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To Dance With Her (Part 1 of 2)
By
L8LastNight

To Dance With Her (Part 1 of 2)

August Bailey sat quietly by himself in the office. Staring through the viewing window into the dance studio, he tried to quell the nervous longing in his gut. It was slowly swelling more and more the longer he gazed through the glass. He wasn’t used to this uncertain feeling. He hated it.

His attentions were focused on a young woman in the far off corner, going through her stretching and flexing exercises alone in front of the mirrors. Attired in pastel pink, one-piece dance-tights, she slowly and carefully shifted the weight back and forth between her bare feet. As she leaned backwards holding the barre, arching her belly up, her long, auburn ponytail dusted the floor. Like a silent pendulum, her left leg gracefully rose straight up and pointed towards the ceiling. She held the position effortlessly, a hint of rose blushing her fair-skinned cheeks, her sleek brown-eyes unwavering.

August's eyes were just as focused, yet he was nowhere near at ease as she appeared to be. The way she moved on the floor was mesmerizing; it made him shudder. She was one of those very few who seemed to have found that precise and delicate balance of grace and strength. Her whole body flowed like a river, just as vivacious and just as deceivingly powerful.

He had heard of her, then he had seen her perform, and from that point on he dared to dream, despite his own limitations, and his world's expectations, that there was no other partner he needed to be with. So many other women in his young past, yet none of them affected him the way she did and he wanted to be with her in a way completely different from all the others. Without ever having met, she had filled him with a relentless determination he had never experienced before.

He had to dance with her.

“Dumbass, ” he muttered softly to himself, “ Who the hell do you think you are? ”

“August? ” An older woman with curly dirty-blonde hair peeking out from a scarf wrapped around her head looked into the office. She beckoned to the young man.

August inhaled deeply then stood up from the chair and followed her out of the office, into the studio.

“Wait here for a moment, ” the woman said motioning to him to stay by the wall. Then she walked across the floor to the woman warming up on the other side of the studio.

Again he inhaled and shifted nervously on his feet. He watched the young woman carefully. He didn ’ t deserve to be with her. He was nowhere near as good as she was. She didn ’ t deserve to be with him but for completely opposite reasons.

But he had to dance with her.

***

Caleigh Lin was just about finished with her usual warm up routine. She was working on a series of upper body isolations when she saw Tristan enter from the other side of the studio. She offered her partner a soft smile. It quickly faded into a curious frown as the tall, lanky, man returned only a curt glare and walked off into a far corner, mingling with another group of dancers.

She moved towards him but was cut off by her mentor and choreographer.

“Good-morning Caleigh,” Thalia greeted her, “Done with your warm-ups?”

Caleigh nodded, “I was just going to get Tristan…”

The older woman shook her head and put her arm around Caleigh’s shoulder, turning her away from the dancers on the other side of the studio. “No,” she said, “I’m changing things up a bit. Tristan will be dancing with Annika from now on. I have a new partner for you.”

Caleigh stopped on her feet and looked at Thalia as if she had just been slapped on her ear. Her pretty brown eyes blinked as she recovered from the blow and finally her mouth slipped open to say something. She was too slow.

“Remember I told you about a young man whom I saw at the Open Air Grooves down at the Docks Stage?” Thalia said not giving the dancer a chance to protest, “And also at the Heritage Festival last month? The contemporary jazz, hip-hop fusion guy.”

“Heritage Festival?” Caleigh repeated, frowning, “But weren’t those just open invitation talent competitions?”

“And does this guy have talent!” Thalia insisted clasping her hands together, “He’s got power, he’s got energy, he’s…he’s also quite appealing, I must say.”

Caleigh continued to shift on her feet, her eyes unfocused as she absorbed everything. She watched anxiously as the other dancers, along with Tristan, left the room to go into the adjoining studio.

“Caleigh,” Thalia spoke with a placating voice, “I know you. You’re not only a wonderful dancer but you’re a lovely person and a superb, patient teacher. That’s what he needs. He’s lean ground beef who can become prime rib with proper guidance.”

Thalia and her oddball analogies, Caleigh thought.

“And I know he’ll help bring out some more traits in you that’ll make you an even more attractive dancer,” Thalia continued, “Trust me, he won’t drag you down. He’ll make you better. You’re going to need him for the types of dances I have in mind.”

