Friday, February 12th, 1988
Another crisp winter Friday night, another slumber party at the place long tacitly acknowledged in the neighborhood as the Bower/Micelli household. Although the neighbors never really believed the denials coming from the household concerning the close personal relationship between the two principal adults in the house; they had long ago given up on getting any sort of confirmation from them. Neighborhood gossip had accepted the relationship as reality and treated the inhabitants of the house as a couple.
In the living room six giggling teenaged girls moved the side chairs and coffee table nearer the desk to allow more room for dancing. They were currently arguing over which song was next on their own personal top 40.
"Bonnie, not Billy Joel again!"
"I love this song!"
The needle was dropped onto a cut from Billy Joel's "An Innocent Man" album, the music spun its magic throughout the house. Bonnie convinced the girls to get up and perform their own dance routine, which the girls found to be fun even if they wouldn't admit it.
In the kitchen, refreshments were being readied. Angela, resplendent in her pale pink linen apron, opened a bag of chips and poured them into a bowl. She loved the energy of teenaged girls in the house and was once again so grateful to whatever force brought Samantha into her life. She was also grateful for Tony being brought into her life, but that was a feeling she wasn't going to delve into too deeply tonight, or so she thought.
She finished with the chips, went to the sink to wash the residue off her hands and grabbed a towel to dry them. The music from the living room prompted her to dry in time to it; then her head started bopping, then her toes started tapping. She was barely conscious to the fact that she was performing any of these actions, so caught up in the music was she. Still facing the window over the sink, she started singing along, "Uptown girl, she's been living in her uptown world..."
Tony was pulling a couple of bottles of soda out of the refrigerator, he brought them over to a tray on the table and noticed Angela enjoying the song. He smiled; not a smile of derision or censure, but one of joy at seeing Angela so free. Mona was sitting at the table, caught the smile and was pleased; but not as pleased as she was by the spark she saw in Tony's eyes. She observed them for a moment; Angela lost in the music and Tony gazing at her; then bent her head back down into the paper she was reading and pretended she hadn't seen a thing. She silently wondered if the lyrics to the song had impacted either one of them yet; judging by how unselfconscious they both were at the moment she had to come to the conclusion that they had not.
"...and now she's looking for a downtown man..." Suddenly Angela stopped everything and stared out into the darkness on the other side of the kitchen window. Mona looked up, realizing that the lyrics had finally hit Angela. She tried to see Angela's reflection in the kitchen window, but the glass would not cooperate. The song continued merrily on, oblivious to any distress it was causing in the kitchen. Angela tried to shut out the words, but they permeated her thoughts, shocking her in their aptness to her current situation in life. Did she know what she wanted? Did she need to wake up? Was she looking for a downtown guy? Had she found one? Confusion rattled her, she hoped no one had noticed her discomfort. If her mother caught this she would read too much into it and tease her mercilessly.
"...that's what I am..." Simultaneous to Angela's reaction, the light went out of Tony's eyes, he went to the cupboard and pulled out glasses for the soda. Trying to cover the surprise appearance of an elephant in the room he attempted nonchalantly, "hey, Angela, do you think we need more ice?" As he was facing away from her and speaking to the cabinet, they were as far apart from each other as they could possibly be in the kitchen.
Mona's happy mood was instantly gone as she observed the two of them standing on opposite sides of the kitchen, both of them managing to hide from each other in the smallest room in the house. She marveled at their ability to carry on as though nothing affected them. She wasn't enamored of this ability, but she did find it amazing.
Angela shook her head to get out of her reverie, but didn't turn around, she just answered, "what?" attempting to ignore the suddenly suffocating aura in the kitchen. Was Tony just as affected by this song, she wondered? Was he paying attention to the lyrics? She didn't dare draw any conclusions either way. It was best to just continue on in denial of the obvious.
"Ice; the cold stuff, comes in handy little individual servings."
