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Dancing (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22.5) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:56:00

They coaxed, bullied, and embarrassed a surprising number of the boys onto the floor. Among them was Cyrus, who Jeannette had dragged onto the floor personally, which meant to me that she knew exactly the effect she had on the little boy. It made me wonder if she’d kissed Matthew to start the fight. Surely not. She couldn’t be that aware this early, could she?

Nathaniel and Kaitlin led the stretching and limbering. One of the oldest boys, about fourteen, said, “This is some of the stuff we do before baseball practice.”

Nathaniel said, “Dancing is athletic and you want to stretch out just like you do for baseball, or any other sport.”

The stretching reminded the boys of a lot of their sports practices and seemed to put them more at ease. Zerbrowski put on more music and this time Nathaniel and Kaitlin helped Matthew and Becky through a short dance. He braced Becky while she went up on tiptoes, one arm trying to form that round, half circle of arm movement that is one of the first things you learn in ballet, or try to learn. Matthew did his part as the guy half of a ballet couple, which meant he was mostly a prop for the girl, but he did it to the best of his ability, face serious.

Jeannette wanted her turn next with Matthew. She was a little more graceful than Becky, but she was also taller, so it was harder for Matthew to partner her. Nathaniel picked the taller, beefier Cyrus out of the watching boys.

“I can’t do this,” Cyrus said.

“You’re a better height for Jeannette, and you’ve watched Matthew do it, just try and Kaitlin and I will spot you.”

It was Jeannette coming and taking his hand that persuaded Cyrus to try. Nathaniel helped Cyrus figure out how to stand, how to hold his ballet partner, and Cyrus gave it the same serious-faced concentration that Matthew had. He was actually able to go down on one knee and brace her while she went up on that classic one-legged stance. She was only on tiptoe, not pointe, but the lines of her body were all there. I wondered how long she’d been taking lessons.

Kaitlin showed some of the younger boys some basic moves, while Nathaniel paired off the older kids. Greg Zerbrowski managed to magically appear beside a tall, leggy girl who was probably three years older, but most of the older boys were still making fun of it all, so he was the tallest one willing to come forward.

The girl went up on pointe even without the special shoes to make it happen. You could see the muscles in her thighs and calves like magic under her shorts. Greg held her, braced her, and his body damn near vibrated with the effort to hold on, to give every ounce of strength he had to staying with her. He didn’t have a dance background so he couldn’t “dance” with her, but by God he was a good prop for her to show how well she danced.

Greg was sweating and out of breath by the time they took their bows, but the girl hugged him tight and said, “That was great, if you took lessons you could dance with us!”

He blushed, and looked so like his father that it made me grin. One of the oldest boys there that night, sixteen and bulked from weight lifting, probably football, or wrestling for his sport, stepped up next. He had the strength that Greg hadn’t grown into yet, and he held his ballerina easily, though he was less fluid; he definitely didn’t dance, but he was great at holding, bracing, and helping her dance. At the end his ballerina asked if Nathaniel could lift her, because she’d never had anyone strong enough to do it before.

The boy had said, “Can you show me?” So Nathaniel lifted the girl first, her fall of nearly black hair spilling down his arm as she bowed above him, holding the pose and proving just how strong she was, because holding your body in space like that is one of the hardest things you can do. Then he helped the ballerina and her partner do the move.

He spotted them, so that if she got dropped she wouldn’t get hurt. The first few times the move wasn’t quite right, so they kept practicing until the lift was strong and sure, and he could hold her almost as steady as Nathaniel had.

When they were done and he helped his ballerina to her feet, the kid said, “My arms feel like they do after lifting heavy weights. That was a serious workout.”

“You’re lifting a whole person above your head, and making it look graceful and fluid while you do it,” Nathaniel said.

“Wow, is all I can say. I can feel my arm muscles twitching.”

“That means you gave it your all,” Nathaniel said.

The dark-haired ballerina laid a kiss on the kid’s cheek. “Thank you so much, I wish we had guys in our school that were as strong as you.”

He looked at her, and said, “Where do you take lessons?”

The dastardly plan worked better than expected. I heard several little boys asking for dance lessons, and talking about how hard it had been and that they wanted to be stronger so they could lift the girl.

The music changed to something slow and not ballet. Zerbrowski took Katie’s hand and led her onto the floor. He was grinning, she was smiling, and they danced smoothly, gracefully, like they could read each other’s moves before they happened.

“Zerbrowski, you can dance,” I said.

