Content warning: mild foul language
Swing music blared from the second-floor windows of the building as Lara stood outside. Her heart skipped a beat. Maybe I should just go back home, she thought to herself. With a trembling hand, she pulled out a compact mirror from the purse slung over her shoulder. The mirror glinted in her eye from the streetlight above her. Her hand still shaking, she checked her lipstick and eye makeup. She had spent over an hour on her makeup and picked out her outfit days beforehand. Normally she would just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and run a comb through her hair, but tonight was different. Upstairs, waiting for her, was her on and off-again boyfriend.
This time will be different. This time I won’t let him have me. She knew it would be childish to agree on a date, dress up, then turn down her ex, but after all that he put her through just a hint of revenge couldn’t be that bad. Cool air filled her lungs as she took a deep breath in to gather her courage. She ran her hands down her pink mini skirt, checking that it was still in place, then walked through the door.
The scent of sweat grew stronger as she made her way up the steps. Laughter and voices could be heard over the music. What am I doing here…? I don’t belong here. The urge to turn back forced her to stop. At the top of the steps, she could see a pair of feet bounding across the floor. What was I thinking? She turned around and took a step back down the stairs.
“Lara?” a familiar voice called out over the music. She stopped and turned around.
“Oh hey,” her voice trembled as she spoke. Standing at the top of the steps was her ex, Josh. For a moment, Lara forgot to breathe. It had almost been a year since she had last seen him, and he looked fantastic. Oh, shit… hold it together girl… I’m here to make him realize what he lost… not fall for him all over again.
“Well, get up here and give me a hug, you dork,” Josh said with a big grin on his face. His perfect white teeth glinted in the dimly lit room like a lighthouse beckoning lost ships from the sea, and Lara certainly felt like a lost ship. While she climbed up the steps, her hand, already moist with sweat, cling to the handrail.
He held his arms out wide when she reached the top. His arms then wrapped around her, pushing the air out of her lungs. “Long time no see…” he said in a soft voice. A chill ran down her spine, and she hoped he didn’t notice. His arms tightened around her and in a squeaky voice she said “ummm yeah nice to see you too….” She then faked a choking noise and added, “can’t breathe.”
“You don’t need to breathe anyway,”
Lara wanted to melt into his arms. His strong touch and the familiar scent of his over applied cologne brought her straight back to memories she had long thought dead. His grip around her loosened, and she took a step back. Their eyes locked, and it was as if every word of the English language left her. All she could think about was his hazel eyes focused solely on her.
“So, what’s new with you?” Josh asked, his eyes still locked on hers.
Say it… say you have a new boyfriend. “Ummm… nothing new really, how about you?” No stupid! That was my chance. Now I’ll have to figure out how to bring it up again.
Josh motioned towards the dance floor that she had until now not even noticed, “I got into swing dancing as you can see.”
The dance floor looked like something straight out of a movie. It was packed with college aged couples dancing and moving together with precision and grace she had thought only professional dancers could achieve.
“Sooo ummm…” Lara could feel her cheeks flush. She picked at the bottom of her skirt while searching for what to say next.
His eyes lit up. “Wait here! I’m going to get someone to show you the basic steps.”
“Oh, I… ummm.” Before Lara could say anything more, He had already run off and was tapping the shoulder of a tall, skinny blonde woman.
She really had no intention of dancing tonight. She figured Josh’s attention would just be on her all evening long and her feet wouldn’t even touch the dance floor. I’m going to look like a fool… maybe I can sneak out before he comes back. There was no way she could let him see her fumble away at this ‘swing dancing’. She came here to make him want her, not to expose her two left feet and lack of any rhythm.
Josh and the tall blonde walked over to where she stood alone, sticking out like a sore thumb. “Lara, this is Emily. She’s going to show you the ropes. Then we will dance together later, Okay?”
It was too late for her to run. Emily took her by the hands and pulled her out onto the dance floor.
“Okay, we connect like this, and you are going to mirror my footwork, okay?” Emily said with the warmest smile Lara had ever seen.
It felt as though all eyes were on her while she fumbled with the footwork and spins. She supposed she deserved the embarrassment. After all, she came here to make her ex envious of what he missed out on. Just get through one dance with Josh and I can leave and pretend none of this ever happened…
After the quick five-minute crash course, Emily was pulled onto the dance floor by Josh and Lara was left standing by herself again. She watched as he twirled Emily around him and they floated together on the dance floor. She could hardly believe what she was seeing. She had known him since middle school and she had never seen him dance before, let alone move like a deer leaping through a forest.
An open hand reached out before her, “want to dance?” a young man with long blonde hair and a Puka shell necklace asked her.
Lara looked about the room, searching for any out, “oh, I couldn’t. I really don’t know how.”
The man took her by the hand anyway and gently guided her into the middle of the dance floor, “don’t worry about it, it’s easy.”
