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Frankie was in the supermarket when she found the song.
It always started with finding the song. The spark always started with the music. That set the tone, the pace, and the feel. The cadence. The energy. Everything was born in that moment, almost simultaneously, in her head. She could see the phrases, if not necessarily how they all fit together.
It was not a new song, nor was it new to her. Frankie had known and loved it for years, but as she moved down the aisle it was like hearing it anew. It made her feel alive. For the first time in months, she was moving. She had often, in the past, danced as she moved, but such was her mania that she was also half-singing under her breath as she ambled through the pastas.
“…starin’ at the huh huh… …nderful feelin’…”
She was not oblivious to the stares she received, but in that moment she didn’t care. She had inspiration again. Finally! She wanted to scream with joy. Of course, the mask muffled her already half-murmured singing near to nothing, but she wasn’t really aware of her volume level anyway. In her head, it was deafening.
“Ade!” she shouted, as she burst through the door. “Ade! Listen!” She had her phone up in front of her, quickly flipping through Spotify to have the song queued up and ready to play once she hooked it into the PA system of the dance studio where they both taught. “I found it! Holy shit, I found it!”
She didn’t make it to the PA. Once she was about halfway around the room, Frankie became aware of eyes on her, and it was more than she’d expected. She turned, and at that moment realized that the parking lot of their dance studio had looked more full than usual. If she’d been thinking, and looking for more than just her best friend’s car, she would have noticed that.
“I’m-I’m sorry,” she squeaked. Just like that, her heart rate was skyrocketing. “Shhhhhit, I’m… I’m sorry.”
Ade was standing in the front of the class, dark skin glistening with sweat, with her hand on her forehead. The class was small by pre-pandemic standards, but it was not nothing. There were enough paying customers there to justify having the lights on and pay Ade for her time, and that was a start.
Of course, interrupting a class when things were so fragile, and just getting back to some semblance of normalcy, made her freeze like a deer in headlights.
“It’s okay,” Ade said, soothingly, both hands held out in front of her as she quickly scurried around the line of women. “It’s okay! Don’t worry about me. Don’t worry about them. You have something for me to listen to?”
“Y-yeah.” Frankie swallowed and nodded, and shrank as some of the women looked away from her. Probably so they can cringe, she thought. Her face pinched with effort as she fought to get her thoughts under control, and looked up just as Ade got within arm’s reach. “Yeah. I f-f-fou… I f-found something.”
“Okay,” Ade said, smiling. “Can you show it to me later? At my place?”
Frankie glanced over at the women again, and nodded. “Yeah. I’ll… I’ll swing by.”
“Ten… ten-ten o’clock.”
“Okay,” Ade said, squeezing Frankie’s hands tightly before skipping back toward the front of the class. “Sorry about that, ladies. We’re gonna pick it up from the slide.”
Frankie gave one last look over her shoulder as she stepped back out into the lobby, as her friend started the demonstration over again.
“Oh,” Ade said, surprise plain on her face as she came through her front door. She awkwardly shuffled her heavy bag around out of her way, and shut the door behind her. “Hey.”
Frankie blushed in embarrassment from her spot on the end of the couch.
“I wasn’t expecting you to already be here.”
“Neither did we,” her roommate Coral said, flatly, and Frankie’s blush deepened.
“S-uh… s-sorry,” Frankie said, her voice hurried. “I just… It’s been s-s-so long since I felt a sp-uh, a spark like this, and I’m… I’m all over the place. Like, I literally haven’t stopped freaking out for hours.”
Ade nodded patiently, and tilted her head toward her room. Frankie bounced up off the couch and followed her friend down the hall. Her skin was practically vibrating as she fished her earbuds out of the tiny change pocket in her workout pants, and plugged them into her phone.
“Here,” she said, offering both.
Ade had just put down her bag, and took the earbuds with only the slightest hesitation. The slightest sigh. She made eye contact once they were in place, and Frankie turned on the song.
Immediately, Ade recoiled and furrowed her brow. “Really?” she said, the volume of her voice off by just a little with the earbuds in. “Sir Sly?”
Frankie nodded emphatically, shoulders bouncing around as she picked up the slightest hint of the beat and moved to it. After a few more seconds, Ade took out the earbuds and frowned.
“What? No!” she exclaimed. “Listen!”
“I’ve heard High before,” Ade said. “It’s not a remix or anything, güvenilir bahis right?”
