Tara approached the rehearsal hall door feeling an odd combination of trepidation and excitement. She always got a little excited before every rehearsal. She loved being a witness to the process of art just as much as she loved seeing the final product when the lights would go down and the curtain would rise. It made her heart beat a little faster with the anticipation of knowing that she was part of the creation of something bigger than herself, something influential and important, something that affected people's lives and caused inspiration in even the most uninspired. Well, all that and she really enjoyed watching the girls jump around in rehearsal tights.
Today she was focused on the thought of one girl in tights in particular. Tara had firmly decided that she was going to avoid that strange redhead as much as possible without seeming too rude. She held on to the words of advice her friend Beth had given her the night before about not being so quick to judge the attractive dancer, but at the same time she felt that she should remain somewhat guarded against someone so overt in their advances.
The blonde took one final moment to brace herself before firmly placing a hand on the door handle and confidently pushed it open, the cacophony of the room she stepped into briefly filling the hall, before the door shut with a loud click behind her. She strode with purpose over to the small production table she had set up the day before, purposefully ignoring all of the female dancers doing their stretches and warm-ups as they all gossiped cattily. As she emptied her shoulder bag of her prompt book and note pads, she surveyed the room and noticed that the red-haired vixen was no where to be seen. Tara glanced at her watch; technically the dancer wasn't late yet, so she decided to give her a few more minutes before she started making any phone calls. The stage manager found herself nibbling on the pad of her thumb. Could it be that she was actually nervous that Willow wouldn't show? And not nervous in the usual, "she's going to miss rehearsal, how rude and irresponsible" way, but in the "oh, God, I hope she's alright and not lying in an alleyway some where" way. Tara deliberately stopped chewing on her thumb and stared intently at the door.
"Crappy doodle!" Willow cursed to herself as she glanced at her watch and then picked up her pace. The extra few minutes she had spent trying to pick the perfect rehearsal outfit to wear had caused her to run a little bit late. She rounded the corner leading to the rehearsal hall's building and quickly ran up the steps, through the front door and down the hall to the last door on the right, pausing a moment to collect herself before entering.
Tara watched as the door opened and a slightly windblown redhead step inside. Tara quickly diverted her attention to her notepad, which suddenly became fascinating despite its blankness. She could feel the dancer approaching her from the side and quickly glanced at her watch again to check the time.
"You're late," the stage manager said evenly.
Willow hesitated in her approach to the blonde before recovering her gait and completing the distance left between her and the table. "Yeah," she answered grudgingly. "Sorry about that. It's only a couple of minutes, though. Not too bad?"
Tara found the strength of will to look up at the girl as she stood there, hovering. "True. But try not to make it a habit, okay? It's not fair to everyone else." She once again looked to her notepad and this time began scribbling down a few notes to at least make it appear that she was working on something important.
"You're right," said the dancer, "I'm sorry."
Tara had hoped that would be the end of their little conversation, however the fact that Willow hadn't moved indicated otherwise. She glanced up again expectantly.
"Hi," Willow stated cheerily, and a little nervously as well. Tara simply raised her eyebrow to encourage her to go on. "Um... I'm sorry about yesterday."
"What about it?" Tara asked nonchalantly.
"You know, the whole thing with the shirt and the inappropriateness of it all..." she explained, drifting off at the end.
"Oh," said the blonde, "forget about it. We'll just pretend it never happened."
Willow shifted a little on her feet. "Oh... okay. Sure. Forgotten. No problem. See? Gone. Yesterday? What was yesterday? I don't know, because I've forgotten." Tara was now regarding her with an expression of intense concern that she might be crazy. Willow decided to move ahead. "So, Tara, I was wondering if maybe you might want to get a cup of coffee or something... later... after rehearsal... maybe?"
"I don't drink coffee," Tara answered quickly, unable to stop herself.
"Oh," came the small reply. "Kay. I, um, guess I'll go stretch now... Sorry to bug you."
Tara watched guiltily as Willow began to skulk away. "Willow," she called after her, causing the dancer to spin on her heel and gaze back at her expectantly. "Thanks for the offer."
The redhead smiled a little and nodded, though she was still clearly upset about being turned down.
Dammit, she thought to herself as she eased to the floor and began her stretches. The babbling innocent routine always works when the vixen one fails. This Tara-girl is a hard sell. But something tells me she's worth the trouble.
