I woke the next morning from my restless sleep feeling completely exhausted. I stumbled out of bed and threw on some dance clothes and then made my way slowly to the studio while mumbling a groggy hello to everyone I passed. I collapsed in my corner and leaned my head against the wall. The pain today was less but my fatigue was more and I felt myself becoming irritable. God save the person who got on my bad side today.
“Good morning sunshine!” Brian said enthusiastically sitting next to me “How are you feeling?”
“Tired” I yawned as he rubbed my head and messed up my hair
“That’s an improvement!” He said always so full of life and happiness. I was suddenly hit by the ridiculous notion that I was actually happy to be dancing with Aj today as he would be just as exhausted as I was. The thought made me giggle a little insanely and Brian raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry. I really didn’t sleep well” I explained as he nodded and jumped up to welcome Nick into the room. I watched everyone come in like I was watching a movie and no one approached me which was wonderful. I wonder if Brian tipped them off to my fatigue. Fly came in and made some noise about running the show through to make sure all the patterns were figured out with the new partners and how it would take all day again and I propelled myself up to join Aj at our starting side of the stage.
“You look tired” He said cautiously. I glanced at him and took in the dark circles under his eyes and his slouched posture
“I’m not the only one” I said and then focused back on the dance floor. Somehow the exhaustion seemed to be dulling my pain as I danced with Aj. At the very least I could look at him without crying. The worst was when I would space out and go into auto pilot. I would assume I was still dancing with Brian and then when I came back to the world I was always shocked to see Aj and then the events of the past few days would fast forward in my head and I’d feel the tears start to fall. They only actually fell a few times and each time Aj would look away as I dried them, pretending he didn’t notice. We got through the whole show without too much incident. It was helpful to have a run through so Fly could direct us to where we all needed to go. It was kind of complicated since he didn’t want to take my solos away so he had to keep switching me from Brian to Aj to cover for Camie. I did feel a little better about the whole thing by the time we had gone through all of it and headed out to lunch. Keeping his promise, Aj sat at the table next to mine and was joined by Sophie and Brian. Mollee, Nick and Howie came to approach me and I waved my hand.
“Need some alone time?” Mollee guessed as I nodded and laid my head on the table facing away from everyone. The three of them joined Aj’s table, Mollee sitting as far away from him as possible, and soon the air was filled with enough conversation that I could convert it to background noise. The bench next to me moved a little and I squinted, not realizing my eyes had actually been closed. A small smile came to my face as I met Josh’s look and he mimicked my position, sitting next to me with his head on the table and his face facing mine.
“What’s up bright eyes?” He asked casually
“I’m exhausted” I said as he frowned
“I’m sorry. I have the same lunch as you today. Can I sit here? I promise not to be too taxing” He said as I nodded a little and he put down his sandwich. I looked at it closely (since my head was right at that level anyway) and noticed there seemed to be worms coming from it.
“What are you eating?” I asked a little more grumpily than I had meant to
“Spaghetti sandwich with Nutella” He said as if it were nothing. I made a face.
“You’re disgusting” He retorted and I grinned.
“So why couldn’t you sleep last night? I like you and everything but I have to say that you do not fare well when you don’t sleep enough” He said taking a bite of his sandwich and causing me to cringe
“Haven’t you heard the gossip? Aj and I are no more” I said as casually as I could manage and added “apparently I’m no good at sleeping alone in a bed anymore”
“What happened?” He asked innocently as I forced back those stupid images that threatened to overtake me again “Never mind”
“It’s ok. I just caught him cheating, like literally in the throes of it. It was awful. What am I saying? It’s still awful” I said as one tear rolled down my cheek. This was embarrassing. I did not want to be crying in front of Josh. Yet for someone who is so awkward in normal situations he was surprisingly cool now. He handed me a tissue and took my hand casually while taking another bite of his sandwich.
“Have you eaten anything since then?”
“I had some pizza last night. Nothing today” I said still marveling at his grace in a hard situation.
“Well you obviously don’t want some of my lovely sandwich” He said with a grin as I looked up at him and made a disgusted face. “Hang on I’ve got the perfect thing!”
“He’s crazy” I whispered to myself and it made me smile. I watched him bound around the table to the buffet and come back with a spoon and a bowl. I slowly lifted my head and looked in it, seeing that the yogurt that usually belonged to the parfaits at breakfast had been poured in and fruit had been arranged to make a smiley face. There were blueberry eyes, a sliced strawberry nose, an apple slice mouth and little mango spikes for hair. It was so cute and so ridiculous all at once that I just started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I was so over tired that despite my pain I was laughing hysterically. Soon Josh joined in and my tears of pain turned into tears of laughter as I wiped them from my face.
