Authors: Thalia Kalipsakis
Tags: #ebook, #book
I stretched my leg behind me, reaching forward in an arabesque. And hold.
Right on cue, Abe twirled in front of me â falling into a dramatic floor pose to start her solo. She danced with a soft kind of beauty until she arched to one side. And hold.
Last of all came Andrew: more kicks, a daring somersault. Then he, too, was reaching forward. And hold.
For a moment, the music seemed to pause, a moment of anticipation. Nine bodies stretched and held in perfect position. Luxurious statues.
Then the music let itself go and so did we, moving forwards into formation. The same head flick. The same sideways reach. All of us moving as one.
I always liked learning a new routine. Lesley was an amazing choreographer. Each new number seemed to push us a bit further, work us that little bit harder. And this opener was no exception. It was fast, and full of moves that felt strange in my limbs.
When we got to the end, everyone was panting.
Everyone except Lesley.
âAbe. Do this.' In the mirror, Lesley did one of the moves. A hip roll followed by a flick of the head.
Abe followed perfectly â like a sensual black-lycra snake.
âGood. Sexy,' called Lesley. Then she pointed at me. âNow Saph.'
I did the move. Hip roll, then flick of the head.
Lesley put her hands on her wide hips. âTechnically perfect. But not sexy.'
I bit my lip. This number was tough. Sexy in a way that made my cheeks go pink.
What would Dad think if he could see me now
. . .?
âAbe again,' said Lesley, pointing.
Around went those hips. Flick went that head. She had a sexy kind of confidence that would never be mine.
âCan you see what I mean, Saph?' asked Lesley.
âYeah, but â¦' I held out my hands indicating my sixteen-year-old body and short Greek legs. âI'm not like that.'
Lesley's eyes narrowed. âYou're a dancer, Saph. If the dance calls for sex, then you dance like that.'
Yeah? Pity I'd never had sex
. . .
I made a freak-out face and tried to laugh.
Lesley was watching me closely. âCan you stay after rehearsal? I don't have time for this now.'
I shrugged helplessly. âMaybe. My dad â¦' I could feel the eyes of the rest of the troupe on me. Were they thinking I was too young to be here?
She doesn't even have her licence. She's never even had sex.
âI'll drive you home. We need to do the new time-outs now.'
âOkay, I'll try.' With my eyes down, I ran to my bag and pulled out my phone. This was going to be tricky. But I had a chance. When Dad knocks off each night, he keeps his work mobile on for emergencies. But he never answers it â just calls his driver back if he really thinks he needs to.
Biting my bottom lip, I dialled the number. Just like always it rang two times then went to the message bank.
âDad, ah â¦' A guilty stammer. âIt's Saph. Just letting you know that Lesley's going to drive me home tonight. She's going to do some extra work with me, so I'm really lucky.' I swallowed and took a breath. âSo you have the night off! Ah . . . sweet dreams. I'll see you in the morning!'
Then I switched off my phone, feeling like I was sneaking off to work in a strip club.
âIt's all in here,' said Lesley, touching both of her temples. She was standing directly in front of me, staring into my eyes.
I stared at her, trying not to flinch and step back. She had dark eyeliner and intense eyes, but that wasn't the only intense thing about her. Lesley was big â not just in a
kind of way, but bold and strong and sure of herself. Her body seemed to command the space it was in. Around Lesley, I felt like a tiny schoolgirl.
âIt's all about how you feel.' Lesley put her hands on my hips and started them swaying. âIt's all about enjoying the feel of your body.'
I could hear traffic noise outside, but not much. It was pretty late. Most people were already snuggled behind closed curtains at home.
Lesley took her hands from my hips. I kept swaying, holding the rhythm and the feel of the move.
Lesley rubbed her chin and stepped to the side so I could see myself in the mirror.
âYou're still tight in here.' She held one hand on my stomach and the other at the small of my back. Again, she guided my movement. âLet go, Saph. Enjoy how it feels.'
But I was feeling weird. When I tried to laugh, it came out as a squeak. Then I put my hands behind my head and really let go.
Va va va voom
. . .
âNo. Too much.' Lesley was rubbing her chin and thinking. âWho were you flirting with on Saturday night?'
My smile dropped. âUm . . . who, me?'
âYes, Saph, I saw you. Just before you lost your timing. Remember?' She raised her eyebrows in an
I know everything, I see everything
kind of way.
Great. I felt a rush of red on my neck and stared down at my dance shoes. Then I gulped and looked up at Lesley. âAw . . . just this guy. I've never even spoken to him. In my mind he goes to uni.'
âFantasy? Good! Not the flirting part â¦' Lesley pointed at me like she was telling me off. âBut we can use this.'
Again, she put her hands on my hips and started them swaying. âShut your eyes and think of him.'
I shut my eyes, trying to see those cute blue eyes and relive our moment together. The look, the recognition, the feel of it in my chest . . .
