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Charlie's Dance

Part Two

By Rachel PrettPublished 3 years ago 17 min read

The next week Charlie couldn’t help but feel heavy when his father came to pick him up from school. They were going to the rec center to sign him up for basketball. He’d get all gross and sweaty and he’d definitely not be able to wear anything pretty. If he tried there was no way he wouldn’t get teased. Charlie’s classmates already thought he was weird because he liked so many girly things. At least, he guessed, this would help them see him as more boyish. Because boys had to be boys. And boys didn’t like girly things like frills and lace. They liked mud and sports and trucks.

His father said nothing as Charlie dropped into the back seat, a soft sigh escaping him. In fact, he said nothing the entire way to the rec center. Charlie just looked at his feet. He really, really didn’t want to play basketball.

“Charlie, come on. We’re here.”

“Oh, okay.” Charlie glumly unlocked his seatbelt and let the car door fall closed behind him. Was that dirt on his sneakers?

“Come on now, Charlie. At least pretend you’re happy about this.”

Charlie forced a smile on his face and looked up at his father. “O—” His words caught in his throat. This was not the rec center. In large black letters across the building front it clearly stated Ms. Anna’s Dance Studio. “This…this isn’t…”

“Come on, Charlie. It’s almost time.” His father smiled and gave him a nudge forward.

Charlie stumbled, disbelief and awe making his limbs stiff. He stumbled as he tried to regain his composure and felt his whole body become as light as a feather. It was all he could do not run to the studio as fast as his small legs could take him.

They were greeted by a blonde woman behind reception desk. Charlie liked her pink cat-eye glasses and the beaded necklace that held them around her neck. Her nails were long and red, a perfect match to her lipstick. “How can I help you?”

Charlie’s father beamed. “Hello. I have Charlie Wald here for Beginner Ballroom Dance. Can you point us in the right direction?”

The woman broke out into a very toothy smile. “Ah! Young Charlie! We were wondering when you might get here! Everyone is very excited to meet you. Mr. Wald, if I could just have you sign these forms and waivers before I take young Charlie to class? I am Ms. Anna.”

“Of course! Charlie, why don’t you sit down in the chair there while I fill these out? Take a look around.”

Charlie nodded vigorously. He sat in a lobby chair and drank in the black walls spattered with white dancing couples. One the far wall there was a big list of all the offered dance classes –ball room, ballet, river dance, salsa. Charlie didn’t even know what half of them were, but he wanted to. He wanted to dance them all. He bet they were so much fun.

“All right then. Mr. Wald you can wait here in the lobby if you like, come back when class is over, or through that door there, there is a window where parents may watch our lessons. It’s not always open, but on days we have new students we try to let the parents see, get a feel for what their child will be doing. Charlie, dear, follow me, all right?”

Charlie jumped up and followed Ms. Anna. He was going to learn to dance! The excitement was building in him so much he could feel his whole body shaking.

There were a few other boys in the class, but it was mostly girls. Some were a little younger than Charlie and some were his age. A couple were older.

“All right boys and girls! This is Charlie. He’s going to join our classes starting today. Please partner up and decide who will dance the lead. Once you have decided, please stand in first position so I know you are ready. Charlie, first position will look like this.” Miss Anna stood tall, her shoulders square, feet together. If you need help, your partner will help you.”

“Uhm. Ms…Ms. Anna…”

“Yes, Charlie, dear?”

“Can I…” Charlie glanced around the room and suddenly felt very nervous. He leaned close to Ms. Anna and dropped his voice to a whisper. “Can I dance the girl’s part? Please? Just this one time, I promise. Then I’ll do the boy part. I just…I just wanna try it…one…one time. Please?”

Ms. Anna smiled and patted Charlie on the head, it was a nice gesture and Charlie thought it was meant to be kind, but for some reason she seemed very sad. “Oh, Charlie, my dear.”

Charlie bit his lip. She was going to tell him that she couldn’t possibly allow him to do that. Boys didn’t dance the girl part. He looked down at his feet, fighting back tears. He shouldn’t have asked. He knew it. Why did he have to ask? What if now she wouldn’t let him stay in the class?

Charlie felt Ms. Anna’s fingers lift his chin. The same sad smile was still there. Charlie thought it looked like she might cry too, her eyes were so shiny. “Charlie, you can dance whatever part you want. It’s okay. You can dance the girl part as many times as you like. I promise.”

Charlie couldn’t believe his ears. He could dance whatever part he wanted? Did she really mean it?

