A Beautiful Mess
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“I teach a couple of classes. Circuit training, yoga and pilates. Stuff like that. I actually helped start the center. My partner, Linda, had a really great idea. We not only have a regular fitness center, but we also offer nutritional counseling, one-on-one private gym sessions, and menu planning, among other things. I loved the idea so much that I provided a good chunk of the startup capital, so I’m a partner.” Olivia took another sip of her wine before continuing.
“Linda always hated to see a personal trainer or workout at the gym when she was trying to lose weight. She felt so out of place. So we offer private personal training in small studio gyms. We teach our clients different workouts to do and help them feel more at ease with different gym equipment and exercises so that eventually they don’t feel overwhelmed when they actually go to the gym. Our goal is to help people get on the right track to living a healthier lifestyle. She’s the brains behind the operation and I’m the bank.” Olivia smiled at Alexander.
“Do you work a lot? I just find it odd that I’ve never seen you in the building before…” his voice dropped.
She grabbed his hands across the table. “It’s okay. I’m okay, Alexander. I promise.” She gave him a reassuring smile before dropping her hands in her lap. “I don’t work a whole lot. Just when I’m teaching a class or I feel like going into the office. I have enough outside commitments to keep me fairly busy during the week.” She laughed.
There was a brief silence before Olivia started drilling Alexander with her own questions. “So, tell me about your family. What are they like? I have none, so I need to live vicariously through you.” She knew she shouldn’t joke about the fact that the only family she had ever known was gone, but it was her way of dealing with it.
“Well, not much to tell. Mom is great. She does a lot of volunteer work these days. Lots of help with victims of domestic violence. Dad died a little over five years ago.” He looked down, trying to figure out what to say next.
“I’m sorry. It sucks to lose a parent, doesn’t it?”
He laughed. “It was difficult. Particularly because I was overseas for so long and I didn’t exactly leave on the best terms with him. He was running the security company at the time and he died in the line of duty protecting the identity of a client. I think he knew it was going to happen because a few days before he was killed, he got in touch with me overseas and almost seemed like he was trying to warn me about it. When I heard what happened, I was able to secure an honorable discharge and I came home to run the company.”
“That must be difficult, knowing your dad died for someone else. I’d be pissed if that were me. But you don’t seem like the selfish type.”
Alexander just stared. He never understood why his father abandoned the family in order to protect other people. Why weren’t they good enough for him? But if his Dad died protecting her, if his suspicions were right, then maybe he could understand it. He would have done the same thing.
Before Alexander could respond, their food arrived. It looked absolutely delicious.
“How is it?” Alexander asked after Olivia had taken a few bites of her seafood risotto.
“It’s amazing. Thank you.” She took another bite, trying not to stuff too much food into her mouth.
“I hope you like Italian,” Alexander said as he brought a piece of pasta Bolognese up to his lips. “I didn’t mean to be presumptuous, but who doesn’t like Italian?”
“You’re right. I do like Italian. Dad was actually Italian.” She looked out the window. “Is it strange that it feels weird to refer to him as ‘Dad?’ I mean, I would usually refer to him as my father. Never really Dad. I guess Dad would make him a person and I just don’t really remember him as a person.”
“Hey,” Alexander said, grabbing Olivia’s hand. “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about this. What helped me get over my dad’s death was to think about all the good memories I had. The moments we shared together. Even if all you can remember is one small sliver of time, hang on to that. It’s better to have known your parents and to have loved them, than to have never known them at all, don’t you think?”
Olivia looked at him. He had a point. Why was she so intent on dwelling in the past, holding on to her anger of losing them? Was it anger, though, or was it something else entirely?
“I think I am the selfish type,” Alexander said out of nowhere on the car ride home after they finished their dinner.
“What do you mean?” Olivia asked.
“Well, when we were talking about my dad before. I was so pissed at him growing up. He was never around. He always put his work before his family. Before me. It drove me crazy. I left Harvard to spite him. He wanted me to go there. That’s where he went. So after one semester, I joined the Navy just to piss him off. Then I decided I wanted to go for SEAL training and I was one of the few that made it through. I was good at special ops like my Dad, I guess.” He smiled at Olivia as she reached for his hand, squeezing it.
“Like I said before, the last several years of his life, he was working on a protection detail. No one in the office knew what he was working on. When he was killed, none of us got any closure. A few months after I returned home and took over the company, a letter arrived that he had sent to me overseas. It was probably written a few days before he died. I still haven’t opened it. I am not ready for his apologies just yet.” He looked out his window, deep in thought. Alexander hoped the only thing in the letter were apologies and not information. He wasn’t ready to face that letter. He didn’t know if he ever would be.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s worse, growing up without parents or growing up knowing your dad is too busy to even spend time with you.” Olivia seriously considered who had it worse. At least she had good memories of her mother. Wonderful memories. Learning to play the piano and sing with her. All the fun they used to have at the beach house. After all these years, it still upset her that her parents were taken from her so early in her life.
The car pulled up to Olivia’s house and Alexander ran around to open the car door for her before walking her up the steps to the front door.
Another awkward moment, Olivia thought as she unlocked the door. “Would you like to come in?” she asked, her eyes brimming with hope.