Dancing with My Husband

 

There were no cheering crowds to spur us on, no celebrity judges, only fluorescent lights and a sweaty heaviness in the air left over from the hip-hop teens who had occupied the space before us. Kayla, our instructor, clapped her hands and shouted the count from the sideline, looking too young and skinny for us to be friends. No, there’d been no scrolling feed on TV to warn, Don’t try this at home or Don’t bribe the one you love with tacos and sex every night (not necessarily in that order) for a Friday night dance class, because, hey, now that we’re married, we’re not doing anything after Jeopardy, anyway.

“One, two, three; one, two, three . . . ” I counted loud enough for the two of us as we hurried to catch up to the other two stumbling couples.

A Cup of Comfort for Couples

My husband and I finally managed a safe step, two, three, and my heart swelled as Frank Sinatra sang and we glided a few feet across the hardwood floor. I engaged the fantasy, imagining myself in a skin-tight backless dress, the music loud and strong, stirring that falling-in-love feeling when joy courses through you like a low-grade fever. No matter that the last time my husband and I had danced together was at our wedding long ago. No matter that those TV dancers didn’t have to race home from work to grab the spouse who’d just arrived from his own nine-to-fiver and dash down to the dance “institute,” a converted suite of rooms with mirrors for walls in the token industrial section of suburbia. My hair and makeup session before tonight’s class consisted of applying lipstick and hand-fluffing my hairspray-burdened hair under the meager light of the visor mirror. No matter any of that, because we were here, really here, and for a few more cautious steps I was living the dream. I smiled at my husband, he smiled back, and then, happy and distracted, we promptly ran into each other again.

“Okay, kids,” Kayla called. “Gather ’round, please, so I can show you the next move.”

She grabbed my husband’s hand and pulled him into the middle of our small circle. I watched, helpless, as she bent his arms into position like a life-sized Gumby doll and then locked her frame into his.

“Now, pay attention,” she said. “This is what it should look like.”

Kayla nodded a silent count to my spouse then boldly stepped back, pulling my better half with her. I braced, waiting for the crash.

“You’re so lucky,” said the woman next to me. “My husband wouldn’t be caught dead here.”

“There was bribery involved.” What, I would not say.

She shook her head. “Nothing would get Barry down here. He likes to bowl, but that’s about it.”

By now Kayla and my man had danced several yards without mishap. If there was any hesitancy on his part, it was quickly quelled by Ms. Skinny Tush.

“He’s pretty good, actually,” my new friend said. “I’m Harriett, by the way.”

“I’m Barbara, and that’s Michael,” I said, turning to offer her a quick smile, but was surprised to see her watching my guy with open admiration.

Curious, I followed her gaze and that’s when it happened: through Harriett’s eyes, I saw my husband in a way I hadn’t since when we were first dating and every inch of him was fascinating to me and all I desired. Before our dance class, he’d thrown on a white shirt and black slacks, and now I stood transfixed by the contrast of his tan hands against the crisp white cuffs—it was so Antonio Banderas-ish. Had he been wearing that all evening?

The music stopped, and Kayla brought him over. “He’s all yours!” she said, giving me his hand. I took it.

“Teacher’s pet,” I teased.

Michael laughed and pulled me close. “The sacrifices I make.”

“And I appreciate it.” I tilted my head up like Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally—when she had good hair.

We started practicing again, our moves to Frank’s tunes a little smoother now after Kayla’s private lesson. I told him about Harriett. “But she doesn’t know you’re only here for the promise of food and canoodling.”

He looked indignant. “Not true.”

“What do you mean?” I felt his guiding right hand, warm and familiar, burrow its way to my bare back, T-shirt be damned.

“I’m here,” he said, bending slightly to touch his nose to mine, “because you wanted me to be.”

Shocked, I pulled away. “Really?”

Michael reached out, and in a roguish, Harlequin romance-type move brought me up against him and whispered in my ear, “Really.”

But he already had me at “you wanted me to be.” In that Disney moment, I saw all the little things he does: the spiders slayed, the schmaltzy love notes left where I’ll find them (on my pillow, in my purse, taped on the package of the freeze-dried tortellini I planned to resuscitate for dinner), his gentleman’s arm on stairs that seem steeper after age forty, but most of all, letting me drag him to a ballroom dance class for the next six Friday nights when he could be home watching Dirty Jobs on Direct TV. I wanted him. I wanted him now.

“Ready?” he asked, setting us into start-waltz position again.

I nodded. “You can lead.”

We danced some more, Sinatra wound down, and Michael spun me around into a death-defying dip that made me cry out with laughter. After class, I threaded my arm through his.

“So what do you say next week I ditch the sneaks for a pair of sexy black pumps?”

He grinned. “And nothing else?”

Men. “Uh—no,” I replied, then added, “But later tonight . . . ”

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