Caleigh scanned anxiously around the studio as Thalia spoke, her vision flitting aimlessly before returning a quizzical gaze towards her choreographer. She started to say something but instead, Thalia turned around and beckoned towards the door to the studio office. Caleigh leaned slightly to her left to see past her head.

A young man, black, leaning against the wall raised his hand slowly and managed an anxious smile. He rolled his fingers down in a half-hearted greeting. On first impression, he didn’t appear too sure of this either.

“August? Come on over,” Thalia called to him.

Hesitating for a moment, he peeled himself from the wall and slowly made his way towards them. Caleigh reached across with her hand to grab her other elbow and squeezed.

At first, the way he took his time to walk towards her, Caleigh thought it was a swagger. Actually, the closer he came, she realized she saw on his face something not even close to overconfident or cocky.

“Caleigh Lin this is August Bailey,” Thalia introduced them.

“Hey,” August said. He managed a closed-lip smile as they shook hands.

“Hi,” Caleigh nodded, offering her own hesitant smile. She was surprised to feel how gently --no, delicately -- he held her hand.

As Thalia continued with the introductions, extolling the virtues of each of them, Caleigh took her time to reflect on her new partner. He wasn’t much taller than her --she was in bare, taped feet as well-- and with his baggy clothing, it was hard to see just what shape his body was in. She focused on his face. The first thing she noticed was the colour of his eyes which were a glassy green-grey. In regards to looks, August was at a crossroads between youthfulness and manhood. His black hair was set in cornrows and tied off at the back. Even with the short stubble around his mouth and under his chin, it was easy to still see some boyish features and freshness in his eyes and cheeks.

What really struck her though was the way he was looking at her, or rather, the way he was trying not to look at her directly. His chin was low and his eyes flitted uneasily between the choreographer and Caleigh. He was struggling to maintain his smile.

The moment Thalia stopped talking, Caleigh spoke, “You studied dance where?”

“I’ve taken some weekend classes at the local community college for the last year and a half,” August said. His voice wavered, as if he were embarrassed. “Mostly I just danced on my own or with a crew.”

When she saw him look down at his feet, Caleigh immediately regretted asking the question. It was an honest question but she realized how elitist it may have sounded. She of all people knew that the desire to dance didn’t come from classes or in the studio.

“That’s good,” she said with quick nods, “That’s…fine.”

“He was a standout,” Thalia insisted.

Caleigh continued to nod thoughtfully. August looked anywhere except at her eyes.

“Okay, enough with the hellos! August, go change!” Thalia declared, clapping her hands, “Time to dance!”

***

August sat on the floor in a loose tank top and shorts silently observing the action. Thalia directed the dance as Caleigh went through some basic moves with a choreography assistant.

Caleigh moved effortlessly and followed the instructions with barely a thought. Each time she glanced over to the young man sitting on the floor watching her she couldn’t help but find his expression to be rather curious. His eyes were wide, the whites showing through the dark, black features of his face and he had the slightest hint of a smile on his broad lips.

He looked like a kid watching a magic show; absolutely mesmerized.

In fact, August had to shake his head and blink a few times when Thalia turned to him and spoke. “Okay August,” she said, “Those are the fundamentals of the routine, the building blocks for some of the dances we’ll be doing.”

As August stood up and Caleigh kept her joints and muscles limber, Thalia went through her ideas behind the choreography. The dances, a fusion of jazz, modern and Latin influences, were culled from the steamiest, sexiest, most torrid romance novels she had dredged up from her collection. They were no mere boy-meets-girl stories, she assured them.

“We’re going to sex up the dance floor,” she insisted outright.

Caleigh’s lips slipped ajar. She usually enjoyed listening to Thalia explain the dances she had concocted. The older woman with the thousand scarves often looked like she was planning a bank heist when talking about her creations. This time, however, she was particularly excited and the explicitness of her ideas unnerved Caleigh.

One of the dances, a pure Alpha male story, involved the female dancer starting off with an innocent flirtation and quickly escalating into a struggle of desire with the man finally claiming his prize. There were a lot of up close holds and carries, the man’s show of strength and domination increasing throughout the dance, ultimately controlling the dance.

