Kathryn and Lee looked into each other’s eyes.
He widen his eyelids, taking in her eyebrows, nose, cheeks, hair and her lips, the lower lip turned out slightly, just short of a frown.
Her warm hand clasped in his, he took a small sideways step, his heel striking the ground.
As he raised his foot for the next step, Neill called out.
“No! No! No! Land on your toes! Or, if you’re going to land on your heel, which you always seem to do, turn your foot around so it appears you landed on your toes and spun around.”
Kathryn smiled, shrugged her shoulders and waited for Lee to begin again.
One, two, three, one footfall after another landed perfectly with the triplet.
Lee nodded at Neill in thanks.
Kathryn opened her mouth to speak, her eyebrows raised in anticipation of saying something and then stopped. She dropped her shoulders and relaxed her right hand in Lee’s left.
Lee, feeling the change in Kathryn’s grip, led Kathryn back to the starting position.
She looked at him in a way that made Lee feel he was completely in charge, a physical surrendering like an infant that’s completely comfortable bouncing in a babushka tied around a mother’s neck as she runs down the street to meet her husband coming back from the battlefront.
The two dancers held their heads high and repeated the first triplet, Lee holding Kathryn’s hand such that, with their elbows bent, they formed a small “W” in the air.
Kathryn looked down at their position.
“I need your body closer to mine, like this.” She pulled Lee’s left hand down by her right side and slightly behind her.
Lee’s bearded chin almost bumped Kathryn’s forehead.
“Exactly.” She smiled at his throat and then looked up at him.
Lee swallowed. “Okay.”
Kathryn’s innocent look revealed her true desire, to get Lee to learn how to dance.
More than anything, she wanted him in control of his partner on the dance floor, their motions in sync, their moves as one, in the same way that Shannon, an interpretive dancer, used a shawl and ballet moves to imply the simple peasant Mary one moment and, leaping into the air, falling into a crouch with a twist of the cloth, the Virgin Mother Mary holding a babe in swaddling clothes the next moment.
“Let’s try it again.”
Lee took one step sideways, his body rotating, pulling Kathryn closer as he took the second and third steps until he held her pressed close to him.
Neill clapped his hands. “Wonderful! We’re ready for the next set of steps. Lee, now that you’re facing your partner, I want you to complete a ‘walk-walk-walk.'”
As Lee completed the moves in slow motion, left toes tucked behind right heel three times in a row, Kathryn held her gaze, as if she was willing Lee to become a strong-willed man.
All Lee had to do was let go.
Drop the nervousness.
Accept his rightful place as heir to an imaginary throne.
He performed the steps awkwardly, his left arm strong when it should have been loose and his right hand held slightly loose under Kathryn’s armpit, careful not to squeeze too tightly.
As if reading his thoughts, Kathryn smiled and, with a tiny raising of her left shoulder, indicated to Lee that he should hold her closer with his left hand on her back.
“I want to try it one more time.”
Lee and Kathryn returned to their original dance position and completed the maneuvers flawlessly, Lee absolutely relaxed, his gaze into Kathryn’s eyes removing the foggy illusion of Kathryn as “Kathryn the dance instructor/partner” and opening Lee up to a view of her as someone else.
Was Lee removing one of his masks or peeling back one of hers?
Kathryn kept looking at him, her lips together, her thoughts invisible to Lee.
For the next three or four repetitions, Lee was lost in his thoughts.
He looked at Kathryn’s jawline, the colour of her skin, her hair, her dress, her dancer’s stance.
He tried to imagine the once heavier woman before him, what she was like 75 pounds ago.
Was she shy? A nerd? Silly? Self-deprecating? Funny? Sad?
She’s certainly smart, or so she seemed. He had carried on no deep, meaningful conversation with her about Fermat’s last theorem or the largest known irrational number but he believed her when she said she was a mathematician in training to become a horse breeder.
Lee knew he was gullible about a lot of things.
His employees had told him many times over that he accepted every excuse they gave him about coming in to work late but they never noticed that he always got them to complete their assignments ahead of time.
Gullibility as a ploy has its pluses, just like women who feign ignorance to boost men’s fragile egos.
Neill patted Lee’s shoulder. “Great job tonight! That’s all for now. Why don’t you practice what you learned and we’ll go on to the next set of steps later?”
Lee bowed his head toward Kathryn and dropped his right arm.
She curtsied and let go of his left hand, turning to another instructor to talk about an upcoming holiday dance party at the Flying Monkey Arts Centre.