Wren McKay loved two things in life, anthropology and dance. She never quite understood how she'd managed to balance the two, but she was now working on her doctorate during the day, spending nights at the Smithsonian, and weekends were spent practicing in a studio she'd found. The University through which she was doing her doctorate was kind enough to let her coach their ballroom team when she could, and she appreciated the gesture. She spent her days that she wasn't coaching them living vicariously through their competitive successes. Part of her even jumped for joy when a couple she'd worked with hardest beat the three couples from the University of Vermont that had made the final in Bronze Standard. Even now she could hear her friend, Hestia Cook, yelling that it was a fluke and that it only happened because Wren herself was from the University of Vermont.
Wren McKay's coaching successes were adding up. She was a focus point of many of the collegiate competitions in the D.C. area. Dancers from other colleges would often come up to her to ask her honest opinion about their dancing, and she gave it to them. She herself had been in the competition circuit during her graduate studies at Boston University, and while the college liked to take credit for her time with them, it was the University of Vermont team that she still considered home.
It was October now, and she and a few of the students she coached - John Corresont, Mary Feldman, Joseph Marks, and Belinda Corinth - were in New Jersey for the Fall Frolic, one of three of the competitions held as part of the New Jersey DanceSport Classic. Wren stood at the side of the dance floor, carefully watching Joseph lead Belinda into a whisk.
"Are you Wren McKay?" asked a man with a heavy British accent. He was around five foot eight in height with dirty blond hair. Wren didn't bother turning around when she answered him.
"Lawrence Gables," he said. She turned. The name was familiar. He and his partner, Gabriella Latoine, had been the only couple to beat Wren at the last competition she competed in. Wren raised her eyebrow. "My partner has abandoned me at the last minute. I remember you being very good. Would you consider being my partner for this competition?" Wren stared at the man, eyes wide.
"O-of course," she stuttered out. "What level?"
"All events in silver. I've registered for gold as well, but well, that's up to you."
"I can do gold as well. I mean, we haven't really gotten to know each other's dancing yet, but I'm willing to dance for as many as I can."
"Splendid!" Lawrence said, rising up on his toes. Wren was instantly reminded of John Cleese. Lawrence's accent didn't help in that regard.
"Just let me go change," she said, indicating the garment bag she had with her.
"Hurry, silver starts in a few." She nodded to him, grabbing the bag and running to the nearest changing room.
Her long unused dress was of a Spanish type design, but was done in white with rose red ribbon up the side. She loved it for the design captured the tango while the white of the dress had an air of innocence that went well with waltz and foxtrot. Not to mention the ruffles added a fun flair for the quickstep. She was in and out of the changing rooms in seconds, quickly running up to Lawrence smiling wider than she had for anything more exciting. She was competing again. She quickly grabbed the white and red hair piece she had designed herself and pinned it in place while the two of them lined up for Silver Waltz and Quickstep.
From her place in line, she saw Joseph and Belinda at their spot on the sidelines looking around. Belinda pointed to the pile of clothes she left behind. Joseph frowned, then looked up at the on deck area. His eyes caught with Wren's and she waved at her students. He mouthed "What number?" at her. She turned to Lawrence.
"What number are we?" He smiled and turned around. "276," he said as she read the number herself. She turned back to Joseph and Belinda and made the hand signs for "2", "7", and "6". Belinda gave her a two thumbs up to indicate that she got it. The bronze level couple was bouncing up and down. They had never seen their coach dance a full dance with another partner as most of the students she taught were not up to her level. Not only that, but they had never even seen her competition dress.
"Now for heat one of Silver Waltz Quickstep," the announcer said. "Judges recall 12 from 2."
Lawrence lead Wren out onto the dance floor by the hand. Wren lifted part of her skirt in her right hand, her left placed gently on top of Lawrence's outstretched right hand. He placed her then stepped back a good two and a half yards so that there was plenty of space between them. A waltz came on, Lawrence's hand came up, and Wren stepped into frame. Soon the couple was gliding around the floor, frame strong, gracefully slipping around the other couples. When the music came to a stop, Lawrence twirled Wren under and opened up to the side of the dance floor. She curtsied as he bowed, then Lawrence caught her hand again and they moved to another spot on the dance floor. Wren briefly glanced at her students. John and Mary, also competing at the bronze level, had gone running up to Joseph and Belinda, mouths excitedly moving at a hundred miles a minute. Belinda lifted her hands to her mouth and shouted "Two seventy-six!"
A quickstep began to play and, stepping on the four, Lawrence quickly guided Wren around the floor, quick foot movements and long strides keeping them moving longer than most other couples on the floor.
When asked later, Wren would say that that first time dancing with Lawrence Gables was like a dream. His leads were clear. His frame was strong. He was a good partner. They made first in Silver Waltz Quickstep, second in Silver Tango Foxtrot, and first in Silver Viennese Waltz. Gold was no where near as good but the couple was happy with the results none the less.
As Wren was packing up with her students at the end of the day, Lawrence came back over with his neatly packed garment bag.
"You're in the D.C. area, right?" he asked as Belinda looked on curiously.
"Yeah, I am," she said.
"Good, good. I'm currently in D.C. as well. Gabriella quit dancing after she found out she was pregnant two days ago. I told her she could still dance this early on, but she's gotten some crazy idea in her head that it will severely hurt the baby if she keeps it up. Anyway, seeing as I'm partnerless and we're in the same area..."
"You want to be partners?" Wren asked.
"Well, yes. If that's okay?" Wren smiled.
"Of course! I still have to coach this lot here," she pointed to her four students, "If you don't mind helping with that, I'm sure we can work out a schedule and studio space."
Lawrence smiled back at her. "Of course, of course."
Her four students smiled at her in a way suggesting that she should be letting them in on something. "Lawrence, meet Mary, John, Joseph, and Belinda. Guys, this is Lawrence Gables." Lawrence shook each of the team members hands.It was the start of a brilliant new partnership.