The Quiet Storm
by Leah M. Redwood
“ROAR!” was the sound of the booming voices chanting, rhyming, singing mixed together like a syncopated symphony. The music was poppin’ and the crowd was on their feet swaying, dancing with one another and everybody was having a good time. A rainbow sea of faces and everyone holding each other made Emily feel proud to live in Los Angeles. She had gone to a reggae festival with her coworkers. The six of them were bored to tears Monday through Friday doing data entry for a medical lab but Friday and Saturday nights were made to party and unwind together.
“Vikki Magetoni, get it girl!” Emily said as her friend was into a serious groove.
“Nothing like the weekend Em!, she chimed back.
“This song is dope!”, said Antonio Rodriguez, (or Tony to his buddies) as he broke out in a throwback of the “Running Man”.
“”Uh oh, Tony is gettin’ jiggy with it”, Emily beamed, sweat pouring from her sisterlocks. Lost in the music, Emily threw her head back, waving her arms in the air swaying side to side with her shoulders bobbing in alternating contractions.
Emily watches their other friend, Corrie, as she is backed up cozily in a corner by a 5”10”, mocha latte complected hottie with dark black curly hair, talking to her and gently caressing her face.
“Corrie ALWAYS has game”, Emily jealously exclaimed but happy for her friend. “Everywhere we go, Corrie gets the guy--cute guys, not so cute guys, smart guys, not so smart guys, rich guys, not so rich guys. “She’s so lucky.” “She’s lucky because she’s outspoken”, she said to herself.
“Last Call!”, came the voice of the DJ over the amp.
“O.K., let’s book it”, said Tony.
“No, wait!, Corrie shouted. “I have to give this guy my number”, she continued.
Whispering to herself, “like I said, she always gets the guy. No one ever notices me.”
“What?”, Tony asked.
“Oh, nothing, Corrie mumbled.
“C’mon, you’re self deprecating again, Tony said as he put his arms around Emily to comfort her.
“Corrie is vivacious, articulate and smart!” “She’s 23 and makes a comfortable living with her WFA job.”, she begrudgingly muttered.
“Her what?!, Tony asked puzzled.
“Her work from anywhere job!”, she exclaimed.
“”Stop beating yourself up all the time, comparing yourself to everybody else. You’ve got a lot going on too!” “You’re a special ed preschool teacher for a major school district”. You get good pay, eight weeks paid days off and every holiday in the word and you’re only 26”, Tony reminded her.
“Yeah, I know I’m blessed to have known what I wanted to to early but…”, voice drifting off.
“You just want to the worse in yourself”, Tony said.
“Hey ya’ll, let's book it”, Vikki said breathing heavily.
“You were killin’ it on the dance floor tonight!”, Emily exclaimed.
“O.k., now I’m ready to go.”, Corrie said grinning like she had a dirty secret.
As the four friends headed towards the exit, a fight broke out all of sudden. Chairs sliding across the floor, glass breaking from the table that a man was pushed onto. The crowd, running in various directions, screaming, trying to get out of the way. Big, burly bouncers came to diffuse the situation to no avail as the two men continued throwing punches.
Emily ran immediately towards the middle of the scene and Tony tried to grab her to stop her as he yelled, “Em, STOP! Get back here you idiot!”
Emily ran between the two gentlemen who both were trying to get their bearings., both recovering from one another’s punches, came to an immediate halt. They looked at Emily, who stood there in between the men, eyes closed, with her arms stretched out like a traffic cop directing cars. She didn’t say a word. She stood there for what seemed like ten minutes. The crowd gasped in disbelief that this tiny woman wasn’t pulverized. Slowly, she opened her eyes and she looked left at one of the men and looked right at the other man and whispered something but her words weren’t audible. She stood for a few moments longer and then looked at her friends and motioned them to the door and they left.
The ride home was deathly quiet. It was eerie and then Tony broke the uncomfortable silence.
“What the hell?!”, he yelled at Emily, who at this time had tears profusely running down her cheeks.
