Dance With Me
A story for my granddaughters
March 28th, 2011
It was spring, or nearly so. The late afternoon air was heavy with the promise of it. Though the blossoms on the trees had not erupted yet, they were fat on the branches. There weren’t many trees to be seen as the girls sped along the city sidewalks but each small square of yard they passed featured at least one. Emma and Leah tried to name the trees as they passed. They had learned about the different kinds in science class and they made a game of it.
“Maple!” Emma called first as they rounded the corner and she pointed to the tree in the yard of the yellow house. Now the yellow house was hers.
“Oh, no fair!” Leah protested. “You pointed to the bird just so I would forget to look!”
Emma laughed and this time she yelled, “Elm!” as the sidewalk took them by the brown house with the creamy white shutters. This house was hers also. Leah pouted and stomped her foot. She shook her head sharply. This afternoon there was no heavy tail of hair to wag on her head as she did it. She had forgotten. It was dance afternoon and her mother had pinned her pony tail up into a bun. When she thought about it now she could feel the tightness of it on her head and the pins that held it in place. The pout left her face and she smiled. She couldn’t be mad at anyone on dance day.
“Oak!” She called quickly and pointed kitty corner across the street at the lavender house. Mother said the lavender house was a ‘sight.’ The way she said the word you just knew she didn’t like it. The girls did though. They loved the lavender house. The color was pretty. The girls always wished the people in the house had painted the fence and trim pink instead of white. They thought the house would have been perfect then. Mother said that would really be a ‘sight’ and they knew she meant it would be ugly. Emma and Leah did not agree.
Calling the tree’s name meant that the house was yours. For the rest of the walk to the dance studio Leah ‘owned’ the lavender house. She liked to think about what the rooms were like inside. She could only pretend to open the door if the house was ‘hers’ and today it was. She pretended the living room was a light shade of pink and the couch had pink and purple flowers on it. The kitchen she made a pretty lavender like the outside of the house. She thought yellow curtains would look nice in there. Leah kept thinking.
It was Emma’s turn to pout. They both wanted the lavender house and today it was Leah’s. It never occurred to them they could both think about it, they could share it. They shared everything else, why not a house that wasn’t even theirs?
Emma and Leah were twins. Everyone said they couldn’t tell them apart but that didn’t make sense. Emma was shorter, Emma wore glasses and her hair was thin and fine. Leah was taller, her dimples were deep like her mother’s and her hair was thick and heavy. They didn’t look anything alike. When they stood together in front of a mirror it was easy to see that. Still, Emma was used to being called Leah, and Leah was used to saying, “I’m not Emma, I’m Leah.”
“Look!” Emma pointed, this time to a lovely large puddle the rain had left. It lay in a dip in the sidewalk. Emma wanted to splash in it. She wanted to send the water spraying from her feet as she jumped.
Leah held her back. “We can’t Emma, remember we have our dance clothes on today.” Leah lifted her jacket and a showed her sister a glimpse of her pink leotard. Emma moved away from the puddle. Under her jacket was her own purple leotard. They both wore white tights and in the bags on their backs were the skirts that tied around their waists and the ballet slippers they wore for dance. Splashing in the puddle might get them dirty, might get muddy water on their dance clothes. They didn’t think about Mother’s scolding, they thought of Miss Kate and how disappointed she would be. Neither of the girls wanted to see Miss Kate sad. Emma walked carefully around the puddle.
A block from the dance studio, Leah forgot about the lavender house and Emma forgot about the puddle. They could see the building ahead of them and they stared at it carefully. The building was tall, and made of beige brick. It went up two whole stories. The dance studio was on the second floor. Beneath it was a restaurant. A long, green awning came from the restaurant door nearly to the curb of the sidewalk. Big white letters ran along the green awning, they said, “Below the Studio.” Those were the words because that was the name. The girls thought it was a funny name. Sometimes instead of the tree game they thought up new names for the restaurant.
Now they looked to see if Emmet was there. He wore a dark black jacket and a hat and drove the cars away after the people got out at the awning. He said the people who came to eat at the restaurant were called ‘patrons’ and that he was a valet. If Emmet saw them and there were no patrons to help, he would greet them and ask them to dance loudly so he could hear them while he worked.
