Ch 1: Strangers 5

    They came to stand in a line behind her that was parallel to us. She took her time looking each of us over, sometimes muttering to herself and asking questions. When she got to Sue and me, I felt myself get anxious. I was nervous of making a fool of myself anyway, but now, as she made me step forward to better look at me, I felt as though it came down to whether she thought I was good enough to even begin. “Do you dance?” she asked, her voice soft and pleasant.

     I thought of the dancing I did, the kind everyone did nowadays with no set steps, and replied, “Kinda. I mean, it’s normal dancing. Not like what you do.”

    She just smiled and muttered almost inaudibly, “rhythm… short, slim…” Then she nodded like she’d made up her mind. Smiling and nodding once more to me, she moved on to Sue, who basically said the same thing. She glanced back at me. “You’re friends, aren’t you?” We nodded and she muttered again. “… same, but different…”

    After she’d gone through all of us, she went back and started pairing us up, sometimes with her own students. Sue actually got paired with Ivan, and I thought she was going to die in happiness, but when Mrs. Peters got to me, she paused. “Connelly, with her.”

    The sound of his name brought Connelly out of staring into nothingness and bored deep green eyes landed on me. He took me in, and the boredom seemed to dissipate slightly. He appeared to drop the cocky demeanor as he reached me and looked almost genuinely interested in something. “Hi,” he said, his voice smooth and accented. The accent was different than Mrs. Peters and sounded more like German. “I’m Connelly.”

    He looked at me curiously, like he was looking at something he’d never seen before. “Kota,” I said, trying not to give him a ‘you’re acting weird’ look.

    Our hands were just about to touch when Mrs. Peters called him again. “No, I think Alister should partner her this time.” Dropping his hand, Connelly glanced at me once more, his interest already waning, before returning to his original spot. Now we were both glaring as Alister stood stone-still at my side, his eyes trained anywhere but at me. Mrs. Peters called us all over to watch a demonstration and as she called his name, Alister seemed all too eager to leave my side.

    Mira and Alister showed us a move called ‘Closed Changes’, which was actually the linking of three different steps and together created the sweeping movement known for the Waltz. They repeated this three times, Mrs. Peters stopping them at different points to comment on how to hold their partner and how to stand so moving into the next step was easier.

     When they were done, Alister returned reluctantly to my side and without a word grabbed for my hand, but when he did the biggest shock I’d ever felt ripped through me. It was like I’d been hit by a taser, my hand glued to his as the pain kept coming, a flash of light flashing behind my eyes. Alister’s look of shock quickly turned to a searing glare as he tried pulling away from me but I couldn’t help it. My entire body tightened and deep in my chest something was happening. Am I having a heart attack, or about to puke? I thought.

    Then it was over, the feeling was subsiding and Alister finally wrenched his hand from mine. He stared at me murderously and backed away a few steps. “What the fu– ” But his next words were covered up by the sound of me blowing chunks all over the floor.

    “Alister! What happened?” Mrs. Peters exclaimed as she rushed over to us, Sue holding up my hair while I finished with a choke-slash-coughing fit.

    “Kota, are you okay?” Coach Bailey asked as Sue helped me up and away from the mess.

    “Yeah,” I replied shakily, “I don’t know what that was.” On our way to the bathroom I couldn’t help but glance at Alister, who was being questioned by Mrs. Peters. He spoke quickly, shaking his head and then shrugging her off to walk over to the bleachers with a last dark glance in my direction.

    “So what was that? Are you sick?” Sue asked as I hurried to clean myself up in the bathroom.

    “No, I’m fine, and I don’t know,” I said, trying to calm my breathing. I didn’t really feel like sorting out the details with her, mostly because I still had no idea what the hell happened myself.

    “You can sit the rest of the class out,” Coach Bailey said when we returned. The janitor was finishing up with my mess and Mrs. Peters made everyone return to their partners.
“I’m fine now,” I said, putting on my best face. He stared at me for a few minutes, and then finally nodded and gestured for me to go on. Sue slipped me a couple mints before returning to Ivan while I stood alone, waiting as Mrs. Peters said a few more things to Alister before sending him back to my side.

    I quickly popped the mints in my mouth as Alister slowly came to stand in front of me again. The wary look never left his face, and as the music started again he seemed more reluctant than ever to take my hand. I was scared too, but this time when we touched, I felt only a small shock. What the heck is this?

    Alister suddenly started forward and I stumbled back, not expecting it. I shot him a glare that he openly returned. “A little warning next time, will you? I just puked.”

    “I thought you said you were feeling better?” His voice was deep and throaty, sporting the same German accent as Connelly. “And I figured the music starting would’ve been warning enough. You might try paying more attention.”

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