I sighed as they left me to myself again. Glancing over at Sue, I was glad to see they were having a good time. They were so good together, with how Ivan was so sweet and gentle with her. His temperament completely matched hers. For identical twins, they’re completely different. I thought. Maybe I just happened to get the evil one.
“Kota?” It was Coach Bailey. “Are you alright?”
I forced a smile and said, “Yeah Coach, everything’s fine.”
“I saw Myles over here talking to you,” he said, looking at me knowingly, and the smile slipped from my face. “Now, what’s going on?”
“What do you think? My partner, who I have been permanently paired with mind you, is a psychopath.”
“You don’t like him?” he asked.
“Are you kidding? With everything he’s done to me? One minute he’s fun and flirty, the next he’s freaking out, and then the next minute he could care less about anything having to do with me.” I struggled to keep my voice mostly level.
“He can’t be that bad,” he said, “I mean, I knew you two bumped heads the last few times, but I figured that was just…”
“Oh no? I’ll give you an example; this morning was the first morning since he got here that we actually had a nice conversation. He wasn’t acting all weird or anything. We laughed, he was sweet, it was good… and now? Where is he?”
“Kota,” he said, but I shook my head.
“Ivan said he was supposed to be here before him. I know it’s because of me. He’s freaking out again.”
We sat there in silence for a minute, watching Mrs. Peters walking through the dancing crowd and stopping this couple here and there to show them what they were doing wrong. “They’re still pretty new here, you know. None of the others have really been accepted into the school yet either. Maybe they just need someone to make the first step.”
“And you want me to do it.” I guessed. “Why?”
“You two seem to have a particular interest in each other.” Then at the disbelieving look on my face, he added, “You’ve singled each other out, and they seem to give you particular attention. Whether it’s made of anger or not, you’re closer to them than anyone else. So maybe you can turn things around.”
“They all hate me, except for Ivan. And Aubrey… and Vincent, but I never talk to them.” I stopped quickly, hating that I was beginning to see what he meant. “I’ve already tried to fix things with Connelly, several times, but it doesn’t work. How do you expect me to ‘turn things around’?”
“Keep trying. Because it all comes down to Connelly. This whole thing started with him, and now it has to end with him. If you fix things with Connelly, the others will follow.” Then he stood and before walking away shrugged and added, “Just think about it, Kota. It’s the only way you’ll have a nice time this year, if you still want to dance in the competitions.”
I sighed as he walked back to the instructor. I had to admit, what he said was true. If anything was going to change for the better this year, and if I wanted any chance of winning or even being in the competitions, I needed to fix things with Connelly. Even if it’s not my fault we’re having problems. I couldn’t help from thinking.
So, taking a deep breath, I went back to my math homework. It seemed like forever, but eventually I heard the gym doors open and close. Glancing over, I spotted Connelly walking on the side of the dance floor, his eyes locked on mine. In my focusing on math, my anger had subsided, but seeing him made it flare dangerously. I just hoped he could feel the fire from my eyes through our locked gaze, even if his face was contrite.
Before he could get to me however, his mother stopped him with an outstretched hand and they walked to a far corner to talk in private. From the look of it, she was ripping into him and there were a few times she glanced my way. Seeing her anger made mine lessen a little and I sank back to my seat. It was the first time I had seen her mad at all, and it was slightly frightening.
After the initial scolding was over, they seemed to dissolve into a serious and somber discussion. It took several minutes for their talk to finally end, and then she kissed him on the forehead before walking away. As he made his way towards me again, he wiped away the kiss mark on his forehead and I quickly made it look like I’d been doing my math the entire time.
I didn’t look up as he came to stand before me. “Kota, you can stop pretending. I saw you watching.” I glanced at him a minute, and then set the papers aside. I didn’t say anything. “Look, I’m sorry about being late.”
“Did your mother tell you to say that?” I asked, one eyebrow cocked, “No, you know what? Never mind. I’ve been waiting forever for you to show up, and I don’t want to waste anymore time talking when we could be dancing. I’m sure you’ve won plenty of these competitions in your day, but I haven’t and I’d like this to be the first. C’mon.” I didn’t wait for him to respond as I walked out on the floor. I heard a sigh behind me, but ignored it. I didn’t care if we danced in complete silence, as long as we danced.
He took my hands and we started dancing, or at least trying to. I hadn’t gotten very much practice at this, since most of the time we ended up fighting. We locked eyes like we were supposed to, and made the right steps. He wasn’t holding me too tightly or too loosely, and I made sure not to be slow on my feet. We were doing well enough for Mrs. Peters to compliment us on it, though she did still give Connelly a warning look. I glanced between them and told myself it wasn’t any of my business, but after a few more minutes I couldn’t help myself. “How bad did she get onto you?”
After a moment’s hesitation, he conceded, “Bad.”
“Just for being late to class? That’s a little harsh, isn’t it?”
He shrugged. “It’s my job.” Then after a few more minutes added, “It was about you too, but you already know that.”
“I saw her look at me a couple times,” I admitted.
“And you just couldn’t help but be nosy?” he snapped.
“Excuse me?” I tried to pull away from him, but his grip was like iron. “I was just trying to make conversation because I was tired of all the silence. Why do you always do that?”
“Well you started it. I assumed you wanted the silence.” We glared at each other for a minute, and then I shook my head.
We fell back into a tense silence. The song ended and another began, this one, a Waltz. “I’m sorry,” he said after a while.
“Me too,” I said. “I was being nosy.”
We glanced at each other and he sighed. “She was getting onto me about how I’ve been treating you. She said I needed to fix it.”
I gave him a confused look. “That’s funny, Coach just told me the same thing. That I needed to fix it with you.” He mirrored my look and we both glanced over toward the bleachers. Mrs. Peters and the Coach were sitting beside each other and smiling at us.
“Wow,” I said and he nodded.
“I’m not surprised.” He wore a small smile and gave a slight nod at his mother, who returned it. “When she wants something done, she always finds a way, even when the people involved are unwilling in the beginning.”