Chapter 15:  Dark Angel

“I rarely see you and Serena together anymore,” Alex’s mother remarked at dinner.


Alex stopped cutting into her steak.  “We’ve been busy.”


“You and Olivia seem to have gotten closer,” Madeline continued, taking a sip of her wine.


Alex turned crimson.  “Uh…yeah.  I guess we have.”


“Friendships change all the time, dear,” Alex’s father told his wife.  “Perhaps Olivia and Alex have more in common.”


Thank God you don’t know how much, Alex thought.  “Yeah, Liv and I have a lot of similar interests.  And we have more classes together than Serena and I do.  We study together a lot.”


“I’m certain of it,” Madeline responded, offering her a wry smile.


What the hell is that supposed to mean? Alex wondered.  “The Bergman Charity Gala is this weekend, right?” she asked, desperate to change the subject.


“That is correct.  The Carlsons’ eldest son is a very nice gentleman and I hear he still does not have a date,” Alex’s mother replied, looking at her pointedly.


Alex almost choked on her roll.  Shit, not this again.  “Um…actually I was thinking about taking Olivia.”


Her mother and father both stopped eating and stared at her.  “Excuse me?” Madeline asked.


Alex willed herself to keep her cool and not be intimidated by her parents’ stares.  “Well…Olivia has never been to anything like it, so I thought I’d take her,” she replied in a very calm, level voice.


“Don’t you think it would be a bit odd to bring another girl to a gala?” Madeline inquired.


“No.  It would be nice to just be myself for once and not be stuck with some boring, lame guy who drones on and on about his newest set of Callaway golf clubs.”


“Hey now.  I happen to like my Callaways,” her father said, smiling at her over his wine glass.


Madeline sighed and conceded, “If Olivia wants to go, then she can.  However, I will arrange for her to have a date as well.”


Alex almost spit out her water.  “Mom, I really don’t think that’s necessary.  We can just go together.”


“Alexandra, why are you so adamant about not going with a boy?” Madeline asked.


Alex rolled her eyes.  “The last time I was with a boy, it didn’t turn out very well.  Or has it slipped your mind?  I’m taking a break from boys right now.  Don’t wanna be put into a situation where I’ll be…tempted,” she lied, staring into her mother’s eyes.


Her mother frowned.  “Your sarcasm is highly unwarranted and unappreciated, Alexandra.”


“Oh come on, Mom!” Alex exclaimed, slamming her fork down onto the table.  “I wanna have fun and I can’t if I’m uncomfortable all night next to some loser guy!  Plus, I think it would be a good bonding moment for Olivia and me.”


“Haven’t you two bonded enough?” her mother snapped.


Alex’s mouth dropped open.  “What do you mean by that?”


“She has a point, Madeline.  We don’t want a repeat of last time.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.  After all, it’s only a gala.  I don’t see why she can’t take Olivia,” John remarked.  Alex smiled sweetly at her father.


Madeline looked at her husband.  “Excuse me?  Next, she’ll want to go with her to prom, too!”


Alex decided to keep her mouth shut this time.  “Nonsense, dear.  You’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” John argued.  “What kind of trouble can two beautiful girls get into at a gala full of adults?”


Probably more than you know, Madeline thought bitterly.  “Fine, she can take Olivia,” she decided.  “There is no point in engaging in this useless argument any further.”


“May I be excused?” Alex asked, although secretly jumping with joy inside.


“Of course you may,” John answered, flashing his daughter a smile.  Alex pushed back her chair, ran over and gave her father a kiss on the cheek, then quickly retreated upstairs.


When she got to her room, she stretched out across her bed and dialed Olivia.  “Hey, sweetie,” Olivia answered.


“Hey,” Alex said, sighing deeply.


“Is there something wrong?” Olivia asked, sitting up on her bed and crossing her legs Indian-style under her.


“Kinda.  We were eating dinner tonight and Mom starts talking about how I don’t hang out with Serena anymore and how you and I have gotten really close.”


Olivia sucked in a sharp breath.  Letting it out, she asked, “What did you say?”


“I told her Serena had been really busy lately and you and I study together a lot since we have a lot of classes together.”


“Then what happened?”


“We started talking about the Charity Gala.  Well, she suggested that I go with one of the Carlson boys.  I told them I wanted to take you and Mom started flipping out.”


“Flipping out how?” Olivia asked nervously.


“She wanted to know why I was so against going with a guy.  I told her that after the Mike thing, I didn’t wanna be put in a situation where I could be tempted and get in trouble again.  She said you could come, but she was gonna find a date for you.”


