Saturday, 30 March 2013

Work of fiction

This is a scene I have been trying to wedge into a story (it's not a natural fit for the story, and it isn't written properly here, but I have to get it out of my head). It's a "big reveal" - the female dancer and a male character are in a long term relationship that has recently hit the rocks... eh, you'll figure it out.

Carl's fury was almost tangible as his hand whipped towards her face. Maria's arms flew up almost of their own accord to protect herself and the force of his swing was translated into a sweeping motion, twisting, lifting and throwing her whole body a good few feet. She collapsed, spinning across the floor on her knees, prostrate before him. As she slid to a halt, she cast a desperate look over to her lover, reaching out to him in a wordless plea before the the final chords came to a crescendo and the music ceased.

Carl broke into applause and jogged over to help her stand. She shook her legs out - the drama of the pasa doble required such precision of footwork and the muscles in her calves were not used to holding their positioning yet. Smiling at Jerry - who had played the role of her lover in the dance, while Carl was the jealous lead - she thanked both men as she began rubbing at those parts of her that appeared to be most bruised.

The dance competition she had entered was a tough one - although it was a charitable event for novices, the rigors of the competition were intense and the weekly trials were becoming ever more competitive. For the last three weeks she had been throwing herself heart and soul into every routine in an effort to forget her problems with Mike, but it was undeniable that this dance was going to make that impossible. Mike had believed her to be having an affair and although he had given her a chance to explain, he hadn't believed in her innocence. He had walked out immediately and she hadn't seen him since.

The pantomime of jealousy Carl exhibited in the dance was nothing like Mike's cold contempt and refusal to trust her but the story the dance told was the same - a sensual woman, reveling in her power over men, is in a seductive war with her partner (Carl). Into this storm steps a young, naive looking man (Jerry), whom her character wishes to corrupt. She gradually dances away from Carl, directing more and more of her allure towards Jerry until he dances with her. At which point Carl becomes so enraged with jealousy he physically separates them and asserts his dominance over her. When he finally casts her down, she seeks out her lover as a means of escape, but the dance ends.

In real life Maria had, as she had tried to explain to Mike, been flattered by the attention she had received from men since joining the competition, but she had never been tempted to stray. The few pictures of a suspicious nature that set Mike on edge had been the result of a joke, a dare and a few too many drinks, but they had meant nothing and led nowhere. Unfortunately, his previous girlfriend had been in a a similar situation and that had led somewhere. His belief was now absolute - if you were willing to pretend you'd do it, that meant you would do it and she was condemned from that moment.

As she recalled the look of betrayal in his eyes, her heart stuttered and it was with relief she turned to Carl as he interrupted her reminiscences. "We've still got some work to do on the staging, but I think we can work it so you see Jerry at the start of the dance, and it becomes more about who you choose and who you want than you versus me, you know?" She nodded, surprised. The trial night was tomorrow and they had never made such a last-minute change to the routine before, but Carl had brought her this far despite everything that had gone wrong elsewhere and she wasn't about to question his expertise now.

For the next hour Carl and Jerry plunged into discussion about the best way to add this new spin to the story. She was passed between them, repeating her steps endlessly and, in truth, not paying all that much attention to the words they said, merely remaining pliant and accepting the fractional change to her part of the routine. When both men were happy and they did the final run through, her only observation was that the new routine gave Jerry a ten second participation at the very start and then he had to stand still for almost two minutes before he engaged again just before the end. "We can stage him easily to stay in place, with a coffee shop, or reading a newspaper, no problem." Carl's unequivocal response was almost exactly as she had anticipated, so she didn't push the point any further. She headed into the wardrobe section for her final fitting before the big day before heading home where she spent several hours repeating the steps in her kitchen, over and over, listening to the music a hundred times and carrying out chores until she was sure she knew it as well as she possibly could.

Exhausted, she collapsed into bed and lay awake staring at the curtains, drawing witches and monsters in the shadows as she had when she was little. Eventually, somehow, she passed into sleep and woke ten minutes before her alarm went off. On the day of the trials she could never sleep in. Leaping out of bed she made her way to the shower and spent almost half an hour scrubbing, depilating, buffing and washing her hair. As she climbed out of the shower feeling zingy fresh she smiled wryly to herself. Within two hours she would be sweating like a stuck pig when rehearsing her routine once more and she would only have to shower again before the show began. Unfortunately, she just couldn't bring herself to go into the studio straight from her bed, so she took the time to prepare now, so that her later shower could be a quick rinse before entering the stylist's room.

Sure enough, before lunchtime, she already looked (and probably smelled) like she hadn't washed for days. The dance studios were generally clean, but the main room in which they had the trials was used for other events and the stage had to be constructed for each show. The first full rehearsal dance on the live stage was always a filthy endeavour - all the construction dust stuck to the sweat and frequent scraped knees and elbows added additional colour and grime to her appearance. However, the stage was set, Jerry was isolated, posing on a floating stage, close to the singers. Carl had the full range of the floor and she was - apart from one incident where she was nearly hurled head first into the sharp corner of a plywood block - perfectly happy to be flung about by the two of them.