Angela grasped the towel more tightly and dried her hands as if her life depended on it; she knew she could use some ice as even though the temperature outside was well below freezing, she was a little overheated. "Yes, I think more ice is always a good idea," and she turned to make her way over to the freezer to grab some. It didn't help her jumbled thoughts when she realized she was walking toward the fridge to the, "...and when she's walking, she's looking so fine..." lyric.
Tony glanced at her as surreptitiously as he could; he'd always considered Angela's sleek form to be quite fine in motion, despite her protests of clumsiness. He figured Mona caught the glance, but he was pretty certain she'd seen the previous one as well and since he'd never been able to hide anything from her in the first place it was futile to even try.
Mona noted it all and once again marveled at how easily they slipped into banality when they should be rushing into each other's arms instead. Maybe it was time for a little push from mother. "Angela, why did you stop dancing, you looked like you were having fun."
Mortified, Angela kept herself occupied in the freezer for as long as she could. "I don't know what you mean."
"Sure you do, the toe tapping..."
Angela pulled away from the freezer and slammed the door, "we have six teenaged girls in the living room to attend to, there is no time for frivolity."
She put the ice on the table, then gripped the top of the chair nearest the sink for security.
"Angela, it's a slumber party, it's nothing but frivolity," her mother stated the obvious.
Angela shot a glare at her mother, "for the girls, yes; but we have responsibilities to attend to. We have to make sure the girls are safe, there is no margin for error there."
"Angela," Mona said as she grasped her arm.
Tony let out a little involuntary smirk of a laugh, which he instantly regretted. He turned away from the cupboard and put the glasses on the tray on the table, "sorry, Angela."
Angela pulled away from her mother, shot Tony a little smirk of her own and crossed her arms. "We have guests to take care of," she lectured her mother. Then, looking at Tony she picked up the chip bowl. Knowing this was his cue, he picked up the tray with the soda and glasses on it. Tony leaned against the door, pushing it toward the living room and cleared the space for Angela to walk through first. He continued leaning on the door as he heard Mona clear her throat; reluctantly turning his head toward her, he caught the self-satisfied smile, combined with a 'we'll talk later' look on her face. He rolled his eyes and let the door swing behind him.
In the living room the girls were strutting around in front of the couch pretending to be mature, sophisticated uptown girls; singing along with the song. Bonnie sang lead, as it was her choice of song. The rest of the girls were having a good time with the backup vocals. Tony and Angela placed the refreshments on the phone table behind the couch.
Bonnie surprised Angela by strutting over to her and pulling her into the fray. Enjoying the sisterhood of being included in their fun, she let herself join the dancing and the singing.
Tony busied himself pouring drinks and let himself thoroughly indulge in watching Angela have fun. He was currently doubly blessed as he could also beam at Samantha being the girl he hoped she would have the chance to be when they moved to Connecticut. His admiration turned to the woman who made it possible for Samantha to have this life; gratitude and affection for her permeated his being. The watcher was also being watched as Mona was observing all of this by holding the kitchen door slightly ajar.
"...uptown girl, she's my uptown girl, you know I'm in love with and uptown girl, my uptown girl..." The song ended and all the girls collapsed onto the sofa and chairs, laughing.
"Mr. Micelli!" Bonnie exclaimed.
"Bonnie!" Mr. Micelli answered back just as enthusiastically.
"Sam told us about your singing; but wouldn't let us come to the benefit, if we played the song again, would you sing it?"
Tony, trying to avoid a potential minefield, shook his head, "I don't have any Dreamtones here; sorry."
"But what about Angela, Sam said you sang with Angela that night too."
Angela started to get a very bad feeling about this whole situation.
"Oh my God, it would be so much fun, you can take Billy Joel's part and Angela can sing the backgrounds and be the uptown girl," Julia effused.
"What?" was Angela's somewhat bewildered response.
Sam was in a state of panic, her eyes as wide as saucers, jumping into the conversation she tried to ward off disaster, "Bonnie, I think we've heard the song enough, time to move on."
But the other girls would not be dissuaded, they all begged, "pleeease?" in unison.
"Girls, I don't really know this video, I can't 'play along'," Angela protested.
"So you'll make stuff up," Bonnie said and she put the song on again.
