The lights shone a bit brighter than they had previous nights, flashing about the arena as screams of joy and excitement filled the space. Bodies lifted from their seats, jumping up and down as fresh New Jack beats kicked off, the band giving no less than a hundred percent.
The second hour of an extended set kicked off, high energy bouncing back and forth between the large entourage of performers.
Holding it together as best as she could, Támar Valez made it to her designated spot without missing a step, falling in line and sync with five other dancers, all dressed in jet black tights with over sized hockey jerseys and Doc Martens. There was a high kick, and though she felt she would fumble, she landed on her feet perfectly, bending down as she and the other dancers did a little move they’d picked up in New Orleans. They all dipped down and backwards on their hands before jumping back up to their feet. Hair blowing and swinging wildly.
Támar threw a smile on her face, kicking it up a notch as they came to the final breakdown of the excruciating routine. She prayed that it wasn’t showing in her face; but for the first time since she’d begun dancing professionally; eight counts, multiple routines, daily performances, excess amounts of high energy, and the requirement to be UP at all times were wearing her down.
Before them all stood the girl group they were dancing for, Ex-Girlfriend, singing their biggest hit as they fed into the crowd’s participation. Houston was the largest crowd of the entire tour, and Támar knew she had to be at a hundred. She was looking for her next opportunity, her next big career move. And in the house this particular evening were some of the industry’s biggest stars. This was not the night to slack, fall back, or be lazy. No matter how she felt and the reasons she felt it, she had to be at the top of her game.
“What am I supposed to say, supposed to do? When I love someone, I got to be loving you. You stay out every night, and that just ain’t right.”
“You must take me for a fool.”
Támar and the other dancers fell into the original routine given to the group, giving herself a chance to catch a second wind before they turned up the energy again.
“Why can’t you come home? Home to my love.” When she noticed the member singing lead approaching her, Támar perked up and step forward, taking her cue to start the moment where she and the other dancers were given time to shine independently.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our choreographer, the super talented, Támar! She took our routines to the next level, and we can’t thank her enough for getting us right. Give our girl some love, Houston!”
As the crowd sounded off, Támar took one final deep breath and gave it her absolute all. The band switched up and began to play what was quickly becoming associated with House Music, one of her favorite genres of music as of late.
She began to feel herself, putting all her emotions into her movements and the facial expressions she made as she moved to the front of the stage, showing off just a bit more than she normally would as everyone cheered her on.
When the beat stopped, she paused and laughed, taking a quick bow before she stepped back and made room for the next dancer.
Once the show came to an end, Támar graciously declined an invitation to hang with the crew at an after party, reminding them all that she wasn’t much of a party person anymore. Instead, she stayed behind in the dancers’ dressing room, allowing herself sometime to regroup and rest her feet. she lay across a small chaise lounge, allowing herself ten minutes to rest her eyes.
“It’s crazy that you’re not going to be on the second leg with us. It’s gonna be so tough looking to my left and not seeing you there. You can’t imagine how much comfort and confidence I find when you give your nod of approval.”
Támar smiled, opening her eyes to see that one of the few close friends she’d made on tour had joined her. A young dancer with a promising future named Corey. She was nineteen, and as wide-eyed and hopeful as Támar had been when she first began making a name for herself in the dance industry.
And, if she had to be honest, the teenager was more impressive than she gave herself credit for. If there were anyone she felt any type of threat and competition from, it was Corey. She admired the teenager, wanted nothing but the best for her. Encouraged her, and sought to keep her safe anytime they worked together. “Trust and believe me Corey, you’ll do just fine.” Támar sat up, sighing softly. “That’s kind of why I’ve been working with you the way I have. Staying on you, being a little tougher on you than I have been with the other girls.”
“I thought it was because I was slacking off sometimes.”
“Girl, hush. Nobody, and I mean nobody works harder than you do. And that makes me so proud. I see so much drive, determination, and ambition in your eyes when you dance. I knew if I had to turn my work over to anyone, it would only be you. I can leave and not worry about the second leg because I know you’ve got what it takes to lead, and I know you’ll keep everything together.”
Corey’s eyes grew large, the realization of what was being placed on her shoulders. “Whoa, that’ts a lot to handle, Tam.”
“And I wouldn’t give it if I didn’t think you could handle it. If you need any last reassurance after tomorrow night, I’ll be at the Boston Garden show when you guys pass back through. And of course, I’ll be checking up on you here and there. I believe in you, and I know you’ll do great.”
