Joni woke up naked with Robin wrapped around her. Sun shone through the window and she reached around and grabbed the clock on her night stand. “Robin!” she whispered loud and shook her shoulder. “Robin!”
“Mmmmm! This is heaven. Am I dreaming or are we naked?”
“I know, right? We skipped from step two to fuck it last night. It was war! It was ground shaking!” She said. She got close to Robin’s ear. “I had orgasms!”
Robin nodded. She talked into her pillow. “I’ve never done it with an athlete. You’re strong and you never get tired. Ever.”
Joni laughed, “We missed the bus. We might have to use my credit card to take a taxi to school. We have to hurry,” she said and started to swing her feet out of the bed but stopped. She grabbed Robin and bent down and kissed her.
“Oh, yuk!” Robin said, and turned her head away. “We have morning-after-sex breath!”
“Yeah, you showed me how to do that…” Robin put her fingertips on Joni’s mouth and shook her head. Joni’s big brown eyes were wide and devious.
“Okay, here’s the thing about the morning after sex. You partner will never, ever, want a play-by-play.”
“No instant replay.”
“Exactly. Let’s brush and shower quick. I stink, so do you, basketball girl!”
Later, they trotted down the back staircase and into the kitchen. Mom was there. Not good. They halted. Clarisse pointed at the breakfast table as if to say, sit! Joni shed her backpack and the both sat.
“Okay, Brett and I heard you two last night. I would have never thought lesbian sex was so…what’s the word? Energetic? He and I talked it over this morning and we decided to move Robin to the spare room in the basement. It is just as big as the room you are in now, bigger even. It is a nice room but the windows are much smaller and they look out over the yard in back. The reason we are doing this is because if I am to be Robin’s guardian, she becomes a part of this family. You two cannot have a relationship while I am her guardian. What happened last night, cannot happen again in this house. So, we are going to put more distance between you.”
“You’ve heard this speech before?” Clarisse knew that she had.
“Yes, Mrs. D. It is the standard speech in foster homes.”
“When Robin presents before the judge for emancipation, someone over the age of 18 must vouch for her, assume responsibility for her. That person will be me. Robin, you will continue to live here after that. The foster rules will no longer apply. BUT, I hope that you both will conduct yourselves as adults and continue to observe the same discretion.”
“You’re saying that you still want me here, but you feel that I violated your trust, and your daughter. I understand. I’m the older, more experienced one and I should have known better.” Robin said. She was close to tears. “I…maybe I shouldn’t have come here.”
“Noooo,” Joni said. “You think you violated me? Don’t I get a say in that? I was there, remember? Don’t make decisions about what happened as if I wasn’t there! I needed you as much or more than you did me!”
“Robin, listen. I do not think that you violated Ducky, or my trust! If I had thought that, I would have stopped it. But I didn’t, Brett didn’t either. Do you understand what that means?”
Robin wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands, “No.”
“Think about what you said about trust, and think about who trusts who,” Clarisse said.
Robin frowned and started crying again. Robin raised her head to look at Clarisse. “I never knew people could be good. People were always bad, mean, not good.” She buried her head in her arm on the table and cried hard. She cried for a few more minutes the slowed and she sniffled. “Especially rich white people,” she said. They laughed. The storm had passed for now. Robin got up and went to Clarisse and hugged her. She looked up at her with her arms around Clarisse’s waist, “I was afraid you were going to tell me that I had committed statutory or something.”
“For introducing my daughter to sex? No, that was going to happen soon anyway.” Clarisse said. Joni sat quietly.
Robin knew Clarisse’s expectations, though. She had been through this before. There would be two moves. One, she would happily move to the basement room, and two, she would move right out of Joni’s heart.
Sunday, May 15th came. It was Joni’s birthday. She was sixteen. The three of them were in the great room and Joni tore into her birthday present from Clarisse and Brett. She opened the box and there was another box inside with a pair of women’s boxing gloves inside wrapped in tissue paper. She jumped up and down. Inside the right-hand glove was a white envelope. She carefully pulled it out and in the envelope, was the signed release forms to allow her to train at the PAL Gym she visited with Robin. She jumped up and down again and something else fell out of the glove. It was a bus pass for three months for her to travel there all summer.
“There’s a catch,” Brett said when Joni’s strong arm let go of his neck. She let go of her hug.
“You golf on the club team this summer, too, with the junior amateurs. And your work-outs at the gym are around the golf matches, not vice versa!”
“Sure! I’d love to, if there’s some competition, you know, some matches. Last summer it was just seminars and junk. I went to sleep.”
“How does the Pro-Am tour sound?
