Getting the Beats: Part Three
Eric took a gulp of cool apple juice, set the can back on the table, and called out, "Back to positions, guys."
Lind, Rai, and Davin, a nice green boy Zafara in Rai's class, were still chatting among themselves as they got into their places in one of the empty classrooms set aside for the auditionees to practice. It had been two weeks after the task for the final tryout had been announced and it was unanimous that Eric be leader and main choreographer for their group, given his experience and knowledge in dance.
"We'll take it from the middle part; fourth set of eight." This had been an especially tricky part, as the choreography required them to move very quickly and the steps were complicated with fancy footwork. Groaning, the dancers tried their hardest to complete the movements according to the beats. By the fifth try, Eric lost his patience and asked for another break... It wasn't worth getting annoyed over something like this when they had less than two weeks to perfect the dance; he'd need to modify the steps again. "Any ideas to simplify the steps? We don't have time to perfect it."
"I don't know, I think the steps were really nice," replied Davin. "Maybe..."
"Instead of all four of us doing that part, how about one or two do it and the rest do something simpler? Or pose?"
"Are you sure about this?"
"Why not? It's another way we show creativity and individuality."
"I agree with Davin, Eric," piped up Lind. "It doesn't sound like a bad idea."
"Ok then, let's see what we can do. Davin, Rai; come try out the steps first."
Later on that evening in Eric's house, the tired and gruff host repeated, "Again." It was already the twentieth time he and Lind went through the steps. Lind had specifically requested for the extra practice time as he still didn't feel confident despite the changes in the steps, and Eric agreed as Lind still made the wrong steps at wrong parts of the dance.
In the midst of all their practicing and trying, they failed to hear the front door opening. "Oh my, am I disturbing something?" a loud nasally voice asked. Both looked up, surprised. "Well, Eric? Aren't you going to do the introductions?"
"Uh... This here is Lind... the one who sometimes ask me for desserts. Lind, meet my mom." Lind's eyes almost popped out upon recognising that friendly but unrefined mess hall lady. He quickly came to his senses, though, and greeted her. Eric sighed, knowing that his hopes that his mother wouldn't come home early until the tryouts were over were dashed.
"Will Lind be coming over today, Eric?"
"But did you bring all the cake and jellies I made last night? Make sure you share them with your team."
The only difference in their conversation today included Lind and the team, but Eric still tried to keep it short and not call her "mom" when he's in the line. And after his biggest secret was revealed to Lind, he practically threatened him so as to make sure he wouldn't breathe even a word of it. Good for him that Lind was of opinion that Eric himself should choose whom to share the secret to, though Eric was finding it hard being the talk of the school again. He had earned another name for himself: Big Dancer (or Big D for short). He was now extra determined the fact he had a relation working in school and that was none other than the most "unrefined" serving lady should not be made known at all, ever.
"Your Highness D." His three friends who had taken the liberty of mashing up the two names together got up and gave mock bows as he approached their usual table.
"Quit it," Eric growled.
"C'mon, we didn't mean it in a bad way," coaxed Miles.
"I know but I don't like it. So, stop."
"Alright, alright... By the way, you're really not bad at dance."
"Yeah, why didn't you tell us?" added Julian.
"If I mentioned I was even interested in dance, wouldn't it result with everyone laughing at me?"
"Well, how would you know that everyone will end up laughing at you? As it is, most of the student body are amazed that you could even dance," Greg pointed out. "Also, what made you think we would even spill the beans about it? We knew about your mom for some time now and never said anything."
At these words, Eric realised that he forgotten that he could trust these friends. Ashamed that he had let the fear of what others would think get better of him and made him decide not to share his hidden passion with his friends, the blue Skeith could only bow his head. "You're right. I'm sorry."
"Why should you so worried about what others call you anyway? To us, you're Eric, and you happen to be a good dancer," remarked Julian.
"And good for you that we find holding grudges a waste of time," chipped in Miles. Eric's three friends immediately started to ask him about his dancing and he was only too happy to share what he was doing since he had nothing more to hide from them. All of them could see that there was a change in his behaviour when he talked about dance; they rarely ever saw Eric talking with such animation. When he was done outlining the dance, he invited them to watch his team practice after school that day. After all, his mother had made more than enough sweets and it was better to have more guests to share as too much (especially for Lind and Rai; whose fondness for sweets was less intense than the former) could be bad for the dancers.
