The darkness was comforting to Aurora as she stepped out on the beach later that night. She didn’t fear it like others; instead she found strength in it. The darkness gave her inspiration she needed to dance and after the great afternoon nap she had earlier, she was ready.
Instead of working on the same solo dance from the night before, she launched herself into something new and different she had been working on when she found the time. In her mind, she had envisioned it as a partner dance, but it still worked solo. Still, sometimes she longed for the strong arms of a guy to help through certain lifts. There was a very difficult one halfway through this dance that kept throwing her off balance.
She practiced it now and instead of landing gracefully in a spin, she hit the sand hard. But Aurora was persistent. She didn’t give up on dancing and would practice for hours and hours to master one move. That had been her plan for tonight, but after smacking her knees repeatedly in the sand and twisting her ankles, she was beginning to lose hope. Aurora did a few simple spins to calm herself and tried again, but this time the fall made her cry out in pain and she didn’t have the strength to get back up.
Aurora wasn’t one to cry, over anything, but this fall had taken the air out of her lungs and she lay crouched in the sand gasping. Tears ran down her cheeks and she let out a little scream before closing her eyes and mouth tightly. In the back of her mind, she vaguely registered the sound of feet running toward her, but she could only roll over to face whoever approached her.
“Go away!” she snapped while opening her eyes to glare at a dark figure standing over her. “I’m fine, just go!”
“You don’t look fine,” was all he said simply while holding his hands up as if to say I mean no harm. “I didn’t mean to scare you the other night. But tonight, when you screamed and didn’t get back up, I knew something was seriously wrong. Want some help?”
He was still holding up his hands, staring down at her gently. From the dim light at the pier, Aurora could make out the semi shoulder-length black hair of a guy who looked one or two years older than her seventeen year old self. He didn’t seem too untrustworthy, but she didn’t like asking for help, even if she really needed it.
“Help?” he repeated with a smile and she finally nodded reluctantly. Sure, in the dance world everyone fell and got back up, but Aurora didn’t have the strength to right now. The combination of recurring failure and the fact that someone had been watching it made her feel so weak. Whatever it was, she allowed the guy to carry her up to the pier under the lamppost where he set her down on one side of the ledge and took a seat himself on the other.
“Thank you,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around her pajamas, self-conscious.
“No problem. I’m Eli, by the way.”
“Oh wow, what a cool name. What’s it mean?” he sounded honestly interested and Aurora cracked a smile.
“Well in Greek it means goddess of the dawn. Maybe that’s why I can never sleep at night.”
“Huh, interesting. But me either. Usually I walk around town or sit at 24-hour diner, but the other night I felt like coming to the beach. And that’s when I saw you. You dance beautifully.”
She smiled thanks, but questioned what guy referred to ballet dance as beautiful. None that she knew, besides the homosexual ones at the studio. But as she looked this Eli up and down, he surely wasn’t gay. “Beautiful?” she finally said. “That’s a first coming from a guy.”
“Oh.” He sounded embarrassed. “Well my mom was a dance teacher, so I’ve kind of grown up with my life centered on dance.”
“I used to. But I quit.”
“Why?” She didn’t mean to pry, but she was curious. She couldn’t imagine ever quitting dance after it being such a huge part of her.
“That’s a story for another time,” Eli said with a smile, “I can’t reveal all my secrets now, can I? Besides, I feel I’ve overstepped my boundaries when it comes to yours.”
“Well, you were obviously dancing late at night, or early in the morning I guess you could say, secretly. I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Oh, it’s fine.” She waved her hand dismissively and he seemed to relax. “If you weren’t there, I would still be lying in the sand.”
“You don’t believe that, now do you?” Eli’s eyebrows rose over light blue eyes and Aurora felt herself blush.
She laughed out loud to cover the affect his eyes had on her. “No. I would have got back up eventually by myself. But, it was nice having someone there to help, for once.”
“Don’t you have a partner? You dance pretty advanced to still be solo.”
He speaks dance talk! Aurora thought happily but out loud said, “No, I usually do solos or duets with other girls. But mostly I focus on choreography.”
“Choreography?” Eli looked excited. “You mean to tell me you created that dance by yourself?” She nodded and he smiled, impressed.
In the dim light, his teeth looked pearly white and inviting. Aurora wondered briefly what it would be like to kiss his mouth, but pushed those thoughts away quickly. She didn’t have time for boys. The one boy she had dated her freshman year of high school was a jerk and their relationship ended within a month. She didn’t need boys when she had dance.
“Did you need help stretching?” he asked and Aurora looked at him nervously. “I mean, after that fall, you definitely need to stretch again.”
“Um yeah.” Eli stood up and moved across the pier until he was crouching in front of her. Keeping his eyes on her hazel ones, he grabbed her ankle gently. His touch was warm against her skin and despite the pain, she smiled.
“Which one hurts more?”
“They both do,” she admitted with a grimace. “My … my legs too. God, that sand is so hard.”
“Couldn’t be any worse that a dance floor,” Eli replied smoothly with a quiet laugh.
With delicate fingers, he bent her feet back and forth, rolling her ankles in different directions. Aurora’s eyes closed as he touched the bottom of her foot, one finger trailing along the edge. It made goose-bumps sprout on her arms and she shivered.
“Sorry, my hands are always cold.”
“It’s okay. That … that tickles.” Aurora laughed nervously, but Eli just smirked at her response. He knew touching a certain part of a girl’s foot, especially a dancer, wouldn’t tickle. If anything, it aroused things in her that she probably didn’t even know could be aroused by a simple touch like that. But he didn’t say anything, just smirked. When Aurora looked down at him, he was still smirking and her eyes narrowed. “What?”
“Oh nothing.” His voice was silky smooth, like he kept a secret only he understood. Eli stood up now, pulling his hands on her knees. His eyes asked May I? and Aurora nodded silently.
He knows what he’s doing she thought nervously, but at the same time she had the strange feeling she could trust him. He kept eye contact as he massaged her legs and though she trusted him, she also felt unnerved. She knew her eyes probably gave away whatever she was thinking and she didn’t want him to know all that. But he seemed to know she felt that way, and that’s why he was keeping eye contact. “Stop staring at me,” Aurora finally whispered.
Eli’s face was about a foot away now and he smiled. “Sorry. It’s always easy to tell what people are thinking from just their eyes. Plus, I’m making sure I’m not hurting you.”
“Oh.” She blushed and looked down. “Well, I appreciate that. But I’m good now.” He removed his hands from her legs and stepped away as she got down from the ledge and starting walking. “Thanks again for the help. But um, I think I’m gonna go to bed now.”
“Will you sleep?” Eli asked and Aurora stopped at the question.
She laughed lightly and smiled, “Oh of course not.” And with that, she started down the short pier steps and toward her house as Eli watched from under the lamppost.