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Twist of Fate: Chapter One
According to family lore, my mom went into labour watching an off-off-off Broadway production of Swan Lake in Brooklyn. She was so moved by the performance that she waited as long as possible before heading to the hospital. My dad jokes I was almost born in a cab.
It’s serendipitous that I spent most of my childhood in ballet studios and my mom cried harder than I did when I was awarded the lead role in Swan Lake. When the curtain closed on our last show, tears were running down my face while I limped off the stage.
My ballet flats were soaked through with blood and a bone in my foot was broken. But even stronger than the pain is the memory of pride filling my body to bursting and the euphoria that made me feel high. This was living.
The prestigious Julliard was within my reach and I received a full scholarship to their hallowed halls. When I toured the campus, I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as I imagined the start of my life. Being surrounded by kindred spirits who breathed their craft like I did was a religious experience I’ve never found in any church. Or ever again.
This is why I’m wiping tears out of my eyes when my boyfriend, Jake Livingston, enters my apartment with coffee and breakfast. I quickly turn off the New York City ballet commercial announcing that Swan Lake is back on Broadway for another run.
Let me tell you a secret: Swan Lake is hard. It has endless pas de bourrés, which is essentially running on tip toe, and the stages I performed on weren’t even nearly as big as the ones in my dreams.
The jaw-dropping cramps that flooded my legs and feet the second I stopped moving make me wince in remembered agony. I had to ice my feet just to make sure I could get them back into ballet flats the next day. To say I have mad respect for the dancers is an understatement and, damnit, I’m going to see them do it again.
“What’s the matter honey?” Jake asks.
“Nothing, I’m fine. I just…” It’s no use because I’m already sobbing, my emotions spilling down my cheeks in hot tears.
Jake sets breakfast on the table and closes the distance between us, wrapping me in his arms. “Brooklyn, what happened?”
“I want to go see Swan Lake,” I blubber incoherently, my lungs locked in a vice grip. “Will you take me?”
Jake frowns and I can feel his impatience as though it’s another person in the room. “Again? We’ve seen it at least seven times.” Jake releases me and immediately takes out his phone, quickly scanning through whatever he happens to find more interesting than me and my failed dreams.
“I’ll go with Maddie or my mom,” I whisper, turning my attention to my coffee, breathing deeply while blinking back another flood of tears. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I thought you were enjoying working with Arch,” Jake comments absently, his fingers flying across his phone screen. “I think it’s sweet that you work directly with your dad.”
“I am,” I lie. “I just…You know how I feel about ballet, Jake.” It’s my life. My soul.
“You still go to the studio,” Jake reminds me patiently.
Competitive ballet was everything to me from basically the time I could walk. I never considered doing anything else with my future and a scholarship to Julliard was the validation I had always craved. I was good. Damn good.
I could take what my dad always called a ridiculous hobby and make it into a legitimate career he would respect. The great Arch Winslow could tell everyone his daughter was a prima ballerina with New York City ballet and finally, finally, he would be proud of me.
“Jake, I only do that to stay in shape and teach,” I reply peevishly, my tears drying up as righteousness replaces sadness. “It’s not nearly the same thing.”
“Brooklyn, one day you’ll be running a multi-million dollar empire,” Jake reminds me, finally setting his phone down to take a bite of greasy bacon on an even greasier bun.
Resignation courses through my veins because I’d have an easier time explaining how I feel to a potted plant than my boyfriend of nearly a decade. “Right.” I grab my purse and breakfast before heading towards the door, my heels making a loud click in the otherwise silent apartment. “Let’s get going then. I need to learn to play Monopoly.”
“Brooklyn.” Jake quickly catches up to me and rests his hand on my shoulder, stopping me right before I walk out of the foyer. His tone is at least ten degrees softer when he says, “You’re an amazing ballerina. Arch and I just wanted the best for your future and that’s obviously joining the family business.”
My skin is uncomfortably hot and I have to blink to bring my eyes back into focus. “Obviously,” I snap heading down the hallway without him. I will not cry. I will not.
