Great game, guys." Those words should've been peppered with enthusiasm and usually they were. Today, though, his unemotive tone dictated something was missing--he scanned the gleaming silver bleachers, which were as empty as they had seemed earlier this afternoon as the echo of "Go Wildcats" filled the Wells College stadium. The roar of the crowd was mute in Coach Micelli's ears as he searched the packed stands for a woman sporting a blonde ponytail, warm brown eyes, and a smile that only grew wider when his eyes met her own.
…"And let's not forget the tangerine colored sweatshirt",
Tony said, chuckling to himself, recalling countless games over the
past few months when in his farsighted vision, a flash of orange
would catch his eye from the field, and he knew that Angela was up in
the stands cheering his team to victory.
Tangerine sweatshirt or not, in Tony's eyes, Angela always stood out. Even the dullest room seemed to brighten when she walked into it; and the most fervent of his players knew better than to talk strategy while 'the coach' was immersed in his fiancée's embrace.
It was only when he walked out of the stadium arm-in-arm with Angela
that one of his history students could walk alongside the contented
couple and ask professor Micelli a question or two about next week's
comprehensive exam, or if he was in an expansive mood, a student just
might be able to ask for an extension on the paper that should've
been turned in a few hours earlier. Amid the groveling, an apologetic
look was shot in Angela's direction by the student for diverting
Tony's attention from her.
Angela just smiled back and gave a knowing wink.
…"Angela" he thought to himself, finally coming out of his reverie as he said her name aloud, "This is all about Angela." And where was she? That was the question… "Oh… right, he said bitterly; letting his words sink into muddy ground, "She's gone—and I…" For the first time in a very long time, Tony Micelli was alone, and as he looked down at the solitary baseball gripped in his palm, he realized he didn't want to play this game anymore. At least, not like this.
"Hi Honey, I'm..." Tony cut his jovial greeting short when his voice reverberated off the walls of his beautiful, yet empty apartment. "Geez Micelli," he chided himself; "you do have long vocal cords, but you're in deep denial if you think they're gonna stretch to Connecticut." He had to laugh at that one; in fact, it seemed like the only laugh he'd had in the weeks since moving to what he now referred to as "butthead 'Idaho'." He started to correct himself just as he had done to Angela so many times before. "It's not Idaho, it's..." Angela's face then flashed through his mind; her mouth punctuated in a pout, while her eyes emitted a teasing sparkle. "Enjoy correcting me now Coach, because in two minutes you, too, will forget state we're living in." True to her word, a few minutes later, a breathless Tony sat dazed on the couch. Angela's hair, which had been pulled back into a neat ponytail, was now a rumpled mess of blond strands that seemed to go in every direction. Tony turned to look at her and said quizzically "Where are we?" Angela's light laughter floated through the apartment as she replied, "I think we both know we're not in Connecticut anymore." "Yeah, no kiddin' Angela", he said as his fingertips brushed her hair away from her face. After returning his gaze with equal intensity, Angela began to wipe the lipstick imprints that were tattooed all over Tony's face with a tissue. "But it was such a nice signature", he whined. He then grinned devilishly, "Not to mention it's 'your' signature. "And don't you forget it," she said; claiming his lips to hers.
Tony's smile faded as did the memory. He now sat alone on his couch with Angela's afghans piled around him. The brightly colored blankets only served as a reminder of how lacklustre his life had become in her absence. As he ran his hand over the woven yarn, he thought acerbically, "My Angela doesn't knit... she does her best work in a business suit." Since moving to Iowa, Angela was most often seen in an oversized, azure-colored bowling shirt with 'Angie' threaded in black script across the front pocket. Tony grimaced again. "Angie?" Not even he called her that. And he had to stifle a laugh once more when Angela told him that his 'Brooklyn girls', Ginger and Lynn had 'Brookynized' her name the weekend he cat-sat for Mrs. Rossini. The name Angie just didn't suit the tall, elegant, no-nonsense business woman he fell in love with. To him, she would always be 'his Angela'. As he rested his head warily against his freshly fluffed couch pillows, he realized that Angela had begun to suffocate in his world, bringing to light the fear she harbored in years past; that, eventually, he would suffocate in hers. Here it was again--the role reversal which was the foundation of their relationship, was yet again keeping them apart. "And I let her go," he said, as bitter irony punctuated his thoughts. "Only an idiot..." he said to himself. Just then, as if in agreement, the phone rang.