“Oh Dad! You’re kidding me! You know I’ve dreamed of doing that!”
“We play one preliminary match here in Seattle. After that, you and I would fly down to Orlando to represent the club at the kick-off. It will be three tournaments in three great clubs including Atlanta!”
She sank back in her chair holding her boxing gloves to her chest. “This is the best birthday ever!”
The next day, Monday, Brett, Clarisse, and Joni sat in guidance counselor’s office with Coach Granger, Coach Halloway the gymnast and boys’ soccer coach, and Coach Springer, the manager of the softball team. Of course, Joan Constance was there. They all wanted Joni to succeed without overload, that was the goal. Joan was there to insure the academic side of her growth was at the forefront.
“We try to schedule softball games early, right after school, to get the kids done and home, not so they go play another game somewhere. The games can run long. Ducky, you know you could go to UW on a softball scholarship just as easily as a basketball scholarship,” Coach Springer said. That brought on an eight-way argument.
Outside the office, Robin leaned against the wall in the hallway with her books in her hand. She couldn’t tell what they said, being behind closed doors, but she knew that all the coaches were vying for Joni’s attention. She saw a shadow and looked up, way up. It was Kim Foster, the girl from the basketball team.
“Oh, hi Kim. I’m just waiting on Ducky,” she said.
“You look down,” Kim said.
“Oh, I’m okay. It is odd, you know. Listening to them fuss over her.”
“Well, I’ll tell you one thing personal about me. I never had that,” she said and nodded toward the office. “The way they are grubbing over her is pathetic. I’ve got a couple of scholarship offers, not to the PAC 12 though, and not to UW. I’ve accepted an offer from Gonzaga. It’s my best offer and I’m snatching that one up. I’d be a fool not to. Gonzaga has a great program and I’ve already committed. Ducky’s just coming up and she’s going to play for Lake Washington next year and by the end of the season, she’ll have offers from all over the country, from UConn, to Baylor, Stanford, to Duke, Kentucky, and all over, including every team in the PAC 12.”
“I think she wants to stay here in Seattle,” Robin said.
“UW is a great program. She can’t go wrong there. They’re in the top 25 this year. There’s a good chance that Yolanda will make second or third team McDonald’s All American and that is a real big deal. She’ll have a big night at the awards banquet. But Ducky?” Kim asked and chuckled. Robin looked up at her. Kim got serious.
“She’s special, Robin,” Kim said, straight-faced. “She has the athleticism and talent to take her to the top – the very top recruit coming out of high school in the entire United States and the world. From now on, all the spotlights in the nation are going to be on her. Are you ready for that?”
“I thought they already were,” Robin said sadly still looking at the floor. Robin could not tell her the real reason for her sadness.
“Softball and soccer are great sports, Robin, but basketball is huge. Wait until she takes the floor at a home game and that overcrowded gym erupts. You’ll know. Look, I’ve got to run.”
“Yea, bye Kim,” she said barely loud enough for Kim to hear. A tear fell down her cheek.
The parties in the conference inside emerged. Clarisse and Joni first, after them, Ms. Constance and the rest of the coaches.
“So, here’s what I have on your schedule for next fall, algebra II, American literature, chemistry, Spanish, U.S. history, and Advanced Physical Education as an elective,” Ms. Constance said. Joni nodded.
“Can you handle all that,” Clarisse asked, “with basketball, the practices and away games?”
“Yes. Mom. I can,” she said nodding.
“You know,” Brett said, “I didn’t realize they had a golf team. Ducky’s never said anything.”
“Brett?” Clarisse asked smiling. “It’s time for us to go.”
They left the office, turned the corner, and Robin was waiting where they left her. She looked up at her, tears ran down her chin. She went around Brett to Robin.
“Whaaat? Robin, my love what?” She put Robin’s face in both her big hands. Her big brown eyes searched Robin’s brown eyes.
Robin sniffed. “You loved your birthday,” she said.
“I was a great birthday. The best birthdays are the ones that come from the heart and this was one of them. Are you not happy for me?”
“I couldn’t get you anything.”
“Just you here, alive and healthy, is enough for me!”
“I have nothing, Ducky, absolutely nothing, and there is only one thing I can give you and it is embarrassing and it feels cheap.”
“Well, I’ll love it no matter what it is, my love,” she said.
Robin turned and took her hand, “Come,” she said. Robin pulled and half dragged the much bigger Joni down the hall. She turned to her parents and motioned for them to follow. They did.
“Where are we going?”
