This cannot possibly be happening! It was bad enough that I was separated from Pay in the most important dance yet, and then I was pared with none but Taylor. And Elliot taking centre stage with Pay? What was Mary thinking? That arrogant boy had just arrived here for God’s sake! I eyed Payton from the right side of the room, mentally telling her to come see Mary with me after this. She nodded before that annoying twat saw us telepathically communicating and moved in to block me from her view. Growling at his back, I turned around to face Taylor.
“Guess we’re stuck together then,” she said, although her twinkling eyes suggested that this wouldn’t be as much of an ordeal for her as it would be for me, “See, even Mary thinks we’re better suited than you and that girl.”
“Oh, shut up Taylor,” I told her, feeling much meaner than usual, “And for your information, that girl happens to not only be my best friend but my girlfriend as well.”
She shut up like a clam after that, her lips pressed together til they were barely visible. I could see that I had hit her in the right spot, because her eyes wore the injured looks of a child reproved. I guess I was meant to feel guilty for hurting her so with my barbed words, but right at that moment I couldn’t help but feel gleeful that she felt as crap as I was feeling.
The practice went by without too much more surprises from Mary. We got a feel of the music arrangement from Footloose (which, by the way, was Payton’s favourite musical and one that I’ve watched over and over again with her), saw a demonstration of the dance and went through the first section briefly. Taylor was still not speaking to me, which was fined, but she was also determined to hold my hand as tightly as possible whenever we touched. After the practice, I swore there were bruises flowering all over my hands and arms from her vice-like grip.
“Bye Elliot!” called Pay as she walked over to me with her dance bag all packed, “Shall we go now, oh grumpy Maxwell?”
“Stop it Pay,” I snapped at her, then instantly regretted it as she flinched, “I mean... Oh, I’m just in a bad mood today. Yeah, let’s go.”
I swung my own bag over my shoulder and lead the way over to Mary. She straightened as she saw us coming, and bit her lip as though she already knew that we were coming over to complain. I set my stuff down next to the wall, and opened my mouth to start arguing for my case.
“Now Max, calm down,” Mary spoke before I did, her tone gentle, “I know you’re not happy with the Footloose arrangement, but it’s all for the best. We need to win the trophy this year, and Elliot’s going to help us do it.”
“But he’s new! He’s a complete stranger who turned up a few days ago!” I told her, my voice heating up, “How do you even know he’s going to pull us through? I can do it; I’ve been centre stage with Pay for years! God damn it Mary!”
“Just breath, Max,” Mary said, “Believe me, I know you have more than what it takes to go centre stage. It’s just that Elliot’s been to nationals with his last dance group, and I thought it would be good to have him leading all of you, hopefully even all the way to nationals.”
“I thought we had to earn our places here,” I said bitterly as I turned away from Mary, “I guess perfect little Elliot is the perfect little exception to that rule. Let’s go Pay.”
I yanked the studio’s door open and waited for Pay to come through. She shuffled slowly through the exit towards me, turning back once or twice to apologise about my behaviour to Mary. I slammed the door shut behind us, wishing it was Elliot’s face that the heavy door was hitting and not the wooden frame. We didn’t speak to each other until we were seated on the concrete in the car park, waiting for Ryan to pick us up.
“Why did you apologise?” I asked Pay after a stretched silence, “Hell, I am not at all sorry for doing all that.”
“Well, you should be,” she said.
“I thought you would’ve wanted to be paired with me. I guess I thought wrong again then.”
“I do, I do Max. Just stop this whole raging thing. You know, Mary has a point.”
“What, that I’m not good enough to be paired with you for centre stage like the last gazillion dances that we’ve done?”
“Seriously, stop it Max. You know that’s not what I meant. But Elliot, he really is very good.”
“Oh, so now you’re on his side too?” I spat, standing up and snatching my bag off the ground, “Fine, Pay. Go home and phone little Elliot and tell him how good he is. Good bye.”
I stomped my way out of the car park, my duffle bag swinging violently from my shoulder. I slowed at the corner of the exit, allowing myself to turn just a little to see whether Pay was following me or not. She was still seated on the raised curb, her head in her hands. She could’ve been crying, but I was too angry at her betrayal to notice anything but the fact that she had let me go without a word.