Written by Mandi
Rated PG, whatever. Nothing too offensive unless big talking rodents and Disneyworld aren’t your thing.
A/N: Based on my personal experience.
“Oh, thank God, a real bed!” Annie cried, flopping onto the hotel mattress. “Kind of.”
“Hardly,” Jackie rolled her eyes.
“At least we’re off that bus,” Jack reminded ‘em.
“You gonna call your mother?” Ennis prodded, whippin out a cell phone Jack insisted they buy two of. Hated the damned thing. “She’ll wanna hear all ‘bout the stop in Georgia at that school… an you may as well tell her you’re not sick no more.”
“Ain’t gonna tell her in the first place,” Annie pushed her long auburn hair outta her eyes. “No sense in worryin her over somethin that’s done an over with.”
“Tell her ‘bout Tyrone!” Jackie shouted, jumpin up in one leap onto the bed an bouncin up an down ‘til Ennis stopped her.
“Shut up!” Annie turned as burgundy as the bedsheets.
“Boy she met back at Frederick Douglass,” Jackie continued from the ground. “Real cute, says he liked her long hair, saw ‘em smoochin in the hallway ‘fore we left.”
“Language!” But Jack couldn’t help but laugh. “So, Annie, sounds like you found yourself a man.”
“I DID NOT!” Annie looked like she might cry.
“Okay, okay, everybody stop!” Ennis separated the two girls, Jackie laughin so hard that she might kill herself, an if she didn’t, Annie was sure ready t’do it for her. “We’re on vacation!”
“Who wants t’go down t’the pool?”
The four took turns in the small, cramped bathroom changin into their suits an joined another group of their high school kids headin down t’the pool. For reasons he couldn’t figure, Ennis very badly wanted t’hold Jack’s hand, but couldn’t, seein two sneerin boys behind ‘em watchin with a readiness t’pass judgment the likes Ennis never saw before. He rubbed the back a his sunburned neck, wonderin how he’d managed t’get one after only two hours picnicking under the Stone Mountain, Georgia sun that day.
“Hi!” Shouted a familiar voice, an Vick bounded up beside ‘em from half a hallway away. She ran faster’n a deer!
“Oh, heya, Vick,” Jack smiled, turnin ‘round, walkin backwards as he chatted with her. “You comin for a swim?”
“M’all dressed an ready,” she grinned. “How’d ya’ll like that stop at Frederick Douglass? An my mom says we’re stoppin at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the way home, I really wanna see that.”
“I ain’t got the itinerary memorized,” Ennis shook his head an Jack fixed him with a look. He quickly added more t’make it seem like he wasn’t tryin t’be an ass.. (He wasn’t.) “Might send m’daughter a postcard from there.”
“Y’remember all them postcards I used t’send you?” Jack grinned lopsidedly an Ennis flushed scarlet. “Back when we were courtin?”
“Postcards?” Vick cocked her head.
“Always sent him one askin for a vacation together; we lived in different states.”
“That musta sucked,” she kicked the cheap hotel carpet with her sandaled foot. “Lovin someone from far away.”
“It was hard.”
“I don’t think we should be talkin ‘bout this…” Ennis muttered, his face matchin his burnt neck.
“Sorry,” an she really looked it.
“Nah, it’s no bother,” Jack went on as though Ennis had said nothin. “I think it’s perfectly fine t’wonder ‘bout folks like us.”
“Sure. Don’t see too many folks like us, do ya?”
“My uncle is gay,” she said bluntly.
“Your momma told us,” Ennis added. “Uh, on the bus.”
“I love him,” she smiled. “I don’t care that he’s gay. He could love a rock an it wouldn’t matter t’me. I don’t care as long as people are safe, respectful an happy.”
“Got a good head on your shoulders, there, Vick,” an Jack tugged on her red roped braid hangin over her shoulder.
“I wonder sometimes,” she said quietly. “If… you know, if I am or not, but… I guess it doesn’t matter, does it?”
“Like you said, as long as you’re safe, respectful an happy, it don’t.”
She smiled approvingly an held the door t’the pool area open for Jack an Ennis. They picked a few lawn chairs t’sit on an watched as a horde of teenagers leapt into the still waters an turned it into their own personal playground. Jackie was playin Chicken Fights with her sister, sittin on a young boy’s shoulders with hair almost as long as hers; Jack caught Vick watchin the boy an smilin slightly.
“Good looker,” he teased.
She blushed. “Yeah… sure is. Don’t know I’m alive, though.”
“Why not go talk t’him?”
“Yeah, the…” Realization dawned on Ennis as a splash a cold pool water hit him on the abdomen. “Oh…. OH! You were lookin at… Jackie???”
Vick didn’t answer, but looked at him imploringly with those broken colored eyes. “Is… that okay?”