“Thanks. Man, I’m gonna miss you.”
“Ayee, it’s only for a little while. And, if things I have planned work out, you may see me even sooner for something great. Now get on out of here and go enjoy yourself.”
“Need a ride back to the hotel?”
Támar shook her head, waving goodbye to the bright eyed teenager. She would catch a cab back to the hotel, get a few extra hours of sleep so that she could be at her best for their final show the following evening.
As she walked across the parking lot not long after, she heard her name being called. The voice familiar, and one that suddenly annoyed her each time she heard it in recent weeks. Támar stopped in her tracks, adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she waited for her boyfriend to catch up. As usual, Dominic DeWitt was dressed up from head to toe, sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of tracksuits, jeans, and more casual clothing.
He looked good though, and not just because it had been a solid two months since she’d seen him. She couldn’t even bring herself to deny it this time, still she kept a blank stare on her face as she waited for him to approach her. “What do you want, Kermit?”
Dominic rolled his eyes, standing in front of Támar once he finally reached her. If looks could have killed, her eyes would have shot him dead on sight. The expression and attitude were so foreign to him now, it left him confused and saddened. “At least I know you still love me. Your mean ass wouldn’t have given me a name if you didn’t.”
“I gave them to you more frequently when I hated you, Tiny Tim, so don’t feel special.”
“Yo,” Dominic sighed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks as he looked down. “What is it this time? And why haven’t you been answering my calls? Got me feeling like a stalker trying to get a hold of you in every city and country.”
“You’re that pressed to talk, you followed me all the way to Houston?”
“I’m saying though, if you hadn’t run away so quickly when y’all hit Boston, I wouldn’t have had to come out here.” Her brow rose, wondering if he were really admitting it. “No Tam, I did not follow you here. I’m here trying to find funding and support for my show. But I knew you would be here tonight, and I decided to take my chance.” Támar pulled away when Dominic reached for her hand. “Damn, can you tell me what I did wrong? Give me the chance to make it right?”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I’m just realizing that things are so different. Change is needed. Look, I’m sorry, but you know as well as I do that we’re just not a good match any longer, Dom.”
“Were we ever truly a match? No, but we’re good together, Baby Doll. We got our own thing, a lil’ groove we’ve found and it works for us. We’re great now that we’ve gotten it together. Right?” She said nothing, so he asked again. “Right?”
Támar shook her head. “No. We’re just… we’re all over the place now. We don’t fit into each others lives anymore.”
“We don’t even have time for each other anymore. We argue more than anything, though you suddenly seem to think that good sex erases every problem that comes along.”
“I don’t think that, I know that is never a true solution. Just a temporary fix that feels good.” Támar exhaled sharply, turning to walk away. Dominic grabbed her hand, gently pulling her back. “What’s really on your mind? Talk to me.”
Támar shook her head. “We should let go now, while we’re still young. While we can pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move forward with our lives.”
He waved the thought off, standing straight as he spoke. He was beginning to feel that she was out of her mind. Possibly speaking reckless due to pure exhaustion, though he wouldn’t dare say it out loud. He couldn’t understand what could be so wrong that she would suggest breaking up.
There’s had never been the perfect relationship, hadn’t even started off in the conventional manner. But they managed to work through all of their differences. If there were truly an issue too big, he’d have let go when they were still in high school. If he wasn’t certain they were destined for great things, together, he wouldn’t hold on as tightly. “If I wanted to build this life and chase my dreams without you by my side, I wouldn’t be running up my phone bill trying to have one damn conversation via collect calls. Do you know how much a call to Japan costs?”
“I wouldn’t be hoping for awkward run-ins when I know we’re in the same city by chance. You get me exactly where you want me, an emotional sap for you, and you wanna dip?! You wanna reverse roles, become the doubtful one while I’m all in with no fear? Tam, come off the bullshit.”
“What bullshit am I on, Dominic? I’m just being realistic! Life is steady pulling us in different directions, especially with us both succeeding so much lately. We’re in different spaces altogether. When we are together, it’s never the same. We’re detached and struggle to reconnect. We don’t talk, don’t make efforts to be as close as we should be. It feels like we’re both still in it for convenience; because we know one another now, and we’ve opened up and neither one of us want to go through the hassle again. That’s not good. We go back and forth so much, it feels like we haven’t made it anywhere. We’re supposed to be building a life together, but we can’t even come together or agree on simple stuff anymore. I’m here, you’re there… I need to talk, you don’t have time or what I might have to say is never as important as you having the last say or final thought on the matter. I can’t imagine what will happen when life-altering things come into play. I feel more alone in this relationship than anything. I’ve been real unhappy lately. And I don’t like it.”