“Charlie, I think I know exactly who to partner you with. Sarah? Would come here please?”

A girl with very short brown hair and a round face walked over. She seemed to be about Charlie’s age. “Yes, Ms. Anna?”

“I have some good news for you, Sarah. Charlie doesn’t want to dance the lead at all. How would you like to be Charlie’s dance partner every class? You can lead as much as you want and you won’t have to take turns with the boys.”

Sarah’s eyes lit up. “Really!?”

Ms. Anna’s smile grew genuine. “Really.”

Sarah gave a small squeal of excitement and grabbed Charlie’s hand. “Come on, Charlie! Let’s go get into position!”

Charlie felt Sarah’s hand grasp his firmly as he stumbled after her. He stood tall, heels together, and when Ms. Anna began to lead them through their stretches and warm-ups, Charlie couldn’t help the giggles that bubbled up inside him. When they began learning dance moves, Sarah’s hand went firmly around Charlie’s waist and she lead him with ease. She seemed to be just as happy as he was. The rest of the world slowly began to fall away until there was only Charlie and the dance. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore, just the dance, Sarah’s lead, and Ms. Anna’s instruction.

Class ended so quickly that Charlie found himself slightly remorseful that it wasn’t longer, but he felt so happy. When he went into the lobby his father greeted him with a smile. “How was class, Charlie?”

“It was so fun, Dad! Can I come again? Please?”

His father chuckled. “Of course. In fact, Charlie, you’re going to come twice a week, every week. That’s how often you have class.”


Charlie’s father’s eyes crinkled at the corners in obvious mirth. “Really. I promise.”

Charlie gasped and jumped up, his hands clapping together in excitement. He turned around and sped back to the classroom where Sarah was still standing. “Sarah, Sarah, guess what!”

Ms. Anna laughed as Charlie raced past her and she heard Charlie excitedly explain to Sarah that he would be there every class. She walked over to Mr. Wald, obviously trying to stifle his laughter at his son’s excitement. “Mr. Wald, may I speak to you moment?”

His laughter suddenly melted away. “What is it? Charlie can keep attending class, can’t he? He looked like he was having so much fun.”

Ms. Anna’s eyes went wide. “Oh! No, no! Of course he can! I didn’t mean to worry you at all. I’m so sorry. I just wanted to talk to you about his future. He’s a natural, Mr. Wald. Charlie takes to ballroom dancing like a fish to water. There were some moments I wasn’t even sure he knew he was being taught, he just seemed to know. Sarah hasn’t had a consistent partner since she started here because she likes to dance the lead and the boys don’t want to dance the girl’s part and the girls want to dance with the boys. I think Charlie is perfect for her. She, too, is a natural. She doesn’t have Charlie’s talent, but I think together they could be a very strong duo. I’d like to see how they do over the next few weeks, to see if they really are as compatible as they seem, but if it goes well, I think they could move up much faster than either would alone.”

Mr. Wald grinned. “You really think so?”

“As I said, we’ve only had one class. But I really want to continue seeing him.”

“We’ll be here every week. Rain or shine.”

“Good. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday.” Ms. Anna sauntered away to speak with the other parents picking up their children.

Charlie came over to his father, Sarah in tow. “Dad! This is Sarah! We’re gonna be dance partners! And guess what!”

“What?” he laughed.

“We go to the same school!”


“Yeah! She has Miss Walsh as her teacher! We’re gonna eat lunch together tomorrow!”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah!” Charlie chattered away, Sarah occasionally nodding in agreement. They had been giggling and chattering for about ten minutes when a tall woman with long brown ringlets, high, hot pink heels, a matching pencil skirt, and a flowing, ruffled leopard print blouse came in. Charlie immediately stopped talking, his jaw agape. “Whoa. She’s so pretty!”

Sarah’s head drooped a little. “Yeah, that’s my mom.”

The woman sauntered over to them. “Sarah! How was class, dear?”

“Oh, it was good, Momma. Uhm. This is Charlie, my new dance partner, and his dad, Mr. Wald.”

“A new dance partner?” Her voice, Charlie thought, sounded shrill. “Does this mean you don’t have to dance the boy part anymore? That’s great, Sarah!”