Sam sank into the couch, a look of abject terror on her face.
Mona had blatantly moved into the living room, there was no way she was missing this.
Angela looked at Tony and shrugged. He decided he was up to the challenge. He walked over to Angela and held out his hand, "Uptown girl," he sang along with Billy Joel, "she's been living in her uptown world..."
Angela clasped his hand as he pulled her up from the couch, they performed a little grapevine as they moved across the room together hand in hand. They played off each other well, Tony decided an over the top approach was best; overly exaggerated gestures and facial expressions to keep the routine from becoming too serious. Angela picked up the tone and couldn't stop giggling...and blushing, but she tried to ignore that.
"I bet her mother never told her why..." Tony walked Angela to her mother. Mona wasn't going to let this opportunity pass her by and adopted Tony's over the top tactic. She crossed her arms and assumed a faux condescending look on her face; which just caused Angela to giggle even more. She wasn't getting much background singing done, but she was having fun.
Tony pulled a knife from the refreshment table and started using it as a microphone. They strutted back to the center of the room, singing and laughing at the same time. A few steps forward, a few steps back, some box steps, the knife eventually dropped onto the tv set; the choreography itself didn't really matter. It was the joy of the moment that was most important, and that's what was shimmering in both Tony and Angela's eyes.
Mona was drinking in every second of this and loving it.
"And when she wake up and makes up her mi-yi-yind..." Angela echoed the "mi-yi-yind" and shrugged a shoulder with each syllable.
Jonathan heard the song playing again and wondered what was going on. He removed himself from the barricade of his room where he had confined himself for the duration and stopped on the staircase landing, shocked by what he was seeing. He remained there during the whole performance tapping his foot and watching his Mom and Tony laughing. It made him happy to see them like this; he and Samantha both hoped for a closer relationship between their parents but knew from past experience that they couldn't push them together.
"Uptown girl, you know I can't afford to buy her pearls..."
Julia, obviously an aspiring director, yelled, "Christie just got out of the car, Mrs. Bower; be haughty, nose in the air!"
Angela complied by throwing her head back, looking disdainfully behind her and down on Tony who had fallen to his knees, pleading, as he sang, "...she'll understand what kind of guy I've been..." Angela couldn't keep a straight face, she laughed and pulled Tony up to his feet.
"And when she walking, she's looking so fine..." Angela did her best to slink across the room, Tony in virtual tow.
Watching this was a bit surreal for Samantha, she rarely saw such open flirtation between her Dad and Angela, she found it all fascinating. She was also touched by a little sadness as this dance routine was showing her the possibilities of a relationship between them that hadn't yet been explored. Sometimes she worried that they would never explore those possibilities.
During the last "oh" break, Tony put his arm around Angela's waist and started a Lindy. So surprised was she by this that Angela giggled a, "Tony!" as he spun her around. They continued dancing together until the song finished; both thoroughly enjoying the fun and getting to the point where they were forgetting there was anyone else in the room. "Uptown girl, my uptown girl, you know I'm in love with an uptown girl..." they sang to each other as the song ended. For the briefest of milliseconds their eyes caught the truth and threatened to crush their carefully constructed walls. Wild applause from their audience caused them to drop each other's hands quickly and turn away from each other.
"Bravo!" was shouted from a couple of places in the room. Tony took Angela's hand once more, "take a bow, Angela!"
She nodded indulgently and did, with a smile on her face.
Bonnie beamed as she applauded, "That was wonderful, Mr. and Mrs. Micelli!"
Immediate silence suffocated the room.
Samantha gasped and nudged her friend, "Bonnie!"
"What?" Bonnie answered, oblivious to her faux pas.
Sam gave her a look, then looked at Angela. "Oh! Sorry! Mrs. Bower!"
Angela thought it best to pretend nothing had happened just shrugged the whole situation away. Of course it didn't help matters that she was still holding Tony's hand. Realizing this, she dropped it quickly and tried to move away, but it was too late.