 Maria went into wardrobe early. There was a problem with her outfit that kept her stuck there and she was late going into hair and makeup. Full of apologies she swept in, but they didn't have time to hear it and briskly set her down and got to work. Carl came in part way through, already dressed and made up, to give her a pep talk. She was whisked back to the wardrobe and into her dress bare moments before they were required to go live. Gathering backstage, everyone was excited, whispering the customary good wishes to one another, before being called out, a couple at a time, to present themselves. Maria and Carl were last out and first to dance, so in the brief moment they had alone she took a few deep breaths, squeezed his hand tightly, and then moved out to the sound of applause.

The host's patter was the same as usual, but the lights were brighter than normal and she couldn't see a thing beyond Carl. She smiled, waved and clapped according to the mood and audio cues the host offered and all too soon, she and Carl descended to the floor. There was a deathly silence and the lights dimmed prior to the music starting. After the brightness of moments before, her world seemed plunged into darkness and it was only the presence of Carl at her back with his arm wrapped around her shoulder that convinced her she was in the right place.

The music started and Carl spun her round to face him. He had the control in this dance, he had all the power, but she wasn't going to let him rule her. She knew he wanted her, she knew all men wanted her and she was going to use that now. Looking into his eyes she challenged him - thrilling in the power she had at the moment. A rush of notes and he charged her. Surprised, she gave ground, clasping her hand lightly on his shoulder, revelling in the sensation of his raw masculine power surrounding her, but knowing, believing, she could bring him to his knees. The judges had always commented on the sensuality of their dancing and this was their moment to prove it. This was her moment to demonstrate the power of a woman in this, the most masculine of dances.

He posed, she lured. He postured, she challenged. He stamped his foot and raised his hand imperiously. She turned away and then... she saw him. Standing exactly where Jerry should be, microphone in hand, Mike was staring at her like a starving man offered the most glorious meal of his life. For a moment, she froze, then the week of practice came to her aid and the steps lined up before her. She moved through the next ten seconds like a woman possessed, utterly absorbed in Mike - in his presence, in his attention and in her own desire for him. Carl's return was an unwelcome interruption, and the next few minutes of dance were no longer acted.Nothing Carl could do, no performance of masculine virility could hold her attention. Every effort he made to win her over seemed feeble. At every opportunity, her body turned towards Mike. Look at me! Notice me! Want me!

She didn't know if she wanted to seduce him, or to reject him. He was singing the lead vocal to the song and she couldn't repress a moment of fury that he could perform so well, under these circumstances. Her second interaction with him came - Carl released her and she span away, turning towards him and continuing the spin long after Carl's initial thrust failed until she came up to Mike. Hand on his shoulder, she paused, looking into his eyes, drinking in his nearness, his presence. He executed Jerry's steps in silence and seemed as absorbed in her as she was in him. In rehearsal, Jerry's part had finished with him stroking her hair back from her face, and moving to kiss her, but Carl dragged her away before he could. This time, as Mike reached for her face, she could not resist leaning forward, encouraging him. He plunged his hand into her hair and pulled her lips to his for a passionate - albeit brief - kiss.

When Carl pulled her away she almost cried out in frustration. She glanced back at Mike and tried to struggle away from Carl, which only served to fan the white hot flames of his jealousy. His hand flew to strike her, she caught his wrist and he turned her, spinning her under his arm and gathering her before hurling her away from him. As she flew through the air, she locked eyes with Mike for the smallest fraction of a moment. He had remained immobile - he hadn't followed her when Carl had come between them. Remembering his contempt when they separated, she felt the full weight of her defeat. Everything had just been for the dance. The kiss had been a mistake. He wasn't here for her. She collapsed, but could not prevent herself from reaching out to him one last time, begging him to choose her - to take her back.

The music ended and she hid her head in her arms, desperate for a tiny moment of privacy. The applause was thunderous. Footsteps shook the floor beside her and she looked up, exhausted, exhilarated, hopeful yet afraid.... Carl reached out his hand to her and helped her rise. They hugged, and he half escorted, half carried her to the table of judges. She stood there, not really taking any of it in as the host congratulated them, the applause continued and the judges remained on their feet, applauding with the rest of them. The plaudits and encomiums were astonishing. The word passion cropped up in every other sentence. Someone pointed out that as he had participated in the dance, Mike should also be there. He was summoned and every sound dulled. Her vision blurred and she felt dizzy. She turned to greet him and thank him too, but once he was so near, she reached out to him and, as though that was all he had waited for, he grasped her and held her close.

Her face was buried in his shoulder, and so she couldn't say any of the things she wanted to, but she could hear. "I love you," he whispered, "I love you so much."