That made Emma and Leah laugh. You didn’t dance loudly when it was ballet they explained. The sound that ballet made was soft and swishy. On tap dance days they could be noisy. But on tap days Emit told them to be quiet, the pounding made his head ache and he would have to quit his job if they weren’t.
They had believed him at first. They had tried to keep their tap shoes quiet on the polished wooden floor and on ballet days they had come down extra hard with thumps just for Emmet. In a smiley voice, Miss Kate had explained that Emmet liked to tease. He liked to tease the new girls that came to the studio. She had opened the window and called down to him to behave. Once that was cleared up, Emma and Leah banged with their tap shoes on tap days, and listened to their slippers whisper with the floor on ballet days.
Today Emmet was not under the awning. They raced to the narrow door in the brick building. Behind the window it was dark. If you pressed your nose against the glass all you could see was a dark staircase going up to the studio. On the window were the words “Dance With Me.” They were there because that was the name of Miss Kate’s studio.
Emma and Leah liked to wait a minute before they turned the doorknob and went inside and up the staircase. They liked to sniff the good smell coming from the restaurant. It smelled of fresh bread and meat and it made them hungry. Mother always packed a treat in their dance bags. Dancing and the smell from below the studio made them hungry. They always ate the treats but they never tasted as good as the smells that came from “Below the Studio.”
Because Emma had reached the door first, she got to turn the knob but it was Leah who put a finger to her lips as they went inside and said, “sssssshhhhhh.” Miss Kate did not like them to be noisy on the stairs. Darren, who ran the restaurant did not like it either. At least he didn’t like the little girls who took dance to be noisy. On Friday’s after ballet, Miss Kate and Mr. Todd had a class for adults. They did things like waltz and foxtrot and grown up stuff with other funny names. No one told the adults to be quiet. At least if they had, the adults never were. They clumped up the stairs talking and laughing and in the small room outside the big dance studio the talk was even louder. Miss Kate would smile at the girls as they finished ballet class and talk a little louder herself.
Some of the little girls would push and shove through the grownups to find their bags and get ready to leave. Hannah and Abbey and Catherine and Josie didn’t care about the grownups. They laughed and talked and put their street clothes over their leotards in front of the grownups. Not Emma and Leah, they would wait in a corner until the grownups had gone into the studio. They would listen as the music started to play and Mr. Todd would clap his hands. It was only when Mr. Todd clapped his hands that the talking would stop. Then Emma and Leah would change their shoes and untie their skirts. They would put on their pants and jackets over their tights and leotards and tiptoe down the stairs to the narrow door at the end. Here they would wait for Mother to come and get them. Mother didn’t want them to walk home when it was dark. In the winter and early spring it was dark and they must wait for her to come and get them.
Today was no different, the waltz music was playing in the studio and Miss Kate was calling ‘one, two, three, one, two, three,” as the grownups danced. Emma and Leah could hear them as they waited behind the door at the bottom of the stairs.
Out on the street the lights were still dark. It was just getting to be dusk. Mother had said she might be late and they were to eat their snack and stay behind the door until she got there. That is what they did. With their noses pressed to the glass on the door they ate the granola bars from their bags. They ate them slowly hoping mother would come before they were finished. Mother had not told them why she would be late. It was a surprise she said. Leah and Emma wondered what the surprise could be.
The light from the studio made a funny shape on the sidewalk and street. Sometimes they could see the shadows of the dancers as they passed the window. Emma was watching the shadows when Leah nudged her with her elbow. She pointed and from under the awning came a girl and a boy. Leah decided they must be a woman and man, they looked younger than Mother and Daddy but much older than their babysitter, Kelsy.
Leah decided to think of them as a girl and boy. It sounded nicer than man and woman. The girl had pretty black hair. It curled everywhere. She wasn’t very tall but she wasn’t short either. The boy’s hair was coppery brown like a penny and thick. He was taller than the girl. Both of them seemed happy. The evening breeze ruffled their clothing. The boy reached up and brushed his hair down when the breeze made it stick up from his head. The girl and boy laughed, they were talking but Leah and Emma couldn’t hear what they were saying. From behind the dark window they could only watch.
