"Wow, Jamie - you look…wow. I don't know what suits you more - that gorgeous kilt or your cute blushing cheeks."
Jamie smiled shyly at the woman behind the reception desk. He was mentally repenting of agreeing to his father's suggestion about wearing his kilt.
"I take it this is the dress rehearsal? Go get 'em Fred Astaire!"
It had been his mother's idea to take dance lessons in the weeks running up to the Valentine Ball. Over a cup of tea, with her elbows resting on the table and her chin nestled in her palms she had told him horror stories of her final year Valentine Ball experience. She recounted the story of her date who stood on her delicate sandals and squashed her carefully manicured toes. He had later caught his shoe on the hem of her gossamer glinting dress tearing the skirt from the bodice at the waist.
"Trust me on this, James. If you learn to dance properly and dispense with those awkward shuffles any girl with half a brain will be thrilled."
It had been his father's idea to have a proper dress rehearsal.
"Believe me, James. It is one thing to learn all this stuff in trainers and a track suit, but quite another to find out that you and your kilt are displaying distinctly more than your fancy foot work when you start twirling."
His dance teacher, Maggie, was one of the aerobics teachers at the gymnasium where his mother worked as a receptionist. For the dress rehearsal she had agreed to replace her Lycra shorts with a dress and high heels.
As he walked through the corridors towards one of the dance studios, Jamie endured whistles and catcalls from the staff who had got to know him over the last few weeks. Although it was a relief to close the door behind him, a dozen faces pressed up against the window that formed one wall of the dance studio. The other walls were mirrored and Jamie saw multiple images of himself reflected back. Tall and broad shouldered, with his dark hair cropped close to his head, he did not recognise the stranger staring back.
Jamie had not been looking forward to this moment. As the weeks had gone by, he recognised the stirrings of a crush flowering in his inexperienced heart. He poured out his anxieties before God, pleading for help to keep his feelings under control, desperate not to do or say anything foolish. He lectured himself, severely pointing out that not only was Maggie much older, but she was also happily married with a daughter, Madeline, who was not much younger than he was. Jamie had conducted awkward and stilted conversations with Madeline. She spent a lot of time at the gym dressed in shapeless tops with her damp hair tied up in a loose pony tail.
Suddenly he was aware he wasn't alone. Another person was reflected in the mirrors.
"Madeline..?" Jamie was amazed as he lifted his eyes and saw her.
She walked towards him, elegant in a long pale yellow chiffon dress. A glint of silver hinted at delicate sandals on her feet. Her brown hair hung loose about her shoulders, shining and rippling in the light that reflected in the mirrors. A slight fragrance of roses tinged the air.
"Mum couldn't make it…extra aqua aerobics class. She asked me to take her place. Don't worry - Mum taught me all the dances. She told me to put on a dress."
They slotted together, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Her hand rested with butterfly lightness on his shoulder. His hand held her with careful gentleness at her waist. Their free hands entwined comfortably as the music swelled.
Maggie had taught them both well as they glided across the floor, heads held high and feet moving in perfect step.
Jamie and Madeline were unaware of the audience that grew outside the window. They did not see Maggie's face along with all the others, broadly smiling. They were conscious only of each other, of their closeness, of their eyes meeting and flickering away, of hesitant smiles and hearts that refused to beat in time with the music.
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