A couple of hours later, Lukas pulls his sedan up beside Nai’s convertible. She didn’t tell him where they were going, she simply put the address in his GPS and told him to follow. He steps out of his car and observes his surroundings. They’re in a more built-up area, but he wouldn’t call it a central city either. There is a chain of storefronts to his right, and what appears to be a cinema to his left. However, it seems their destination is the building in front of them, though the rather plain entrance gives nothing away. Looking at the sign, it reads: Jitterbug Love.
He looks to Nai, who walks up to him with a grin. “So, are you ready for a special surprise?”
He laughs nervously, “I don’t know, I’ve never really cared for surprises. I’ve found they tend to be unsurprising.”
“You said you trusted me, right?” He nods. “Ok, then trust me. Let’s head inside, we should be right on time.” She makes her way to the entrance.
He raises a brow as he follows behind her. “On time for what?”
“Hey there!” Lukas is startled by the sudden entrance of a woman. “Don’t go passing out there on me Mister, let’s save that for after the fun.” She laughs pleasantly. “Are ya’ll here for lessons?”
Lukas isn’t sure how to answer her, but Nai is quick to chime in. “Yes, we’re interested in the Jitterbug Combo. Mr. Roberts said I should mention his name. He told me about this place.”
“Oh, well I’ll be damned. Old Franklin is still hanging on? We couldn’t see enough of him back in the day. I was a young thing at the time, but I remember he was the liveliest man to ever grace the dance floor and he always had a different lady on his arm. So, you could imagine we were quite shocked to hear he’d settled down with a wife and had plans to start a family. We haven’t seen him ever since, so we started to fear he’d passed on. I’m glad to hear he’s still alive though. If you’re friends of his, then you’re friends of ours. I’ll get you set up with the combo right away.”
“Thank you Miss....” Nai leads.
“Darlene is just fine honey. What do I have the pleasure of calling you and Mr. Handsome over there?” She glances at Lukas.
“I’m Naomi and this is my..., this is Lukas.” She stutters slightly trying to define their relationship. A couple of days ago she’d have easily said friend without hesitation, but now...things are different, and she isn’t so sure of their current status at the moment.
Lukas glances at Nai with a small smile and then turning to Darlene he says, “Nice to meet you.”
Darlene glances between them with a knowing smile, but only says, “Nice to meet you both. You guys go on and join the others in the main hall and enjoy some light refreshments. Class will be starting up in about fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you Darlene. Should I pay now?” Nai asks.
“Oh, no need to worry about that now. We’ll settle payment later. Just go on and have fun. I’ll see you in there real soon.” She walks away towards the back, leaving them alone.
Nai and Lukas share a look, and shrug. She says, “Guess we’ll do as she says then.” Nai leads them as they enter a large hall, with a big dance floor in the middle, surrounded by several tables.
“Is this some kind of dance hall?” Lukas looks around.
“Yup! According to Mr. Roberts, this is the best place he knows to learn some quality line dancing and have fun doing it.”
“Why specifically line dancing though? Seems a bit random if I’m being honest. It’s not something I’d have expected you to have an interest in. Have you ever done it before?”
“No, I’ve never done it, but that’s kind of the point. I want to try new things. I spent much of my youth with a nanny and our fun was activities you could do around the house. My parents rarely took me on outings because they were always so busy, and I didn’t have friends to do fun things with either as I got older. I basically cut my own wings for the sake of being responsible and as compliant as possible. With Adam, it was the same, but it was him cutting them instead and I let him. I’ve never done something recklessly or just for the hell of it. I’ve never been sporadic and adventurous, even when my soul yearned for it. But now that I’m free from all those chains that bound me, I want to do something new, and I thought it’d be fun doing that with you. I’m sorry if this is boring for you.”
Lukas sees her apologetic expression and he instantly feels regretful. He doesn’t want to be the one to make her wear such expressions ever and quickly tries to ease her worries. “No! It’s not that at all. I’m happy to do this Nai. I’m happy doing anything if it’s with you. I was just surprised, that’s all. I’m sorry for being insensitive to your feelings. Please don’t make that face.”
She can see that he’s feeling remorseful and worries he might start crying. She takes his hand in hers and gives him a reassuring smile. “You’re fine Lukas, don’t look so sad. Thank you though.” He returns a smile of his own. “How about I let you pick the next activity, deal?”
