Dancing in Love

February 28, 2024

“She is going to murder me,” Eloise squeaked as she ran through the hallways of the dance school. Her ballroom heels swung on her fingertips, and her overstuffed duffle bag slipped off her slim shoulder every other second. 

“Excuse me, sorry, excuse me!” she squeezed through the hordes of ballet and tap dancers stretching before their classes. They all stared as she went by, daughter of the late founder of Europe’s most prestigious dance academy, trained by the best teachers in the world since the age of four, and by far the most talented dancer they had ever seen. That was, until her father passed away, and she couldn’t set foot in the building for nine months. 

“El! El, wait up!” She didn’t slow her pace as she turned to see one of her best friends bouncing toward her. 

“I can’t chat, Stace, I’m late.” Eloise heaved in a breath as she turned a corner and ran up the old staircase, taking the steps two at a time. 

Stacey, Eloise’s best friend since her first ballet class, kept pace with Eloise, occasionally tripping up a step. “I need to talk to you about something.” Her tone was serious—a rarity for Stacey, who only ever spoke with sugary sweetness. 

Eloise ground to a halt, blocking off the stream of people trying to get down the stairs. She grabbed Stacey’s face in her palms, staring into her hazel eyes. “Has something happened? Are you okay?” 

Stacey’s lips thinned into a line and worry lingered in her furrowed brow. “I’m fine, I’m okay, I promise, it’s nothing really—” She stuttered over her words.

“Well as long as you’re okay, sweet girl.” Eloise took off up the stairs, “I, however, won’t be once Beaumont gets her hands on me.” She called over her shoulder, “Love ya, Stace!” Leaving her best friend in the middle of the staircase, she continued through the winding corridors until she reached the studio. She paused for only a moment, allowing herself a singular breath, before gently opening the door and slipping into the room, praying to go unnoticed. 

“Eloise Fairchild,” a stern voice boomed. “You are late… again.” 

Eloise turned, twenty pairs of eyes judging her, and when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she grimaced. Her yellow hair fell messily around her face, last night’s makeup was smeared under her eyes, and a cream cheese stain from her bagel shone like a badge of shame on her chest. 

She scuttled to the side of the room, dropping her bag and quickly changing her shoes. “I am really sorry, I—”

Beaumont cut Eloise off with a swift flick of her perfectly manicured hand. She was a beautiful, graceful woman but held an icy heart. “I do not care for your excuse, Fairchild, God knows you’ve enough. Get your act together, or you’re cut from the showcase.” She turned to their audience of dancers, who couldn’t hide the pity on their faces. “Take a seat, everyone.”

Eloise jumped up, “No! You can’t cut me, my dad—”

“Died last year. You’re not the only one who mourns. Now, get to your position.”

A silence settled over the room, and Eloise closed her hands into fists to calm herself as she stomped over to her partner. 

“Harsh,” Alexander whispered as she stood before him. 

She rolled her eyes and rested her hand on his cheek, in their starting position. “Oh, shut up.” But she couldn’t help the smile that began to curl her lip. 

Alexander had been her dance partner for five years. It was a natural pairing for the company, both the top dancers in the academy. It just happened that they were already best friends and would push each other to reach the absolute limit. It was perfect. He was perfect. 

The afternoon sunlight filtered through the large stained-glass windows; the glow surrounded his tall frame in an aura of pastel light and brightened his auburn hair, which looked as though intertwined with strands of gold. There was no doubt of his beauty, and he was fully aware of it. All the girls at the academy fawned over him like he was some kind of God. Of course, she did too, but she would never let him know that.

Alexander smirked and grabbed her waist, pulling her up against his body. She exhaled and closed her eyes as the piano and violin began to play a soft melody. Even though she had been close to him in almost every dance class since being partnered up, her heart still skipped a beat, and heat rose to her cheeks when his warmth and earthy scent enveloped her. They moved as one, pressed together. She spun and jumped, and each time, he caught her effortlessly. As the music sped up, so did they, twirling about the room, and when the piano reached its climax, their faces were only inches apart. If only Eloise could close the gap and feel the cushion of his lips against hers. But she didn’t. 

Both sucked on the air desperately, and sweat trickled from their brows. The room exploded into applause. Alexander winked at Eloise, and she pushed his chest lightly with a small giggle.

“Silence!” Beaumont screeched. A pin drop could be heard at that moment. No one even dared breathe. “Why are you all applauding?” She marched toward the pair, her slim face scrunched in disappointment. “Eloise, your footwork was shoddy at best. Alexander you look as though you’re sucking on a lemon, and the pair of you! The chemistry! Where is it? This dance is love. You’re in love. I do not see love when I look at you two. All I see is failure if you do not get this right.” 

Eloise’s hands found her hips, “If I squish up against him anymore, I will practically be fused to his skin. You know my footwork is perfect. And that…well, that’s just his natural face.”

The class erupted into muffled laughter. Everyone was too scared of Beaumont to let out any noise too loud.

“Hey!” Alexander whined.

Beaumont’s glare hardened even further. “Just get into position. We’re going again.”

*

The sun had fallen from the sky by the time Eloise and Alexander left the studio. They decided to stay after class to work on the dance for the showcase. There could be no faults, no drooping arms or out-of-time lifts. They had gotten it down to an art by the time the janitor wandered in, needing to clean the mirrors and polish the floor. 

