“The one you took just now. Of me being a dying cow and choking.”
She laughs again. It’s a very nice laugh. I find myself wanting to hear it again. Just a laugh, I remind myself. Nothing to obsess over.
“I didn’t record you. And even if I did, I wouldn’t post it.”
I fold my arms, narrowing my eyes. “You lie.”
“You dare accuse me of lying?” she gibes playfully, returning to the barre.
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
Her shoulders sag the tiniest amount, and I’m afraid I’ve said something wrong. “I… What?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.”
“What did I say?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Please tell me.”
She hesitates, and I watch her chest rise and fall. Finally: “I don’t want to be known as The Mean Girl. But it might as well be stamped onto my forehead for the rest of my life.” She tilts her head toward me and smiles. “You’re thinking it right now, aren’t you.”
“No,” I lie.
She smiles knowingly and turns back toward the barre.
“Are you a ballerina?” I ask, dropping my bag next to the wall perpendicular to the mirror.
She piques, wobbling a bit before finding her balance. “I don’t… like labels. Took all kinds of lessons--ballet’s my favorite though. I’m just a dancer.”
“Yes! Finally someone else!”
She looks at me quizzically. Her outstretched leg rises over her head.
“I… I mean. I didn’t take any classes either, but I love to dance.”
And, there it is. The secret’s out. She probably’d already guessed due to the fact that this is, in fact, a dance studio, but still. It’s weird to say what I’ve been hiding for two years out loud, laid bare in front of someone.
Not just someone--Jenna Markowitz. If school was a kingdom, she’d be the queen. Who will no doubt tell everyone my secret passion at school tomorrow. Something I’ve kept so long, something that is mine and mine alone, out in the open for everyone to know.
And of course everyone will listen to what she says, with her beautiful skin and her shiny hair and those eyes that I’d like painted onto a canvas.
She wouldn’t, my traitorous brain says. She wouldn’t tell anyone.
Hah! I scoff. Why wouldn’t she? I would.
She’s a much better person than you.
Yeah, right. Jenna Markowitz?
“Madeline?” Her voice interrupts my thoughts.
I look at her, at this beautiful specimen of a girl, and it occurs to me that maybe she isn’t all that bad.
What a concept.
She helped me stop choking, didn’t she? She’s been nothing but kind to me in this little studio, on this Wednesday that could’ve been like any other one except for the fact that it wasn’t.
I look down at her forehead, and in fact the words “The Mean Girl” are not stamped on it in big red letters.
She smiles at me.
I smile back.
She walks the ten steps of space between us. And holds out a hand.
I take it. Swallow twice.
Say, “Can I offer you this dance?”