“She wants to make me go with some guy?” Olivia asked incredulously.


“She got over it.  Dad pitched in and said he didn’t see a problem with us going together.  Mom was all like, ‘Next, she’ll wanna take her to the prom!’”


“Well…we are going to prom together.  What did she say to that?”


“Nothing because I didn’t tell her.  Dad told her that she was making a mountain out of a mole hill and there wasn’t any trouble two girls could get in at a gala with lots of adults around.  So Mom gave in and said I could take you and she was done with the conversation.  Then I excused myself and came up here.”


“Well, if she’s uncomfortable with the idea of us attending a little gala together, then she’s probably gonna have a heart attack when she finds out I’m taking you to prom.  How the hell are you gonna break that ice?”


“Maybe I’ll run away from home,” Alex joked.  “But she’s not gonna ruin my prom night because I don’t fit her mold of a perfect society daughter.”


Olivia was proud of Alex’s declaration.  “Sounds like you have some major finessing to do, baby.”


“Yeah, I know.”  Alex paused for a second.  “I don’t know why she was so opposed to me taking you anyway.  You…you don’t think that she suspects anything, do you?  She did say something that weirded me out.”


“Uh…I dunno.  I sure hope not.  What did she say?”


“After I lied to her about not wanting to get into trouble with anymore boys, I said I wouldn’t have any fun because I’d be uncomfortable all night if I had to go with that guy.  Then I told her that taking you would be a good bonding moment for us, and she was like, ‘Haven’t you girls bonded enough?’”


Olivia sucked in another sharp breath.  “That sounds suspicious.  We really have to be careful, baby.”


“What are we gonna do, Liv?”


Olivia sighed.  “Well, at the gala and from now on in front of your parents, we need to kinda lay low—not get too touchy feely or anything like that.  We have plenty of private time alone.  We can be affectionate then.”


“But I wanna at least still be able to hug you without feeling like the gay brigade is gonna bust in at any moment.”


Olivia chuckled.  “Well, I’m sure one or two innocent hugs wouldn’t hurt.  And I’d like at least a dance with my angel.”


Alex giggled.  “Aww, Liv.  You’re so sweet.”


“Hey, I try,” Olivia replied.


“Do you think your mom suspects anything?” Alex asked.


Olivia paused momentarily to ponder before answering.  “No.  Her behavior hasn’t really changed towards me.”


“Good.  I hope I’m just being paranoid about my mom.”


“Yeah, me too.  But I wouldn’t bet money on it,” Olivia responded.  “Do you know what you’re gonna wear yet?”


“Something sexy.”


“Well, not too sexy, I hope,” Olivia replied with a chuckle.


“Something red.  Valentine’s Day is coming up next week.  What are you gonna wear?”


“I dunno.  Maybe we can find matching red dresses.”


Alex giggled.  “That would be really cute.  We’d kinda be twins.”


“You don’t think your mom will flip, will she?”


“Nah.  Friends wear matching outfits all the time,” Alex replied matter-of-factly.


“You wanna go dress shopping tomorrow after practice?” Olivia asked.


“You read my mind,” Alex said, grinning.


Olivia chuckled.  She then looked down at her blank piece of paper and sighed.  “Have you drawn your noses yet for art?”


“I got half of one done but then I had to eat dinner.”


“What magazines did you use?” Olivia continued.


“I found some really good examples in Cosmo.  There are also some good ones in Vogue and Seventeen.”


“Can I come over and use one?  I don’t have any good girly magazines lying around.”


Alex laughed.  “I was hoping you would ask that.  And bring the rest of your stuff so you can spend the night.”


Olivia grinned.  “Ok.  I’ll be over in a few minutes.”


“Ok, I love you, Liv.”


“I love you, too, baby,” Olivia responded.




When Olivia came up to Alex’s bedroom, she saw that Alex had several magazines laid out on her bed.  Alex put down her graphite drawing pencil and smiled up at Olivia.  “Who let you in?”


“Your dad,” Olivia replied, taking a seat on Alex’s bed and beginning to look through the magazines for photos to use.  When she found a photo of a face that was large enough for her to do a life-size nose replica, she cut out the nose and began drawing.


Alex lightly smudged a pencil line with her finger to create a depth-enhancing shadow around the nose that matched the model’s nose in the magazine.  She picked up her kneaded eraser and then lightly erased an area to depict where the light hit the model’s nose.  Olivia looked down at Alex’s paper and remarked, “Wow, Al.  Your nose looks just like the one in the picture.”