“Uhm,” Sarah seemed to shrink into herself. “Y-yeah…”

Charlie decided then that it didn’t matter how pretty he thought Sarah’s mom was, he didn’t like her. Sarah was so happy when they were dancing, he could tell. But this woman…she was like his mother, Charlie decided. It had to be a secret that Sarah danced the boy part. He glanced at his dad, who he thought had a strange expression on his face. What was that look? He shook his head and looked at the woman square in the eyes. “Yeah! Sarah was so pretty, I asked Ms. Anna if she can always be my partner!”

“Is that so?” Sarah’s mother beamed.

“Yeah! She was really good at the girl part! She looked really pretty when she spinned.”

“I’m so glad, Sarah! All those girls making you dance the lead was just too much! A lady should always be feminine and delicate.”

“Yeah…” Sarah looked at her feet.

Charlie reached out and squeezed Sarah’s wrist. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, okay. ‘Member? We’re gonna have lunch together.”

Sarah smiled weakly. “Yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow, Charlie.”

Charlie watched Sarah follow her mother out of the studio then turned to his father. “Dad, how come people don’t want me and Sarah to dance how we want? Is it bad? Does…is Momma right? Maybe I shouldn’t dance? I should just play basketball like she wants me to?” Charlie was fighting the tears that threatened to spill over his eyelids. He bit his tongue.

His father’s eyebrows furrowed. “No, Charlie. Why don’t we go to the car?”

Charlie swallowed past a lump forming in his throat. He didn’t like the tone of his father’s voice. When they reached the car, his father turned toward him. “It isn’t wrong, Charlie. Your mother…she just…she just doesn’t understand because in her head boys and girls only do certain things. We’re going to go to the rec center so you can pick a sport, it doesn’t have to be basketball, but your mother is gonna wanna go to your games. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance, Charlie. You should do what makes you happy, Charlie.”

“So…Momma won’t ever come see me dance? Cuz in her head boys don’t dance?”

“I’m sorry, Charlie. We’ll make her understand one day. I promise. We’re just gonna keep it a secret for a little while, okay?”

“Oh,” Charlie felt a tear trickle down his cheek. “Okay.” He didn’t understand. It didn’t make any sense. Would his mother not love him if she knew he still wanted to dance? That he was going to take dance lessons? If she did know, would he have to pretend he danced the boy part like he did for Sarah?

He mulled it over in his mind all the way to the rec center. He barely heard his father talking to the lady at the information desk and was startled when his father called his name.


“What sport do you want to try, Charlie? Mrs. Carls has these brochures for you to look at.”

“Oh. Uhm. I’ll look.” Charlie took the brochures from his father and went to sit in one of the bucket seats across the room. He rifled through them, tossing the ones he definitely didn’t want to do in the seat next to him—football, basketball, track, hockey. None of them sounded much fun. All of them sounded like he’d get all sweaty and gross. As he continued to rifle through the brochures, the flash of an extended arm caught his eye. What was that?

He pulled the brochure from the stack and looked at it with curiosity. It was a picture of a man with a swim cap and goggles in the water, one arm extended straight out in front of him, the other sliding through the water beneath him. He opened up the brochure and saw different swimmers doing different stroke types. They all looked graceful, in a way. Charlie thought that, if he focused on the different strokes pictured hard enough, it would almost be like he was dancing in the water. He wouldn’t be able to spin the same way or wear pretty clothes and feel the whoosh of fabric about him, but at least it wasn’t basketball or football.

“Dad. Can I do this one?”

His father took the brochure from Charlie’s extended hand and gave it a glance. He smiled softly and patted Charlie’s head. “Of course, Charlie. Are you sure this is the one you want?”

Charlie nodded.

“All right. Mrs. Carls, do you have swim classes on Mondays and Wednesdays?”

Mrs. Carls smiled warmly. “We do. Classes start at 5:30 p.m. for swim. Can Charlie make it?”

“He can.”

“All right then. I’ll just need you to fill out these papers and we’ll see Charlie tomorrow afternoon. Luckily, he’ll only have missed one class so he won’t be much behind the other students.”

Charlie didn’t speak the whole way home. He was so confused and hurt. Nothing made any sense and his father’s words made the least sense of all. How was he supposed to do what made him happy if he had to keep it secret? Why did he have to do so much just to do what made him happy? Didn’t doing all of this mean that doing what he wanted was wrong?

