Chapter 1

The best dancer in the school is a monster. In her thin, frail, petite frame, she looks almost harmless. Such is not the case when you meet her, when she looks over you with something less than contempt. She is the Prima-donna of the world called Ballroom, and she's got things to be proud of. Her figure is quite Greek, and her walk is characteristic of the type who has always been special. She has trophies to prove it, but better yet, she has perfect legs.

I can tell she doesn't like me. I can tell it by the look that she gives me, her wide hazel eyes penetrating me. We lock gazes for a moment and then I turn away, afraid that already I might have started to melt. From the corner of my eye I see her long pony tail sway from place to place as energetic Jive propels her to move forward. With icy precision, she ducks under the arm of her partner as he spins her roughly around with a sort of fascinating sexual innuendo. She travels quickly across the room and he follows her, smoothly gliding against the floor. Her shoes prance as her thighs vibrate. He puts his hands onto her waist and spins her around, she raises her leg and they lock in a position. Her hands up in the air, she looks like a Goddess, as her partner kneels on one knee, idolizing her. The music ends.

She gracefully throws her arms down and walks to a chair, taking a generous drink from her large water bottle. Her partner goes to the opposite side of the room, drying the back of his neck with a towel. The teacher, a handsome man with dark features and swaying hips, turns off the stereo and claps his hands.

"Congratulations!" he exclaims with exhilaration, "That was by far the worst performance I had ever seen in my life. If you're planning on shitting like that on stage tomorrow, I propose that you just don't go."

The star couple sighs, but neither of them says a word in protest.

"Now listen," he continues, "I want you to go into the adjoining room and for God's sake do something worthy of my name!"

For a moment, it seems as if the boy is about to speak up. Then, the Prima-donna touches his hand and immediately he subsides. The two wander off, passing me as they head toward the exit. Her partner doesn't notice me, but she manages one last look of intimidation before quitting the studio.

It is now five o'clock. The students of the Beginner's Class fill up the space. I am a seventeen-year-old girl with no guidance, surrounded by twelve-year-olds. I look around; I am the tallest of them all, shooting up like a pillar, my hands awkwardly folded at my ribs. I study myself in the mirrors lining the walls. With a sigh of grief and self-annoyance, I look at my feet.

The teacher's name is Damon. He looks as if he may be of the "Romantic" descent. His hair is black and his eyes are a sensual brown. His movements are elegant and precise. I wonder if he is straight. It is the sort of thing that never matters to me anyway, I think to myself, it is not their sexual orientation that usually drives men away from me.

Little girls all around me begin to dance. Their postures are straight as rulers. Without the slightest difficulty, they master the moves that I cannot even understand. My little sister, Janie, tugs on my shirt.

"Come on, Grace, dance!"

I look down at her, as she sways herself around in a matter I am sure my father would not appreciate. I smile at her and am suddenly struck by how ridiculous this is.

"Janie," I say quietly to her, "Sweetie, I'm going to go. I'll wait for you outside, okay?"

She opens her mouth in protest but I am already out the door. I walk by the desk of the receptionist and stand in the quiet evening. I suddenly need a cigarette. I light it quickly and inhale the nicotine, letting it pass quickly through my veins. I'm feeling better about myself already.

"Fucking dancers," I mutter under my breath.

"I know," I suddenly hear a voice and look up. It is the Monster's partner. He is holding out his cigarette. I suppose he wants me to light it.

"You're one of them," I say without thought and take out my lighter, "Are you sure you should be smoking?"

"Are you sure you should?"

I shake my head, "It doesn't matter much to me. I don't hope to spend the rest of my life prancing tango and hoping my butt doesn't look big."

"I don't hope for that either," he says as he watches me light his cigarette, "but you should give your butt a little more consideration."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask angrily.


"Yeah, nothing. Well if you have nothing to say, then don't say anything at all."

"Well, I meant that your ass is big," he smiles, "but I didn't want to hurt your feelings."

I gasp and am unsure why. "I don't care what you think of my ass."

"I don't think of your ass."

"What is it with you ballroom dancers? Were you born this vain or is it an acquired trait of yours? I think it's insecurity, this perpetual desire to make normal people feel like shit when they're around you."

"Normal people-meaning people that can't dance? Or people who look like shit?"

I stare at him, "Shouldn't you be inside doing something worthy of Damon's name?"

"I am," he smiled, "this conversation is exactly how much that asshole's name is worth to me."

"I'll tell him," I find myself saying.

"Go ahead," he says, "someone should."

