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Escape [ - ]
by Melakward
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Oh no! Here it comes! Who's going to get it? Angela thought as the fuzzy green ball came hurdling toward her side of the court. Based on it's trajectory, it was destined to land somewhere short of where she was standing, exactly halfway between her and her partner, Tom. She would have known exactly what to do if she was with her regular partner. She would have stepped back, let him swing, watch him miss, and then listen patiently as he blamed her for not swinging at it. And even though Tom looked exactly like her regular partner, the two of them couldn't be any more opposite.

"Do you want this one, Angela?" He asked, neither one taking their eyes off the ball.

Angela shook her head. "No, I think it's your turn."

"Oh, gee," he replied, "I hate to hog it."

Their indecision resulted in no one going for the ball, and it bouncing down the court. When it took it's final bounce, Tom swooped to catch it. The ball firmly in his hand, he turned his attention to Angela. She braced herself for the verbal attack. "Oops." Tom said with an easygoing voice. "Oh well." Angela was a little shocked when Tom started laughing. It had escaped her for a moment that this was Tom, not Tony. Tony was her regular partner and fiancÚ, but lately, the two of them had been at each other's throats, especially with the fast approaching wedding. Tony was so driven, so pushy that it sometimes made her want to ring his neck. He was so high strung, that it seemed like the world had wronged him in some way, and he was out for revenge. Above all else, he was competitive. Knowing that a little competition was good for a person, Angela tried to embrace it at first. It wasn't too long before Angela found out that Tony was competitive in an unhealthy way. He was a winner and he intended to stay that way. He was so sore a loser, that he was in throbbing pain for days after the loss, and did his best to see that everyone else was feeling his pain as well. It seemed that Tom was almost nothing like Tony. "You know," Tom continued, "no matter how many times that happens, it always makes me laugh."

He threw his head back and laughed again. He took a couple steps toward the net to throw the ball back toward the other couple. Angela followed. "I told you I wasn't a very good doubles partner." She said, apologetic look in her eyes.

Tom put a hand on her shoulder to reassure her. "That's okay. I don't mind losing." This fair play, laid back attitude was new to Angela, and she found it very refreshing. Tom took one more step toward the net and tossed the ball over, keeping his hand up for a final wave. "Nice game!" he shouted at the other pair, "Sure taught me a thing or two. Buh bye!" Angela also gave them a final wave and returned to Tom's side. They began their walk back to the spa. Angela was still feeling a little bad that they had lost. "Maybe you could have won with your regular partner." she told Tom.

"Oh, well, to tell you the truth, she takes tennis so seriously." Tom replied.

Angela could relate. "Don't you just hate that?" she asked, unaware that her hands had now formed into fists.

Tom shrugged his agreement. "Who needs the stress?"

Angela was still beside herself. Here was a guy that could actually be Tony, and yet, acted nothing like him. "You know, I never realized that tennis could actually be fun." Both Tom and Angela twisted to face each other. Tom's face turned to one of seriousness. "Well then, perhaps you've been playing with the wrong guy."

Angela froze where she stood. Her mouth agape, the analytical part of her brain took over. You know, maybe he's right. Angela winced as soon as the thought crossed her mind. Instinctively, she fought against her current train of thought. What do you mean, 'Maybe he's right.'? What are you implying? That maybe you made a mistake with Tony? That maybe, just maybe you were meant to be with Tom, and you just happened to run into Tony first? That's ludicrous! You love Tony, and you're engaged to be married. You two are meant for one another! Angela was almost convinced that she had this battle won. She truly believed that she and Tony were made for one another. However, the analytical part wasn't done yet. Then why are you having second thoughts? Especially lately. You two have been arguing more often than not, and I don't see things improving from where I sit. Tony's not here, why not take the opportunity to see what being with Tom would be like? Who knows how things could turn out? After all, you're not married yet, and the last thing you want to do is make another mistake in marriage. Angela was very frightened now. It was all true. As much as she didn't want to admit it, she was having some doubts about marrying Tony. More than anything, she was afraid of marrying him and having their relationship fall apart. She loved him far too much to lose him. Angela sighed and caved to her thoughts. Alright. I guess it wouldn't hurt to spend some time with Tom. And you're right. Who knows what this could lead to?

It was unlike Angela to let her affections wander, but things had been so strained lately that she found herself looking for an escape. She and Tom were so much alike, that he seemed like the perfect vessel out of all of the problems she and Tony were having. She closed her mouth and managed a little smile. Tom smiled just as slightly back at her and put his hand on the small of her back, leading her back to the main building of the spa.

