Kadie knocked on the door, but wasn’t sure her polite tapping would be heard over the conversation and motion inside. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped into the music and chatter. She glanced around the long hall. People gathered in small groups, chatting and demonstrating dance steps. The band warmed up at the top of the hall, tuning fiddles and talking setlists with the caller.
Kadie slipped over to the long table and settled her purse, coat, and water bottle along the back edge. Just being around people felt electric. She smoothed a hand down the knee-length skirt of her dress. The dress was a personal indulgence, a joyful lavender sundress that swirled when she spun. Footsteps approached and she turned with a smile. The woman smiled back.
“Hi, I’m Luella. I haven’t seen you before, are you new to contra?”
Luella had a kind face, Kadie thought. “I travel often, so I’m new to the area, but not new to contra. I’ve danced across most states. Everyone is always so welcoming. Do you come here often?”
The girl was charming. “Every week since I could stand,” Luella replied. “Met my husband here.” She beamed and glanced over at a tallish man demonstrating simple steps to the cluster of first time dancers.
“That sounds lovely,” Kadie said. She said it with such wistfulness that Luella was forced to reconsider her age. She had initially assumed that the girl was in her mid twenties, but with her face softened with longing, she looked closer to nineteen.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time tonight. You come back anytime you’re in the area, sweetheart. What was your name again?”
“Amber,” Kadie said. Luella smiled and introduced her to a young man who asked her to dance the first set.
Kadie spun, whirled, glided, and flew. She never lacked for partners, never stopped long enough to get a drink. She charmed the room, waltzed with a man who was ninety years if he was a day and made it seem effortless, and she herself was deliriously happy. And with all that she still managed to disappear right after the last dance.
At her car, safely away from the hall, she shrugged into her coat and drank her water. She hopped into her rental car and vanished into the city streets. It was worth the risk of forming a pattern, it always was. Being alive, being happy, not being alone was what this race was all about. If she didn’t form the patterns that made her happy she may as well give up already. Unbidden, her hand rose to massage the side of her neck. She might be living on borrowed time, but for as long as it lasted, she was going to live it.