"Hello?" Tony didn't even try to disguise the excitement in his voice. "Angela?" "So, just tell me this," the voice on the other end of the line inquired; "Did a baseball manage to crack the metal plate in your head yet?" Usually, Mona's biting wit elicited a chuckle from Tony, and a chance to come up a witty comeback of his own. Weeks of dejection, however, managed to deflate Tony's ego to the point where he could only roll his eyes and utter, "Mona..." Mona continued babble on. "Ok, you're coherent; so tell me bub, just how 'lucky' did you get in 'butthead Iowa'?" " Haven't been lucky in weeks, Mone; not since Angela..." "I knew it!" Mona exclaimed gleefully into the receiver. "So you and Angela did have--" "Mona, that is none of your business," Tony said defensively. "Relax, Tony." "I'm happy for you; but now you need to know that my baby is miserable without you...And the question is, what are 'you' going to do about it?" "Mona, I'm going to find out how bright the lights are in Fairfield tonight, Tony replied with decided conviction in his voice.
"Happy days are here again," sang the voice on the other end of the line.
Angela climbed the stairs wearily. Her left hand gripped the railing, while her right palm gently rubbed her nauseated, yet rounded stomach. "You miss your daddy as much as I do," she said softly to her unborn daughter who seemed to be doing back flips in the womb to the rhythm of her mother's footsteps as they ascended the stairwell. Angela had managed to hide her daughter's growing presence quite well by digging out her box of 'fat clothes' from the far corner of the closet. Not even Mona's motherly intuition led her to suspect that come April, the Easter Bunny would be delivering a lot more than candy in his basket--make that bassinet. Angela often had little talks like this with her growing baby; it felt as though she was sharing as secret with a close confidante. Despite the ever present hole in her heart that had formed in the wake of Tony's absence, Angela loved being pregnant. She felt bonded to something again. The little life she carried within her was helping her heal. Reaching the top of the stars, Angela walked toward her bedroom and resisted the urge to lie down. "I know what would make us feel better," she said to the baby, "How about a nice warm bubble bath?" "Your father loved bubble baths, and I'm sure you will too." Angela rested her head against the back of tub and let the warm water wash over her. She spied her headset, which was clamped to the shower head and smiled slightly, remembering the first time he stepped into her 'private chamber.' To offset the awkwardness of feeling out of place in his boss' bathroom, his eyes fixated on the headset as he chuckled and remarked, "Bathing with Beethoven." She chuckled now; remembering the expression on his face. She remembered thinking to herself that his grin was contagious; although, back then, she didn't even crack a smile; and when her eyes met his own, she saw a hint of nervousness reflected in them as they willed her approval. Angela sighed; deciding that a little Beethoven might help take her mind off Tony. As the first chord of Beethoven's 5th boomed in her ears, Angela began to feel more jumpy than at ease. "The sound must've upset the baby too," Angela thought. She could feel her daughter doing gymnastics again as she placed her hand over her abdomen. She scanned different stations and listened as static morphed into a deep announcer's voice: "...And here's the pitch, and it's going...going... the baby had since stopped kicking gone!!" Angela's eyes rested on her stomach as she smiled and said, "You are your father's daughter, Catherine Marie."
on Samantha's slender arm was the only thing keeping him grounded in
reality. Hundreds of smiling faces were a blur seen only out of the
corners of Tony's eyes as he stared straight down the aisle of the
Wells College auditorium. Tony stared at the stage as though the
award he was to be presented with within the next half hour was
something he was forced to accept rather than an accolade being
bestowed to him for his accomplishments. Her voice rang out in his
mind. "You're doing what you were meant to do..." Just as
he was about to respond with "Angela, I can't do what I do
without you..." a pinch brought him back to reality. "Dad!"
