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The Cake List - Chapter 1

The Cake List - Chapter 1

Fresh from a spectacular break up and faced with a looming big-O birthday, Meg throws caution to the wind and signs up for Ballroom classes. Little does she know that dancing will stretch more than just her muscles.

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Romance / Women's fiction


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Dianne J. Wilson (South Africa)


Chapter 1

60 days and counting

Meg aimed her feet into the satin shoes and realized two things; one, you can get a muffin top on your feet and two, breaking off an engagement made your feet fat. There was simply no other way to explain why her new Ballroom shoes had shrunk. In the shop it was all Cinderella and the prince. One break up later and here she was – the ugly step sister swinging the daft things on her big toes.

Either that, or it was her looming big-O birthday. Her thirtieth was bearing down on her at the speed of an ovum down a fallopian tube. A few hard pushes and the shoes were on. She sank back into the dance studio’s leather couch, patting it for supporting her. A couple came in wet from the rain, arguing in low voices. The girl’s nose flared and she smacked his arm as they disappeared into a side room. Meg fiddled with the empty spot where her ring used to be, her hand felt naked and she was losing feeling in her toes. More people drifted in, some more wet than others, they stowed umbrellas, hung up coats and knew exactly where to go. Like the ark, they all came in twos. Meg began to feel more uncomfortable in this place than her feet did in satin pumps. Maybe it was time to take her oh-so-single ugly-sister-toes home and soak them in a tub of hot water. It would be a pity to have to leave this one on The List, but honestly it had been a bad idea from the start.

She pushed herself to a stand, wincing at the pins and needles stabbing her ankles.

“You must be Meg?” The man asking was a head taller than she was in her heels, and had slipped his arm underneath hers. She didn’t mean to lean on him quite so heavily, but her feet had sabotaged her. The pair of them might as well have disappeared into the other room with all the two-by-twos. Traitors.

“How did you know?” She eased off his arm, wobbled horribly and grabbed him.

“My staggering powers of deduction of course.” He grinned, “That, and the fact that the next hour is booked for Chad and Meg. He told me to be on the lookout for, and I quote, ‘a gorgeous redhead with sun-kissed skin’. That’s gotta be you.”

Meg rolled her eyes. Chad always thought he had such a way with words, when in fact he oozed more cheese than she liked on pizza. She was not going to let thoughts of him ruin the next hour. It was doing a fine job of ruining itself without his help, thank you very much. “I take it you’re the dance instructor?”

“Dominic at your service.” He tipped his head, close cropped black with a dusting of silver over the ears. Easy on the eyes. He checked his watch, “Is Chad running late? We can give him a few minutes or we can start if you like?"

The door swung open and for a moment Meg expected Chad to walk in, all confident and charming. Her stomach twisted. It wasn’t Chad, but another late couple who waved at Dominic and hurried to the same door all the other couples had disappeared into. As the door opened, music pumped from the room, loud and rhythmical. The woman stopped and poked her head back around the door, “You coming Dom?”

“Not tonight Gina. Go on, you’re late!”

She grimaced with a nod and shut the door behind her, cutting off the music midway through the count of eight. It hung in Meg’s head, unresolved. They could have kept chatting for another four counts, but no… Dominic walked her through to a separate studio. The parquet floor gleamed under the lights, mirrors lined two of the walls, windows covered the third, maroon plastic chairs lined the fourth. Meg sat down heavily, supremely self-conscious of clinging to his arm. “Chad’s not coming.”

“No problem. We can do tonight without him. Give you a head start.” He turned to her and held out a hand, “Come.”

She should really tell him. But that would mean questions. Awful horrible questions. Meg wasn’t ready for those. “What are all those couples doing next door?”

“It’s a new project of mine. A Ballroom and Latin American Formation Team.” He took off his sweater and re-tucked his shirt, “But we’re not here to talk about all that. Let’s dance.”

