Santana has always loved the way Brittany’s ballet studio smells. Rosin, chalk, wood, and the same warm coin smell—from sweaty hands constantly polishing the barre—as the swiped keys Santana jingles in her coat pocket. She steps to the side to avoid a stream of dancers pouring out the door, totes and slippers slung over their shoulders, their chatter a symphony echoing against the hard surfaces of the room. A few wave or nod at her as they pass, including Brittany’s ballet teacher—Santana is something of a fixture here, a dark ghost who haunts the corner on certain afternoons, couched in a garden of bags and coats and draped in sunlight. But it’s nearly winter now, and though it’s still early, the sky is as dark and opaque as a chalkboard; the studio light pours onto the pavement and blends with the streetlights, warping the shadows.
Santana returns the greetings as she hangs her coat and scarf on the now nearly empty rack, but her eyes dart constantly back to the doubled butterfly figure that faces the wall covered in mirrors, stretching in the corner. Her eyes are closed, perhaps to hold in the music that propels and guides her limbs: from her bare arms to her pink-slippered feet. Brittany’s hair is stretched back in a bun, smooth but for one lock, pulled free, that flutters to her cheek as she bends in an arabesque.
Brittany is even more flushed now than before: from her ears to her cheeks, from her throat to the top of her chest. Her breathing speeds to match Santana’s—every pulse and breath seems to echo through the live empty space, now that the music has stopped—and for just a moment, Santana is sure they’re about to kiss. The thought terrifies her. She swallows and steps back, pulling her hands free to brush down her pleats.
“You’re right; waltzing is really fun,” says Santana. It comes out in a husky whisper—like a secret.