Page 19

 H.M. Ward

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“Come on, Peter. Put the moves on me,” I say as I walk across the old gym. I realize I’m flirting and feel a bit silly for a second. I’m not sure where it came from. When I saw him, I just wanted to tease him and have that banter I’ve grown accustomed to when Peter is around.
Peter is sitting in the bleachers, watching something on his phone. He looks up when I speak. “Colleli. You’re late.”
“I had to take care of something. I’m here now. What’s this new dance you wanted to show me?” I sit next to him and look down at his phone. It’s a couple dancing, doing the usual steps, twists, spins, and throws. It’s a pretty good routine, actually.
“It’s the throw at the end. I can’t figure it out and I haven’t seen it before. Watch.” Peter’s eyes slip over and rest on the side of my face for a moment before returning to the screen. My lips part as the couple gets to the end of the song. They’re really good. I gasp when they perform a death spiral. The woman’s head comes so close to the floor.
I start to ask if that’s what he wanted to show me, but Peter says, “That’s not it. Keep watching.”
I watch. As the music crescendos, the dancers pull out all the stops. The last move is hypnotic. The woman is in the guy’s arms and then he flings her out. It resembles a variation of the Hustle, but then they do something and she’s suddenly airborne. The guy catches her as she twists in the air. They swoop down together and he holds her in a bow. Both dancers smile and the video stops.
“Holy shit.” I blink like I didn’t just see that.
“I know, right?” Peter says, looking baffled.
“What the hell was that? I mean, I’ve seen a lot of crazy dances, but that looked awesome. I’m not even sure what they did.”
“Neither am I. That’s why I wanted to show you. I’ve seen plenty of moves, too. This one is a variation of other stuff, kind of mashed together. That dip at the end looked like a modified death spiral.”
I glance at him. “You realize this could be fake, right? I mean, how did she get that kind of height? He didn’t seem to throw her, and she didn’t jump.”
He shakes his head. “It’s not. This is a dance studio in New York. It’s the video to used attract new students, so it shouldn’t be fake.”
“Play the end again.” Peter rewinds the dance and plays it again. We both stare at it, trying to figure out what they did. Part of the problem is that the camera is at a bad angle. I can’t see their hands right before the lift. I shake my head and point at the screen, saying as much to Peter.
“I know,” he admits. “I was hoping we could figure it out.” I give him a look that says, hell no. “What? No spirals?”
“I’m not doing anything with you where my head gets that close to the floor, so no.”
“Why not? I thought if you were okay with throws, you’d be okay with this.”
I shake my head and glance at the yellow wooden floor and think about getting my face ripped off if he drops me mid-spin. “No. No way.”
“No way?” he’s smiling. “Well, now we have to do it.” Peter takes my hands and pulls me up off the bleachers.
I laugh and tug away from him. “You don’t even know how to do it. You can’t be serious.”
“I’m always serious.”
“More like you’re never serious.”
He laughs. “Yeah, that too.” Peter folds his arms over his chest. He’s wearing his white dress shirt, but removed the tie. Dark slacks cling to his narrow hips and those saddle shoes are on his feet. Dark hair hangs in his eyes. “No dips? No head dives?”
“Nope. Sorry.”
“What if I gave you a helmet?” Peter’s eyes sparkle a little too much. He’s teasing me.
“Then I would definitely say no. The helmet means you expect my head to collide with the floor. Besides, it’ll ruin my awesome outfit.” I hold onto the hem of my dress and pull it out as if I’m going to curtsey.
“Ah,” he says, walking toward me. Peter slips his hands around my waist and music clicks on. He starts dancing, pulling me along with him. “Then, there is a possibility.”
“What part of no is confusing you? I thought you were an English teacher. You seriously have issues with this?” I’m smiling. I love teasing him. Peter’s face lights up and he teases right back.
“First you said no, then you said defiantly no. So, I’m thinking there’s wiggle room.” He grins and pulls my wrist. We both spin, and then I follow his lead and shoot out from him. Peter tugs me back and I twirl into his chest and the dance resumes.
My breathing is harder. The dance is getting faster. “We’re not wiggling anything.”
“Are you sure? You’d look cute in a helmet. I have a pink one with a red bow on top.” I stop dancing and try to stand there and stare at him, but Peter doesn’t let me. “No stopping, Colleli.” He snaps my wrist and pulls me to his chest. Damn, he smells good.
