Chapter Ten

When Harper and I arrived at the set, he introduced me to Lincoln Thomas, also known as Link, another stepper originally from Chicago. I had heard his name once before when Harper told me that the Minnesota contest winners, Rocco and Lena, were longtime students of his. Link had been dancing much longer than the twins and had developed his own, separate following in the Twin Cities. When we arrived, there were quite a few people I didn’t recognize, even more than usual. I had been to a few sets by now and was beginning to at least recognize faces. Oh wait. There were Jada and Dawn, two of the top-tier members of the illustrious Secret Seven. No doubt there to spy on a non-twin-sponsored event. A little later on, the Furious Five arrived and took their usual place near the dance floor.

“Where are the regulars?” I asked Harper.

“You will probably see a few new faces here,” Harper informed me with a smirk. “Given that the community is so small, I made the decision long ago that I would support any event that I chose.”

“Why the division?” I wondered.

“Egos, personality conflicts, women, and of course the almighty dollar. You name it,” Harper surmised. “Some of them are just plain old robots with no minds of their own. C’mon, let’s dance!”

I was a little rusty since I had missed more than a few classes, but Harper always made me look as if I knew exactly what I was doing on the dance floor. It was good to be back out there.

We danced for two songs, and then Harper and I began to look for a seat. As he led me to an open seat at the bar, the parade of women we passed began to sound like a broken record: “Hey, Harp.” “How you doin’, Harper?” “Hey, cutie.” I couldn’t help but notice that for every tooth-filled female grin Harper received, I was on the receiving end of an equal number of glares, twisted lips, and eye rolling from those very same women. He offered a polite “hey” to each of them and didn’t take any time at all to introduce me. As badly as I wanted to ask him, “What the hell is going on?” I thought it more prudent to get the story on the car ride home.

Chapter Thirteen

The more people I met as I continued to step, the more friends I made on Facebook. It was amazing what you could learn about folks through social media these days. Relationship statuses went from married to single overnight. God-fearing Christians praised the Lord one minute and talked trash about folks the next. Of course, Facebook was great for seeing pictures, connecting with friends and family, and even keeping current with community events and birthdays. But it never failed that the day following a steppers’ set, Facebook pages were on fire. And the twins’ birthday set was certainly no exception. In fact, my Facebook timeline had never seen so much activity.

Apparently the “CJ/Link face-off,” as it had been dubbed in less than twenty-four hours, was not the only talk of the night. In fact, it had quickly taken a backseat to a woman scorned and accusing an unnamed “she-stepper” of being a home wrecker and making inappropriate public advances toward her husband. I had also obviously missed a confrontation between line dancers who had been arguing across pages of posts about two different versions of a line dance and which one was the true “original.”

“Mom, some of these posts look like the stuff that goes around at school,” Grace said, reading my Facebook page over my shoulder.

“Well, Gracie, when you bring men and women together in a social setting, regardless of age, there is going to be conflict.”

I did read one post that morning that made me pause. It wasn’t lengthy or spouting anything derogatory or remotely inappropriate. It was simple and straightforward and made me wonder for the first time about my future in this dance:

“Steppin’ used to be fun. Times have changed.”

Chapter Sixteen

“There he is!” Vivian shouted as she rushed to the front of the stage.

Harper took my hand and we joined other steppers on the dance floor. Then, in the middle of Carmichael’s “Go Steppin’,” something happened to me on that dance floor that had never happened before. Another man grabbed me away from Harper by the waist and started dancing with me as if he had asked me from the start. Apparently, Harper told me later, it was an acceptable practice as long as the men made eye contact with one another. Let me just say, I was glad that it happened to be Ant, whom I had at least spent time dancing with in our workshop earlier that day.

Once I calmed down from the shock of being stolen away from Harper, Ant and I had a nice dance. He gave me the signals for some of the turns and combinations we had practiced during the workshop. Because it wasn’t my first dance with him, I began to relax and start having fun. When the song ended, I thanked Ant for the dance and gave him a big hug. The music for “Pot of Gold” started to play.

“I know this is your track, Ginger,” Harper said. “Let’s go to work, stepper. Ain’t nobody taking you from me on this one.”

I smiled, and Harper and I started to dance, really closely. There couldn’t have been more than an inch of space between our bodies at any given point. About halfway through the song, he gave me a carousel turn, and suddenly I felt him dipping me slowly and gently all the way to the floor. He held me in that dip for what seemed to be forever. We stared at each other as if we were frozen in that moment. I knew we had been in that position too long when the crowd started to applaud. I didn’t know if the applause was for our dip or for Carmichael. Regardless of the reason, the noise brought us out of our trance and we began to dance again.

When the song ended, Harper held my hand and escorted me back to the table. We both spent the rest of the night dancing with the Mil-town crew of men and women, who had been wonderful hosts all weekend. Harper and I didn’t dance again that evening, but we both knew that something had happened on that dance floor. I, for one, couldn’t wait to find out.