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New Fic: Pipe Dream

Pipe Dream
Fandom: Dirty Dancing
Rated: PG
Category: Family. Jake POV.
Word Count: 1964 (no, really).
Summary: Most fantasies stay that way. Most, but not all. A very select few become reality. A fluffier counterpoint to my story, “Winter of 1964.” Be warned, you might need a tissue for the bitter and a dentist for the sweet.
Disclaimer: I’d happily take Johnny Castle as my own, but alas, he belongs to the writer and the actor forever. Keep your chin up, Eleanor, and keep dancing, Patrick, wherever you are.
Note: This one is for everyone at the Southwest Recreation Center.

-----

Baby has always been an idealist.

I admire her for that.

In my line of work, it’s easy to become cynical and jaded.

So I indulged her little fantasies, always thinking that one healthy dose of reality would bring her down to earth for good, and simultaneously both wanting that for her own good and dreading the day it happened, because it would mean my little girl was truly all grown up.

I thought it would happen this past summer, with everything that happened at Kellerman’s.

Sure, she’d started out once again just wanting to do what she thought was the right thing (never mind that it was illegal – I’ve got my own opinions on that little situation, and I understand why she did what she did), but when it all went to hell – when things ended up being far more complicated than what they seemed – I figured she’d realize that life doesn’t always turn out like it “should.” Helping others doesn’t always lead to a happy ending, even if you get one last dance.

And I hoped that a semester away from Johnny Castle would make her realize that her time with him was just that: one last dance. I realize the kid isn’t all bad. The fact that he took responsibility for Penny when he didn’t have to speaks volumes, and there’s no doubt he’s one talented dancer, but in the end, he’s just not what any father wants for his daughter. Dancing doesn’t exactly pay the bills most days, and the age difference still made me cringe. But I couldn’t forbid Baby to have any contact with that boy. I tried that, and it got me nowhere. Trying it again would only make things worse, and I knew it. The whole bad boy cliché exists for a reason. So I said nothing, but I couldn’t help but expect for things to end on their own.

After all, how many high school sweethearts find their lives too busy at college to stay together? How many long distance relationships actually work?

Not many.

So I didn’t think it was too much to ask for my little girl to drift away from her summertime lover over the course of the school year. Their lives were going different places. They really didn’t have much in common when you looked past the dancing, which for him seemed a passion, but for Baby was still likely an infatuation, despite her apparent natural talent.

I fully expected to have a heartbroken Baby at fall semester’s end. I expected cookies and cocoa and time with her mother and her sister and her locked in her room, but then a new suitor by spring. That’s how it was in the movies, right?

But the trouble with idealists is that they do crazy things for their ideals.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Baby announced over dinner one night after Hanukkah that she wasn’t going back to school in January.

I hit the roof, but Baby just smiled slightly and ignored my protests.

She said she was eighteen now.

Said she had a job and she’d been saving all semester.

Said I couldn’t legally stop her from doing what she wanted.

Technically, that was all true, but I was still beside myself. I’d chain her to the radiator if I had to. No way was my baby girl giving up her life for… what was she planning to do again?

It wasn’t the peace corps, but honestly I’d tuned out after her first sentence, so I wasn’t actually sure of her plans. When I asked her, she just smiled more.

“I’m opening a dance school for inner city kids with Johnny,” she said, as if this was just that simple.

Before I could respond, she plowed on.

“I don’t have to go halfway around the world to help people this way, Daddy. I can stay close to you and mom and still go to school once we get things up and running and there’s plenty of people right here who need help and if dance gets one kid off the street then it’s worth it.”

I zoned out after that, but I know she kept going for a while before I could manage to interrupt with the important questions.

“How will you pay the rent?”

“We’ll manage.”

“You can’t do this for free. You’ll have to charge the kids to stay open, and how does that help these poor kids you’re talking about?”

“We’ll charge most folks, but even if we can do one or two free programs, it’ll be worth it. And we’ve already reached out to local businesses for support. Maybe we can have a scholarship program.”

I sighed as she beamed.

Once she got on one of her tears like this, there was no stopping her.

Part of me had to be proud of that. The girl stood up for herself, that’s for sure. I couldn’t deny some admiration of that. I just wished she wasn’t standing up to me.

Especially not about this. Not about him.

“And I suppose you’ll be moving in with Johnny?” I snapped.

“Actually,” Baby answered, “I’m going to stay with Penny for now.”

Oh. Well, that helped. A little. Even if I didn’t really believe it and even though the words “for now” didn’t sit well with me.

“And you really think you’ll ever go back to school? You know you won’t. No one ever does.”

Baby glared at me. “Don’t tell me what I’m going to do, Daddy.”

I snorted. “I wouldn’t presume.”

