to meet anyone and have them see my feet. “Okay, but it’s much more difficult to walk in those sandals.” Vi told me carrying her shoes in one hand, letting them dangle as she walked.
I gave in about half way down the beach when I had almost fallen for the fourth time, but I made sure as I walked, my feet were dug deep into the sand. I liked the way the hot sand felt on my bare feet, sifting between my toes. Viola pointed out into the water, “There he is.” I looked out and saw one surfer coming in on a wave, and was rather impressed. I had never been surfing so I had no idea how one would keep their balance on the board. They all looked like dancers on the water almost, weaving in and out of each other’s way like choreography. I smiled as the figure came closer to us, carrying his board under his arm. I couldn’t quite see his face until he was very close because he was walking in front of the sun, but once I could see his face, I wanted to thank Evan and Viola right then and there.
He was beautiful. He had sandy blonde hair that had been bleached at one point, but had grown out so only the tips were platinum, and his eyes. His eyes were a blue that rivaled the color of the ocean. He looked like California.
“Sting Ray, this is my cousin, Brenna...you remember right?” I raised an eyebrow, how could he remember? I’d never met him before.
“Of course,” he held out a hand to me. “You look different than in your pictures...where’s the dress?” I was confused...I looked down, I was wearing a dress. What was he talking about?
Evan laughed, “The only pictures of you we had were your dance pictures,” I nodded. “She doesn’t just wear that dress out or anything Sting...it’s for dancing.” he laughed now, and nodded.
“Your cousins tell me you’re one of the best dancers ever.” he smiled at me waiting for some sort of reaction. When he smiled I wanted to melt into a little puddle.
“They flatter me,” I laughed. Viola pushed me.
“That is such crap, she is so good Sting, she’s as good a dancer as you are a surfer.”
“Then you’re gonna need a nick name,” he leaned toward me and whispered, “my name’s Stephen.”
“My family calls me Tiny Dancer.”
“Well Tiny Dancer,” he said putting his surf board down on the sand. “I think it’s time.”
“Time? Time for what?” he nodded at Evan and Viola. Evan and Stephen picked me up and carried me, running toward the ocean.
“Time for your baptism!” cried Viola chasing after us.
“What?!” I screamed as they tossed me into the ocean fully clothed.
“Ooohhhhhhhh!!” I cried from the surf, but I couldn’t think of anything to say, I was so happy and I was laughing so hard I thought I might wet my pants.
I wiped my stringy, wet hair from my eyes and went tearing up the beach after them.
When I caught up with the three of them we were all laughing, and I dropped to my knees in the sand.
“I needed that.”
“I know.” Evan smiled dragging me to my feet. “Now, let’s get going, you have to get cleaned up before we go out to dinner.” I looked down at myself, went and salty.
“Why? What’s wrong with how I am right now?” I grinned widely at my cousin and Stephen, who for some reason, I had a hard time calling Sting Ray.
“Nothing, except they might mistake you for some form of fish and try to bring to into the kitchen.” Viola giggled.
“Well guys, I gotta be getting home, but hey, it was really nice to meet you Brenna.” Stephen shook my hand again and smiled at me, and I noticed as he walked away he had a tattoo on his back. My mother would definitely not like that.
“Bye.” I waved at bit as he walked down the beach with his surf board. I looked out for as long as I could, so I could memorize that moment and keep it in my head as a photograph. The sun going down, creating orange and red beams of light pouring over him in the sand.
“I think she likes him Evan.” Viola pulled at my arm and we walked back up the path to the house.
When we walked in the door, Taylor looked up at us and laughed.
“I see you have been formally baptized now.” I nodded as I pushed my still damp, salty hair off my face.
“I think I’m going to take a shower and change before we go to dinner if that’s alright.” Taylor nodded, and Viola followed me up the stairs.
“Let’s pick what we’re going to wear together.” I smiled, this must be what it’s like to have a sister I thought as I climbed the stairs with Viola.
Once we were all ready to go we piled into Evan’s car and headed toward the family’s favorite restaurant. I was surprised that Taylor let Evan drive, because my mother never wanted me to drive anywhere, especially not with her in the car, but that was there, and this was here. Even though my Aunt Beth and my mother were cousins, they had very different ideas about raising their children. Aunt Beth was always more of a free spirit, and my mother disliked this, greatly. She interpreted this freedom as misguided, and undisciplined. I think my mother was mostly jealous because she was never allowed to do many of the things her cousins were, and because of this, she was more driven and “focused” on things like dance, music, school work. I was jolted out of my thinking when Evan looked back at me in the rear view mirror and said,
“You’ll love this place Brenna, it’s like a really old-fashioned night club, like, even before our parents were kids.”
“How cool!” I nodded in excitement, still a bit preoccupied by thoughts of our family.