Tara looked down to see what she had been writing absently on her pad in her effort to appear busy. "I'm writing something very important so as to ignore her. Just keep writing. Just keep writing. God is she hot." "Eep!" Tara squeaked semi-audibly, quickly beginning to erase her thankfully hard-to-read scrawl. I hope she didn't see that, she thought.
"Okay everyone," announced Zuzie, clapping her hands to get the dancers' attention. "Herr Director will be here in half an hour. So in the meantime let's run through the first dance number and make any changes we need to before he gets here." The choreographer turned her attention to Tara. "Is the pianist going to be here today?"
"Not until after lunch," the blonde explained, "he's playing for an audition across town. B-but he recorded some of the music on CD. It should be in the p-player." Tara grimaced internally at her sudden stutter. That hasn't happened in a while, she pondered unhappily, Not for almost seven years.
Zuzie hadn't even noticed the blonde's stammer. "Fine. You're in charge of the 'play' button. Dancers, positions please!"
A handful of the dancers struck casual positions near the center of the floor. The rest who were waiting along the walls of the rehearsal hall essentially "off-stage" stood ready to make their entrances.
Tara pressed play and the sounds of a piano playing a funky rock rhythm permeated the hall as the dancers came to life. The choreography was a combination of ballet, jazz and hip-hip techniques and style. The lead character, played by a young actor named Ray, strutted and grooved across the floor, softly singing the lyrics of the music that was playing, as he moved with the dancers around him. The opening number told the story of a young, idealistic man with big ambition and even bigger dreams, and how he, unlike anyone before him, was going to succeed and make a difference for the human race. In other words, it was the typical stage musical schlock with a different tune.
But Tara loved it, no matter what form it came in. Whether it was Pippin, The Music Man, Sunday on the Park with George or even Avenue Q, she loved them all. She would get that warm and excited feeling in her chest and with that came the fuzzy optimism that life wasn't so bad after all, and maybe we could actually achieve world peace with a song and dance number.
It could happen, she mused thoughtfully as the number played out before her.
Willow watched Tara watching. A smile curled onto her small pink lips at seeing the almost childlike enthrallment of the blonde. Every now and then she would see the stage manager glance her direction and then quickly look away, when she saw the redhead looking back. This pleased Willow to know that despite putting her off earlier, Tara was still showing signs of interest, even if they were small. The dancer decided that peripheral surveillance would be a more effective way of measuring how much interest Tara actually had, so instead of looking at her directly, she settled for watching out of the corner of her eye.
Finally, she's stopped watching me, Tara sighed with relief, Now I can watch her instead. The blonde turned her attention back to Willow's undeniably attractive form as it moved gracefully about. Damn she has great legs! That is a fact that cannot be denied. No matter how weird she is.
Willow knew that she had the blonde's attention, and was now busy taking full advantage of that fact. The choreography now called for moves that were akin to the "bump and grind" category of dance and the redhead was determined to gyrate with deadly precision. Even though this included dancing with a partner, in Willow's case as the dance captain she got to dance with the male lead, she still knew that if done right, she could make Tara believe she was dancing with her and not some actor named Ray.
Tara could definitely feel that familiar warm and excited feeling, only it was in an unfamiliar place. Whoa, she thought, that's really... whoa. She gulped self-consciously. How does she get her body to move like that?
That's enough teasing, Willow considered, now for the acid test.
After another series of steps, the dancer was now effectively center stage. How about being my spot? She thought in Tara's direction, staring directly into her eyes before going into an impressive series of pirouettes, her green eyes always returning to Tara's wide open blue.
She's staring right at me! Tara's mind squeaked. Why is she doing that? Is she using me to spot? Is this another attempt at flirtation? Tara could feel her cheeks begin to redden with embarrassment and she instinctively looked away.
Willow blinked, thrown by the sudden loss of Tara's eyes. Why did she look away? What's wrong? What's -Whoa!
"Willow!" Zuzie and Tara both cried out in alarm as the dancer lost her center of gravity and fell forward to the floor, landing hard on her right knee.
The loud crack of bone on wood sent shudders through the spine of everyone in the room. Everyone rushed quickly to the fallen redhead's side as she curled into the fetal position on the ground, cradling her leg protectively.
"Willow, are you alright?" Zuzie inquired, her voice anxious.
"I... I don't know," Willow replied through tears and clenched teeth.
Everyone in the hall was silent. Knee injuries were the dread of all dancers, for many it meant the end of their careers.