She followed him. Her palms were already growing damp from their linked hands. He began moving to the music and Lara, lagging slightly behind, mirrored his steps. Her head hung down low, watching her feet, making sure she did each step correctly.
“That’s it, you’ve got it… now a turn, okay?” the man lifted his arm up, creating a doorway for Lara to go under.
Once completing the turn, she looked up at her dance partner’s face for the first time since they began. He was smiling at her, and not a fake ‘please just let this be over’ smile from what she could see. He looked genuinely happy. Lara couldn’t help but smile back at him.
Once the song ended, her partner bowed and thanked her for the dance. That was… that actually wasn’t as bad as I thought… Lara made her way to the end of the dance floor and watched for Josh, who had already grabbed another woman to dance with. Before she could catch her breath from the last dance, another man approached her and offered his hand for a dance.
After several clumsy dances, a slow and sensual blues song came on. Lara scanned the dance floor looking for Josh and hoping that he would ask her for a dance to this song. Her hopes were not met. He had grabbed Emily for another dance. She wasn’t too disappointed though. Her mind was spinning. She was actually having fun. She knew she wasn’t up to par with everyone else’s skill level, but she could feel the energy of the music and dance pulse through her veins. It didn’t matter if she looked stupid, she just wanted to dance and from what she could see, that’s all everyone else here wanted as well.
From across the dance floor, a couple caught her attention. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed them earlier because the way they danced seemed like something out a romance movie. Together they moved as if they were making love on the dance floor, and no one else existed and they held each other so close together that their cheeks touched. Each step was so in sync with each other that they moved as a single entity. In that moment, Lara realized she wanted to be them. Josh was nothing more than an afterthought. Someday, she thought to herself, I’m going to dance like that couple over there. I swear it.
Lara looked at the clock on the wall. It read fifteen minutes from midnight. She had spent almost four hours dancing. A tap on the shoulder pulled in her attention. She turned and was greeted with Josh’s hazel eyes and bright smile. “Dance with me,” he said, not as a question but as a statement. It then suddenly occurred to her, all night she had been waiting for his attention and here it finally was. How could I have forgotten why I came here? The song wasn’t a slow one like she had hoped for, but a fast-paced rock and roll one. I still have time to bewitch him. She smiled at the thought.
Before she could blink, their hands met, and she was pulled out onto the dance floor. Her heart rate picked up. She could feel it pound in her chest and wondered if Josh could hear it as well. He threw move after move on Lara and she struggled to keep up. She realized she probably looked pathetic dancing with someone of his caliber and she felt herself shutting down. Beads of sweat formed on her brow. She felt like she was running a race, trying to keep up with him.
Her mind went blank. Everything else around her seemed to disappear. Even Josh himself faded from her mind. Nothing else existed besides the music and her own moving body. Each new bar of music came along with a new move. She felt as though she weren’t even human, just a perpetual motion machine spinning without purpose.
Then the song ended and there was silence. The dim room suddenly lit up, blinding her for a moment. When her vision adjusted, she noticed Josh still looking at her and smiling. Sweat dripped down his face and neck, glistening in the light and his drenched hair cling to his face. He looked as though he had just stepped out of the shower.
Between heavy breaths he uttered, “unbelievable”.
With the back of her arm, Lara wiped at her own sweaty brow and she hoped she didn’t look nearly as wild as he did. “What is?” she asked.
“You,” he said while walking backwards off the dance floor.
Emily’s high-pitched voice shouted over the chattering voices. Both Lara and Josh turned to face her, “thanks for coming out tonight for our first official swing dance. We are hoping we can have another one just like this next month.”
How can it be over already? She thought to herself while waiting outside the building for Josh. Cool air blew against her face, reinvigorating her. A newfound energy pulsed through her veins; she hadn’t had enough yet. She wanted to dance until her body collapsed. The door opened and Josh popped his head out.
“Oh good, you waited,” he said with his perfect smile.
“Of course I did,” she knew this was her last chance. She finally had a moment alone with him.
He stepped outside and leaned against the wall next to her. He pressed his head back and let out a loud, satisfied sigh.
“So, what did you think?” he asked
“Honestly… I didn’t know what to expect when you said swing dancing, but that was amazing.” Lara mirrored Josh and pressed her head back against the cool wall. She looked up at the night sky and could only see a few dull stars dot the sky.
“You did great for it being your first time. I was so scared my first time I only danced with one person. You really put yourself out there.”
Lara’s eyes drifted over to where he stood, and she smiled. “I guess… I just wanted to dance.”
He turned his head to look over at her, “well you should keep at it.”
“I think I will.”
Lara walked home alone. The occasional passing car and streetlights kept her company on her way. She hummed the tune of the last song that played and pranced along the sidewalk. Her mind replayed each dance she shared that night. She didn’t know and didn’t care if she made Josh wish he had her. That didn’t seem to matter anymore. Her heart had been stolen and all she could think about was when she could get her next dance.