In Rhythm

When Kara struggles with a new dance for a competition, her teacher, Ruby, partners her, to show her how it’s done. Their chemistry is clear and it’s the best time Kara’s ever danced that routine, the only problem is she has to dance with Felix not Ruby, and the competition is tomorrow.

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1. Chapter One: In Training

‘One, two, three, one, two, three,’ the rhythm went round and round in her head.

Kara clung on to Felix as he pulled her this way and that. She focused on each move before it came. The heel turn, box-step, into the lift… she tired to forget the pain in her feet. They were close to the end, it would soon be over, just a couple more moves. Then she could go home, have a bath, sink into the warm water…

“No, no, no, no, NO!”

Kara and Felix jerked to a halt as their dance teacher yelled.

“Kara, were you even listening to the music?” Ruby, their dance coach, had been giving them a hard time all evening, pushing them, over and over and over until Kara felt that the dance had no meaning left.

“We were in perfect time!” But Felix’s protest made him sound like a whining toddler, and not a grown man of twenty.

“What does timing matter, if you two look like you’re wandering around a supermarket?”

Kara stared at the floor; she knew she hadn’t been feeling the music, she wasn’t feeling anything, she just wanted to be done with this dance routine. She wanted the whole thing to be over with.

She hated it when Ruby got angry. Not because Ruby was vicious or cruel it was more to do with the fact that Kara hated to see her upset, and hated to be the reason she was upset.

“You looked bored, both of you, but Kara, you just look like you want to be somewhere else entirely, there was no heart, no soul, no connection between you. You look like you are just going through the motions; and that will not impress the judges tomorrow.”

Kara knew exactly what she meant. But she didn’t know what to say, she looked up at Ruby and just felt stupid. Kara wasn’t getting this dance, she really wasn’t. Felix was her first ever dance partner and she was starting to think that maybe she should go back to dancing solo, or maybe she should quit entirely.

“Come here.” Ruby held her arms wide open and Kara wondered if she wanted them to hug. “I won’t bite, Kara.”

Cautiously, she took a step forward and Ruby grabbed hold of her hands, moving her into starting position.

The thrill of being so close to Ruby sent a rush of excitement through her. Something she wasn’t quite prepared for. The sensation of Ruby holding her made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. As she moved her own hand onto her teacher’s waist she had to remind herself to breathe. But, at the same time, she felt dread sink into her stomach as she realised she was going to have to dance, and dance well. There was so much buzzing through her mind she wasn’t sure she could remember the steps.

But then the music started and she had to move.

It was intense. Kara’s heart was racing her muscles were tight, she felt herself stumbling through the moves. All she could think about was the heat from Ruby’s body, the smell of her perfume.

She had to admit that in her most private fantasies she had thought about this moment, about her chance to dance with Ruby, to be this close, to hold her body against her own. But now that it was happening, she was numb, unable to think, unable to move.

“Free yourself.” Ruby whispered “Forget about the moves, forget where you are, forget who you are, just feel it.”

Kara tried to let go of all the thoughts, all the worries about the competition, the analysis of the moves, the aching of her over-worked muscles. She relaxed her grip on Ruby, relaxed into her, allowed herself to trust this woman, to trust her teacher, to be led by her, and suddenly it felt right.

She wasn’t dancing she was flying. She was soaring round the room with Ruby. She didn’t remember the steps, she knew them; they were part of the music and part of her. For those few brief moments she was part of Ruby and Ruby was part of her and both of them were a part of the music, moving as one across the room.

Then it was over.

Too soon it was over, and they stopped, panting for breath the exhilaration of the dance rushing through them, making them giddy with laughter. Ruby’s eyes were bright, looking straight at Kara. She’d felt it too, Kara knew that Ruby must have felt that intensity burning through them

“That was amazing.” Ruby said.

Kara went to reply, to tell her she agreed that it was wonderful, liberating, the most uplifting dance she had ever known; that dancing with Ruby was the most powerful experience of her life.

“Well if we dance like that tomorrow we’ll be sure of the trophy.”

Felix broke the moment. He grabbed Kara by the waist, giving her a friendly squeeze of delight. “That was awesome.” He said, grinning.

“Now see what you two can do.”

Ruby was no longer looking at her, no longer smiling, back to business, back to coaching and as Felix took Kara into starting position she felt like a cold, wet, fish: all the life and music within her had gone.

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