~Chapter Two: First Lesson~
~Chapter Two: First Lesson~
I shifted restlessly and yawned. Sitting up in bed I stretched and blinked. Seeing my surroundings, I furrowed my brow. “This isn’t my room...” I mumbled, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
Sitting up straighter, I paused a moment as the blurry laced-curtain windows and ornate furniture became clear. “Wait...so it...wasn’t a dream?” I slowly got out of bed and crossed the room to the vanity on the opposite wall. I looked at my reflection in the mirror and crinkled my nose. “Well, I look like a mess,” I muttered as I reached for the hairbrush that sat upon the table, hoping to tame my knotted, disheveled brown hair. As I did, I noticed the vase of flowers, where the red rose stood out from amongst the other flowers. Suddenly, memories of last night came flooding to my mind.
I turned sharply when I heard a rapping at my door. I reached for my robe off of the hook on the side of the wardrobe and hastily put it on. “Come in!” I called.
Kip suddenly flew into the room. “Oh, good, Princess, you’re up! Well, there’s no time to waste! Breakfast at 8:15, and then you’re off to your dance lesson!”
“Dance lesson?” I asked groggily.
Kip nodded. “Of course! If you’re going to dance before the entire kingdom at the Ball, we need you to be as prepared as possible! And once you find a partner, you need to pick a piece together and begin choreographing your dance!”
My stomach lurched. Dance in front of the whole kingdom? Could I really do that? I felt a sudden rush of fear. Probably anxiety about being out on the floor all alone, well, except for my partner, and the thought of having only a month to come up with a piece that would win the competition. It was all too much to process for me. Then I closed my eyes. I have to calm down, I tried to tell myself. I’m always so quick to panic. It’s not a big deal, right? I mean, the Ball is a whole month away! I can totally find a partner and be prepared by the time of the Ball. No sweat. I’m in a magical kingdom! Might as well enjoy myself!
I took a deep breath and plastered a smile on my face. “Okay, I’ve got this. Dance lesson–what does one wear to a dance lesson?” I murmured to myself as I approached my bureau and rifled through the many drawers filled with dresses and skirts and freshly pressed slacks.
Kip followed me over the my dresser, blinking his wide eyes at me. “Why, dancing clothes, of course!”
I thought of the 'dancing clothes' I had worn to the many dance classes I had attended at home, which consisted of yoga pants and tee shirts. Something told me that wouldn’t be appropriate or even possible here.
Kip added, seeming exasperated, “Just pick a dress and some dancing shoes and get ready!” He then left, the door somehow managing to close behind his tiny figure.
I sighed, opening my wardrobe and fingering the gorgeous dresses that hung within. They were all so beautiful, I was having sensory overload. Finally, I chose an aqua blue knee-length dress with short sleeves. I reasoned that I would get hot dancing if I wore a long, thick dress. I then pulled out a sweater and matching blue dancing shoes, shoes with a low heel that didn’t look too precarious.
Once I was dressed, I walked over to the gilded full-length mirror. The dress was so pretty, one of those dresses with the full skirts that you felt like twirling in. I spun around in a circle and laughed as the skirt danced around with me. “Perfect for dancing!” I smiled.
* * *
Kip flew beside me as I walked through the castle and out of the main doors. As I crossed the courtyard, a sudden booming voice startled me. “Good morning Your Highness!”
I turned and was surprised to see the voice came from a human-sized dog who was dressed like a palace guard and standing on two feet. “Uh–um,” I stammered, trying to not look as shocked as I felt, “G-good morning!”
Seeing my expression after we left the courtyard, Kip asked, “Princess, what’s the matter?”
I swallowed, trying to think of a tactful way to express my thoughts. “Um, it’s just that I’m not used to so many animals talking,” I said with a casual shrug.
Kip scratched his furry head. “What a strange world you’re from!” He commented.
We continued our walk in silence, as I was far too absorbed in staring in wonder at the beautiful kingdom to really make conversation. “Well, here we are!” Kip said suddenly.
