Authors: Emma Hart
“That was quick,” I say.
“I’ve been doing this since I was fifteen,” Holly replies. “No one in this city can whip up an ice cream faster than I can.”
“Or better,” Abbi interjects, licking her spoon.
Holly winks. “Enjoy.” She turns and strolls to the back of the shop.
“And to answer your question
…” Abbi’s feet kick mine under the table. “If I ordered the chocolate sundae, I wouldn’t get to do this.”
She leans forward and sticks her spoon in my dish, taking a mound of ice cream and brownie. She closes her mouth around my ice cream before I can say anything, crinkles forming around her eyes.
“Just as well you didn’t, then,” I reply, twirling my spoon between my fingers. “Because that’s a great idea.” I dip my spoon into her ice cream but come away with a pile of sprinkles and barely a slither of ice cream.
Abbi laughs loudly, clapping her hand over her mouth to stifle it. I run my tongue across my teeth, staring hopelessly at my spoon, and try not to smile at the sound of her laughter. For all the sadness she has locked away in her body, she has the lightest, happiest laugh I’ve ever heard, and it’s almost impossible to not want to laugh along with her.
I look at her, and her eyes are closed as her giggles peter out. She opens her eyes, showing me their brilliantly blue hue. I stab my spoon childishly into my ice cream, take a big scoop, and shove it into my mouth.
And I completely and utterly underestimated how fucking cold this ice cream is.
My eyes widen as I swallow the lump of frozen cream. Abbi purses her lips and her shoulders shake yet again with laughter.
“You seem to have a habit of making a bit of a twat of yourself,” she observes.
I wipe some cream from the corner of my mouth. “I think you bring it out in me.”
“Is that a good thing?”
I tilt my head to the side and watch her lick her spoon clean. “As long as you don’t do it when we dance.”
She smiles. “I think I can manage that.”
“By the way …” I point my spoon at her. “… You have ice cream all around your mouth.”
She wipes at her lips with her fingers and looks at them, then at me. “No I don’t.” She narrows her eyes.
I grin and stick my spoon in her ice cream again. This time I get a spoonful of ice cream, and I poke my tongue out at Abbi. She half-smirks, staring at me. My eyes flit between her and the spoon, and I slowly move it in her direction. She opens her mouth and closes her lips around the spoon, sweeping the ice cream from it.
“The stealing was utterly pointless,” I say, observing the smeared spoon.
“Oh. Hang on.” She reaches forward and snatches it. She beams at me, and her tongue flicks out. It licks across my spoon, removing every last trace of ice cream, and I can’t focus on anything but that pink tongue sliding back behind even pinker lips. She puts the spoon back into my hand. “Missed a bit.”
My fingers close around
it. “Uh huh.”
I finger the material of the red
knee-length dress, holding onto the long lace sleeve. My eyes comb over the boat neckline and the lace body, down to the black belt at the waist and the plain skater style skirt. I want this dress – I want it badly. But the sleeves get me.
For so long I haven’t worn anything other than long, solid sleeves that hide the scars that cover the underside of my arms. The white lines stay hidden, my secret from the world. And the problem with the sleeves on this dress is it has holes. Tiny holes, not big enough to see the blemishes marring my pale skin, but they’re still holes.
“Try it on,” Mom urges from behind me. “It’s a lovely dress, Abbi. Very you. Very
you. That color will look lovely with your hair.”
“I don’t know,” I reply, still staring at the sleeve in my hand. “I don’t really have anywhere to wear it. There’s not much point in buying something that wi
ll just sit in my closet forever.”
Mom rifles through the racks behind me. “
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my too many years of life, it’s that a woman always needs a secret weapon. Sometimes it’s a little black dress, but there’s nothing like a good red number to knock a man off his feet and keep him on his ass.”
“Why would I want to keep any man on his ass?”
“So he can see your shoes, darling.”
“No man will ever care about my shoes, Mom.”
to care about your shoes. It’ll just make his life easier if he can see what’s going to be walking all over him for the entirety of your relationship.”
My lips curve upwards. “Then the red number isn’t necessary,” I say almost sadly, the smile dropping from my lips as I drop the sleeve. “I can’t see myself having a relationship any time soon. If ever.”
I shrug a shoulder, and Mom grabs my arm.
