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Tell the world you danced

Previous short story:
One Step Away.
Next short story:
Significant Much

(continuation from Groundless)

                “Dr. Larth, it is your turn now,” came a voice that woke me up from my little world, and I find Ledya staring into my eyes, her green eyes twinkling with what I would interpret as amusement. I threw the crumpled tie I held in my hand onto the bench and got to my feet, and she took my hand, leading me to the centre of the dance floor. A young man whistled and cheered on, and I kindly reprimanded him to keep it low, while Ledya instructed for the music to start. Once the melody aired, I realized that instead of the ordinary waltz, she turned to pasodoble. She probably noticed my slight confusion and chuckled.

                “I want to see some energy,” she said as we swayed by. It didn’t take long for the music to reach full swing and we were stomping the dance floor by the rhythm, and I found myself surprised at the level of energy that came out of nowhere, manifesting in our every movement. The previously chatty students slowly stopped talking and before long, the hall quietened down and eyes were fixed on us. I managed to reminisce how I minded such attention in earlier days. Now, it mattered not. We finished the dance with a forceful stomp that was on beat with the music, followed by whistles and claps. I bowed to her, and then to the other students, suddenly feeling a scorching hotness spreading across my face.

                But there was something else on my mind so I ignored my embarrassment and turned to her, finding her looking at me with an admiring look.

                “Why paso doble?”

                “It suits your colouring, Dr. Larth,” she reasoned, smiling proudly. “You remind me of embers.  You may have danced waltz rather brilliantly but energetic dance suits you better.”

                “Is that all there is?”

                “You seemed lost, too. I need to know…” she said, when she realized something and patted her lips with her thumb. I waited for her to resume her words but she didn’t, and instead she turned around and waved at the student. “Waltz time! Who wants to partner up with the good doctor?” she announced, which, needless to guess, received rave respond from the ladies which somewhat troubled me. Ledya Kensington always used my presence to motivate her students, and from her statements I realized that I am popular with the ladies. In actuality such attention irked me, because naturally I dislike being at the centre of a crowd and topping that, having my feet stepped on by clumsy partners made up a lengthy list of my reluctance. But Ledya Kensington’s insistence made me feel obliged to keep quiet and dully I danced with the other students, enduring clumsy steps and difficult turns.

                Ledya Kensington. She was a world-famed prima-ballerina not twelve years ago, before she was struck down in an accident, crushing completely her legs which resulted in amputation. She quit ballet since, pursued her dream to ‘become a mermaid’ by obtaining a Masters in Marine Biology, but she still could not elude her first love; dancing, and this had her settling down in this city after securing a spot as a lecturer at local university, subsequently opening this dance studio. She invited me to the opening, and before I knew it I was registered for lessons. Since then I have learned how to dance, and I discovered that I have a knack for dancing, particularly, ballroom waltz. That was eight months ago. As much as I enjoyed dancing, unfortunately, it was increasingly difficult to juggle the class with my crazy schedule at the ER. The first few months I successfully attended afternoon classes, but as of late I had to push my session to the last hours; sometime ending nearly midnight. We danced that night until the bell struck eleven, and she hurriedly close the studio. I felt obliged to wait for her in place of her absent assistant, to which she quietly accepted. As we took the stairs down from the second-floor studio, she turned around and I saw where will the night lead to;

                “Supper?” she asked, smiling slyly. I sighed and accepted with a quick nod, following in her steps as we took to the street, joining the rest of the crowd. We walked down the road to a diner and saw the bartender wave at us. I gave him my customary hello and Ledya Kensington chatted a little with the cashier. I proceeded to one of the booth, and Ledya Kensington joined me with a waitress tailing her. We ordered our ‘usual’; mine being the simple toasted cheese with tea and hers, I discovered then, being blueberry waffles and warm milk with honey. She remarked on the unusual combination of toasted cheese and tea and I replied telling hers sounded more like breakfast to me rather than supper. She laughed and I found myself chuckling, but the chuckle died when she took a leaf of pamphlet and placed it in front of me. When she smiled, bad inning crept into me.

                “I want you to join the tournament.”

                “Seriously?” I asked, about to blurt more when the waitress returned with our drinks. I thanked her and quickly returned my attention to her. “No. I don’t have that much gut,” I said, nervously sipping my tea, “Or time. Attending your class is hard enough on my schedule, practicing for tournament is…out of question;” I wasn’t exactly lying. Recently appointed as head of ER to replace Sanders who received a promotion, I was already very overwhelmed with work. The dancing class, admittedly, had become a source of a much-needed distraction from my work at the hospital, but even with that kind of need I still find it difficult to find time.

                “I will talk to Dr. Sanders for you,” she offered which choked me. Seriously? Raising my cup I gave her a mixed-meaning chuckle.

                “Sanders…are no longer my superior. The director is,” I said unsurely. To this her jaw dropped.

