Bad For You

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6

Hannah spent the remainder of the weekend trying to convince me to message Theo or at least add him on social media, but in the end I chickened out.

"You just need to grow a pair," Hannah says that Monday morning.

I slam my locker door shut and turn to face her. "You do realize that's easier said than done right?"

When Hannah starts laughing I narrow my eyes at her. "What?"

"Nothing," she snickers. "I just think it's funny how he's literally seen you naked yet you're scared to click a blue button."

My mouth falls open and I hit her. "Hey!" She rubs her arm. "That actually hurt!"

"You're the worst."

"No I'm-" Hannah suddenly pauses mid sentence. "Shoot. I think I forgot my stats textbook in my car."

"I'll come with you-"

"No!" She shouts and then quickly clears her throat. "I mean no. You just...stay here. I'll be right back!"With that she spins around and hurries off. I stare after her in bewilderment.

Okay...that was weird.

"You never told me your middle name was Briar."

I whirl around to see Theo standing behind me, backpack slung casually over his shoulder. Suddenly Hannah's strange behavior made sense.

That sneaky bitch.

"Your name is literally Aurora Briar," Theo says with a smirk. "Are you sure your last name isn't rose?"

I smile and shake my head. "Pretty sure. But my mom might have been a tad obsessed with the Sleeping Beauty ballet and watched it only a million times while she was pregnant with me."

"Well then that explains the name," he nods. "But you know I have to call you Briar Rose now, right?"

"Of course you do," I giggle. "Soooo...you were at my recital."

"I was," Theo confirms. "For someone who hates dancing you're awfully good."

"I don't hate it," I correct him. "I just...wish it didn't come with so many strings attached."

He nods in understanding. "I get that.”

“Yeah. I didn't see you after the show though."

"I figured I should leave you to your adoring fans," Theo raises a brow with a smile. "Why, were you looking for me?"

I sweep my leg in an arc and shrug. "No."

When Theo gives me a knowing look I roll my eyes and look away to hide my blush. "I wasn't looking for you. I just thought, you know, you'd be hanging around or something. That's all."

"You're a terrible liar," he chuckles. Then he bumps his foot with mine and shoves his hands in his pockets. "We should hang out."

He says it so causally like it's no big deal, meanwhile I'm internally freaking out.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. Preferably somewhere that's not a dance studio or a house party."

Breathe Aurora. Do not spazz out right now.

"Sure," I agree, doing my best to keep my voice as nonchalant as possible. "I have practice after school, but I'm free after six."

"Six it is. I'll pick you up in front of the school."

I smile. "Okay."

"Cool," he grins. "See you later Briar Rose."

With that he walks off and I stare after him. I'm not sure where Hannah disappeared to but shortly after that the bell rings and I pirouette all the way to first period.

___


Classical music plays softly over the speakers and the studio is filled with quiet chatter and laughter as students warm up before practice. I'm in my usual spot on the floor stretching my hamstrings when Priyanka wanders over.

"Hey," she says, dropping her bag and joining me on the floor.

"Hey," I switch legs. This is kind of weird. Priyanka usually stretches with Noelle and Lucy. To be honest, I don't really understand their friendship. Priyanka is nice and well...they're not. "Not stretching with Lucy and Noelle?"

Priyanka rolls her eyes. "No. They're being particularly annoying today. I don't even know why I'm still friends with them."

Yeah, you and me both.

"I mean, Noelle used to be nice but Lucy is just a straight up b-word," she continues. "She's totally corrupted Noelle."

"How long have your known Noelle?" I ask curiously.

"Since we were kids. We instantly clicked and became friends. She was so sweet back then..." Priyanka trails off and sighs. "When we first started taking ballet together it was fun. Then slowly she started turning into a primadonna. Lucy doesn't help. She just encourages her. When it's just the two of us it's like I'm with the old Noelle again, but whenever Lucy's around she's totally different," she huffs. "And Lucy is almost always around."

Wow. I was not expecting her to divulge that much information to me.

"That sucks," I say sympathetically. "But sometimes people change, you know?"

"I guess," Priyanka replies glumly. "I just miss my best friend. Sometimes I wish Lucy would disappear."

I felt bad for her. Hannah was my best friend, and I'd known her almost as long as Priyanka had known Noelle. I don't know what I'd do if she suddenly turned on me, or worse, replaced me. Hannah was the only one who kept me sane, and without her I'd probably have cracked under the pressure years ago.

Suddenly Francis enters the studio, rapping his cane on the floor. Everyone snaps to attention. "At barre!" he commands.

Immediately everyone rushes over to their places at the barre, assuming first position.

"We'll begin with a series of pliés," he instructs. "Front top. And one two three."



We transition from pliés into battement tendu and glisse, ronde de jambes—both à terre and a l'air—battement fondu and frappe, petit battement, and finally grande battement. Eventually we move to work at centre.