“Please, don’t say anything”, she pleaded.
“Em, you could have been killed or seriously hurt. Why did you do that?!, Tony questioned with compassion.
“I knew I could stop it”, Emily said softly. No one said another word that night.
Weeks later, the four friends went to lunch and inside the restaurant a harried mother constantly tried everything to console her young son, who was sitting on the floor crying and tapping the floor in syncopated rhythm. Most of the other patrons in the restaurant, looked at the mother with disdain for allowing her unruly child to destroy the quietness that belonged to them.
Emily walked over to the mother and placed her hand on the mom’s shoulder and then sat down beside the boy who continued to cry but now was repeating the phrase, “that’s ok, that’s ok, that’s ok.” The child rocked back and forth and repeated the phrase while Emily just sat quietly looking at the child with her hands folded in her lap. After ten minutes, the child stopped crying but continued to rock.
“I can see that you’re upset. It’s ok to be upset”, she said quietly as she reached out her hand towards the child. The boy looked up at her. Emily said, “Do you need help?” Taking Emily’s hand the child allowed her to help him up. The little boy sat in his seat at the table. The mother looked with astonishment and thankfulness. “My son is austic”, I usually know what to do and can calm him when something triggers him.”, she continued softly.
“Thank you.”, the mom said again.
“You’re welcome”, Emily responded. “I get really frustrated too and just need to stomp or dance or do something physical when I’m angry.”, she said.
After everything settled down and the friends sat at their table, they all just looked at Emily. No more was said. Lunch was done in total silence.
Emily received a text from Tony asking if he could stop by. When he arrived, they hugged and Tony just looked at her pensively.
“What are you staring at””, she asked.
“A quiet storm.”, he answered as he took her hand. Emily felt uncomfortable because she had known Tony since middle school. She had always secretly had a crush on him but was happy with their friendship. They always hug, go dancing, eat, and vacation together. The four of them all did this. They were family. This intimacy, the tender and steady gaze made her feel something she always wanted to deny. She knew that she was probably just being hormonal because there was no way, he could feel anything romantic about her.
“What do you mean, a quiet storm”?, she asked.
“You have a power to make people do things”, he said softly.
“No, I don’t, she giggled.
“When you walk into a room, your presence is felt strong without you having to say a word. You command respect in a hostile situation with a gentle touch, a gaze and your beautiful smile.”, he responded, blushing.
“Em, would you like to go to dinner with me?”, he asked as he nervously bit his lip.
Emily had never seen Tony like this. She has always seen him with a lot of pretty girls. Pretty girls were always after him. She and Tony always go out to eat but she knew internally, how he meant it. She wasn’t ready for it. She always fantasized about the possibility but never thought a quiet, unassuming girl like her could romantically attract a guy like Tony.
Ten minutes passed as they both just stood there staring at each other and he confirmed his feelings for her as he pulled her close and kissed her softly on the lips. A gentle, sweet kiss but powerfully seductive.
“Tony, you love me?”, she asked with uncertainty.
“Yes, love, I do. I always have. I have always been attracted to the powerful presence you possess.” You never take the best piece of food when we all eat out together. People tease you and I know your feelings often get hurt, yet you don’t throw back a harsh comeback”, he continued.
“When anyone is in trouble, you always know the exact thing to do or say”, he said.
“Tony?”, Emily asked.
“Yes?”, he answered.
“I love you too”, she gushed.
Tony took her in his arms and gave her a kiss so delicious and deep that she felt like she was having an out of body experience watching him kiss one of his many girls as she had seen so many times before and secretly imagined herself as the girl.
They went to dinner that night and talked like they always talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other’s company but tonight it was the kind of special like when you’ve been waiting all year for that perfect gift and when you finally get it, you savor it, relish in the moment of receiving it.
Emily finally embraced her gift, her power, her beauty and she just smiled at Tony and quietly and gently brushed his hands as they talked as they always did.