"You know, whatever your problems are, I don't think you should take them out on me. If you're mad at your dance teacher, go take it up with your dance teacher. Don't stand around verbally attacking someone who did nothing to you."

"What are you talking about? You've been nothing but rude to me."

"You started it."

"As far as I recall, you did."

"I was just being honest."

"Well," he laughs, "so was I."

"Go to hell."

"Says the antagonistic harpy."

"Antagonistic?" I exhale, turning away, "Big word."

"Hey, what's your name?" he asks.

"Grace," I instinctively reply, "none of your business." Only then do I realize my mistake.

"I won't comment on the cruel irony."

"Yeah, don't," I tell him.

He chuckles and throws his unfinished cigarette on the floor. "See you later, Grace," he says and walks inside.

I'm suddenly standing alone again, and feeling very silly and negative. I suddenly hate being an outsider and feel more ridiculous standing here than doing the Cha-Cha with the youngsters inside. Something makes me drop my cigarette and walk back through the door to the classroom.

The teacher is giving instructions and I interrupt him as I come in. He looks my way in annoyance.

"Finally decide to grace us with your presence?" he asks me forcefully. I want to tell him that I'm not one of his little twelve-year-olds and am not planning to come back ever again but I restrain myself. I say nothing, it's always better just to say nothing. That's rarely the case with me.

The teacher turns on the music and tells the class that he will watch its progress. Having none myself, I am suddenly dreading what is about to come next. The melody starts to sound and I try to imitate the little girls around me. Immediately I fail and am suddenly tangled inside of my own legs.

"Maxim! Liliya!" Damon screams and within minutes the star couple rushes into the room. I watch Maxim in the mirror, the graceful and imposing man I saw in the darkness, moving across the room. His muscles tighten the tight black shirt he is wearing and I feel angry without understanding why. Fucking ballroom dancer, I think to myself. There is a strange feeling of sickness in my stomach.

Maxim is not looking at me. He is fixated on his instructor.

"Since the two of you aren't doing jack shit anyway, how about you make use of yourself and help the kids out. Maybe even see if the kids could do the same for you."

Maxim looks as if he wants to say something again. But he doesn't.

I suddenly feel the urge to move. I want to excel at everything that the other little girls are doing. I want to be the best of them all, and I wonder why. Out of the corner of my eye I watch him despite myself. Gently holding the hand of a little girl, he adjusts to her speed, and with his touch, she immediately seems to understand everything.

It takes me a moment to register that he knows that I am looking and is staring at me. I quickly turn away and start inventing random moves, pretending that I know what I am doing. Whether it is the Rumba or the Macarena I no longer care. I only wish desperately that he doesn't approach me.

And he doesn't. He approaches Liliya and the two begin to dance their old routine. And suddenly I want him to approach me, I crave desperately for him to. But he doesn't, he is in the arms of the beautiful Prima-Donna whom I hate. They are so perfect for each other, I say to myself, and immediately feel better and worse.

"It was so much fun!" Janie keeps screaming into my ear as I desperately try to keep my eyes on the road, "I can't wait to go back next week!"

"Well, Sweetie, I'm glad you liked it," I say, neglecting to mention that if she turns into the likes of Liliya I'd hate to have to kill her.

"And the teacher was so nice," she keeps blabbering, "what's his name again?"

"Damon," I supply.

"I love everything about it! This was the best time I've had in a long, long time!"

"Honey, how about you think about that quietly, while I listen to some music?"

"No!" She exclaims, "You're going to listen to that stupid weepy crap again. About lonely old women and stuff."

"Don't you ever let me hear you use that kind of language again, young lady, do you hear me?" I say and shudder at how much that sounds like my mom.

"This blows," she sighs, "I want it to be next week already."

"Well it's not next week yet, Janie, so you'll have to keep your pants on until then, okay?" I say such silly things when I'm around Janie.

I turn on the radio, and, surely enough, it's some stupid weepy crap about a lonely old woman and stuff. The problem is that I don't change the station. I like it. In my mind, I begin picturing a music video to this song starring myself. I am suddenly model-thin in a blood red dress with perfect facial proportions and a hot guy caressing my neck. Then I remember that I've got my little sister in the front seat and I should concentrate more on the road than my inner horniness.

"Hey, Janie," I say to her with a wicked smile, "How would you like to stop for some Ice Cream?"

"But mom said-"

"Oh come on!" I smile, "you had your first dance class today. We have to celebrate."

"Yay!" she screams with excitement.

I sigh. My little sister thinks I'm being nice. Tough luck. I just like to eat when I'm depressed.