Summary: Daisy thinks Georgia has never waltzed. That's not entirely true.
Fandom: Dead Like Me
Characters: George, Daisy, Joy
Rating: PG-13 for language
Original story: Instruction by aphrodite_mine
I come down the stairs when I hear the crackling of wood and Daisy giggling to herself. I can only imagine what runs through her mind at any given moment. In fact, I go out of my way not to with any of the reapers. We’re a family of oddballs, living two lives, one where we pretend to be alive and the other where we watch that life seep out of other people.
I learned to deal with it. Didn’t really have much choice and pissing off Rube was never a good idea. Usually it ended with a reprimand and dual reaping duties with Mason. The thing with Mason was he was a game of Russian roulette – you never knew if you could breathe a sigh of relief or if there would be brains and blood all over the fucking floor.
I was still figuring out how to deal with Daisy. She was much harder to understand than the rest of our group. She was selfish and vain, but she could also make everything better with a smile.
That didn’t mean I enjoyed whatever the hell was causing such a commotion when I was trying to catch up on my soaps. “What are you doing, Daisy?”
"Just putting on some music, Georgia," she replied, finding the right track on the record and letting the player spin peacefully into its melody. "Did you ever learn to waltz?"
I looked at her blankly. Moving furniture so she could waltz at one in the morning? It was insane. And yet the look on her face was one of pure enjoyment.
She smiled and looked at me like I was one of those special kids who wore helmets, like I should’ve been scratching my head and wondering aloud, “Waltzing? Never heard of such a thing.”
The problem was, I had way too much experience with waltzing.
(two years earlier)
“Georgia Lass, if you’re not back down these stairs in ten seconds, I’m going to walk across the street and tell that boy, Daniel, that you write about him in your diary.”
I ran down the stairs and pointed at her. “I knew you fucking read it.”
“I’m your mother. I have to make sure you’re not involved in drugs and teenage prostitution.”
“Mine is a different kind of hell.”
“So I’ve read,” my mother replied. She motioned to the living room and said, “I’m not letting you run away from this like you do everything else.”
“It’s a fucking waltz. And it’s stupid.”
“Watch your mouth. I don’t want your sister picking up your bad habits.”
“This would constitute torture in some countries.”
“Well, in some countries it wouldn’t be considered inappropriate for me to lock you in a basement until you learned how to behave.” She pointed to the living room this time, in that mom-way where you just knew there was no way out of it, and said, “Let’s take it from the top. You weren’t doing so badly until you messed up the turns.”
“I hate you.”
“You’re not exactly a ball of sunshine either.”
My shoulders slumped, I walked to the living room, momentarily defeated, and stood in the center of the floor with my arms up in the first position we had learned.
“You look like you’re about to be executed.”
“Jesus Christ, Georgia. It’s one dance. Your cousin, Lacey, wants her bridesmaids to do a waltz with the groomsmen,” my mother said, stepping away from me and restarting the music.
I groaned. This was some sort of hell I was stuck in. Some punishment that my parents had thought up for something I didn’t even know they’d caught me doing. Or ya know, my mother was just a sadist.
My mother raised her lifted her arms up, her expression saying “do it or else,” and I balked. I was seventeen, almost eighteen, and there she was, still bossing me around like when I was Reggie’s age. I crossed my arms and glared at her, “I didn’t even ask to be in this stupid wedding.”
“Your cousin asked you.”
“She was forced to by Aunt Meg.”
“That’s not true. You and Lacey have been close since you were toddlers.”
“We can barely stand one another.”
“She always loved spending weekends with us.”
“To torment me. And this is just one more way for her to do it.”
“You make your cousin sound like a monster, George.”
I shrugged. “She listens to Moby and thinks Gwyneth Paltrow is cool. Need I say more?”
Apparently, my mother didn’t care about this whole debacle. Up until this point, I was pretty sure I could fake a case of African sleeping sickness to get out of my bridesmaid duties. Or maybe rob a bank and get thrown in prison. Nothing was out of the realm of possibilities.
Unfortunately, that did nothing to dissuade my mother from forcing this issue with the waltz. She had let me get away with the comments about my dress and the stupid wedding song (Bryan Adams? Really?), but the waltz was her line in the sand that even I dared not cross. At least not right then.
I glared and it was met with the best jutted-hip with exasperated sigh that I’d seen in years and said, “I don’t really care if she set your dollhouse on fire. You’re going to suck it up, play the happy bridesmaid for your cousin and show the guests that we’re a goddamn happy family.” She raised her arms back into the position of the presumed guy who would be leading me into this apocalyptic scenario. “Now, concentrate and try not to step on my foot this time.”
She motioned to Reggie, who I hadn’t even noticed sitting in the corner by the CD player, and the music started over again, some horrible sound emanating out of the speakers as my mother barked out commands like it was a game of Twister – left leg, step back, right arm on red. I might have accidentally stepped on her toes when she closed her eyes.
My mother jumped back and screeched, “You did that on purpose.”