But the uni guy was distant and shadowy in my mind. I opened my eyes. âI don't really know him, though, Lesley.'
âMy darling, he can be whatever you want him to be. That's the beauty of all this, it's about dreams . . . fantasies â¦'
I shut my eyes again and tried to conjure up my dream man. Faintly, like an aroma drifting to me, I began to feel him looking at me. Soon I could see him â taller than me, strong arms, tanned skin, a smooth voice.
Suddenly I realised that I was imagining Jay. He wasn't the man of my dreams. He was the man of my nightmares. Maybe I had got mixed up.
âWhat's wrong? You had it for a moment.' Lesley had a curious look on her face.
âI, um â¦' Spluttering and snorting from me.
But Lesley was already rushing to the stereo. âHold that feeling. I want to see you dance the opener right now.'
I shook my head, clearing the icky feel of Jay from my mind. Then, as the music started, I let it all go. No thinking now, just my body and the dance.
First I danced through the natural feel of my solo, then the hold. Finally I broke into the main dance with
inside me. Not Jay, nor even the uni guy, just the feel of someone special watching me. Holding me in his eyes.
I still couldn't see him, but I could feel him. And I knew that the man of my dreams liked what he saw.
When I had finished, Lesley rushed in and squeezed me in her arms as if she were a mama bear. âDid you feel that? Did you feel it?' she asked when she pulled away.
I nodded, calm now and happy. Because suddenly it was easy. I understood how to dance the sexy opener. It wasn't about learning technique or matching style. It was about an attitude that was already in me. A frame of mind.
And to find that frame of mind, all I'd had to do was let go.
Lesley drives a truck. At least, that was what it felt like â a big orange Volkswagen from the middle of last century.
The bench seat felt hard, not like the seat in Dad's car that holds my tired body like a hug. But Lesley's voice filled the cabin with warmth and colour. The whole drive home she talked to me as if I were an adult who knew what it was like to run a dance studio. I realised there was a lot of stuff involved that I had never really considered, like the high cost of rent, and not being able to take time off when you're sick. She told me about mums who don't want to pay extra for costumes, and others who didn't want to do any sewing to save money.
Then, abruptly, she stopped talking. I braced myself against the door as we screeched around a corner.
âSo what are your plans, Saph? Finish school and go to uni? Marry a millionaire?' Lesley asked. âOr are you tempted by the wonderful world of professional dancing?'
âUm . . . I don't really know, Lesley.' I shifted my bum on the cold seat, not sure if I should be honest with her. Somehow I felt that I could. âMaybe become a German teacher? But if I could make a living out of dancing â¦'
Lesley hit the brakes and stopped fast at a red light. âAh, Saph, you're one of the lucky ones! You're young, brimming with talent . . . and the opportunities I have lined up for you.' She made a thrilled theatrical face at me.
I smiled at her in the darkness. Yep, I knew I was lucky to have a chance to live my dream. A life of performances and magical fantasy. Training my body ever closer . . . always closer to perfection.
âDon't tell the others,' said Lesley, crunching the gears as we started with a jolt, âbut I've been working on the head cameraman, trying to get more of the troupe on TV.'
What did âworking on' mean? I didn't want to ask. âMore exposure means more work!' I said happily, before Lesley could get the words out.
She laughed. âThat's my girl.'
I pointed at my house, and Lesley hit the brakes again.
âAt least you're dancing like a sex goddess now, Saph!' We both jolted as the truck stopped.
I peered past her, up the path at the cold light on our front door. âI don't know about that.'
Lesley patted me on the knee. âNope, you're a gorgeous Greek goddess, Saph. And don't you forget it, girl!'
âThanks, Lesley, for everything.' I unbuckled my seatbelt. Then I headed up the path, wondering if anyone was waiting up for me inside.
The first thing that hit me was the quiet. Not silence, but a stillness in the house, that I was disturbing. I clicked the door shut, keenly aware of its creak and dull thud, then I switched off the outside light.
Even when I go to parties, Dad always picks me up. This was the first time that I had come home late without him. Perhaps, I suddenly hoped, the first of many . . .
I dropped my collection of bags â school, dance and pompoms â yawned and stretched my neck. It was late, but I wasn't ready for bed. Not after school, two and a half new time-outs, and becoming a sex goddess for the opener. After all that, it was definitely time for a bonding session with the fridge. Cheese slices here I come!
With tiptoe steps, I headed up the hall, feeling like the house was all my own. The kitchen light was still on. Thanks, Dad! He must have known I would be famished.
But just inside the kitchen, I stopped and sank down from tiptoes. Sitting at either end of the table were Mum and Dad.
âSaph!' Mum's chair scraped on the tiles as she stood and gave me a hug. âDo you want a hot chocolate? Cheese sandwich?'
âI'll make 'em, Mum. Why are you still up?' But I already knew the answer. Mum's the kind of person who goes vague around nine pm and disappears soon after. Seeing her up after midnight could only mean one thing: I was in trouble, big time.