For Q, with love.
We had been going to Belville for as long as I could remember.
My parents owned a small cabin out there, so every summer we went out and mingled with the small town folk. This usually consisted of them going to different bars, restaurants and nightclubs and just trying to have a good time in the sticks, while I tried to read as many books and listen to as many albums as possible.
They would have preferred if I joined them more often, but we had a mutual understanding. I just wasn’t a nightclub person, I guess.
My parents didn’t say much on the two hour car ride, which I was thankful for. Much as I loved them, I preferred to watch the scenery roll by when we drove anywhere particularly far away.
It was always interesting seeing how the different landmarks along the way changed over the years. Fields gave way to hotels, construction sites morphed into finished buildings, unoccupied houses turned into dilapidated shacks.
I had my earphones planted firmly in my ear for the first half hour, but my dad insisted that we all listen to his latest Spotify playlist. As a family, you understand.
It was pretty late by the time we arrived at the cabin, so we unpacked some of our stuff and called it a night. The Belville night life would have to wait.
The next morning, my dad woke me up at seven A.M. Mom had cooked breakfast for us all. Not that I wasn’t grateful, but I was still very tired and I wasn’t really in the mood for rolling out of bed before noon.
Dad wouldn’t let up though, and eventually I relented and ate my eggs and bacon like a good girl. Of course, my mom is a great cook, so once I started eating, I woke up a little bit more.
“We’re thinking of-” my dad said with his mouth full. Mom glared at him till he swallowed, then he continued, “We’re thinking of going to a dance tonight.”
I rolled my eyes. Of course they were.
“Now, I know you’re not into that kind of thing,” he said, not that he needed to read my mind, “but I think you should come along.”
“Why? I’d just stand in the corner feeling sorry for myself.”
“Exactly.” He said, an almost teasing smirk on his face, “Instead of dancing with us old dorks, you can go find someone else who doesn’t want to be there.”
I frowned, “You want me to go to an event I don’t want to go to so that I’ll become friends with someone who also hates dancing?”
“Sure.” he said simply
I thought about this for a second, “I mean, do I really have a choice?”
He shook his head, that smirk spreading to a shit-eating grin, “Not even a little bit.”
“Great.” I sighed.
“It’s at eight o’clock.” He glanced at his watch, “Until then, you’re free to do whatever you want.”
“Sweet, time to catch up on my reading.” I stood up from the table and headed towards my room.
“Like you need to catch up!” Dad called after me.
After an afternoon of Jules Verne and a stir fry dinner, we went to the dance.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but when you hear the phrase “We’re going to a dance”, you imagine a ball, or something similar. It turned out to be a disco in the local community centre for middle-aged parents who wanted a few (but not too many) beers after dinner.
True to form, I stood in the corner while my parents cut a rug with the local fogies. I gave the room a cursory glance, but didn’t see very many people who weren’t on the dance floor.
Just when I was about to give up hope and sit down to read (because I had, of course, brought a book with me), I saw a solitary figure outside one of the doors. She was facing away from the hall, lighting a cigarette. I figured she was probably my best hope for intelligent conversation, so I decided to join her.
As I opened the door, I noticed that she was standing on a sort of balcony looking out over the nearby beach. When I closed it behind me and didn’t make another move, she wordlessly offered me a cigarette.
“Oh, no thanks. Just wanted to get some fresh air.”
“Fresh air?” she said pointedly, blowing smoke into the night air.
“You know what I mean. I wanted to get out of there.” I jerked a thumb behind me.
She turned to look back through the glass door, pocketing the cigarette carton, “I’m gonna guess the black guy with the moustache doing the Cha Cha Slide is your dad.”
I peered inside. He was indeed doing the Cha Cha slide, “Yep, that’s him.”
The girl chuckled. “Lovely.”
“I’m guessing your parents aren’t in there.” She shook her head as she took another drag. “Well then, why are you here? You obviously didn’t come here to dance.”
“My mom owns the building. She organises these nights." I glanced inside to see if I could see her mother, then realised it was pointless, "Not that she enjoys them much either, but it’s good money. There’s always good money in tourists recapturing their youth.” The girl stubbed out her cigarette and offered her other hand, “I’m Donna.”
I took it and shook it gently, “Elena. But I prefer El.”
“Nice to meet you, El.” She gave me a friendly smile, then tilted her head towards me, “You just here for the summer?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“I’ve lived here all my life, I know locals when I see them.”
“Well, I’ve been coming here every summer of my life, so you’d think you would have seen me by now.”
“True. It is odd.” She nodded her head, but I could tell she wasn’t thinking too hard about it, “Oh well.”
“Hello, party people.” My dad had peeped his head through the door behind us, “What’s going on out here?”
“Nothing much, dad.”
“And who’s your friend?”
Donna extended her hand again, “Donna. My mother owns this place.”
“Oh, hello Donna.” He gave here one of his patented dad handshakes, “Tell your mother she did a wonderful job.”
“I will, thanks.” She pulled her hand back to her side.
Dad gave us both a broad smile, then returned his eyes to me, “Sure you don’t want to dance?” I shook my head wordlessly. “Alright, see you kids later.” And with that, he was back inside.
“Your dad’s a bit of a creep.”
“Ah, he’s okay, he’s just very…" I struggled for the right word, "dad-ish, I guess.”
“Yeah, well you’re not the one who shook his hand.”
“Yikes, too tight?”
I looked back through the door. He was at the bar, talking to someone I didn’t know. After a few moments silence, I changed the topic.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” She had turned back towards the beach.
“Is there anything to, like… do around here?”
Donna laughed, then looked over at me. “I mean, it’s not that small of a town.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been to the beach and the bowling alley and I always end up back in my room reading.”
“Hm…” She thought about it, possibly drawing on a lifetime of experience, “Have you been to the woods?”
“You mean the big forest near the cabins?”
“That’s the one. Your place is probably right beside it.”
“I’ve never been inside it, no.”
“It’s quite nice actually. I go for walks through there sometimes.”
“I’d probably just read up in a tree.”
She laughed again. She had a really nice laugh. “You’ve gotta have some other hobby.”
“I draw sometimes.”
“Well, there you go!” She clapped her hands, an excited look on her face. “Go out into the woods and sketch a tree. Maybe some of the local wildlife.”
“Huh yeah. That’d be fun.”
“See, now aren’t you glad you met me?”