Want an easier way to keep up? The serialized sections are posted on my message board in order, with comment space that doesn't require sign in, only the password to post: raucous
©LK Hunsaker 2006. Do not copy. All Rights Reserved.
Evan fidgeted with the pencil he was holding. He checked the time. Only four-fifteen – she wouldn’t be off work for another forty-five minutes. Something was different with her, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. She was tired – too tired. He had gone over to help with the kids the night before, after practice, and tried to talk to her in between, but she was avoiding him. Well, not him, but conversation. There had been plenty of eye contact, and more than once she sat close to him after putting the baby down. She said the show was going well and things were fine at work.
She hadn’t mentioned Duncan; in fact, she side-stepped the issue the one time Evan tried to get her thoughts. Possibly, she was wary of him, despite an obvious physical attraction that meant nothing other than that, and was only being polite because he was Evan’s friend. The look she was giving him when Evan interrupted the day before was not one of trust. If he was going to stay around, Duncan would have to earn her trust as the other guys did before she had agreed to move to Lakewood.
Checking the time again, Evan had a thought. He put the pencil down and picked up the phone.
At four-thirty, he locked his office door and went to find his friend. It wasn’t hard. Duncan, unlike most of the gym employees, could always be found actually working. At the moment, he was organizing equipment from the mess left by kids who had been in earlier. Evan noticed them setting barbells on the floor or in the wrong slots after using them, but sighed and kept walking. The owner prohibited chastising a customer. He helped Duncan straighten the mess and grabbed his shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“It is no’ five yet.”
“We’ll make up for it tomorrow. There’s something you should see.” Calling to his assistant manager to take over for the night, Evan waited for Duncan to change out of his required gym employee tank top and into his own T-shirt and leather vest, pulling the band from his hair, then led him across to the dance studio.
The studio’s manager grinned when they entered and broke away from other teachers. “Evan, it’s been a while. I was starting to think you were avoiding me.”
“Not at all. We’ve been taking our own cars since our hours haven’t been matching often. How are you, Janet?”
“I’m well, thank you. Maybe I should change her hours?”
Evan chuckled. “Not on my account.” He introduced her to Duncan, wishing she could cover her thoughts better. It grated him to have people look at his friend that way, as though he was trouble waiting to happen. “Do you mind if we walk down to her room? She’s with her fours and fives now, isn’t she?”
“You know her schedule better than I do since she’s one of the few I don’t have to worry about. I know she’s in class, but not sure which. I’ll help you find her.” Janet discreetly moved to the side away from Duncan, but did speak to him. “Susie told me Evan had a friend visiting, but she never said where you were from.”
Duncan returned the looks of a couple of the teachers walking past checking him out, then gave Janet his attention. “Here and there. My last job was in Chicago.”
“Really? I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s an exciting place. Didn’t you like it?”
“It was interesting for a while, too crowded.”
“I couldn’t live in a big city. In fact, I don’t think I could ever go much further than Lakewood. I’m not much for traveling. Here we are.” She stopped in front of a large window.
Susie was standing in front of several small girls in leotards and short dance skirts, slowly demonstrating positions. Now and then, she stopped to assist one student or another, correcting arm and feet positions with infinite patience and a constant smile. Finally, she went to the record player and returned to face the mirrors against the back wall. Watching her reflection now, Evan couldn’t pull his eyes away to see how her students were doing. She was so graceful … so beautiful.
The mothers watching through the glass commented to Janet about the choreography. They loved it, as well as the song Susie chose for the recital. They were also casting curious stares at Duncan.
He didn’t bother to notice. His eyes were fixed on the teacher.
“She’s good with them, isn’t she?”
He only partly turned to Evan, and nodded.
“She’s our best teacher, but you didn’t hear that.” Janet winked.
Returning the smile, Evan looked back through the window. Susie’s multi-colored gauze skirt floated along with her as she demonstrated a perfect pique turn, then grinned and did a simplified version. The little ones daintily, though a bit clumsily, touched their right toes to their left knees, stepped down again, and turned a circle.
Evan returned his thoughts to business, motioning Janet away from the others. She followed willingly. “Do you have plans Saturday?”
Her confused expression turned into a smile. “No. Why?”
“Do you like baseball?”
“Sure. Who doesn’t?”
“I have four tickets to see the Red Sox this Saturday and thought I’d ask Susie and Duncan. Would you be interested in going with us?”
“I would love to, Evan. Thank you.”
Her look confused him. It was a baseball game, not the Metropolitan Ballet. She was over-appreciative for something so simple. His whole purpose was to create a casual environment for his friends to be able to chat. They were both baseball fans, which would give them some common ground other than music, and Susie having a girlfriend with her would make things easier. Janet was as close as Evan could come to that, other than Kate, and he had no interest in taking Kate to a baseball game just to draw attention to herself. Besides, he wouldn’t set Duncan up that way. Janet wouldn’t make a play for his friend. She was safer.
“You think she knows him?”
“Janet does, doesn’t she?”
Evan barely caught the women’s whispers. They were peering at Duncan, and he heard them. They turned their heads away at his glance. He met Evan’s eyes briefly, then went back to watching Susie.
Class was over, as Evan could see from the little girls running to line up at the door. The girls waited for their teacher to catch up. She came out first, making sure each one found her parent.
Susie grinned at Evan. Then, she saw how the women were keeping an eye on his friend. “You’re early. Have you been here long?”
“Long enough to catch you at work.”
She turned her attention to Duncan, walking purposely closer to him. “So he’s been forcing you to stand here and watch my class?”
Duncan, to his credit given what she was wearing, stay focused on her eyes. “No force was needed. Y’ are incredible to watch.”
“Oh … well … thank you.” One of her students interrupted to give her a hug. “Bye honey. Great job today.” The girl’s mother nearly yanked the child away, keeping as much distance as possible from the man she was talking to. Susie moved even closer to him. “So have you seen the rest of the studio?”
“Only the hallway t’ get here.”
She nodded, turning her head. “Evan, do you mind if I steal him for a while? We’ll meet you out front.”
He shrugged, not bothering to answer, since she was only asking for the sake of the mothers still trying to put street clothes on their daughters. Duncan was right. She was incredible.