Managing to miss this sledge hammer, Julia only made matters worse with what she considered to be a brilliant observation, "Mr. Micelli, this song could really describe you and Mrs. Bower."
Jaws dropped around the room and Sam wished for a hole to open up in the floor and swallow her up.
"Well, isn't that an...interesting thought, Julia. Excuse me, I think it's time to leave the party to the teenagers," and with that she retreated to her den as quickly as she could.
"Yeah, girls, I gotta check on the brownies, you don't want burned brownies," and with that Tony went back to the kitchen.
Samantha sank down into the couch, mortified, and buried her head in her hands.
"Sorry, Sam, they just seem so married."
"Bonnie, I know what the gossip is and trust me, I live here, there's nothing going on."
"They just seem so good together."
"Can we talk about something else? How about we watch some MTV?"
Seeing that the show was over, Jonathan snuck back up to the safety of his room. Mona returned to the kitchen.
"I don't want to hear it, Mona."
"What?" she answered Tony oh so very overly innocently.
"Whatever it is you're going to say."
"I wasn't going to say anything," a complete and total lie.
Tony turned to give her a 'spare me' look as he pulled the brownies out of the oven.
"But if I were to say something, it would probably be along the lines of: Angela has pearls; what she needs is not physical...well, it is, but it's not material objects."
"I've seen this video, Tony. At the end she lets her hair down and he rides off into the night with his uptown girl."
"It's a video, Mona. Highly plotted and produced."
"True, but does art imitate reality or does reality imitate art?"
"You're grasping at straws."
"Think about it."
"Good night, Mona."
"Good night, Tony."
Mona went to the living room to bid the girls good night.
In her den Angela paced trying not to think about uptown girls and downtown guys and, well, anything to do with Tony. It wasn't working, of course. There was one thought that kept crossing her mind; Bonnie had called her Mrs. Micelli. None of the girls had ever done that before and she found herself to be more flustered than the occasion warranted. Try as she might she couldn't banish the blush that crossed her face every time she thought of the name: Angela Micelli. She'd thought it a beautiful name from the very first time it floated through her mind. At the time she had been shocked that that thought even made its way into her head, but the longer it resided there, the more she liked it. There was a musicality to it that lifted her spirits and sent her heart fluttering. Right now, however, she was experiencing neither of these usually welcomed sensations. Right now she was trying to do damage control in her head and not having much success.
Her reverie was shattered by two quick knocks on the door; it opened to reveal Mona looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary, "good evening, dear, anything you care to discuss?"
"Not really, Mother. Don't you have a date to get to?"
"Of course; but I just wanted to say one thing."
Angela glared at her, trying to discourage any sort of remark about Tony, which she knew was futile, but wanted to be able to tell herself that she tried.
"In contradiction to the song, your mother will tell you why you've never had a downtown guy."
"I can't wait to hear this," Angela answered sarcastically as she crossed her arms.
"You're too scared. Too scared to let your hair down and enjoy life."
"I see that psychology degree is paying off. Good night, Mother," Angela said dismissively.
"Not before one question..."
"You said you only had one thing to say; this makes two."
"It does not, this is a question, not a statement."
Angela rolled her eyes.
"I heard Bonnie's little slip."
"Also not a question, your point?"
"Stop interrupting your mother," she walked a reluctant Angela over to the window seat and sat her down, Angela uncrossed her arms in defeat.
"Just tell me when you first realized Angela Micelli was a beautiful name and I'll leave."
In response, Angela jumped up from the seat, walked to the door and held it open, "good night, Mother," she said forcefully as she started to shut the door, kicking her mother out.
"That long ago, eh? Well, good night, dear; pleasant musings."
Mona left through the side door, mentally ruing their situation and wondering when the hell they were going to put an end to this charade.
Pleasant musings? Angela rolled her eyes, there was nothing pleasant about the sudden turn her life had just taken. Well, there was but the time just wasn't right yet. She knew that; deep down she knew that Tony knew that. Why was her mother so obstinate about everything?
