by Norsebard


Contact: norsebarddk@gmail.com





This romantic short story belongs in the Uber category. All characters are created by me though they may remind you of someone.

This story depicts a possible romantic relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.

All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.





Written: January 9th - 12th 2018.

- As always, thank you very much for your help, Wendy Arthur :)

As usual, I'd like to say a great, big THANK YOU to my mates at AUSXIP Talking Xena, especially to the gals and guys in Subtext Central. I really appreciate your support - Thanks, everybody! :D


Description: You never know where a dancing lesson might lead you - even if it's no more than a free introductory class that you've won in a New Year's raffle. Colleen Metcalfe certainly didn't expect to meet the intriguing Ana-Maria Dominguez, a retired world champion dancer, at the academy where the class was held, but meet her she did…






Being alone on Valentine's Day was no fun. Being alone on Valentine's Day for the sixth straight year was no fun at all. The forty-four-year-old Colleen Metcalfe would spend the much-lauded day and evening all by her lonesome in her thirty-fourth-floor apartment in one of the big city's countless, non-descript high-rises. She would have an old black-and-white romantic movie, a bottle of pricey white wine, a home-made Greek salad and a box of crunchy garlic breadsticks to keep her company. The strong taste and subsequent odor of the latter would pose no danger to her love life since she had none.

At present, her patience had been worn as thin as her recent romantic liaisons. She had a hand clapped over her eyes in frustration as she growled at the so-called technological marvel she held in her hand. "Hello?  Hello?  Oh, what a crap connection… hello?"

Sitting up straight in her favorite armchair, she moved her Samsung away from her ear to see if the smartphone was still connected to the number she had selected. Everything appeared to be working just fine, so she put it back to her ear to try just one more time. "Hello?  No… damn," she said, getting ready to terminate the call.

She had already moved over to her desk to power up her laptop so she could try it the old-fashioned way when a disembodied, female voice came from the black and gray telephone: 'Hello, Miss Metcalfe?  Are you still there?'

Colleen sat down on the corner of her desk as she moved the Samsung back to her ear in a hurry. "I'm here!  I never left, but you did. Never mind… like I said, my name is Colleen Metcalfe, and I'm calling to confirm my booking for a free lesson at the Performing Arts Dance Academy at three PM today. It's a gift certificate…"

'Let me see… please wait…' the disembodied voice continued; the brief utterance was followed by the sound of plenty of clicking keys. 'Oh… is that Metcalfe with an E at the end?'

"That's right," Colleen said, eyeing the retro flip-over calendar on her desk. She had forgotten to update it the previous evening, so she did so while she waited. February twelfth 2018; two days to go until the day that had turned into something of a bogeyman for her - Valentine's Day. The world's romantic couples would have a great day, a wonderful evening, and a rewarding night. She, however, would once more revisit a movie she had watched so often she knew the dialogue backwards. She would once more get tipsy from the strong wine, and she would once more eat a little too much of the box of deluxe chocolate treats she had bought for herself for dessert.

The connection had been silent for so long that she moved her telephone away from her ear all over again to see if she was still hooked up with the lady from the Dance Academy, but she was.

'Hello, Miss Metcalfe… I can confirm your booking for today… at three to four, PM. An introductory class in Latin dance. I can't yet see which of our instructors will lead the class, but they're all highly skilled and experienced dancers so you'll be in good hands no matter what.'

"Excellent… just what I wanted to hear," Colleen said and moved away from the corner of the desk. "Thank you for your help. I'll be there. Bye." Closing the connection, she moved over to the window to catch a glimpse of the cityscape around the high-rise where she lived. She was too high up to see much of the traffic, and the sky was dull and overcast so it failed to provide any highlights to her otherwise dreary day, week, month, year and even life.

She had taken a day off from work for the little adventure at the Performing Arts Dance Academy, but a sneaking suspicion that something was wrong with the gift certificate had prompted her to call the dancing school. With that niggling worry cleared up, she could concentrate on getting herself mentally prepared to strut and shake her stuff at the ripe, old age of forty-four.

Her skin was no longer teenager-smooth; her hazel eyes were framed by tiny crow's feet, and a multitude of other little imperfections and ailments had found their way onto - and into - her body. She had discovered a few gray hairs nested deep among her mousy-brown locks already, and she needed better support to combat the pull of gravity. The women in her family had a tendency to become plump if they didn't fight it, so she had worked hard to remain in shape though the nine-by-nine-foot cubicle she spent her entire working day in at the office didn't help.

Dancing wasn't breaking new ground for her, though. She had attended a different dance academy for a short while when she was in her early twenties, but that was a lifetime ago - and besides, street dancing as it had been presented in 1996 had very, very little in common with the Latin Dance class she had won.

"It must have been one of those temporary insanity things… what was I thinking accepting it?" she mumbled, shuffling into her kitchen to find the gift certificate that she had stuck to her refrigerator door using a Xena Warrior Princess magnet.

The colorful card that she had won in a New Year's raffle down at the community center in the second-hand LGBT bookstore known as the Bookworm Sanctuary seemed innocuous enough - and there wasn't even any fine print of the nasty kind like on so many other gift certificates - but it presented a leap of faith for her. A big leap of faith. Perhaps too big; she would only know if she fell flat on her nose.

"Sometimes you just gotta try something new," she mumbled as she slid off the magnet to retrieve the card. Holding the colorful item, she shuffled into her bedroom to gather all the brand new dancing clothes she had bought for the special occasion.


Dressed in a thick down jacket, sturdy winter boots, winter jeans, fleece gloves and a knitted hat, Colleen pulled the sports bag carrying her new clothes up over her shoulder, left her apartment and locked the front door. Though it was only a quarter past two, she needed to take public transportation to get to the dancing school, and she didn't want to risk being even a minute late for the class.

She did feel a little silly for taking the bus when she paid through the nose for a bay in the high-rise's underground parking garage. When she had checked the dancing school's location on the Internet, however, it had become obvious that she couldn't count on finding a parking space in the crowded streets near it - thus, public transportation beckoned in the square shape of the number seven bus.

The elevator car came almost at once after she had pressed the Call button which was a marked improvement over the average delay. Stepping inside, she selected Lobby and waited for the doors to slide shut. The nerve-grating Muzak that was an integrated part of the elevator company's products had been turned off after a long line of complaints by the residents, and the fact pleased her ears.


Downstairs in the impersonal lobby - the four potted plants and the matching number of reproductions on the wall had failed to bring any life to the sterile environment despite all the best intentions - a chilly wind blew in from the street, and Colleen was happy she had chosen to go for the full winter gear.