“Oh, honey,” Jack shook his head. “’Course it is, but uh… She’s not…”
Her shoulders slumped. “I know.”
“Don’t get us wrong, she ain’t gonna have any kinda fit, but… she…” Jack stumbled on his own words.
“She’s the one that got me thinkin ‘bout… ‘bout maybe I was… I dunno.” Vick looked like she might cry.
“Here, here, here,” Ennis scooched his chair into the glass table an pulled his gym bag that Jack had bought him for this trip out an dumped a box a cards on the table. “Black Jack, anybody?”
“Of all the card games in the world, Ennis Del Mar,” Jack rolled his eyes teasingly, “ya gotta pick that one?”
Bzzz, bzzzz, bzzz, bzzz…
Ennis, Jack, Annie an Jackie all groaned; it was too early t’be awake; yet the alarm was hummin away, naggin at ‘em t’wake up an get themselves movin.
“Ain’t we supposed t’be in charge a our own vacation?” Jackie slid outta bed, shakin her sister who had fallen back asleep. “C’mon, sis, move your ass.”
“Language,” grumbled Ennis dozily. All them years gettin up at dawn an after one long bus ride t’Florida, he couldn’t pull himself outta that miserable hotel bed.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jackie grabbed her towel an headed for the shower.
Once everyone was dressed an somewhat functional, they opened the door a their second story hotel room, lookin down into the pool courtyard and the breakin sun. Jackie stepped out first an nearly flattened Vick, who was on her way down t’breakfast.
“Woah, there! Sorry!” She looked more than a little startled, an Jack an Ennis looked at each other nervously. “Didn’t see ya openin the door…”
“No, no, that’s fine… Vick, right?”
Jack, Ennis an Vick all looked rather shocked. “Yeah… Vick Berg.”
“Nice eyes,” she nodded. “Real cool.”
“Oh, uh… thanks, they work for me, I guess.”
“Where are you sittin for breakfast? You wanna join us?”
“I, um… yeah, I do, is it okay if my mom joins us?”
“More the merrier,” Annie smiled, pullin Jackie by the hand down the steps. “We’ll save a couple a seats for ya.”
Once outta earshot a Vick an the twins, Ennis looked at Jack, wide eyed. “Hell was that?”
“Nothin, Ennis, our daughter’s bein friendly. Jus’ hope poor Vick don’t take it the wrong way.”
“We oughta tell her…”
“Don’t you dare, Ennis Del Mar,” Jack looked stern, an worse, serious. “Them girls gotta figure out their own shit, an it ain’t your business outtin Vick to … well, anybody.”
“Out? She ain’t…” Queer? Hell, don’t say that, Jack’ll slap that word right back into your mouth an make you swallow it. Come t’think on it, Ennis weren’t too fond a the word himself an wondered how it had managed t’slip into his mind. Queer weren’t no kinda word he’d use t’talk ‘bout a nice girl like Vick… or… or himself an Jack.
The four sat down at a table, Jackie stayin behind as the others went up to the buffet in order to make sure Vick knew where they were sittin. When the three returned with full plates, Jackie was chatterin amiably with Mo, Vick seated on the other side a her mother, lookin a little confused an more’n a bit surprised.
Breakfast was a slightly uncomfortable affair for Ennis; he watched Vick steal glances at his granddaughter. Didn’t upset him, but he felt bad for her, knowin how she was pinin away for someone who weren’t gonna return her affections… couldn’t.
He looked over at Jack; how lucky did I get that I picked the one fella who could return mine? He nearly choked on his scrambled eggs; never really did think of it like that ‘fore… that he’d chosen Jack, but he had. He’d decided t’leave Alma an run away with this man, start up a pretty damned good life together… How was it he’d never realized before that he’d picked Jack?
Or had Jack picked him?
Did it matter?
He leaned over, (after politely swallowin his bite a jellied toast first), an pecked Jack on the cheek, leavin a slightly sticky strawberry preservative smear behind.
“I tell you what, he’s the damnedest thing,” Jack said through a blush.
“I think it’s nice t’get a kiss from your man,” Mo said approvingly. “Arthur used t’do that t’me, too… jus’ kiss me sometimes, no real reason… it was like he was thinkin how special I was an didn’t have words t’tell me.”
Vick looked down at her lap sadly, then looked up at Jack an Ennis. “My daddy died of cancer last year.”
“Ah, Jesus, I’m so sorry t’hear it,” Jack set down his coffee without sippin it.
“S’okay,” she nodded quickly, jumpin a little when Jackie reached behind Mo an touched Vick’s back soothingly.
“Never is easy,” Ennis said softly. “Lost my folks when I was nine, so I, uh… I kinda know what that’s like.”
Vick forced a sad smile an nodded.
“This is our vacation,” Mo said briskly, like she was shakin away sad memories herself. “We ain’t supposed t’be grievin, we’re supposed t’be havin fun!”