Then the name Angela Micelli came floating back into her head; she tried to shut it away, but thanks to her mother all she could do was remember the first time it had invaded her thoughts. It was an unsettled time of her life, trying to work things out with Michael; Tony and Sam gone from the house, Mother being her usual unhelpful self by making life as unpleasant for Michael as possible. One day she had been pacing in her den making a list of reasons to stay with Michael when the following thought presented itself: "Michael has been away for so long and Tony here, that I am more Angela Micelli than Angela Bower." She'd been so shocked she had to sit down. She couldn't get the thought out of her head for quite some time; it had been a very revealing truth to her. She kept pondering it, reliving the past few months in her memories. There was Tony, always there for her. And where was Michael? No where to be found. Not surprisingly, her list of reasons to stay with Michael was thrown away, never to be considered again.
Now it must be noted that just because the name Angela Micelli flitted across her mind, it didn't mean Angela decided to finalize her divorce from Michael for that reason. There were no choirs of angels, no revelation that Tony should be the path taken. It was just a simple statement of fact.
However, in the ensuing years, the name Angela Micelli had a tendency to make its presence known whenever Angela was feeling a little maudlin or spending time in Brooklyn, but most often it came unbidden in those quiet moments when the whole family was together, especially gathered around the table for dinner.
Tonight was the first time this incredibly private thought had been usurped from her. It bothered her, of course, but she wasn't sure if it was because her greatest secret had been exposed or if it was because her actually becoming Mrs. Micelli was as remote a possibility as the Berlin Wall coming down. Angela was pacing again, her thoughts this past half hour had become more and more disconcerting. No one knew that the name Angela Micelli had ever crossed her mind, except, of course, her mother, and how she had figured it out was a train of thought Angela dared not board; so no great secret of hers had actually been exposed. As to her relationship with Tony; neither one of them knew where it would end up, so there was no reason to fret about it.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to the den and plastered a smile on her face. Much as she would like to hide, there were still party guests to attend to and she couldn't avoid Tony all night; after all, she did have to put her apron away. Maybe she could wait until he went up to bed? She chastised herself for cowardice; this was hardly the most embarrassing moment they had been through together and when it came right down to it they would just employ their usual tactic: mutual silent agreement to file this under the topic of: Things Never to Be Discussed. Ever.
In the kitchen Tony cut the latest batch of brownies. Try as he might, he couldn't get Mona's words or the lyric, "...I'm in love with an uptown girl," out of his head. He knew this was true; but he also knew that life was not a pop song. Would his uptown girl remain forever out of reach? A sudden vision hit him; the Dreamtones singing this song for Angela; maybe someday he'd get the nerve to dedicate it to her. For the moment he indulged in a little solo, "...and when she's talking, she'll say that she's mine..."
Unfortunately this was the very moment Angela returned to the kitchen.
They stared at each other for a couple of seconds, neither daring to cross the line between uptown and downtown.
Angela finally made an attempt at any topic of conversation, "catchy little song, isn't it?" This was probably not the best choice, but she wasn't really thinking very coherently at the moment.
"Very," Tony answered as briefly as possible, then went for a complete change of subject, "you want a brownie?" Nice, safe, and chocolate related; that was a topic they needed.
"Yes!" Angela grabbed a chair and Tony put a brownie on a plate for her. He took the rest out to the girls, giving the both of them time to adjust to these new wrinkles in their relationship.
Upon his return to the kitchen, he found that Angela had already devoured her brownie and was washing the dish. He paused for a second to drink in the domestic serenity of seeing Angela in the kitchen. There she was standing at the sink, wearing an apron which he'd always found to be darned cute on her. The scene evoked 'home' for him. For a while now they had been spending time together under the guise of his teaching Angela how to cook. It didn't matter that she'd never be that proficient, they both knew it was just a ruse for them to be around each other without any pressure. Of course, he mused, their continued kitchen time probably stemmed from how well their first attempt at baking turned out. OK, so the cake spent the night in the fridge as batter, and he spent days getting flour out of every crevice it managed to find (and there were a lot); but there was a memory there he'd cherish for the rest of his life.
