“It should be over by now,” Joel said, his phone pressed to his ear.
Passing through the large wooden auditorium doors, he looked up to see faces shaded in darkness, that turned to see his entrance. They were not happy. As if in opposition, his face glowed with a pallor white as he looked around the packed space searching for his wife, phone stuck to his cheek.
“Okay, I have to go, I’m at the recital now.”
His eyes quickly raked across the rows of seats as he moved, his back hunched as he walked, aware of the intrusiveness of his entrance. He glanced towards the stage and saw the vice principal, eyes on him. Breaking the gaze, the vice principal placed the microphone back into its stand, grabbed both as he walked to the left disappearing behind thick, red curtains.
Joel mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ as he slowly walked down the aisle, still searching through the crowd for Sarah. He finally spotted her beckoning hand three rows from the front.
“Just make sure you have those charts ready for tomorrow, alright? Bye.” Sliding his phone into the inner pocket of his overcoat, Joel excused himself to the open seat next to the wife. “Just in time,” he said, grinning.
“No, not just in time,” she whispered, dismissively.
He sat, slipped off his coat while keeping a confused eye on Sarah. “What’d you mean? They didn’t even start.”
“Just sit still, the curtain’s going up.”
He shook his head and sighed. “What, I don’t get any credit for being on time?”
“No, you don’t.” She didn’t even look in his direction. “It’s Junie’s first big recital. You were supposed to be here to see it--”
“And I’m here--”
“Did you not read the instructions?” she hissed. “Right, of course not. This started forty minutes ago. You’ve missed a lot. Junie even asked for you.”
His phone once again buzzed in his coat and Sarah shook her head.
Twisting about he searched for the inner pocket of his overcoat. “Well I’m here now.”
“No, you aren’t.”
Again, his face was aglow in pale light, his eyes wide as he read who was calling before answering. “Hey, yeah… I can’t talk right now,” Joel whispered into the sickly light. “What? Are you kidding me? No… no, you can’t use that graph.”
As Joel whispered, the music came on and Junie along with four other girls, all draped in rhinestone attire, stepped out into the bright lights of the stage.
“I know about that, but--”
The words caught in Joel’s throat when his eyes met Junie’s perfectly fluid form glide across the stage. She moved with a grace her father never witnessed before. In unison, the dancers moved to the music as the chittering from the phone continued.
Junie dancing was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“I’ll call you back.”
He didn’t get the chance to end the call. Instead, he stared into the lights before him, the glittering rhinestones that adorned his daughter flickered with rainbows.
“She’s so good,” he muttered to himself.
Annoyance became elation as Sarah turned to her husband who seemed unable to divert his eyes away from their dancing child.
“Her teacher thinks she’s talented enough to possibly go to a specialized school for dance.”
Joel’s gaze never waived, even as his phone buzzed away impotently in his coat pocket. As he watched, he remembered. All of the prior recitals he missed, all of the practices he deemed unnecessary to attend and the many discussions Junie attempted to have with him about her newfound love.
“Joel, are you alright?”
Eyes glistening, Joel nodded. “I’m fine.”
Sarah could see her husband’s expression and knew. She could see the regret and love on his face. So, in the darkness, she grabbed her husband's hand and squeezed. “She’ll be so happy to see you're here, Joel.”