After The Ball is Over [ - ]
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After The Ball is Over
After the ball is over,
After the break of morn -
After the dancers' leaving;
After the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching,
If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.
“No, it‘s ok, we‘re through.” Tony finishes his sentence and glances at Angela for confirmation.
She looks first at Geoffrey and then to Tony.
“No Tony, I don’t think we’re through yet.” Then turning back to Geoffrey, “ I’m sorry, Tony and I really do have more to discuss. Maybe we could have that dance a little later?”, she queries.
“Alright, but I’ll hold you to that.” He grins as he points his index fingers at her as if they were six guns, then backs away.
She returns to face Tony. He shakes his head negatively. “Why’d you do that Angela? You should have danced with him. He looks like a good catch and he’s obviously smitten with you.”
“Is that what you want Tony? For me to go dancing off into the sunset with some guy neither of us knows…who’s ‘smitten’ with me?”
“Ay oh, Angela. I only want what’s best for you.” She angrily suggests he let ‘her’ decide what‘s best for her. “I just don’t want ya makin’ any mistakes Angela. You know…based on…assumptions.”, he says with eyes downcast.
After a pause, she asks with sincere puzzlement, “What does that mean?”
Tony is uncomfortable that she is pursuing this. He thought it would be clear to her, after the embarrassment they are both still trying to recover from…the embarrassment of her defending Tony against Fred’s obvious and ignorant prejudices. “You know Angela.” he says, raising his eyes, “…we just talked about it…about how funny it would be to get involved with your housekeeper. A real joke.” Angela does know exactly what he is talking about. Tony looks away from her again and Angela now lowers her eyes too, saying softly, “I guess we ‘are’ through here.”
She looks around the room now, trying to locate Geoffrey. After several moments of silence at their table for two, Tony speaks up. “Uh, too late Angela…he’s dancin’ with someone else now.” Angela whips her head around and asks Tony where he sees Geoffrey. But Tony doesn’t answer. He just stands and offers her his hand. As they start to dance he whispers in her ear, “Guess I’ll have to do.” “Guess so.”, she whispers back.
So they dance to the lovely tune the band plays and they speak in low voices about what they are to one another. There is uncertainty in their conversation, neither wanting to say too much…nor too little. She wants him to know how important he has become in her life but she doesn’t quite know how to express this without exposing herself, without leaving herself vulnerable. He silently shares her confusion and strange disappointment so he changes the direction of their conversation by lightly reminding her of how quickly they became best friends…of how surprised they were to realize two people from two different worlds, from vastly differing backgrounds...can have so much in common. He talks about their mutual love for things old fashioned, things like old music and old movies, of an old world sensibility and as he quietly comforts and cheers her with reminders of these little discoveries…these small similarities they cherish, he is soothing his own troubled mind as well, putting aside something he is not willing to sort out…not now, not tonight. She realizes what he has just done, how he has subtly changed the subject…and though she craves something more, something definitive, some small kernel of honesty…she accepts this…with a sigh. So by the time the music stops, this time, so do they. They can reach no breakthroughs and they can not penetrate each others protective emotional armor and each goes away understanding they are friends, Tony to find and dance with Sam, Angela to finally dance with Geoffrey, sad and a little empty but happy too, knowing they still have their precious friendship, at least.
Angela spends most of the rest of the evening dancing with Geoffrey but declines his invitation to take her home. She came with Tony and she will leave with Tony. It is just the two of them in the car heading home since Mona left with a date and Sam is spending the night with Marcie and her grandmother, leaving Jonathan to go home to spend the night at Wendy‘s.
It is calm in the car. They are both in strange moods, lost in their own imaginings. As they start to pull into the driveway Tony speaks up. “Hey Angela?” She turns to look at him. “You want to get some coffee before we go inside? I dunno…” He sort of shakes his head. “…I don‘t feel like headin’ in yet. I just don’t feel ready to go home and call it a night.” He looks at her with a conflicted yearning hidden behind his eyes. “Whatta ya say?“ She looks back for a long minute, a little unsettled, but finally answers, “Sure. Why not?” “Yeah, good.” he says, more relaxed now. “Why not?” As he shifts the car into reverse they look at one another, exchanging shy smiles and giggles.