“We go here all the time, the owner is a good friend of ours, he’ll be so happy to meet you. He’s met Zac, and your mom, when you were really little, but you didn’t come out that trip.” Taylor continued telling me about the owner, and how the restaurant had belonged to his parents, and their parents before them and so on, and it was practically a historic landmark it was so old.
We arrived, and I was amazed at the sight of The Blue Note Cafe. It was a small bungalow style building, painted deep red, although since it was dark it was shadowed and looked like a mahogany color. The roof was a bright blue color with an orb of a neon sign atop it that made a fizzy sound as it advertised the club. The inside however, was truly a sight to behold. The walls were painted the same dark red color as the outside of the building, and black and white headshots of famous musicians lined the areas around dark vinyl booths. Some of the photographs were signed, and many had the years the artists had lived in little gold placards on the bottom. My eyes scanned the main room, and I noticed that the floor was black and white checkered tiles that were significantly scuffed in the center of the room where the dance floor was. In one corner, was a stage that was relatively large, and had a small drum set, a piano and a bandstand area set up. There was one very old fashioned microphone at the center of the stage, and the lights were dark. Smoke filtered through the room, making it seem like you were walking back in time, back to a time where someone like Billie Holiday would have performed in a club similar to this one.
“Pretty cool huh?” Viola nodded taking my arm and leading me to the family’s usual booth, very close to the stage. Each table had a small lamp on it, and the booth was soft and comfortable. Warn in almost, and yet, not worn down. We hadn’t been there very long before a waitress came and took our drink orders, and before we even had our drinks the oddest thing happened. A young woman came to our table and asked Uncle Taylor for his autograph.
“My mother just loves you and your brothers, it would mean so very much to her if she could have your autograph.” Taylor politely obliged, and I was shocked. Not that he had given her the autograph, but that someone had even known who he was. He, my father, and my Uncle Isaac still did quite a bit of recording, performing and such, but my father was almost never recognized, anywhere. Especially not at home in Tulsa where no one really cared anymore.
All through dinner people came to our table to chat with Taylor, and he even gave out a few more autographs. He introduced me to a few of the people who I assumed saw him fairly regularly, and was always very nice and friendly to everyone. Yet, after the people had left, he didn’t speak of it again. It was almost as though it had not even happened, like I closed my eyes, and briefly dreamt something, and when I opened them again, there was nothing. Stranger still was how unaffected Evan and Viola were by the whole affair.
For the better part of the evening, Taylor, Evan and Viola tried to convince me to perform something on the small stage. I however refused, I was certainly not interested in dancing or singing in the club, not my first night in California.
“Besides,” I said, “I didn’t even bring my dance shoes with me.” I smirked. Viola and Evan insisted I didn’t need the shoes or music, and that I should even put out a cup and request tips. I was not amused.
“Maybe before you leave us you’ll grace us with your talent.” Taylor grinned as we left the restaurant.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.” I giggled.
On our drive home, Evan and Viola asked me more about things back in Tulsa. I told them about the Éan audition, and how my father had made me record the album of my mother‘s favorite songs for Mother‘s Day. While I was telling a silly story about a trip to the mall I had made with my mother Viola said, misty eyed, “You’re so lucky to have your mom.” I nodded, not knowing quite what to say. I began to feel that I had been taking my mother for granted, and at the same time, was still angry with her for not believing me, and never asking what I wanted to do with my life. As much as I loved her, sometimes it was frustrating to feel that I had no control over my own life, I felt I couldn’t even make my own decisions because they were never the correct ones. Something always conflicted with dance, which I was beginning to wonder if was as important as my mother thought.
I spent the rest of the late evening lying in my bed watching the stars over the ocean outside of my window. I found my thoughts wandering, and I began to wonder if Stephen was looking at the same stars. I wondered what he was doing at that very moment. I felt suddenly nauseated at my thoughts because they reminded me of that movie, An American Tale, with the mouse. I saw the movie when I was very young with Caitlin because our mother’s had seen it as children. I tried to push the thoughts out of my head, but the more I let my mind run about, the more surprised I was at my own thoughts. I just met this boy, today, mere hours ago. Why was I thinking about him already? I hadn’t even had any sort of real conversation with him. I shook my head and pulled the covers tighter around my chin and closed my eyes hoping that somehow there would be an answer somewhere.
The next morning, I walked to my window and pulling the drapes open looked out onto the beach. It was still very early in the morning, only about 6am but there was one surfer already on the beach, and I knew my Uncle would be awake. I squinted through the blinds to try to identify the surfer, maybe it was Evan I had thought at first, but the sandy blonde hair caught my eye and immediately I knew it was Stephen.
I dressed quickly and passing Taylor in the kitchen announced I was going for a walk on the beach. Taylor looked up from the newspaper and nodded smiling.
“Good surf so far today.” he said, and I smiled.