“The woman doesn’t realize the man’s intentions? She lets him get that close?” Caleigh asked.

“Oh he’s always been close. By the time she realizes it, she’s been long under his control,” Thalia grinned devilishly, “And he just has his way with her.”

Caleigh shot her an open-mouth incredulous look. She had always sensed that her eccentric mentor was grooming her to be able to interpret her peculiar sexual fantasies. But Thalia had always guided her well since she was a child. No matter how many butterflies were bouncing around in her stomach now, she had to trust her.

“And this is what we have to work with, Caleigh dear,” Thalia said as she turned and looked at August. She rubbed him on his rounded shoulder. In his dance attire, Caleigh could finally see the long, strong muscles Thalia had been suggesting when she had described August. He was a solid package to be sure, but right now he looked more like a boxer than a dancer.

“We need this body to take you and hold you and lift you and not let you go until he’s done,” Thalia said with proud slaps on Augsut’s shoulder and back. The choreographer closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, very pleased with herself.

Caleigh rolled her eyes and smiled crookedly, amused with her crazy choreographer. It eased her a bit to do so. She looked over at August. He seemed even more uncertain about this. Caleigh couldn’t help but chuckle to herself.

“Okay! To work! To work!” Thalia said as she turned and walked away, twirling her wrist in the air. She spun around and pointed at the two of them, “Trust me. We're going to perfect this routine so that everyone in the audience will need to smoke a cigarette once you two are done!”

August looked anxiously at his partner. “This is dancing?” He asked.

Caleigh nodded. “This is Thalia,” she said with a grin and a sigh as she patted him on his back, “Better prepare yourself.”

***

The afternoon went by in stops and starts as they tried to grasp the basics of the routines-- August in particular. Thalia was as patient as she was passionate. There was nothing in her voice or demeanor that indicated she wasn’t pleased with the initial results from the duo.

August was quick to snap at himself but Caleigh was just as quick to calm him down and assure him. What she was having trouble with, though she gave little outward indication, was the concept of the stories Thalia had in mind.

Thalia clapped her hands. “Good! That’ll be it for today,” she declared.

August and Caleigh turned towards the choreographer. He was breathing hard and perspiring, she less noticeably.

“Alright August?” Caleigh asked.

He nodded. “Yeah. Mostly nerves, I think,” he replied.

Thalia tilted her chin towards the backroom doors and said, “Go ahead and get cleaned up, August. You did fine.”

With another nod, he walked away slowly towards the doors.

Thalia stood beside Caleigh, both of them watching the young man exit to the change rooms.

“So?” Thalia asked.

Caleigh thought for a moment. “He’s good,” she conceded, “He’s raw like you said, but the fundamentals are there. He seems serious about it.”

“But?”

Again Caleigh paused and inhaled before speaking. “I don’t quite get that feeling of strength in his holds, though.”

“That’ll come,” Thalia said as she removed the scarf from her head. She primped up her hair. “This’ll be good, Caleigh.”

The dancer pursed her lips as she walked away, obviously deep in thought. Thalia could tell the normally confident and assured young woman was a bit stirred up, maybe even a little wary of August as a partner and the overtly sexual dances she had conceived.

“Good,” Thalia thought, “I can work with that, too.”

***

“Why do you dance? ” Caleigh had been asked that question many times in her life.

Those who saw her dance would never ask her “Why do you like to dance? ” That was too much like “Why do you like to go to the movies? ” or “Why do you like to eat pizza? ”

Those who watched her knew that this was no casual hobby or interest for the young woman. To dance for her was to walk or breathe for the rest of the population.

Caleigh was never eloquent enough to explain why. She ’ d rather just let her dancing be her reply. She was the shy, button-faced child who never spoke up and always took comfort in her mother’s shadow. She was the runt who couldn ’ t decide what to take from the dinner table and so let the others have their fill first. But when her family brought her to the ballet at age 7, a little switch flipped in her brain and suddenly she had found her calling, something she could lose herself in and express herself without words.

12 years later, after endless lessons and performances, her family and friends simply referred to her as “the dancer” . The soft-spoken young woman grew up and blossomed on the dance floor. Yet, though she shined so brightly in the eyes of others, the shadow of shyness and vulnerability still lingered. Somehow self-awareness of just how sensual and sexy she was becoming, even when she wasn ’ t dancing, eluded her.

