Chapter 7 – What’s wrong with you, Moose? (Baltimore)
When I go out into the yard with my tray, there is an uncomfortable air that makes my arm hair stand up, but I hardly notice it. As I approach my usual table, next to the rubbish corner, there’s only one thought in my head―Camille’s movements in improvisation’s class. Fluid, perfect…
What’s wrong with me? I want to know as I walk with my eyes glued to the tiled floor of the schoolyard.
Is it jealousy? Of course, I envy her. I confess, even though I told Andie at the time that it wasn’t the dancing that was my thing, it was the lights, deep down I was grateful that she allowed me to join the group to compete in ‘The Streets’. But the feeling I had when I saw Camille is not new―sometimes, when I walk past one of the ballet classrooms, I feel an inner resentment at the thought that I will never have that magic while dancing. And it usually went away instantly, or as soon as I went out to rehearse with Chase and company. But Cam…
When I climb the little flight of stairs that leads to my destination, I drop the tray on my usual table more abruptly than I should. I’m… frustrated―yeah, that’s the word. But destiny has a certain macabre sense of humor because, a few seconds later, when I’ve just put my tofu dog in my mouth, another tray falls in front of mine causing me to stick a pot in place. And it’s no wonder I choke when I see Camille’s slender body and face appear behind it, immediately coming down to face me with an expression that unintentionally makes me tremble for a moment. I know that face. Not for nothing, we’ve been best friends since third grade.
Her eyes are so intensely fixed on my face that I know I should do or say something but, for several seconds, I am unable to even move. I’ve even kept the dog between my hand and the inside of my mouth. Yes, you laugh. The situation seen from the outside has to be worthy of the best film by Chaplin or the Marx Brothers.
“Well, open your mouth at last, although you’re upset. Aren’t you going to explain to me what happened up there?” ―And without giving me any time to answer, while I’m doing just enough to bite the piece of hot-dog in my mouth and separate the rest of my mouth, she shakes her shoulders in a clear gesture of disbelief―. “Why did you… walk away like that?”
Oh, oh. It’s not just anger. She’s hurt.
Right. If you’re going to be an asshole, I recriminate myself.
It was an impulse, I admit, I hardly thought about what I was doing when I ran out of the classroom; but it was such a shame to feel… ―what? That I would never measure up to Camille Gage, the sister and ward of the great Tyler Gage?
Wake up, Moose. You should have known that before you walked into class, I mentally whip myself again.
Because what I couldn’t admit is that somehow, despite last year’s goodbye, if I had believed I could make up for her absence…―I can’t. And when I saw her again, without wanting to, I was afraid it was too late to get back what we had. Something that almost seemed to be burned into my brain when I saw her dance.
“I’m sorry, Cam”, I apologize sincerely and quietly, leaving the half-chewed dog on the tray again and not daring to look at her face at all. “I don’t know what came over me, I…”
What the hell, of course, I know what happened to me, what I don’t have is the courage to tell her. At least, until I see how she withdraws slightly back in her seat, even with her little face filled with pain.
“Well, I guess watching you dance made me feel like I wasn’t cut out for this again…”
“What do you mean, felt again?” She repeated, emphasizing the last four words, with an air of stupor. “Moose, you’re a great dancer…”
“Maybe, but you see what Collins told me…”
I shut up when I see Camille, to my surprise, roll her eyes.
“Moose, Collins may be the Principal of the school and a renowned ballet dancer” she slowly vocalizes, as if talking to a small child. “But I’m sure his comment was not disparaging…”
Unwittingly, hearing it from her lips, I feel as if a small flame of hope were burning in my chest, at the level of my heart.
“You think so?” I ask, cautiously.
“Of course I believe it!” she jumps up as if she didn’t think for a moment that I could see it otherwise. “You have potential and you know it, Moose. You just have to get it out there. And yes, well,” she shrugs off something that looks like recovered joy, “he’s a bit strict and he’s stiffer than a stick”, ―her expression makes me laugh, I admit, and she imitates me before she goes on―, “but I don’t think he’s a bad person, Moose. I really don’t.”
My mood sinks slightly again at the thought that I’ve hurt her unintentionally. I don’t deserve her to be here cheering me up.
“Thank you, Cam. For believing in me.”
She shows half a smile. Looks like the anger has worn off at last.
“You’re welcome. Although I did have to cover you in front of Collins,” she says before she attacks her pasta salad. “Ah! And we have homework.”
An alarm goes off in the back of my brain when I hear those words.
“Homework?” I repeat, hoping it’s not true.
But Camille seems to accept it naturally and nods calmly.
“Yes,” she confirms. “Lucky for you they’ve ordered a couples’ exercise…”
A strange feeling runs through my spine. She hasn’t finished the sentence, but I think I understand what it means. Despite everything, before leaving the class she was still betting on me.
“I don’t deserve you,” I tell her then, smiling gratefully.
She smiles too, but with a bit more of a joke.
“I know,” she says as she takes another bite. But when she’s finished chewing and speaks again, her next question makes me sit tight. “How much do you know about Fred Astair?”