When I first released Dance For Me, the book ended just as Natasha started her second audition for the TV commercial. I was going for an energetic rush of an ending: I wanted to end with Natasha finally having found her love of dancing again. But with hindsight, it was pretty abrupt. So I wrote this longer version for the second edition in which we see the full dance, find out whether she gets the part or not and finish focused on her and Darrell. Then there’s the epilogue, which you can also find here on my blog.
I burst through the door of the audition room and saw Sharon Barkell do a double take. I’d taken off the helmet, but I was still wearing a biker jacket and my pointe shoes were stained brown with mud.
“Is everything…are you alright?” she asked.
I walked to the center of the room. “Everything’s just fine,” I told her, beaming. Darrell crept in and I tossed him the helmet and jacket. He took a seat at the back, just like the first time.
I wasn’t kidding myself. We both had a long way to go, and I knew that when the adrenaline wore off there would be more pain as we healed. But knowing that we’d face that together, it seemed possible. Anything seemed possible.
“Okay,” said Sharon. “Same thing as last time, but with a little more lightness. Give me a second.” She fiddled with her laptop, cuing up the music.
I looked across at Darrell. He’d done his part, but lifting the guilt from me was still only the first step. The next one I had to take on my own.
For the first time in a long, long time, I let go of everything. I let go of the feeling of the still-fresh cuts on my thigh. I let go of the feeling of my legs, aching from the punishment I’d given them on the exercise bike. I even let go of Darrell—for a little while—and trusted that he’d be there when I needed him. As the music started, I allowed myself to just…be.
I sank into my plié and my legs didn’t feel like they should—worn out and throbbing from the endless pedaling and then from gripping onto Darrell’s bike with my thighs. They felt light and springy; I felt free. I pushed into the jeté and my heart lifted in my chest as I got that glorious feeling of floating that I’d searched so long for.
I can’t be dancing well, I thought. This is too easy. It felt almost lazy.
And then I realized that it wasn’t lazy at all—it was just normal, after years of dancing and walking and living with the weight of the guilt pressing me down.
I went into the first of the three turns and something happened to my mouth. My lips started twitching and at first I tried to control it, to make my face a mask. Dancing had let me escape the guilt, but I’d still had plenty of practice, over the years, of dancing while holding back the tears.
But this didn’t feel like tears. It felt simple and pure and joyous. I was smiling, then grinning like a loon. Something was waking up, deep down inside me, something I’d buried so long ago that I’d forgotten it still existed. I hadn’t felt it since I was fifteen—the simple pleasure of dancing.
For six long years I’d danced to escape, danced to punish myself, danced to hold back the guilt. It had been like trying to stand against a raging, dark river, struggling to keep my head up, forcing my limbs to move through the heavy water. And now I was flying through glorious cool, clean air.
I moved through the combination, enjoying the feeling of each foot hitting the floor instead of being terrified of making a mistake. When I’d done the pas de bourrée in the rehearsal, I’d used my anger at Darrell to make me steady and strong. Now, I was drawing on him in a different way. Instead of directing fiery rage out towards him, I was basking in the warm glow of being loved.
I sank into a plié and began my spin, one leg whipping out to twirl me. Just as before, I looked at Darrell every time I faced the front. Before, I’d been wrapped up in my past—it had dominated me so completely that I hadn’t been able to imagine a future. Now, all I could think about was the life we could have together. By the final spin, the room was blurry and I had to blink to clear my eyes.
I flowed through the final few steps in a warm fug and then it was time for the second piece. The slow, romantic one that I’d got through the first time by imagining I was dancing with Darrell. Back then, I’d never known him, let alone touched him.
Now, as I moved into an arabesque, I could feel his strong hands sliding down my back, keeping me warm and safe. I could feel his chest against me as I twisted, strands of my hair brushing his cheek. I pirouetted and felt his lips on my neck—memory, this time, not just imagination. I thought I’d never feel that again—I thought I’d lost him forever. Now I knew I had him for good.
My leg went out in a développé and his hands were there, smoothing down my skin. I arched my back and my head rested as if on his shoulder, his whispers in my ear. When I sank down into a demi plié to finish, I was smiling, my eyes closed, his lips hot on the nape of my neck.
“Well,” said Sharon. “That’s an easy call. You’ve got the part.”
I had to blink a few times. I’d forgotten she was there.
Then it sank in and I ran to Darrell, jumping into his arms and letting him wrap me into his chest. I slid my arms around his neck and pulled myself as tight against him as I possibly could, suddenly needing reassurance that this was real, that I wasn’t going to wake up grasping at a dream.
He knew—that’s how in tune we were. And he whispered to me the same thing he’d said once before: “I’m not going anywhere.”