Chapter 1: One
Eighteen year-old Roxy Morton didn’t think that she would ever be standing on the edge of the dance floor again. Yet there she was, five years later, wearing a blue flowy dress heavily decorated with rhinestones and her dancing shoes, with tons of make-up on her face and her hair pulled back into a tight bun. Just like back in the old days. Except that this time her friends and colleagues were sitting in the audience instead of her parents.
The music stopped for the first heat and she felt her heart skipping a beat. Now it’s their turn. From the corner of her eyes she saw someone stepping next to her.
“Ready?” he asked, smiling at her, although his ears were bright red due to his nervousness.
Roxy straightened her back and nodded her head.
“Ready,” she said, placing her arm on his then they both walked onto the dance floor.
A few months earlier
She wasn’t planning to start ballroom dancing again, it was a spontaneous decision. On a rainy evening she was walking down the street and passing by a dance studio, the ballroom class caught her eye and as she was watching those people practising the Viennese Waltz, she realised how much she had missed this. If this was a movie, it would have happened like that. In reality, she caught the broadcasting of the national dancesport championship on tv and the next day she signed up for a class.
Ballroom dancing was an important part of Roxy’s school life: she started going to classes when she was eleven as a hobby and the next thing she knew that she Mrs. Wilkinson was securing her bun with hairspray on a Saturday morning, in a dressing room full of chatting little girls wearing more glitter than a whole box of toy ponies. Then she danced with James Preston (III.) and threw up in a bin afterwards as nervousness and waltzing weren’t very good friends.
Eventually, many-many Saturdays followed that one, with less vomiting and more hairspray. She and James Preston (III.) danced through many competitions and championships until he mysteriously disappeared from school at the age of sixteen. Supposedly this had something to do with James fancying that tall ginger guy from Leeds. After that Roxy danced with Thomas Redmayne until graduating. By the time she started university, she had got tired of the whole thing and she had not thought of getting into dancing again.
Yet five years later, she stood in the middle of the dance floor, wearing a loose skirt and a black top with her hair in a ponytail. Like in those good old days of practice. The only thing that had changed was that now she wasn’t a schoolgirl but a secret agent. Due to seven years of experience, Roxy was allowed to take the more advanced classes, and now she could just enjoy dancing without the pressure of the competitions.
John Lewis Grahame had never considered himself a dancing type. The twenty-five year-old journalist would have never signed up for a dancing class by himself. As an intern for London Daily, he had signed up for a dance course to write an article about ballroom dancing for adults about a year ago. Unexpectedly, he got hooked and continued going to classes, even after his article was published. He enjoyed that on the dance floor he could be more than just a quiet guy with big ears: he could be elegant, passionate, playful, or all of the above at once. It was a liberating experience. Now, as a member of the advanced group, he gave in for his instructors’ persuasion and signed up for the Jack and Jill competition on the dance studio’s next party. Although he wasn’t considering to enter amateur competitions, being randomly paired up with other members sounded fun.
As she sat down on the last chair of the female participants’ row, Roxy began to regret that she had listened to Patty and Jamie and registered for the Jack and Jill competition. The Calypso Club was crowded as most members of the dance studio came to the quarterly party and they all wanted to see the competition. She wasn’t bothered by the public or being watched while dancing, but by her future partner. What if he wasn’t able to lead? What if she wasn’t able to follow? Why did I sign up for this? She thought to herself with the urge of running away. Watching it was definitely more fun than just sitting there with a clenching stomach every time someone pulled a piece of paper out of the hat - would it be her this time?
Her name was drawn in the fifth round by a twenty-something guy with short light brown hair and big ears turning red of nervousness. His name was John or something like that, Roxy could not remember it, as her mind went completely blank when she heard her name. She had to draw the type of dance and only due to her military background she managed to pick the piece of paper without her hands shaking. She wasn’t this nervous during her training for Kingsman (except for the parachute jump task, though), yet dancing with a complete stranger at a competition made her this tense. Nonsense, she stated in mind as she handed the paper to Patty who read it out loud. Viennese Waltz. Good.
John Lewis was surprised how calm her partner was when she drew the type of dance, while his hand was shaking so much when he pulled out her name from the hat. Roxy. She had never met her before, nor had he seen her in any of the studio’s dance parties. This will be a whole new experience, then, he stated in mind as he bowed to her when the music started. She curtsied and then they stood into the closed position with his right hand on her shoulder blade and his left one holding her right hand. He offered a small smile to her as their eyes met and Roxy smiled back nodding her head as a sign that she was ready.
Roxy had no idea what their dance looked like from the outside, but this big-eared stranger did know how to waltz. After a stuttering start, he found the way how to lead her right and soon she caught herself unable to stop smiling as she began to enjoy the dance. Although he was a bit rough, and his technique did need some improvement, his enthusiasm and spirit made up for those shortcomings. Even if they didn’t win anything, the dance itself was worth it.