They had a security guard manning the lobby, but only in the evening and night-time hours, so the check-in desk and coffee room used by the guards were empty for the time being. It was something she could have done without, but after a spate of purse-snatchings just outside the glass windbreak, the residents of the high-rise had come to a majority decision to pool their resources so they could hire a security firm that would keep the peace. That the big, brawny men with their wrap-around sunglasses, shaved heads, square jaws and no-nonsense outlook on life caused more concern among some of the residents than a few scraggly drug addicts had ever done was apparently less important.

Colleen soon reached the windswept sidewalk; the first thing she did was to move the zipper on her down jacket up to the upper stop. Even on the days where the weather was calm everywhere else, the huge facade of the high-rise caused a stiff breeze to sweep down and create near-arctic conditions among the pedestrians.

The second thing she did was to check the time on her telephone. She needed to get a move on to reach the bus stop so it wouldn't drive off without her - it suited her just fine since the objective of keeping warm was at the top of her agenda.


The short walk to the bus stop was uneventful save for the usual racket that rose from the perpetual flow of traffic. The four-lane street she lived on was as busy as ever, and she counted thirty-one cabs, seventeen delivery vans, two police cruisers that had their lights and sirens going full blast, and finally a black stretch limousine where thumping disco music could be heard from behind the tinted windows. In addition to those vehicles, at least half a dozen bicycle couriers zipped in and out of the busy lanes with death-defying precision.

As she reached the bus stop that saw a handful of people wrapped in just as colorful winter clothing as her own, she checked her telephone again. The walk had taken her two minutes less than usual, but that was because she had kept up the pace to stay warm. In the distance, the number seven bus had just become visible so it wouldn't be too long before she would be on her way.


Chugging across the final intersection in a somewhat noisy fashion, the number seven bus soon pulled over to the curb at the stop. After the driver had opened the doors, the handful of winter-clad people swarmed inside and each put a token in the appropriate slot. Colleen allowed the others to enter first so she could be at the back of the line - if there was one thing she hated, it was to have someone pressed up against her back.

The other passengers all jumped into the vacant seats, but Colleen preferred to remain standing. She barely had time to reach for one of the straps before the bus took off from the stop with a whine and a diesel-powered puff of smoke. A split second later, the driver came to a hard stop and slammed his hand down onto the horn.

Colleen craned her neck to look out of the window next to her. It seemed that a funny-looking, chocolate-brown car had swerved into the lane right ahead of the bus, but the details of the deal escaped her. Once the small drama had been dealt with in time-honored fashion - cursing, swearing and a one-fingered salute by the bus driver - the large vehicle continued to move away from the curb.

It wasn't Colleen's problem, so she performed a half-shrug before she turned to study the colorful chart detailing the route's countless stops as it snaked its way through the big city.


To get into the right mood for the day's events, Colleen had bought a load of Latino dance hits that she had transferred onto her Samsung. By the time she reached the final stop some twenty-five minutes after getting on the bus, she had already listened to seven of them through her earphones. She was a Top-40 woman at heart so she only knew a few of them, but the fiery rhythms gave her a pretty good idea of the soundscape that she and the other participants were going to use for their introductory class - or so she thought.

When the bus finally reached the stop where she needed to exit, she got off and resumed the brisk walk to get to the next intersection. Jogging across the six lanes of busy traffic had very little appeal to anyone save for those who were actively looking for a new career as a hood ornament; she preferred to do it the old-fashioned way and closed in on the crosswalk. The display changed to Walk just as she reached the intersection, and she crossed the six lanes faster than she would have done had she chanced running across them.

She rarely visited the part of the city that the Performing Arts Dance Academy called home so she had a good look around now she was there. The old commercial district with all its weather-beaten three and four-storey buildings was far more colorful and authentic than the impersonal, even cold neighborhood where she had her apartment. The lived-in feel of the aged brownstones beat the far more recent, architect-designed high-rises seven days a week, that was a fact soon underscored.

There seemed to be an abundance of smaller mom-and-pop stores in the area: pawn shops, liquor stores, pool halls, florists, news stands, Kosher imports, several halal butchers and a few Asian greengrocers selling spices and dried vegetables. Just as she took it all in, a dark-green subway train ran past on a steel bridge three storeys above ground a bit further down the uneven street. The wheels created a harmonic concert on the bridge that lingered on even after the train itself had gone out of sight.

The streets in her own neighborhood were busy even on quiet days, but it was nothing compared to the congested traffic that filed past the wide sidewalks. The blur of colors, the smells and the constant noise that rose from the six lanes could best be described as mind-numbing, and it only took her half a glance to confirm that she would have needed a shoehorn to find a parking space for her Kia anywhere near the establishment.

Chuckling to herself, she pulled the sports bag further up her shoulder and kept up the brisk walking.


On the website of the Performing Arts Dance Academy, the fact that the dancing school was located in an old, converted fire station was one of the major selling points, and Colleen had to admit the building was an impressive sight once she reached it. She came to a halt on the sidewalk to glance up at the facade of red bricks that had kept the basic look and feel of a classic, early-twentieth-century fire station despite being modernized to fit the requirements of a new line of business.

A crafty vendor selling hot drinks from a bicycle-cart had taken up residence outside the main entrance of the dancing school, and the crowd of cup-carrying people that mingled near the cart proved that the products were of a high quality.

The familiar, rich scent of hot chocolate wafted through the air and trickled into Colleen's nostrils. Although she had the coinage needed - not to mention the inclination - to sample the steaming hot, sweet beverage, a look at the time on her telephone convinced her to put it off for later.

Instead of giving in to one of her favorite desires, she waded through the sea of people on the busy sidewalk to push open the glass doors to the Performing Arts Dance Academy.


The first part of the ground floor of the former fire station had been reworked into a flashy, tall lobby held in warm, earthy tones. Several colorful posters that all depicted famous dancers and various forms of dance or performing arts graced the walls next to a mini-lounge that consisted of a round table, two armchairs and a soft couch. Two vending machines - one containing healthy snacks and one that could produce hot drinks - stood at the far end of the lobby, but neither had attracted any customers.

A metal staircase that led to the old fire station's two upper floors had been attached to the inside of the brick wall. The landing at ground level was opposite a pair of white doors that led off to the left from the lobby. A sign above the doors proved that it was Stage One, and the pounding breakbeats that could be heard through the closed doors proved that Stage One was used for a hip-hop class.

