Short Stories

Shall We Dance

Physical feelings came and went, emotional feelings grabbed his heart.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Hayden was woken up in the morning by the birds chirping in the trees. It was going to be a good day!

Entertained by the radio playing all his favourite melodies all day long, not a negative thought in his head, he was really looking forward to the evening dance.

A few nerves perhaps. He hadn’t stepped into the dance class for almost eighteen months, a place he had become accustomed to for the past five years prior to his absence.

Hayden was ready to go back to the class. He knew he was able to find peace after the bad times eventually passed.

The turbulent times in his life were over. He realised that he had the power to change if he chose to. Therefore, he wanted to dance again. To feel part of a dance environment was of the utmost importance to him. He needed that acceptance from the dance group.

Doctor Kelley helped him to make the shift and feel different inside. Now it was up to him to show the world that he was able to focus on positive things in life rather than hold onto the depressing past. Time was far too valuable to waste in a psychiatry ward. He set his goal, as Doctor Kelley suggested, and his first priority was to get back onto the dance floor.

Dance created enormous personal satisfaction, it helped him to have a sense of value about himself. He needed to be on the floor with the music again.

Today was the day. His dancing buddies would be there to greet him with open arms.

Hayden repeated in front of the mirror “Fear is our worst advisor”.

A clean shaven face looked back at him. “You’re not going to a strange place, you’re going to the place you knew very well and it has provided you with lots of good memories.”

That’s right, that was the place where he had met Zara. When he first laid eyes on Zara, he was captured by her intangible looks. How could a woman be both sophisticated and pure? So intelligent yet humble at the same time? So gentle and tough at once?

Hayden immediately fell in love with her youthful existence. Her hair was as dark as the midnight sky, the spiral curls bounced when she moved. Her naturally tanned skin, her exotic features. Her eyes could speak better than other’s mouths; they were as deep as the black sea.

Zara was a mysterious lady who often answered a question with another question.

“Would you have dinner with me?” Hayden had asked the first night he met her.

“Do you think I should?” Zara had asked back.

“Yes, I think you should.”

“Do you think I would?”

“Yes, I think you would.”

“Why do you think I would?”

“Because I’d like to get to know you better.”

“Do you think by having dinner together, you would know me better?”

“Hopefully, there’s a chance.”

“Do you know I am married?”

Hayden had been speechless; he hadn’t seen that coming.

Zara had smiled and moved away from him.

When the music started, Hayden had rushed to where Zara was sitting and asked her to dance again.

He loved to dance with her. She could feel the movement through his hands and body and follow him very well. Dancing with her was a pleasure.

For the rest of that night, Hayden hadn’t left Zara’s side. He danced every single dance with her, made sure other men had no chance to cut in. After the last dance, he had walked her to her car.

Hayden loved to remember back to how they met, that excitement mixed with disappointment kept him on the edge, wondering.

Weeks later he was floating in the air when he found out, thanks to Elizabeth, that Zara had already separated from her husband. Hayden gave Elizabeth a big hug and kiss.

“I can smell trouble, Hayden. Although she’s separated, don’t forget she’s still a married woman. You don’t know anything about her background.”

“Elizabeth, we are in Australia, we are all Australian.”

“You have an English background like me. We think alike, she is very different, it is a cultural trait rather than racial.”

“That’s why I found her so interesting.”

“Just be careful not to get hurt.”

“Zara is a kind-hearted soul, she would never hurt anyone.”

Hayden’s persistence won him Zara’s companionship; he was over the moon.

He carried the bags when they went shopping, trimmed the hanging branches off the tree in her garden, picked up her dry-cleaning while she was still in the office, busy working. He put a pair of his old boots next to her front door to stop that “a single woman lives here” signal.

They watched movies together, had long drives to the countryside and had picnics. She even went to a football game with him just to experience it.

When Zara cooked lamb stuffed zucchini, while she was hollowing out the zucchini, Hayden was chopping the garlic. When she cooked chicken maqlooba, he diced the onion. No matter what they did, their togetherness made time pass so sweetly.

If they didn’t see each other, they would spend time on the phone, telling each other what their day was like and what they were doing.

They were like a committed couple, they did things together, laughed together and sometimes cried together. The only thing they didn’t have was the physical contact. Zara didn’t want that to happen while she was still married. Her morals gained absolute respect from Hayden.

He thought they made a pretty good team.

Hayden was really pleased with himself. He had met such a high standard lady whose beauty often took his breath away. He could not find any fault with her, all he had for her was admiration. He was waiting for Zara’s separation period to reach the legal requirement, then she could apply for a divorce and shake off the chains that restricted her from moving on.

They were happy, at least that was what he thought.