The first few steps didn’t turn out as John Lewis planned, due to a wave of anxiety that swept through him when he noticed that this girl most probably had done competitive dancing before. It was clear from her posture. But then he managed to shake off that thought and pull himself together. He started to enjoy the dance, and then he realised he was not alone with that feeling. His smile spread into a grin as they swept across the dance floor, almost forgetting that an entire dance club was watching them. Even if they didn’t win, it was still worth it.
They landed in fourth place in the end.
It wasn’t bad for two complete strangers meeting for the first time on the dance floor.
Chapter 2: Two
After the Jack and Jill competition, Roxy is persuaded to perform in the dance studio's annual gala, but, as she has no partner, with some random guy from the other group.
A few weeks after the studio announced their annual gala, where the members could show their dancing skills to their loved ones both in groups and individually, if they preferred that way. As in the advanced group, mostly there were couples or people who were dancing together for a longer period of time, they decided to perform separately.
“You didn’t sign up for the gala,” Patty, one of the instructors told her one day after class.
“I don’t have a partner,” Roxy said. “And I’m not really the performing kind anyway,” she added. She was a little sad for not being able to perform, but quickly brushed it off as she didn’t really think her parents or the other Kingsman agents would come to see her dance. That would be weird. Not only because her mother hadn’t spoken to her father for years, but also imagining Merlin and Eggsy sitting in the audience of a dance gala.
“Actually, we could fix that,” Jamie, the other instructor stepped in. “In the Tuesday group there is a guy who might be good for you. And he doesn’t have a partner either.”
Roxy was skeptical about pairing up with that guy from the other dance group to perform in the gala, yet she had nothing to lose. The worst case scenario was that they wouldn’t participate in the gala which definitely wouldn’t be the end of the world. Taking the stairs to the dance studio she thought of the guy from the Jack and Jill competition: it would be nice if it was him. However, she was sure he had a permanent partner. With his spirit, there was no way not to have anyone to dance with.
“I was lowkey hoping it would be you,” John Lewis said when he was introduced (again) to Roxy.
“Me, too,” she admitted as they shook hands. She felt relieved that at least he wouldn’t be a complete stranger.
It turned out that Jamie and Patty forgot that they had danced together at the Jack and Jill competition, but nevertheless, it was a pleasant surprise for them both. They hoped the pair could work together and perform something. They were too good to miss the gala.
“If you need us, we’re having a private class next door,” Patty informed them. “Wedding dance.”
“Good luck,” John Lewis said as the instructors left the room.
Silence fell on the secret agent and the journalist when they were alone, not being sure what to say or what to do. This situation was new for both of them. Not being alone with a stranger, though - both had done that before, but they hadn’t been expected to make up a dance routine from scratch.
“So…” they both spoke at the same time. Then they started to laugh.
“Sorry,” he apologised.
“Sorry,” said she.
“You start,” he offered.
“Thank you,” she nodded. “Do you have any preferences?”
He ran a hand through his light brown hair. “Not really, no. Do you?”
“I’m not a fan of lifts, but besides that I’m fine with almost everything.”
“Fear of heights.”
“Noted. No Patrick Swayze then.”
A smile touched Roxy’s lips. “I have nothing against Patrick Swayze, as long as there are no lifts,” she told him.
Now it was his turn to smile. “That’s nice to know. I think you are more of a standard girl, aren’t you? I mean, dance-wise,” he added quickly, with his ears turning red with embarrassment.
“Good guess,” Roxy replied. “I do prefer the standard division. How about you?”
“I’m more a latin kind of guy,” he said and luckily, he didn’t add any hip movements to these words. “You should see my cha-cha-cha.”
“Should I?” she raised a brow, taking her phone out of her bag. Then started looking for something on it. “Show me, then,” she said and pressed play.
John Lewis’ smile turned into a grin at Roxy’s reaction. She was straightforward and reserved, but she seemed to have a playful side as well and he liked that. As the upbeat music began to play, he held out his hand to ask her for a dance. “If I cha-cha-cha then you should, too,” he said.
“Fair enough,” she said, accepting the offer.
From this dance she could tell why he preferred the latin division: because it matched his enthusiasm and buoyancy more than the standard dances. He seemed to enjoy them more as well. Even though cha-cha-cha wasn’t really her cup of tea, she caught his mood and could follow him without any problem. However, he did feel some tension in her movements; she didn’t let herself loose and he wasn’t sure whether it was on purpose or she was unable to do so. No matter how much he tried it, he couldn’t figure it out. He saw her leaving the studio wearing a grey checkered suit jacket, glasses and a pair of leather boots, looking like she hadn’t passed the last two hours on the dance floor. Even though her style suggested a boarding school past or a possible military background, John Lewis knew that this was not necessarily the truth. There was Matthew, his boss, for example: no-one could tell that he was a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist if they saw him in those old jeans, Jurassic Park tee and a plaid shirt.