“So are you seeing him again?” Tony asks this from across the booth at Marty’s Melody Room. They’d been amused when realizing they’d driven all the way to Brooklyn for a cup of coffee…and wondered why they had. But they’d enjoyed the ride in easy silence, windows open, the wind blowing her hair back. He, feeling the change in the night air as the grassy landscapes were replaced by the sounds and smells of city streets. Listening to the music from another time, the music they shared a love for, they were at ease with their hushed and comfortable companionship and wistful flashes of years gone by. They drove without noticing where they were headed. They barely noticed the time passing, along with the unnoticed miles, and it all suddenly just felt right and it strengthened their resolve to keep their alliance safe, to protect it. So they were both honestly surprised when they pulled up in front of Marty’s.
There they sit, a couple out of place, to be sure, here in this slightly dingy, slightly murky eatery, come bar, come pool hall. He looking distinguished and handsome in his fitted tuxedo, she beautiful in her graceful lace and chiffon dress. She looks up from her seat in the booth and nods yes. “Mmm hmmm. Friday night. Dinner and a Broadway play.” “Good.”, he says matter of factly. They talk about seeing other people and agree it is the right thing to do. But they both silently wish a little that it wasn’t.
“Tony?” She questions him softly and he meets her gaze. “Yeah?’ he says. “Do you ever think about us dating? You and me? Do you think maybe, sometime in the future…maybe…we might…date?” He is surprised…and captivated by her question. “Well, let’s see Angela. I could be vague here, or I could fib outright…or…I could just be honest.” “Why not just be honest.” she says, with a big, warm smile. He tells her ok but if he answers her honestly she would then have to do the same. They make a pact. They genially shake on it. They laugh. They are enjoying their ability to laugh together this night. “Yeah…”, he says, “..sometimes I do think about us dating.” he admits. “But, of course…it all depends on what’s down the road and…and what could happen …but…no, I mean…yeah, sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like. Where we’d go…you know. Stuff like that. And…,” his smile becomes unusually timid for this confident and naturally masculine athlete. But he continues, still watching her. “…and sometimes, in my sleep…I even dream about it.” As his voice trails off, they fix their eyes on one another before he clears his throat to tell her, “Now it’s your turn. Do you ever think about us dating one day…maybe? I’m trusting you to be honest here Angela.” They’d been enjoying this little game, feeling it was harmless enough…innocent play mostly. And truthfully, they were both curious what the other was thinking. But now, after what Tony has said, they both feel a little self-conscious. When she speaks it is softer, with eyes lowered. “I do…sometimes …imagine it.” she says. “What’s that you say Angela? Speak up. I can‘t hear you.” he laughs. “Tony!“ She knows he’s joking, trying to relieve the unexpected tension. “Oh, alright. I said sometimes I do think about it…us dating.” Tony looks confident, “Yeah? You fantasize about me? I knew it.” Her voice deepens and grows stronger. “I do not fantasize about you, I think about you…ah, us. And so what? You just said the exact same thing buddy.” Both aware their banter is outwardly good-natured teasing, they steal little glances at one another and smile and laugh again but…underneath…there is a lingering notion it may be something more...as Tony spontaneously places his hand on Angela’s. This gesture sobers them and after an awkward moment he withdraws his touch but continues to look at her with a telling nod, each knowing they have something very special between them, no matter what the future holds, even if this camaraderie never becomes anything more for them than just that. “You ready to go home?” he asks with a smile. “’Cause I’d say I’m ready to go home now.” “Yup. I am ready to go home.” She looks thoughtful for a minute. “You know Tony, sometimes I just love our home, don’t you?” Fully aware she instinctively included him in her thoughts of home, Tony feels warm, settled…and connected to Angela in a way he’d only ever felt before with Marie. That she has obviously taken he and Sam into her heart as family touches him and he shakes his head affirmatively to assure her he loves their home too.
Tony takes Angela’s arm and together they walk to the car with contented smiles, knowing they have many question marks in their future. But meanwhile, for now anyway, they have something they do know and understand and they wouldn’t change that for the world.