Angela shut off the water and grabbed a towel. Turning around, she was a little startled to see Tony standing there. "Sorry, didn't know you were back."
"Jumpy tonight, aren't you?" "No, just..." she had no way to continue. What was she supposed to say, "I was lost in thoughts of you, me and a wedding?" Hardly. "Yes, that's what I am tonight, jumpy. Thanks for the brownie, it was delicious." She leaned against the counter and put the towel behind her.
"So, guess it's time to clean up," she said as she moved to pick up a platter from the table.
"Angela, you don't have to do that, go get some sleep."
"It's not that late, Tony, and I want to help."
He certainly couldn't argue with the companionship; but there was something bothering him. It didn't feel right to him that he and Angela would be going upstairs together if she stayed and helped him. He just didn't like the image it would portray to the girls. Of course there was little differentiation between them going up ten minutes apart, but it played better in his mind.
He had to get her out of the kitchen now; and this led to a decision which showed he wasn't thinking too clearly himself. He intended to symbolically relieve Angela of duty by having her get rid of the apron; but did he take the easy way out and say, "Angela, it's time to turn in the apron for the night"? No, he did not.
Instead, as Angela was leaning slightly over the table, tidying up, he walked up next to her and pulled one of the ties on the apron, unintentionally forcefully. The harsh whisper of linen sliding against linen was magnified in the silence of the kitchen. In one stroke Angela was unbound; the bow disappeared, the apron left hanging on her, the ties billowing at her sides.
Angela gasped involuntarily in surprise and blushed. She turned away, overcome by her reaction to such a simple gesture.
Tony instantly realized his mistake. "Sorry, I was just trying to make the point that it's time to go to bed." Oh, that didn't help matters, "I mean sleep! It's time to for you to go upstairs and go to sleep; and for me to stay here, in the kitchen, and clean up."
"If you feel that strongly about it, then fine. Good night." She pulled the apron off over her head and put it in its proper home. Rushing out of the kitchen, her pulse pounding, her mental state in disarray, she practically ran past the girls on her way upstairs, and threw only a perfunctory,"good night, girls, see you in the morning," as she raced her way to the steps.
"Good night, Mrs. Micelli," Bonnie answered. This stopped Angela in her tracks.
"Bonnie!" Sam chastised.
Bonnie gasped and apologized to Angela. In an overly perky manner, Angela addressed Bonnie, "how about 'Angela'; might be a better option this point, 'k?"
"Yes, Mrs. B...Angela."
"Good. Night everyone," Angela waved as she made her way upstairs and to hopefully sweet dreams. Sam heard Angela's bedroom door shut and the sound had such a finality to it that Sam was saddened. It was as if the events of this evening had destroyed any sort of relationship currently being built between her Dad and Angela. She sighed and tried to distract herself from these thoughts by joining in with the latest party game.
Tony wasn't having an easy time of it in the kitchen. He went through the motions of pulling out plates and utensils for tomorrow's breakfast; but his thoughts were concerned only with the events of the past few minutes. He berated himself for not thinking; for inadvertently crossing a line they had no business crossing. He'd tried to be sorry for it, but the truth was he'd found the situation intoxicating and very intimate. If one little pull of a tie evoked that much of reaction in her, he dared not think about pulling down a zipper or releasing a button or two. It was going to be a long night for him, trying to banish any such thoughts, because no matter how much he tried to push them away, they kept insinuating themselves into his mind. Mentally pulling himself under control; he finished his preparations for the morning, locked the back door, shut off the lights and headed to the living room.
"I'm going to sleep now, Samantha, be sure to take care of this stuff," he said, gesturing to the refreshments,"before it sits out here all night."
"Yes Dad; night, Dad."
"Try to get some sleep tonight, girls."
"Sleep? At a slumber party? You have some strange ideas about slumber parties, Mr. Micelli." Bonnie answered.
He laughed and headed upstairs.
"Thank goodness you didn't call him Mr. Bower, Bonnie." Julia quipped after Tony was out of earshot.
Sam buried her head in her hands and wondered if she would ever be allowed to have a slumber party again.