On the short trek to the main building, Tom decided to break the silence. "You know, Angela, I'm usually not this forward, but I reserved a whirlpool bath, and well, those things are so big, and it would seem like such a waste if only one person were sitting in it, so, I was wondering if you would you like to join me in a soak?" Angela looked him up and down with uncertainty. His words were stammered and he was fidgety, making his nervousness very obvious, but she found herself taken with him, so she sighed away whatever uncertainty she had and agreed to go. "Okay," she said, "just let me head up to my room and change first." Tom nodded. "Of course. It's not my time for another half an hour yet, so I will change as well and meet you there. Whirlpool number 3." Angela nodded back to show that she understood, and they parted ways. Things were going pretty well. He was a little uncertain of himself, but Angela found that somewhat endearing. The time alone would give them the chance to talk and find out a little more about one another. She was truly fascinated by him, and couldn't wait to find out more. Underneath all of her excitement over meeting this new and wonderful person, underneath the relief she was feeling for the first time in what seemed like a long time, she could barely feel the pang of guilt that lingered in her subconscious. The guilt festered with thoughts of Tony, and her feelings of betrayal. This guilt was the furthest thing from her mind, and it didn't look like it was going to make it's way to the front burner any time soon. All of her thoughts were on Tom and how they seemed to fit perfectly, like puzzle pieces on this giant cosmic puzzle. She had missed this feeling of "rightness", and she looked forward to maintaining that feeling.

Angela bounded up to her room and burst in, hardly able to control her excitement. There she found her mother, rooting through Angela's make-up. Angela put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. "Mother, what are you doing?" Mona spun around with a tube of lipstick in her hand.

"Borrowing some lipstick, dear. I want to look my best for Raoul when we're both splashing around in some mud."

"Oh," Angela started, "so you're taking a mud bath with him?" Mona raised the corner of her mouth to give a sly half-smile.

"No." she replied, the half-smile turning to a full one. "So," Mona changed the subject, "What are you up to this afternoon?"

At first Angela considered lying to her mother. The last thing she needed was the grief her mother was sure to give her if she was aware of Angela's plans. In the end, however, Mona always found out about whatever was going on in her daughter's life, so Angela figured it would just save her some sneaking around if she just came out with it. But still, why not take a shot at a cover up? "I'm, um, going to soak in a whirlpool." Angela stammered, holding her head up prominently to try and convince both her and her mother that she had a little more authority.

She crossed her fingers and hoped that Mona couldn't see through to her insecurity. Mona looked at her out of the corner of eye. When would her daughter learn that she couldn't hide anything from her, especially when it came to matters of the heart? With a skeptical look on her face, Mona broke through the front Angela tried to put up with a single question. "With who?"

Angela's shoulders dropped. So much for a cover up. She turned away and sighed with defeat. "With Tom, alright?" The hint of attitude didn't sway Mona in the least. Her skepticism faded to understanding. "Oh, I see. You two have been spending an awful lot of time together."

Angela snapped her head to look at her mother. "What exactly do you mean by that?" Angela's sudden defensiveness only worried Mona. She wouldn't feel the need to defend herself if this were going to remain casual. Angela's jittering only meant that she had some feelings invested in this and didn't want to get hurt. Mona stepped back to asses the situation. The fact that Angela tried to hide it meant that she was very unsure of this, and wasn't about to do anything rash or foolish. Angela's feelings were at a very delicate place now, and seeing as she's taken on a stubborn approach, anything Mona said right now would only go in one ear and out the other. Now was not the time to intervene. If needed, she would eventually remind Angela what she had waiting at home. Mona shrugged. "Nothing, dear. I was simply making an observation." Mona's indifference surprised Angela, but only a little. Mona always had an opinion, always had a favorite, and she was almost always right, which drove Angela up the wall. The surprising part, however, was that she always sided with Tony.

Tony. Oh no. What was she doing? She loved him, and here she was, harboring thoughts of another guy. But then, getting away from him has been the most relaxing thing she had done all year. In any event, she couldn't stand Tom up. That's it. She would leave it all to their meeting. If things went horribly, she would just go home to Tony and live in his arms for the rest of her life. If she and Tom hit it off, however, well, who knows? She could always extend her little vacation a couple more days to let things progress. Yes, it would all come down to the meeting.

Mona left for her date while Angela quickly changed into a bathing suit and threw a robe on. She wanted to get there first to be able to settle into the atmosphere. She stepped into the hall and closed the door behind her. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and trotted to the baths, knowing that everything could change with this one moment in time. Knowing that it could mean uprooting her entire world. And underneath all of this, knowing that it could mean saying good-bye. Forever.

(To Be Continued)