So This is Dancing, Too?
By Cindy Rae
For Vicky, who inspired it.
She had danced with him. Her arms held up, one hand resting comfortably on his shoulder, one clasped in his furred hand. Waltz position. A dance for two. She had danced with him, not for him.
Pas de deux. Step for two. Two. Not one.
Vincent sat a long time in front of his open journal, his pen not moving. He was trying to marshal his thoughts, trying to describe what had just happened a short while ago, alongside what had happened many years ago.
At first, the comparisons were apt.
The Great Hall was touched by candle light, and a beautiful woman was standing near him. Standing close enough to touch, and dressed to charm, and smelling like... well, like something warm, and vivid.
There was music, and it was lovely. Strings, in his youth. Nothing, in his adulthood, other than what he knew they both heard. Music box sound. Distant. Ghostly. Theirs.
The beautiful woman moved with grace. She'd had lessons. The beautiful girl had done that, too.
Then the girl had handed him a lesson of a different kind.
Astonishingly, so did the woman.
When her feet had grown tired, Catherine hadn't stopped. She hadn't wanted to. She'd kept near him, her head resting on his chest, hearing the thump of his heart.
She'd watched their shadows "dance" on the wall. So had he. They'd melded perfectly, and it was like watching someone else, even while you knew it was you.
The shadows had danced as if they might just decide to take off on their own at some point, and keep dancing after the people had stopped.
So she hadn't stopped.
The music only they could hear continued to play, and she'd kept her warm body against his, relaxing the formal dance position after several minutes, dropping her tired arm a bit, just... moving.
With him. Not for him.
It had been more than swaying and less than dancing.
"I don't want to stop," she'd confessed.
"Don't, then," he'd whispered back.
That was a very long way from "No, Vincent, no." Wasn't it?
It was more like the opposite. Not "I want to go," or "You have to stop," but, "I want to stay," and "Why can't we just go on like this, forever?"
"I'm not tired. Are you tired?" she'd asked. The evening had been full of... events. And she was lying, at least a little. She was tired. Or at least, she was tiring. And she was keeping up with his longer step, in her heels.
"I am not tired. And we can stay this way as long as you like, my Catherine." He'd meant every word.
"Oh. Good." She'd nuzzled the folds of his shirt with her nose, and settled. He'd been keeping her moving, rhythmically, yet slowly. And she’d loved that he was.
The music had gentled and drifted right along with them.
"I wasn't sure you knew how to dance. Did Mary teach you how?" she'd asked.
"Yes," he'd replied simply, moving his hand down from her shoulder blade, a little. She'd “cradled” her arm atop his, allowing it to rest its weight on his. She was a feather.
A very warm and welcome one.
Catherine had recalled a memory. It was from a long time ago. He had felt her reach back for a time from her adolescence. "We used to have cotillions. Why can I hear music?"
"I don't know," he'd answered, guiding her away from the middle of the floor. He'd wanted to be closer to the wall. Wanted to see their shadows better.
His long body had been aligned with hers. Her small, sweet head so much lower than his, her beautiful hair pulled up with combs.
He'd looked enormous, by comparison. And she had been unafraid.
She'd simply sighed happily, and leaned into him a little more. She had no idea what she was giving him. She couldn’t.
"Sometimes I think I always hear music, near you," she'd said. "I know that sounds... silly, but I think I do. Faintly. Like it's a tune I'm supposed to know. Something I heard a long, long time ago and forgot. Or something I'm just learning. Something about a first time, and forever..."
Her brow had furrowed a bit, then relaxed. Whatever it was, she was not going to chase it, as she thought only of him, of this moment, and of their dance together.
His arm slid down a bit lower still, nearly to the small of her back. It had allowed her to step closer, to rest her arms around him, if she wished.
You'll be sleepy. Want your bed, soon. He'd thought it, but hadn't said it. He'd not wanted to give her ideas, not wanted to make her think he wanted her to stop.
He'd banished the voice, the feeling and the idea, as soon as it had entered his mind. It was a wisp, and then it was gone, hurled to the deepest recesses to which his awareness could throw it. No. Not here. Not now. He would not think of Lisa, with her.
With her, he could only think of… her. And think of dancing.
And then he couldn't think at all.
The music had drifted smoothly, and so had he. Her feet had slowed, but refused to stop. He knew she was listening to his heart beating in his chest, against her ear. He’d wondered if it had drowned out the music, for her. And somehow, he knew it hadn’t.
It beats for you. Only for you. Forever.
But all nights must end, all dances must conclude, and all dancers must bid goodnight. He'd walked her to her entrance, not quite certain two shadows weren't still dancing in the Great Hall, or somewhere else throughout the tunnels.
She'd been footsore, and carried her heels.
Until he'd simply carried her.
She'd cradled her head against his broad shoulder, and he'd breathed her in, along with a night that had taught him what dancing was, again.
He had moved with her, and loved her, and held her as close as a heartbeat. She’d aligned her soft body against his, and simply… drifted.
He still stared at the empty page, knowing no volume of words could contain all he felt, all the night had meant to him, meant for him. What it had represented. And what it had banished, at least in part.
It was too much to contain on one piece of paper. A volume might not be able to do it.
After a few minutes more, he hastily scribbled down seven words inside the journal, then rose to change for bed.
As he turned down the heavy quilt and extinguished the last candle, the words looked back at him from the page:
She danced with me. Not for me.
This bit of whimsy came about as a direct result of a conversation with the inimitable Vicky Chandler, during Anniversary week. Any credit for its hasty creation must rest, therefore, in her capable and loving hands.
We all inspire each other,