When Colleen noticed a round booth just inside the main entrance, she pulled her sports bag off her shoulder and moved over there. A bespectacled, middle-aged woman sat behind the counter reading the business section of the local newspaper, but it was put away when the visitor approached. "Hello," Colleen said, "I'm Colleen Metcalfe and I have a gift certificate for a class. I'd like to know where I need to be-"

"Oh!" the woman said, adjusting her glasses. "We've already spoken, actually!  You called earlier today."

"That's right," Colleen said and put the sports bag down on the smooth floor. Unzipping her winter jacket, she reached into the liner pocket to retrieve the gift certificate. "I'm surprised we managed to get the points across. It was an awful connection."

"It certainly was. It happens quite often here," the older woman said and leaned forward like she wanted to share a secret with Colleen. "I'm beginning to suspect there's something inside the old walls that works as some kind of… oh, I don't know. Jamming device. Perhaps I'm being a little too paranoid. But it's too frequent to be a coincidence."

A brief smile flashed across Colleen's face as she found the card she had won in the raffle. "Well, you never know. Do you need to see the gift certificate?"

"Yes I do, thank you," the middle-aged woman said and reached for the colorful piece of paper. Adjusting her glasses again, she let her eyes zip across the lines of text. She grunted to herself a few times before she took a ball point pen and drew an unreadable doodle across the certificate. "There. I've marked it as used. You need to keep it close by in case the instructor wishes to see it before the class starts. Some do, some don't," she continued as she put the gift certificate back on the counter so the new customer could take it.

"Thank you. Have you learned which of your instructors it'll be?" Colleen said as she moved the colorful piece of paper back into her liner pocket.

"I'm afraid I haven't, Miss Metcalfe," the middle-aged woman said and shook her head slowly. "The instructors rarely bother to update the rosters. But like I said over the telephone, you'll be in good hands regardless."

"All right… well, I guess I'll just have to wait and see."

"Yes. Oh, and congratulations on winning the gift certificate!"

Colleen grinned. "Thank you. Yeah, it was a fun raffle back at the New Year's celebrations. I hope it'll turn out to be a fun prize."

"I'm sure it will be," the middle-aged woman said and adjusted her glasses all over again. "Your class is going to take place on Stage Two, which is upstairs. The doors are already open so you can go up there now if you wish. You'll find changing rooms and shower facilities upstairs as well. The class starts in fifteen minutes or so."

"Great. Thank you very much," Colleen said, looking back at the metal staircase. Her eyes quickly moved upward until they reached the first of the two upper floors - for once, it wouldn't be hard to find.


The wide double-doors leading to Stage Two were open when Colleen stepped onto the first of the upper landings of the metal staircase, and she took that as a sign she could walk right in.

The room housing the stage was far larger than she had imagined it would be - at least one-hundred by one-hundred feet. An expertly-laid dance floor made of a dark, high-quality wood took up most of the space, but it was framed by a narrow, carpeted aisle on three of the four sides. The final side of the dance floor saw a gigantic, full-size mirror reaching from the near to the far corner while stretching up to the ceiling. A high-gloss wooden handrail ran the entire distance along the mirror, no doubt for more advanced legwork.

"Yikes," Colleen mumbled, staring at the mirror. She hadn't thought of it before, but it dawned on her that there would be no place to hide once the class started - anything she and the other participants did would be reflected right back at them for all to see.

A sign at the entrance informed all members and visitors to stay on the carpeted aisle if they wore outdoor shoes. Colleen did as she was asked by remaining on the carpet on her first tour around the square dance floor. The temperature was pleasant inside Stage Two, so she pulled off her knitted hat and her fleece gloves before she unzipped her jacket.

Excited chatting behind her made her come to a halt and look back at the entrance: a group of six guys had entered the stage. There was just enough time for her to furrow her brow in disappointment before she recognized four of them from the Bookworm Sanctuary. A woman unwrapping a long scarf walked in behind the men, and the identity of the female participant caused Colleen to let out a lengthy, and certainly surprised, grunt.

It didn't happen often that she ran into an ex. First of all, she only had a very limited number of them - and secondly, if she and the ex had shared a common interest while they had been together, chances were they wouldn't have split up in the first place. Nevertheless, one of the very limited number of exes, Bobbie Soderbergh, had just walked onto Stage Two looking like she couldn't wait to take part in the free class.

Colleen didn't know whether to let out a bitter laugh, a pained groan or simply feign a migraine and go home. She chose the middle option and let out another long, deep groan. Turning around, she shuffled toward the door to the changing rooms so she could get started on the day's activities.


The interior of the ladies' changing room was held in pastel colors that didn't match the rest of the dancing school. Colleen chuckled at the familiar scents of highly feminine perfumes and deodorants that lingered in the air as she stepped inside to look around for somewhere secluded to change into her dancing clothes.

The floors of the room and the adjacent shower facilities were made of sturdy, white tiles that were easy to clean. Beyond that, the usual collection of wooden benches and metal lockers was on offer; Colleen went for one of the benches the furthest from the entrance so she couldn't be snooped upon while changing.

She had barely pulled out her gear when the door opened and Bobbie Soderbergh stepped inside. The ex's jaunty whistling stopped from one note to the next as the two women locked eyes. Plenty of good and bad memories flashed through their minds, and they all combined into producing an embarrassed silence. "Hi, Bobbie," Colleen said as she sat down to unlace her boots.

A few seconds went by before Bobbie continued into the changing room uttering a surprised "Hi, Colleen…" She wore a duffel bag over her shoulder, but she put it down on the bench a good distance from the other woman.

"You won a gift certificate too?" Colleen said, removing her boots.


Colleen nodded. The unusual silence from the otherwise chatty Bobbie proved that bumping into the other was just as awkward for both of them. "Right."

The casual conversation came to a stuttering halt after that as the two women changed their clothes in silence. Soon, Colleen was decked out in the finest gear she had been able to find in her local branch of a sports goods chain. She had no idea what to expect from the dancing class, so she had bought a sleeveless, broad-strapped tank top, a pair of loose martial arts pants made of a super-light material that would allow her skin to breathe, and finally a pair of lightweight indoor shoes that would enable her to move about in a fleet-footed way.

It was a somewhat odd-looking combination, but it was comfortable to wear and she was pleased with it. The next items she pulled out of the sports bag were a white towel that she had a strong hunch she would have plenty of use for during the breaks, and a sturdy, elastic hair band that she wrapped around her locks at once. She was ready.

