Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Step(s) (11/29/12)
TITLE: A Waltz in 4/4 Time
By Addie Pleasance
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Bob said her name again, more softly this time. “Jocelyn. I had an idea.”
She felt as if this might be more important than a suggestion for tomorrow’s dinner, and she put down her knitting. “What is it?”
“I thought maybe you’d like to take a class with me.” Bob looked away from Jocelyn, toward the window, where nothing was happening.
“A class? What kind of class?” Jocelyn hadn’t taken a class in thirty years; algebra sprang to her mind, but that was ridiculous. Surely Bob didn’t intend to go back to high school with her.
“There was this notice…” He picked up a clipping and reached toward her, but the distance between their hands was too great, and he flicked the clipping in her direction. It landed on the sofa cushion next to Jocelyn.
She took it and read, shocked. “Ballroom dancing?” Certain that she must be mistaken, she turned it over to see half an ad for potatoes. Speechless, she looked at Bob’s hopeful face, thinking about his hand on her waist, remembering his touch.
Three days later, they walked shyly into the dance studio. A dozen couples lined the walls, looking nervously at the footsteps stenciled to the floor. Jocelyn glanced at the other couples, relieved that she was neither the oldest nor the chubbiest woman there. The instructor glided to the middle of the room, her hair extravagantly pink, and waltzed with an imaginary partner. When she directed the students to find a set of footprints, Jocelyn and Bob walked silently to a corner of the room.
“Boys, your right hand should be high on her back—girls, your left hand just over his shoulder. Hold your other hands high in the air—like so. Yes? Now you dance, three beats, look at the feet on the floor. Your right foot slides to the right, not so far dear, then your left foot joins it. Easy, yes?”
Jocelyn snorted a bit at boys and girls; none of the couples here had been children for decades. But then she found herself concentrating on myriad things: the steps laid out on the floor, the beat of the music, Bob’s cool and clammy hands, her own feet as they attempted the dance. She started to whisper ONE two three ONE two three, hoping to find a way to connect her movements with the music.
The pink-haired woman continued to call out instructions, moving from couple to couple to adjust the position of their arms or demonstrate the waltz steps. Jocelyn hoped the instructor wouldn’t approach them—she wanted to master this on her own. It was starting to come to her, the music beginning to guide her steps, but just when she felt she was really getting it, she had to stop; Bob was stumbling, laughing at himself. Jocelyn felt a frisson of irritation.
The instructor strode over to them and took Jocelyn’s face in both hands. “You are a natural, my dear!” she said. “Come with me, I will be the boy, we will show them how to do a waltz, yes?” She pulled Jocelyn to the center of the room. The music started again, and Jocelyn started to dance with the teacher, acutely embarrassed.
But it felt lovely, flying around the room. She was a natural, and she wondered why she had never danced before.
Then she saw Bob, over the instructor’s shoulder. He was still in their corner, dancing by himself. He held an invisible woman, but his hands were too low, and his feet were stomping out an impossible 4/4 beat to the waltz music. There was a look of wretched determination on his face.
Jocelyn stopped, causing the instructor to trip and utter something guttural in a foreign language. She watched Bob for a few seconds while he stepped woodenly on the stenciled floor. A word flooded her consciousness: dear. Bob was a dear man, a shy and clumsy man, a sincere and unassuming man.
Bob looked up to see Jocelyn walking toward him, her arms open in a position not suitable for a waltz. She dipped him, and when he stood, grinning, she gave him a twirl.
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