“All you had to do was tell me all of that Tam. Did you think I was going to go back to that little period where I wasn’t listening, where I wasn’t acting right?”
“Don’t you always find your way back to that little period when you become overwhelmed? Our situation becomes one-sided a little too often for my liking now, and it starts to feel like I’m the only one trying. And once I feel that way, I check out and stop trying too. Only now, I’ve started trying to break away from you for good. And unless you’re going to make a real and lasting effort, stop dragging me back for another twenty rounds of foolishness. I’ve got too much to focus on now, something much more important than you and I. I refuse to keep around going back and forth with you.”
“I’m sorry, Tam. You know I want nothing more than your happiness, for you to always be happy and feel safe with me. I love you.”
Támar groaned, jerking away when he reached for her hand again. “Why do you think that just saying sorry is all it takes? I know that you’re sorry. Always shouting how grown you are and still have more growing to do.”
Dominic sighed, admitting that he sometimes grew too comfortable, forgetting that as they got older and experienced more in life, there were more things they both required from one another to be happy. He could admit, Támar always gave and gave freely. Most times, he’d forget to do the same, feeling he no longer had to work to keep her after being together so many years. “Because I’m an idiot, we know this.”
She nodded, exhaling as she brushed her hair out of her face. “It’s not funny anymore. It’s not cute anymore. And I wasn’t speaking on growth to diss you about your height this time. Wanna know what all the moods have been? Why everything you’ve have and haven’t been doing has annoyed me so much lately? Why I’m suddenly as scared as you used to be about us being together?”
Támar nodded, setting her bag down on the ground. She unzipped her jacket and un-tucked the Ex-Girlfriend tour shirt she was wearing. She lifted it up, slowly running her hand over the tiny bump she’d done a decent job of hiding while on her final leg of the tour.
Dominic’s eyes bulged, shock written all over his face. “I’m pregnant. And every time we’ve fallen out lately, I’ve felt that you would be as neglectful as you are when you get in these asshole-ish modes of yours. I love you with all of my heart Dominic, but I’d rather break up and deal with you in a smaller capacity. You know, work things out where it won’t harm our child. I’m already scared out of my mind about being pregnant, and it happening now. Not knowing what to do, how this is going to work out, how to tell our families, and where to turn to. I don’t want to be angry and stressed and worried about something going wrong because I’m dealing with you and childish ways you haven’t shaken yet. He or she is more important at this point.”
Dominic stood quietly for a few moments, collecting his thoughts. Without thinking about it, he stepped closer to Támar, placing his hand on her stomach. “When’d you find out?”
“Last month, before a show in Sydney. The night you called and they told you I was too sick to go on stage. No one knows, but it’s why I’ve pulled myself off the tour.”
A tiny smile danced across his face as he leaned down, speaking slowly. “A mini-me, a blessing.” He looked into her eyes, seeing an immense amount of fear flickering. “The reason for all of the please grow up comments.”
“Among other things. Listen, I’m tired. We can talk about all of this when I get back home on Tuesday.” She pushed his hand away, fixing her clothing before she picked her bag up.
“Tam, you know I’ve struggled with being a better person. And though I’ve changed in small ways, I haven’t matured nearly as much as you have. I’ve never hidden that, and I can’t thank you enough for how patient you’ve been since day one. You do so much for me, and sometimes I get besides myself, a little too comfortable after you get on my ass about my foolishness. I take more than I give and I know that’s not right, don’t do nearly as much as I should still be doing to keep you happy, so sure I’ll always have you no matter what I do. I’m sorry, and I’ll do better. I’ll get myself together, I just need one last chance; I’ll be everything you and our child need. That’s my promise.”
“We’ll talk about it Tuesday. For now, use the weekend to figure out what you want to do. Bye, Dom.”
Dominic stood quietly, watching over Támar as she hailed a taxi. It wasn’t until minutes after she was gone that he’d taken a breath, allowing her words to settle as he headed back to his car. Life-altering was one of the most perfect phrases she could have thrown his way. “Damn.”
New responsibilities, new decisions to make; and she was giving him time to think it all through. Certain of where she was, and what she would do for herself, Dominic knew he had to make the right choice. He had to grow up, to mature, finally.