A quick glance at Bobbie proved that the other woman was more or less ready as well. A worried grimace crept onto Colleen's face at the thought of spending an entire hour that close to her ex. It had been an amicable breakup by anyone's standards so they weren't mortal enemies, but an ex was an ex, and exes should generally be steered clear of if at all possible. Unfortunately, it looked like it wasn't possible this time.

A Latin beat that started out on Stage Two proved the class was about to commence. Getting up from the bench, Colleen collected her boots and her street clothes and stored them at either end of the sports bag. After zipping the bag, she let the towel hang over the center part so she could get to it in a hurry whenever it was needed. Already moving towards the exit, she came to a hard stop and let out a groan when she realized she had forgotten the two bottles of spring water she had bought for the day's activities. Sighing, she continued on toward the door.


The six guys had already lined up in a perfect formation for animated chatting when Colleen returned to the main room. Though Latin music continued to play from hidden speakers, there was no sign of the instructor yet. After putting down her sports bag on the carpeted aisle, she stepped onto the smooth dance floor that seemed to give under her feet. The huge mirror annoyed her, but she blocked it out to focus on the interior of the stage instead.

She smiled at the group of men who were all so far removed from the narrow confines of heterosexuality that it dawned on her that it would be a Family-only class. They smiled back and greeted her with several enthusiastic waves.

Behind Colleen, Bobbie put down her bag and shuffled onto the dance floor. She wore a neon-colored outfit straight out of the 1980s that consisted of tight leggings, an even tighter top, and a brightly-colored headband - in short, she was as colorful as she had ever been.

Rapid clicking of heels from the other side of the stage heralded the arrival of the instructor, and it made the eight participants of the class turn around to study the person they were to be taught by.

"Whoa!" Colleen uttered in a half-squeak, half-groan as she took in the presence of the dancing instructor. After she had won the gift certificate in the New Year's raffle down at the Bookworm Sanctuary, she had often studied the website of the Performing Arts Dance Academy to check out the details and to work herself into a frame of mind that would allow her to get the most out of the free class.

The Dance Academy had a long list of instructors, but the sublimely fit and elegant woman who strode across the floor with long, confident steps wasn't just a random instructor, but the owner of the entire establishment: Ana-Maria Dominguez, a retired multiple world champion in both Ballroom and Latin dancing. "Oh, my flip… this is gonna be murder," Colleen continued in a mumble as the instructor closed the remaining distance between herself and the class of students.

The forty-nine-year-old Ana-Maria Dominguez wore a simple, but elegant, black dress that sported blood-red highlights at the hems and across the various dips and curves. Though tight and revealing, the dress was tasteful and not vulgar at all. The skirt appeared to have endless slits up the outer seams that allowed tantalizing peeks at the woman's toned thighs as she moved. Her shoulders were covered by a wide, blood-red scarf, and she wore a large, black-and-red pin in her hair that almost gave her an air of royalty.

"Hello, everybody!  Welcome to the Performing Arts Dance Academy," Ana-Maria said in a rich voice that still held faint traces of her native Argentina though she had been a US citizen for decades. "Congratulations on winning the gift certificates. I'm so glad you could make it… and I hope you won't regret your decision to show up!"

The latter part of the opening statement was delivered with a big wink from her sparkling eyes, but it made several of the participants let out audible gulps.

"No, just kidding," Ana-Maria continued. "This is an introductory class in the traditional variation of tango as it is danced in the milongas of Buenos Aïres and elsewhere in Argentina. I promise to be as gentle as I possibly can. First up, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Ana-Maria Dominguez and this is my dancing school. I used to be a professional dancer, and the traditional tango is my specialty… as you may have figured out from my outfit. When I retired, I invested some of my winnings into the Performing Arts Dance Academy to bring the joy of dancing to everybody, not just the professionals. Now, I'd like to hear who you are, please… and if any of you have danced before."

Folding her hands across her stomach, Ana-Maria offered her students a friendly smile. It seemed to linger on Colleen for just a few seconds longer than absolutely necessary.

Colleen noticed and felt her cheeks catch fire. She opened her mouth to introduce herself, but one of the guys beat her to it. Happy for the respite, she turned to look at her fellow participants.

"I'm Brett. I'm sort of a library geek… and I like to shake my booty in the clubs," the first of the six guys said. They were all in their mid-twenties, and their street fashion outfits pretty much all matched save for a few details here and there.

"I'm Nick, hi. Computer geek… and the booty-shaking goes double for me," the next guy said before he pointed at the one who had spoken first. The two moved closer and snickered at each other. "Brett and I are together."

"Oh, that's nice," Ana-Maria said with a grin before she moved her sparkling eyes to the next pair of guys. "I guess it's no secret we're all Family. Are the rest of you couples?"

The next two - Teddy and Carter - shook their heads and let out a pair of squeaking "No," before they introduced themselves, but the final two nodded and broke out in cheesy grins. "We are. Hi, I'm Mikey. This is my hunk, James. We're booty-shakers as well," the short-haired twenty-something said as he reached for his sweetheart. More cheesy grins were exchanged much to the apparent delight of their instructor.

For Colleen, the news that Ana-Maria played on her team was a surprising development, but it certainly didn't put a damper on her mood. She felt her cheeks catch fire again as she hoped Ana-Maria would pick her in case they were going to dance in pairs, but then she realized she would most likely be paired with the only other woman among the participants - namely her ex.

Bobbie saved Colleen from a few niggling concerns by saying "I'm Bobbie Soderbergh. I've never danced, only wiggled in place… oh, and I used to be really good friends with that pretty girl right there," in a voice that was tinged with something that could be identified as disappointment.

The six guys all ohhh'ed and turned to look at the two female participants.

"Oh… I see," Ana-Maria said, chewing on her cheek as she eyed the two women.

Colleen pulled her lips back in a wide, embarrassed grimace at the unwanted attention, but she cleared her throat to introduce herself. "Hello, Miss Dominguez… I'm Colleen Metcalfe. I'm a middle manager at a wholesale business. I've dabbled a little in street dancing, but that was years ago. And, uh… yes, I used to know Bobbie quite well."

A few seconds went by - filled with chirping crickets - before Ana-Maria clapped her hands together in front of her like she had made up her mind on what to do about the unfortunate coincidence. "Well… it happens. Once, many years ago, I ran into an ex at a tango exhibition in Miami. She cursed me to hell and threw a flute's worth of champagne in my face. Did any of you bring any bottles of water today?" she said with a disarming grin.

Colleen mumbled something about forgetting hers, but Bobbie chuckled and turned around. "Yep!" she said, pointing at her duffel bag.