Quite frankly, Thalia always thought that fact was the only thing holding back her young protégé : that little bit of raw, erotic edge. It was fine to be so innocent when she was a young girl, but Caleigh was a woman now, a very attractive one at that. That unlocked so many advantages for her if she only was aware enough to seize them.

She didn’t want her to be like a stripper, but she really wanted the young dancer to experience the full release of inhibitions, appreciate the freedom of spontaneously succumbing to the deepest of human emotions and desire. Caleigh should throw herself at the dance. She just needed a partner strong enough to catch her.

“That’s my job, to find the man who can take hold of you,” Thalia told her student once, “But Caleigh dear, no amount of practicing on your part in this dance studio will help you plumb those feelings I can see just bubbling under the surface of your pretty face.”

Sometimes, Thalia spoke too cryptically for Caleigh and the dancer could only shrug it off and dance some more. The fact was, for her, she could never practice enough. She only had so much time in the studio for herself and she wasn’t the type to go dancing on her own in public places.

Her uncle suggested a solution one night at a family dinner.

“Your apartment building?” Caleigh asked.

“Sure, you remember the 4 Corners down near the China Town area,” her uncle, Richard, remarked, “We used to pass by it after Sunday morning dim sum. One of the apartments on the 4 th floor has recently been vacated. I'm going to have it renovated so it’ll be empty for a little while.”

“An apartment?” Caleigh frowned.

“Trust me, Cal. There’s a lot of space. Just come with me and check it out.”

A day later, Caleigh and her uncle made their way up the flights of stairs in the 4 Corners Residences. Built in the 1920's as a brick office building, it was only four stories high. Converted into residences in the 1970’s, there were only six apartments, two on each floor above a row of storefronts on the street-level. The hallways and stairwell were darkly lit but her Uncle Richard kept them clean and painted. Caleigh liked the building; it had a retro elegance to it.

At the top of the stairwell, they turned the corner towards the hallway. Her uncle led her to apartment 401 and opened the door.

The young woman stepped into the apartment. Her eyes immediately widened as she took the place in. “Oh wow,” she exclaimed.

Richard followed his niece into the apartment. He had known that she would be impressed. She couldn’t hide the grin on her red lips as she turned around, looking at the space. It was almost completely empty except for a couple of small boxes and an enormous green velvet recliner by the windows.

“Can’t figure out what to do with that,” he said, “It’s still in solid condition. I m ay just leave it there for the next tenant.”

“This is great,” she said excitedly, “There’s so much space, and the ceiling is so high!”

“Well, all the apartments are studio lofts so when they’re empty, there are no walls to bump into,” Richard pointed out, “And these two apartments on the top floor have 11 foot ceilings. I figure if you need to do some jumps or lifts, you won’t be bumping your head -- much.”

Caleigh laughed. The afternoon sunlight from the windows stretched white shiny streaks on the waxed floor. She asked, “Is this hardwood?”

“Yeah, maple. I approved the previous tenants installing it,” he said. He pointed towards the corner, “Those too.”

Caleigh walked slowly towards 4 wide and tall mirrors, stuck side-by-side in the corner. “That’s amazing,” she said.

“Told you that the previous tenants were dancers, right?” Richard said, “Ballroom. Rumba. They wanted to be able to practice in here.”

Caleigh touched the glass with her finger tips. Everything was ridiculously perfect. It just seemed like fate had taken her in.

“I’ll be renovating the kitchen and the bathroom over the next few weeks. I’ll let you know when I’ll be in here. The mirrors will probably come down before I rent out the place again,” Richard said. “So till then, what do you think? It’s good?”

The soft smile broadened on Caleigh’s face, narrowing her already slender eyes. She looked back at her uncle and nodded. "It's perfect!"

***

“It’s the boss man!” Jimmy Dean called out as Richard and his niece entered his store. He added a raised hand bow towards them.

Richard laughed, “Hey Jimmy. How’s business?”

“Business is A-okay, chief!” Jimmy Dean replied with an exaggerated two thumbs up. His wide toothy smile shined through his thin, black features.

Jimmy Dean owned and worked in Wang’s Dairy and Goods ever since he moved up from Tobago. It was one of the shops on the street front of the 4 Corners.