Then adage begins.

"Chin up! Relax your shoulders! Stop looking down! Turn your entire head, not just your eyes!
Legs straight! Stop shaking! Hold it, hold it!"

Francis makes his way around the room barking out errors and flaws, correcting students where necessary. At one point he uses his cane to repeatedly knock Katarina's arms into place when they're either too high or too low in arabesque.

"Remember to spot!" He calls out as we start pirouettes. "And for the love of ballet point your toes!"

Francis stops in front of Priyanka and I, his shrewd eyes examining us. "Relève and turn," he snaps at her. "Relève and turn. Relève and turn. You're not doing it. Relève and turn."

She continues to pirouette as he moves onto me. "Hips straight Aurora. Straight. Keep them straight."

As soon as he moves on Priyanka whispers to me.
"I'm surprised he didn't hit me with his cane. I thought for sure he would."

I giggle. "Same."

Needless to say class is brutal. By the time it's over I'm covered in a light sheen of sweat. Normally I don't take showers at school but since I'm hanging out with Theo afterwards I decide a quick rinse off wouldn't hurt. My hair is slightly damp when I emerge and after changing into my regular clothes I find Priyanka at the mirrors brushing her hair.

"Do you mind if I borrow your blow dryer?" I ask.

"Sure," she digs into her bag and pulls it out, handing it to me.

"Thanks," I plug it in. After blow drying my hair I play around with it a bit, trying to make it look cute. I squint at my reflection in the mirror. Should I put on makeup? I don't want to look like I'm trying too hard or anything. I decide some mascara wouldn't hurt. Then I swipe on a coating of lip gloss and pop my lips. Once I deem myself presentable I unplug Priyanka's blow dryer and turn to hand it back to her. Except she's already staring at me.

"What?" I ask defensively.

"Nothing it's just...I don't think I've ever seen you spend this much time on your appearance after practice. Usually you're one of the first people out the door."

I shrug. "I have plans after this."

She smirks. "Do those plans involve a boy?"

"And what if they did?"

"Then I'd tell you that you look great. I'd also be curious and wonder who the boy is."

"Are we talking about boys?" Noelle seemingly materializes out of thin air. Thankfully Lucy is nowhere to be seen. She looks me up and down, tilting her head. "Well you look nice. Hot date?" She raises a brow.

"None of your business," I give her a tight lipped smile, slinging my duffel bag over my shoulder. "Bye Priyanka. Thanks for letting me use your blow dryer."

"Have fun!" She call out after me. As I'm leaving Hannah FaceTimes me.

"Are you on your date yet!" She squeals as soon as I pick up.

"One it's not a date. Two if it was you just embarrassed me."

"Whoops. My bad. What'd you tell your mom?"

"That I'm hanging out with you and I'll be home late. Cover for me if she asks?"

"You know it."

"Thanks," I reach the front of the school and look around. "He's not here yet."

"Oh my God! Why am I so nervous for you?" Hannah says. "Like my stomach is in knots."

"Your stomach?" I exclaim. "How do you think I feel?"

"Whatever you do just don't start spouting out random ballet facts."

"What? I don't do that."

"Except you kinda do babe. When you're really nervous”

"Okay," I nod resolutely. "No ballet talk."

"Oh and-"

"I think he's here!" I interrupt her excitedly as a car pulls up. "Okay, bye now!"

"Byeeee! I love you and have fun! Just don't have sex. Because then you'll get pregnant. And die."

I roll my eyes. "Goodbye Hannah."

I end the call and walk over to the vehicle that just pulled up—a navy blue Kia—and bend to peer inside and make sure it really is Theo. How embarrassing would it be if I opened the door and it was the wrong car?

Thankfully it's him and I pull open the door. "Hi," I say breathlessly as I slide into the passager seat.

"Hey," Theo grins at me. "How was practice?"

"Not fun. It's impressive how after so many years my instructor can still somehow find new ways to shred my confidence to bits."

"Yikes. I'm glad I'm not a dancer."

"Trust me, you have no idea how lucky you are," I buckle my seatbelt. "So. Where are we going?"

"You'll see," Theo winks and shifts gears.

___

When Theo parks in front of an old abandoned building in a rather sketchy, run down neighborhood and kills the engine, I turn to him with wide eyes.

"Is this the part where you kill me?"

He laughs. "Nope. Do you trust me?"

"Right now I'm not sure..." I glance outside. The building we're parked in front of is steel gray, the windows cracked and grimy. Trash litters the sidewalks. There's graffiti tagged along the walls and I hear the yowling of what sounds like two cats fighting.

Theo reaches into the backseat and grabs a worn Jansport backpack before exiting the car. I reluctantly get out after him. "This place screams rape, murder, chop your body up, and throw it in one of the garbage bins," I say, wrapping my arms around myself as if that would somehow protect me.

