In over twelve years of dancing, Bonnie had never taken a partner dance class, not due to lack of interest but due to lack of male dancers. Her roommate Sam convinced her to sign up for one a few weeks into college. It was free at the school gym, and since using her gym membership so many times gave her a free credit she figured there was no reason not to.
She didn’t have time to straighten her hair, so she just pulled it into a high ponytail after class and raced to the gym. She was nearly late.
The room was trapezoidal and only one wall was mirrored, which was strange. There were about ten people in the room, with an expected majority of women. In fact, there were only three men in the room, one of whom was the teacher. The girls were all chatting in a circle on the floor, stretching lightly. Bonnie tugged her tee shirt and plopped on the floor near one of the guys, who was sipping at a water bottle, one hand shoved in his pocket, If she was going to partner dance, she wanted it to be with someone who wasn’t friends with other people in the room. She preferred a man, anyhow.
“Everybody up!” The teacher said. They went through a quick stretching routine, which felt great in Bonnie’s aching muscles. He then ordered they find a partner.
“I’m Michael,” the man next to her said. She glanced up at him for the first time, and liked his amber beard and bright eyes. His voice had a southern twang, rather charming.
“Bonita,” she replied, arranging her arms on his body as the teacher was demonstrating. “Or Bonnie.”
He put his hand on her waist as told, and held his fingers stiffly, barely bending the fabric of her shirt. They began waltzing around the room, doing steps that Bonnie had done by herself for her whole life. They felt clumsy with her arms attached to someone else—someone who had clearly never danced before.
“You’re really good,” he whispered, and twirled her. Her hair pattered like rain when it hit his chest.
“Thanks. I danced forever,” she replied. “Like, competitively.”
“This is my first time dancing.”
He twirled her again, and when she came back to the front she shot him a smile in case he didn’t catch she was joking—he did. She leaned into his hands until she could feel their warmth through her clothes, then stopped before he could notice. No one had ever held her like this before. He twirled her again and she giggled; they had gotten closer, and now so much of her hair whipped his chest she could feel it.
“My hair keeps hitting you,” she said, her eyes shining. “Sorry.”
“I like it. I like all your hair,” he said, stuttering. “I keep feeling like I’m going to step on you.”
“Me too. What made you want to try a dance class?”
“I’ve been trying everything. There’s so much to do here.”
The teacher circled the room, adjusting people here and there. “The man is the frame,” he announced. “And the woman is the painting.”
“We can both be paintings,” Bonnie said when the teacher was out of earshot. “I hate when people say ‘the man is the frame.’”
“But you’re so much prettier than I am. Even your name is pretty,” Michael said and twirled her again. She whipped her head and raised onto her toes so he got a facefull of bouncing red hair. They both giggled loudly, and the teacher had to hush them.
At the end of the class, Michael said, “Coffee?”
The second the word formed in the air Michael thought of Sue Anne and Bonnie thought of Craig. Subtle regret, unsure hesitance. Bonnie paused for only a moment, forcing herself to remember….
“Yes,” she said. “Coffee, yes.”