We’d been sitting in the car outside the studio for a solid ten minutes already, yet I couldn’t bring myself to step inside. It was like returning home but somebody you don’t recognise is living in your house.
Hope was stroking my shoulder, I think she could sense the trepidation in me not wanting to go in there. I had to right? For Hope? “No I’m good, let’s just get in there quick before I change my mind.”
He nods and Hope jumps into my arms. I carry her to the entrance, trying really hard to hold it together so I don’t drop her. Nothings changed; the same battered tiled floor, the same old car smell, the same beat of music that pumps through your body and makes you want to release into the rhythm.
“Brianna?” I turn to see a little head of grey hair staring up at me, the same scowl of distain masking the love on her face too.
“Hi Ms Day, it’s been a long time. This is Hope, she’s going to be starting in your beginners class today.”
Hope jumped from my arms and stood smiling at Ms Day, who showed her very little emotion. It was just her way, underneath it all she actually had a beautiful soul. “I see. Can you dance?”
The precious little girl nodded her head then broke out into her posing sequence. Ms Day watched her intently until she finished. “Needs work. I shall do what I can.” Considering she didn’t swear at her in Russian about how awful she was, that was quiet the compliment coming from Ms Day.
I turned to walk Hope towards the studio when a felt a small hand take my arm. “The crew are still practicing, I’m sure they would be happy to see you... You look well Brianna, I’m glad.” That’s definitely the most beautiful thing she’s ever said to me. We take a moment, just a second where I look into her tiny face. Ms day wasn’t quite five foot anyway but I still think she’s shrunk since the last time I saw her.
I smile at her. “I missed you too.”
She shrugs, brushing away the emotion of the moment immediately. “Go see your ‘dancers’.” She never could appreciate the art of street dance.
Opening the doors my breath catches in my throat, the weight of everything I’ve been missing hitting me ten fold. I can feel the tears swing in my eyes and trying to wiggle free. The mirrors, the bars, the mats. It’s all here still, the world didn’t stop when he did.
I can start to see Harley, his body moving around the room like a spirit on the wind. My heart breaks all over again and I can feel the shatter flow throughout my entire being, I wasn’t ready.
“Brie? Oh my god, Brie!” A head of curly blonde hair breaks out from the front of the room, charging towards me and running straight into my arms. Fiona.
“God Brie, what are you doing here? Are you coming back?” She’s grown so much, the last time I saw her she was so small and fragile, Aleah even had to take her place at our showcase. Yet here she is, a ball of confidence as she leads the group... my group.
The faces of each one meet me and they all run to engulf me in their love. Some of these guys were just kids the last time I was here, now here they are in the big leagues.
I look at each one, some already match the tears in my eyes, fuck I’ve missed them so much. “I’m not back... but I just want to see what you guys have been doing. Want to show me?”
They all nod, Fiona running away to the front and dragging me with her. I look back at Connor but he just smiles at me, sitting on one if the benches at the back with Hope watching every move people make.
“Okay guys, start from the beginning of the third number, maybe Brie can help me with this bloody transition.”
The group sets, the music starts and the wave of their glorious energy hits me. They’re good, really good. Every dancer moves as one, their steps look like they’re being controlled by a puppeteer as they make it with perfect synchronicity.
The tempo increases and I notice Hope slips from Connors lap, placing her hand on the floor so she can feel the beat. There’s a few new faces here but most of these guys I’ve been training for years, they’ve made so many improvements since I saw them last.
They hit the high point of the song and all stop. “Why did you stop?”
Fiona cuts the music. “I can’t get the transition, there’s an eight step beat and I need to get from there to a line up. It just doesn’t work.”
I stare at their current positioning and can see her dilemma. “Run the last part of the sequence for me again, from the twists.” They follow my instructions and as they stop I drop my bag to the floor, stepping in line. “Okay try this.”
Fiona smashes the play button while my body moves on instinct, I watch in the mirror as the vision I had in my head comes to life in front of me. They all watch, a smile on their lips as I throw my body around to the beat.
“Oh god Brie, it’s perfect! And we could add-”
“A hair flip to the second twist, I was thinking the same thing. And if you wanted to up the sexy you could have the girls do it-”
“Backwards, yeah I can see it now.” She cuts me off but I don’t care, I know what it’s like to be in her position. I’m so fucking proud of her, I taught her well.
She nods, running the play through her mind. “Brie can you step in my place so I can watch it through, do you need us to run it again for you?”
I laugh. “Bitch, when have I ever needed to see a routine more than once? I got this.”
Stepping in line I take my position next to a hunk of guy that wasn’t much more than a boy only a few years ago. “Okay guys, take it from the start to the line up. Then we’ll have to get out of here before Ms Day rips me a new one for cutting in on the ballerinas time.” Glad to know she hasn’t lost her touch.
The music starts and I throw my arms around the neck of the guy behind me, him pulling my leg into a vertical split that definitely hurt a lot less when I was still stretching everyday.
I lose myself in the steps, barely looking at anything but my own reflection in the mirror as my heart beats to the heavy base. For a split second I think I see Harley smiling back at me in the mirror, a gust of wind blowing by my ear that could easily be mistaken as coming from the open window but I know in my heart it’s him.
He never wanted me to stop dancing, he would’ve been so angry at me. I don’t want to be in a crew again but I can’t keep still anymore, my body was made to move.
As this guy holds onto my hips and dips me back deeply I remember the other reason I love to dance, my eyes flashing quickly to Connor who really needs to close his mouth. Poor good boy, just figuring out what my body is capable of.
Finishing the routine my breathing is shallow, my heart is pumping out of my chest and I’m sure my make up is a mess but I’ve never felt better.
For the first time in a long time – I feel alive.