Love Coming Late
by Jeanette Lewis
All Rights Reserved
“Cynthia?” Colby’s brow wrinkled in concern.
“Sorry. I’m fine.” She jumped up and yanked her hand from his grip.
He gave her a puzzled look. “Lily and I are going to lunch. Do you want to come?”
She glanced across the studio where Lily twirled in the new skirt. “I think … thank you, but I can’t.”
“You sure? We’re going to Big C’s. You can’t tell me you don’t love Big C’s.”
She hesitated, aching to spend more time basking in the warmth of his gaze. But she couldn’t; it would only lead to problems. “Don’t you want some alone time with Lily?” she asked.
A little of the sparkle faded from his eyes. “Okay,” he said quietly. “Well … thanks for teaching today. Lily had a good time.”
She forced a smile, already regretting turning him down, but determined not to act like a fool and fall for this man. “It was fun.”
“Bye, Miss Cynthia!” Lily waved as Colby took her hand and led her out of the studio.
Cynthia smiled and returned the wave. The bells on the door jangled one more time as they left.
She sighed and pressed her fingertips to her temples. She’d done the right thing. So why did she hurt so much?
Sighing, she pulled the elastic out of her hair, freeing it from the ponytail, then worked her fingers through the blond waves, freeing any bobby pins. Her eye fell on Madame Dubois’s music collection again. The top CD was an album by Lindsey Stirling. It appeared Madame Dubois was branching out from classical music. Or maybe she’d been fooled by the image of the ballerina on the cover.
Cynthia put the disc into the player and hit the button, then twisted the dial to turn the music up almost as loud as it would go. Lindsey’s flawless violin thundered through the speakers and Cynthia launched herself into the music, whirling along with the lyrics to “Shatter Me.”
Fear. She’d lived her entire life in fear: fear of being alone, fear of being rejected, fear of emotional pain. Had she ever really felt alive? Or had she lived by routine for so long, always offering to take the bullet, believing self-sacrifice was a noble thing and never, ever realizing that wanting was okay … reaching for things was okay … trying for something was okay?
The song was about a ballerina, but Cynthia was no ballerina now. Her dancing was raw and urgent, laced with want and pain and regret and … a small glimmer of optimism. It was time to stop being afraid.
The final strains of the song died out and the speakers shot static. Breathless and gasping, Cynthia turned and met Colby Schroder’s eyes from across the room. She’d forgotten to lock the door. “Oh!”
“Lily forgot her skirt,” he said, pointing to the pile of purple fabric crumpled near the barre.
She punched the button on the stereo, silencing the static. “Sorry … I was just …” Her hands fumbled with the practice skirt as she trailed off; he knew what she was doing.
“Come get lunch with us,” he said softly.
“Okay,” she whispered.