DANCING IN CIRCLES
by Victoria Adams
by Victoria Adams
copyright © 2011 Victoria Adams 2012
"Have you seen the new guy? We're talking stud material." Tricia sighed as she texted and walked with her friends down the school hallway. "That body...that face...those eyes."
"We are aware of his anatomical structure." Francine sniffed. "I don't think he's all that great."
"You?" Tricia put her hand on her chest. "Francine Paulin, are rejecting the most perfect assemblage of male anatomy in this whole deprived – or is it depraved – school?"
"What aren't you telling us?" Jennifer popped the top on her lip-gloss-of-the-month and coated her lips with Swanky Pink. "Oh God. Ssh. Here he comes." The subject of their discussion headed in their direction.
Tricia leaned closer to Jennifer. "The gods did right by this one. He's got to be 6'2" or more, and his chest looks like it's going to burst right through his shirt."
Heather looked at her shoes and whispered, "Never seen eyes that dark before. She glanced out of the corner of her eye. "They're…so sexy."
Sexually intriguing. Julie stiffened at her thought. What the…?
Francine rolled her eyes. "Grotesque. Jeans and a T-shirt, in Westland Prep. I know we don't wear uniforms, but come on, show some level of civility. And his hair is much too long." She flicked her silky, long black hair over her shoulders. "Definitely not up to the standards of Westland Prep."
With everyone deep in their thoughts, silence fell on the five young women who defined this clique: Tricia, the bouncy brunette and co-captain of the cheerleading team.
Francine, the sophisticated member, known to be harshly judgmental and fiercely proud of her family's wealth.
Blue eyed and blonde, Jennifer, the school's gossip queen and social committee president.
Petite Heather's long brown hair covered her shoulders and the sides of her face like a protective coat. She was the quiet member.
And Julie, the dreamer, whose chestnut-brown hair sweeps against her shoulders but today was pulled back off her ivory-skinned face. Her long silken lashes framed her dark brown eyes.
They'd been friends since preschool. They dressed to the latest codes, and dated the right boys. To them, prep school was the period between high school and marriage. A time to hunt for the perfect date, shop and enjoy life. Prepping for college was the last thing on their minds.
Tricia broke the silence. "Jennifer, you know everything about everybody. Start talking."
Jennifer dropped her iPhone 4 into her purse. "Well, Addison said that Zoe said that Janai got it straight from...bell. Gotta go. Got Spanish. Must conjugate another verb. Adios."
Tricia grabbed Jennifer's arm. "DREAMS - 3:30. Julie's treat this time."
"Pardon?" Julie raised her eyebrows.
Tricia, Heather and Jennifer batted their eyelashes at her.
"All right." She shook her head. "How can I refuse those angelic faces?"
"Girls, am I mistaken, or didn't the bell just ring?" The principal, Mr. Morris, stood beside them with his hands on his hips.
"Going, sir." Francine waved.
"Going, sir." Heather scurried off to Drama.
"Gone." Tricia winked.
While she and Julie walked to Mrs. Wolmsley's English class, Tricia chatted about the new boy as dating material. "Wonder what it'll take to meet him? He's so hot. Wonder if he's got any secrets? And did you see those tats? I so want to know what's under that T-shirt."
"His chest." Julie grinned at Tricia.
"Yes, but I bet it's a chest to die for. And ripped abs. Ooh, I think my toes are tingling."
She turned at the sound of her boyfriend. "Hey, Chris." She signalled to Tricia to continue, as she tucked her arm into her latest boyfriend's.
Tricia glanced back and smiled then continued to English.
As Julie walked to her desk, she glanced at Tricia perched on the new student's desk. Julie admired Tricia's nerve. She couldn't charge over and talk to him. She'd be too nervous and would probably do something horribly embarrassing like burping in the middle of her sentence. Julie shuddered and slipped onto her desk chair.
With her grey hair pulled back in a bun, Mrs. Wolmsley entered the classroom.
Giggling all the way to her seat, Tricia sat behind Julie, who turned to speak to her but stopped.
"Class." The teacher stood at the front of the room. "Today I'm assigning independent projects. You may work solo, or with a partner."
She turned, picked up a piece of chalk and spoke while she wrote. "Due date is this Friday." She underlined this three times. "You have today's period to begin your research. Julie Anderson, which do you choose?"
