It was a humid, rainy night in New York for rehearsal, and of course, I forgot an umbrella on my way. I guess that’s what I get for assuming that the weather during the day would stay the same at night in the changing seasons. I got to rehearsal drenched in rainwater ad my hair was slowly turning into a red, frizz ball. I dropped my bag on the ground and sat on the bench in the dressing room where Aimee looked down at me as she placed her things in a locker.
“Damn Grace, you don’t look at your weather app?” Aimee asked. I looked up at her, not really wanting to get into this conversation once again. “Do you need to borrow leotards for rehearsal?”
“No, I’m good,” I said, unzipping my bag and taking my things out to change. “Good thing it didn’t start to rain until I was only a few blocks away.”
“You sure it was only a few blocks?” Aimee questioned. I looked at her and rolled my eyes, tying my frizz ball of hair into a manageable bun. I sarcastically laughed, to which Aimee shook her head; clearly, she was not pleased with my response.
“I’m just glad I made it on time,” I changed the subject as I undressed into my rehearsal outfit. Aimee turned around to help me out; she could see that for every rehearsal, I struggled to hook or suck or place something on correctly.
“Yeah? Got the little one home on time?” Aimee asked, referring to Willow.
“She’s staying with me while Max and Miriam are on their honeymoon,” I answered, zipping my bag and placing it into my locker. Aimee looked at me.
“Honeymoon?” she asked as she began to tie her hair back into a bun. “They finally got married?”
“Yeah,” I said, swallowing hard right after. I was happy for Max for finally setting down with someone who was looking to settle down with him. It doesn’t bother me that he was able to find someone to do that with first, but if I allowed myself to think about it too long, it does remind me that I was once Max’s fiance and that we were close to getting married at one point before everything turned to shit. Before I ruined everything.
“How do you feel about that?” Aimee asked. To her knowledge, Aimee believes that the last man I was with was Max since she knew he and I had Willow. The beauty of getting to know a completely new group of people is that you can tell them what you want to tell them about your past. You can completely bypass a part of your life like it never happened; maybe the more you avoid talking about it, the more you can act like it never did, and maybe one day convince yourself that it truly never did.
“I’m fine,” I simply answered. “I went to the wedding and everything. It was a beautiful ceremony,” I recalled as I finished getting ready for rehearsal. The other dancers were beginning to exit the dressing room to head out toward the rehearsal space. Aimee shuts her locker closed, not amused at me or my response.
“Mhm,” Aimee answered. “Well as long as you’re okay, that’s all that matters.”
“Please,” I scoffed. “I’ve been okay with it longer than Max knew Miriam. I’m happy for them,” I said as I close my locker. “Plus, I get two weeks to spend time with Willow.”
“Yeah, whenever we’re not in rehearsal,” Aimee pointed out. She walked away from me and towards the exit of the dressing room. I sighed loudly, gathering my things to also get ready for rehearsal. I hate how right she is.
As I walk out of the dressing room, I see a group of people at the end of the hall with tech equipment. I can hear the cinematographer talk to the group of people about the rehearsal. When the group of people began to walk toward the stage, I immediately try to get to the space on time, knowing that rehearsal was going to start. I get on the stage with the first set of dancers for the production; the lights were hitting us, practically blinding every dancer up on stage The director starts to call out for the cinematographer to adjust the lights. I take a deep breath, getting ready for another round of rehearsals.
“Alright, dancers get into position,” the director called out. I walk over to my place on stage and wait for the music to start. The first set was a contemporary piece, accompanied by a song that at first listen felt like it was all over the place, but the choreography made the song come alive. “5, 6, 7, 8!” The director called out, and the dancers started to dance. In the middle of the song, the beat changes, and I’m now center stage. I always get nervous with this part of the piece. I try not to close my eyes every time I dance to this part of the piece, but I can’t help but be myself being the center of attention for a minute and a half, which every other dancer transitions to a new spot on stage. This time is no different. “Cut!”
“Fuck,” I mouthed to myself. I opened my eyes to see the director looking directly at me.
“Ms. Ashmore,” the director called out. “We’ve gone through this too many times for it to keep happening.”
“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again,” I said back, wanting nothing more than to disappear.
“Good, because if it does, someone else will take the position instead,” the director said as she looked away and began to critique some of the other dancers in this set. I let out the breath I was holding in, finally not feeling as sick to my stomach as before.
“Alright, I need my first set on stage,” the director said. I was nervous to finally be on the stage that I would be performing on for the next year; even more so rehearsing the piece I always mess up on. I’ve gotten better as the rehearsals went on, but every now and then I catch myself making the same mistakes. Thankfully, I catch them before the director does, so I’ve managed to keep the position for this long in this particular set. “Dancers, get into position.”
I walk on stage and get to my first position for this set. I look around the stage; it is noticeably bigger than the ones we rehearsed on back in New York. I look out toward the empty sets, not realizing that they go further and further back and even up the balcony. I swallowed hard, realizing that this would possibly be the biggest venue I ever performed at to date. I didn’t get too much room to snap out of my thought since the music of the first set began to play, and the dancers had already started dancing. It was like my body was trained to immediately get into the routine, and before I knew it was almost time for me to take center stage and begin the second half of this piece.