We swirl around the gym, talking, teasing. The subject rolls over a million different topics. Then, he asks, “Do you trust me?”
The smile slips off my face. My face is covered in a sweaty sheen and my dress is stuck to my body. I look into his eyes. They’re locked on mine, waiting for an answer to a question that I thought he’d never ask. “I… don’t know.”
Peter nods and looks down at his feet. When he looks up again, I feel horrible. It’s as though that was the worst thing I could have possibly said to him. “That’s something I hope for.” He rubs the toe of his shoe against the gym floor. His shirt is wrinkled, stuck to his chest.
“Why?” I breathe. It seems so pointless. Why would it even matter?
He smiles sadly. “I don’t know. I shouldn’t have asked you something like that.”
“You can ask me anything.” I look down at my hands. They’re together and I’m twisting my index finger. “I guess, I do trust you to some degree, probably more than I trust anyone else, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking.”
“What did you think I was asking?” He’s so close. Peter stepped into the space between us. He’s looking down into my face, watching me so closely. It makes me shiver.
“I thought you meant, do I implicitly trust you with my life. With a throw like that. With anything and everything.” I shake my head. “I’ll never trust anyone that way again.”
He nods slowly. “You’re an enigma.”
The corner of my mouth lifts. “Maybe.”
“You trust, but you don’t. You let me in, but you keep me out.” The way he’s looking at me makes me nervous. Peter’s gaze is so intense, so raw and vulnerable. Maybe I should have lied? No, he can see through me. He doesn’t need dancing for that. Peter holds up his hands. I take them and he leads me across the room in a slower waltz so I can catch my breath.
“Can I ask you something?” I ask as Peter leads us across the room. He nods. “Where’d you learn to dance?”
A shadow creeps over his face and his smile disappears. “Gina. My girlfriend. I keep calling her my fiancé, but she wasn’t.” He swallows hard and lets out a rush of air. We turn around the floor as he speaks. “She liked to dance. I sucked at it. She taught me.” He smiles sadly.
“She taught you well.”
He nods and a fake smile lines his lips. I can tell that he’s chasing away old memories with a broom. Peter’s gone silent. We dance. He spins me slowly. My dress flares out around my knees. He watches the fabric flutter before pulling me back into position. “What about you? Who taught you to dance?”
“I’m self-taught for the most part. I don’t really know what anything is called. We talked my gym teacher into doing a unit on dance in high school. Weird but true. Way better than volleyball again. I can only get hit in the face so many times a day.”
He laughs. “Volleyball’s not your thing?”
“Coordination’s not my thing.”
“But, you’re dancing.”
I smile up at him. “And you’re leading. It’s different. For one, there are no balls.” My face flames red when I realize what I just said.
Peter chuckles and shakes his head. “Well, I might disagree, but since we’re not playing with them, I’ll just pretend you didn’t say it.”
I try not to laugh, but I can’t help it. I try to pull my hands away and slap him, but Peter grips me tighter. The playful smile slips off my face when he holds me that way. We stop moving and stare at each other. My lips are parted. There was something I was going to say.
Peter looks down at me, his face so close to mine. His breath tickles my lips as he breathes. I want to lean into him. I want his arms around me. I don’t know what he’s thinking. When time stops like this, Peter looks lost. His entire body tenses and relaxes at the same time. I wish he’d do something, say something.
All the air is being forced out of my lungs. “What are you thinking?”
“Nothing,” he breathes, still watching me. His eyes flick back and forth between mine. His gaze doesn’t dip to my lips.
A slow smile spreads across my face. “Liar.” I lean in closer and press my forehead against his. “Just tell me.”
Peter’s hands find my cheeks and then slip back into my hair. He holds me for a second and breathes, “I can’t.”
“Peter…” his gaze lifts. I feel like he punched me in the stomach. There’s so much there, so much pain and affection and turmoil. It kills me. I can feel his agony when I look into his eyes. I take his hands and put one on my waist. “Dance with me. Stop thinking for a while.” He nods, and says nothing.
Neither of us speaks again. Peter leads me around the floor, changing the dance as we go along. We lose track of time. It isn’t until I hear Millie’s loud whistle that we stop. Peter nods at me and heads to the cooler to grab a bottle of water.