The teacher called off names from her class list. Most students requested a partner. "Tricia Graham?"
"Partner. And I'd like it to be the new student, Robert."
He looked up then shrugged.
As Julie turned to congratulate her friend on her sexy catch, she was surprised to feel a small spot, deep inside burning with envy. She blinked, shook her head and switched her thoughts to Christopher – handsome, wealthy family, football team captain and all-star quarterback. With luck, they might be this year's Homecoming King and Queen.
When she'd finished organising the students, Mrs. Wolmsley handed out the assignments and dismissed the class. The crowd of students wandered in the direction of the library, their locker or an exit. Julie pushed open the library door, walked past Mr. Hartzfeld, the librarian, towards the tables at the back. When she passed Tricia and Robert, he'd spread out his books to work on the assignment while Tricia played with her pen and chatted. Julie smiled then settled down to work at an empty table one row over.
"Am I good? Or am I good?"
Julie glanced at Tricia.
"He asked me to the dance." She hitched a hip onto the table and leaned closer. "I love your earrings."
"You mean he spoke? He didn't just shrug his shoulders?"
Tricia nodded. "You know, he's got the most adorable pierced ear, killer eyes, and I haven't even begun to describe his body. I think I'm in lust." Sighing, she returned to work with Robert.
Julie rolled her eyes and continued with her research until the bell rang. She picked up her book and headed for biology.
"Does she always talk that much?" A deep voice behind her startled her.
She turned, and stared into Robert's dark eyes. "Uh, yes." Why did her knees feel weak? "I...I'm surprised you got a word in to ask her to the dance."
"Had to ask her, just to shut her up." There was a disgruntled edge to his voice. Robert held the door open for her.
Julie's legs ignored her command to walk. She regained her composure, entered the room, passed Francine's desk and went to her seat. She didn't greet her friend. Instead, she puzzled over what happened. What caused her hesitation? Had he noticed it? Had anyone else?
"Put your assignments on my desk." Mr. Parks, the biology teacher, pointed towards an inbox as he clicked off the student's names as they entered. Attendance completed, class seated, he looked up from his computer. "Did anyone not hand one in?"
Robert put up his hand.
"And why not?"
"'Cause I didn't get it done." He slouched low in his desk at the back of the room, isolated from the rest of the students. His long legs stretched out into the aisle.
"You were given a simple assignment. It should've taken no more than two hours to complete. This isn't high school. It's college prep. If you cannot keep up—"
"I didn't have time." Robert sat up, rested his arms on his desktop and glared at his teacher. "I arrived in this school three days ago, and got handed two weeks' worth of stuff to get caught up on. Trust me, I get this isn't high school."
"Two weeks' worth can't be that much. A few extra hours after school."
"I ain't Westland. Gotta work to feed myself and put a roof over my head. For the past two nights, I've been doin' my homework after I get home from work. Been stayin' up to three in the mornin'. Had about four fu ─ miserable hours of sleep in the past two nights."
He ran his fingers through his hair. "Got calc and English done. I'll probably end up stayin' up 'til three again gettin' bio done." He inhaled and released it. "Right now I'm tired and pis ─ and I certainly don't feel like puttin' up with gettin' yelled at for not doin' my work, 'cause that's all I've done!"
Julie looked out the window. He speaks.
"I'll speak with you after class. Open your books to chapter three. Plant Systematics." Mr. Parks snapped open his textbook and searched for the page.
Robert brooded until the end of day bell sounded. The class stood and shuffled out of the room. Except Robert.
Francine waited for Julie. "Imagine, letting him into Westland."
Julie half-nodded. She was used to her friend's attitude - unless you grew up in Westland, you were unworthy of attending Westland Prep. She glanced back into the classroom. Robert was leaning on a desk, arms crossed, glaring at the teacher. Turning in the direction of her locker, she wondered if there'd be one less student in biology tomorrow.
By 3:45, the five friends settled into a booth at the restaurant, DREAMS. "Okay, the waitress is over there. Start talking." Tricia propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands.
"What?" Jennifer batted her eyelids.
"Him. Who is he? What is he?" babbled Tricia. "Is he sleeping with somebody? Is somebody sleeping with him? Does he like brunettes named Tricia?"