“No, but…” Frankie couldn’t hide how crushed she felt. “I mean…”
“What do you mean, this inspired you? You wanna do a routine to this?”
“Yes!” Frankie said excitedly. “I can already see a-a-a lot of it, but it’s, like, um, like not in the right order.”
“A hip hop routine?”
“No,” Frankie said, even more excitedly. “Contemporary, which is why I need your help!”
Ade blinked, licked her lips, and put the earbuds back in her ears. Frankie’s excitement reached obscene levels when she saw Ade’s head bobbing a little. “It’s got a rhythm.”
“I know!” Frankie said, nervously bubbling. “Oh my god, right? I don’t know h-how-how-how many times I’ve heard this song before, b-b-but today, it was like…” She made a motion with her hands like her brain was exploding, and Ade laughed. It was good to see Ade laughing again.
Ade quoted, “Feels good for the first time in a long time, huh?”
Frankie just nodded emphatically.
“Alright,” Ade said, taking the buds out of her ears and wrapping them around her palm. “What do you want to do with it?”
“Something contemporary,” she replied quickly. “Someth—”
Ade interrupted her with a quick slice of her hand, and said “No, no, no. We make a dance for it, sure. Something contemporary, fine, and then we use it to…” The taller girl shrugged, cheeks dimpling, and Frankie floundered completely.
“I don’t know,” she whined. “I don’t know! I mean, it’s m-m-maybe something good to have in my back pocket in case So You Think You Can Dance ever starts do-do, um… doing auditions again, but who the fuck knows when that will be.”
“You’re a hip hopper,” Ade said. “They love that. You don’t need something like this, strictly speaking. Plus, you’ve always been good at picking up choreography. Learning something new on the fly is always what they’re more—”
“Ade,” she said, making extremely direct eye contact. “I heard a song today, and I felt something. I felt something!” She swallowed hard, fighting that awful tightness in her throat that always reared up whenever she was upset. “It’s been…”
Ade nodded, eyes making a motion that wasn’t quite an eyeroll or eye contact. More like she was tracking a long ballistic arc, somewhere in the distance. “Okay.”
“I don’t know what I’m making, okay? I-I-I don’t, but… I need this. You know?”
Ade muttered something under her breath that might have been “fuck” and might have been “fuck me”, and she hugged Frankie tightly.
Frankie repeated, “I need this,” into her friend’s shoulder, and hated how pathetic she sounded.
“Fine,” the taller girl said. “I’ll help. You said you had some ideas?”
Frankie nodded enthusiastically.
“Alright. Do you have some time on Tuesday? In the morning?”
“Tuesday morning,” Frankie gushed. “At the studio, or…”
“We’ll find some space. Might even have the whole place to ourselves!”
Frankie nodded again, and threw her arms around her friend with such vigor that the two of them nearly toppled. “Thank you! Thank you!”
Ade kept putting off the need to be thanked, as they walked back down the hall, and Frankie waved goodbye to her best friend’s roommates on her way out the door.
“Hey,” Frankie heard one of Ade’s roommates say, through the door, “scrambled eggs out there can’t be coming around and hanging out when you’re not here. She sat on that couch for, I swear to god, twenty minutes, and I’ve never seen someone fidget so much. Is she on something, or…”
Frankie, unnerved, started fast walking away and scuffing her heels as she did so she wouldn’t have to hear Ade’s response in case she agreed.
Mariposa Dance Studio lived in an unassuming converted warehouse in the neighborhood of South Portland, on the western side of the Willamette River. There was a front office, but it was small and cramped, overflowing with records and documentation. Old headshots of past dancers. Receipts and transactions logs. Shelves ran halfway up the walls, but the binders were stacked clear to the ceiling. Beyond that were three separate, mirrored dance rooms, though only two of them had seen use since the beginning of the pandemic.
Like many dance studios, there were two sides to their business: a teaching side and a troupe side. Lessons were given to a variety of age groups and skill levels, and these paid the bills. Most classes were taught by the various members of the dance troupe, but a few were taught by the owner, Madam Castillo.
“Okay,” Ade said, as she flopped onto one of the stacks of pads pushed up against the wall. “It’s, what, eight? We’ve been going for ten hours, and my focus is completely shot.”
