The house has felt empty since that night Kevin told us he was going back to Korea. None of us spent time together after that. The living room was empty, the kitchen was empty, and for most of the remaining week we had left in California, none of us truly sat down to have a conversation. Kevin spent most of his time on the phone with JooAh; I feel like that was the only time I see him smile these days. It instantly fades when he hangs up the phone.
Shawn has been in his room for most of the days left here in California; heartbroken and crushed. I know that feeling all too well, and I feel so bad for Shawn. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him with me to the Voyage that night. Maybe then he wouldn’t have met Skylar. Maybe then he wouldn’t have fallen in love with a woman that he can’t be with.
I look in the mirror and fix the collar of my button-down shirt. I brush the fabric of my slacks and look at the white sneakers I pair the outfit with. I slick my hair back, even though I want nothing more than to hide my face. I wear her bracelet even though I shouldn’t. I can’t help it; it’s truly become a part of me, just how Grace is. Was.
Kevin walks past my bedroom and stops to look inside. I turn around, not knowing what Kevin wants.
“You’re going out?” Kevin asked.
“Yeah. I made a commitment,” I answered, tidying up my room before I head out for the night. Kevin doesn’t move from the doorframe, so I stand in the middle of the room and just look at him. “Is everything fine?”
“I truly messed up, didn’t I?” Kevin confessed. I sympathized with Kevin; I know this was most likely because Kevin and Shawn were not speaking to each other. Shawn and Kevin used to be inseparable; I actually met Kevin through Shawn back in law school; I never understood how someone as introverted as Kevin became friends with someone as loud and energetic as Shawn. Their friendship worked, needless to say.
“You’re doing what’s right for you and JooAh, Kevin,” I answered. “I don’t think Shawn is mad at you for having to go back to her. He’s just–“
“He’s just in love with an American woman; I know,” Kevin finished my sentence. “But he’s acting like it’s my fault that they broke up, and it makes me feel like shit.”
“Shawn will eventually feel better; when he does, then you two need to have this conversation,” I told Kevin. It took Kevin and I months to put everything that happened in New York behind us. I know Kevin was just looking out for his friend when Grace and I weren’t on speaking terms. If he wasn’t so caught up in his own issues, he would’ve been the same way, knowing grace and I have spent time together here in California.
I pick up my crossbody bag and placed it on my shoulder. I turned around to exit the room.
“Have fun at your commitment tonight,” Kevin said. Heh, if only.
The first time I ever saw Grace was an accident. We had plans for dinner that night, and when I didn’t hear from her all day, I was worried. I watched her through the window of the studio, and if I didn’t know Grace’s presence as well as I do, I wouldn’t have thought the woman dancing was her. I still wonder what made her go into law instead of dance. Sure, she told me that she grew up watching her father working for the law and she was an amazing lawyer when she was one, but watching her dance was completely different. Grace felt like she was being her true self when she danced; the vulnerable, messy, loving woman she is. I already had fallen in love with Grace by that point, but I think I knew I loved her at that moment.
I arrived at the venue where Grace’s showcase was being held out. It was interesting to see so many important people sitting i ne room, watching young dancers showcase their talent.
“It’s in the Vermont Palace downtown,” Grace said as I wrote the address down on my phone. The sun was setting, and Grace was gathering her things to head to practice after having dinner. “It’ll be nice to have a familiar face in the audience.”
“Is Skylar not going to be there?” I asked. Grace shrugged her shoulder.
“Who knows,” she answered. “She’s busy with Shawn these days. I’m not mad at her or anything, but when she’s in this deep, she doesn’t remember anything she has to do or what others need from her.” I laughed, getting up from the table with her.
“Come on,” I looked at Grace. “I’ll drive you to your practice.”
I take a seat towards the back of the venue. The stage is lit with bright lights while the rest of the room is dark. A woman walks out and introduces herself as the co-founder of the academy, Morgan Kelly.
“Welcome to this season’s showcase, everyone. Our dancers have worked endlessly these last couple of months, and with their talents and determination, you are all are in for an amazing show. Whether you are friends or family of the dancers, or people within the business, we are happy to have you here tonight,” she greeted. Everyone clapped, and she spoke once the applause died out.
The dancers were amazing, to say the least. They all were so passionate and elegant about it. You can tell these dancers dance because this is who they are as people, just how I can tell I am a lawyer; it’s who I am. I think I always meant to be one, and I don’t regret anything that I’ve done that got me to this place.
Grace, on the other hand, was meant to do more than settle. She is a dancer.
“Our next dancer is fairly new to our academy, but her passion and talent truly speaks for itself. Originally from New York, she co-runs her family-own academy, teaching the next generation of dancers to come and change the game forever,” Morgan said. “Please give a round of applause to our next dancer, Grace Ashmore.”
Grace comes out in a flowy red dress. Red was always the best color on her. She stands in front of everyone, bows, and then looks toward the ground. The song begins to play and she immediately starts to dance. Watching Grace dance sometimes feels intrusive, like no one should be watching her be so vulnerable on stage. So expressive. So free.
I think about the stories she told me as a kid in her hometown and how she did nothing but dance. She didn’t have many friends because she was so busy being a tiny dancer. She always knew her mother was a world-renowned dancer; I wonder how hard that was for her growing up. To follow in someone’s footsteps that you never got to know until later in life, when it was too late… Grace dances for her younger self. She does it to connect with her; the one who knew nothing but dance, and that was all there was to life. When Grace’s life was simple. That’s why it feels so wrong to watch her dance, but it’s too mesmerizing to not want to watch her be… her.
The song is a simple guitar playing in the background and a man’s voice singing softly. Her body moves to every syllable of that damn song. How does she make something so simple look absolutely beautiful?
Sometimes it hurts like growing pains, at times it makes me cry like the rain, But I’d cross the ocean if I have to; I’d run through the storm to get to you right now…
It’s so natural to love you.
It’s so fucking natural to love Grace.
Grace spins and her dress moves across her body. Maybe I’m biased, but Grace has been the best dancer to perform tonight. She’s more than just this dancer that wants to dance for fun. She’s not meant to keep her talent hidden like this. She deserves the world to see her dance. Grace Ashmore deserves the fucking world, even if she doesn’t believe she does.
The song stops and Grace finishes her performance. The audience gives her a standing ovation, including me. She bows and smiles out towards us. She’s the happiest when she dances.
Shortly after, Morgan comes back onto stage and lets everyone know that there is a reception in the other room next door. As friends and family gather their things and head to the reception, I gather my things to exit the venue. I don’t want Grace to know I’m here, not after what happened at the pier last weekend. It’s best if she didn’t know. Tonight was her night, and I don’t need it to be ruined because I’m here.
As I enter the main lobby of the venue I look up from my phone and towards the front door. Even with the crowd of people standing and hanging out in the lobby, my heart nearly stops to my stomach.
I see Skylar, and Skylar sees me.