Claps from the audience of three filled the classroom when the team got through the part they were practicing on for the first time without a hitch, much later after school. "Nice! Now, His Highness will be able to laugh!"
"Enough!" Eric growled again, but this time there was a twinkle in his eye.
"What about us?" wearily asked Davin. "Did we do any mistakes?" All eyes looked to the Skeith.
"Lind, good that you've got the timing right, but remember to stand further back at 'six' or you'll find yourself getting hit by Rai or Davin when we go into the next set of eights. And Rai, bigger movements, don't worry about hitting anyone. Davin, you seem a little off today; you hardly put any strength in the steps!"
"He had been having a headache since lunch time," Rai spoke up.
"What? Why didn't you say so earlier?"
"Sorry. I just wanted to attend practice and perfect everything."
"And make your condition worse?!"
"Better to rest a little first before you go back, Davin. It'll be bad if you get really ill before the try out and be unable to perform," suggested Miles.
"But – "
"No 'buts'! Go and sit down. Rai and Lind, go through the dance for the last time; we'll end practice early today."
Eric was just about to switch off the classroom lights when he saw that Lind had left his book behind. Thinking that Lind might need the book later that night, he went out after the Uni, the entire group having left just few minutes earlier after helping to put things in order. Eric went a little way before letting out a sigh of relief to see Lind in the main hallway. But he was surprised to see that he was talking to Davin! Eric thought that the Green Zafara would've had gone straight home since he wasn't feeling well. Wondering about Davin's sudden recovery, it was only when he got much nearer that he realised it wasn't Davin but Chadley who was in deep discussion with Lind. Too near to back away without drawing attention, Eric tried to press himself as close as he could to a wall and hid just behind a locker, thanking the faeries that the hallway the janitors had already dimmed the hallway lights. It will be harder to detect him, even if the locker be able to hide his large frame entirely. Better still, he was close enough to see what was going on, and even hear what they were discussing.
"Wait, who else was it that's on your team?" asked Lind.
"Evonne and Petal, so it would be really cool if you're to join us." Eric's heart shot into his mouth heard Chadley's last few words. What?
"Fine, but why and how will I make the team good?"
"Think about it, Lind. Both the girls have older siblings that are part of dance teams. We could ask them for help and ideas in the steps, plus I got really great ideas that we can add in. They're pretty as well, so just having our handsome faces there and with whatever you had been learning from King Skarl, we can top the whole thing!"
"Both of us never said anything about me learning dance from him. It's just me teaching him schoolwork."
"Really now? C'mon. I've known you since we were preschoolers, and the Lind I know was never known for being coordinated! But you've improved, so the only explanation we can come to is King Skarl had been teaching you, since you've been spending time around him."
"Fine, you got me there. An all-out-win with visually pleasing contestants is what you're aiming for?"
"That's right. Also, it's going to be great for my- I mean, our reputations." Eric was amazed to see that Chadley's smile could be seen from even where he was, despite the dimness that was surrounding the three Neopians. But that amazement was miniscule compared to a feeling of anger building up within him. What? Just because Chadley wanted to top the try outs, he was willing to take a member from another group? And even its ideas and choreography? "I didn't think Chadley would go this low!" thought Eric and would have stormed right over when Lind answered Chadley with "It does sound good. But didn't Jazz and the team said that once we've put our names down and handed it in, we can't change our teams?"
"Ah, I can easily put in a word to them since I am Chadley Tuffington." There was silence after that. But it only for a second as Chadley got up, saying that he had another appointment. "Meanwhile, think about it? You've got till tomorrow to get back to me. Meet me in front of my locker before the first bell!"
Once he left, Lind stood in silence clearly pondering over what Chadley had to offer. Eric got out from his hiding place and walked over to Lind. "Eric! What brings you out here?" asked Lind in surprise when Eric approached.
"Here." He brusquely handed over the book to Lind. "You left it on the table and I came out after you. Thought you may need it later."
"Phew! I do, actually. Thanks, Eric."
"Sure, well; I guess you'll not need to come over for practice today!"
"What? I'm not getting you."
Not one to beat around the bush, Eric answered, "I heard you talking to Chadley! Go ahead and join them! The leaders can overlook this, they're all your kind too, after all!"
"Don't bother. I'm sure you'll be glad you switched over to your best friend's team. Thanks for leaving us in a lurch!!!"
Eric stormed off out of the school, and Lind was at loss for words for once.
To be continued...