“Oh!” Frankie exclaimed. “Shot! That reminded me! I had a whole other image for the first part of it, the instrumental opening before the vocals kick in. Kind of like… uh…”
She leaped across the room, into the far corner across türkçe bahis from Ade, and reset. She held her hands over her ears, like she was holding big ear-cupping headphones tightly against her head, and tucked her elbows in close together in front of her. Eyes closed. She bobbed her head in time, and after a few beats, started stalking diagonally across the room. Her heels struck the floor hard on each step, hitting on the beat, with her toes drawn back toward the shins.
Ade watched her with a slight head tilt, and let her eyes unfocus. “And you want to do that for the entire intro? Up until the vocals kick in?”
“Maybe?” she replied. “I don’t know. It was really clear in my head.”
Ade pulled the song up on her phone, for about the three hundredth time that day, and pressed play. And then paused. “Eighteen seconds. You want to strut for eighteen seconds?”
Frankie looked down, and then back at the corner of the room behind her. It had taken maybe five seconds to strut across the room. Most competition stages were larger, but not thirteen seconds larger. “Shit. Yeah, most of it anyway. I actually kind of saw it in my head like… like I walked in from stage left, on the beat, and… Shit! This doesn’t work either!” She drove the blade of her palm up into the bridge of her nose, pressing hard to alleviate the strain.
“Okay,” Ade said, “hear me out here. So, like, if you wanted, you could just strut in a circle or something? But that only solves this problem. You had that whole bit on the stairs, and…”
“I know,” Frankie groaned.
Ade laughed. “Natalia just has the one little van for us, so we’d need to build them and rent a truck to get stairs for a competition.”
“I can already tell you she won’t want to let you keep them here. You know how weird she gets about props sometimes.” The two of them shared a remembering chuckle, and Ade added, “Let’s take a little break.”
Frankie sighed, and sat down just as Ade stood up. She blinked. “Oh, are we—”
“We’re going up.”
Frankie laughed. “We’re going up!”
Five minutes later, the two of them were sitting low in a pair of folding lawn chairs on the roof of the building. Ade exhaled slowly, letting out a long jet of thin, white smoke, and passed the joint to her left without looking. Frankie, slouched a little extra, took the smoldering cylinder of paper between the tips of her fingers. The weed gave her a relaxing, full body warmth.
Dusk was giving way to twilight, and the cool night air felt good on her skin. The cherry blossoms along the shoreline were still stubbornly clinging to their flowers. Across the waters, an eagle was coming down to its roost on Ross Island. The two of them watched, mesmerized.
“You know,” Ade said, breaking a long spell of silence, “I’m having a thought.”
The brunette calmly turned and watched her. “Do you think that makes you better than me?”
Ade smirked and chuckled. “No!”
“I have thoughts,” Frankie said, defensively. “I can think!”
“You are not the boss of me,” she muttered, sullenly.
“Now I’m having two thoughts.”
“Oh, look me at,” Frankie said, in an admittedly-horrible impression of her friend. “I can think of two things!” Then she turned and, in her normal voice, said, “That was you.”
“You are so extra right now,” Ade said, wearily. “Okay, look. First thought is, like, I’m thinking about the space it would take to do what you were talking about, and I think we’re looking at this all wrong. Eighteen seconds of walking in a straight line, stairs and the other props… We shouldn’t be making a routine that we just perform somewhere, I think we should be doing—”
“—a music video,” they said, in unison.
Frankie sat up a bit more, face alight. “Oh. Whoa.”
“Yeah!” She took the joint back from Frankie, took another hit, and let her head hang back. “Think about that for a second. I mean, So You Think You Can Dance is more or less a dead dream, right? Dancing competitions are verboten. The studio is on life support. It’s holding on, but just by its fingernails…”
“Get a Patreon started,” Frankie added, her eyes unfocused.
“Exactly! We could make stuff like this pretty quickly. Like, we got, what, half of this sorted out tonight? We wouldn’t need to build stairs if we could just go to a library somewhere that already has stairs. We could make stuff like this for popular songs, between the two of us, what? One a week?”
“Oh shit,” Frankie exclaimed. “We could get your sister to help us with the editing and stuff!”
Ade’s eyes went wide. “You’ve seen my sister’s channel?”
“Of course I have,” she replied. “Kendra’s videos are great.”
“Now I know you haven’t seen them,” Ade said, laughing.
Frankie said, “I mean, she’s fourteen, so I’m cutting her content a lot of slack and I may never understand why youtubers do jump cuts like they do, it’s so jarring, but she’s güvenilir bahis siteleri learned a lot about editing. Her newer stuff is really polished. She’s got smooth transitions, some cool text effects, filters, all kinds of shit.”
