BUT EVERYONE'S WATCHING

I blame Madeleine for everything. Everything that I am is because she looked out the window that day and decided she'd rather be outside than in class.

What Madeleine De-La-Tour wanted, she tended to get.

"Maddie, is something wrong?" the teacher asked sweetly.

I flipped around on my chair to stare at the girl, along with the rest of the class. Maddie was staring out the window with her big, pretty blue eyes. An excited smile stretched across her face and spread to mine. Maddie was like that: spreading simple joy with the inevitability and warmth of sun rays. Or the plague, if you were to ask Annabelle.

"It's snowing, ma'am," she said. "I always go play in the first snow."

I turned to my blonde friend automatically.

"Snowing?" I squeaked. "Do you think she'll let us go play?"

Annabelle snorted delicately, flipping her gorgeous blonde hair over her shoulder.

"Play in snow, really?" she sneered as disdainfully as a little blonde girl could. "How old does she think we are?"

I wasn't sure why ten was too old to go play outside, so I just shrugged. Annabelle was the smart one. She was the one that caught on to the choreography first in dance class on Tuesday nights and she had the best grades in math. Plus, she wanted to be a doctor. If she thought it wasn't cool to roll in snow anymore – even if it was okay to do so last year – then she was probably right.

But the teacher laughed as the clamour rose from our tiny mouths. When she agreed to let us out early, I whooped along with the rest of the class. Only Annabelle frowned and crossed her arms with a huff. Well, Martin was frowning too, but he always looked like that. He kind of scared me, in that oh-God-that-kid-is-going-to-turn-into-a-serial-killer way.

Potential murderers were far from my mind then, though, because it was snowing.

The snowflakes were huge, light, and fluffy. The perfect snowfall. Dean and Mike made snowballs and pelted poor Howard with them until Kyle started throwing snowballs at them in retaliation. Madeleine had begun spinning around in circles, trying to catch snowflakes with her tongue. I giggled and did the same. Annabelle was doing an admirable job of channelling dignified misery. Her voice made me stop:

"Sophie! What are you doing here?"

My head snapped down. Wearing her big brother's coat, Sophie ran to us. There was a big smirk on her face that told me she had done something that would get her in trouble again. I hesitated for about two seconds between a frown and a mirroring grin before choosing the latter.

"I was at the bathroom. I saw you from the window. It looked like fun."

"You're too young to skip class," Annabelle admonished.

"What does skipping class mean?" I asked.

Sophie smiled at me. "It means I'm awesome."

"It means you're going to become a delinquent and end up in jail," Annabelle corrected her.

The blonde was the smart one of our group. But Sophie offered me her fist, which I happily bumped. Annabelle huffed. I still wasn't sure she really liked the trouble-making brunette.

Sophie didn't seem fazed by the blonde's opinion, so I tried not to care either.

"Come dance with us!"

I shifted my attention towards the rallying cry. Maddie had gone from spinning in circles to jumping around in a weird dance. A bunch of the other kids in my class gathered around her and imitated her. Uncoordinated as it was, it looked like fun and I bounced on my toes in anticipation.

"Ophie," Annabelle said to our friend in a horrified voice. "I think they're worst than you are."

Sophie kicked snow at her in insulted response, but she laughed nonetheless. "They're horrible."

Clearly they did not share my enthusiasm.

The advantage of the horrendous 'dancing' (finger-quotes intended) was that it rallied my two friends to a common cause. And that cause was to kick some proverbial ass.

"Let's go show them how we do it."

Without another thought, Annabelle charged towards the group. She never backed down from an opportunity to outshine Maddie, or anyone else. Especially when it came to dance.

"C'mon," Sophie giggled. "She needs our help."

I fidgeted. My tongue was already beginning to stick to my palate. "I don't like dancing in front of people."

She rolled her wintry blue eyes. "Silly, you dance in front of us all the time."

"But you're not them," I whined.

She grabbed my hand. Sophie was the only one who ever held my hand, except for maman and papa. At first I appreciated the comfort until she started dragging me behind her.

"Sophie, no!"

"Stop being stupid. Just pretend it's us. Me, you, and Annie. Like always."

I was taller than Sophie. If I wanted to, I could have pushed her away. I just had to dig my heels in, use that ancestral bear blood or something.

I let her drag me to the group and, despite the fact that my heartbeat was completely flipping out, the three of us outdanced everyone else in the class. Mike and Dean pretended to bow while the others clapped us on. Only Madeleine refused to acknowledge our 'dance supremacy' (Sophie's words, not mine) and settled for a rare glare that she directed towards Annabelle. My friend huffed and narrowed her eyes right back. And, well, Martin was scowling too, in his special one-day-I-will-be-able-to-kill-you-morons-with-this-glare way. Eventually, we had to go back in, and Sophie was sent back to her class with a firm telling off and a detention.

It was so much fun.

It was my first performance in front of a public, so to speak. I pretended it was just me and Sophie that day, and every other time when I performed for much bigger audiences on grander stages. When my tongue became heavy with nervousness, I curled my fingers in a fist and imagined she was in the crowd, rolling her eyes at my hesitancy. It was enough to pull myself into gear.

She became the only person that I wanted to dance for anyways.