Robin pulled, backpedaling. They reached the auditorium doors and they went inside. Clarisse and Brett followed. The room was big, but not big as concert halls go. There were sloping side aisles, a row of six seats, a sloping aisle, a row of ten seats in the center, another aisle, and another row of six seats. The seats were thirty rows deep. There was a balcony and above that, a light and projection room.
“Okay Ducky, you and Clarisse and Brett take the best seats, center front. Right there. Good. I want to say that ever since you took me in, I have zoomed along in a streaking comet tail of Ducky Donald’s fame, Ducky’s world, and now I hear that it is going to shoot even higher and higher and I must hang on tighter and tighter. I wanted to bring things back to earth, my way. I wanted to wish Ducky a happy sixteenth birthday by bringing her a taste of my world.”
Robin turned and went to the steps to the stage, walked up, and across the stage and from somewhere a light lit the black shiny grand piano. She sat, put on a small headset, and touched the keyboard. The room lights dimmed so gradually that the Donalds did not notice. She played some opening notes. Brett, Clarisse, and Joni smiled. She played as she talked.
“I have a medley to play for you today, of sorts. The first one is a song that I played when we first met. She’ll remember this from that old piano in the gym.”
She looked at Joni and she sang the old song by Paul Davis, I Go Crazy.
Hello girl it’s been awhile
Guess you’ll be glad to know
That I’ve learned how to laugh and smile
Joni dabbed at her eyes with Kleenex and Clarisse held her left hand. She whispered to Clarisse that Robin played this when she first saw her in the gym. In the darkness, behind the grand piano, figures moved. She played perfectly. Her voice was perfectly on pitch but had sort of a bluesy, whiskey, raspy sound with it. It was a wonderful effect. She sang the second stanza.
Getting over you was slow
They say old lovers can be good friends
But I never thought I’d really see you,
I’d really see you again
But when Robin got to the line, “But I never thought…” there were background singers! There were drums and bass guitar! Lights slowly came up and there was an ensemble around her and behind her. There was a drum set, a guitar, a bass guitar, horn section, and three girls singing into microphones on stands. The music swelled with the line “I’d really see you again” and Robin belted out the lyrics and the music on the piano and the band was at full strength. The drums and guitar picked up on “I go crazy.”
I go crazy
When I look in your eyes I still go crazy!
No my heart just can’t hide that old feelin’ inside
Way deep down inside
Oh baby, you know when I look in your eyes I go crazy, Oooooo
Robin’s voice was loud all over the auditorium. “When I first met Ducky, she taught me herself. She taught me what it was like to be Ducky Donald. I loved her for that because when two people first get together they waste so much time trying to get into each other that they fail before they get going. Ducky taught me that you got to start at one. Here’s to that,” The key shifted and she sang, it was a faster tempo.
That we should be together
How I used to say
That I’d fall never
The basis is need to know
If you don’t know
Just how I feel
Then let me show you now
That I’m for real!
If all things in time
Time will reveal!
The chorus sang, “One”
Robin sang, You’re like a dream come true
The chorus sang, “Two”
Robin sang, Just want to be with you
Robin sang, Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
Repeat steps one through three
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one!
The lights faded to black, and a spot shined on Robin. She smiled, stood and walked to the edge of the curtains. She took a small black Stetson hat from someone and a red necktie and popped it around her head. “This is kind of my trademark,” she said. She tilted the hat down over her eyes in front and she stepped to the keyboard. She turned the bench seat to the side. Everything was still dark, just the spotlight on her. She played an intro and shoved her butt out. Joni laughed.
Two, three, four…
The lights splashed on and the band struck and Robin shook her ass to the beat! When the lights came on there was a sign above the stage that had red roses around a name in cursive that said, “Little Bird.”
Just take those old records off the shelf!
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll!
Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
I like that old time rock’n’ roll
The horn section kicked in on the chorus.
Still like that old time rock’n’ roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock ‘n’ roll
Robin went into a piano solo. She played rock and roll fast and furious. She started playing a few measures, she would turn and hit the keys with her butt, spin and play with her hands, turn and smack the keys with her butt. It was hot and it was good! Joni clapped and laughed and clapped! The more Joni clapped the more Robin hammed it up.
The girls in the chorus clapped and sang, the horns played and it was all so much fun! Robin signaled with her head and the music slowed and died down and it was just Robin on the piano tinkling some keys. She sat down and the lights dimmed. She continued tinkling the keys as she talked.
“Ducky,” she said, “That day I saw you in the gym with those mean girls you were a pillar of gold walking toward me and my heart exploded. I panicked when you sat beside me, bold as anything. You didn’t care what those girls thought and you swept me off my feet! My heart still explodes when I see you walking toward me. I didn’t have anything to give you for your birthday, so let me just say…” She hit a chord.
