On His Toes by Marian Brooks

You might fall in love with someone you’ve never even spoken to. It can happen when you dance. You might hear each other’s heartbeat in the music if you listen closely. Your feet will move together, silent partners gliding through a slow, sensual rumba or a dramatic tango. There is no need for talk. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. You look into each other’s eyes and know that some small flaw, some tiny misstep may lead to ruin later on.

That’s precisely what happened to Jill Merlet and Frank Michaels.

Jill was the “Belle of the Ball." She could whirl and spin with the best of them. She was light on her feet, always in sync with the music, never tripping or stepping on anyone’s toes. Jill had been a regular at the Blue Rose Ballroom for over five years, sometimes teaching when the instructor, Jose, was out sick. She wore glittery, low cut blouses and heels too high for most women to walk in. Jill danced for several hours, five days a week after work. She had little desire to go home to an empty apartment unless she was too exhausted to notice. She took a shower, massaged her feet and climbed into bed under her new down comforter. Jill did not feel comforted at all.

Frank was much sought after as a partner at the Blue Rose. He was an elegant man with a full head of gray hair, silk ties and Armani suits. Frank knew how to make women look good on the dance floor. He knew how to lead without being aggressive. He held each partner firmly in his arms as he waltzed his way around the large, mirrored room, smiling at his own reflection. Frank was in charge and he knew it.

Strangely, Jill and Frank had never danced together. Perhaps, each saw the other as too pretentious or worse, as a more accomplished dancer. Last Tuesday night, all of that changed. It was was late and few dancers were up for the complicated patterns of the quickstep with all of its hops and runs.

“May I have this dance?" Before Jill could answer, Frank took her hand and off they went.

Everyone else stopped moving. The couple seemed to barely touch the ground as they covered the floor at at an unbelievable pace. A quickstep is a pleasure to watch but difficult to manage without losing your balance.

As time passed, they danced almost exclusively with each other. Frank began escorting Jill to her Honda and, most recently to kiss her, deeply. They watched movies together and joined other elegant couples in the world of competitive dance. Soon, Frank joined Jill under her pink comforter.

It didn’t take long for Jill to have regrets about letting Frank move in so quickly. He never paid for any household expenses or even dinner out once in a while.

He claimed, “I still have upkeep on my own apartment to worry about you know. And then there’s the alimony and child support." He snored so loudly, Jill often wound up on the leather sofa in her living room. He rarely read a book and, for a strikingly handsome man, had a limited vocabulary and some appalling grammar. He showed no versatility or imagination during their lovemaking “You’d think dancers would have some exciting moves," Jill thought. It was all over faster than a three minute waltz and Jill was thankful.

After about three months Frank began to dislike Jill. Once she started humming, he began to dislike her even more. She had a high-pitched cackle for a laugh. Jill dragged Frank to family picnics, weddings and holiday feasts. She was beginning to grow plump and in bed, she was as brittle as a potato chip.

“It’s getting harder and harder to dance with you, Jill. Must you lead all the time?" he whined. “You’re stepping on my feet and you seem to have lost the beat entirely. Last night you almost drilled a hole in my instep with those silver spikes of yours."

There was no response from Jill. Her nose was buried in a romance novel.

She could speak relentlessly about many subjects. Most recently, she started speaking about marriage.

Frank made plans to foxtrot his way back to his own apartment. Jill’s choreography was perfect.


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