A/N – Extra long chapter. I was too excited to wait, so here's the next chapter. Enjoy!
"Thank you guys so much for coming to the audition" I said to the group of guys had come to the audition Nora had put together. Just looking at them, I didn't have much hope, but I would go along with the spectacle if it made Nora happy.
I had to admit, some of the guys looked like they had potential, but one by one, I was disappointed. It didn't help that the janitor-kid was hanging around, laughing at each attempt.
Finally, the last guy failed, and I was left with a lot of bruises, and no partner.
I fell to my knees, ready to cry. I couldn't do this. I just couldn't do the showcase if I couldn't find a partner, and with how little time there is until the showcase, I don't think I'm going to find another partner.
"I'll do it"
The familiar voice startled me. I looked up. Janitor-kid was standing next to me, wiping his hands.
"Do what?" I asked, confused at what he was offering.
"I dunno, whatever y'all were tryin' to do out here" he said with a small laugh.
"You wanna lift me" I asked, raising my eyebrows. I bitched at him, and he was offering to help me? "Are you kidding?"
"Does it look like I'm kidding?' he replied seriously.
"Listen, you're not gonna use me to get out of cleaning the windows" I snapped, not believing him for a second.
"Okay, well, I'm not trying to get out of anything and I know you saw me the other day, so you know I can dance" he argued.
"I can find somebody else" I declined. I was not gonna dance with this prick.
"I was just trying to help" he said, walking away.
"Are you serious?" I laughed bitterly. He stopped and looked at me. "You trash the theater, making life 10 times more difficult for the students, and now you want to help?"
"I don't need to defend myself to you" he told me, getting in my face. "I know I screwed up, but you got enough rich kids prancing around here to pay for all that."
"Rich kids don't come to MSA. Most of us are on scholarship. And because of you, there's one less kid getting to chase their dream" I accused.
"Yeah, yeah, I heard your riot act already, top trying to be so condescending…"
"Condescending? Ooh, big word for a jar head!"
"Jar head? I offer to help you out and you call me a jar head?"
"Why are you offering to help me out, anyways? It's not like you cared about any of us before, that's what landed you here, scrubbing the floors!"
"Because you look like you needed one less hit" his voice was lower, and it made me realize we had been screaming at each other. "You need some help, and… well, those guys were just so pathetic… You want my help or not?" he finally asked.
I looked him over, contemplating my options. Finally I sighed and walked away, stopping a few feet away. I turned back.
I ran at him, and he lifted me as if I weighed nothing. His hands were on my ribs, and I just hovered there and he turned around, looking like he was exerting no effort at all.
My heart fluttered a bit. It was hard to be a dancer, dancing with any sort of passion, without if reflecting onto a partner. Here I was, in a fairly intimate position in another situation, being held by a very strong guy. And I was a girl, I loved guys that were tall and strong.
Finally, he dropped me, catching me in his arms like it was nothing. "Now what?" he asked, as if bored.
I sighed. Damn it, I needed his help.
"What's your name, anyways?" I asked. All this time, I didn't even know his name. I felt a little bad now. A little. Barely.
"Tyler. Tyler Gage"
"Well Tyler, let's go see the director" I sighed, grabbing his hand and dragging him to her office.
"No. What about choreographing a solo?"
Director Gordon was not happy.
"I don't have time to work out a solo, not a good one, anyway." I insisted. "I'm dancing with Nora and Blake, I need a partner for our dance."
"Have you talked to the sophomores?"
Tyler simply wandered around, looking at the various things in the director's office.
"I've auditioned a bunch of them. None of them can handle it. They're either too scared to lift me, or too weak. There are a lot of lifts in the choreography, and you know how hard the-" I was cut off when Tyler nocked something over.
"I can't believe there's no one else" Director Gordon insisted.
"None who have the time. All the other departments are busy with their own projects, and all of the other dancers already have their own piece, or can't handle ours" I explained.
"And you say that he can dance?" tension left my shoulders as I swayed Gordon.
"He's strong and flexible…"
"Flexible? Like a gymnast or something?" Tyler interrupted.
"See, that's my concern. H's not taking this seriously" Gordon said.
