Swept Off Her Feet
By Amanda Brice
“And a one-two-three, cha-cha-cha!”
Kelley pushed back a stray strand of golden hair from her face as she surveyed the room. Her students were really beginning to pick up the hang of the Latin dances. Sure, they wouldn’t be on any TV ballroom dance shows anytime soon, but she was really impressed by their progress, particularly since the average age was about 70.
Kelley opened a dance studio four years ago with her best friend, Sean, when they first moved to a small town in the country. Back then, in order to drum up business, they engaged in community outreach, giving free or reduced-cost lessons at local bars and retirement communities. When reality TV started featuring ballroom dancing, they saw their enrollments skyrocket overnight. Sean stopped giving the free salsa lessons at Sunset Cantina, but Kelley continued the weekly classes at Oak Creek Senior Community. She really enjoyed seeing her students lose 30 years when their eyes lit up after hearing a familiar big band tune.
Her mother had been delighted when she learned that Kelley was opening a dance studio. “Think of all the men you’ll meet!” she gushed.
“Mom, that’s not why I’m doing this,” Kelley laughed. “Besides, the only guys who ever come to the studio have been dragged there by their fiancées so that they’ll be able to waltz in time for the wedding. And the men at the senior center are old enough to be your dad!”
Her mom wasn’t the only one who had her romantic interests in mind. Kelley’s favorite student, Mrs. Miller, a spunky late-seventy-something who reminded her of her own grandmother, constantly tried to set her up with her grandson. “Kelley, you would love Francis! He’s such a nice boy,” she would say.
Although Kelley hadn’t been on a date in almost a year, she couldn’t exactly warm to the idea of dating someone named Francis. Besides, she thought, you have to be suspicious of anyone who needs his grandmother to find him dates. There had to be something wrong with him. “Thanks, Mrs. Miller, but I have a boyfriend,” she always lied. Mrs. Miller hadn’t asked yet to meet this phantom boyfriend, but Kelley knew she could always depend on Sean in a pinch.
The music ended and Kelley gathered her students around to demonstrate the next move. It was a complicated role-reversal requiring the man to spin around and go under the woman’s arms. At the studio, she and Sean would break up the men and women for difficult moves, with her taking the ladies while he worked with the men. But she was alone at the senior center. Previously, she had gotten around this problem by back-leading one of the elderly gentlemen. However, the confused look on his face told her that he didn’t understand what she was trying to do this time.
“OK, everyone take a break and get some water while I try to figure out how to explain this next step,” Kelley announced.
As the class scattered off, her usual demonstration partner stayed behind, determined to learn the steps. “No, you too, Mr. Levine. It’s important to stay hydrated.”
“No, that’s OK,” Mr. Levine replied. “I need to learn this. Otherwise, whom will you dance with?”
“Maybe I can help,” a strange male voice answered.
Kelley turned around to find herself face-to-face with a tall, incredibly handsome guy about her age. He had dark brown hair and was wearing khakis and a button-down the same deep blue shade as his eyes.
“I took a social dance class in college,” he explained as he took her hand and effortlessly led her through the exact same step she had been struggling to teach Mr. Levine.
“Wow!” Mr. Levine whistled. “That was really good!”
“Dan,” he supplied.
“Thanks Dan, you’re a good dancer.” Kelly blushed as she realized she was still holding his hand. Shivers went up her spine at the thought of their connection.
Mrs. Miller returned. “Oh good! Kelley, this is the one I was telling you about! I’m so glad to see you finally met my grandson! Francis, I’ll leave you two alone to get acquainted,” she squealed in delight and dashed off.
This was Mrs. Miller’s grandson, Francis? But he wasn’t dorky at all! “I thought you said your name is Dan,” Kelley stammered.
Dan laughed. “It is, well, sort of. That’s what all my friends call me, but my real name is Francis. Francis Daniel Miller, III. Grandpa went by Frank. Dad was Frankie when he was a kid. So Grammy called me Francis, to differentiate. I hated it, so people started calling me by my middle name. And I guess you’re Kelley, huh?”
She blushed again. “I should apologize for my reaction. You see, your grandmother’s been trying to set us up for a long time, but I thought you must have something wrong with you if you needed her help finding a date.”
Dan smiled, revealing the most adorable set of dimples Kelley had ever seen on a grown man. “That’s OK. She told me a lot about you, too. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard ‘Have I got the girl for you!’ I work long hours. I just started as a prosecutor, and don’t have time to meet many women, so she tries to play Matchmaker.”
“She told you about me?” Kelley asked.
“Don’t worry, it was really complimentary. And at first glance, it seems like it’s all true. Hey, I’m actually here to pick her up after the dance class. We’re going out to dinner for her birthday. Would you like to join us?”
“I’d love to, but I wouldn’t feel right intruding on your special dinner. Maybe another time?” she asked hopefully.
Mrs. Miller had been eavesdropping over at the water cooler throughout this exchange, but now she rushed over to where they stood. “Kelley, I won’t hear of it! You’re supposed to spend birthdays with friends! You’re my friend, and I want you there. Please say you’ll come along.”
Kelley stole a look at Dan, who just shrugged. “OK, if you’re sure you don’t mind, Mrs. Miller.”
“That’s another thing. Enough with this Mrs. Miller stuff. My friends call me Helen. And if you’re going to be my friend, that’s what you’ll have to call me, too,” Helen replied with a wink.
“Absolutely!” Kelley smiled as she realized that maybe her mom was right. The best things in life do happen while you’re dancing.
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