By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)
The quaint little town of Calla Springs in Nysa is widely known for many things, chief among them being the breathtaking scenery that surrounds it. With the majestic mountain Lilia towering over them like a guardian angel and the meadows full of flowers of every hue spread out like the train of an elegant dress, it makes for a very lovely scene indeed. But the most spectacular of them all is when the sun is peeking over the horizon on Easter morn, when the morning rays catch the slowly-melting snows of Lilia just so that the mountain seems to sparkle, while the dew on the flowers catches the rays in much the same way, making the landscape look aglow with glorious pinks and golds. This is really a magical time, as one young fellow in particular found out on one special Easter morn.
David Henson was a fun person to hang around with, and always had a way with the ladies. What could be said? David was probably the only guy in town who truly enjoyed dancing. He’d enter into as many dance competitions as possible, he enjoyed it that much. Most other guys did it out of duty, and as soon as they didn’t have to dance, they’d huddle up at a table or in a corner to talk sports. Ballroom dancing wasn’t the only kind of dance David liked; he had taken several years of ballet and ice skating as well. And the thing was, he was good at all of it too, and he knew it. Of course, he was more than willing to share his love and knowledge of dancing with anyone willing to hang around and listen, but it was usually girls who wanted to learn a new dance step or just to dance with the best dancer around. David had danced with every girl in town, practically, and preferred the lovely Natalie Hart as his partner for many a competition. But one day, that all changed.
“Hey, um, David?” asked Natalie one day as the two were practising in the dance studio.
“Yes Natalie?” David smiled at her.
“Um, there’s something I need to tell you, and I’m afraid I’ve been putting it off,” Natalie began slowly.
“What is it?”
“I can’t participate in this year’s Easter Formal Competition,” she said slowly.
“Uh, why not?”
“I’ve been asked to join the International Ballet Troupe and I said yes,” she blurted.
David’s eyes widened. “You did? Without, without talking to me first?”
Natalie sighed. “David, I want to follow my dream. I’m sorry, I can no longer be a part of yours.”
“But . . .”
“No, David, my mind is made up. Thank you for everything, though, it’s been wonderful having you as a partner. But, it’s time to move one. Goodbye, David.”
“But Natalie!” She was already out the door before he could get another word in. He stood there for a while, looking at the door, somewhat hoping she would come back, yet somehow knowing that she wouldn’t. How could she do this to him? They had been dance partners for so long that everyone was expecting it! And to be honest, so was he. So yes, she should follow her dreams, but, shouldn’t he have gotten a two week notice, at least? At least some kind of inkling that she had fully considered joining the International Ballet Troupe? What was so wrong in letting him know? Was she afraid that he might change her mind? He certainly would have tried. “A-alright, fine then! I can make a great dance partner out of any girl!” he announced to no one in particular. That set him on his search for the perfect dance partner, preferably someone like Natalie, but almost anyone would do at this point. As long as he could mold her into the best dancer around, that was all he needed, especially since the Easter Formal Competition was only three months away and there was still a lot of training to be done.
David threw himself into the search for a new partner with fervor. He was not going to let Natalie’s departure phase him, though it did hurt. He didn’t have to search very far, as a matter of fact, as fate seemed to throw a young lady into his path. David didn’t think anything of it at first when they kept running into each other at school. But when he caught her dancing in the halls when she thought no one was looking, he began to consider asking her to be his partner. He could tell that she had grace and a swiftness and sureness of foot that made for excellent dancing potential. The next time he nearly ran into her, he decided to take a chance.
“Um, excuse me, hello, I’m David Henson.”
“Oh, hello! A pleasure to meet you David. I’m Harriet Brody.”
“A pleasure to meet you. Um, I know this is sudden considering we just met, but, I was wondering if you’d be interested in being my dance partner for the upcoming Easter Formal Competition. I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to like to dance.”
Harriet reddened. “Oh, you saw some of that, didn’t you?”
“Yes, quite by accident, I assure you. But, you look like you’re pretty good, so I was wondering if you’d be interested in being my dance partner.”
“Oh, um, I . . . I would like . . . some time to think it over, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all, it was a sudden proposition. Just, please let me know as soon as possible, there still needs to be a lot of practice for the Easter Formal.”
“Right, I will let you know as soon as I’ve made up my mind.”