“You were promoted?!” and I nodded. “Unfortunately, I have already registered you. When? How come I did not hear about this? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Since last five months? I told her so, but avoided telling her why. I was speechless after that. She smiled, but did so with a guilty look all over her face. In that awkward moment our orders arrived and I find my appetite slipping. Registered in a dance tournament. Right. I eyed the brochure. Three months from now. No way on earth or heaven! “Too short, the time, and I don’t even have a partner,” I said finally, trying to convince her that I am in no place to compete. Furthermore I have danced not more than a year now, a total newbie! The only proper dancing things I own were a pair of dancing shoe! What was she thinking, really?

                “Andrea Levisky will be your partner.”

                As if my speechlessness was insufficient, my jaw dropped.

                “That Andrea Levisky?”

                She nodded. Impossible! My panic flared when I remembered Andrea Levisky; that talked-about veteran dancer who was her friend…! “No! I am against this. I am unworthy of such talent!”

                “She will only be your partner, Dr. Larth. The contestant will be you. Andrea is a professional. She will suit herself to your level…and Dr. Larth, you aren’t a bad dancer yourself. Have more faith!” I said nothing to this but stared at my sandwich, feeling numbness creeping in. She knew I hated crowds or being the centre of attention but she still forced such things upon me…!

                “Dr. Larth,”

                I ignored her again.

                “Dr. Larth, as a friend I hope you do this favour for me.”

                “Favour, you say?”

                “Help me promote my dance studio,” she said, doe-eyed. I was baffled. Does she really need me, of all people, to enter a tournament and represent her dance studio and at the same time promote it? “It was a selfish reason, but I need your help to keep things afloat. I am embarrassed to say this but I am in a tight spot. Unless we get more students I will have to close the studio. You are my best student, so you are my only best bet. Johanna and few others will be there as well but I am pinning my utmost hope on you.”

                Ledya Kensington’s little confession occurred to me as a lie, perceived and deducted by heart, but I choose to listen to my brain instead. With heart as heavy as lead, I accepted, and we finished our supper quietly, parting ways with a single by.

                It was the worst time, actually, to be participating in a tournament, as work soon piled in. When I was absent at the studio for two weeks and receiving numerous messages and calls from both Ledya and Andrea who was worried about me, I realized that I need help; really, extremely, in need of help. I explained this to Sanders who laughed at two facts; Kevin A.J. Larth taking dancing lesson from Ledya Kensington and then entering a regional tournament at the insistence of his coach in order to save the studio. It was annoying but he dully accepted my plea to help me up with work. He enlisted Miranda and Hills to aid me in the two months, but at a price – that these trusted hands be treated to a ticket each to attend the competition. It was embarrassing but I was desperate, thus the agreement. My workload eased tremendously and finally I managed to appear at practice without being extremely lethargic or grumpy.

                The two months passed rather quickly. The day came and along with Hills and Miranda I arrived at the hall feeling numbness all over. As we part way, my path crossed so many times with those of younger people looking dashing and fancy in their expensive tuxedo and dance costumes, rising frigid alarm within me. What is this forty-something man doing amongst these twenty-something people? And they seemed so polished, I figured they must have danced for years to gain that kind of glittering confidence, and here I am, barely a year on the dance floor and here among them. I felt my face redden at the thought, and that was what Ledya Kensington first commented when she saw me.

                “Please don’t tell me you have a fever,” she gushed, hands trying to reach for my forehead. I stopped her, shook my head and frowned. “But I am seriously intimidated by these young folk and it is ruining my nerve,” I told her, which was laughed upon by Andrea.

                “You will be fine…” they assured me, told me to go change and disappear into the ladies’ changing room. I had worn parts of my dancing costume at home, so all I did afterward was put on my bowtie and cummerbund, the red rose boutainnier Ledya Kensington made yesterday, changed my shoes and finally, the tailed tuxedo jacket. Normally I would wear my hair down but the two ladies insisted that I have it slicked back this time, so I obliged their wish. It was weird seeing my own reflection so I left the mirror-covered room and escaped to the contestant lounge. One by one of the categories were called and I felt the tension slowly grew. I stared at my watch, at the wall clock, at my phone’s clock and I realized; where are they? It’s been an hour since! I began to panic, and ran to the ladies’ changing room, asked for them. But the staff told me that there were no such people there. I began to panic, returned to the lounge, and heard my name being called, and I panicked again. I told him that my partner was missing so they sent out searching for Andrea Levisky. Practically everyone there knew her; she was such star, and ensured that things will be alright and positioned me on the line for the ‘presentation’.

                But when only three couples left before it was my turn, there was still no Andrea. I was about to announce a forfeit when two staff rushed by, and I could tell they were escorting someone. It came to me as a shock when Ledya Kensington appeared, and she was dressed in what should have been Andrea’s dancing costume.