Richard and Caleigh approached the counter. “We gonna have the usual, chief?” Jimmy Dean asked.

“You know me too well.” Richard grinned.

Jimmy Dean laughed and clapped his hands together. He slapped down a whole box of gum onto the counter.

Caleigh arched her brow as she eyed her uncle.

Richard shrugged. “It lasts me a month.”

“Juicy Fruits for the boss.” Jimmy Dean nodded. Then, turning to Caleigh, he leaned over slightly and said, “And we have a Juicy-Juicy here, as well!”

Caleigh couldn’t help but offer an amused smile towards the comically flirtatious look of the amiable shop-keeper.

“This is my niece, Caleigh,” Richard introduced, “She’ll be using 401 until I get it renovated.”

“Ah! She’s gonna be in Fred and Ginger’s!” Jimmy Dean remarked.

“Fred and Ginger?” Caleigh asked.

“Yeah, you know! The dancers!” the shop-keeper replied. He held up his hands in ballroom position and performed a few sliding steps behind the counter, humming a reggae-infused waltz.

Caleigh chuckled.

“Well, they weren’t Fred and Ginger,” her uncle explained, “But Harvey and Dorothy Lipman were pretty good dancers themselves. They were teachers and they won a few awards and prizes in competitions before that.”

Jimmy Dean added, “They were cool and smooth on the dance floor and then hot and heavy in the parking lot!”

Caleigh blinked. “What?”

Richard cleared his throat. “The Lipmans apparently got quite, um, frisky immediately after competing.”

“They danced vertically and celebrated horizontally in their Caddy!” Jimmy Dean detailed.

Caleigh’s face was drawn blank soaking in that thought. A blush of pink seeped onto her cheeks. “In the car? Right after dancing?” she asked, amazed.

“A good dance will do that, though, wouldn’t it now, Juicy-Juicy? Get the blood pumping !” Jimmy Dean said.

“Well, not for Cal,” Richard smirked and tugged at his niece’s sleeve, “Take it easy, Jimmy. See you in a bit.”

The gregarious shop-keeper watched them exit his store.

“Just one good dance,” he called out .

***

Things at the studio progressed slowly. Caleigh and August worked endlessly with one another guided by the cool and assured Thalia. They got along well. They’re technique was good. Stances and lines showed poise and good form and they had a firm vision of all the moves and steps of the dances. Still, Caleigh sensed something was holding them back.

During a break, as August continued to work on some steps by himself, Caleigh and Thalia watched him as they leaned against a far wall.

“He’s very hesitant,” Caleigh remarked, “He looks strong. He is strong. But I don’t feel any of that in his holds. He’s all stops and starts.”

“It’s like he’s at the edge but then suddenly withdraws,” Thalia concurred. “He ends up holding you too delicately.”

Caleigh nodded as she sipped some water from a bottle.

“Caleigh,” Thalia said, “You still don’t know why I switched you away from Tristan, do you?”

The young dancer didn’t reply, just continued to gaze ahead.

“Tristan was like a gazelle, just like you,” Thalia said, “You danced alike, side-by-side, so graceful.”

Caleigh frowned.

“I don’t need two gazelles.” Thalia continued, “I don’t want two gazelles. Not for the dances I want you to do. I need fierce. I need raw power. I need passion and lust. I need a gazelle and I need a lion. August is my lion.”

Caleigh frowned as she looked towards her partner. “He seems more like a pussy cat,” she remarked.

Thalia grinned and as she looked at her. “With the right game, any cat can become a hunter.”

Caleigh rolled her eyes. “You make me sound like meat,” she joked, then added, “Just so long as he doesn’t eat me alive.”

The choreographer said nothing as Caleigh walked back towards her partner. Her eyes narrowed as she watched her go.

August was balancing on one foot as he leaned forward slowly. He held the position, trying to concentrate. He knew he was having problems with the holds. Dancing alongside Caleigh was fine. It’s when he touched her, felt the energy from within through her smooth, milky skin, that was when he could feel the sweat build in his palms and the strength sapped from his muscles.