Happy birthday, happy birthday, baby
Oh, I love you so!!
Sixteen candles make a lovely light
But not as bright as your eyes tonight (as your eyes tonight) (Oh)
As she sang, the backup singers sang, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” The drums struck a slow beat and the guitar and horns joined. Robin impressed Brett and Clarisse. As she sang, two trans girls brought out a birthday cake with sixteen candles and set in on the stage. The lights came up and the stage overflowed with people. Robin continued to sing.
Blow out the candles, make your wish come true
For I’ll be wishing that you love me, too (that you love me, too)
Robin stopped the music. A woman’s voice came over the intercom when the lights came full on and Joni stood, went to the cake and blew out the candles. She sat down the mike and presented the cake. Her name was Margaret. She was the bartender from a nightclub called Just Say What, the only lesbian exclusive club left in Seattle.
“From the LGBT plus community in Seattle, Ducky, we want to wish you a very happy birthday,” Margaret said. There were gay and lesbian people all over the stage. The two trans girls curtsied and laughed. “Now!” Robin said. Suddenly a huge poster unfurled from the ceiling. It was a poster of Joni, facing away from the camera, doing the double fisted overhead pump at the ESPN interview. The caption read “We Love You, Ducky!”
Joni cried so hard she had both hands over her face. She looked up at everyone and said, “I love you, too, all of you!” and they all clapped. Brett, Clarisse, and Joni didn’t realize it, but the auditorium had been filling with musicians. The LGBT crowd all came and greeted Joni and her folks and they slowly filed out of the room. The lights slowly dimmed until there was a spotlight on Robin sitting on the edge of the stage swinging her legs. Dry ice fog rolled in behind her.
“You know,” she said. Her voice was deep and loud over the sound system. “I’m a small girl. I don’t eat much, I don’t take up much space. I don’t get in people’s way and I don’t make demands, and I don’t ask for anything. It’s like I’m not even here. But I am here! And there is one thing that I need!”
The guitar played a solo and Robin started singing from where she sat. She tilted her hat down low over her eyes. The spotlight isolated her. To everyone’s surprise there were flutes, violins and soft tympani drums coming from behind the Donalds. The song was The Air That I Breathe, by the Hollies. Robin leaned back on her hands.
If I could make a wish I think I’d pass
Can’t think of anything I need
No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound
Nothing to eat, no books to read
Robin rolled over, stood, and walked to the center of the stage. The lights came up and her band had on jackets and the women back-up singers had evening dresses that were all the same shade of red as Robin’s necktie. The stage seemed to glitter with color. Robin pulled off her black jacket and she had on a white tee shirt with red suspenders.
Making love with you
Has left me peaceful warm and tired
What more could I ask
There’s nothing left to be desired
Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak
So sleep, silent angel go to sleep.
The orchestra swelled along with the band on stage. There were violins, horns, percussion, it was such a crescendo! Robin leaned back and spread her arms wide and belted out the song.
Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need
Is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you
All I need
Is the air that I breathe
Brett tapped Clarisse’s shoulder and he pointed. The school’s band director was directing the orchestra! Robin held that word “breathe” for two full measures and she nailed it, going through several note changes! The red roses on her sign started to glitter and shine! She walked down to Joni in a doing a “catwalk” step with one foot crossing over the other. She took her hand and brought her on the stage while the orchestra played.
She turned Joni to her and put her fingers on her cheek while she sang,
Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak
So sleep, silent angel go to sleep
The French horns in the orchestra came up loud and the big drums pounded. It seems the entire orchestra burst with enthusiastic bright play! Robin took both Joni’s hands, leaned back and let her hold her up and she sang!
Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe
And to love you
All I need
Is the air that I breathe
Yes to love you
All I need
Is the air that I breathe
When Robin got to the last line she shook her head back and forth as she held the word “breathe” again and tears flew out of her eyes! She took off her Stetson hat, held it out in her hand and lowered her eyes. She repeated the chorus again and the music died. Clarisse and Brett were bawling, crying so hard that they had to use up all the Kleenex.
Joni stood there, holding Robin’s hand, motionless, speechless.
Robin’s band and the orchestra applauded Robin! The orchestra director and three other people applauded while they walked to the stage and came around to Clarisse and Brett. Once the applause died Robin and Ducky left the stage and joined her parents.
“Mr. Rossini, I’d like you to meet my guardians, Mr. and Mrs. Donald.” They shook hands and exchanged hellos. Mr. Rossini took over introductions.