The guys all ohhhhhh'ed again, but the awkward moment was broken by Ana-Maria clapping once more.

"Right, this is a good time to get started," the retired dancer said, stepping back from the line of participants. "Since this is an introductory class, I think it will be most prudent if we begin with a few, gentle warmup routines. First up, I want you to stroll around in a wide circle while you swing your arms loosely… like this."


After completing a thorough set of warmup routines, the eight participants were all ready. Eager to sink their teeth into the real dancing they had come for, they shuffled around impatiently on the smooth dance floor.

Ana-Maria let her experienced eye roam across the men and women who lined up before her. A grin proved she was satisfied with their effort so far. "All right. Let's cue the music, and I'll show you a few simple moves that I would like you to mirror."

Colleen gulped nervously and pulled her legs up one at a time to give the muscles on the back of her thighs a final stretch before the main event. Though it had been a couple of decades since the last time she had set foot on a dance floor that wasn't part of an summer fair or the like, she was determined not to look like a fool, or worse: a rank amateur, in front of the gorgeous instructor.

A sensual tune fit for a passionate tango began to play from the high-quality speaker system. It prompted a sequence of events that conspired to turn Colleen into a befuddled mess of uncoordinated thoughts: first of all, Ana-Maria Dominguez let out her inner world champion as she uttered a loud cry, threw her right arm in the air and assumed a provocative opening stance. It saw her go down into an impossibly deep split, stretching one shapely leg behind her while the heel of the other hit the floor hard. That posture alone took Colleen's breath away.

As the retired world-class dancer slithered out of the stance to perform a daring tango at a pace slow enough for the inexperienced rookies to keep up, Colleen couldn't yank her eyes away from the endless slits that ran along the seams of Ana-Maria's skirt. Though her staring had already gone past 'impolite' and was headed for 'intrusive', her eyes were drawn to the skin beyond the skirt like a pair of moths to a blowtorch.

After a handful of seconds, she remembered she was supposed to at least attempt to follow the instructor's dance moves, but even trying her hardest only saw her producing a ridiculous, fourth-rate copy that was the cause of much internal embarrassment. Her self-confidence was only spared from going down in flames when she happened to catch a glimpse of Bobbie and the six guys. The others tried their hardest too, but it all looked just on the wrong side of inadequate.

Still, a free dancing lesson was a free dancing lesson, and now she was there, she might as well give it a serious shot. Studying Ana-Maria's movements more closely - it wasn't a chore at all - she managed to regain control over her floppy limbs and gain more confidence in her own abilities. Little by little, she was able to exploit the passionate music by letting it flow into her mind and down into her legs and feet.

Her torso, arms and legs were put through a series of increasingly daring moves unlike anything she had ever done, or even tried to do. The experience she had gained during her street dancing classes all those years ago came back to her; although the dance disciplines were as different as night and day, the sense of letting go and allowing the spirit of the rhythm to enslave her was similar.

Once she reached that zone, she closed her eyes to block out the mirror and the other visual stimulants near her. She carried on in her own, little world tangoing her heart out for several minutes until the music faded down. Acutely out of breath, she opened her eyes and moved her hand up to wipe off the beads of perspiration that had been formed on her forehead.

Then she came to an embarrassed stop. Everyone there was shooting her a wide-eyed stare, even Ana-Maria. Her cheeks blossomed red all over again while her mind was busy calculating how many seconds it would take her to beat a hasty retreat back to the changing rooms, but then she had to release the breath she had been holding. It made the others snap out of their wide-eyed stupor to send her wide smiles or big thumbs-up.

"Oh!  Well done, Colleen," Ana-Maria said, clapping at her student. "You were in the zone, weren't you?  I'm sure you were. Not bad at all!"

"Thank you," Colleen mumbled, wishing she had brought the white towel with her. Sweat burst forth from every pore, and since her top was a sleeveless one, she couldn't even use that to dry herself.

While Ana-Maria moved over to the six guys to give them some pointers on how to improve, Colleen fumbled away from the scrutiny and hurried back to her sports bag to grab the towel. A thorough rubdown later, she was back at the center of Stage Two.

"Hey, Colleen… that wasn't bad at all," Bobbie said, moving up to her old flame with a half-smile gracing her lips. To offer an olive branch, she held out one of her bottles of spring water that Colleen took with a grateful groan. "I'm klutzing around like a pregnant manatee over here, but you got those dance moves down pat. How about that awesome Ana-Maria, huh?  Forty-nine and not looking a day over thirty-five. What's her secret?"

Colleen drained half the bottled water in one, long gulp before she twisted the lid back onto the plastic container. She held it out to give it back, but Bobbie shook her head like she didn't want it. "It's the dancing, Bobbie… it keeps you supple," Colleen said after swallowing the last drops.

"Oh, man!  I'll say!" Bobbie said and let out a saucy chuckle as she once more allowed her eyes a brief tour of the retired world champion's shapely physique.

A silence developed that needed to be filled by small-talk, and Colleen duly delivered. "So… how 've you been?" she said in a casual fashion, hoping that she had hit the right amount of 'casual' so that Bobbie wouldn't think she was either too indifferent or too needy.

"Oh, I've been doing kinda fine. I'm seeing someone."

"That's great, Bobbie."

"Sure is. You?"

Though Colleen broke out in a grimace at the innocent question, she concealed it by taking another deep gulp of the loaner water bottle. A quick "Nah," was all she had to say on that topic.

"Oh. When you've sampled the top of the line, I guess it's difficult to get used to regular girls afterwards, huh?" Bobbie said and nudged Colleen's side with her elbow. "Huh?" she said again when the joke didn't seem to connect with her ex at the first time of asking.

"Yeah, yeah," Colleen said and let out a chuckle.

The conversation ended when Ana-Maria clapped her hands again and moved up to stand in front of all her students. "Are you all ready for something a little more advanced?  I promise I won't pull any world champion moves… yet. Oh, and I'll need a dancing partner for this phase…" she said, looking at the eight students watching her.

'Me!  Me!  Me!  Me!  Oooooh, pick me!' Colleen thought, surprising herself by mentally jumping up and down at the prospects of getting some hands-on tutoring by the woman whose sensuality was as luminous as her eyes were sparkling.

"Teddy, are you up for it?" Ana-Maria continued, smiling at one of the guys who was there on his own.

Teddy had a look upon his face that spelled out he wasn't really up for much of anything involving women of any kind, but a brief smile flashed across his lips as he nodded at the experienced instructor. Scratching his flushed neck, he stepped away from the other guys.