Until Zara told him that she was going back to her husband because that was her family’s wish. She was obligated to her family which was not something Hayden could understand.

“What about your own wish?”

“Don’t you understand my wish is to make my family happy?”

“What about us?”

“What about us?”

“Our future together!”

“Since when did we have a future together?”

Hayden wanted to say that he wanted to spend his life with her, but he didn’t. He had been betrayed by his first love, he could not imagine going through that horrible experience again.

Zara came into his life with many qualities he never even knew of. The happiness she had bought him was above the physical world. He would never be the same as before he knew Zara.

After he realised his living standards had been so basic and ordinary, he frantically wanted to get back to Zara’s standards that he had admired.

Hayden was too late. Zara’s mobile number had been cancelled, she no longer worked where she used to and she had gone from her little unit with no further contact details.

He tried to find her details on the internet without any success.

Zara had disappeared from Hayden’s life. She had come like a firework in the dark sky. The sky was back to boring pitch black after she was gone.

Hayden lost his enthusiasm, the light in his eyes was gone, he smiled without feeling, danced without rhythm.

“I warned you!” Yes, Elizabeth had, but she couldn’t understand how Hayden felt. She thought that it had been an affair like any other affair between any man and woman. Give it a little time, after another woman walks into Hayden’s life, he’d be as good as gold. She had seen Hayden with other women in the past. She knew too well, nothing would really last, not for commitment phobic Hayden anyway.

On the surface, those dance buddies helped Hayden cope with Zara’s absence. There were also plenty of ladies in the class who would like to have a dance. The small number of men gave all male dancers a good chance to choose a lady to dance with.

No one could understand Hayden’s loss; did anyone care?

Hayden prayed for Zara’s return. She had come to the dance once; she may come again. Months past but Zara was nowhere to be seen.

He walked on the street aimlessly to look for the face he desperately wanted to see.

He sat on the bench and watched people pass by, hoping that beautiful face would appear.

He had never been as content with anyone as with Zara, he had never felt so confident with anyone as with Zara. He had loved other women before but that was more physical than emotional. Physical feelings came and went, emotional feelings grabbed onto his heart, he didn’t know how to ease them away.

He was sad, not for his loneliness, but for the chance he had lost. He knew he’d never come across a lady like Zara again. She was one in a million, she was the one and only.

Elizabeth’s phone call was a big shock to him. “Whatever you do, don’t read the newspaper, don’t watch the television news. Zara is dead, you don’t need to know the rest of the details.”

Hayden dropped the phone, no, Elizabeth was joking, she had to be. Zara was young and healthy; she couldn’t have died. She was not a celebrity, even if she was really dead, it wouldn’t be in the news.

How wrong he was. Before long he got the bad news – Zara was stabbed seventeen times by her husband. He had wanted her to die rather than set her free.

Hayden jumped up from the couch, curled up in bed and cried like baby.

He remembered Zara had told him once that to return to her husband would be a suicidal act. She knew she was going to her death when they parted, he remembered her tears were beyond sadness. Elizabeth was right, he had no clue as what kind of situation she was in. Now she was dead, the end of Zara, the end of his hope, the end of his dream.

Hayden wanted to go to Zara’s funeral, ignoring everyone’s advice. He needed closure for himself and to say goodbye to Zara in person.

Elizabeth organised a group of his dance buddies to go to the funeral to support him. Everyone was attentive and focused on him.

It was a funeral in the spot light with lots of prying eyes but Hayden didn’t notice any of them. He was so grateful that Zara’s mother had insisted that an open coffin was the way to go, she wanted the world to have a last look at her beloved beautiful daughter.

Hayden stood beside the coffin. Zara looked like she was in a deep sleep. He knew she was gone, that the body was only an empty shall. Her lifeless face lay peacefully in the centre of her thick and curly hair, her lips were tightly closed.

Was this for real? How could her body still be here but she be gone? If she wasn’t in her body, where could she be?

She had been so lively and energetic, where had that energy gone? It couldn’t just have disappeared but where was it?

How come one day she was here but the next day she was not? Had she been here in the past? Then where had she gone now?

He had loved that young lady, full of clever ideas, her eyes brimming with cheekiness, her poise saturated with charm. This magical princess had been in his arms; he could still feel her breath blowing into his ear. Where was Zara?

He touched her hair, it still felt as silky as when she was alive.

He touched her cheek, it was as cold as ice.

“She needs a warm blanket.” Hayden turned around and looked at the lady who stood at the end of the coffin. She looked very much like Zara but older.

Through his misty eyes, he saw that lady’s face was covered with tears like his own.

His tears dropped onto Zara’s hair. Her hair was so dark; they didn’t even leave any trace.

