I woke up that morning like every other, taking a shower, getting dressed and driving to school with Sue. I went through the day like normal, spending almost all my time with Connelly, who was not wearing his hat, and the rest with Sue and my boys. I had fun, just doing normal stuff—
Now I don’t know if I was just being completely forgetful or was just so focused on Connelly that I never heard what Mrs. Peters was saying that entire two weeks, but what I did know was that I was definitely not prepared. I had been having a perfect couple weeks, now being graced with seeing Connelly’s entire angelic face, but it all came tumbling down during lunch.
“Yeah, so is anyone nervous about the competition today?” Sue asked as she fought with her noodles to stay on her spork.
She was on my right with Louis sitting in front of me while Dale and Chase sat on Sue’s other side. Connelly and I had been sneaking peeks at each other and as Sue said this, my flirty look slipped off my face and I turned to her with confusion. “What competition?” I asked. She and the others all looked at me in confusion as well.
“Did you forget?” asked Dale, looking over Sue’s head easily.
“The dance competition, it’s today.” said Sue, looking at me oddly.
My eyes got as big as tennis balls and I said, “OH MY GOSH!” I jumped up and ran over to Connelly and his family.
“Hi Kota.” Aubrey said, smiling and waving a little. Vincent, who was sitting beside her, just looked at me curiously.
“What are you doing here?” Alister glared at me and Mira joined him.
I ignored them. “Connelly, the competition is today!”
“I know. The instructor is my mother, remember?” he looked up at me in amusement.
“We haven’t practiced! I’m completely not ready!” I was freaking out. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten about the dance. I was going to totally humiliate myself in front of everyone! And that was another thing. I thought. How many people were going to be there? Just the competitors? Their parents too? Or maybe the whole school?
I started hyperventilating.
“No you won’t.” Ivan said, smiling sweetly at me.
“How do you know?” I looked at him pleadingly.
“Kota, calm down.” Connelly said, scooting over to make room for me. He made me sit down and take deep breaths for a minute, though just being next to him made me better.
“Now, it’ll all be fine. The first competition really isn’t a competition.” he said, rubbing my back comfortingly.
“Then what is it?” I asked.
“It’s more like a test, but not even really that.” said Aubrey, leaning on the counter beside Ivan who was sitting opposite me. “It’s just to see if you’re ready and if you’ve progressed enough to continue.” She smiled at me.
“To see how much potential you have.” Ivan clarified, looking at me comfortingly.
“But that still doesn’t change the fact that we haven’t practiced.” I said, looking up at Connelly.
“It’s fine. We’re not supposed to make any of our own moves yet anyway.” he said, smiling softly. “Not to mention that all the dancing we’ve done after school still counts as practice, so actually we have been practicing.”
“Besides, we’ll be able to practice before we start anyway.” Aubrey chimed in. I looked at all of them, well all of them except Alister and Mira. The ones I did look at all smiled at me sweetly, even Vincent smiled, and I smiled back.
“Okay.” I said, standing back up. “I’ll get back to lunch.”
“You’ll do great.” Connelly said, looking me in the eye and holding my hand for a minute. I smiled and then walked back to my table.
“So? What did he say?” Dale asked when I’d taken my seat.
“He said that it’s really no big deal and for me not to worry. It’s just to see if we’ve progressed enough to continue.” I said, looking at all of them.
“Well that’s a relief,” said Dale, “I’ve been nervous all day.”
“Me too.” Sue and Chase said in unison.
I looked over at Louis to see what he thought and his eyes flashed to mine, a smile breaking over his face. “So, where’re we celebrating tonight?” he asked and I smiled, sighing in relief because a part of me expected him to be mad about me running to Connelly instead of him to calm my nerves.
We threw ideas around about where to go afterwards and then separated when lunch was over. I went through my other classes as calmly as I could, but everything crumbled as I walked with Sue to the gym after school.
“Kota, you’re shivering.” she said, looking at me worriedly.
“I’m so nervous.” I said. We walked into the gym and saw a tall blue curtain separating us from the sight of the crowd. The bleachers on our side were pulled up to give us more room, because there were tons of teens back here. I saw a lot of people I had seen wearing pants earlier, but were now wearing either a dress or a skirt and I was happy I had worn a dress that day.
“I had no idea…” I said, trailing off and Sue nodded in agreement.
“Where are the guys?” I asked and she shook her head. We started looking around, working our way through the crowd of teens to the other end of the hidden side of the room. We spotted the Louis, Dale, and Chase hanging out on the wall and went over.
“Hey!” I said and they smiled.
“Hey, how does it look out there?” Sue asked, looking at the big curtain.
“It looks pretty full,” said Dale, peeking through the curtain, “and people are still showing up.”
“My parents are out there.” said Chase.
“Mine too.” added Dale.
“What about yours Louis?” I asked.
“Mine are busy. What about yours?” he asked, like I had challenged him or something.
“Mine work late.” I said, giving him a look that said, “You’re being weird”.
“Mine are out there.” said Sue, going over to Dale, who held the curtain open for her.
“Where’re your partners?” I asked, looking at them.
“They’re changing.” said Chase.
“What about yours?” asked Louis, a little roughly, and everyone looked at him oddly. Dale gave him a sharper look than all of us.
“I don’t know.” I said and looked around me. “Somewhere around here.”
“Yeah, let’s go look for them.” said Sue, giving Louis one last glance and then disappearing into the crowd. I glanced at Louis too, and he seemed a little angry about something, but I just brushed it off because I had enough to worry about without that.
“Kota, there you are.” A voice behind me said and I turned and saw Connelly. He was standing really close to me and his cherry red eyes were sparkling, his smile dazzling.
“Connelly,” I said happily. “I was looking for you.”
“Ditto.” he said. I smiled as he took my hand and led me right beside the curtain.
“Are we about to start? We have to practice a little.” I said, already getting nervous.
“We’re not about to start the test no, but we are about to do a practice dance.” he said, looking through the curtain.
“What? In front of all of those people? Why can’t we just do it back here?” I asked.
“Because we can’t.” he said, looking back at me softly. “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” he looked into my eyes.
I was about to say something, but he said, “I promise.” I closed my mouth and just looked into his eyes, and I knew we’d be okay. I felt myself relax and calm down. This wasn’t a competition. It was just a test. Just a test. Piece of cake. Then the curtain pulled back and I stopped breathing.
“Don’t look at them.” Connelly said, taking my hand and leading me around him once before bringing me to him. “Look at me.” he said and I locked eyes with him.
“Now, we’re going to dance one song from every dance style. We’ll be practicing all at the same time, but the test will be one couple at a time. Are you ready for this?” he asked, seeing my nervous expression.
“Kinda. Yes.” I said, feeling suddenly calm and relaxed again. “Are you using your thing on me?” I suddenly asked.
“Yes.” he said it like he was waiting for me to be mad.
“Thank you.” I said and he smiled.