A scrunched-up expression spread over Colleen's face - the thought of hands-on tutoring faded away until it vanished in a pinpoint of light like on an old tube television set. After draining the last of the water and wiping her face and arms, she hurried over to her sports bag to dump the empty bottle and the towel so she was ready for the advanced moves. She had a hunch they were going to be far more challenging than the first, easy steps had been.


Colleen's hunch was proven to be right just a few minutes into the next dancing phase. Even as the speakers played a rich instrumental that almost dripped of pure eroticism, a surprised cry and a hard bump that originated from one of the rookie dancers overpowered the sensual notes.

The hard bump was soon followed by an emphatic "Ouch!  Son of a bitch!" that came from Bobbie Soderbergh. A drawn-out, embarrassed hiss escaped Colleen's ex as she grappled around on the smooth dance floor. The fact that eight people stared at her fumbling about soon hit home, and her cheeks were flushed in a deep shade of red as she clambered onto her feet in no time flat. Standing up straight, she wiggled her left leg and promptly let out another hiss through clenched teeth.

Colleen and Ana-Maria came to Bobbie's rescue at once. While Colleen patted her old girlfriend's hand to ease some of the pain that appeared to shoot up from the abused knee, the experienced dancer knelt to probe the joint in question to make sure nothing had been fractured. "Girl… what in the world happened?" Colleen said, casting an envious gaze at the retired dancer's slender fingers as they ran across Bobbie's knee.

"I fell over my own damn feet is what happened!" Bobbie said and rolled her eyes at herself. "And then I bumped my knee on the floor… can you believe that shit?  Naw, I don't think this dancing stuff is for me. I think I've had enough for today thankyouverymuch."

After finishing examining the knee, Ana-Maria looked up at her student to offer her a weak smile. "Well, the knee cap is still in one piece, and it hasn't moved, Miss Soderbergh… and I don't think you've suffered any ligament damage in the impact either."

"That's something at least…" Bobbie mumbled.

"Miss Metcalfe," Ana-Maria continued, jumping to her feet with great agility that belied the tightness of the exquisite dress. "Please help Miss Soderbergh over to a chair while I find our resident medic."

Hearing that, Bobbie put her hands in the air at once and shot the retired professional an annoyed gaze. "What?  A medic?  No thanks… I just bumped my knee, I didn't-"

"I'm afraid that it's compulsory to be given a medical check-up after every incident, Miss Soderbergh. For legal reasons," Ana-Maria said as she excused herself.

"Oh, crap… now I'm gonna be tied up in lawyers and shit for the rest of the day… or week!  I'll never get home!" Bobbie said, rolling her eyes again.

Colleen stared at Ana-Maria's retreating form for a few seconds before she turned back to her old girlfriend and put a hand on her elbow. "Uh… okay… I'll… uh… let's get you over to a chair. C'mon."

Bobbie let out a mumbled "Oh, for Chrissakes," before she began hobbling over to a row of chairs that had been set up near the entrance to the changing rooms.


Less than four minutes went by before the medic burst onto Stage Two with Ana-Maria Dominguez in hot pursuit, but the pain had already worn off Bobbie's knee while she had been lounging on the hard chair. Looking up at Colleen, she shook her head and let out a husky chuckle. "Hey, do you think I should sue 'em?"

"For tripping over your own feet?  Eh, I don't know…" Colleen said and returned the chuckle.

Bobbie chuckled again as she watched the young medic - he was only in his late twenties - already busy unpacking a medical kit as he crossed over the smooth dance floor. "Nah, I better not. I'll tell you one thing, though… I'm gonna milk this one to the max with my GF. Oh yeah, she's gonna pamper me tonight."

"I believe you!" Colleen said and leaned down to give her ex's shoulder a little nudge. She gave Bobbie's hand a final squeeze as she pulled back to give the professional medic plenty of room to perform a second examination of the offending joint.

She narrowed her eyes when she noticed Ana-Maria hurrying along carrying two pieces of paper and a ball point pen. It felt like an inappropriate time for paperwork, but the reason was soon revealed to her by Ana-Maria's words and actions:

Still clutching the papers, the retired dancer pulled over a second chair to sit down next to Bobbie. "Miss Soderbergh, I'm afraid you need to fill out a claims form for legal reasons. We are fully insured and you will be compensated for any injury and for any subsequent loss of working capacity. The legal department requires that the paperwork has been done correctly, however."

"God… all that hassle for a bumped knee that doesn't even hurt now!" Bobbie said and let out a long sigh.

"I'm afraid so, Miss Soderbergh."

"Jeez… okay… let's get it over with so I can go home."

"I have the documents right here," Ana-Maria said and held out the pen and the official-looking forms that were covered in endless reams of legalese.


Once Bobbie had been put in a cab and sent home, only fifteen minutes remained of the free class. The schedule and everything else had been sent into a state of disarray by the incident, and even the elegant Ana-Maria looked frazzled at the unfortunate development.

"All right, please listen up," the retired world champion said, clapping her hands twice. "We're almost out of time, so we need to skip to the final part of the introductory program. Let's match up in pairs to perform a basic tango. Miss Metcalfe-"

'Yes, yes, yes!' Colleen thought, already feeling a grin spreading over her face at the prospect of tangoing with the intriguing woman.

"I'd like you to pair up with Carter," Ana-Maria continued, oblivious to the thought process that had been going on in the other woman's mind. "Since we have two couples here, Brett and Nick, and Mikey and James, I think we should let them dance together. The tango is such an erotic experience and we don't want any further incidents today!  Teddy, you're with me."

The guys involved in the couples in question all grinned at each other, but Colleen's happy thoughts of 'yes, yes, yes' instantly crumbled into an 'oh, darn…' Turning to face her new dancing partner, Carter, she offered him a half-smile that was responded to in kind.

As the rich, vibrant music started playing, the four pairings got together and assumed the opening stance. Colleen smiled again at her dancing partner. Carter appeared to be a nice enough fellow who just happened to have a look of disappointment etched onto his face - she could certainly sympathize with that.

To start the dance, Ana-Maria Dominguez let out a loud cry like she had done before, and the tango was soon underway.

The three inexperienced couples once again tried their hardest to match the movements of the veteran dancer - who was no doubt only scratching the surface of her skills - but they weren't able to do much apart from pretending to dance the tango.