If he had not been so afraid of commitment, he could have stopped her from going back to her husband. The maniac wouldn’t have had the chance to harm her, she would be still alive.

He had taken her chance away from others by his persistence. He had not acted the way he should have. She had lost her life because he was a coward.

How sorry he was, how angry he was towards himself. He should have died, not her. She had been a far better quality human being then he was. She hadn’t fooled around with people, she had been a proper human being with great principles behind her.

How could a wonderful lady like Zara die the way not even the worst human being should?

There wasn’t any evidence of Zara’s injuries; the funeral parlour staff had done a good job. But Hayden imagined that, beneath the colourful patch work quilt, her body was mutilated beyond recognition.

He felt great pain all over his body, like someone was using the knife on him. He covered his head and screamed for help.

Hayden didn’t remember how he got home after the funeral. It was not important, like how he got over his illness.

Well, that was all in the past. He had accepted that Zara was gone, she was in a better place than Earth. He didn’t need to worry about her anymore, he could go on with his own life now.

He wanted to show everyone he knew that Hayden was back, back to normal, back to the real world.

He put on a freshly ironed shirt and sprayed on his favourite cologne. Hayden liked the man he saw in the mirror.

“Watch out ladies, Hayden is back. See how I do the Tangoette, Charmaine, Pride of Erin, Chicago Swing, ah especially, the Merrilyn.”

Driving on the Monash Freeway, the evening sun shone into his eyes, the radio was playing one of Zara’s favourite songs – “I’ll always love you”. Hayden welcomed the warmth from the Sun and sing out loud with the radio:

Lots of jolly things we have done

We had nothing but fun

We laughed, we sung

We cried, we were overcome

Till our predestined relationship ended

We almost had it all

I’ll never find another man like you

From deep inside my heart, I’ll always love you

Our difference in values and worldliness

Was the barrier for our happiness

I’m not the one you need

If you call, I’ll be right with you indeed

The breach between us will mend

I’ll forever be your friend

I’ll never find another man like you

From deep inside my heart, I’ll always love you

I wish the Sun would always shine on you

I wish love would always surround you

I’m not the one you need

If you call, I’ll be right with you indeed

The breach between us will mend

I’ll forever be your friend

I’ll never find another man like you

From deep inside my heart, I’ll always love you

I’ll always love you

I’ll always love you

I’ll always love you

Hayden finished singing the song. He looked in the rear vision mirror, “Good on you Hayden, you did well.”

He hadn’t fallen into pieces after the radio reminded him of Zara.

“I’ll always love you Zara but I am not going to withdraw into my little cocoon. I am going to move forward with my life. I want you to be proud and not ashamed of me. I am ready to face the world. See, I can sing your favourite song and still be happy.”

The journey to the dance class was pleasant. He was so looking forward to his first dance. He was excited when he saw Elizabeth’s car in the middle of the car park. Elizabeth has been teaching ballroom dancing for the past seven years. He was one of the members who had started with her from day one.

Hayden heard the happy screams and laughter before he saw anyone. A few of them were waiting in the hall for his arrival.

Once Hayden walked in with a smile on his face, the worry on Elizabeth’s face eased. The hugs, kisses and greetings were as Hayden expected. The thing that he hadn’t expected was the big sign on the wall: “Welcome back Hayden!”

Hayden loved the attention he received.

“We have many new ladies you haven’t met.”

“Goody, goody.”

“We still have more ladies than gentlemen, so men are still in high demand.”


“You can say that again, we do need more men to share with the ladies.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Students arrived at the class one by one. Elizabeth and her partner Jason mingled and everything seemed back to normal.

The music was turned on. The very first dance was the Merrilyn. Elizabeth and Jason were hand in hand waiting, the class were waiting for the teacher’s first step.

Hayden didn’t ask anybody to dance. He stood near the account desk, facing the doorway like he was waiting for something to happen.

He was so tense, he didn’t hear Elizabeth calling.

Then the door of the hall opened and a long dark haired woman named Michelle walked in.

Suddenly Hayden’s eyes lit up with joy. He shouted in happiness “Here you are Zara”.

The faces of those who knew Hayden all dropped, their movement frozen, their focus on him.

Haydon rushed to Michelle’s side and put out his hand. Smiling sweetly, he bowed his head lower and said “I’ve been waiting for you, shall we dance?”

Elizabeth held up her left hand to stop everyone from dancing. Jason could see the tears in her eyes. He held her right hand tightly, he couldn’t say a word to her because his throat was blocked by emotion.

Haydon happily danced with his Zara. He didn’t take any notice of anyone, he couldn’t see that the others were watching him and not dancing, all he saw was Zara in his arms!

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