“It would mean the world if you’d support me in this, but I’m doing it no matter what.”

Clearly. I turned to Marge then, hoping for support.

“What do you think about all this?” I asked, gesturing toward Baby.

Lisa just stared at the three of us, wide-eyed.

Marge smiled gently and laid a hand on my arm. “I think we should all talk about it in the morning,” she said, as calmly as if we were discussing the weather.

I tried to answer her, but found I had no more words on the subject.

Baby took that as her cue to leave.

“Thanks, mom,” she muttered, heading upstairs to her room.

Lisa cleared the table, and later that night, alone in front of the fire, Marge turned to me over a whiskey.

“You know,” she mused, “you have two choices here.”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Yes,” she stated, still far calmer than I felt, “you can accept this and keep Baby in your life, or reject it and lose her.”

“You really think she’d choose those people, this crazy pipe dream, over her family?”

Marge gave me a look for a solid ten seconds before speaking.

“Really? Honey, don’t you remember what it was like to be eighteen?”

“Not really,” I answered. “That was a long time ago.”

Marge giggled. “Not so long ago. I seem to remember a certain young man not exactly keen on following the rules.”

“This is different.”

“Why?” Marge demanded. “Because it’s your kid? Or because she’s a girl?”

“Oh, come on, Marge. Don’t bring your damn women’s lib crap into this!”

Marge’s eyebrows hit her hairline, and I knew I’d made a mistake.

“I will do so if I damn well please!” she said. “And don’t change the subject. The point still stands. Accept things and be a part of Baby’s life or put your foot down and lose her forever.”

“It wouldn’t be forever,” I argued.

“You don’t know that,” said Marge, “and it very well could be. How long did it take David to come back around when your father threw him out?”

Bringing up my brother was a low blow, but Marge had a point. David had stayed angry for a decade.

I sighed.

“I know you’re right,” I admitted, “but I don’t like this one bit.”

“You don’t have to like it,” Marge said, “but you do have to accept it.”

I nodded slowly. “I know. But I won’t help them. Not one bit!”

“No one is asking you to, honey.”

I sighed again as Marge took my hand. We sat there for a long time, slowly sipping our drinks and staring into the fire, knowing we were becoming what all parents fear – obsolete.

The next morning, breakfast was a tense and quiet affair.

That is, until Marge nudged my foot and nodded toward Baby, who was quietly stirring her food but not really eating anything.

I cleared my throat.

“So, Baby,” I started.

She looked up at me and sighed, clearly expecting another lecture.

I took a deep breath and spoke slowly.

“Your mother and I have been talking,” I said, “and we’ve decided not to fight you about this. You can go to New York. You can move in with Penny. And you can try this crazy dance school idea.”

Baby leapt into my arms despite the table between us and nearly crushed me with her hug. It almost made me not continue with my planned speech, but I had to.

“But,” I warned, finger in the air, “I won’t help you in any way. You’ll get no money from me. You’ll do this all on your own. One hundred percent. If this goes South, you’ll always have a place here, and if you come back home and go back to school, I’ll pay for that. But as long as you’re doing this dancing thing, you’re on your own. Understood?”

Baby nodded solemnly, tears in her eyes.

Two weeks later, she was off to New York. Mount Holyoke had been canceled, and I couldn’t help thinking I’d made a huge mistake.

Every parent knows their kids have to fall a few times in order to learn to run, but no one wants to watch it happen, and I felt like my baby girl was about to hit the ground hard.

Marge took my hand as we watched her go, and just as the car rounded the corner, she squeezed my hand.

We wandered back inside and I folded her into a hug. It was a long time before we let each other go.

True to her word, Baby made it happen.

I don’t know how, but that little ragtag crew of hers managed.

They waited tables during the day and danced at night and taught as many lessons as they could on the side until they could afford a building, and before I knew it, they’d actually done it. They had at least ten kids from the street enrolled in their school, and Baby never let me forget it.

Of course, she only lived with Penny for a month, and she never went back to school.

But she did it.

She changed the world, and she did it her way.

She also gave me two grandchildren, and as those little buggers crawled all over me through the years, I had to confess that she and Johnny didn’t make such a bad pair after all.

As for me, well, let just say I didn’t exactly stick to my guns.

It only took me three months to send the first check.

It took them another month to cash it.

It’s been twenty years since then, and now I’m watching a boy named James on Broadway.

He’s good, but he ought to be.

He had the best teachers.

He’s also the first recipient of the Marjorie Houseman Memorial Dance Scholarship.

I miss that woman every day, but as I sit here in the dark, watching a boy I’ve known for a decade dance his heart out on a stage for all to see, I have to smile.

Because Marge was right. Supporting this pipe dream was the best thing we ever did.

And all is well.

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