Colleen wanted to get the most out of the unique experience in the waning moments of the free dancing lesson, but it soon became clear she and her male dancing partner were mismatched. Their skill levels were too far apart to reward either of them, and she soon found herself growing impatient and annoyed with the man who held onto her like he was mortally afraid of even touching a woman.

When Carter even stepped on her shoe during a set of movements that shouldn't have been too difficult to master, she'd had enough and pulled back from his touch. "No, I'm sorry. This isn't working," she said, shaking her head after he had let out a mumbled apology for flattening her toes.

Ana-Maria noticed and excused herself from her own partner. Sashaying across the floor like only an experienced dancer could, she grabbed hold of Colleen's vacant arms and pulled her into an opening stance referred to as a close embrace. The customary cry followed, and the two women were soon engaged in a heated tango the likes of which had rarely been seen outside a smoke-filled night club in downtown Buenos Aïres.

Before Colleen had time to understand what had happened, she felt her body reacting to the touch and the close proximity of the older, but boundlessly sensual, woman. A thought of 'Oh my frickin' God!' rattled around in her mind as she was swept through the motions of a passionate tango. She tried to keep up to the best of her abilities, but she was obviously no match for a retired world champion.

The two women danced closely; the world faded away all around them. Colleen could only feel the beat of the music and the beating of her heart as she was sent through one daring move after the other. It didn't take long before she and the agile woman in her arms melted into one being that moved with astounding synchronicity. Everything came natural to her though she could hardly understand what was happening. Her brain tried to make sense of the whole deal, but her spirit whispered in her ear that she should just let go. After the initial shock of the intimate contact, a warm tidal wave rolled over her and she did in fact let go of her inhibitions to follow her dancing partner's lead.

She and Ana-Maria continued to dance like that for several minutes until the real world intruded on them in the shape of a bell ringing somewhere else in the Performing Arts Dance Academy.

It signaled the end of the class, and Ana-Maria pulled back from her tango partner as the proud owner of flushed skin and a pair of sparkling eyes. Bowing to Colleen to mark the closing of the heated rendez-vous, the retired dancer strolled over to the row of chairs to get a bottle of water like dancing that closely was no different from going down to the corner shop to buy a Diet Coke and a salad.

Colleen kept standing like a stone pillar in the middle of the dance floor for several seconds before she remembered that she was supposed to breathe to stay alive. Dying after such a glorious experience would be a waste, so she took a deep breath to keep her thumping heart satisfied. Only then did she notice that all six guys were clapping, cheering and whistling at her. "Aw Jeez," she croaked as a deep shade of red exploded onto her cheeks.

Staggering over to her sports bag, she took her towel and gave herself a thorough rubdown. The heat that trickled along her super-sensitive skin was nothing compared to the blast furnace that went on inside her. Her entire body was humming with energy that needed somewhere to go, but the natural outlet would be difficult to achieve in that particular situation, or even environment.

She cast a few shy glances at the retired world champion who was busy gulping down a bottle of water. Waves of heat rose from the older woman whose eyes were still as vibrant as ever. Before a connection could be established, Ana-Maria put away the bottle and shot Colleen a wink that made the younger woman clam up.

Walking back to the center of the dance floor, Ana-Maria put out her arms like she wanted to pull everyone into a hug. "Thank you all for coming today. I hope your interest has been piqued enough to pay the Performing Arts Dance Academy a new visit in the future. Our shower facilities are at your disposal if you wish to use them. Before you go, I'll hand out a customer satisfaction questionnaire that we give all first-time users. Please fill it out and give it to Mrs. Holden down at the information desk near the main entrance. Once again, thank you for coming!"

Colleen and the six guys all clapped at Ana-Maria Dominguez who spun around and made just as impressive an exit as her initial arrival had been. As the intriguing dancer left Stage Two, Colleen couldn't help but feel a slight disappointment roll over her - after the intensely sensual experience she had just shared with Ana-Maria, she had hoped they could talk about it all afternoon.

Being without someone to share such a great experience with wasn't new to her, so it didn't really matter much. Shrugging, she turned back to her sports bag and her equipment. She gave herself a discreet sniff and came to the conclusion that it had been a good choice to pack a bottle of body shampoo after all. Showering there hadn't really been part of her plan, but now that she was the only woman present, it wouldn't be too much of a hassle. Picking up her bag, she was soon headed for the ladies' changing room.


After a quick shower and a fair spraying of her favorite Everfresh StayKool deodorant, Colleen donned her outdoor clothes and shuffled back out onto Stage Two. She came to a halt on the carpeted aisle to fill her senses with a final dose of the unexpected magic that permeated the large room. A wide grin spread over her features as she thought back to the sensation of having such an attractive and sensual, woman glued to her limbs. It had been far too long since the last time she'd had such a wonderful experience, and if her future matched her recent past, the next time wouldn't be just around the corner.

She had already begun to shuffle along the aisle when her eyes fell on several pieces of paper that had been placed on one of the chairs - a sticky note had been attached to the top, and 'For Colleen' had been scribbled on it in a female hand. Stopping, she picked up the papers that turned out to be the questionnaire Ana-Maria had mentioned.

The reminder of what it felt like to be close to a woman in an intimate situation made the fact that she didn't have a date for Valentine's Day - for the umpteenth year in succession - suddenly grow into a major point of frustration for her.

Letting out a huff, she pulled the sports bag higher up the shoulder of her down jacket. There wasn't much she could do about her lack of a date now, so she stuffed the questionnaire under her arm and set off for the wide double doors that would take her back to the metal staircase.


Downstairs at the mini-lounge, she dumped her sports bag on the floor and placed her jeans-clad rear in the couch at the round table. The papers were quickly put on the table so she could check the boxes and fill out the fields of the questionnaire. A man and a woman dressed in matching tracksuits occupied the satellite armchair and the far end of the couch, respectively, and they both nodded a greeting at Colleen. Cups containing a steaming hot beverage had been placed on the round table in front of them to cool off.

Colleen nodded back before she reached into her jacket's liner pocket to find a ball point pen. The mini-lounge had grown far busier since she had been there last, and several dancers frequented the two vending machines that had been set up at the far end.

After the first few people had gone past munching on various snacks, she realized she could use a pick-me-up of some kind, so she got up and shuffled over to the refrigerated machine that sold healthy snacks. She could choose between carrots, apples, mangos, oranges, dried fruit and bags of chipped nuts; all items were offered at fair prices. Deciding on buying a red apple, she inserted two quarters into the slot and waited for the machine to produce the fruit she had requested.

