Authors: Helena Newbury
He didn’t answer, but I felt his head move as he nodded.
Three Weeks Later
Fenbrook’s air conditioning, like the rest of the building, dates from the 1950s. I think it’s powered by a guy with a pair of bellows—that would explain why the air is warm and barely moves. He’s getting old, bless him.
Up on the third floor, the huge windows give us dancers plenty of light—unlike the poor musicians trapped in their tunnels one floor down. But they let in a lot of sunlight, too, and it bounces around the rooms like a global warming illustration. By midday, it’s baking and instead of cooling down as the day goes on, the body heat of twenty hard-working dancers ensures it ratchets higher and higher. By mid-afternoon, it’s intolerable. No one sane stays to practice past five.
It was six.
Practicing choreography follows a law of diminishing returns. You start off not knowing the steps at all, but in the first hour you make great strides. Then you improve. Then you polish. Eventually, you’re only talking about the difference between 99.5% perfect and 100% perfect. But half a percent is everything.
The move I was having trouble with was an arabesque penché. Balanced en pointe on one leg, I had to bend over so that my upper body was parallel to the floor, the other leg almost straight up overhead. Nothing I hadn’t done a million times before, but in this particular piece I had to hold for a count before “effortlessly” returning to upright. A lot of ballet has to be
That’s what makes it so hard.
For the hundredth time that afternoon, I bent forward in time with the music and held. One. Two. Three. I was shaking.
My legs felt like rubber, gradually melting and giving way as red-hot wires within them burned through. I returned to upright—not even close to
and got my breath for a second. I had a tiny MP3 player clipped onto my leotard and headphones in my ears. Other dancers used their phones, but even the weight of a phone, in the wrong place, can screw with your balance.
Yeah, damn right I’m a control freak.
I knew what the problem was. I was concentrating too hard, trying to force with pure will that which had to come naturally. But knowing it didn’t mean I could solve it.
I was facing the windows and had the music cranked up high, but I knew when he came in. Pointe shoes are thin, apart from the toes, and I was so focused on the feel of the sprung floor that it was like having my ear to the ground. I could have felt a mouse on the other side of the room; detecting a six foot four man in biker boots was no problem.
He was early—not because he was organized and got there in good time, but because he was him and—for him—hitting a time within an hour of the one we’d agreed was punctual.
I didn’t turn around; I wanted to nail this move before I left. I was soaked with sweat and my legs were screaming but I don’t quit until I’ve won. So I kept my eyes forward and went into the glissade and then the jeté. I had the music for the problem section on continuous loop so it was only thirty seconds or so until the arabesque came round again. I took a breath and bent….
My breasts hung down.
I mean, that’s crazy—my breasts don’t
They’re incapable of hanging. I have two fried eggs, sunny side up.
Except…I could feel his eyes on me. I could feel my flesh throbbing hotly where his gaze roamed over me and I might as well have had Jasmine’s bountiful chest from the way he ate me up. Nothing was different from the hundred other times I’d done the move that afternoon, yet now that he was there, all I could think about was my breasts hanging down, naked.
They’re not naked.
They are under the leotard.
Don’t be ridiculous!
Everything changed. Suddenly I couldn’t think about the balance and grace of my supporting leg, because the skin was prickling as I imagined his hand sliding up my thigh. I couldn’t focus on whether my pelvis was tilted correctly, because I was seeing my upraised ass as he would see it—poised and ready for his hand to crack across my cheeks. Nothing had changed and yet everything had changed.
I waited for him to say something, knowing I’d hear his bass rumble through the music. But he seemed content to watch me practice the move again and again. Only now, I couldn’t even come close to getting it right. With him there, my balance was gone.
That was the way it always was with Neil. He showed up and I utterly lost control.
I plucked the earphones from my ears and turned to face him. “You’re early.”
His eyes traced a line down from my sweat-sticky forehead to my damp leotard. “You’re hot.”
“If you’d come on time, I would have been ready. I still have to take a shower.”
Neil folded his arms, thick biceps bulging. And gave me one of those smiles.
I said, catching his meaning.
The showers at Fenbrook are old, and no matter how many times they’ve been used in an afternoon and however hot the weather is, the water always blasts out freezing for a moment before it warms up. The stalls are white-tiled, with cloth curtains that like to cling to wet bodies. It’s more women’s prison than luxury gym, but there’s one good thing about the utilitarian plumbing: the pipes are solid.
My hands were above my head, clinging onto a horizontal pipe for support as water thundered down over us. My thighs were gripping Neil’s waist, my back against the hard tiles as he pounded into me, his hands crushing my breasts. The building was pretty much empty by this point, but there was still the danger that someone would hear us and come to investigate, and I needed to get caught having sex in the showers like I needed a hole in my head. Probably a good thing that we had our mouths clamped together, then, my rising cries of ecstasy lost in the kiss.
Afterwards, he led the way downstairs to his bike. Two helmets, now—mine was glossy black and looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. The fact it looked cool didn’t stop it giving me helmet-hair, but there are worse things. I had my own biker jacket, too, which Neil had moaned about endlessly, saying that a good old-fashioned American jacket like he and his friends wore would have been just as good as its blend of Kevlar and soft, padded calf’s leather, and that the purple silk lining was
like somethin’ out of a hooker’s bedroom.
That was fine with me. Given Neil’s fashion sense, if he’d approved of it I probably would have burned it.
I slid onto the bike behind him, my arms hooking around his waist. Riding it still scared the hell out of me, but once I’d realized that the bike was almost a part of him, that made it easier. It came with the package, just like the other stuff.
We were feeling out the limits of what we had, day by day. I didn’t push him on the future, and why he wasn’t making millions working for Boeing or Raytheon instead of doing pure research at MIT. I didn’t ask what he planned to do when he got his doctorate and I didn’t ask where his money came from, or where he rode off to on his frequent trips out of town.
In a sense, then, it wasn’t that different to what we’d had before. We still weren’t a
couple. But we were a couple—we did things other than sex, like going on dates with Nat and Darrell. He stayed over at my place and he was even trying to talk me into a camping trip.
I knew there’d be obstacles, of course. I knew there’d come a time when the
question would start rising in my mind and he’d either say it or he wouldn’t, and either way it would change things. But that’s the same in any relationship. Ours had already withstood its first test, and that made me hopeful.
And the sex…dear God, the sex. I’d been worried that, once we lost that edge of being in a casual relationship, it would change somehow. It didn’t. If anything, it got more intense. He’d leave me a note in my bag describing exactly what he wanted to do to me, or catch me coming out of a rehearsal and take me to the nearest deserted stairwell or back alley. I lived every day on a heady cloud of lust only, now, I had something more as well. I had my perfect, arrogant, sometimes annoying biker and I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything take him away from me.
That night in my apartment, with Neil sprawled on my bed naked and asleep, I crept through to the living room in just panties and bra and strapped on my pointe shoes. I wasn’t warmed up—at least, not by any method a ballet tutor would approve of. I hadn’t listened to the music since that afternoon. It was ridiculous to even try.
And yet, the very first time I attempted it, I flowed into the arabesque and held it without a wobble or a shudder. I slowly returned to upright…
Sometimes, if you’re a control freak, it’s good to give up control now and again. And sometimes, you have to throw yourself off balance in order to find it.
I hope you enjoyed
Losing My Balance.
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© Copyright Helena Newbury 2013
The right of Helena Newbury to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988
All characters, events, entities and places in this book, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious or are fictitiously used, and any resemblance to any real persons, living or dead, or real places or entities is purely coincidental.
Cover image photo: Forgiss / Depositphotos