Chapter One

Stretching out, I pull my hair over one shoulder, and smile over at Dan, my dance partner. After two hours of solid practice, we’ve decided to do one more run through before calling it a day- and though I’m exhausted, I’m definitely still up for being in his arms again.

Arranging ourselves in the classic position, my hand resting on his shoulder, his on the small of my back, and our free hands meeting, I feel my pulse quicken. Even though I’ve stood like this with Dan countless times, I still can’t help the feeling of excitement which makes my heart beat faster at being so close to him.

We set off, our feet mirroring each other as we go through the routine, pausing as he shifts his weight to one side and swerves our bodies to the right. Our chests touch; his gorgeously freckled face just centimetres from mine, smiley blue eyes meeting my own brown ones.

What I’d do to close the gap.

Stepping back in time with the music, I lock my leg around his as he leans backwards, so my body is pressed against his.

I catch a glimpse of our position from the mirrors that line all four walls, and secretly smile at just how intimate this move is. When our dance instructor, Sarah, suggested it I wondered if I could ever pull it off, but thankfully, we’ve practiced it so much that it doesn’t faze us in the slightest.

Well, I say that. For me, every time we do it, it sends little shivers of excitement rushing through my body. From Dan’s expression, this is just another move for him to perform.

Languorously, he bends me backwards, so this time my entire back is arching out, with only his hand on my back keeping me from falling, my hair tumbling down as I fling my arms out dramatically above my head so that they nearly touch the ground.

Then he spins me, my entire body twisting as he brings me back upright, his firm arms holding me tightly.

After what seems like only seconds, the dance is over, we’ve warmed down with some stretches and we’re both packing our bags ready to go.

These dance practices go far too quickly for my liking: despite the fact that I practice every day except Sundays and Mondays, I never turn down the opportunity to dance with Dan- and that’s not just because I love dancing.

I linger as Dan puts his water bottle into his bag and slings it over his shoulder, flicking his blonde hair back into place.

‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then?’ I say, hopefully.

He flashes a smile. ‘Sure thing,’ he replies, giving me a hug. ‘See you.’

And he’s gone.

With a sigh, I pick up my bag and follow him out of the familiar studio, still feeling the warmth of his arms around me.

Four sessions a week are just for Dan and I to rehearse alone: the other one we’re instructed by Sarah, but I think I enjoy the ones where we’re alone more. Despite it being awkward sometimes, time alone with Dan is something I always want to make the most of.

I’d love for Dan and I to be dating- I know he’d be amazing as a boyfriend. All my previous ones have been frightened away by the amount of time I spend practicing dance, and it just hasn’t worked out. Which is why Dan and I would be perfect for one another- both of us don‘t have a social life.

On my way out, I see that Molly, my younger sister by a year, and her dance partner, Jude, have just arrived for their dance session. Molly’s talking away, while Jude scuffs his feet along, rubbing one hand through his hair.   

As Jude is the same age as me, both of us in the school year above Molly, I think it’s fair to say I know him quite well. He’s in one of my classes, and, well, I’ve tried to see his good side. However, I think it’s become pretty blatant that Jude doesn’t have a good side.

The thing is, Jude is a bad boy. I’m sure there aren’t many bad boy dancers, which is probably why Jude’s sworn us all to secrecy, making us promise not to ever let anyone know about his hobby. But I think he secretly loves it, even if he makes out that his mum forces him into going. The fact that he’s amazing at it doesn’t help his arrogance.

I push through the door, sighing when I think of the essay I need to write as soon as I get home. It’s a struggle to balance working and dancing- I’m in the last year of school, and finding the time to practise, as well as doing all the homework is not fun at all.

Sarah’s coming through the door as I go out, and she bumps straight into me, sending her pile of papers and random objects flying all over the floor. You’d expect a dance instructor to be the most balanced and coordinated person ever, but Sarah’s the exception- she’s hilariously clumsy off the dance floor.