Alex grinned.  “Thanks.  I’ll be glad when we start drawing hair, though.”


“Me, too.  I think showing light and shadows will be easier with hair than other parts of the face.”


“I’m kinda looking forward to eyes, too.  I’d like to draw yours and turn it in.  They’re beautiful,” Alex said with a smile.


Olivia blushed.  “You really think so?”


“I know so,” Alex said, leaning in and kissing her forehead.  Olivia smiled sweetly at her.  They continued drawing for several more minutes in comfortable silence.  Oddly enough, Olivia found that Alex’s presence made it easier for her to concentrate on her drawing, and her drawings came out better than when she worked alone.  From time to time, they looked up from their work and just smiled at each other.


When Alex finished, she put her work in her portfolio and said, “I’m hungry.  I’m gonna go downstairs to get a snack.  You want something?”


“Sure,” Olivia responded with a smile, adding the finishing touches to her second nose.  Alex jumped up off the bed and bounded downstairs.


She returned with two glasses of fruit punch and a plate of nachos and cheese sauce.  She sat down on her bed next to Olivia and folded one leg underneath herself.  “Help yourself.”


Olivia dipped one of the chips in some cheese and held it out to Alex’s lips.  Alex took a bite and said, “Mmm…I love it when you feed me.”


“And I love feeding you,” Olivia responded, wiping some of the cheese sauce from the side of Alex’s mouth.


“I love feeding you, too,” Alex said, reciprocating by dipping a chip in some cheese and feeding it to Olivia.


After they were done eating, Olivia asked, “So what do you wanna do now?”


Alex smiled.  “Well…Mom got me these spa mud masks the other day.  We can give each other facials!”


Olivia chuckled.  “You’re such a girl.”  She brushed some of Alex’s hair behind her ear and added, “But it sounds like fun.”


They went into Alex’s bathroom and Alex pulled the masks out from under her sink.  “Let’s do each other!”


“Ok,” Olivia conceded.  She pulled a rubber band out of her pocket and pulled her hair back in a ponytail.  Alex also pulled her hair back into a ponytail with a scrunchie.


“I love it when your hair is in a ponytail, Liv.  It’s so cute!”


Olivia grinned.  “It drives the ladies a little wild,” she joked.


Alex began reading the directions.  “Ooh…these contain dead sea minerals.”  She wet her face and handed the mask to Olivia.  “Ok, put it on me.  Be careful not to get it in my eyes.  It says to leave on for 5 to 10 minutes.”


Olivia squeezed some of the product into her hand and gently massaged it into Alex’s face.  “How does it feel?” she asked.


“Ok right now.  I can feel it tightening a little.  Now it’s my turn to do you!” Alex said excitedly.


Olivia splashed some warm water on her face and Alex began applying the mask.  When Alex was done, she and Olivia both turned to look at themselves in the mirror.  Alex draped her arm across Olivia’s shoulders and asked, “How do you think we look?”


“Weird,” Olivia responded, which warranted a shove from Alex.  “Hey, hey.  I was just teasing.  I think we look beautiful.”


“Good,” Alex replied, tugging on Olivia’s short ponytail.  “Hey, I can paint your toenails while we wait!”


Olivia looked at Alex like she was crazy.  “Um…I dunno about that.”


“Come on, Liv!  It’ll be fun!”


Olivia sighed.  “All right.”


Alex pulled out her set of M.A.C. nail lacquers.  She picked up “Dark Angel” (a dark lilac) and “Spicemix” (a brownish red frost).  “Hmm…I think one of these two would look best on you.  Which one do you want?”


Olivia pointed to the dark lilac polish and said, “I like this one better.”


Alex returned the other polish to her collection and said, “Ok.  Dark Angel it is.”


Olivia smirked.  “Dark Angel?”


Alex shrugged a shoulder.  “Yeah.  That’s what it’s called.”


“Do you think it describes me or something?” Olivia asked curiously.


Alex shrugged again.  “Well…I dunno.  Maybe a little.  Sometimes when I look into your eyes it seems like there is something kinda dark that’s troubling you in the midst of all your happiness.”


Olivia’s dark brown eyes suddenly clouded over.  She contemplated whether or not she should tell Alex about her father and the circumstances of her birth.  Alex immediately noticed and asked, “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”


Olivia shook her head.  “It’s nothing,” she lied, her eyes downcast.


Alex cocked her head to the side and gently lifted Olivia’s chin.  “Sweetie…don’t be like this with me.  What’s going on?  You know you can tell me anything.  Is it your mom after all?”