"All right, all right. Well Addison said that Zoe─"
"We know that. Zoe said that Janai said what?" Tricia and Heather shouted.
"His name is Robert. Kristal said that she heard Maddi tell Ashley...."
The waitress coughed interrupting her monologue.
"Uh, Diet Cokes all around." Julie pointed at everyone.
"I've got a date with him Friday night." Tricia's smile spread across her face.
Francine flicked her hair over her shoulders. "He and Parks had a disagreement in bio today."
"Wait a sec." Jennifer held up her hand. "Tricia gets a date, and Francine watches him fight with a teacher?"
The conversation paused while the waitress served their order.
Jennifer checked her cell phone. "Details please. Tricia goes first then you." She pointed a pink polished fingernail at Francine.
Tricia signalled the end of her success story by popping her eyebrows up and down and smiling. Francine wrinkled her nose and sniffed. "I don't think Trish'll be going on her date."
Julie nodded while sipping her Diet Coke.
"Why not?" Gossip queen Jennifer's senses tingled.
Francine pulled herself up tall. "He's not one of us. He's Shore."
"Ooh, a bad boy." Tricia's cheeks flushed.
"Tricia, get your head back here on planet reality." Francine glared at her. "He's not worth it. He'll just get you into a car, do you, then dump you. Excuse my crudeness. Guys like him don't care. Their brains and hearts are in their pants."
Tricia's eyes glazed over. "Sounds hot. He seems dangerous. I don't mean in the physical sense. I mean dangerous in the back of a parked car." She giggled and sipped her drink.
"I have to go. I've got class." Julie swallowed the last of her drink.
"Still dancing?" Jennifer shook her head. "How can anybody do the same thing for twelve years?"
Julie laughed and waved goodbye.
Julie kept secrets.
She couldn't discuss her deepest secrets with friends, as they were too concerned with their own lives. But, she didn't let that stop her from dreaming.
She loved everything about dance, especially the discipline, both of the mind and the body. Many nights, she dreamed of performing on grand stages in romantic cities like Paris and New York. She understood the sweat-filled hours and sacrifices it took to be a professional dancer.
However, dreams never concern themselves with reality. They're the fluff that keeps a person's soul alive. Julie's dream was to dance. It was one of her secrets.
With school and dance class finished, Julie escaped to her sanctuary – her bedroom. Posters decorated her walls. Not of teenage heartthrobs, instead, pictures of ballerinas in tutus and scenes from ballets adorned her room. Centred between two large, bumped-out windows was a rose and white lace canopy bed, where in her dreams, she danced.
Eventually morning came and the realities of life returned. But for a while, she listened to the music of the orchestra, and felt the grip of her partner as he lifted her high above the stage. In her sleep, Julie smiled.
At school, the next day, the gossip lines hummed about what happened in Mr. Parks' class. The consensus of the student body was, since Robert was not from the wealth and privilege of Westland, he should be expelled.
Biology was first period. The only one late for class was Robert. Two minutes after the bell, he entered.
"Sleep in?" The teacher held out his hand.
"I wish." Robert handed him a bunch of papers.
"Get caught up?"
"On everythin' but sleep." Robert made his way to his seat, ignoring the threatening glances of his classmates. He wasn't worried. He'd put up with worse things than these Westlanders could throw at him.
Mr. Parks settled the class, and continued his lecture on Plant Systematics. Seventy-five minutes later, the class exited. Several male students bumped into Robert. He clenched his jaw, struggling to keep his temper under control.
"You." An index finger was pointed into his face.
Robert looked past it at the unknown student.
The classmate used his finger to punctuate each word. "You and me. Outside. Now."
"Ya got a problem?"
"Yea and it's you. I hear Shore guys are tough. Prove it. Meet me outside."
Robert heaved a disgusted sigh. "Lead on, Macduff."
"It's a line from Shakespeare. You know, the dead guy we study in English."
The student's brow wrinkled, he shrugged, motioned to his friends and walked away.
More to himself than anyone, Robert said, "Guess he don't like Shakespeare." A whiff of Julie's perfume snagged his attention. He turned and tilted his head in the direction of his opponent. "What's his problem?"