“Thank you.” David didn’t have to wait too long, for the very next day, she sought him out.
“Alright, I’ll do it, I’ll be your dance partner in the Easter Formal.”
David beamed, “Really? You will?”
Harriet nodded, “Yes.”
“Awesome! Meet me at the Hanging Gardens Dance Studio at four o’clock, and we’ll get started practicing.”
“OK! See you later!”
“See ya!” Harriet showed up at the Hanging Gardens Dance Studio at four o’clock sharp, and the two dove into practice. However, two weeks later, things were starting to get tense between the two, despite David thinking how well they complimented each other. When she showed up a few minutes late Monday afternoon, he had to talk to her.
“Where were you yesterday?”
“It was Sunday! I went to Mass and spent the day with my family!”
“We need to practice every day . . .”
“No we don’t, you said so yourself we’ve been progressing quite nicely. Let’s give Sunday to Whom it belongs, the Lord, and get some rest. Getting burnt out will do us even less good than missing a little step.”
“But . . .”
“No! Either we take Sundays off, or you can go find a new partner. I only came in the last couple of weeks because we needed the extra time to practice, that’s it.”
“Yeah, well, a notice would have been nice,” he mumbled.
“A notice? Really? I thought you of all people would understand that dancers need to rest or else they’ll burn out. Is this competition really that important to you?”
“Well, yeah . . .”
“So important that you’ll risk burning out to win first place? Is it really worth that?”
“I, I . . . I don’t know.”
Harriet sighed. “Well, until you’re sure, we’re not practicing. Once you’ve made up your mind, let me know. You know where to find me.”
“B-but, I . . .” But she was already out the door. David watched the door for a few minutes before letting out a huff and a grumble. How could she do this to him? The Easter Formal was only a few weeks away, and they needed all the practice they could get! Really, couldn’t she have at least told him beforehand that she wanted Sundays off? Yes, it was true, he would have said no, let’s keep practicing, but a fair warning would have been nice. He paused. Was he really that easy to read that she could figure him out in just a couple of weeks? He shook his head; it wasn’t possible, no one could get to know anyone that quick! He was probably overreacting, but Harriet knew that he wanted to practice as often as possible, even on Sundays. He let out a sigh, who was he kidding? That was pretty obvious! He had made it perfectly clear that the Easter Formal was his sole goal this year – the best dancing agents would be there! He merely let out a grunt as he went back to practicing. Fine, she could have her Sundays off, but he would continue to practice every day, no matter what. Nothing was more important than the Easter Formal, nothing at all.
The weeks flew by, and February gave way to March. David and Harriet continued to practice for six days a week, and despite getting her Sundays off, David was surprised at how well she kept up with him. David began to think that maybe, just maybe, taking a day off a week wouldn’t be so bad after all. But he wanted the Easter Formal to be perfect, and decided not to take Sundays off until after the Easter Formal was over.
As Easter quickly approached, after which the Easter Formal would not be long in coming, David and Harriet practically redoubled their efforts in practice. David found much to his delight that everything was going quite smoothly, and the two were getting better each day. At least, that’s what he perceived, Harriet was acting rather colder than usual, but he didn’t seem to notice one bit. He had become so absorbed in the perfection of their dance that he didn’t notice much at all, even when Harriet became colder and colder. David actually seemed perfectly fine with it as he could almost mold her into the formidable dancer Natalie was. But Harriet was getting tired of it and a few days before Easter, she finally got so fed up that she had to have a talk with David after their practice.
“David, do you really, really want Natalie to dance with you?”
“Uh, what? What makes you say that?”
“Because you keep insisting on turning me into Natalie. I’m not Natalie, I’m Harriet!”
“I know that . . .”
“Do you?” David glanced at her questioningly. Harriet sighed, “You keep insisting on me not only using Natalie’s dance moves, using her style instead of mine, but you also want me to start talking like her and acting like her!”
“Wh-what? B-but . . .”
“So you would rather Natalie. Is it because dancing was as important to her as it is to you? So important that you can’t consider doing anything else?”
David’s eyes flashed, “Yes, it’s important to me, it’s what makes me so unique in Calla Springs!”
“But not to the other male dancers in the competition,” Harriet stated calmly. David’s mouth clamped shut; how could he answer to that? “Listen, I’m taking Good Friday and Holy Saturday off as well as Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. . .”