“Dad told us ‘fore he left that he didn’t want us t’think a him a be sad,” Vick continued, an a smile broke across her face an she burst out laughin.
“What is it?” Mo looked puzzled.
“Member when we were puttin our underground pool away for the fall an winter? Daddy had t’hold onto the tarp on one end an the wind kept blowin it up in his face? He was screamin, ‘Goddamned sonofabitchin wind!’”
Everyone joined Vick in her laughter, an Ennis was sorry he’d missed such a man.
“This sucks,” grouched Jackie, layin her head on her sister’s shoulder.
“Why’d we have t’wear wool uniforms in Florida?” Demanded Annie, pushin Jackie off a her shoulder. “It’s too hot, don’t hang on me!”
“Cause y’look so damned good in ‘em,” Jack snapped a photo with the digital camera he’d purchased for the trip; Ennis remembered the first camera he’d brought home and wondered how long it’d take him to learn the mechanics a this one.
“Couldn’t we jus’ play in… shorts an tee shirts?”
“Stop your whinin,” Dwight shouted good naturedly to his crabby band students. “I’m wearin one, too, plus this damned hat, an if my fat rear end is gonna roast in one a these wool things, your scrawny butts will survive it, too, I assure you!”
A few a the kids laughed, an Jackie made a rude hand gesture that Annie quickly pushed away and glared at.
“Glad I ain’t wearin one a those,” Jack laughed. Ennis knew he’d said that at least three times earlier that day, but couldn’t remember when an realized he oughta be payin better attention ‘fore he got yelled at on account.
“The girls’ll look back on this some day and be real glad they did it,” he said, his mind blissfully “vacation blank” as he stared at the back lot where the buses parked. He had a decent view a the Magic Kingdom, knowin the girls were gonna drag him an Jack all over it by day’s end.
The students got off the bus an let out a group groan -- it was at least eighty degrees, Ennis reckoned, maybe more. Didn’t bother mentionin it t’anybody; no one wanted t’hear it an it’d jus’ make everyone miserable. Jack, sensin the thought, most like, winked. They shuffled with instruments an wool uniforms over to a garden plaza with a little stage where an orchestra was jus’ finishin up, a small crowd applaudin politely. Ennis couldn’t help but notice the woman with deep brown hair sittin in the front row with a little Asian girl on her lap; the woman was wearin a huge golden ball gown!
“That’s Belle, Grandpa,” Jackie snickered. “From Beauty an’ the Beast?”
“She’s one a the Disney Princesses,” Jack reminded him. “We watched the movie with the girls a long time ago.”
“What’s she doin dressed up like that?”
“That’s how Belle dresses,” Annie explained patiently. “Belle lives in Disneyworld.” To which, she smiled knowingly at Jackie an her other grandfather.
“All the characters live here,” Jack told him. “Was plannin on runnin into a few of ‘em, gettin some pictures with ‘em.”
Shit, an knowin my goddamned luck, he’ll make Christmas cards outta ‘em.
The two cowboys took their places in the audience; regrettably for Ennis, Jack herded him into a seat close to Belle, right behind her. She turned around an smiled wide an white an perfect, the little girl on her lap peerin over her shoulder.
“That’s a very nice hat,” she said kindly.
“Huh?” He looked up, feelin a little silly when Belle giggled, an realized he was wearin his cowboy hat.
“Are you a real cowboy?”
“Yes, M’am,” Jack cut in, maybe for the sake a the little girl she was holdin, maybe t’embarrass Ennis, he weren’t too sure. With Jack, it was always hard t’tell. “All the way from Wyomin.”
“Wyomin?” She repeated in the same tone an accent. “I’ve never heard of such a place! I live in a castle with Prince Adam. Is Wyomin in the Realm?”
“Oh, very far away,” he continued, smilin at Ennis. “We got horses there. You like horses?”
“Oh, yes! I have a horse named Phillipe,” she smiled. “He’s a very good boy. Do you like horses?” She asked the girl sittin on her lap, who looked like she was startin t’feel left out.
“My daddy says I can’t have one,” she said mournfully, an a man sittin nearby smiled knowingly who musta been her father. “I think we could… we could, um… we could keep it in the garage, but he says no ‘cause we gotta keep the car there.”
“Oh, look, honey, the band is starting to play,” the older man beside Belle said, pointin his daughter’s attention t’the stage.
T’say Ennis was proud a his kids wouldn’t a been enough. He’d heard someone once talk ‘bout music bein like magic, an how it could bring two real different people together… but this music really was magic -- not like it had been at that school where it felt like an electrical charge sparkin through the room… but magic like a fairytale princess sittin in the row ahead a you with a little girl on her lap swayin t’the beat a the song… An for a moment, jus’ a moment, she wasn’t a woman dressed as Belle, but a real fairytale princess, an he was a guest in her realm…