One Step Closer
It didn't take Layla long to notice Joanna's appearance outside the cafe. What surprised her more was the fact that she wasn't alone. She recognized the semi-spiky haired dancer as he waved goodbye and Joanna entered the cafe.
"Hey sis." Joanna said.
"Hey, aren't you supposed to be at the apartment? Since when did you tell me you were going out with Glitch?" Layla questioned seriously.
"Look I got bored and Leo wasn't available so I called Glitch." she explained with a shrug of her shoulders.
"Ok but next time let me know ok. I don't want to freak out when I get home to an empty apartment." and Layla had to quickly take a customer's order before returning to the conversation. "So what were you doing with him anyway?"
"Nothing important. But he told me I should audition for his crew." she revealed, wondering how Layla would react. "They have a comp coming up and he thinks I'd be a good asset."
"He wants you to audition for hi-def?" and Layla almost didn't believe her. "Really?" she asked again, not sure she'd heard that correctly. "Isn't hi-def a male only crew?"
"That's what I said. But here's the thing the crew that wins this competition gets fifty thousand dollars in prize money."
"So?" Layla replied, not sure what she was getting at.
"Some of that money could go a long way for you. You could pay off all your debts and buy that studio from the council. You'd never have to worry about rent again and those kids get to keep having fun." she said and Layla almost couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her sister, a person who a week ago wouldn't talk to her, now wants to make sure she can keep doing what she loves.
"You would do that for me?" she wondered.
"Yeah, I mean those kids love you and you love teaching them, so why wouldn't I?" Joanna said slightly taken aback.
"I'm just surprised Jo that's all. I mean this is based on you getting into hi-def, what if that doesn't happen?" she said, wondering if Joanna had even considered the possibility.
"I know it's a long shot but It's definitely worth it if it means I can help you out."
"Well thanks, that means a lot." Layla replied with a genuine smile."Oh before I forget I might be out for a bit tonight. I ran into Oblio earlier and he's taking me somewhere after I get off work." she said.
"What, like a date?" Joanna asked, quite interested.
"No, nothing like that, at least I think it isn't." Layla said, smiling nervously.
"Well that's cool with me I mean it's not like I haven't spent time on my own before." she said, thinking her sister could do with having some fun.
After Layla finished work she drove Joanna back to the apartment first before calling Oblio. Joanna insisted she'd be fine and would probably occupy herself with movies while she was out. Once Oblio arrived Layla said goodbye to her sister and told her not to wait up. Joanna nodded and told her to leave before he wondered we she was. When Layla went down to meet him she found him waiting for her, leaning up against the side of motorbike. Just the sight of him made her heart feel warm. She smiled at him when he noticed her approaching.
"So are you going to tell me where we're going?" she asked.
"You'll find out soon." he said handing her a helmet. She put it on and climbed onto his bike, placing her arms comfortably around his waist. The moment she was seated Oblio revved up the engine and drove off.
As Oblio pulled in to a parking lot of an Italian styled restaurant Layla almost wondered if this really was a date. She followed him inside, not asking any questions until they entered. All of a sudden three excited children came running over and Layla was stunned when they all went and hugged Oblio.
"Hey, guys it's a been a while." Oblio said as the children broke away from him.
"Dad thought you weren't going to come here anymore." said a young girl.
Layla kept her mouth shut as she watched the scene unfold before her. Unfortunately though the two other kids, two boys, noticed her and glanced between herself and Oblio.
"Who's she?" one of them asked. "Is she your girlfriend?" he teased, almost laughing.
"No guys it's nothing like-" but he was cut off.
"Wow she's pretty." the little girl said, like she had just seen a star fall from the sky.
Layla laughed and said "Thank you."
"Ah Oblio, long time no see huh?" said a man who Layla assumed was the father of the three children. He looked like he was in his late thirties but his hair was a little on the grey side. He was also a little chubby round the waist but Layla didn't judge.