He nods. “Deal. I’ll have to improvise, but I already have something in mind.” He grins, and Nai finds herself feeling anxious, but also excitement over what the night will bring.
After two hours of lessons, an hour of dance and a hearty meal, Nai and Lukas wobble to the counter to meet Darlene. “Well, you two look like you had a real grand time out there.”
“I didn’t realize line dancing could be that intense! My legs feel like jelly.” Nai says this as she leans against Lukas.
He supports her as she’d expect, but even he must shift some weight against the counter. “I’m pretty sure I used muscles I’ve never used before, and here I thought the training at the academy was brutal,” Lukas says with a laugh.
“Yep, real line dancing ain’t no joke, I can promise you that. I’m glad you kids enjoyed your time though. I hope if you come around these parts again, you’ll pay us another visit. Though, I will have to charge you next time.” Darlene responds.
They look at her in confusion. Nai replies, “Next time? Don’t we owe you for today?”
Darlene waves her hand in opposition. “No honey, it’s on us this time. Franklin Roberts was like a second father to me, and so I couldn’t possibly charge you lot if he sent you. He doesn’t send just anyone our way, so the fact that he did means he was fond of you two. I can see the likely reason why.”
Lukas adds, “Let us at least pay for our food. It doesn’t feel right to take all your hospitality like this for nothing.”
“It ain’t for nothing!” Darlene wags her finger at him. “Don’t you fuss with me about this boy, I said what I said and that’s that. Now, you two go on and enjoy the rest of your day.”
“Thank you Darlene, really. We appreciate your generosity tremendously. We’ll definitely come again one day.”
Darlene nods and gives them a warm smile. She glances at the clock on the wall. “It’s only five o’clock, and the night is still young for kids like yourselves. Why not take in the local nightlife? We’re not a big city, but we have some noteworthy spots if you’re willing to explore.”
Lukas and Nai look at each other, and back to her. “I’m not sure if we were planning on spending the night here.” Lukas looks at Nai. “Well, what do you want to do Nai? Should we try it?”
Nai thinks it over for a moment, and with a smile replies, “Well, we’re here and we don’t have to get back until Sunday at the latest so...why not? I’m still up for a little adventure.”
“Wonderful!” Darlene chirps. “There’s a nice inn down the road. Ask for Johnny. He’s a friend of mine and he’ll give you a great price. He should also know all the hot spots around here. I’ll admit it, he gets around. If fun, drinks, and ambiance is something you might be interested in, he’s your guide.”
“Hmm, I might be interested....” Lukas grins as he glances at Nai.
She gives him a playful nudge and says, “Thanks again Darlene. We’ll be going now. Please take care.”
“I always do darling. You take care as well, and make sure you have fun. Don’t worry about appearances, you’re only young for a limited time.” She gives her a wink. Nai blushes slightly but manages to hide it from Lukas. The two exit the venue and make their way to the inn.
They get there in just a few minutes, and it doesn’t take them long to get a couple of rooms. Lukas carries her bag and drops it in the small room. “Well, it’s simple, but it’s comfy at least.”
“Yea,” Nai agrees, “but are you sure you want to have separate rooms? I mean, cost wise, isn’t it more efficient to share a room? It went fine enough last night, right?”
Lukas smirks. “If you want to share a bed with me again that badly, all you need to do is ask.” He laughs and she punches his shoulder with a playful scowl. “Sorry, sorry, I’ll stop.” He takes her hand. “If I’m being honest, I’d like to stay in the same room with you Nai, but I feel that you deserve a little space for yourself. You may have a moment where you want to relax comfortably, or bathe or dress yourself without feeling like your privacy is being invaded. I think a little bit of separation is a good thing, especially in the early stages of this....” He pauses to think of the best way to say it. “Well, the early stages of whatever this is between us.”
Nai stares at him mystified, feeling like he said something nearly the exact opposite of what Adam would’ve said. Adam always wanted her by his side when they were together. He didn’t feel space was necessary. She understands now that this was just one of the many ways he controlled her, but nonetheless, it’s how he wanted it. Lukas however is considerate of her personal space, and while he’s honest about wanting to share it, he’s also willing to respect it. How did she not see the difference before?
