“Vincent overheard your conversation with Dale in Biology,” he said, starting the ignition and heading down the road. “Thank you, by the way, for the things you said.”
“Oh, you’re welcome.” I smiled, fighting a blush. “So, how far do you live from here?”
“Far enough I didn’t want you to waste the gas,” he smiled. “It’s about fifteen to twenty minutes outside of town. We’re pretty much by ourselves out there.” We both smiled.
We fell silent for a few minutes, but I couldn’t help but asking, “So, did everything go okay with Alister?” He glanced over at me so I added, “I know, I’m sorry, never mind. I was being nosy again.”
He was quiet for a minute, and just when I thought he really wasn’t going to tell me, he did. “He’ll be okay. They know he was provoked, but he still shouldn’t have done it.”
“Why not? Those guys are jerks and bullies. They needed to learn a lesson.”
“Because he could have really hurt them. And we don’t need any more attention on us than we are already getting, if you know what I mean.” He glanced over at me and I nodded.
When we left the town behind us, the forest engulfed us, allowing no more view of the sky than the strip that hung above the road. The roads were long and winding, sometimes turning sharply this way and that, and for the rest of the way there the sightings of driveways and mailboxes steadily dwindled until I felt we were utterly alone. Then we were slowing down and I glimpsed a black mailbox ahead.
We turned onto a long driveway lined by tall conifers, and when the trees finally ended we came into a meadow, in the middle of which stood a beautiful Mansion. Victorian in style, it looked to be made of dark mahogany, and had a dark green roof with a turret on both ends. “Wow.” I breathed. Connelly just smiled.
As we pulled up to the house we stopped in the circle driveway, in the middle of which was a pond with a statue of a stag standing on what looked like the edge of a cliff. Water sprang from his antlers and even more down the rest of his body, making it look like his fur was blowing in the wind. “I’m glad you like it.” Connelly said as he killed the engine and we got out. “Be sure to tell Aubrey.” At my questioning look he added, “She designed and built this.”
“What?!” I said, astonished.
“Just wait until you see what’s inside.” He took my arm and led me up the steps to the porch.
The dark green door opened for us and Aubrey let us into a roomy foyer. It was complete with a coat hanger, a cushioned bench to take off your shoes, and a small closet on either side of the door. “Hey Kota, glad you could come after all. You’re timing is perfect, everyone is upstairs.” She gave me a hug.
“Hey Aubrey, Connelly just told me you designed and built this house?” I looked at her with surprise, but part of me wanted to know if it was really true.
“Yes I did! Do you like it?” She smiled proudly, glancing around the room.
“It’s gorgeous!” I smiled back and she beamed.
She led us into the sitting room, and then continued to the left into a large kitchen, where we found Ivan grabbing a water bottle from the fridge. “Where are we going?”
“Everyone is doing warm-ups before practice,” Connelly said as we spiraled upwards.
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what else to say.
“Something wrong?” He glanced back at me, his brow furrowed.
“No, I just, though we would be – didn’t know we would all be practicing together.” I stumbled over the words, worried how they would sound.
“Why? Do you not want to practice with us?” Aubrey asked from the front, though I couldn’t see her.
“No, dumbo, she wanted Connelly all to herself,” Ivan said, like it should have been obvious. I heard her smack him.
Ivan laughed, but then Connelly tripped him. “Hey, there’s no call for tripping.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I said hastily, but Connelly just smiled and shook his head.
“They know what you meant,” he said.
“No we don’t,” Ivan corrected, then pushed Aubrey out of the way and ran up the stairs before Connelly could get him.
“Hey!” Aubrey called as she was shoved into the woodwork. “You’re not supposed to shove a lady!”
“Then I guess I’m still in the clear! Ha! Hahaha!” He cracked up laughing and they both took off up the stairs with Connelly and I following behind at a normal pace.
We passed a door on the way up to the studio, where Connelly paused to show me a huge game room with video games, a pool table, and an exercise area. A few minutes later we reached the final door at the end of the stairs. When he opened this door, inside I saw the perfect place for dancing. A huge bay window looked out on the darkening front yard, but the rest of the room was floor-to-ceiling mirrors. There was a stretching bar with wheels on the bottom, like you sometimes see ballerinas use, and a stereo on a table to the door’s right, its speakers on the ceiling encompassing the room in sound.
Alister and Mira were on the far side of the room, stretching in front of the window and having a quiet conversation, while Aubrey was loudly complaining about Ivan having her in a headlock. “Ivan, let your sister go,” Mrs. Peters said from a chair beside the stereo, writing on a clipboard in her lap. Looking up, she smiled at me. “Kota, I’m so happy you could come.”
“Mrs. Peters, you have a beautiful house.”
“Have you seen it all already? I just saw you arrive not ten minutes ago.”
“No, just from the front door to here, but still. It’s amazing.”
She smiled warmly. “Did Connelly tell you Aubrey made this? Just brilliant.” She looked over proudly at Aubrey, but she was still stuck in Ivan’s iron grip. “Ivan, didn’t I just say to let her go?”
“I did! Then she kicked me!” he said, trying to sound innocent.
“He’s messing up my hair! Mom!” Aubrey whined, her hair falling in her face. At that announcement however, Ivan began giving her a nuggie and she started screaming and kicking her feet frantically.
“Ivan!” Mrs. Peters yelled. Finally he let her go and she hastily ran to a section of mirror and fixed her hair until it was almost as good as new. Ivan had come over to us, and as Aubrey came up behind him, wearing a sinister smile and lifting her leg back, Mrs. Peters stopped her with a look.
“Okay now,” Mrs. Peters stood and walked toward the middle of the room. “Let’s start.”
“C’mon,” Connelly beckoned as he started towards his mother. I hesitantly followed after him. We started by doing stretches, which took longer than I thought it would. I was stretching muscles I didn’t even know I had, and holding them until Mrs. Peters told me to let go. The pain this caused was surprising and I suddenly felt out of shape, even though I knew I wasn’t, and just when I thought I’d had enough, it was over.
We took our stances; Mira with Alister, Connelly with me, Vincent with Aubrey, and Ivan with Mrs. Peters. She twisted slightly in Ivan’s arms and clicked the play button on the stereo remote, making soft sweet music float about the room. My feet seemed to move of their own accord and I found myself gliding seamlessly across the room, all of us doing the basic steps to the Waltz. A few minutes later, Mrs. Peters called out the name of the next level of steps, and we all obliged, then we went to the next level a few minutes later. Soon we were doing different variations of the Waltz and were no longer matching each other movements. “You’re lucky.” Connelly said as he led me across the floor.
“How?” I asked.
“You are getting to go farther here in dancing than anyone else as at school.”
“So this is like cheating.”