"Ow, Ang-- What'd you do that for?" Samantha tried another
tactic. "Dad..." she said, snapping her fingers in front of
Tony's face. "I'm sure you haven't noticed, but I'm not
Angela...and you've got my arm in a death grip; Sam said through
clenched teeth. "Oh Sam," Tony said rethorically, "It's
you." "Yeah Dad, it's me...and you've got exactly five
minutes to snap out of it before you walk up on stage to receive this
award; you've come so far and worked so hard that I'd hate to see you
walk across that stage playing the part of the absent-minded
professor rather than the outstanding one I and everyone else knows
you are." "Oh Sam...baby, I'm so sorry, I just haven't
been--" Sam interjected. "No apologies, Tony," she
said with mock sternness. "This isn't the first time you've
become Captain Lobotomy; remember when you and Angela got engaged?"
Sam smiled as her father got this goofy grin on his face as he
remembered his botched marriage proposal. Never had she seen her dad,
always the over confident charmer, so bewildered by a woman. "Angela
has some affect on you," Sam mused. "I mean, through the
years I always knew that, but..." "She does, Sam, she sure
does." Tony's smiling face turned serious for a moment as he
admitted, "the only other woman who had such a magnetic effect
on me was your mom." "Both she and Angela have this uncanny
ability to instantaneously draw you in to their soul." Tony's
words painted two pictures in Samantha's mind: One was of her mother,
Marie, and the other was of Angela. The pictures converged until one
image remained, effectively creating an over exposed snapshot.
In that instant, Sam realized that her mother and Angela were one in the same--in that both of these women she dearly loved brought out the best in her dad. In a determined whisper she said, "Dad, you need to go home." "It's funny you should say that Samantha because earlier this afternoon I told Mona that exact same thing when she called. "So, uh Sam, how bright do you think the lights will be in Fairfield tonight?" Sam grinned knowingly. "Very well lit," she said. ..."And Dad she added, pausing slightly for effect, "Have I told you How proud I am of you?"
Tony had never heard so many complimentary things said in one sentence. Better still, the compliments were all directed at him. And best of all, in a few hours he would be back home. And she would be standing there. Angela-- his Angela. Tony tried to get a word in during the three seconds in which Dr. Graham stopped talking in order to take a breath. "Well folks I-- He stopped then as Dr. Graham handed him an envelope. Inside was a one way plane ticket that had Tony arriving at La Guardia airport at 11:30 p.m. "This is from Rosie; she tried to make the ceremony, but couldn't because too many people have the habit of making last minute travel plans. She also said to tell Angela hello." "Go home Professor..." Those were Dr. Graham's last imperative words. Tony felt his eyes start to well up as he said, "To the students and faculty of Wells College, thank you for allowing me to be a part of such a fine academic institution." Dr. Graham shook his hand and said, "You always will be Tony." Candy, Tony's former secretary had joined them on stage for a last minute hug saying, "The New Ms. Iowa will be crowned before you get on the plane at the rate your going; and remember, I'm not getting any younger." Tony laughed. "Ok, I'm goin' he said. The thunderous applause he heard as he exited the auditorium grew softer and his stride became more steadfast as he headed home to Connecticut.
"You know, I'm really glad you decided to stay in the area," she reaffirmed. Her breath ticked his neck as she spoke. "Oh yeah?" he said in a playful continuation of their conversation, Why's that?" He was enjoying their closeness...their banter. "Well there's not really just one reason..It's more like-- She trailed off and began again. "Tony, there's someone I'd like you to meet." Tony stepped back from her embrace and looked around their immaculate living room. "Ang, I don't see any--" She silenced him by placing a finger to his lips. She then unfastened her robe and placed his hand over over her exposed and growing abdomen. "Tony, I'd like you to meet our daughter, Catherine Marie Micelli. Tony could not take his eyes off of Angela's glowing face. He placed a gentle kiss on her baby belly and decided Fairfield was very well lit indeed.