“What is going on over there?” Mollee called from her table as I looked up at her and still stifling a laugh tilted the yogurt face so she could see it. She cracked a smile and shook her head as Josh handed me a spoon.
“Just eat up a happy face!” He sang with jazz hands to the tune of ‘Put on a happy face’
“I’m coming after that nose!” I exclaimed as I speared the strawberry “What smells? You’ll never know!”
“See you later eyes!” Josh joined in with his fork, spearing a blueberry.
“Lips stop mouthing off to me!” I added before chomping on the apple slice. Pretty soon it was bad puns everywhere as we devoured the face, ran to get more fruit, made other faces, and devoured them just the same. I honestly didn’t think I could eat a few minutes ago and now I was happily devouring the entire fruit cart.
“Come on Kat, rehearsal!” Howie called as I looked over and realized everyone had cleared their plates at the other table. I looked at my phone and was shocked to see that our hour lunch was over.
“Ah! I’m going to be late. Thanks for lunching with me Josh. It really means a lot” I said as he smiled
“Hey, that smile is all the pay I need. See you around bright eyes” He said with that small wave of his and he marched off to the sound equipment. I made my way to the studio, still giggling over some of the more awful puns and found myself face to face with Aj.
“I thought you needed to eat lunch alone” He said coldly as I glanced at him
“So did I” I said and turned my attention to Fly
“I don’t like him” Aj said softly behind me
“Well I do” I said quietly to myself with a small smile
“Alright everyone the run through looked good and I was planning on working more of it but I thought about it over lunch and decided I’m going to let the girls have the afternoon off and just keep the guys to start working on some of their numbers. Sorry I didn’t plan on it before lunch girls” Fly said apologetically
“Hey we get the afternoon off. I’m not complaining” Sophie said as we laughed appreciatively. I went to pack up my stuff but was stopped before I could take three steps.
“Kat, I have a favor to ask” Fly said as I turned and met him in the middle of the floor
“Sure” I said trying to look amicable but inside really wishing I could just go and take a nap
“Could you stay for a bit and help me teach this number? It has some funky pattern changes that I won’t be able to explain without a body” Fly said as I sighed
“You know I’m really starting to hate these favors of yours” I joked but nodded and followed him to the middle of the floor
“Alright guys, Kat is going to help me. We’re going to start with Undone” He said as my heart sank. It couldn’t have been Everybody. It couldn’t have been Straight through my heart. It HAD to be Undone.
“Fun” I said sarcastically as Howie sent me a look of sympathy. Why oh why must this happen? The guys gathered around as Fly tried to explain the pattern flipping in the beginning. He was right, it would be impossible to work without someone helping him. As we talked through it Brian came over and put his arm around my shoulder. I smiled weakly at him and he playfully messed with my hair. We worked through the beginning section slowly and it actually wasn’t so bad because since Brian’s legs were so much shorter than Nick’s and he always had to travel the same distance, he was constantly sliding in late and being a goofball about it. It wasn’t until we started in on the dance during Aj’s verse into the chorus that things began to slide out of control. We learned the counts first and I stayed to help Brian since we were on the same page dance wise and Fly looked grateful for the extra pair of eyes. Then Fly wanted to run it with the music. I danced through the pattern changes with the guys in the intro and then made the fatal mistake of moving out in front of them to watch the dance as Aj sang. But I didn’t get to watch much of the dance as I became distracted by Aj’s eyes while he sang directly to me.
“Your words burn, they're melting what we had. I'm breaking down. No reason, no warning, no love loss. You might as well take our pictures off the walls tonight. I don't wanna see you no more, I don't wanna feel you no more. Take our memories, throw them all aside. I hope you finally get what you want. Now you know.” He sang locking eyes with me. I could feel my heart breaking, my stomach clenching, the sweat breaking out on my forehead. I was trapped. This wasn’t fair.
“I didn't wanna live without you. I didn't wanna love without you. I used to think I'd die without you. Now it's killing me that we could be undone. I can't feel without you. You know I can't deal without you. And now I got a life without you. And it's killing me that we could undone” Played and I tried desperately to hold onto my composure. I was having trouble breathing. The tears were cascading down my cheeks. I had to get out of there. In a near state of panic I rushed out of the studio. I got out and barely registered that it had started raining. I stood there in the lot, letting the rain soak me to my bones and I began to shiver but I couldn’t tell whether it was from the rain or the exhaustion or both.