Tyler stopped messing around and stood beside me. "Look, I'm sorry. It's just, y'all been talkin' about dancin' like it's rocket science or something."
Gordon and I were both unimpressed by his speech, but I was desperate. "It's just for a couple of weeks, until Andrew gets better" I pleaded.
"This wouldn't just be your risk, Tara. This is Nora and Blake's piece as well" Gordon reminded me.
I've discussed this with them" I told her firmly.
"It's your senior piece" she added.
"I know" I said seriously. This was my last chance. This was my last chance to make something of myself in the dance world, and I was determined to make something of myself. Even if I had to work with the jar-head.
"Don't make me regret my decision" Gordon acquiesced.
"Thank you director!" I clapped happily bouncing on my toes. I grabbed my bad and headed for the door before I remembered Tyler. I turned back. "Rehearsal is at 2:30 tomorrow. Wear tights." I smiled, knowing a guy like him wouldn't wear tights.
"Tights?" he asked, confused. "Wait, what?"
"Hey dad" I smiled as I stepped into the kitchen. Dad was cooking at the stove, making dinner.
"Hey, sweetie" he grinned at me. I loved my dad, I really did. I looked more like my mom, we shared our body type – slender, average height – our hair color – red – and our eye color, but a lot of my features – my nose, eyes. Etc – I got from my dad.
He was really tall, probably why I liked taller guys, with black hair sprinkled with silver. He had lots of wrinkled around his eyes, laugh lines my mom called them.
"How is she?" I asked, setting my bag onto a kitchen chair. Dad shrugged. "She's awake" was all he told me. I nodded and headed to their bedroom.
"Hey mom!" I smiled as I peeked around the door. She was propped up with a bunch of pillows, reading a book. Her thin-framed gold glasses gave her the professor look she'd cultivated before she got sick.
"Tara" Mom smiled, setting her book aside. Her voice was weak from being sick. It was probably another English Literature book. That's what she had taught at the college.
"How are you feeling today?" I asked, sitting next to her on the bed. She laughed dryly, but quickly started coughing. I rubbed her back until the coughing stopped.
"I hate being sick" Mom whining playfully. I laughed lightly.
"Get some rest, mom" I told her, patting her hand before I got up. I quietly walked out and shut the door. I sat at the kitchen table and sighed sadly.
"How were auditions?" dad asked.
"Well, I found a rehearsal partner" I told him, snagging a bell pepper slice from the cutting board before he added it to the skillet.
"Hey!" he playfully slapped my hand away. "Wait till dinner." I just laughed as I plopped back down into my chair.
"I can always get a job, you know. An actually paying job, to help out with bills and stuff" I suggested, looking back at the door to the room where Mom was, hopefully, sleeping.
"Don't worry about it, sweetheart" Dad assured me, giving me a quick kiss on the head. "We'll be alright. You just worry about dancing, alright?" he looked me in the eyes, and I knew he wouldn't look away until I agreed.
"Yeah, yeah. Love you too, Dad" I smiled cheekily, snatching another bell pepper slice.
"Troublesome child" he joked, returning to cooking.
Rehearsal started without Tyler. I worked with Nora and Blake, perfecting their moves. As they practiced, I started working on some choreography.
After a while, the doors opened the Tyler walked in with a stupid grin on his face, as if he was doing me a favor just by being there.
He was, but he could at least how up on time.
I looked at my watch to see what time it was. "I'm not late" Tyler insisted as I turned off the music.
"You're not dressed, either" Blake told him. He and Nora had paused to see who had come in.
"You can change in the bathroom" I told him.
Tyler just laughed and shrugged off his coat. "Done" he declared, slamming it onto the chair.
"Where's the tights?" I asked, arms crossed over my torso as I raised my eyebrows at him.
"Do I look like I own tights?" Tyler asked, looking at himself.
I snorted. "No. Don't worry, I didn't expect much. Take your shoes off" I instructed.
"I move better with 'em on" Tyler argued.
"What, scared you're gonna slip?" I snarked.
Tyler scoffs, but he takes his shoes off. I hide my smirk. Easiest way to get a guy to do something: accuse him of being too afraid to do it.