With a longsuffering sigh, Jake closes and locks the door and then hurries to catch up to me at the elevator banks. My dad’s logo is emblazoned in gold at the centre of the marble elevator and I look away from it, not needing the reminder. This apartment was my gift for becoming Dad’s special assistant and giving up Julliard six months ago.
Jake leads the way into the back of his Bentley and I take a moment to pleasantly greet Albert, his long-time driver. It’s not Albert’s fault that Jake is an asshole. Focusing my attention on breakfast and eating with vigour gives me an excuse to avoid looking at Jake, who is ignoring me for his phone anyway. Jesus Christ, is this really going to be the rest of my life?
When we pull up outside my office, Jake reluctantly tears his attention from the small screen. “I’ll see you after work, honey. I love you.”
“I love you too,” I mumble automatically, leaning over to give him a quick peck before escaping out of the stifling vehicle. I follow the crowd of commuters through the revolving glass doors into the massive lobby of one the many buildings my dad owns in New York City. He’s come a long way from taking my mom to off-off-off Broadway productions.
When I get to my desk just before 9, the halls are bustling with activity, everyone on their corporate high horses and running around frantically as though they’re saving lives in an emergency room. Dad’s habit is to start his meetings at 10, so I knock on his imposing door as I enter his private domain.
Dad is a handsome and stately man who is solidly built with a trim waist. He keeps himself in shape through workouts with his personal trainer, and the only sign of his age is the recent addition of salt and pepper to his thick black hair, which the tabloids call “distinguished.”
Everything about Dad is intimidating and demanding of respect. Jake accomplished the impossible by earning his trust and love, so I can’t start over with someone else on the off chance our sex life might be better. How stupid can I be?
“Hi, Daddy,” I greet, settling into one of the chairs in front of his desk.
Dad looks busy, but he sets aside the papers he’s reading and gives me a genuine smile along with his full attention. “Hi, princess. How are you?”
“I’m okay,” I reply solemnly.
“What’s going on?” he presses, his steely gaze locking me in place and making me squirm.
“I’m just tired,” I assure him, not wanting to rehash everything.
Dad studies me and I must look sufficiently exhausted because he nods. “You should get some rest this weekend and not stay out until all hours of the night.”
He’s looking at me sharply and I roll my eyes. “I’m 25,” I remind him.
“I don’t care if you’re 45. You’re my daughter and I know what’s best for you.”
Resting my hand on his, I can remember the days when I could wrap my fist around just one of his fingers. “I’ll take it easy. I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you, too,” he answers gruffly.
“Are there any meetings you want me to attend with you today?” I ask, the thought of another 9-5 workday making my stomach clench.
“My lunch session.”
I try not to let my smile falter because I was planning to meet my best friend, Maddison Lockwood, for lunch today. “Sure, Daddy,” I agree. “The one about the Winslow Foundation?”
“That’s the one.” He winks. “I want significant efficiencies to the foundation this year.”
Straightening my spine, I force myself back into work mode because if this is going to be my gig, I’m going to be good at it, too. “I have a strategy developed and time booked in your calendar next week. Lunch with the board today will give me a chance to informally bounce ideas off them, so thank you for the opportunity.”
“I look forward to it, princess.” He winks at me again and I giggle.
Reminding myself that working at the company Dad built from the ground up may not be my dream, but that it’s far more practical than what I had planned does nothing to get my heartrate under control. I rise to my feet and give Dad a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll let you get back to it and I’ll see you soon. You know where to find me.”
“You’re quickly becoming my right hand, Brooklyn,” he replies tenderly.
Collapsing into the plush leather chair behind my desk, which is also engraved with Dad’s logo, I absently scroll through my phone before hunkering down to work. A notification reminds me that my period is due to arrive and my world rights itself.
That’s why I’m a hormonal mess, not because of Jake, Dad, or my career. Any doubts I’d had previously can be written off as the panicked mind of a 25-year-old with her first big girl job and an increasingly serious relationship that’s heading straight into wedlock. Normal.
Surely that has to be it.
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