I swiveled around, glaring. “No he isn’t. First, he insists on taking me here where I know nobody and now he’s dumping me with… with you. I don’t know anyone and he just leaves, because Jenna happens to appear. Who is she anyway?”
This made David laugh even harder. “You’re not thinking? Fred and Jenna? They’re like brother and sister. Your are hilarious, French girl.”
Relief swept over me so fast I could barely remember why I had been feeling so grim a second ago. “Ok, let’s forget about her.”, I said. “I was being stupid.”
“Yeah, you were. Fred’s breaking all the rules for you.”
“What?”
“His mum forbade him to ever, ever make out with a guest. Not that he’d do something like that, but you should have heard him calling me. This new girl. God, Dave, I messed up completely.”
A wide grin spread over my face just as fast as the blush. I looked down to hide it from Dave. My gaze fell onto his feet. They were covered in very thin shoes and bending ceaselessly.
“You’re a dancer.” It wasn’t a question.
“So are you.”, said Dave. “The ballet?”
“The ballet. Do you still dance?”
Dave shook his head. “I’m too tall. No one wants a 200 centimeter ballet guy. It’s not a thing.”
“Do you miss it?” I knew the answer. Of course he would miss it. Like I did.
“Well, I still dance for myself, but I’ll never get anywhere with it. That kinda hurts. What about you?”
I shook my head sadly, biting my lip. “ I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But I think you should. We can take a little walk. That way you wouldn’t have to look at me.”
I gave him a grateful smile. We got up, turned our backs to the group and walked a little way into the woods.
“If you don’t want to say it, I’ll just start guessing, alright? Ok. You were lousy. You were the worst dancer there was and they chucked you out.”
“No, I wasn’t.”, I said quietly, gazing at my feet and the forest floor. The noise of talk all around us has subsided. “I was the best. The very top of the class. I would dance every solo part and get the best partners. I would even dance with the teachers, because the boys couldn’t keep up with my improvement. I was so conceited. I wonder why my friends put up with me. Probably because they didn’t dance.”
Dave scratched the ground with one of his large feet. “What happened? What stopped you?”
“This.” I sat down on the damp floor and pulled of my left shoe and sock and the flesh-coloured sock I had been wearing underneath.
“Bloody hell.”, Dave said, when he saw the padded jumble of scars that had once been a normal foot.
“It was an accident.”, I said. “Dad took me riding, my horse panicked and went wild. We jumped over a fence, I fell and the horse’s foot crushed mine. I don’t remember most of it, because I hurt my head and fainted, but that’s what they told me at the hospital. And I couldn’t apply for a real ballet school with that.”
“I’m sorry.”, Dave said.
“Don’t be. It’s over.”
“But you miss it. I can tell. You should dance again.”
I shook my head, blinking away a few tears. “I can’t. It could disturb the healing process. Mum would kill me.”
“Let’s go back and get drinks.”
“I don’t drink.”, I said promptly.
“I never said anything about alcohol.”
Back at the fireside, I sat down on the tree trunk again, while Dave went to fetch drinks. He returned a few minutes later, carrying two paper cups. I eyed mine suspiciously, trying to identify the golden liquid inside it. It smelled wonderful.
“We call it Honey Dapples.”, said Dave, sipping his drink. “And you had better taste it, because it was created by this circle of friends and you might never have the chance to drink anything as wonderful as this again.”
Well, if he said so. Dave looked like someone you could trust. I took a sip and was immediately struck by how wonderful this drink tasted. It was a mixture of ripe golden apples, mild syrup, flowers and something sparkly. I didn’t even mind the slightly bitter taste it left on my tongue once I’d swallowed.
As Fred seemed to busy with his friends to spend time with me, I stayed with Dave. We sat and talked, only pausing if he went to fetch more drinks. Talking to him was obviously doing me good – here was someone who understood how I felt at the moment. Not like stupid Fred who didn’t have a clue about anything! We became rather giggly after a while. Dave was giving a very good imitation of his old ballet teacher.
“And David, don’t move your calves like that, we’re not dancing Salsa here.”
“Dance with me.” I didn’t know where the words had come from. I had been laughing my head of two seconds ago, but here I was now – completely serious.
“What?” Dave stopped in the middle of his imitations and stared.
“Dance with me.”, I repeated, marveling at how hard it had become to pronounce the words. That was probably the weather. Or maybe I was tired.
I stood up and walked towards him, placing his hands on my hips. “Dance with me. Here and now. I want to know if I can still do it.”
Dave swallowed, but then he nodded. “What kind of music are we listening to?”
“What about Cinderella?”
Removing one hand from my hips, Dave reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. Seconds later, the familiar tunes wavered through the night.
I was dancing again. It had become more difficult, my limbs felt heavy and plump, but I was dancing. Dave was a superb partner with a great sense of balance. It seemed to cost him little to no effort to compensate my little errors and after a few minutes I had regained the feeling of having found a safe place. I was taking refuge from my own confusion in the sweeping movements of my body.
The song ended, but we didn’t stop. We didn’t even think of it. A song by Hozier started playing – Take me to church, the one that was all over the radio. I started to twirl, around and around, ignoring the dull pounding in my ankle. It wasn’t going to stop me now. Heads were turning to look at us, probably because we were laughing and not bothering to keep our voices down. Fred was staring at me too and I smiled at him just as I twirled into Dave’s outstretched arms and he caught me.
Fred came walking towards us. My smile widened. I was feeling elated, slightly dizzy and light-headed. Grinning broadly, I made my way towards him. I had almost reached him, when the whole world suddenly made a back-flip and everything went black.

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