The questions didn’t stop spinning around in Charlie’s head and he couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned and when he finally fell asleep he dreamt his mother was as tall as a house and grinning down at Charlie sinisterly, a football in one hand and his dress in the other. She dangled the dress before him, her eyes glowering. “Is this what you want, Charlie? Hmm?” His mother waved the dress in his face and Charlie reached out for it, but she yanked it away. “Well, too bad! You’re a boy, Charlie!” She shoved the football into his chest, then grabbed the other sleeve of the dress in her hand. Glancing up at him with rage in her eyes, she ripped the dress down the middle, cackling as Charlie screamed and cried out.

Charlie bolted awake in a cold sweat and his bedroom door swung open. His father looked around frantically. “Charlie!? Are you all right, Charlie? What’s wrong? Why were you screaming?”

Charlie looked up at his father. “Dad! Dad I…” the words caught in Charlie’s throat. How could he tell his father that he dreamt of his mother that way? “It’s…it’s nothing, Dad. It…it was just a bad dream. I’m. I’m really sorry, Dad.” He tried to sit tall and take a deep breath in but as he let it out he felt his chest shake and he tried to hold it in but suddenly he was crying, loudly and with barely a chance to breathe in between each chest-rattling sob.

His father’s eyes softened and he went to Charlie on the bed, wrapping him in his arms. “It’s all right, Charlie. It’s all right. It was just a bad dream.” He rubbed his hand up and down Charlie’s back as he shook with each heaving sob and tightened his arms around him. “You’re all right, Charlie.”

“What’s all this noise?” Charlie’s mother came groggily into the doorway to his room. “Why are you crying, Charlie?”

“It’s nothing, Maude. He had a bad dream, that’s all.”

“A bad dream?” she blustered in disbelief. “He’s almost ten years old! You’re fine, Charlie. It was just a dream. Stop that racket and go back to sleep. This is ridiculous.”


Charlie bit his lip, trying desperately to stop his crying like his mother asked. She was right. He was almost ten. And boys didn’t cry. He needed to stop. He needed to stop right now.

“What? You know as well as I do, Charles! You baby him too much! He’s not going to be a little boy forever. He needs to start learning how to be a man eventually and you’re just coddling him.”

Maude! We’ll talk about this later.” Charlie’s father spoke through grit teeth and Charlie could feel how much his father had tensed.

Charlie breathed in a final, trembling breath and let it out. “It’s okay, Dad. Momma’s right. I…I gotta stop crying. Boys don’t cry.” He ground his teeth together and looked up at his father sternly.

His father softened. “Charlie…”

“It’s okay, Dad. I’m okay now. I’m sorry for waking you up.”

His father squeezed him tight and tucked him back into bed. “It’s okay to be afraid, Charlie. If you get scared again, just call for me, okay?”

“I’ll be okay, Dad. I promise.”

His father grimaced and left his room with his mother, softly closing the door behind him.

The moment Charlie heard the door click closed he pushed the covers off and sat up. He shook his head and took another shaky breath. It was going to be okay. His mother would never find out about his dancing or the dress. He’d make sure of it. He got up and opened his closet, his fingers brushing against the velvety feel of the dress beneath his skin. He still hadn’t tried it on. As he reached for it he heard a harsh, low whisper from the direction of his parents’ bedroom.

What is wrong with you, Maude? How could you say that Charlie? He’s just a boy!

He needs to grow up, Charles. He’s not a baby anymore. You know I saw his homework the other day? He had drawn little hearts all over the margins. Hearts!

Do you hear yourself, Maude? He’s a child! Who cares if he draws hearts on his homework? Who cares!?

I care, Charles! I care! I will not have my son going around like a fairy boy!

There was a moment of silence and Charlie clenched his hand on the dress. What did that mean? ‘Fairy Boy’? It didn’t sound like a good thing, even though Charlie thought fairies were pretty. The way his mother said it…it sounded…dirty.

I think I better sleep on the couch for a few nights, Maude.


Charlie heard footsteps walk past his room and down the stairs. This wasn’t good. His parents were fighting and it was his fault. Charlie dropped the hand clenching the dress. He gave it a wistful look then pulled it off the hanger. He gripped the sleeves in each hand, intent on ripping it the same way his mother had in his dream but he couldn’t make his arms move. He stood there, for how long he didn’t know, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t make his arms move to tear the dress. As the sun began to peek into his bedroom, Charlie sighed. He folded the dress and glanced around his room. He spotted an old shoe box under his bed and pulled it out. He stuffed the dress into the box and put the lid back on. He shoved it under his bed and began to get ready for school.


About the Creator

Rachel Prett

I'm a poet and a fiction writer. I can write quite decent essays, but I'd rather tell stories of the heart and speak with my whole soul.

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