“Kat” I heard from behind me and saw that my escape had not been alone. I turned and was face to face with the last person I needed to see right now
“Please. Please just leave me alone. I can’t do this” I said burying my face in my hands so I didn’t have to look into Aj’s eyes any more. I wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. I had been doing so well. But it seemed like no matter how hard I tried I could still be destroyed by this one man, this one man that I loved.
“I’m sorry” He started and suddenly anger flared in me as strong as my sadness
“That was really unfair” I spat and Aj looked honestly taken aback. “You knew that was going to be a hard song and you sang it right to me”
“I didn’t plan it. I looked up and you were there” He said defensively
“So you had to serenade me? Well if you really believe those words then why don’t we make them the new rules? We won’t see each other unless we have to. We won’t speak to each other at all. For all intents and purposes I am just another dancer” I said harshly. Clearly my exhaustion was getting to me. Suddenly the sound seemed to cut out from the world and all I heard was the echo of the anger in my words. That wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted him to hug me. I wanted things to be the same as they were. In the foe silence time slowed down and I was able to see every bit of pain as it registered in Aj’s eyes. Oh God can I take it back?
“Fine” He said as anger began taking him over too “You’ve already moved on anyway”
“Aj do you really think that Josh has anything on you?” I said before I could stop myself. For a moment he seemed to understand that my words had come from my pain and not from my heart. He seemed to want to take his words back too. We stood there for an instant and forever all at once. The rain dripped down his face and I watched a droplet land on his eyelash. Suddenly I was completely exhausted and it was all I could do to stay standing. I pushed my way through the air that seemed to have thickened to molasses and walked off towards the bus.
“Kat” Aj shouted behind me “KAT!” But I just kept on walking. I was done being a saint. I was ready to take on the role of the victim. Screw being strong and brave and all that other bullshit. I had been cheated on. He had done wrong. I was done cutting him slack. I stormed into the bus, dripping water everywhere as Mollee approached me.
“Are you ok?” She asked cautiously
“Is the shower occupied?” I asked slowly and deliberately. I needed to keep my composure and the only emotion I had left was anger. I’m sure I was a terrifying sight, soaking wet, exhausted and pissed off.
“Nope” Sophie said as she moved away from the door handle she’d been about to turn. It was obvious she was just about to go in and shower but I couldn’t care as I slipped in and locked the door behind me. In complete auto pilot I turned on the water and undressed before getting in. I turned the water heat up to scalding until it burned just to be in it. I wanted to steam out the hurt that was threatening to overtake me. I closed my eyes and put my face in the water and then I let loose and cried. I cried for the embarrassment of running out of the studio, for the pain evident in Aj’s eyes and for the harsh words I’d never be able to take back. It must have been a half hour before I was able to pull myself together enough to turn off the water and head into the clothes room. I threw on the first pajamas I could find and hurried into my bunk, sliding the curtain closed behind me. I stared at the wall and noticed the picture propped there that Josh had drawn from where I had left it yesterday. A stab of pain raced through my stomach as I looked at it and I hastily threw it down towards my feet.
After a moment of staring hard at the wall I heard the curtain move behind me and the mattress bend under another person’s weight. A good portion of me got excited at the chance it might be Aj but when I felt Mollee’s hand in mine I knew I was just being stupid. He was never going to talk to me ever again, let alone share my bed. A fresh wave of tears took over and she laid her head next to mine.
“It’ll get better” She whispered as I closed my eyes. Thankfully my exhaustion was a good contender against my pain and it won over as I drifted into a dream. I was walking down a dark hallway and I was scared. I didn’t like being alone in this place. Suddenly I felt a warmth from my hand as someone took it. I tried to look and see who had joined me but I was blinded by a bright light in the place that the person should have been.
“Who are you?” I tried to whisper but as in most dreams, nothing came out. The light faded a bit as it neared my face and I felt its warmth travel through to my cheek. That burning sensation I’d felt once before met my skin before I could recognize what it meant. Then it all came to me. “Aj I love you. AJ!”
“Hey, it’s ok, calm down” Mollee said as I opened my eyes and tried to take in my surroundings. The sun was just starting to come up and Mollee was shaking me awake.