"Yeah sorry about that Antonio, my dad's been on my case a lot lately." and Layla wondered what he meant by that. It wasn't long before Antonio noticed Layla standing beside him.
"Aren't you going to introduce us?" he asked.
"Uh sure this is Layla, she dances like me. Layla, this is Antonio and his kids, Maria, Dante and Andre. Antonio owns this restaurant and he lets me come here sometimes when I need to get away." Oblio explained, avoiding eye contact.
"It's nice to meet you all." Layla said.
"You to, Oblio's never brought a girl here before." Antonio noted and Layla couldn't hide her smile when she saw Oblio's look of embarrassment. After woods Oblio took her into a small room round the back of the restaurant. It was completely empty apart from a few pillars situated around the room. A stereo sat in the corner and the windows let in the natural light of dusk.
"Wow so this is where you what..." and she glanced around the room. "Dance?"
"Yeah, this is my home away from hell ." he said, once again avoiding her gaze.
"Can I ask why you keep getting so tense?" she asked. "You mentioned your dad earlier and it was like you'd eaten something gross."
"Do you know who my dad is?" he sighed, looking down at the floor.
"No, should I?" Layla wondered, starting to feel a little tense herself now.
"I'm Oblio Tan, son of Dr Richard Tan, head of Tan industries." he revealed.
"Wait the robotics company?" Layla asked and Oblio nodded. Layla couldn't believe it. Tan was one of the most influential people in the city. She never expected him to have a son or learn that Oblio was in fact said son.
"That's the one. He's not exactly winning any father of the year awards." he laughed uncomfortably. "We don't get along well." Layla had gathered as much from the way his behaviour changed at the mention of his father.
"I'm sorry to hear that." she spoke.
"Yeah, well, he's always had his own plans for me you know? The moment I deviated from those plans he decided to make my life a misery." and Layla understood on some level what that was like. "He wanted me to be a part of the company but I refused. Dance is my true calling so I come here to do what I love so I don't have to think about him." he explained.
"I understand what it's like to have a family that's angry at you. Up until recently my younger sister hated me and I barely talked to my father. My mother passed away last year and I couldn't bring myself to stay in a place where everything reminded me of her. I had to get away and grieve in my own space, but my sister just thought I was running away and abandoning them." she explained, unsure why she was telling this to him when she's not even told her sister.
"Your mother died? Oh god I'm so sorry." he said solemnly.
"It's ok, really. I guess I just understand what it's like to have a family that doesn't understand you." she said.
After a few seconds of silence he spoke. "So there is actually a reason I brought you here. It might take a bit of persuading but I'm sure Antonio wouldn't mind you holding your dance classes here if things with your other studio didn't work out." he said and Layla couldn't believe it, she was quite taken aback by his offer.
"Why would you do something like that for me? You barely know me." she questioned, overwhelmed by the support she'd been receiving from the most unlikely people.
"I don't know, I guess I just wanted to help you out. I'm nice like that." he said with a grin, noticing the closeness between them as he stepped forward. Layla smiled and felt her body getting warmer.
Oblio eventually backed away and left to play some music on the stereo. Layla instantly started to move her body to the beat of the music.
After a while Oblio joined in and the two danced together. While they were dancing it felt like they were the only two people left in the world. Layla couldn't believe how easy it was to dance with him. They kept up with each other and Layla found herself feeling completely comfortable in his presence. For a while they danced with each other, not having to worry about the pressures of an audience. That was until the music caught the attention of Maria, Dante and Andre. The three of them watched through a small crack in the door, giggling and laughing while they watched Oblio and Layla dance. However it wasn't long before their father noticed they were missing and went to look for them.
"So am I really the first girl you've brought here?" Layla asked, still dancing.
"Yes." he replied, pulling her into him.
"Why's that?" she wondered.
"Before you know else really needed to." he replied.
They kept dancing until the music stopped and they ended up quite close to each other again. Before they could properly react they were interrupted.
"KISS!" all three children shouted in unison. They both separated and turned towards the window, startled.
"You three, away from that door, now!" he said and the kids heads snapped round instantly.