I slowed my steps and stared at the building before me. It wasn’t huge; it was a rather medium-sized structure. It had a tall gabled roof and brown trim. A sign hung that read in scrolled font, ‘Flower Kingdom Practice Hall.’
As we went inside, I gasped in wonder at the huge room before me, with the delicate pattered wallpaper, tall cream columns, and marble floors. This put all of my dance classrooms back home to shame.
Kip cleared his throat. “Princess, I would like you to meet your dance instructor.”
I looked around the room, and saw no one. “Where?” I asked. “Is he arriving soon?”
Kip shook his head, looking completely perplexed. “What do you mean? He’s right here!”
I tipped my head to the side, confused. “Where? Is he invisible?”
Kip let out a frustrated sigh and pointed. Following the direction of his paw, I looked down and saw a rabbit dressed in a coat, bow tie, and top hat. That’s my dancing instructor? He looks like a tenth my size!
“Pleased to meet you! I’m Tony, the rabbit!” He said in a surprisingly deep voice.
“A–a rabbit?” I said incredulously.
Kip narrowed his eyebrows and brandished his wand. “Princess! Mind your manners!” He scolded. “Tony happens to be the greatest dancer in all of the Flower Kingdom!”
“Um, please forgive me. I’m pleased to meet you too, Tony,” I choked out with a curtsy. I need to get used to this! I can’t be rude; I’m supposed to be the princess now!
“Oh, a moment, Your Highness!” Tony said suddenly. “Traaaaansform!!!!”
A bright light blinded me, and when it cleared, Tony was suddenly taller than me, like the dog who was the palace guard!
“There we are!” Tony said, casually adjusting his bow tie.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed. Well, it was hard to contain my astonishment. He just transformed, like I did last night when I put on that tiara Kip gave to me. Did everyone in this world have magic? “Kip!” I turned to him and began, “Can you transform too?”
Kip looked taken aback, his tiny green eyes widening. “That’s a secret,” he said, covering his mouth with a little paw. “Anyways, enough chit-chat! It’s time to begin with your lesson!”
Tony smiled and nodded his agreement. “All right, then, let’s get started. Princess, have you much dance experience?”
I nodded. “Yes, a lot of ballet, as well as some tap.”
Tony clapped his hands together. “Splendid! Then you should have no trouble picking up the moves! Have you done any ballroom dancing before?”
I figured that since I was supposed to be a princess, and dance lessons seemed to be a staple in the life of a princess, I nodded. “But, um, it’s been awhile,” I added, hoping that would cover the fact that I had never actually danced ballroom in my life.
Tony nodded, seeming to have bought my story easily enough. “Very well, then let’s have a refresher course and start with the basics. The first thing is body placement. Now, remember to have good posture.”
I nodded, trying to stand up straighter.
“Good–remember to keep your head up, shoulders open, feet hip width apart, and maintain a strong core.”
I was used to this jumble of directions from my ballet class, so I hoped it was relatively the same type of stance.
Tony nodded, seeming satisfied. Then he began, “Now, there’s the position you take with your partner. There are three to remember.” He took my hand in his and pulled me closer.
What a surreal experience, I thought, Dancing with a giant rabbit. Tony continued his instruction, not sensing my dismay at our situation.
“First is closed position. We stand facing each other, the ladies’ left hand on the gentleman’s right shoulder and the gentleman’s right hand on her ribcage, and then we clasp our other hands like so...” He took my right hand in his and held it a bit below shoulder height. “Then there’s open position,” He turned me slightly so our hands were still clasped, but our bodies were tilted outward so our hips were touching. “And finally,” Tony said, “There is the conversation position, where you stand face to face with your partner, as if you are just having a chat, and join hands as needed. This position is often used with swing dancing. Does all this make sense?”
I nodded, furrowing my brow and hoping I remembered everything.