They walked side by side through the long-deserted corridors in silence before Alexander piped up, “I swear if Beaumont says we’re anything less than perfect, I’m going to….Actually, I wouldn’t do anything because she terrifies me.” 

Eloise chuckled. It echoed about the hall. Or perhaps it was a ghost, who knew. The academy was a converted convent, and Alexander always spoke of how he saw a ghost nun that one time, so when no one else was in the building, Eloise was always on edge.

“Seriously though, Weezie.” He turned to her, squeezing her shoulder. “You’re doing good.” 

As they continued walking, she grinned to herself. It had been so long since someone told her she was doing well. She needed that, she realized. But it wouldn’t have felt the same if it had come from anyone else.

Eloise’s heart fluttered in her chest. “Do you want to come back to mine? I know it’s been a while since you’ve been over, but it’s been a long day. We could blow off some steam.” 

“Oh.” His voice dropped to a tone she had never heard before. 

“Oh? What do you mean, ‘Oh’?” They stopped in front of the old oak front doors, and he turned to her, looking at her feet like a naughty dog.

Alexander coughed in discomfort. “Stace didn’t tell you then?” 

Confusion surged through her as she tried to figure out what was going on. He glanced at her and must have seen it plastered across her face.

“I asked Stacey to be my girlfriend.” He paused, looking for some kind of reaction from Eloise, but her expression was blank. “After you stopped coming to classes we started hanging out, and we partnered up in ballroom. As you weren’t there, I didn’t have you to hang out with so we got close and—”

Eloise didn’t let him finish. With a weak smile, she said, “It’s okay. You, uh, you don’t need to explain.”

She opened the door, and rain pelted her as she stepped into the rainstorm, but she didn’t care. She just needed to get away from him. She stomped through inky puddles and let the tears she had been holding out with a splintered sob.

Alexander caught up to her. “Weezie, please, let me walk you home at least. You don’t have a coat; you’ll catch a cold.”

She swung around to face him. Rain soaked through their clothes and ran down their skin as they stared at each other. Despite the droplets hanging from their eyelashes, they couldn’t look away, couldn’t stop peering into each other’s soul while the world simply watched on. Despite everything, despite how lost Eloise felt, in that moment, it was only them. 

Alexander made a decision then. He grabbed her face, and with a ferocity so unlike him, he kissed her. Time froze as she melted into him, but all too quickly, Eloise’s hands found his chest, and she shoved him. 

“You do not get to do that,” she whispered hoarsely. “You made your choice. You chose Stace. Not me. So, you do not get to do that.”

“I won’t apologize for it. I had to,” he retorted simply. 

The sky grumbled, and the rain fell heavily in sharp sheets. The street lights flickered on, allowing light to spill across their heartbroken faces. 

“No.” Eloise shoved him again. “No. No. It was always you. You were it for me.” She scrunched his sodden t-shirt in her fist, letting out a humorless laugh. 

“I would have walked the world for you. Damn it, I still would for you. You made your decision, and I was stupid to think all those nights we spent—” She let out a shaky breath. “I thought you cared about me, Alexander.” 

His face softened. “I—”

“Don’t you dare say you care about me. You wouldn’t have just kissed me like that if you did. I have loved you every day since I first met you, and now you have torn my heart in two.” 

“You love me?” he replied with a gentle smile. 

“How could I not have fallen in love with you?” she choked. “You consumed every minute of my life, and when Dad died, you became my whole universe.” A passing car illuminated her mascara-stained cheeks.  

Guilt and pain flooded his eyes. “I was scared. I was scared to let myself love you. I didn’t even think love existed before I met you. It is confusing and painful, and my whole world becomes blurred when I’m with you.” He wiped the rain from beneath Eloise’s eyes “When you left, I—I didn’t replace you. Being with Stacey it’s just…easy. It is easy to love Stacey.” 

His statement lingered in the air, but then Eloise laughed. A belly rolling, breath-taking laugh. “She is so easy to love, that precious girl.” 

Alexander laughed. “Yeah, she really is. Ballroom is not her strong suit though,” he said, before holding out his hand, “Please, dance with me.” He smirked. “We have to be in love, after all.” 

Eloise rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. To the melody of the storm and with their hearts beating in sync, they let each step and every dip flow from them as naturally as the clouds let the rain fall. They kicked up the puddles and glided across the glistening pavement. She was happy, truly, for her best friends. They were a perfect fit, and she couldn’t hate either of them for it. She could hold Alexander close and pretend not to love him, and one day she would find it in herself to fall in love again with someone else. She was sure of it.

When their feet stopped and everything went quiet, Alexander whispered, “We would’ve torn each other apart, Weezie.” 

Eloise laid her head on his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I know.”

Eliza Wilson has always had a wild imagination and a need to share it with the world. Now in the final year of her Creative Writing degree, she is honing her skills on the page and working on her fantasy trilogy, Secrets of Pinewood. You can usually find Eliza sitting in a cozy corner of a cafe, oat milk, iced vanilla latte in hand, hunched over a notebook, and escaping into the world at the tip of her pen.

 

 

Featured image by David Hofmann.

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