He tried to steady his breath as he held his position. Caleigh was his motivation to do this. Having seen her in the past, he had instantly recognized how beautifully she danced. Now, the moment he had been introduced and began working with her, he saw just how beautiful she was as a woman – her looks, her smell, her touch. No woman had drawn that quick an acknowledgement from him before; he was unprepared for it.

He had just wanted to dance with her, he had to repeat to himself over and over. Just…dance.

His heart thumped hard within his chest and that was enough to shake his concentration. He stumbled awkwardly out of position.

“Dammit,” he grumbled, hanging his head down.

“That was good form, August,” Caleigh said softly from behind.

He paused at the sound of her voice. Composing himself a little before turning to her he said apologetically, “Can’t seem to hold it though.”

The young woman smiled and shook her head, “You’re doing fine August. I think the dances are coming along. You just need more time to practice.”

August put his hands on his hips and looked off dejectedly. Even with her reassurance, she could tell that he continued to beat himself up. He needed to relax, get away from the studio.

Caleigh thought for a moment. Finally she clasped her hands together, rolled up onto her toes, inhaled then said, “I think I have a place where we can practice on our own.”

***

"Hey, it's Barysh-NEE-kov!" Jimmy Dean shouted with a warm laugh as August entered Wang's.

August grimaced and shook his head. "Man, do you have to call me by the name of one of the whitest dancers on the planet?"

The perpetually smiling shop-keeper chuckled, "Yeah, you would have to scrape off a few layers of the smoke at least!"

"Thanks a lot," August replied, a tired grin on his lips. He made his way up and down the single aisle of the store.

It had just been a little over a week since he started to frequent Wang's daily but he and Jimmy Dean were already on pretty familiar ground. He returned to the counter and plunked down his goods.

"Ah you know I'm just teasing your beard, bro'!" Jimmy Dean chimed and offered out his hand. The two men brushed their palms and bumped their fists together.

Jimmy Dean said, "You got your rations for the afternoon, huh?" He scanned the items into the register.

"Yeah, two bags of chips, a bottle of mineral water, OJ," August did the inventory and then picked up some cookies, "And a bag of Oreos for the lady."

Jimmy Dean clapped his hands together and laughed, "The dancing queen is the Cookie Monster in disguise, eh?"

August nodded as he reached for his wallet. "Yeah," he sighed, "Can't tell where she puts it all though, can you?"

The shopkeeper winked. "She do cut a fine figure now, huh brutha? She is too sweet," he said then sang smoothly through his grinning teeth, "Hold me closer tiny dancer..."

August couldn't help but look down and smile sheepishly. He certainly had more than his share of opportunities to hold Caleigh's lovely body close to his. "Fringe benefits," he snickered in spite of himself.

Jimmy Dean's eyes widened as the edge of his lips raised sharply. "You sure you got everything?" he asked. He twisted around slightly and waved his hand along a rack behind him. He said, "You sure you don't need a little somethin'-somethin' should things hit the fast lane? Best be prepared, brah .”"

August followed the man's fingers as they presented the boxes of condoms displayed on the wall behind the counter. His own smile quickly faded as he winced and shrugged his shoulders. He felt the blood rush to his cheeks as he realized he had been caught up in the moment. Shaking his head, he said adamantly, "Guy, it ain't like that!"

Jimmy Dean remained in position, displaying his contraceptive wares. He arched his brows up and down. “You said she liked Oreos? Chocolate cookie with white cream,” he said with a wink.

August sighed. He picked up his bag of food and made his way towards the exit. Raising his hand to Jimmy Dean he said, "Catch you later. Cal's waiting."

As the door opened and closed shut, ringing the little bells, Jimmy Dean, as usual, got the last word in: "I'm sure she is, brah!"

***

Caleigh danced between the breaks of sunlight reaching in through the windows of the apartment. She moved in the silent room, no music playing, following a rhythm in her head. Her usual heightened level of concentration was being tested today.

Things definitely had improved since she and August brought their practice sessions to the 4 Corners. They were enjoying themselves, having fun together, working hard then taking breaks just to talk, or eat, or, once in a while, taking turns napping in the big, comfy easy chair. Maybe it was the more relaxed, private atmosphere. Caleigh smiled. Maybe it was the spirit of the dancing Lipman’s guiding over them.