I stood in place, waiting for the song to pick back up again for this half of the routine. I kept my eyes open, remembering to keep them open and to go along with the dance as best as I could. You got this, Grace. The music picks back up and I began to dance, letting the notes of the song spin my body around and the lyrics portray the emotion on my face.
“I saw Jamie at your showcase tonight,” Skylar admitted to me. I looked at her, my face stood frozen at the sound of his name. “Even after everything that happened, he showed up for you tonight. He said you were born to dance.”
I closed my eyes before hearing the director call out cut. I was too afraid to open them up and face forward.
“Ms. Ashmore, you know what I’m about to say,” the director yelled out, slamming her clipboard on the seat in front of her. Fuck, I ruined it. Before I could say anything, I hear Sahim call out from backstage.
“My apologies, Sonia,” Sahim walked out onto the stage and said to the director. the dancers all looked at Sahim; including me. I was confused as to why he just randomly showed up on the stage during a rehearsal. “I accidentally adjusted the spotlight too bright after that first half.” I looked at Sahim as he spoke, and he looked at me before returning to the back of the stage.
“Alright, take a 10-minute break! Dancers be back for the third set before time is up,” the director announced. The dancers on stage begin to grab their water bottles and other belongings, exiting the stage. I could feel exhaustion finally hit my body. I take a couple of sips of water as I exited the stage. I see Aimee and Maurice talking in the hallway between the two dressing rooms. They stop what they’re talking about and look at my direction.
“Hey, girl,” Maurice called out. “You good? Miss Sonia almost ripped you a new one on that stage.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said, wiping the sweat off of my face. “I don’t know why I always get so nervous in that half.”
“Because you overthink that half every time we get into rehearsal,” Aimee pointed out. I looked at Aimee as she took a sip of her water.
“Thanks for pointing out the obvious,” I said as I rolled my eyes. Aimee nodded her head, accepting the sarcastic response.
“Well you’re lucky that your beau took the blame for you,” Maurice said. “Like honey, those lights were not as bright as they used to be back in New York.” Aimee laughed at Maurice’s comment. I look at them, not amused by the conversation whatsoever. They immediately stop laughing and look down the hall. “Speaking of your savior, here he comes.” I turned around and looked in the direction Maurice and Aimee were looking at. Of course, it would be Sahim.
“Hey, Sahim!” Maurice called out. I looked at him, hating his very existence for calling Sahim like that. I turned around and saw Sahim walking toward the three of us.
“Hey, guys,” Sahim greeted us. He looks at me and smiles. “Hey, Grace.”
“So those lights, huh?” Maurice jumped in to say. “It’s always those damn lights messing things up.”
“Always,” Sahim laughed and grabbed the back of his neck; he seemed shy. That’s cute. “Anyway, do you guys mind if I pull Grace aside for a moment?” Maurice and Aimee looked at me, and then back at Sahim.
“We don’t mind,” both Maurice and Aimee answered. Both of them walk away and laugh to themselves. I watch them walk away before I look at Sahim.
“Thanks for saving me out there today,” I said to Sahim. “I would’ve been on the next flight back to New York.”
“We don’t want that,” Sahim responded back. “Then who’s going to be my buddy to explore Ulsan on our time off?” I looked at Sahim, taken back.
“Please take Aimee and Maurice off of my hands,” I teased. “I already have one child to look after.” Sahim laughs and flashes his pearly, white teeth. That smile.
“It looks like they both have different plans for their time here in Ulsan,” Sahim whispered and nodded his head toward their direction. I looked over at Aimee and Maurice, making it very obvious that they were watching Sahim and me. “But I know how hard Sonia can be, especially since the show is coming up so soon.”
“Tell me about it,” I emphasized. “I just have to get used to the venue and I’ll be okay for the first set. First rehearsal in Ulsan jitters, you know?”
“Of course,” Sahim agreed. “Even the best dancers have bad days.” I feel my face get hot. I am totally blushing.
“Even the best videographer can have bad days too,” I said back, not realizing that I just flirted back with Sahim. I look at Sahim and see his pearly white teeth make another appearance. He totally looks like he’s blushing too. I can’t help but feel comfortable around Sahim; it’s like he makes me feel like we’re outside of this rehearsal space and are just two regular people just enjoying each other’s time. I think about what Aimee told me back at the hotel: you said that Sahim is a great guy, which tells me you thought about him as more than just friends.
The director calls for a 2-minute warning before rehearsal begins again. Sahim takes a deep breath before he says anything to me.
“I’ll let you get back into place for the rehearsal,” Sahim said. Before he walks away, I can feel my impulsivity creep up to the tip of my tongue. It wants what it wants.
“Hey, Sahim?” I called out before he walked too far away from me. He turns his head around, looking at me attentively. It was too late to turn back now, and maybe, just maybe, I need to start moving on with my life. I have a year in this country, and the thought of spending it with my two good friends and Sahim excites me. I haven’t felt this eager and excited about anything since–
“What’s up?” Sahim asked.
“I should be ready by 9,” I finally answered. “My room number is 320.” Sahim smiled brightly as if saying this made his entire day. It was cute to see him get all nervous but excited at the same time.
“I’ll see you then, Ms. Ashmore,” Sahim said before walking back to his post. I hear the director call out our 1-minute warning before rehearsal began again. Fuck. I ran past Sahim to make it back onto the stage on time.