“Good.” Tony smiled. “Now, remember, the man always leads, and it is his job to give the lady cues to make sure every move is perfectly in sync. If you ever start to feel off-track, your partner should be able to cue you to the correct dance steps with his placement and movement.” He paused, then continued, “Okay, let’s start off with a waltz. It’s a simple pattern to follow. The rhythm is one-two-three, one-two-three, and the feet are very simple, the two of you almost make a box with your feet. Are you ready to try it?”
I took a shaky breath, rattled with nerves, then nodded. A waltz couldn’t be too bad, right?
Tony clapped his hands, and music began to play. I gazed around in confusion. Where was the music coming from? Then I saw the large gramophone in the corner of the room. I had never actually seen one of those outside of movies and photographs.
Taking first position, Tony led me through my first waltz. At first I had trouble getting the rhythm down exactly right, and the fact that Tony was holding me firmly so I didn’t fall too far out of step confused me. But soon I was able to feel myself forming the pattern with my feet.
After about an hour of practicing, twirling around the room and losing my footing here and there until I got the hang of it, a movement in the far corner caught my eye. Then I saw that is was Luciano, leaning casually against the wall, his arms folded across his chest and a disgruntled expression on his face.
When Tony and I came to a stop, I smiled and said, “Hello, Luciano! How are you?”
Tony tipped his hat. “Good day, Prince Luciano. What can we do for you?”
Luciano didn’t respond for a moment, then replied in his deep voice, “Nothing, I...I just felt like stopping by to see...but I see you’re both busy...”
Why is he here? I wondered, dying to know. Why won’t he just spit it out? Why is he always so mysterious?
“Um, Luciano,” I began, smiling tentatively, “Would you like to practice dancing with me?”
Luciano’s gaze, which was already pretty stony, hardened as if I’d asked him to jump off a cliff. “No thanks. I have to go.” He turned and left in one swift moment before I could even respond.
“Wow, that was weird. And rude.” I muttered, crossing my arms over my chest. Then I sighed with fatigue. “Whew, I’m actually pretty worn out,” I commented.
“Perhaps we should call it a day, Princess,” Tony said. “We can pick up our lesson tomorrow, same time.”
I nodded, smiling. “All right, thank you for the lesson Tony. See you tomorrow!”
* * *
As I walked back to the castle, this time without Kip, who had rushed off to some meeting, I found the sun to be exceptionally bright. I squinted and covered my face with my hand. When I walked through the square, I saw a horse being led by someone in the near distance. I slowed my steps and cupped a hand over my eyes to see them better. The horse was beautiful, pure white with a long, flawless white mane. I am such a horse geek. I laughed to myself. Then my heart skipped a beat when I realized who was leading the horse. Tall, with short, slightly wavy mauve hair, and a stance that was all too familiar due to his counterpart in my world always hitting on me. Cesar, I thought, my heart doing a strange little dance in my chest. What is this for? Why am I nervous all of a sudden? I shook my head, trying to dismiss it and continuing on my way. Why do I care? He’s just like Carlos...
When he stepped out of the direct light of the bright sun, we could see each other more clearly. I didn’t react, but Cesar smiled in recognition and lifted his hand in a friendly wave.
I inhaled sharply, and waved back. Why do I feel so nervous? Well, I thought after a moment as I strolled back to the castle, He did give me that rose... I bit my lip. I’m just boy-crazy.
As I approached the gardens that surrounded the castle, I saw a familiar couple, the girl sitting on the edging of a stone flowerbed, and the guy in front of her, clasping her hands and whispering to her. My eyes widened when I realized why they seemed so familiar: It was Prince Klaus and Cynthia! From the looks of their behavior, it didn’t seem as if they were just partners for the dance competition, but an actual couple! I sighed. Well, there’s one prince I won’t be dancing with at the ball. I wonder who my partner will be?
As I entered my room after trudging up the long staircase, I flopped on my bed. I knew I probably had many more princess duties to fulfill that day, but until Kip came to get me, I would try to take a nap. I smiled as I drifted off, my head filled with dancing the waltz. I found I couldn’t wait to learn more dance steps at tomorrow’s lesson.
* * *
* * *
To be continued...