Ade ran her fingers through her short, thick curls, and scratched absently at her scalp. For as long as Frankie had known her, Ade had kept a tight flat top hair cut. The pandemic had interrupted her regular stylings, and a few home cuts had given it a more rounded shape, which Frankie thought suited her better and had said as much numerous times.
After a few minutes, Frankie frowned and asked, “What was the other thought?”
Ade blinked. “Oh,” she said, eyes widening in recognition. “So, take this with a grain of salt, but you’ve seemed… better… today.”
“As soon as I say it, that’s gonna break the spell. You…” She licked her lips. “You haven’t been stuttering today. Since we started practicing earlier. You got in a groove, or something.”
Frankie sat very still, but her eyes were roaming wildly. “Really?”
“All day,” Ade replied. “As smooth as ever.”
“But I don’t… I mean…”
Ade threw her head back, laughing, and it was such a wonderful sound that Frankie felt some of the nerves, so recently working themselves into a frenzy, settling.
“Okay, look, I’m not trying to hurt or deny your feelings or your experience, but you know this stutter is completely psychosomatic, right?” Wide, sweeping hand gestures. “Completely.”
Frankie just blinked for a moment. “That’s… like my b-brain made it up?”
“I’ve known you for six years now, and in that time I had never heard you stutter before March. Not even when you were drunk off your ass at that Halloween party, crab walking down the stairs because you couldn’t do it standing upright. No balance whatsoever, but not a single slurred word!”
Frankie looked down sullenly.
“Not until you were trying to plan a wedding in Pandemicland.”
The little brunette barked: a short, gruff laugh. “Yeah, look how w-well that turned out.”
Ade leaned over, until her shoulder was brushing against Frankie’s. She said, as she tilted her head, “I don’t even think it was the pandemic. You know I always liked Mark, but it seemed like you two were living different lives even before you got close to tying the knot.”
“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said, softly, “except to say thank you f-f-for being cool about it, and never making my stammer a thing between us. Something I hhhh… had to answer for.”
“Didn’t think it was my place,” Ade said. “Plus it’s not like that matters to me. I’m not gonna stop being your friend just because you got a little tic.”
“Thanks,” Frankie whispered, lips forming shapes despite the failure of her vocal cords.
“If you get any weirder, I’m out, though,” Ade added, thoughtfully. “I have my limits.”
Frankie snickered wetly, somewhat masking the upswell of tears. “Any deal breakers I shuh-should nnn-know about in advance?”
“Eye patch, British accent. That kind of thing. Anything in the neighborhood of pirate behavior. If you pull a Benjamin Button and start getting younger, we’re done. Find yourself a new best friend.”
Frankie said, voice shaking with an unquantifiable mixture of nerves and laughter, “Fair.” Then, after a few steadying breaths, she added, “I haven’t-I haven’t-I haven’t b-uh… been sleeping well. Aga-again.”
Ade passed her the remains of the joint, little more than a corner, and Frankie regretted not bringing her roach clip. She did the best she could, until the tips of her fingers were hurting as much as she could handle, and put it out under her sandals.
At different times in her life Frankie had felt uncomfortable in silence, like a yawning void that crept up on her, and she developed an ability to make small talk with just about anyone at the drop of a hat. With the sudden appearance of a stutter six months earlier she had found that silence was now a welcomed respite from trying and failing to communicate, and nobody shared a silence with her as easily and comfortably as Ade. They had already been best friends, but this pivot, from effortlessly engaging and indulging Frankie’s most inane chatter to a perfectly congenial tranquility without any specific conversation about how each had served her needs, had endeared Ade to her like nothing before.
The front door of the building opened below them, bell tinkling in the cool, calm night.
“Girls?” came the mellifluous voice of their dance instructor, Madam Castillo, from somewhere below them out of sight. Her rolled r’s sometimes gave Frankie little tingles on her scalp. “Are you up there?”
“Yes,” Frankie and Ade replied in unison.
“Okay, good. I went to set the alarm and it said a door was open.”
“We’ll lock up in a bit,” Ade said.
“Okay. I’ve got everything else shut down in the office. Goodnight, girls!”
“Goodnight,” they replied, again, in unison.
At the sound of footsteps on concrete, traveling away from them toward the parking lot on the side of the building, Frankie leaned over and said, “Oh hey. How-d, uh… How’d… How did your… your date go? On Saturday?”
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