“I can, and I will, or you can start looking for another partner. I’ve put up with you trying to turn me into another Natalie this long, I deserve it. We’ll continue the same practice as before until the Easter Formal, after that, well, we’ll see.”
“You’ll leave me too?”
“That’s all up to you, that is, if you’re willing to dance with Harriet Brody instead of Natalie Hart.” David swallowed hard. “The choice is yours, Mr. Henson, and you have until the practice after the Easter Formal to decide.” Harriet picked up her things and walked out, happy to have finally put her foot down. She really hadn’t wanted to – she really liked him – but sometimes, one just had to put one’s foot down when certain lines were being crossed, and she refused to be Natalie Hart. She wanted him to notice her, not try to mold her into someone she wasn’t.
The four-day holiday seemed to drag on for David, as the manager of the dance studio seemed to think that taking a four-day break was a good idea too, leaving David to find some other way to entertain himself. But his thoughts kept going back to dancing, and he took whatever opportunities he could to get some practice in, whether it was alone in his room, through the aisles of the grocery store, or just simply in the park, where few eyes could observe. When Easter Sunday arrived, David snuck out of the house and went to the park to get some more practice in before everyone else got up for the annual reenactment. However, a young man approached him during the middle of it.
“Why are you practicing so much?” he asked when David noticed him and paused.
“Well, I want to be able to win the Easter Formal . . .”
“Is that really the most important thing in the world?”
“To me it is.”
“Is that really the most important thing in the world?”
“Didn’t you hear me the first time? Yes, it is!”
“So important that you’ll wear yourself thin trying to win, trying to be perfect?”
“What would you do if you lost?”
“I . . . I don’t know. Start practicing for next year?”
“And if you lost the use of your legs?”
“What? Lose my legs? How would that happen?”
“Oh, I, I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“You must practice a lot, yes, but, you must also rest or else face the consequences.”
“And should dancing really be that important to you? So important, that not only could you lose the use of your legs, but lose so many other precious things?”
“God, family, friends, love,” the young man listed.
“I-I . . .”
“Pain, loss, suffering, it all comes with it. If you’re not willing to work hard for something of far more meaning than some silly prize, you’re also not willing to accept any setbacks you might get to test your patience and perseverance.”
“What are you talking about? Why do you insist on talking in riddles?”
The young man merely smiled, “Think, David, once dancing has left you too, what is left?” David gulped. Dancing, leave him? What absurdity! But, the more he thought about it, the more he began to feel tired, his shoulders felt heavy. “Do not worry, and do not fear, you still have plenty of time to think it over and realize what you have done wrong. Once you have figured it all out, you know who to go to to repent. He is always waiting, don’t make Him wait any longer. Besides, He knew what He was doing when He stated that you should work six days and rest on the seventh. He’s not stupid. Also, you should keep holy the Lord’s day. Now go, the reenactment has begun.” And just as suddenly as he came, he disappeared. Feeling guilty, David joined his family for the reenactment and Mass, and thought over everything the young man said. He couldn’t help it, the words resounded in his mind on repeat, urging him to reconsider his priorities. He thought on it all of Easter Sunday, and into Easter Monday. Soon, his thoughts turned to everything he had said and done to Harriet, and slowly began to realize what a horrible person he had been to her. And the more he thought about her, the more he wanted to do right by her.
It was early Tuesday morning when he got a brilliant idea for a new dance, and it was inspired by Harriet’s style. He had been paying attention to her style without realizing it, and set out for the park to try out a few dance steps. He tried the new dance several times, and found it much more to his liking than the dance they had been practicing.
“Alright then, we might not win the competition, but at least this will be more comfortable for the both of us,” he muttered as he made his way to school. A small grin appeared on his face, though he did his best to keep it hidden until he could speak to Harriet before practice.
When the moment came that she arrived at the dance studio, David couldn’t keep his excitement in any longer and blurted out the whole story. Harriet was thoroughly surprised by the strange turn of events, and even more surprised by the tale of the young man who questioned David’s priorities, but she was happy with the results and picked up the new dance rather quickly. As David had figured, they didn’t win the Easter Formal, but they did win third place, and that was better than not winning at all. Besides, as David pointed out, there was always next year, and, as he glanced at Harriet, there were more important things than a competition.