“Ballroom dancing lessons were my present to Katie for our thirteenth anniversary. Give me a few years and even I can learn,” he said as he whirled Katie around the floor.

Nathaniel came to me and held out his hand. What else could I do, I took it, and let him settle me in his arms. I went up on tiptoe since the shoes I was wearing didn’t have the heels of dancing shoes. How did I know how to do ballroom dancing? We’d all learned so that we didn’t disgrace Jean-Claude at the big vampire balls and parties that we sometimes had to do as part of vamp politics. The older and more powerful the vampire, the more they liked spectacle and a show. We’d actually started having a once-a-month dance lesson and ball at Danse Macabre, the dance club that Jean-Claude owned, because he never lost an opportunity to make money off of a necessity. We had to learn the old dances so we could show the other vampires we were civilized. He taught them to humans who wanted to dance with the vampires, politics and capitalism in a nice little package, that was my main vampire sweetie.

There were actually a few couples that joined us, including Jamie and Kevin Appleton. Greg Zerbrowski went back to his ballerina and offered her his hand. She took it smiling and he led her to the dance floor and showed that his dad had taught him more than just how to throw a curveball.

Several of the wives dragged their husbands awkwardly to the dance floor, but a number of them refused. Nathaniel kissed me lightly, and handed me over to Micah, who proved that he could dance, too. Nathaniel went to Jean Forbes and asked her husband’s permission to dance with her. Since he’d refused to do it, what could he do but say yes.

Jean didn’t know how to do this kind of dancing, but Nathaniel was a good partner and led her through the moves while she giggled.

A lot of the boys went and got dance partners, including Matthew, who was out with Becky Appleton. I wasn’t surprised to see Jeannette Forbes with Cyrus, or that he was a lot less happy trying to do this new dance than Matthew was. It was movement to music and Matthew picked it up better than any of the other younger boys. Some of the little girls were leading their partners through rather than being led, and that was okay, too. Dancing like this was one of the places I was perfectly content to not be in charge.

Micah moved me effortlessly, our arms forming the framework to hold our bodies in space and time with each other. I’d hated it when we first started learning, but it was actually relaxing now to follow instead of being followed.

The wives partnered with Nathaniel and Micah, and Zerbrowski and Greg, and even Kevin Appleton. Katie, Jamie Appleton, and I helped some of the husbands out, but mostly they either watched, or drifted away.

The football player stayed to learn with his dark-haired ballerina. Jean got her husband Mitchell to try. He moved awkwardly, but I couldn’t decide if it was because he couldn’t dance, or couldn’t get out of his way enough to allow it.

I’d half expected creepy-but-beautiful Elise to try and dance with Nathaniel, but she wasn’t here. I asked Zerbrowski and found out that Clint and Crystal had confronted her about her lie in front of Elise’s husband, and they’d left with a truly spectacular fight starting between them. Apparently, her husband hadn’t known she’d tried to sleep with Nathaniel. Karma: what goes around comes around, and sometimes it bites.

The rest of us danced. We stayed behind to help the Zerbrowskis clean up after most of the other guests had gone. Zerbrowski did the dishes, whistling to himself as he did it. Like he’d said, seeing Kaitlin that happy had been totally worth it. Matthew fell asleep in the middle of the floor as if his batteries had given out all at once. I thought picking him up would wake him, but he was so deeply asleep that he never stirred as Nathaniel picked him up to carry to the car.

Katie and Zerbrowski both hugged me bye. Kaitlin and Greg were already in their rooms asleep. Katie hugged both my men good-bye, and Zerbrowski shook Micah’s hand and patted Nathaniel on the shoulder.

“You made our daughter’s month,” he said.

Nathaniel smiled. “It was a pleasure, she’s a good dancer, and she was really good helping teach the younger kids.”

“She wants to have her own ballet school someday—after she’s been a prima ballerina, of course,” Katie said.

“Of course,” Nathaniel said, smiling.

We walked out into the humid summer evening, night insects filling the darkness with a high humming buzz. It took two of us to get Matthew fastened into his safety seat, because he was so asleep that he kept trying to slide out, but we got him buckled in and then Micah asked to drive home. He almost never asked to drive, so I gave him the keys. If he’d been one of those men who always insisted on driving I would have fought him, but Micah didn’t try and control, so I didn’t have to fight to keep control. Life is like dancing, sometimes one of you leads, sometimes the other, and if you do it right it’s beautiful, even when it’s hard.