I shrugged. No need to pretend it wasn’t on purpose. I wasn’t sorry I did it either, and I didn’t particularly care what that said about me. I could see the look in my mother’s eyes, the same one I’d seen over the years. Like the time she signed me up for cheerleading. I dropped the pom-poms on the ground and laughed as I ran off toward the car.
And like clockwork, like every single time she tried to mold me into the daughter she wanted, she let out a loud, frustrated sigh and said, “You just can’t make this easy on me. Not this once.”
I shrugged. The thing was, doing the fucking waltz wasn’t the problem – even if I did flash on some overweight, pimpled loser trying to cop a feel as I attempted not to fall flat on my face in a dress with excessive ribbons and bows – it was that it mattered so much to my mother. It was the reason she volunteered me to be a part of the wedding. The reason she always made my father at least pretend that he wanted to be around by creating “family dinner Thursday.” The reason she practically forced Reggie down my throat, saying things like, “one day you’ll be best friends.” My mother was enamored with the idea of the appearance of happiness. She didn’t seem to care that she wasn’t actually happy – not that I could blame her with a kid like me – so long as everyone else didn’t know it.
I was much more comfortable with wallowing in my hatred for humanity and the world around it, and I definitely had no problem with making said world aware of it.
“We’re going to learn this damn dance, George. No television, no music—“
“—make it hard to learn a dance—“
“—don’t be a smartass. And if you step on my foot again, don’t be surprised if I return the favor.”
I would never admit this out loud because most of the time my mother was an overbearing shrew, but I did admire how easily she threatened people into doing exactly what she wanted. We all knew she would deliver on her threats – a lesson I learned at the age of seven when my poor, still-living goldfish was flushed down the toilet because I forgot to feed it. The planet would be in serious trouble if my mother ever got it in her head to seek out world domination – we’d be doomed.
“It’s not my fault your teaching abilities are on par with my near-sighted health teacher’s.”
“Georgia. Dance. Now.”
“But waltzes are so lame. Who waltzes anymore? Besides people born before World War II?”
My mother took a deep breath and said, “I’m asking you nicely. Please. Try again.”
I rolled my eyes. We’d already wasted an hour of my weekend on this stupid thing, but this dance was inevitable, like everything else going on in my life. No one warned you in kindergarten that the world was spinning out of control, filled with stupid people making ridiculous demands of your time (waltzing!) when nothing really mattered in the long run. Everyone was running around, just like my mother, hiding all the misery and anger because what else could you do?
“Are you even listening to me? Take first position.”
I rolled my eyes again. “Lacey is the devil.”
“She’s your fucking cousin, so watch it.”
“She wants us to dance around like clowns all for her amusement.”
“Yes. And one day when you have your own special day, you can inflict torment on whoever you want.”
“I’m gonna hold you to that,” I said as my mother led us from right to back to left to front, or some version of that.
My mother smiled tightly – the kind that meant her anger was dissipating but she didn’t want anyone to know – as she turned us. We both seemed surprised that it went much better than our first attempt, which had led to me running up the stairs and her screaming after me.
She said, “I don’t doubt it.”
“I’m thinking Reggie will dress up like a ballerina and Dad will wear a blue tux. And all my bridesmaids will wear straight jackets, including Lacey, and then, to top it off, there will be a choreographed dance to a Barry Manilow song in the straight jackets.”
It was my mother’s turn to roll her eyes- it was one of the first things I learned from the woman – and said, “Sounds like the groom’s going to run for the hills.”
I kept moving my feet and said, “Maybe I should switch it around then – have Reggie in the blue tux and Dad dressed up in the tutu.”
“He does always yammer on about how his biking has worked wonders on his leg muscles. He’ll finally have a way to show off his works of art,” my mother replied.
It caught me off guard and I choked out a laugh. Yeah, sometimes my mother could surprise me. And maybe it was kinda nice, but also kinda unacceptable. I stopped waltzing, but my mother didn’t yell. I said, “That’s a disturbing image.”
“Your father can be quite the bumbling idiot for someone so damn smart,” she replied. She motioned for Reggie to join us and continued, “Now I want you to try taking the lead. Your cousin’s fiancé doesn’t have the brightest family and friends, and I’d hate for you to look ridiculous.”
“Too late. I’m wearing pink ruffles with flowers in my hair.”
She ignored my comment. “I need to make dinner. Take it easy on your sister and you better have the basics of the waltz down by dinner or I’ll register you for dance classes every day after school. With old people. Preferably ones that will pinch your cheeks.”
I groaned. The woman was insane. And evil. Not a good combination. One day I would be free of her and it would be the best moment of my life. And the last thing I would say to her would be, “I’ll never need to know about waltzing again.”
I stood on the stairs and watched Daisy move in a familiar pattern of steps. Except it looked so much better than the spectacle that Warren and I had created on the dance floor.
Daisy laughed again, a breath of fresh air that seemed to move through the house and hit me, filling my chest with her joy. And damned if I didn’t find myself saying, “Okay, what do I do?”