"Watch Nora and Blake" I told him, stepping back. They started to dance, Nora speaking the movements as they went through the combination. I looked over at Tyler, who looked out of his element. "Ready? We'll take it slow"
I started walking Tyler through the moves, but he wasn't taking it seriously. I waved Nora and Blake off, they didn't need to be slowed down. I was a bit worried I was going to end up spending more time coaching Tyler than working on the dance.
"Wow, he looks like the real deal" I turned around to see Brett. "take a break, grab a coffee with me" he ordered.
"No. I have work to do, and so does your girlfriend" I drawled out the word, making it clear what I thought of him. "Nora's working with Blake. So, um… you're not needed here" I told him.
I saw Tyler scoff and roll his eyes out of the corner of my eye.
"What, and leave you with witless over there?" Brett asked.
"I'm sorry, you got a problem?" Tyler growled.
"No" Brett denied. "No, I'm all about rehabilitation."
I could not believe he said that.
"Alright, cause we can discuss this outside" Tyler told him.
"Why do you think you're so tough?" Brett bated him.
"Why don't you test me?"
"Ok, STOP!" I yelled, stepping between the too, placing my hands over Tyler's chest to stop him from getting any closer to Brett. Tyler stopped and looked down at my hands, which I dropped as I turned to face Brett.
"Alright, you're causing enough problems. Go find your girlfriend or something, but stop harassing me" I demanded.
"Fine" Brett huffed, backing away with his hands in the air. "Fine! Whatever, Tara" Brett finally left.
Tyler laughed. I just shot him a hard look. "What?" he asked.
"Again" was all I said. We started dancing again.
It was another day of practice, and Tyler was still fighting me every step of the way.
"What the hell is a piqué?" Tyler demanded.
"This" I did the move again. As I landed, I sighed. "It's stiff, I know, but…" I trailed off. Tyler looked a little surprised.
"You're not hot for your own dance?" he asked me.
I shook my head. "Nora's the more classical dancer. But it's her way that got in MSA, so…"
"It's boring" Tyler told me bluntly. I nodded.
Without warning, I dropped to the floor, sitting with my leg crossed. Tyler stepped back in surprise. "I've been thinking of telling Nora to cut me out again. There's no way I'll be ready to do the routine with her by the showcase." I confided.
"But that director-lady said this was your senior showcase. Doesn't that mean this is your last shot?" Tyler asked.
"Yeah" I shrugged. "But I'm not going to let me be the reason Nora and Blake fail" I told him.
Tyler grabbed my hand and pulled me up. "Well, then let's get to work" he said.
I smiled and pulled my hand from his, getting into position. "Alright. Ready? And, down, up, step, turn, piqué, and…" I turned from my piqué, only to smack into Tyler's – very muscular – chest.
I gasped in surprise. What was I about this guy that had my heart pounding constantly?
"Like this?" he asked, his voice steady, his eyes closed, his forehead resting against mine.
If I didn't dislike him so much, I would be in serious danger.
"Okay, I am starving" Lucy's loud voice broke the moment, and I quickly stepped back from him. But it must not have been fast enough, because I saw the smug look on Lucy's face
"Tyler's helping me until Andrew's back. Blake left me for Nora" I laughed.
"And why is this the first time I'm hearing about it?" Lucy demanded, still looking at Tyler like she was about to devour him.
"Because it's not that big a deal, Lucy. And we still have work to do" I told her.
"Wait, I can't watch?" Knowing Lucy wasn't going to shut up, and wasn't going to leave on her own, I grabbed her arms and pushed her out of the room, shutting the door firmly once she was out.
I looked over at Tyler, who was trying not to laugh. "You can laugh, it's okay." As soon as I spoke, Tyler was laughing. "Yeah, that's Lucy. She's a little… forward, but she and Nora are my best friends" I shrugged in a what-can-you-do kind of way as Tyler slowly stopped laughing.
When we finished rehearsing, it was dark.
"Ok, um… I'll see you tomorrow" I looked up at Tyler shyly. He wasn't what I expected. I mean, yeah it was cocky and dismissive, but…
"Alright. I'll see you tomorrow" Tyler agreed. I started to walk away, but turned back.
"Tyler?" he stopped and looked back at me.
He smiled and nodded, and walked away.