Robert rubbed his forehead. His assumption was right.
"You don't have to fight him, you know." Julie brushed a strand of hair from her face.
"Sooner or later I gotta. If I don't settle this now, it'll just get worse. Although, I'd rather get some sleep." With a resigned sigh, he followed the crowd out of the building.
Julie wandered along behind him, puzzled by her action. He was Shore. What did she care about his kind?
A group of Westland students collected in the student parking lot, semi circling the challenger. Many had their cell phones set to record the event. With luck, Stephan's trouncing of the North Shore punk would be on YouTube by lunchtime.
Robert stood before his opponent. "Common courtesy demands that we introduce ourselves." He extended his hand. "Robert Holiday. And you are?"
"Stephan." He cast his gaze up and down Robert and sneered.
Ok, so not only are ya an idiot for tryin' to take me on, you're a f'in' jerk too. "So what's your problem with me?" Robert lowered his unshaken hand.
"You asked Tricia to the dance."
"Yea, so?" Robert stood with his weight resting on one hip, and his thumbs hooked into his pockets.
"She was going with me." Stephan glared at his opponent.
Robert checked his distance. "So a guy from Shore jacked your girl. Ooh, that's gotta sting that Westland pride. But, as they say, may the best man win."
Fists swinging, Stephan dove at Robert, who ducked the punch. Again, Stephen went at him. Robert sidestepped this punch, but edged himself too close to Stephan's ring of supporters. Two football team members grabbed his arms, pinning them behind him.
Stephan grinned. "I'll show you who's the best man. North Shore garbage." He swung. His fist caught Robert on the jaw line. Stephan threw a couple of punches at Robert's face and stomach before Robert untangled himself from his captors.
The two fighters stood facing each other, daring the other to move. Stephan arrogantly confident. Robert wary the crowd was more opposed to him than curious. Stephan swung. Robert caught the fist and twisted it behind Stephan's back. Stephan dropped to his knees, letting out a moan as Robert applied pressure to his elbow joint.
"Any of your friends charge us, and I break your arm." Robert checked if anyone moved closer. "Now that you're all calmer, we can talk. I can't fight you here. You'll get your wrist slapped." He pointed at his chest. "I'll get expelled. Durin' school hours, on school property, I won't fight. After school, across the street in the park - you and me. If ya don't show...." Robert exerted more force to the elbow, released it, glanced over at Stephan's teammates then left.
Julie entered the school and walked in the direction of her calculus classroom. Robert leaned over a drinking fountain. He sipped some water, rinsed his mouth then spit it back into the bowl. The water was tinted red. She stopped next to him. "You're bleeding."
"Yea, he got in a good one. Split my lip on my tooth. Guess no kissin' for a bit." He started to grin, but winced instead.
Julie squeezed her books against her chest - academic protection. "You had no intentions of fighting, did you? You were going to talk your way out until his bullheaded friends joined in."
Robert didn't reply. He was too lost in the light glistening off her hair, and the soft scent of her perfume.
Julie hesitated. "I didn't expect you to do that."
He rubbed his chin. Do what? "Oh, ya expected me to fight, 'cause I'm Shore?"
"Yes. You people are always fighting and causing trouble. You're supposed to be tough, macho studs."
"The stud part's right." He grinned.
A shiver scurried up her spine. "You know, there are two sides of you."
"As far as I know, I'm an original."
To keep from giggling, Julie took a deep breath. "After calculus, can we go somewhere? Have lunch and talk."
"Why?" That wasn't what he wanted to say. In reality, he wanted to run down the hall shouting, "YES!", but he so knew that wouldn't look cool.
"Because I asked?" Because the words just came out of my mouth.
"Guess so. Where?"
He said yes. "Not here. I don't want to be—"
"Seen with me?"
"No, that's not it." She stepped back a pace, relieving the tension his presence caused in her. "I find you an enigma. I'd like to chat."
"Well, you're arousin' my curiosity. What do Westland girls, with a body like yours, eat for lunch? Ya don't look like the cheeseburger and fries type."
"Lunch Box isn't far. It has a great salad bar." She looked away, knowing her cheeks flushed bright pink.
"Ya ever been on a bike?"
Julie shook her head.
"There's only one in the parkin' lot. Meet ya after class."