Through All the Dust
Chapter Eight: You'll be Better for It
When I was thirteen, my school held its annual father-daughter dance. I was from a small town, which meant very few people had experienced any serious trauma—and it definitely meant that those that did go through said trauma, were never held in secrecy. That meant that everyone in my class knew that my parents had died. They all knew my aunt had taken me in.
They called me an orphan.
And I guess I was…but I cared what people thought back then. I could hardly handle the teasing. Tyler had always defended me, fighting anyone who doubted my greatness. Girls didn’t like me and boys thought I was too damaged. Even at thirteen, I was too damaged.
I’d been desperately in love with a blue-eyed boy named Noah. He was tall and athletic; the star of our tiny school’s basketball team. But he only dated the coolest girls in the class—I never made the cut.
One time, someone started a rumor that we were secretly dating. He was so determined to dismiss that gossip, because the idea of even fictitiously dating me was enough to deeply disturb him, that he began to bully me. I do mean bully. He would push me and hit me and tell everyone that I was a slut. He never had an actual example of my apparent harlotry; but at thirteen, no one cares about why. They just care that the rumor isn’t about them.
Noah told everyone that my father hadn’t died, he’d just abandoned my mother because of my birth. He told everyone that he knew where my dad was but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. He said that my mother killed herself and the car accident was just a story to cover up “her crazy”.
I could never bring myself to tell my aunt about the rumors. Even then, as cold as she was, I couldn’t bring myself to purposely hurt her. I knew those kids’ stories would dishearten her—so I kept them to myself.
So, when the father-daughter dance rolled around, I hung my head low. But the kids found me and were relentless in their reminders that I was an “orphan”. They told me orphans weren’t allowed at school dances.
As an adult, I can see that children are cruel and it’s clear to me that if someone said these things to me now, I’d laugh. But when you’re thirteen, everything is a big deal. You hang on every word your peers say—hoping one day one will resonate with you and you’ll gain an inch. Then, and only then, can you pretend like you belong.
Tyler, true to self, had told his parents all about what had been going on. Tom was enraged when he heard that the kids were teasing me for being without parents.
“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Blair,” he’d assured me, a hand on my shoulder. “It’s part of your history; it’s a part of what makes you who you are. You’ll see.”
And he was right.
The teasing I endured made me thick-skinned. I developed a strong apathy and a serious ability to tune out the world when it got unpleasant. I’d always blamed it on my aunt, like it was her fault I’d nearly turned to stone.
But it wasn’t her…and it wasn’t them. It was me.
Tom invited me to stay for dinner one night when I’d come over to study with Ty. We’d spent the whole time complaining about the kids at school—and making plans to escape when the time was right. After dinner, he asked me to linger around.
“How’re you holding up?” he asked me from across the table. “I hear the kids have really picked it up lately.”
I nodded, “It’s just a couple of them, I guess…It’s fine.”
“It isn’t fine,” he said seriously. “But you’re strong and so, you’ll live to work past it. Those kids, though, will stay frozen in time forever. They’ll likely always be this terrible—and you’ll be better for it.”
“Lucky me,” I groaned sarcastically.
Tom smiled, “You’re going to be alright, Blair.”
At the time, I just didn’t believe him.
“In the meantime, though,” he continued. “How about I take you to that dance.”
“You?” I asked confusedly. “Why would you take me?”
“Because,” he said matter-of-factly, “maybe you don’t share our DNA, but you share our food and you share our home. You’ve been a part of this family for nine years now—nine years.”
I smiled a little.
“I know you’d like to go to the dance,” he continued happily. “And I’d very much like to take you. If you’ll have me.”
“I guess you are the next best thing,” I grinned.
Even at thirteen, I knew what a special bond we had. They’d always taken me in like I was one of their own. Maybe it was only because they’d wanted a girl but gotten a boy. Or, they genuinely loved me.
Here I was, ten years later. It was as if it passed in a single second. One second, I was in Tyler’s kitchen holding back tears, and the next I was in an aisle of a liquor store, comparing wines with my fiancée. He was far cuter than that Noah kid anyway.
“I don’t know,” Brian groaned. “Get whatever one you want.”
“It isn’t what I want, Brian,” I said seriously. “It’s which one is best.”
“Yeah, I don’t know,” Brian huffed.
I considered it for a second before sighing, “I don’t know either.”
He was so frustrated with me. It was obvious—it showed in his face, it could be heard in his tone. And yet, he’d never been cruel to me. He’d never made me stiffen my shell.
He’d always treated me like a god damn goddess.
“What are you staring at?” Brian asked annoyedly.
I smirked, “Just thinking about how much I love you.”