Olivia shook her head again.  “No.  Not her.”


Alex became worried.  “Is it something you did?”


“No.  Nothing like that,” Olivia assured her, looking directly into her eyes.


“Then why won’t you tell me, Liv?” Alex asked, picking up one of Olivia’s hands.


Olivia looked down at her hand in Alex’s and sighed.  Making eye contact again, she said, “It’s something I’ve been dealing with since birth.  Listen, I just don’t wanna get into it right now, ok?”  She looked like she was on the brink of tears.


Alex nodded.  She decided that it was just best to let Olivia come forth and open up to her on her own time.  She wrapped her in a warm hug and whispered in her ear, “Whenever you wanna tell me, I’ll be here for you.  No matter how bad you think it is, nothing you could ever say will change how I feel about you.  Ok?”


Olivia nodded and tried to force a little smile.  “Ok,” she said quietly.  She took the nail polish out of Alex’s hand and said, “Come on.  Let’s get my toes done.”


They sat down across from each other on the bathroom floor.  Alex grabbed some Warm Vanilla Sugar body cream from Bath & Body Works and began massaging it into Olivia’s feet.  “That smells really good, Alex.”


Alex smiled.  “Thanks.  I’ve always liked this fragrance.”  She unscrewed the top from the polish and brushed the excess polish on the top edge of the bottle.  She then began to paint Olivia’s toenails in slow, meticulous strokes.


When she was finished, Olivia asked, “How long before it dries?”


“Not too long,” Alex replied, leaning down and blowing on her toes.


“It’s pretty,” Olivia remarked.


“It is,” Alex replied.  “It looks great on you.”


Olivia wiggled her toes.  “It does, huh?”


Alex got up off the floor and began washing the mask off her face.  Olivia followed suit.  Alex handed her a face towel and asked, “How does your face feel now?”


“Squeaky clean,” Olivia replied with a smile.


“Yeah, same here.  My pores feel a lot tighter.”  She began putting the rest of her stuff away and asked, “You wanna watch a movie?”


“Sounds good.  But I need to take a shower first.”


“Ok.  Wait like 5 minutes just to make sure your nails are dry, though.”


“Ok,” Olivia replied, beginning to pull off her top.  She walked back into Alex’s bedroom and got some clothes out of her bag before returning to the bathroom.


As the hot spray of the shower poured over her face and body, Olivia sighed deeply.  She wanted to reveal her personal history to Alex and she felt bad about not being completely honest with her.  She wanted to wait until the right time to tell her, but she didn’t know when that would be—if ever.  She re-evaluated Alex’s comments on a dark element to her psyche, but even though Alex had assured her that her opinion of her would not change, she couldn’t be so sure how Alex would feel when she found out exactly how dark her history ran.  However, she knew that if anyone would be able to help her understand herself and get through it, it would be Alex.


Olivia climbed into bed slightly damp in a white wife beater and a pair of plaid boxers.  Alex cuddled up to her and ran a hand down her arm.  “You’re so beautiful.”


Olivia smiled at her and gently kissed her lips.  “Thank you.”


“You know…you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Alex said softly, kissing her on the forehead.


Olivia smiled.  “And you’re the best thing to ever happen to me, too.  God, Alex.  I really don’t know what I’d do without you.”


“You’ll never have to be without me.  I’m yours forever.”


Olivia felt her heart melt.  “You really mean that?”


“Yes.  I can’t imagine a future without you.”


Olivia pulled Alex closer to her and tightly hugged her.  “I love you.”


“I love you, too, Liv.  So what movie do you wanna watch?”


Olivia shrugged.  “It doesn’t matter.”


Alex untangled herself from Olivia and put “Saving Face” in the DVD changer.  She then ran back over to her bed and jumped in beside Olivia. 


“What’s this about?” Olivia asked, cuddling up to Alex and laying her head on her chest. 


Alex looked down at Olivia and smiled.  She loved it when Olivia leaned on her and let her take care of her.  She loved making Olivia feel just as safe as Olivia made her feel.  Stroking her hair gently, she replied, “It’s about these two Asian women who fall in love with each other.  One’s a ballet dancer and the other’s a surgeon.”


“Sounds cute,” Olivia replied. 


“Yeah.  I love this movie,” Alex said, moving her hand down farther to stroke Olivia’s side.


As the movie progressed, Alex continued to hold Olivia in her arms.  There was something so strong, yet so fragile about her, and she was determined to do whatever she could to protect her—even if it was from herself.