                “Andrea pulled out.”

                “Why…?”

                “She took the liberty to switch our names. She went all the way and contested the Council to let a cripple like me be your partner. They relented thinking it will be a worthwhile joke, you see, because stars like Andrea who dropped out to make way for an ex-ballerina with no feet, that is definitely something worthwhile to see,” she said, face flushed. She seemed like she was about to cry, somewhat very weak and fragile and it was something I had never seen before. In that state of strange confusion I lunged for her fingers and realized that she was trembling. In that instance she pulled her hand away and looked at me with confusion in her eyes.

                “Why must you say such word?” I found myself saying, slightly alarmed. “You are fine as you are, even as a dancer!”

                “You must have favoured Andrea…”

                “I never said that,”

                “But I!”

                “You are up next, Mr. Larth. And your partner is…” we were interrupted then, but the word of this stage manager stopped halfway when he saw the elegant prosthetic that peaked through her dress, and it gave me a thick sense of discomfort. I realized that I was far more desperate than Kensington herself when she smiled sweetly to him albeit the trembling, and taking that chance, I said firmly; “Ledya Kensington,” and this startled him.

                “The Ledya Kensington?”

                “The one and only,” I added, giving him a look I hoped would remind him of the situation. He nodded, scurried over to the announcer and did the correction. We were announced, I took Ledya Kensington’s hand and marched toward the floor, holding my head as high as possible, hoping to compensate for Ledya Kensington’s turbulent. All spotlights went upon us and the announcer actually commented about her ordeal, obtaining the interest of the public, which irritated me but disturbed her. As we were standing at the edge of the floor, we could hear people whispering, and this only bothered her further.

                “Chin up, Ledya. You taught me how to dance, and I will not fail you, and you will not fail me as well. I will win this for you, I promise,” I was screaming inside over my passionate idiocy. Why did I have to make such promise? Idiot Larth you do not have the tolerant to face the consequences of breaking a promise not did you have the means to beat these veterans! I was at war with myself; my inner self and my thought were arguing on this ridiculous plunge I am taking, but my heart was incredibly proud and steely. Ledya Kensington must have noticed this turmoil when she chuckled and commented on the colour of my face, and me being me, despite being the recluse and looser that I was, told her to pour her faith in me thanks to my upsized ego; or perhaps the instinct of wanting to protect her.

  1.                 I had never dreamed that one day I will have another kind of spotlight shining on my back other than that of the one in the operation theatre, ever, in my life, that the thought of standing among these fancy peacocks on a sleek, polished and oiled floor that would reflect your face any time nearly paralyzed me.        

                “Thank you. Do you know why I insist of having you here?” she asked her voice now finally in natural state, her colouring returning. I shook my head and left the moment to her, “I will tell you, if you win.”

                ‘Damn you, Ledya,’ I thought, but merely smiled to her. I let her out, and she twirled away from me. The music began, and as if possessed I held out my hand, to which she swirled toward me again and soon enough, our fingers locked into each other’s, her hand on my shoulder and mine on her back. She gave one gallant smile, leaned back and gazed adoringly at the crowd and before I realized my feet moved according to the music, and we were twirling. The bleak atmosphere suddenly gained colour, and everything was twinkling in my eyes, while Ledya shone brightly. The presentation wasn’t for more than a minute, but the hall was quiet when we left the floor. I was strangely content, and that contentment lasted through the solo and the group session. When the winner was announced, the crowd cheered, and I felt my heart stop, my whole body freezing. The other couples left the floor, and suddenly it was me and Ledya again. The music started and the colours returned, and I was smiling when I took her hand again for our honour round.

                Once the music died she leaned toward me and whispered; “Tell the world you danced. They must know, for you are a beautiful dancer and you are much more alive when you danced…so I must tell the world you danced.”

                Needless to say, it was the opening of a new episode in my life.

 

                Epilogue:

                The story about the studio was in trouble that Ledya fed me when she was trying to convince me to join the tournament was a lie, as I later discovered from Andrea when I went to see her to demand for explanation for her pulling out from the tournament. I also learnt that Ledya had wanted to participate and be my partner from the beginning, but the condition in which she had to wear prosthetics disqualified her. Andrea went ahead and used her influence as a famed dancer to convince the council to let Ledya join instead, but it was not in their design that we won.

 

Author’s note: NOT. HOW. I. PLANNED. IT. TO. BE. Or end. But oh well. On a completely irrelevant note, I love Strictly Ballroom. It was a dance-themed movie I will never tire watching. You guys should take a peek at it as well ;) This short piece was written to commemorate the start of my semester break, which basically means I will have more time to write. Yay!

And as usual, pardon me for incomplete sentence/fragments/grammatical errors or typos. :) You guys be my proofreader! Thank you for reading  

 

Previous short story:
One Step Away.
Next short story:
Significant Much
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