“Abigail Jenkins,” she begins
, turning me round to her. “One complete and utter bastard does not represent the male race. They might all be a bit stupid sometimes, but Pearce Stevens is most definitely in the minority. One day, you’ll meet someone that will be worth all the effort that comes with having a true, life-changing relationship. It might not be today, it might not be next year, but you will. And when you find him, I expect you to wear this dress with a pair of killer heels and knock him on his ass so hard he can’t sit on anything except for a rubber ring for the next week.”
…” I roll my eyes.
“No.” She cups my chin, bringing my eyes to hers. “You, baby girl, are stronger than even you know. I can see it in your eyes right now. One day you’ll find a man who will love you the way you deserve to be loved, and he will treat you like the prince
ss you spent your childhood claiming you were. This dress may be sat in your closet for however long, but you buy it, and when you meet him you damn well wear it.”
I sigh and stare again at the dress. Mom
’s right – I don’t even have to wear it yet. Besides, by the time I’m ready to wear it, my scars might not bother me so much. They might not control me the way they do right now. When I wear it, everything won’t be so raw. Maybe the feelings and the memories will be as smooth as the skin that’s healed.
“Okay,” I acquiesce. “I’ll get it.”
Mom smiles and grabs my size from the rail, whisking it off to the counter to pay before I can blink. She returns a few minutes later with a triumphant smile, handing me the bag.
“Thank you,” I say softly.
“It’s not the first time I’ve bought you a dress.” She laughs. “But you’re welcome.”
“For the dress, and for
me have it.”
Mom wraps an arm around my shoulders as we leave the store. “Just make sure you save it for the right guy. And you let me buy you the shoes.”
“You bet.” I laugh. “Hey, Mom?”
I curl into her side the way I used to as a child. “Thank you. For being there and never giving up even when I did. I don’t ...” I look down. “I don’t know if I’d cope if I didn’t have you.”
“Oh, honey.” She squeezes me. “You don’t need to thank me for anything. You’re my baby, and I’m always going to be there. You should never give up on something you believe in, and I believe in you. So, thank
for not giving up even though you think you did.”
She’s right. I didn’t give up, not really. Not in my heart. If I’d given up in my heart I’d still be in my room at St. Morris’s.
My cell buzzes in my jacket pocket, and I pull it out to see I have two messages. One from Maddie asking me about Hot British Guy, and one from said Hot British Guy asking what I’m doing.
t shopping with Mom. Going home now
, I reply.
I’m at the studio. Want to practice?
I’m in NYC already but
I don’t have my stuff. It’ll take an hour to get it and back.
“Hey, Mom?” I grip my phone tightly.
“I was wondering
… You know Bianca has us doing a
grand pas de deux
“My dance partner just text me. He wants to practice, but I don’t have any of my ballet stuff with me. I was wondering … If … Maybe … We could get him from the studio? And we could practice in the garage?” I look down as she unlocks the car.
“This is Hot British G
…” I look up to her smiling face. “Dad is such a teenage girl sometimes.”
Mom laughs. “I agree with you completely, Abbi. Tell him we’ll be there in ten minutes.” She winks and gets in the car. I take a deep breath, wondering if I’ll regret this, and tell Blake to wait outside.
“This is the hot British guy?” Dad asks after I introduce him to Blake.
“Dad!” I half-yell, my cheeks flaming. “Oh my god,” I mutter.
Blake turns to me with a raised eyebrow.
“I … Go back to your paper, Dad. Geez.” I glance at Blake. “Follow me.” I lead him through the kitchen and into the garage-come-studio to the sound of Dad’s raucous laughter. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
I run up the stairs, change, and come back down as I’m tying my hair into a bun. Dad’s still laughing to himself in the front room, and I poke my head round the door and point at him threateningly.
He just laughs louder.
“Don’t encourage him, darling.” Mom pats my shoulder. “I’m sure he’ll calm down soon.”
“He’s a bloody nightmare,” I mutter.
“She’s … even … talking like one,” Dad wheezes out through his laughter.
I screw my face up and flick my spare hairband at him. It hits his paper and falls to the floor. Mom rolls her eyes, sighs, and announces she’s going to work in the office. Dad winks at me, and I smile.
“You do realize I just emb
arrassed you, don’t you?” He frowns at me.
“Yeah. But I kinda liked it. It’s the thing a parent of a normal person would do, you know? You’ve never treated me like glass like Mom does sometimes.”
