Charlie looked up at the sign and grinned. Here she was at last—at a real dance school. No more dancing in the cold church basement. No more boring ballet classes with old Miss Plum.
Charlie was finally at a real school that taught modern dance.
She hitched her bag higher on her shoulder, took a deep breath, and pushed on the heavy old door.
She could already hear music pounding from the studio above. From the thudding and clapping, it sounded like a toddler class. Or maybe junior beginners.
For months, Charlie had begged her parents to let her start dancing here. At first, they had just said no. The classes cost a lot of money. And to get here, Charlie had to catch a bus all by herself.
But two weeks ago, as a birthday surprise, Charlie’s parents had said yes.
Quietly, Charlie climbed up the stairs. Soon, she came to another door and another sign.
Charlie smiled to herself. Yet another thing that was different from her old ballet classes! This dance school was the real thing.
She was still smiling as she pushed open the second door.
But as she walked in and scanned the waiting area, Charlie gulped away her smile and felt her heart pounding quickly in her chest. Suddenly, the dance school seemed a long way from home.
Grouped in a huddle in the corner were four girls about Charlie’s age. They were leaning in together as they giggled and whispered. From the backpacks near the group, Charlie could tell that they all went to the same school.
But they seemed linked in other ways, too—the way they sat with their legs crossed, the cut of their T-shirts. They even wore the same funky black dance shoes.
Charlie didn’t even realize she was staring. But she couldn’t take her eyes off their shoes. Oh, no! she thought. The shoes.
“Can I help you?” asked one of the girls, sitting up straight and looking at Charlie.
Her hair was long and worn loose like the others. She was smiling, but her eyes seemed cold.
“Ummm,” Charlie looked down at her school shoes, wondering if she should just turn around and go home. “I’m OK,” she mumbled.
For some reason, she wanted to hide from the group of girls. But the waiting area was not very big.
Charlie walked a few steps to the nearest wall. She wasn’t thinking straight. All she could think of was hiding.
Then another girl walked up to Charlie. She had dark, curly hair that bounced when she moved. She wasn’t from the group of friends, but she wore the same black dance shoes.
“Are you looking for the bathroom?” she said. She raised her eyebrows and gave Charlie a broad smile. “It’s through there.”
The next thing she knew, Charlie was turning the lock in a bathroom stall. Did she say thanks to that girl? She had wanted to. But she had felt too shy to talk.
Charlie leaned against the stall door and took a gulp of air.
Never mind. Charlie couldn’t worry about saying thanks now. She had other things to worry about.
Charlie unzipped her bag and looked inside. For the past four years, she had worn the same clothes to dance class—a plain black leotard, pink tights, and pink ballet shoes. Yuk.
Why was Miss Plum so old-fashioned?
Charlie was so used to the old uniform that she hadn’t thought of getting new clothes for this class.
But she couldn’t wear ballet shoes at a modern dance class. Could she?
Charlie shook her head and sighed. If she didn’t wear her ballet shoes, what could she do? Her tights had feet in them. It would be too slippery to dance like that.
But if she didn’t wear tights, what was she left with? Just a black leotard and bare legs. For some reason, that almost felt like dancing naked.
Charlie shook her head again and groaned. How could this be happening?
Then she heard the thud and bang of the beginners coming out of the dance studio.
Charlie’s first class in modern dance was about to start.