Riley sighed and placed her hands on her temples and slowly started to rub them. It was Wednesday and so far, her week had been rough to say the least. She had gone into this week with a positive mindset and determined to be productive. However, she kept having trouble focusing. Anytime she started working on something remotely related to the studio or regionals her mind drifted and she got lost in her thoughts. Most of her thoughts were related to what had happened the last time she had been studio head. Regardless of what James, Ms. Kate, or anyone else told her, in Riley's mind she was to blame for the regional's loss. She failed to meet her responsibilities as studio head, and in the process nearly lost the love of her life because she got overwhelmed and let her insecurities take over. She put her own problems ahead of her duties as studio head and because of that A-Troupe went from being International Champions to regional losers in a matter of months.
She was determined not to let her personal issues prevent A Troupe from winning regionals. She wasn't going to let anyone down this time. So what if it meant missing the occasional meal or running on only a couple hours of sleep. This was her dream job, and she was not going to fail at it.
Currently she was finding it hard to concentrate on the studio newsletter because she could hear members of A Troupe arguing about something.
James was out of town for the day. He had gone to Peterborough to visit Piper and Finn at university. Wednesdays were a fairly quiet day at the studio, the only dance practice was A Troupe in the afternoon. However, Riley had spent the morning lost in her own thoughts and worries and was now behind on her work.
Riley let out a sigh and got up from her desk. She wasn't going to get any work done with all the noise anyway.
In the middle of the floor a few of the dancers were arguing with each other while the rest stood around watching the situation unfold.
"Okay dancers what is the problem?" Riley asked loudly trying to be heard over the arguing. When it was apparent that she hadn't been lowed enough she placed her fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly before yelling "Hey!"
In an instant the arguing stopped, and all of the dancers turned and looked at their studio head.
"Can someone please explain to me what all the arguing is about? I know James isn't here, but I expected that all of you were mature enough to practice your routines without supervision."
Everyone looked at each other but remained silent.
Riley sighed and looked around before her eyes landed on Devon, West's younger cousin. "Devon what happened?"
"Teach I think everyone's mojo is off today. Some of us are going right and some of us are going left. Everyone's energies are all out of sync and now our rhythm is off." The teen said casually with a shrug.
Riley and the other dancers stared at Devon. Riley swore that sometimes it was like there was a West clone in the studio.
"Right." She looked over at Lucy and gave her a look, using her eyes to ask the reliable dancer to explain what was going on.
"The boys were practicing their group number on one side, and we were practicing on the other side and their spacing was off."
"It was not." one of the boys yelled.
"Frankie not now." Riley said, quieting him and giving Lucy an opportunity to finish explaining.
"Their spacing was off and we kept getting into each other's space and Matt bumped into Cleo and knocked her down. Frankie went to help her up and Matt made a comment about Cleo's dancing and then they started arguing and Frankie jumped in."
Riley nodded, giving Lucy a grateful smile before turning to look at the dancers. If she was being honest, they all looked frustrated and tired. They looked stressed. She thought back to the square dancing that happened before internationals. An idea formed in her head.
"I think we're done with practice for the day."
The dancers looked at each other in shock. It wasn't like Riley to cancel practice, especially with Regionals in just over a month.
"I want you all to go clean up and get changed and meet me downstairs."
"Why?" Cleo asked.
"For a lot of you this is your first regionals. You're all stressed and when you're stressed you can't focus on your dancing and when you can't do that, you're going to make mistakes. So today we are going to take a break from stressing about regionals and we are going to go on a field trip."
"To where?" Lucy asked.
"That is a surprise. Now go get ready, I will meet you all at the van in fifteen minutes."
"When you say van do you mean the old van that James and his band used to use?" Frankie asked.
"Sweet." He yelled and soon all the dancers were running off to change shouting out speculations as to where they might be going.
"Dude move over." Frankie said to Devon as he tried to squeeze between him and Cleo.
"Why don't you just sit somewhere else?" Devon asked in annoyance as his friend shimmied himself between him and Cleo.
"I called same seats bro."
"Same Seats? You've never been in this van before." Devon cried in disbelief.
Riley couldn't help but chuckle and shake it head. Listening to the two boys argue reminded her of her own time in A Troupe. Devon and Frankie reminded her so much of West and Eldon. She couldn't help but smile when she thought about the old days. Life had been a lot simpler back then.
"Everyone buckled?" Riley asked.
"We're all good. Let's hit the road Ms. Frizzle." Matt called from the back making them all laugh.
"Alright everyone. Meet back here in two hours and guys," Riley said looking at Matt and Devon. "Do not try feed the octopus or pet the stingray. Just don't get into trouble."
The field trip was to Ripley's Aquarium. It was one of Riley's favourite places to go and had been ever since it opened. She had also found looking at the fish and other sea creatures soothing. It brought her a sense of peace.
As her students went off in different directions to explore the various aquariums, Riley found herself drawn to a tank full of Clown Fish.
One of her favourite movies since she was little had been Finding Nemo. Watching the Clown Fish swimming around in the tank made her think about that movie.
"Just Keep Swimming"
She thought about that quote from the movie as she starred at the fish swimming around in the tank. They just kept swimming regardless of what was going on around them. She was kind of like a Clown Fish right now. Regardless of everything going on with the renovations at the studio, regionals and planning the wedding, Riley just kept going. The only difference was that unlike the fish who didn't seem to tire of swimming, she was starting to feel as though she was slowing down. She was starting to get tired of swimming.
Shaking herself from her thoughts, Riley moved on towards another aquarium, but in the back of her mind she kept repeating that three-word phrase.
Just Keep Swimming
"I'm home." James called as he walked in the front door a few hours later. "Riles?" he called as he hung up his jacket and made his way into the living room. He smiled at the sight he came across.
Riley was asleep on the couch, curled up under a blanket with a book in one hand. The television was one playing a rerun of 'The Office'. James grabbed the remote and turned on the screen before bending over and placing a kiss on her head. He smiled as he watched her face scrunched up and she opened her eyes. A smile formed across her face when she saw him.
"Hey." She said is a soft sleepy voice. "How was your day? How are Piper and Finn?"
"It was great. They're great. It's a really nice university. How was your day?"
"It was fun."
"How did practice go?" James asked as he sat down on the couch beside her.
Riley gave him a somewhat nervous smile. "It didn't."
James raised his eyebrow and gave her a questioning look, so she continued. "Honestly Babe everyone was stressed out today and it was affecting their dancing, so I decided they all needed a break. So, we all piled into that old van your band use to use, and I took them to the aquarium and then we want out for burgers. I think it really did them all a lot of good." Riley said with a proud smile on her face.
James smiled and nodded. "Well, that's good. I'm just disappointed that I missed all of the fun." He said giving her a playful pout.
"Next time babe. I promise."
"How are you? Did you have a good time?"
She nodded. "I really did, it was a nice break from all that paperwork." Riley said before letting out a yawn.
"I'm glad to hear that." He said and pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "We should probably get to bed though."
"Carry me?" Riley asked, giving her fiancé an adorable pleading smile.
James chuckled and rolled his eyes playfully "Of course sweet girl." He gently placed one arm under her knees and another behind her back and gently lifted her into his arms.
Riley let out a content sigh and nestled her head in the crook of his neck. She really had meant what she said. Today was good. She enjoyed taking a break from all the administrative stuff and spending time with A Troupe. Maybe if she just kept swimming, she'd be able to swim past the funk she'd been in lately.
What she didn't realize was that right now she was about to swim right into a storm.