There’s a thought: The Lipman’s performing on the dance floor, appearing impeccable and all the while piquing their arousal by one another’s touch and hold and look. She could just imagine how dancing so intimately could send their attraction for one another soaring to the point where they had to immediately sneak off and release those pent up desires in the back seat of their car.

“How were they able to concentrate?” Caleigh snickered to herself.

Thinking about the present again, Caleigh was happy with August’s progress. He really was a good partner. He was dedicated, enthusiastic, and really strong technically and just physically in general. She felt he still hadn’t really envisioned his own potential. He was still holding back when they came together for their more intimate holds and lifts. Every so often he would flash her the briefest look, some deep dark passion in his youthful eyes, but he would immediately pull back.

There was a ceiling there. If they could only get past that…the things they could do. She looked into the mirrors, envisioned August behind her, his muscular dark tones wrapping around her fair-skinned, fit body. Thalia had been dead on; they would make an undeniably attractive couple on the dance stage.

Just on the dance stage?”

Caleigh broke her step and stumbled slightly on the floor, a sudden new thought snapping her concentration. She stood there, staring blankly at spot on the floor, absorbing a vague feeling germinating in her head, like a ghostly whisper beckoning her.

“Junk food delivery,” August piped in as he stepped into the apartment.

Caleigh turned her head, startled.

“What’s the matter? See a mouse?” he asked.

After a brief second, she shook her head and smiled. “No, just thinking about something.”

“Sound a bit out of breath. Guess you’re needing some of these?” August said as he dangled the bag of cookies in front of her.

Caleigh ran over, her arms outstretched. “Oh yeah! Gimme!”

August shook his head as she snatched the bag from his hand. “Damn,” he winced. “Where you gonna pack those?”

The young woman waved a finger at him as she skipped away with her swag. “Don’t worry,” she said, “We’ll be working these off this afternoon, I promise you!”

August winced again, grinned and slowly took off his jacket.

***

"Elbows off the table!"

"Ow! Hey! C’mon, mom!" August winced as his mother gave him a swift smack on the back of his head.

Caleigh looked up from her dinner plate and snickered.

"20-years old, you've got a decent lady friend over and your manners go out the window?" Mrs.Bailey said as she pawed at her son's head again.

August frowned and rolled his head clearly embarrassed.

Mrs.Bailey wrapped her arms around him from behind and said, "Ooh! Caleigh darling, he's just worried I'm going to mess up his hairdo! He finally put on some decent clothes so he’d look all fine for you."

Caleigh grinned and nodded. August was indeed looking pretty fine wearing brown dress slacks and a white polo top which accentuated his toned physique.

August winced some more as his mother planted a rough kiss on his temple. He declared, "Hey, I'm telling you, don't mess with the 'do'!"

His mother ended it with a firm nudge to his head as she backed away laughing.

Caleigh smiled broadly and giggled. This was nice, having dinner with August at his apartment. Actually he said it was his mother who asked that she come over one night.

"She's not a girlfriend, mom," August had insisted the day she told him to invite Caleigh for dinner.

"Of course not, silly goat! None of your 'girlfriends' could be a refined dancer such as she!" she teased, "I just want to meet your dance partner and warn her about you and make sure you don't mess up this fine opportunity!"

Mrs.Bailey was a charming and spirited woman. She swayed to and fro and waved her hands when she talked which was often. The only time she really settled down was when Caleigh talked about her interest in dance and her training and performances. The older woman sat beside her at the table and listened intently, hands folded on her lap and her large brown eyes riveted on her. She was easy to talk to.

When Caleigh was finished, Mrs.Bailey leaned back in her chair rubbing her hands on her thighs and blowing out a deep breath. "Ooh my goodness, this girl is a professional!” she declared. She nodded towards her son. "What are you doing messing with a hoofer like this one here?"

August rolled her eyes as the two women chuckled.

"Well he's not too bad at all, Mrs.Bailey. Besides," she firmed her jaw, folded her arms and eyed August. "I'll whip him into shape."

"You do just that, Caleigh hon'." She wagged her finger first at the young woman then more sternly at her son.

"Alright, alright! Hey, if I knew I was going to get tag-teamed, I wouldn't have shown up tonight!" August wiped his hands and then stood up from the table to clear the dishes.