‘Ohhh, sorry Kyra!’ she apologises, as we both bend down to pick all the things up. ‘I was day dreaming.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I tell her, with a smile, used to it.

‘How was your practice?’ she asks, as I hand her the last of her things.

‘Fine,’ I reply. ‘I think we’ve mastered the routine.’

‘That’s great!’ she tells me, but being able to read in my expression that I’m not telling her everything, she raises an eyebrow. ‘But what?’

‘Well, it just seems that there isn’t much chemistry still,’ I admit, quietly. I’ve always tried to hide the fact that Dan and I don’t have a natural chemistry between us, but Sarah needs to know, I suppose.

‘Still?’ Sarah says, reaching out to rub my shoulder, and almost dropping her bundle of things once more. ‘Hmm, that is a problem- my exercises haven’t helped?’

I shake my head. Sarah tried to get us to improvise, being as passionate as we could muster. While I put my entire heart into it, Dan just sort of walked me around. It was like dancing with a tree. Well, an attractive tree. With nice arms. Or should that be branches? Okay, I think I’m thinking this over a bit too much.

 ‘We’ll work through it tomorrow, shall we?’ Sarah suggests,.

I nod. ‘That’d be really helpful.’

I really hope something can be done about this chemistry problem. I thought maybe it was just awkwardness between us that would soon rub off. After two years of dancing with Dan, I don’t think it can be. Sigh.

*
I write the last word of my essay in a triumphant manner, throwing my pen down on the table in relief. Finally I’ve finished it, and I can enjoy the rest of my evening in peace. I smile with satisfaction at all the words neatly written on the paper, and slot it into my bag for tomorrow.

‘Kyra! Dinner!’ my mum calls up the stairs, and I smile at my perfect timing.

When I’m sat down at the table a few minutes later, the conversation almost immediately turns to dance.

My mum always wanted to dance when she was younger- it was always something she desperately tried to persuade her parents to let her do. But dance lessons were expensive, and her parents simply couldn’t afford it. So she decided that she would pay for her own children to have dance lessons, to make up for it- hence Molly and I having lessons ever since the age of ten.

‘Is Sarah planning to put you forward for any dance competitions this year?’ my mum asks, passing the salt to Molly.

I shrug. ‘It’s only January, the year’s only just started.’ My mother is way too competitive for my liking, she’s always pressing us to go to competitions. Which we’ve done, though neither of us have ever done amazingly well.

About a year ago, Dan and I came third in a competition, but we’ve never done any better than that. In solo dance routines, Molly and I have won several medals and trophies… it’s just the couple routines we seem to struggle with. And as both of us prefer the duets, it seems we’re stuffed.

Jude and Molly have only been dance partners for six months or so, ever since his dance partner had to stop because of a back injury, and Molly’s partner gave up, so they haven’t done any competitions yet.

‘She told us she had a few in mind,’ Molly comments. ‘Depends if we’re good enough.’

‘Of course you all are!’ my mum protests, indignantly. ‘I don’t think Sarah pushes you enough.’

‘Hm,’ I say. ‘There is a lot of competition out there, you know.’

Molly nods ruefully. ‘And there’re so many people doing the same thing as we are.’

‘Well you just need to practise more, then,’ my mum says, firmly.

My dad shakes his head from the head of the table. ‘They practice enough as it is. I don’t think they can physically cope with more.’

I smile at him gratefully, as my mum sighs dramatically. My dad always worries that Molly and I spend too much time at the dance studios, instead of having a life.

He’s probably right, to be honest, but I love dancing so much that I’m prepared to sacrifice that. It’s just sometimes I wonder if it’ll ever get me anywhere. I don’t want to reach my mid-twenties and realise that I’ve wasted all these years on something I can’t pursue.

But then I remember the thrill of getting a move right, of becoming one with the music, of letting your entire self speak through your body, and I feel as if any cost is worth paying to spend my time experiencing that.

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