She places her hand on his and replies, “Thank you for being so considerate of me. You’re so amazing. I’m not sure what this is between us yet either; besides the obvious I guess, but I’m excited to find out together with you.” She gives him a soft smile.
He could pull her into his arms now, but he holds back. Instead, he gives her a small smile, and releases her hand. “Well, I’m going to go inquire about those hot spots with Johnny and change. I’m sure you’d like to shower and unwind as well, so let’s say we’ll meet by...eight? Sound good?”
“Sounds perfect. I look forward to the surprise.” They share a soft glance before he turns and walks out. She sits on the bed and glances around the room; it’s no bigger than the one at the motel, but it’s got a homier feel. She touches her hand and strokes it lightly, remembering his embrace and how nice it felt. She smiles to herself as she recalls it.
After a few minutes of daydreaming, she gets up a takes a nice hot bath. She stays in for a while, allowing her mind to drift a bit. Once she gets out, she wraps up in a robe and lies across the bed. It’s surprisingly comfortable and she closes her eyes. She only intends to rest them, but soon she’s fast asleep.
After some time and once Nai is deep in her sleep, rattling can be heard by the door and a few seconds after that, the door creaks open slowly. A gloved hand appears first, followed by someone dressed in dark jeans and a dark hooded jacket. They approach the bed and come to a stop before it. They stare for several minutes at the slumbering woman, taking her all in. Once they’ve had their fill of just looking, they crouch down beside the bed so they can see her face clearly, though theirs is obscured. They take a couple of her braids into their hand and sniff, inhaling deeply. They have a lavender scent from being recently washed. They release them and begin to reach for her face, but then there’s a knock at the door, startling them.
“Nai?” He knocks again. “Nai, are you in?” He waits for a moment, and upon getting no response he tries the door. He finds it opens easily, and he walks in to find Nai still in a deep sleep across her bed. He’s momentarily stunned by her profile, concealed, yet revealing enough to see her curves and the outline of her breasts. He feels a slight twitch down below, but he quickly turns away from her and calls out her name. “Nai?”
She stirs and finally opens her eyes. “Lukas?” She sits up slowly and as she does, she finds her robe has come slightly undone and reveals more than she’d want to in the moment. She quickly pulls it closed and tightens the knot. “Um...sorry. I guess I fell asleep.” She can feel her cheeks growing red, as she knows he probably saw her in such a state and realizes he’s not facing her.
He clears his throat and turns around slightly. “Yea, seems so.” Seeing she’s fully covered again; he turns back to the front. “Well, I spoke with Johnny and he knows the perfect place; it happens to be just next door.”
“Wow, that’s great!” She says excitedly.
“Yea, it’s great, but...they’re closed tonight. Which means it’d have to be tomorrow. I’m not sure what our plans were, but it would require staying another night here. Don’t you need to get home? I’m sure your moms are worried.”
“Well, that’s a bummer, but maybe it’s for the best. I’m honestly still tuckered out from all the dancing we did today. I didn’t realize just how much until I fell asleep. Tomorrow is probably better all around. As for getting home, it’s not a problem. I already texted them to let them know I’m staying longer. They think it’s at Adam’s of course. I’m not ready to give them the satisfaction of knowing we broke up just yet. Regardless, they’re fine with it. They were going to be working all weekend anyway, so being here will be more fun.”
“I’m glad.” He shifts on his feet and then says, “So, I guess we should just make it an early night then?”
She can see he’s trying to fish for the mood, and she can’t help but find it cute. “I’m sleepy, but I wouldn’t mind staying up with you awhile.” She stands up and walks to her bag. She pulls out her tablet and says, “I’ve got Netflix, will you bring the chill?”
He can see her teasing grin and he could almost be frustrated if he didn’t find it so endearing. “I’ve got all the chill, let me just switch to something more comfy.” She nods and he reaches for the door. He pauses for a moment, staring at it oddly. “I didn’t close the door when I came in, did I?” He speaks out loud, but mostly to himself.
“Hurry up or I’ll fall asleep again!” Nai calls out.
“Ok, I’m coming.” He shrugs and goes to change as he said. He’s a bit disappointed when he returns to find Nai has changed to something more modest as well, but he accepts it. They snuggle up close with their backs against the backboard, and spend a few hours watching the best campy horrors they can find. They eventually drift off together, enjoying another night of wholesome and sweet bliss.