"Just follow me," Theo replies. I hesitate as he steps into an alley to the right of the building. However not wanting to be left behind, I eventually follow him. I stay close, practically stepping on the back of his heels. My nose wrinkles at the horrid stench. It smells like pee and cigarettes.

The alley leads out to a another street with more dilapidated buildings covered in graffiti. Theo stops in front of a large grey wall which is mostly clear and unzips his backpack, pulling out a can of blue spray paint. He tosses it at me and I barely manage to catch it. "Here. Hold this."

"You're going to spray paint this building?" I whisper yell, and drop the can like a hot potato.

Theo rolls his eyes. "The task was simple. Hold the can. And what do you do? You drop it."

I ignore his comment. "You can't just spray paint this wall! It's vandalism!"

"It's vandalism!" He mimics me in a high pitched voice. I glare at him.

"This is illegal."

"That's what makes it so fun," Theo grins. "The fact that you're not supposed to be doing it but still do it anyway. Breaking the rules, getting the rush. Isn't that why you let me paint you?"

My cheeks heat up and I cross my arms. "That was different."

Theo quirks a brow. "Really? How so?"

"I wasn't breaking the law."

"Oh sure you weren't breaking any laws in the judicial sense," he makes air quotes with his fingers. "But you were lying. Sneaking around."

"I wasn't sneaking around. My mom knew exactly where I was."

Theo bends down to pick up the can of spray paint I dropped and walks over to stand behind me. I stare straight ahead, my spine stiff as his lips brush against my ear and he whispers. "Yeah but did she know what you were doing?"

I exhale shakily, my heart flipping and flopping like a fish out of water.

Theo presses the spray paint into my hand. "It's thrilling isn't it?" He continues. Not a single part of him is touching me, yet he's so close I can feel the heat of his body pressing against mine. "Breaking the rules set to restrict us. And as long as no ones getting hurt, what's the harm?" My grip on the can tightens.

"Come on," Theo coaxes, his voice like liquid honey. "I won't tell if you don't."

This is wrong. This is so wrong. I shouldn't even be entertaining this. But I'm wrapped up in him again, in his presence, and I'd be lying if I said he didn't make me feel things that I've never felt before with anyone else.

With my heart beating so loudly I'm sure he can hear it, I step closer to the grey wall. My hands shake as I lift up my arm and press the canister nozzle. I'd never admit it out loud, but I did get a rush of adrenaline knowing I was breaking the rules.

Once I'm done I step back and Theo admires my work. "Not bad Briar Rose. Not bad at all."

I was by no means an artist like Theo, but one thing I could always draw were a pair of ballet shoes. Even if they did look like they were drawn by a fifth grader.



"When ballet is life," Theo jokes and I let out an unflattering snort. "See? That wasn't so bad was it?"

"It was alright," I mutter.

"Geez. You're hard to please."

"As thrilling as this was can we please do something legal next time? Preferably not in a creepy murder alley."

"Oh?" Theo smirks. "So there's going to be a next time?"

I blush. "I mean...maybe. I don't know. I'm actually a very boring person." It was true. My one great claim to fame was that I was a ballerina, and even that was uninteresting once you got past the glitz and glamour and into the actual mechanics. Oh sure, at some point every little girl dreams of becoming a ballerina, wearing sparkly tutu's and pretty dresses while prancing around on stage, until they realize how grueling it actually is. Most, if not all, give up early on. Few continue, and even fewer become professionals.

Theo pulls out another can of spray paint from his backpack and shakes it, stepping forward. "Good thing I'm fun enough for the both of us then."

"What are you doing?" I furrow my brows.

"Tagging your name so everyone knows the amazing artist behind the work."

"What!" I shout. Theo starts spraying over my shoes. I try to stop him but he just laughs and lightly pushes me away every time I try to knock the can from his hands.

"Theo! What the hell!”

"Trust me," he says. With a huff I give up and resign myself to watching him work. Well, truthfully I just watch him. His face is actually kind of adorable when it's all screwed up in concentration, and his tongue pokes out from the side of his mouth.

"Voilà!" My eyes snap up as Theo steps back. I stare at the wall.

He had tagged Briar Rose in graffiti letters, some of the paint running down and giving it a very cool effect.



Theo turns to me with a smirk. "And you doubted me. I just need to add one more touch."

I roll my eyes and start walking off. "I'm going to wait in the car."

"You really think I left my car unlocked in a neighborhood like this?"

"Fine. I'm going to wait by the car. And hurry up or my death is on you."

"Hold on," I stop and turn around. Theo tosses me his car keys. "Lock the doors okay?"

I stare at the keys before looking up at him. "What if I drive off?" I leave out the small detail that I don't actually know how to drive.

"Then I'll assume you had a perfectly valid reason," Theo grins.

I shake my head. "You're an idiot." Then I quickly turn away before he can see the smile on my face.

___



do not try this at home

xoxo, g💓
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