Mrs Brownlee tapped on the piano top. “Silence children!”
They quietened down, and stood in a semi-circle around her, faces turned expectantly towards her. “Today you will start to learn to dance”. Susanna giggled loudly. “And what is so funny?” demanded Mrs Brownlee, completely forgetting the grammatical principles she had been drumming into her previous class.
“Weeelll” started Susanna, “The boys aren’t big enough to lift and swing us girls”. Mrs Brownlee snorted, ”That’s NOT dancing”.
Turning to her assistant at the piano, she nodded briskly. The woman began to play something. Mrs Brownlee swayed, rather like a young willow tree in the wind, he thought. “Now”, Mrs Browlee said, “You will start with the simple two-step. Stand in a line down the room please”
And so it began, the weekly torture of learning how to put your feet and your hands, when to look, how to turn. The difficulty of dancing with Suzanna who wriggled around in his arms like a puppy smelling breakfast, the ease of dancing with Michelle who just stepped in time with his steps and turned at the slightest pressure, a bit like a wooden doll, never fighting his direction. Most of the girls ranging between difficult to extremely difficult to dance with. Then there was the disastrous day when he was paired with Denise. She, oh so clumsy and domineering. That was the day they ended up sprawled on the floor together and when he vowed he’d never ever dance outside of the classroom again. What a dreadful idea it was, someone forcing this torture on others.
Years later, his military service over with honour. His career as a junior in the diplomatic corps begun. His first two years in the offices in the capital. “Learning the ropes” as his father put it. Then posted to that country so far away. His kind of uncle – a distant relation, was the ambassador. Fortunately the man kept their link a secret, so that he was never plagued by the others looking for unfair privileges or advancement.
Then the night he so dreaded. The annual “Freedom Day” ball. An event he had managed to avoid the previous year when he arrived and fell off the damned horse they first gave him. Being laid up in bed in pain had been preferable to the pain of having to steer those difficult beings around the floor. And with all the added annoyance of having to remember which bits of which foreign woman he must NEVER touch without causing a diplomatic incident.
He stood at the edge of the dance floor. He sighed. One more dance with him on the sidelines and the Ambassador would notice. Then he saw his chance. The old King was being wheeled in. The old King liked to discuss the new transport system with him. He never tired of it. And if he was entertaining the old King, then the Ambassador would heartily approve of the action, as the Ambassador always found discussions with the old King rather tedious.
Happily settled with the old King, a small table between them, holding their glasses and a plate of dainties between them, he for the first time that night felt comfortable. “Damned dancing, all foolery” snorted the old King. “But my son does enjoy these formal occasions. He says it lets him size up his next bed partner, but it is really time he selected a wife and started breeding heirs”. “Oh yes, he agreed, dancing is such a waste of time”. Somewhere his guardian angel must have been shouting at him not to say those words, but he ignored the odd feeling in his brain as simply being caused by the rather strong champagne in his glass.
The Ambassador came over to offer his greetings to the old King. He immediately sprang up to give the Ambassador his seat, as he was aware that the old King did not like “peering up people’s nostrils”.
As he backed away he bumped into someone coming towards them. He turned sharply and caught the woman as she started to fall. She was smiling as he pulled her towards himself to stabilise her balance. “Well” she said, after that introduction, the least you can do is dance this one with me”. “Oh yes, good idea” said the old King, “Off you two go and leave us old codgers to our chat”.
There was nothing he could do except offer her his arm, in the way he’d been taught all those years ago by Mrs Brownlee. He so hoped this was not another Denise, leading him into disaster and embarrassment.
He looked down at the woman, girl really. He was smiling up at him. There came from her a smell, delicate and enticing. “Well, at least this has some pleasant aspects”, he thought.
The band started up, his heart sank, a grand waltz. She swept into his arms, his hands naturally fell to her, the one around her waist fitted so naturally into the curve of her waist, resting on the slight swell of her hip. Her hand nestled in his, like a little bird he’d once rescued. Warm, seeking shelter.
They stepped out, his feet remembering the hours of instruction. She moved with every one of his moves. Her scent in his nostrils, the music infiltrating his brain, already somewhat influenced by the strong local champagne. She warm and pliant in his arms. The blood pounding in his arteries.
The sensuousness of it all! Suddenly he GOT IT. This was the way to tell a woman you wanted her. This was the way she told you she wanted you. Moving together.
Rather like sex with your clothes on. Nothing to do with diplomacy.
What a wonderful idea!