The boy pointed to the studio and they tipped their heads to see the dancers in the window. Leah could tell they wanted to dance too. Their feet and legs moved and twitched as if the music was forcing them to join along. The boy said something and moved to the girl but she shook her head. The black curls swished around her face. Leah moved her head like the girl did. She wondered what it would feel like to have all those curls against your neck and face. The only time her hair curled was when Mother made it and sprayed it to make it stiff and keep the curls from dropping. Leah didn’t think the black curls on the girl were stiff.
It was Emma’s turn to nudge. Leah stopped thinking about the curls and watched the boy and girl. The boy gave a quick look around the street and bent to the sidewalk. He was on one knee like the princes in the fairytales. Out of his pocket he took a small box. He opened it and showed it to the girl. The girl didn’t say anything but there was a big smile on her face. It was the biggest smile anyone could have. The boy took her hand and put a ring on her finger.
Emma looked at Leah and Leah looked at Emma. Their eyes were big and wide as they could make them. They covered their mouths with their hands and giggled. On the street the girl had set her black curls dancing again. This time she was nodding her head up and down. Leah tried it too. The bun kept her hair from dancing the way the girl’s did. The boy took the girl’s hand and put his arm around her waist. With slow steps they began to dance. No one said ‘one, two, three,” or clapped their hands, they just followed the music and danced on the sidewalk.
From their hiding spot behind the door, the little girls wanted to watch forever. They wished the girl and boy would go on dancing forever. It was like a fairy tale. The girl with the black hair was the princess and the boy the prince. They weren’t dressed like a prince and princess but both of the girls knew they really were. They sighed in delight and were sorry when other people came out of the restaurant and the dancing stopped. Emmet brought the car to them and they got inside and drove away. Emma and Leah thought the shiny black car was like a shiny carriage. They almost expected that there would be horses but there weren’t.
The dark had come and the street lights threw puddles of light around the restaurant. Emma and Leah sighed. They looked at each other and smiled.
“That was beautiful.” Emma said, her words were soft.
“It was romantic.” Leah said and her words were soft too.
“Just like in the fairy tales.” Emma said. Leah nodded. They forgot about the treats in their hands, they forgot about everything except the prince and princess. Mother had to honk the horn when she stopped for them. They were so busy thinking they hadn’t seen when she came. Quickly they tumbled from the narrow door and into the car. They were so excited they let the studio door bang shut behind them.
Aunt Meghan and Cousin Jenna were in the car. That was why Mother was late. Aunt Meghan and Cousin Jenna were the surprise. Mother had picked them up from the airport. They were excited to see them and Emma and Leah argued over who got to sit next to Cousin Jenna. Jenna was only two. She could say their names. She could say other words too, but Aunt Meghan was the only one who could understand them. It was fun to play with Jenna. Aunt Meghan was nice. She smiled and let them carry Jenna around the house. Everyone was excited and talking all at once. Emma and Leah forgot about the prince and princess.
They were almost home when Leah remembered and said. “We saw a princess.”
“And a prince.” Emma yelled.
“Really.” Mother said. Emma and Leah could tell from the way she said it she didn’t believe it was real.
“Really and truly Mom.” Leah said. “And they got married.”
“No, they got engaged.” Emma corrected her. “Engaged like Uncle Matt.”
“Uncle Matt has yet to be engaged.” Mother corrected Emma.
“Well, he might be someday.” Leah stated. “Just like the prince and princess got engaged.”
“And how do you know that?” Asked Aunt Meghan.
“We saw it. Out on the street while we were waiting.” Emma told her.
Leah picked up the toy Jenna had thrown and gave it back to her. “They danced.” Leah said with the soft words again. When she closed her eyes she could see them dancing again, she could hear the music. Leah could think about the girl and the boy and the dancing whenever she wanted. She would think about them often. When Jenna was old enough she would tell her about them. Jenna would believe her.
Mother and Aunt Meghan looked at each other and smiled. Emma and Leah looked at each other and smiled too. They knew Mother and Aunt Meghan did not believe it was true. But Emma and Leah knew it. They had seen it and it was good to know that fairy tales really could happen. Someday they would be princess too. It was good to know that also.
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