A glowing smile on her face, Mrs.Bailey stood up, waving her hand at Caleigh to tell her to stay seated while she and her son cleared the table and got the dessert. The older woman, who was still in fine shape, shimmied and tapped her feet as she walked towards the kitchen humming a jazzy tune.

She met up with her son at the sink. "She's a knock-out," she said in her loud-whisper voice, "What a lovely face and those eyes. Is she a mix?"

"I don't know," August replied, "Half-white, half-Chinese maybe? Her last name is Lin. She's a mix of something."

"Lovely, lovely, lovely...mm-hmm,"

"She's not a girlfriend," August repeated with a sigh.

"I know!" Mrs.Bailey said, her voice rising as her eyes did upward, "Lord couldn't offer me just one blessing, could He?"

"Shh!"

"You don't hurt that delicate flower, understand?" she said clutching at his wrist, "That girl is destined for big things in her life and she's a blessing in yours. You do nothing to hurt her."

"I know mom! I‘m not playing around," he insisted.

“You tell that to the all those dirty women you’ve been fooling with!” she sniped, “Just like your father!”

“I’m not like that anymore! I just want to dance,” August snatched away his wrist and said, “I’m not going to mess around with Caleigh!”

A soft voice nervously cleared her throat from behind them. Mrs.Bailey and son turned toward Caleigh standing at the kitchen doorway, a polite, if slightly anxious, smile on her lips.

"I was wondering if I could help bring out the dessert," she said.

Mrs.Bailey paused, her mouth slightly ajar as she and her son looked at Caleigh, then one another, then back at her.

"Oh thank you, hon'," she finally said, "You can take the dishes and forks here and August and I will bring out the pie and ice cream."

"Pie and ice cream! Mmmm!" Caleigh chuckled, "How are we supposed to dance if we get fat?!"

“I heard he's been feeding you Oreos?” Mrs.Bailey groused, clucking her tongue.

Caleigh and Mrs.Bailey walked out of the kitchen smiling. August hung around at the sink. He whipped the towel against the counter then leaned heavily on the edge, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head.

***

"My mom would talk your head off, wouldn't she?" August said apologetically as he walked Caleigh to the train station.

"Ha! Ha! She's really sweet! I like her alot," she replied, "Feisty!"

"That must be why the two of you get along so well."

Caleigh smiled and nodded. Her round cheeks were blushed red from the cool November air. They strolled along quietly on the sidewalk for awhile. She had become familiar enough with August to know when he was keeping to himself. By now, she cared more than enough about him to mention it.

"I'm sorry about dropping in on your conversation in the kitchen," she offered.

August silently shrugged his shoulders.

"Your mom is carrying some baggage about your dad?" Caleigh asked.

"And she's dumping it on me," he snapped. Immediately he winced, kicking himself inwardly for such a sour reply. He leveled his gaze onto the ground in front of him as he hunkered down, his hands stuffed in his pockets. She heard him exhale a deep breath but he said nothing else.

Caleigh thought about it for a few moments. Finally, she said, "Your dad left?"

August stopped and turned towards her. He rolled his eyes towards the sky and sighed, "Yup. Left her a couple of years after I was born. Mom's a smart lady. Could have had a good career until she got pregnant and married my dad. Gave it all up for him. Then he dumped her. She's smart but she still can't deal with that. She's worried it'll be like father, like son."

Immediately, he shrugged again and turned and continued to walk towards the station. Caleigh trailed behind him.

“Dad was always about the party, having his fun,” August continued, “Left a whole lot of wreckage behind him.”

"You don’t…I don’t think you’re like your dad," Caleigh said.

"Not like I've given my mom much excuse not to think so," he replied still walking ahead of her.

That wasn’t a reply she was expecting. Usually light on her feet, Caleigh lagged further behind August lost in her thoughts. The words said in the kitchen, the implications of what went unsaid, wended their way through her increasingly conflicted head.

Caleigh looked up at the back of August as he walked away from her. A wispy trail of vapor escaped from her lips as her mouth slipped open. New feelings about August stirred within her. After all that was said, she realized that they weren’t feelings of repulsion or resentment; completely the opposite.

She shuddered as she felt her heartbeat unexpectedly quicken.

An uneasy knot tightened in her stomach as they quietly continued along the sidewalk.

To be concluded...

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