Meg gritted her teeth, forced herself to get up and walk towards him. He took her right hand in his, placed her left on his bicep, slipped his other arm around her. Her fingers told her that his arms were musclier than they looked from outside his shirt. There was a space the size of a dinner plate between them. He was probably trying to protect his toes, which was a wise move considering her history with feet. A tickle started in her left nostril.

“We’re going to take it nice easy, just like walking. Step back left, right then side close. Yes?” His voice had a soothing quality to it, almost hypnotic. She wrinkled her nose, resisting the urge to rub it on his shoulder. The slightest pressure of his hand on her back warned her he was about to move and she moved too. Her ankle buckled underneath her and she dropped. Dominic caught her before her knees could hit the floor.

“Wait, let me guess. New shoes?” One look at her face and he shook his head, “I have a better plan. Kick them off.”

“What?” Both nostrils were itchy now. Meg’s eyes were starting too.

“Dance without them tonight, stretch them out with potatoes for next week.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Look, I’ll even take mine off.” There were zebras on his socks. Tiny little black and white zebras. What kind of man wears zebra socks? She took the moment and gave her nose a good hard rub. His eyes narrowed, “What’s the matter, toenails not done? Stinky feet?”

“My feet are not stinky!” She sent her shoes flying. It was such a relief to have them off, she nearly cried. Then the feeling started coming back, “Ow, ow, ow…” She really did cry. It was all thoroughly mortifying. Chad probably planned it this way.

“Oh I get it.” He wrinkled his nose in sympathy with her stinging legs. “Let’s sit for a while. Is Chad working tonight?”

Meg should tell him the truth. About their fight. Their passive-aggressive, no-voices-raised fight. About everything. She should. “Something like that.”

“He’s a good guy, Chad. Quite a catch.” He tipped his chin in approval, nodding in that sage way people do when being nice about a common acquaintance. One look at his face and Meg knew she wouldn’t be coming back. Maybe the store would give her a refund on the shoes.

“Let’s give your feet a chance to recover. We’ll start with some theory.”

This guy just didn’t miss a beat. He helped her into a chair and sat opposite. “What timing is this music? Tell me what you think.” He pressed play on the CD remote that dangled off his belt hook and picked up her left foot. She shot up straight and tried to pull away but he held up a finger, shook his head and asked, “Timing?” His fingers rubbed circles in each toe, through her arch and her heel. She gave a half-hearted tug. This was awkward, but... the pins and needles melted away wherever his hands went. Meg felt herself turn to jelly.

She focussed on the music, one two three, one, um… “Aaah, I dunno.” Her eyes slid closed. Tension was slipping from her back, her neck that had been in constant spasm for as long as she could remember.

“And this one?” He moved to her other foot and changed tracks. The tempo was upbeat, vibrant. She was finding it hard to focus on anything other than her feet.

“Nope.”

“Come on Meg. Focus.” Dominic pressed the button again, this piece was smooth and easy. He put her feet down carefully, the pins and needles were gone. She shrugged, eyes still closed.

“I don’t think you’re trying very hard.”

Meg opened her mouth, ready to shoot off a snappy retort but nothing came. Something witty? Nope. Vaguely amusing? Grief, at this stage, she’d settle for two syllables. Meg had grown up in the shadow of the other Meg, the blonde one on the big screen who still dominated the romantic comedy shelf at the DVD store. Redhead-Meg had always rolled her eyes, publicly poo-pooing the guaranteed happy ending thing, all the while secretly nursing a tiny hope that there was one of those reserved for her too.



Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Hi, I liked your story, but felt that it needs a bit of editing to help it reach its full potential. The beginning was good, straight into the situation, without telling us exactly what had happened. Got a bit confusing then though, too many names. Do we need to know the names of all of them. The setting could be better, difficult to see this. I don't know what time of day it is, or even what country it is. The tone of the character Meg was good, this came across well. The only real problem I had, though, was why on earth she'd have gone to the dance place knowing Chad wasn't coming. I found this difficult to believe. Wouldn't she have stayed home and gobbled ice-cream? It would be greatly improved if you could give us a good believable reason why she went there. Description round the food massage good! Good luck with this