"They couldn't resist." Oblio said, smiling a little.
"I think it's cute." she said, while watching their father discipline to them. He soon sent the children off before coming in to Oblio and Layla.
"I'm sorry about that, they have no consideration for privacy." he said, glancing back at where the three children had just been.
"Don't worry Antonio it's fine." Oblio assured him.
"If you insist but please stay for dinner it's on the house." he said and Layla couldn't believe the kindness of this man.
"Uh-" Oblio said not quite sure what to say.
"We'd love to." Layla said, making the decision for him.
Antonio didn't hesitate to prepare a full three course meal for them and Layla was very grateful. They were sitting in the restaurant part so there were other people around them now. While eating, Layla remembered back to the Jam competition Joanna had told her about and decided to ask Oblio some questions about it.
"Hey, have you ever heard of the Jam?" she asked.
"Yeah, all the local crews compete. There's three separate rounds and three judges. The crews go up against each other and the last one standing in the final is the winner." he explained. "The Glitterati won it last year." he mentioned.
"No surprise there." Layla said, rolling her eyes. "Despite their attitude they really can dance."
"Yeah I think you can guess they don't take kindly to potential competition." he said. "For some reason they see your sister as said competition, despite her not being part of a crew."
"Yeah well that might change soon. She's auditioning for Hi-def." Layla said, sceptical about her sisters chances. "Though I'm not sure it's going to turn out the way she's wants."
"Well I think she should give it a shot. The Glitterati obviously see her as threat so I'd tell her to go for it." he said. "If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out." and he shrugged his shoulders. "They'll lose interest, I know." Layla wondered what he meant by that but wasn't sure she should ask just yet.
"Seems to be a recurrent theme with my relationships. So far none of them have worked out." she said, looking down at her plate before returning her gaze to Oblio. She smiled half-heartedly, remembering back to her three failed relationships.
"You know it won't be like that all the time. One day it will work out." he said, not reading too much into what he'd said, but Layla did and once again it made her feel warm inside.
"I hope so." she replied, thinking that maybe he could be right.
After they'd finished dinner and said goodbye to Antonio and his kids, Oblio dropped her off back at her apartment. He got up and walked her to the entrance of her building.
"Thanks for taking me there tonight, I really appreciate it." she said as they stopped just before the door.
"Glad you liked it." he said.
"You should come to one of my classes, they're on weekends." she said, unable to resist the urge to ask him that.
"I'd have to think about it but sure, whenever you want me to." he agreed, nodding. He fully intended to go but for some reason he didn't want to sound too eager.
"Great." she said and silence fell as the two stared at each other for a while. "Well I'll see you around." she said, walking into the building.
"Yeah see you." he said, watching her walk into the building and up the stairs. With that he soon left and Layla returned to her apartment, listening to sound of his motorcycle as he drove away.
Layla was surprised to find Joanna still up when she opened the door to her apartment. The teen was attached to her laptop, looking pretty engrossed with whatever was on the screen. She took her headphones out when she noticed Layla appear.
"Hey, how'd your date go?" she asked.
"I'm sure it wasn't a date Jo, but I had a nice time anyway." she replied, smiling. "What are you watching anyway?"
"Oh just some youtube videos about previous Jam competitions." she said turning her laptop around. "Did you know that the Glitterati have won the past 3 years in a row?"
"Yeah it's not surprising. When it comes to dance they're not the newest kids on the block."
Joanna turned her laptop back around and clicked on another video this time is was of Hi-Def. It didn't take her long to notice Glitch when they started performing. It's like she couldn't wait to watch him. It was a while before she realized she couldn't take her eyes off of him when he was dancing and she slammed her laptop shut.
"Hey, careful with that." Layla said.
"Sorry, just think I should go to bed now." Joanna said, picking up her laptop and carrying it into her room. Her unusual behaviour hadn't gone unnoticed by her sister though. Eventually Layla herself retired to her bed, with thoughts of Oblio filling her dreams.