Pas de Deux At Midnight

Rowan could not deny that Netta's response had piqued his interest, but her thread had also served to cull any future exploration. Though he once again heard the music, he stayed in bed and allowed his imaginings to soothe him to sleep. And again the next night, and the next. On the fourth night he could bear it no longer, so whispering an apology to Will for what he was about to do, he slipped into his dance clothes and crept out of the door, towards the hall.

This time, he went not to the auditorium, but to the wings. As he peered out onto the stage, however, Netta was alone. Where were her dancers? She swept from side to side as though looking for someone - suddenly, Rowan understood: she had no partner. He felt like such a fool for not realising it sooner.

"Do I dare?" he whispered. "It is not my place, and yet I can't bear to see her dance alone." He dithered for a moment more, but the decision was already made. Netta looked up, her eyes wide, as the young man leaped on to take her hand, but she saw his intention at once. With the music of the invisible orchestra pulsing through them, the two dancers performed a midnight pas-de-deux. Oh, and how they danced together!

The fact that they had never practiced together made it all the more remarkable, but it would have gobsmacked the most critical of audiences anyway. The musicality within them both was clear in the motion of their feet, the way Rowan knew exactly when to catch Netta, and the way she knew exactly when to fall, with her back arching in a beautiful arabesque. And then she seemed to be flying, held aloft by her partner.

But the music had to come to an end and so it did. With a face full of fear and shock, Netta realised fully for the first time who it was that held her in his arms. "Rowan," she whispered. "You shouldn't be here." The magic was broken - the high was gone, but the pain had not yet kicked in.

"You needed me, remember," he replied. "And I couldn't resist the music." He was a little hurt by her words. While they had danced, it had felt like they had a connection, but now things were the same as they had been before.

"They won't like it that you danced with me." Eerily, she was looking over his shoulder as she spoke. "It was supposed to be him." But the prospect of dancing with this nameless partner seemed not to please Netta but to frighten her. "And you - you saw them the other day, did you not?"

"Yes. They were dancing: of course I saw them." It seemed like a stupid question to Rowan, who couldn't understand her agitation. "They were pretty hard to miss."

"You weren't supposed to ... they weren't ..." She paused, frowned, and finally seemed to come to her senses. "There was no one there." Her face was white, making her black hair seem even darker.

Today there would be no fooling Rowan, but as it happened an argument was not necessary. He was opening his mouth to speak when the music began once more, and the lights swept up. Another dancer had entered the stage.

He wore red, clashing strongly with Rowan's sober black and white, and Netta's dove-grey tutu. His brown hair was swept back from his face and his expression was haughty, arrogant; with every step he took towards them he appeared to be saying, "Submit before me, I am the greatest!" There was a dagger at his waist and it was on this that his hand rested.

"Rowan, he is here!" Netta was on her toes, holding him. She knew what was coming. This would be a fight, a fight over the right to dance with her, a fight that would end only in exile or death. Perhaps dramatised, but the man in red was not one to give in easily, and he would not allow Rowan to escape. "Stay with me. Don't leave. Please, Rowan."

The End

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