Dancing Naked Under the Moon
Previously published as Balancing in High Heels
As break-ups go, Alissa Lindley's break-up with her husband, Thomas, was pretty bad. She's pretty sure it was at least as fraught with gossip and rumors as Nicole and Tom's, as public as Diana and Charles', as ridiculous as Burt and Loni's, and maybe even as tragic as Ann and Henry's. Ann Boleyn has the edge in Alissa's opinion because she actually dies while Alissa just wanted to. Discovering your husband's infidelity by being diagnosed with an STD can do that to a girl. The break-up leads inexorably to a break-down for Alissa, involving the very public destruction of a fax machine. (It really was asking for it). Alissa's left trying to find her balance again and feeling like she's having to do it in high heels.
Beacon Award Winner
Lories Award Winner
"... a fun read, with a tightly constructed and interesting plot, a cast of delightfully zany but utterly believable characters, all well-written in a clean breezy style that had me turning the pages until I'd read the whole thing in a little over four hours."
- All About Romance
"The characters with their quirkiness, humor and realism, hit right at home; we all know people like this, or we should. Funny and heartwarming, this story shows us an inside view of family, skinned knees and all, touched with grace and a bit of tongue in cheek."
- Fresh Fiction Review
"Rendahl has a talent for creating humorous, yet heartbreaking characters in situations that at once make you laugh and make you a little sad."
IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON
From The Angry No More Manual and Workbook
By Dr. Gail Peterson
Do you clench your fists? Frown? Grit your teeth or breathe rapidly in and out through your nose? The first step in learning to control your anger is to recognize the signs of your own emotions before they start your Anger Train on an out-of-your-control journey.
Helpful Hint: If you’ve already hit someone, it’s too late.
Alissa’s Anger Workbook
List three ways you can tell that you’re angry:
1. Trail of broken office equipment and furniture
. . .
“What happened next, Alissa?” Gail prompted.
I took a deep breath and went on. “I guess I was trying to get the FAX to dial again when my cell phone rang.”
“Who was on the phone, Alissa? How did the call make you feel?” Gail asked.
“It was Thomas on the phone. My ex.” I closed my eyes again and saw his handsome face. How had I felt? Betrayed? Humiliated? Undercut? I started breathing in and out through my nose just thinking about that call, just thinking about Thomas. “He wasn’t quite my ex yet. That’s why he called.” I swallowed hard.
“Go ahead, Alissa. What happened next?”
“The stupid FAX still wouldn’t dial. I kept punching the buttons, but it just sat there. It didn’t even bleep at me. Like I wasn’t even worth the time or the effort. Thomas said he was messengering some papers over that I needed to sign right away. He needed the final divorce papers in. He and Bethany needed to get married. She was pregnant.” My eyeballs felt hot. It seemed I couldn’t get enough air in so I breathed harder. A trickle of sweat ran down my back. My fingernails dug into the palms of my hand.
“How did that make you feel?” Gail asked. “Remember to use ‘I’ statements.”
How did it make me feel? I took a deep slow breath in through my nose and then let it out slowly through my mouth. “I felt frustrated that the FAX machine wouldn’t work.”
“Good, Alissa. Go on.”
“I felt annoyed with Thomas for disturbing me at work.”
“Is that all?” Gail leaned forward in her chair. “Really think. Really try to remember.”
I went back to that day, to how I felt listening to Thomas’s voice on the phone. He sounded so calm, so reasonable. He always did. It was just his behavior that was so damn unreasonable. It is simply not reasonable to screw around on your wife, gave her a sexually-transmitted disease that may or may not completely foul up her reproductive system and then six months later expect her to expedite your paperwork so you can marry your pregnant girlfriend. I was thirty-years-old and living in a mildewy garden apartment, crying over him every night and unable to even get bleeped by a FAX machine.
Thomas wanted to marry Bethany. Pregnant Bethany. How could he? Especially with her? She was a customer service rep for the accounting software his office used. Please. Don’t bother with the obvious jokes about customer satisfaction. They’re just too easy. In fact, taking potshots at Bethany is always too easy. She’s vapid and phony. The most real thing about her are her false eyelashes and she wears her skirts too tight and too short and . . .
. . . Thomas loved her better than he loved me. He wanted her to be his wife and the mother of his baby and he didn’t want me. At least, not anymore.
In fact, I had been beginning to suspect that nobody wanted me. I knew I was partially responsible. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know what kind of angry bile was spilling over my lips until I’d see the horrified looks on friends’ faces at cocktail parties and dinners. I hadn’t realized how hard it had made me to be with either until I’d realized how my normally active social calendar had dwindled to a few pity coffees a month.
“HOW DO YOU THINK I FELT, GAIL? YOU’RE THE THERAPIST. I THINK YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO GUESS. I FELT LIKE IT WASN’T FREAKING FAIR! I FELT CHEATED AND ABUSED AND PISSED OFF! THAT’S HOW I FELT!”
“Alissa, put the chair down!”
I looked around. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I’d ended up in the middle of the circle with my orange plastic molded chair up over my head. Gail was on the floor behind her chair, bangs quivering with fright. Anthony and Maurice were both cowering. So was Chad, the third member of our wife-beating trio. Steve and Liang, the little Asian woman who had slammed a fellow office worker in the back of the head with a three-ring-binder over a coffee-maker dispute, were the only ones sitting up straight. Steve gave me a little smile, the first I’d ever seen from him. Liang winked.
I remembered my prayer for an out of body experience.
Perhaps I should have wished for a pony.