“Brett and Clarisse, I’d like to introduce John Waylon from Cornish College of the Arts, and this is Mary Underwood from Central Washington University, and this is Frank Harrington from the music department at the University of Washington.”
“Cornish. Cornish is interested in our Robin?” Clarisse asked.
“We are indeed! We are heavily involved with nurturing talent in the visual and performance arts, and Robin has shown excellence! Impressed, is too soft of a word,” John Waylon said.
“What’s Cornish?” Robin asked.
“We are the oldest music conservatory on the west coast, dear girl. We are a private school in Seattle and we offer several scholarships,” He said.
Robin was busy saying goodbye and thanks to her band mates and trying to keep up with the conversation.
“I must remind you both that Robin is a junior now. She will soon finish this school year and she must start applying for scholarships now or she will not get one. What she has done today will shine brightly on her applications. She has a chance for a good full ride somewhere!” Mr. Rossini said.
“You folks look like you just opened King Tuts tomb for the first time. Your mouths are open,” Mary Underwood said.
“They don’t know me, much. I haven’t lived with them very long,” Robin said.
“Well, that is certainly going to change, starting today,” Clarisse said.
“I don’t understand,” Mary Underwood said.
“I’ve only recently become her guardian.”
“It’s okay, Mrs. D. I was on the street and Mr. and Mrs. Donald rescued me,” Robin said.
Joni poked her. She turned around and Joni frowned and shook her head.
“The bag has dislodged itself from the cat, I’m afraid,” Brett said. They smiled.
“No one can fault you for that Robin, although I see Ducky’s point. It isn’t something that you’d want to put on a resume,” Mr. Rossini said.
“You could start with how you put this band together and how you found the time to practice all this music!” Clarisse said.
“I’ve known these band members for some time. Some of them I’ve played with before,” she said and looked down at her feet. “The music comes easy for me.”
“What was that, Robin, I didn’t hear?” Clarisse said.
Robin looked up. She was crying again, “I said that the music comes easy for me. I have been dying to play and the only times I get to play is when Ducky is doing sports, so I come in here and play. This is where I sneak off to because all eyes are on her and nobody sees me.” Her lip quivered.
Ducky clutched her shoulders from behind, “She plays, Mom. From now on we make it so she plays. I don’t know how, we just do,” Joni said nodding her head. Robin spun and wrapped her arms around her.
“You tricked me,” Joni said. She bent and kissed the top of her head.
“Mmm?” Robin mumbled into her sweater.
“You said that you had nothing for my birthday and you had one thing and that it made you feel cheap,” Ducky said, “You tricked me.”
“You heard all that?”
Robin raised her head and smiled.
“I listen to everything you say, my love. And you know what?”
“Now, it’s the best birthday ever.”
That night after dark in the Donald’s driveway, the black car stopped. A man got out of the passenger side and opened the back door. Another man exited, stood, held out his hand, and helped Robin out, and another girl. The two girls started toward the house when the man grabbed Robin by the arm. She looked at the ground and nodded. They did not speak. The man sat back in backseat of the solid black car and it silently backed out of the drive and slowly, quietly drove away. The two girls went to Robin’s basement room.
Later that night, Joni sneaked down the kitchen stairway to the basement. The family stored Joni’s sports equipment there, all her weights, treadmill, articulated bike, and rowing machine. She went to Robin’s room and knocked on the door. She heard music inside. There was no answer. She knocked again, same result.
“She can’t hear over the music,” Joni mumbled. She sent Robin a text. I’m outside your door. The door opened and Latin music blared out of the room, horns and guitar. Robin stood there, half naked wearing a tee shirt that did not cover her belly button and panties. Marijuana smoke boiled out of the room. Sometimes being very tall had its advantages and Joni noticed another girl on Robin’s bed. Robin quickly pulled the door shut behind her and the music died down.
“Do you need a basketball or something?” Robin asked nodding toward Joni’s sports equipment.
Joni ignored her sarcasm, nodding to her door, “Who’s this?” she asked.
“Oh, she’s just a girl I knew from back in the day. Didn’t you listen to what your mother told you?”
“You’re high,” Joni said.
“You are very observant!” Robin said and burst out laughing and slapped her hand over her mouth. “Oops. Look, I can’t talk, now. Take your ball and run along upstairs. We were just getting ready to kick it.” Kick it. Joni had no idea what that was. Robin eased the door open a crack, the music blared again, she wiggled her fingers, threw out a hip all slutty-like, grinned a devilish grin, and quickly went back into her room. There was laughter inside. She heard the girl on the bed speak Spanish. They both laughed. Robin slammed the door shut leaving Joni outside.