“Don’t be weird,” he whined, disappearing into the next aisle.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little.
Maybe wine wasn’t the way to go. They were going to want to celebrate. Wine wasn’t going to accomplish that goal. So, I headed for the champagne—and then planned to hit up the tequila. Nothing said celebration like tequila.
Which is also what I was drinking the first night I met Brian.
“Blair?” a voice asked in disbelief. “Blair Peterson?”
I looked to my left and a man was ogling me. He was balding, and I could smell the booze on his breath from halfway down the aisle. I squinted—was this a fan? Did I know this person? It was hard to tell when I was in Lenox.
“It’s me,” he laughed, gesturing to his chest, “Noah Kaminsky!”
“Oh!” I grinned widely. I was hotter than ever and he looked like he just rolled out of a gutter.
“Do you remember me?” he asked excitedly, slowly approaching me.
I nodded, “I do.”
“How long’s it been?” he was still laughing. “You’re all famous now!”
“I don’t know if I’d say famous,” I grumbled.
“I saw you on the cover of that teen magazine,” he told me. “I got a six-year-old at home and she just loves you.”
I was doing that math in my head. I’d lost track of him once we’d gotten to high school. Apparently he’d decided to be a teen parent.
I smiled because I had to, “That’s nice.”
“You got any kids?” he asked me curiously.
I shook my head, still a little stunned by his presence, “Nope.”
“Yeah, I guess you couldn’t with your kinda work,” he said understandingly. “Too bad. You got some good genes.”
Why had I ever liked this human?
“Hey, I think Petrone is the way to go, because let’s be real, no one drinks wine—who’s your friend?” a rushed Brian said in my ear.
He was holding an expensive bottle of alcohol.
“This is Noah,” I told him. “We went to grade school together.”
“No way,” Brian smirked. “How’s it going man?”
“It’s good,” Noah replied happily. “Look, I don’t mean to be rude or nothin’, Blair…but do you think you could sign somethin’ for my kid? I’d be the best dad ever.”
“No problem,” I said politely.
He had me sign an old crumpled receipt because it was all he had in his pocket. Standing near him was enough to make me nauseated—whiskey. He smelled like straight whiskey.
I signed his receipt and I said my quick goodbyes. I grabbed the nearest bottle of champagne and high-tailed it for the cash register.
“Old boyfriend?” Brian asked with a smirk.
I shifted the brown bag into my left arm, “I had the biggest crush on him—he was awful to me. He bullied me…like, fucking relentlessly…for years.”
“Really?” Brian choked. “Why would you even give that guy the time of day? I would have told him to go fuck himself.”
I shrugged, “It’s because of him that I got my secondary dad.”
And as the words slipped passed my tongue, I knew what it meant. I wondered how I’d always overlooked it.
I smiled to myself.
Brian looked worried, “Are you talking to the voices in your head or what?”
I smiled, “What do you think of next year? To get married.”
“Next year?” Brian groaned, climbing into the driver’s seat of our rental.
I nodded, pulling my door shut, “Yeah—after I get back from tour maybe. Once we know what’s going on with Avenged…”
Brian sighed, “Don’t get me started on that.”
“I know,” I said quickly. “I didn’t think—but next year could be good timing.”
My label was planning a huge North American tour pending the release of my second studio album. They were looking to ride out the success of my debut release. I was schedule to get back in the studio just six days after Jimmy passed.
I obviously never made it into the booth.
But once we were back in California, I knew I’d have to get to work. They anticipated a release date of October and a tour commence date of November. That gave me nearly ten full months to prepare.
“No,” Brian said flatly.
“What do you mean no?” I pushed, a little shocked to hear his rejection.
He shrugged, “It’s too far away. No way can I wait that long to call you Blair Haner.”
“Weird,” I laughed. “When were you thinking if you think a fucking year is too long?”
“August,” he said seriously. “It’s a hot month, most people can book vacation time, flights are cheaper. Besides, it’ll give us some time to jet off somewhere together before you leave me for your glitzy tour.”
I tilted my head at him, “August?”
I ran that over in my mind a few times. An August wedding. That would give me eight months to plan, and execute, an entire wedding. I hadn’t even thought of where I wanted to get married. I wasn’t sure I was going to make a good bride.
“I could do August,” I finally said with a smile.
Brian looked over to me with nothing but love in his eyes.
Maybe I wasn’t a good wedding planner and hadn’t actually worked out a single detail about what I might want. But I knew that I’d be marrying my best friend. And I knew who I wanted to give me away—because really, there never could have been a clearer choice.
As we pulled up to the Brody house, I was nothing but excited. Not nervous at all. I couldn’t wait to get inside.
I just fucking love Blair.