Lee sat three rows back from the dance floor, reading news headlines on his phone, waiting for Karen to show up.
Ed walked along the front row, greeting his dance customers like best friends.
“Lee!” Ed squeezed between plastic chairs to reach over and shake Lee’s hand. “Where’s your better half?”
“Working a little overtime today.”
“Well, don’t let that stop you from asking these nice ladies to dance!” Ed patted Lee on the shoulder and nodded at Guin.
Guin was talking to an old friend of hers she’d invited for a group lesson.
Guin grabbed Trischnia’s and pulled her over to Lee.
“Lee, this is Trischnia. Would you dance with her?”
Lee stood up and walked out onto the dance floor, naturally cradling Trischnia’s right hand in his left as he places his right hand at her waist.
Trischnia blushed, her rosy cheeks matching the bright red hair framing her face and cascading down her back.
Trischnia looked up, blinking her eyelids several times before she lowered her head to stare at Lee’s shirt. “Hi, I know. Guin told me your name.”
They began a slow waltz. “I love your hair colour.”
“Oh this? Thanks. I did it two weeks ago. My roots are already showing.”
“Looks good to me!”
Trischnia blushed again, leaning her head on Lee’s shoulder, pulling herself in closer, avoiding Lee’s calm gaze.
“You live here?”
“Yeah. I’m taking classes at university while I decide what I want to do.”
“Uh-huh. Alabama A&M or UAH?”
“Both, actually. Guin thinks I should follow her into rocket propulsion but my heart is in my art, painting, mostly.”
“You paint? That’s awesome.”
Trischnia smiled. She could see why Guin liked dancing with Lee, and why she’d want to build his dance repertoire with his wife, Karen.
After the song finished, Lee escorted Trischnia to a circle of chairs where Guin, Shelmi and a woman with purple hair are talking together intensely.
The woman with purple hair leapt to her feet and grabbed Lee’s arm, pulling him close and pretending to snuggle in his chest.
“Girls, unless you know a guy, don’t start your first dance getting all up in his business. I know that’s often all we want, a nice hug with a nice guy, but they’re not all like this guy. What’s your name?”
“I’m Bai. Mind if we dance?” She continued to hold him close. “Ever heard of Balboa?”
“No problem. It seems hard but it’s really easy. Step step step kick. Step step step kick. See, simple.”
Neil, his radar tuned to anyone dancing Balboa, quickly shuffled across the room, yelling “Bal!” as he approached.
He put his hands on both their back, pushing them closer.
Just then, Karen walked in, seeing her husband holding a strange woman so close it looked like the woman was kissing Lee on the chest and Lee was kissing the woman on her purple-haired head. More confusing was seeing the only other man she trusted to hold her in his arms, Neil, pushing Lee to make full body contact.
A rush of old fears and insecurities flooded Karen’s thoughts, remembering the times before they married when Lee had maintained an open relationship with several women while he pledged his undying love for her, unknowingly forcing Karen into tears because she was born and raised in a monogamous relationship world.
She would call off their dating only to have him offer his undiverted attention again and again, until the last time when, after six months of being apart and not talking to one another, he showed up at the door of her flat with a dozen roses and an engagement ring as he promised her five years before in a series of poems he’d written when they first started dating.
For their 25th wedding anniversary, they had bought each other dance lessons.
And now this…?
Karen burst into tears and quickly left the dance studio, thinking no one had noticed.
Ed missed nothing.
He watched as Neil and Bai got Lee to comprehend why Balboa was such an important technique to use on a crowded dance floor.
Although Lee seemed comfortable, Ed was concerned about Karen.
“Hey, guys! Let’s save that for Thursday! Lee, I need to talk to you about your account. Can you come over here?”
Bai let go of Lee. “It’s okay. You’ve got the idea.”
Lee stepped into Ed’s office. “Is something wrong?”
Ed led Lee out the side door of the studio. “Hate to ask but is everything okay with you and Karen?”
“She’s out in the hallway, crying. Why don’t we skip tonight’s lesson and you take care of her?”
“Absolutely. I’ll see what’s the matter. She’s been pretty stressed at work lately.”
“Yeah, Lee. That’s probably it.”