Word from Fido: Oi mates! Happy New Year to all of you! So, this is a new story I'm uploading. Shouldn't be too long, maybe eight or nine chapters. Each chapter is basically a moment in the life of Kate as she falls for her best friend. I think I might be able to upload every two days or something. As always, I am ever grateful for feedback. Wishing you all a grand 2012 and a happy read,
Avec tout mon amour,
MAY I HAVE THIS DANCE?
I blame papa for everything. Everything that I am is because he established that he needed a break from fatherhood on Tuesday nights and decided to drop me off at a stranger's house all those years ago.
"Go on, cocotte, you'll be fine."
I looked to my papa with pleading eyes. I wanted to explain to him that no, I was not going to be fine. I was seven, and seven year-olds should not be left alone in a strange house. Even if papa promised I could dance all I want without tripping over Grisou and knocking down maman's favourite vase.
Papa gently pushed me forward by putting a giant hand on my shoulder. He had once told me that our ancestors had bear blood in them, and that's why he was so big. Never mind that, while the French are known for many things – like, bread...or something...cheese? - they are not known for mating with bears. At the time, however, my imaginative – if not naive – little mind had no trouble believing him as he held the door open with a massive paw. I steeled myself and walked in as though the floor was going to bite me. Papa laughed, like tumbling rocks or the ice that broke and drifted down the river every spring, and the door slammed behind him.
"Listen, cocotte," he said.
I perked up as music drifted to my ears. Instantly, I relaxed and felt the need to jump to the beat. It itched under my skin, trying to claw its way out through my feet.
A woman appeared in the hallway, a huge grin splitting her face. She might have been pretty if her nose hadn't been so big and her eye hadn't been obviously bigger than the other. But then she floated towards us and I was instantly enchanted. She glided along to the music as though walking was too heavy a task for her.
"Miss MacNeil," papa grabbed her extended hand and kissed it in his usual greeting for women.
"Mister Benson," she dipped her head in something that might have been a bow if it hadn't been so dignified. She turned to me. "And you must be Kate." I nodded wordlessly. I felt myself shrink as she hummed thoughtfully. "You know, I think Annabelle has told me alot about you."
"What did she say?" My voice wavered slightly and papa squeezed my shoulder, proud that I had spoken at all.
"She said you loved to dance," her smile grew, revealing yellowish teeth. "Do you love to dance?"
My head bobbed crazily before I could stop it. I could hear the music in my chest and I couldn't wait to bounce along with it. It was a need, like breathing after holding it in for thirty seconds. Only I didn't feel like I was going to pass out if I didn't move. Most of the time.
"Is Annabelle here?" I asked the lady eagerly, momentarily forgetting my nervousness.
"Kate, don't be rude," papa scolded softly.
But Miss MacNeil's grin never faltered and she shook her head at him.
"It's no problem, Mister Benson, I can tell she's eager to move." I was nodding again at her correct interpretation of my fidgeting. I knew she would understand. There was no way someone could move like her and not understand. "Annabelle is in the basement. You can go while I speak to your father."
She looked to my papa, who pat my shoulder to send me off. I obligingly scurried down the hallway, following the music. It led me to darkened stairs and a basement. I hesitated. Papa had made me watch enough horror movies; I knew what happened to little girls that went in strange basements. I thought I heard giggling, but that just managed to make it all the more creepy.
The children were always the scarier ones.
"Are you going?"
I jumped about a foot in the air. The girl behind me grinned evilly, clearly pleased with herself. Her short brown hair tickled at my memory. I'd seen her in the hallways at school. The first times I'd thought she was a boy, because she wore boy clothes: t-shirts with dragons and flaming shorts. And, you know, she'd kind of been fighting with Johnny, small fists smattering against his thick skull. Girls didn't fight, papa always said, even if our ancestors were French.
Why else would we have kept bears around?
I was so nervous about talking to someone I didn't know – especially someone so violent - that I forgot to respond. Her smirk slowly bled away. I really, really hoped she wasn't going to ask if I was stupid like all the other kids. Or put me in a chock hold like she'd demonstrated on Johnny. She bit her lip.
"Are you mad because I scared you? I'm sorry." I shook my head vehemently as relief swept through me. "Oh..." I tried to talk, then, I really did. But my tongue stayed in a knot, curled in on itself and pushing against my caging teeth. Unperturbed and looking only mildly curious now, she worried at her lip again. "Then... are you going?"
The song changed and automatically my foot started tapping. The minute movement sent a thrill of anticipation through me. The girl noticed and then she was unexpectedly and jarringly friendly.
"We can dance downstairs."
I finally found my voice. "You dance too?"
She bit her lip again. Didn't that hurt? "I'm not really good. But I really like it."
She smiled, and not in the evil way. "I'm Sophie." She extended a closed fist towards me and I stared at it for a while before I figured out she was offering me to bump it. I did.
Without further preamble, we went down to the basement. It was immense. There were other girls there and I was pleased to find out that I knew most of them from school. They were all dancing to the beat, having more than enough space to move about. I found Annabelle by her blonde hair.
"Katie! You're here!"
We hugged, jumping to the bass. When we moved apart, she looked behind me and frowned. I could tell by her expression that she didn't like Sophie. Maybe they knew each other already and Sophie had been mean to her. Or maybe it was the clothes. Annabelle loved girly clothes.
Other than that, and a disturbing affection for cheese curds, Annabelle didn't like all that many things.
Maybe she was French too?
Sophie seemed to get what Annabelle wasn't saying, because she started to back away. I was starting to feel nervous again. Annabelle was my best friend, but I'd bumped fists with Sophie. That had to mean something, right? Wasn't your first fist-bump supposed to be special?
"Annie, this is Sophie. She's my friend."
Annabelle crossed her arms. I widened my eyes at her. Rebelliously, she blew at her bangs and let her arms drop to her side.
"I know who she is," she finally said. "This is her house."
"Miss MacNeil is your mom?" I turned to the girl in boyish clothes, trying to associate her with the incarnation of grace I had seen upstairs.
She shrugged, and offered me a hesitant smile. That settled it for me. I gave a pleading look to Annabelle. She had to give me this. She had the biggest house, the awesome swimming pool, the greatest movies.
Surely, she could let me have this.
She blew at her hair again.
"Fine, you can dance with us."
I squealed happily. Sophie shrugged again, as though it didn't matter. Maybe it didn't. There were a bunch of other girls she could have danced with, and it wasn't like anyone was really dancing in separate groups. But Sophie danced with us that day, and every other time we met in the basement after that. She danced with us because I asked her to. She was right: she wasn't really good at first. But she really liked it.
Because of that, I really liked her.