“Normal is overrated. Now, go and dance with your hot British boy.”
“Blake,” I call over my shoulder. “His name is Blake.”
“Eh, same thing.”
I shake my head and push the door open.
Blake is leaning against the
, his arms folded across his chest, he smirks at me as soon as I shut the door.
“Hot British G
“I so did not say that,” I lie, turning away. “It was Maddie.”
“I’m starting to think she had an ulterior motive for coming to that dance class.”
“Do you watch a lot of movies
or something? ‘Cause you’re so wrong.”
He’s standing right behind me, just a whisper of space between us. I swallow the bubble that rises in my throat and try to relax. His body moves to the side of me, and he places his hands on my stomach and waist. I move
knowing dance is the only way I’ll be able to combat the uncertainty and anxiousness rising in my mind.
I focus on the dance instead of the feel of his hands against my body with only a thin piece of material separating his palms and my bare skin. I focus on the positioning of my legs and arms instead of the warmth of his breath across my ear and neck. And I focus on the next step instead of the subtle change of fear to something almost unrecogn
izable to me. Something that makes me want to run away and stay. Something that makes me want to push him away and pull him closer.
But I can’t. I can feel the heat from his hands curving around me and the way his breath flutters across my skin. I can hear the heaviness of his breathing, and I know his hea
rt is beating as fast as mine. Mine isn’t from the dance. It’s never from the dance when he’s around. It’s always something more, something that tugs at me relentlessly. It tugs me toward him and keeps me in place.
It’s something that scares me, but it thrills me at the same time. Spine-tingling, stomach-fluttering
, lip-parting thrills.
We move through the steps of our
with ease, and I feel him begin to slow as we come to the end of it.
“Just dance,” I whisper, not ready to stop the freeing feeling flowing through me.
I’m not ready for him to let go … Not yet. I want this feeling to last. “Just dance.”
He does. He guides me through step after step, spin after turn,
after lift. We cover every inch of the garage floor space, kicking up spots of dust from the spots I don’t use.
Blake’s hands leave me for a second, and my body breaks away from his.
again and again and again, never losing balance, never getting dizzy. I spin on the tips of my toes, dropping for a split second before I rise back up. I glance up as I spin, and Blake’s stood watching me. His legs parted, his arms out, and after one final spin, I take his cue.
grand pas de chat
toward him, my legs extended as I fly through the air as if I’m weightless. But I don’t hit the floor. My hands fall on his shoulders, and his hands grip my waist to keep me suspended in the air above him. His hold on me is steady, not even a tremble in his arms.
I open my eyes.
Our foreheads are almost touching, our gazes fixed on the other. My breathing is hard and fast, matching his breath for breath, but I’m not even sure if it’s from the dance or from … now.
I don’t know if the adrenaline rushing through my body is from the thrill of the jump or if the pounding of my heart is from the endless
In this moment, with nothing between us except a sliver of air, I don’t know what I’m feeling.
I want to believe the goosepimples
on the back of my neck are from the ease of us dancing together. I want to believe the tightness in my chest is from being short of breath.
And I want to believe I want Blake to put me down and let me go. I want to believe it so, so badly. But I don’t,
at all. Because I can’t believe something that isn’t true.
with his eyes so intensely focused on me, I don’t want him to let go at all.
Slowly, after I don’t know how long, he lowers me. My toes touch the ground, and I come off
falling into first position before completely relaxing. His hands fall from my waist, and mine from his shoulders. I take a deep breath and step back, dropping my eyes to the ground.
“You know, I don’t think we’re going to need the full time Bianca gave us,” he says after a moment of silence. “Once we have the
“I think you could be right.” I glance up at him. “Bianca really does know how
to pair her dancers off, huh?”
Something flares in his eyes. Something I don’t understand. Something I both want to and don’t want to understand.
Something I wish I hadn’t seen.
“Yeah. Yeah, she does.”
“What if I feel things I don’t
“Do you mean your urges? The flashbacks?”
“No.” I run my thumb across my bottom lip. “Things that aren’t really… bad. Not that kind of bad, anyway.”
Dr. Hausen sits forward, peering at me over her glasses. “You’ll have to elaborate, Abbi. I’m not following.”
“What if … What if I was feeling things an eighteen year old girl should be feeling? About … a guy.”