Back at the round table, she buffed the apple on a napkin and took a big bite out of it. Though chilled, it still held a rich taste, and it was pleasantly juicy. Munching on the first big bite, she went back to work filling out the questionnaire.


The apple had been reduced to a stem and an exposed core by the time she had finished filling out the form. While the apple had been whittled down to hardly anything at all, the questionnaire had been filled out and put on the counter for Mrs. Holden to deal with. She didn't feel like going home to an empty apartment, so the questionnaire had been replaced by a glossy brochure that explained the ins and outs of the Performing Arts Dance Academy in great detail.

Leafing through it, she soon arrived at the page that presented the various instructors. She had already seen the presentation numerous times since it was the same one they used on their website, but she still paused to take a closer look at Ana-Maria Dominguez's picture and showcase.

Just seeing the picture sent a pleasant jolt through her. Unprompted, her skin turned sensitive as it remembered the sensation of being so close to the older woman. Colleen shook her head and let out a low chuckle. Like a schoolgirl, she had developed a crush on a woman she had known for less than an hour, spoken to only a few times, and danced with once. The latter outweighed the former two by a factor of a thousand to one, obviously.

Reading on in the brochure, she was in two minds about enrolling into a regular class at the Dance Academy. On one hand, the prices were all very reasonable and she could definitely use the exercise, but on the other, a block of text next to the entry form contained disclaimers that spelled out quite clearly that the instructors were not bound to any of the various classes they taught - in short, even if Colleen signed up for the tango class, it wasn't a given that she would get to work with Ana-Maria Dominguez again. She tapped an index finger against the glossy paper for a moment or two while she pondered what she felt like doing.

Ultimately she came to the conclusion that it was the attractive dancer rather than the tango itself that had a pull on her. Shrugging, she stuffed the glossy thirty-page magazine into her sports bag for later.

"Oh, don't you like our brochure?  That's too bad… it cost us an arm and a leg to get made," a rich voice said right next to her. She hadn't noticed anyone walking up to her, or even standing close to her, but she didn't need to look to know who the voice belonged to.

A look was in order, however, and she locked eyes with Ana-Maria Dominguez who had changed out of the evocative dress and into a button-down shirt and a pair of form-fitting slacks. A smile flashed across Colleen's face at the chance encounter. Though it seemed almost impossible, Ana-Maria was even more attractive in regular clothes. "Oh… sure I do, Miss Dominguez-"

"Considering how close we danced, I think you can call me Ana-Maria," the retired champion said. The statement was accompanied by a wink and a lopsided grin.

"Ana-Maria, all right… but only if you call me Colleen," Colleen said and matched the grin with one of her own.


"And I do think you have a great brochure, actually. I just need some time to think about whether or not I want to enroll in one of the classes."

"Mmmm," Ana-Maria said, suddenly falling into an uncharacteristic shyness that hadn't been there before. She licked her lips like she wanted to say something more, but nothing came out of it. Instead, she stuffed her hands down her pockets and began rocking on the balls of her feet in a most curious fashion.

Colleen cocked her head as she took in the odd sight of the usually so confident Ana-Maria appearing to be nervous. The older woman's performances on the dance floor had been the very definition of uninhibited, but now it appeared all those inhibitions had come back to haunt her.

Only a few seconds had gone by, but the silence between them had already turned just a little awkward. The display of nervousness intrigued Colleen, but she didn't want to push Ana-Maria into speaking or even acting when it was obvious she was trying to climb a mental mountain. Instead, she reached for her sports bag uttering a "So…"

"So…" Ana-Maria echoed, licking her lips all over again. It wasn't until she locked eyes with the woman who had been her student for a mere hour that the final hurdle seemed to have been cleared. "Uh… I was thinking… are you, uh… doing anything… I mean, the rest of the afternoon…?" she croaked while she gave the balls of her feet a strenuous workout by turning up the nervous rocking to a whole new level.

"Oh… I-"

" 'Cos I was thinking that, uh… I'd like to buy you a cup of coffee or something in a great place just around the corner-"

"Oh!" Colleen squeaked. The girlish sound made her cringe, but it appeared that Ana-Maria was so far into her own haze of nervousness that she hadn't even noticed.

"Giardella's. It's a coffee shop that also makes and sells croissants," Ana-Maria continued. "I go there a lot after work. It's such a cozy place… and we could maybe chat a little… about… you know… this and that…"

Colleen found herself nodding so hard her hair bobbed about. Though she was really trying to pull herself back down from the state of all-out giddiness she had just been elevated to, she found it hard going, and she could not stop a manic grin from spreading over her face as she jumped to her feet. "Oh, I would love that, Ana-Maria!"  All she needed to do to be ready for a coffee-fueled adventure with the sensual tango instructor was to pull her sports bag over her shoulder - and that only took two seconds to accomplish.

"Great!" Ana-Maria said and let out a sigh of relief that she tried to conceal with a half-hearted cough. "I just need to get upstairs to don my coat, so… meet you here in two minutes?"

"You betcha!  I'm not going anywhere," Colleen said with a grin.


Two minutes became seven, but the additional waiting didn't bother Colleen at all since she had a good view of the cause for the delay. Standing at the foot of the metal staircase, she had already waved at Ana-Maria who had emerged on the upper landing fully dressed in an all-enveloping winter coat only to be stopped by a young man who appeared to have a long line of questions he needed to ask her.

Ana-Maria was soon bounding down the staircase and into the lobby itself. "Sorry about that," she said as she wrapped a long, knitted scarf around her neck and the upper part of her coat.

"Oh, no worries. I'll bet you have to make two hundred decisions each day," Colleen said, holding the door open for the owner of the Performance Dance Academy.

"It certainly feels like it!  Anyway… like I said, the coffee shop is right around the corner… this way," Ana-Maria said and pointed to her right. "It won't take us long to get there… which is good 'cos it's oh-so cold today. I've lived in the US for more than three decades now, but my body is still complaining about the winters we have up here."

"Oh… and it's not even that cold this winter…" Colleen said and let out a chuckle.

The two women exited the dancing school and moved out onto the sidewalk where they soon blended into the human traffic. The street beyond the sidewalk had turned even busier after rush hour had begun, and it was close to being fully blocked - there was room for one more taxi cab or delivery van, but no more than that.

Colleen and Ana-Maria kept up a brisk walking pace to allow the tango instructor to stay warm underneath her heavy-duty winter coat. The first city block was soon dealt with, and turning the corner onto one of the connecting streets caused no dramas either.

The sign advertising the café known as Giardella's Coffee & Croissants soon came into sight. Seeing it seemed to make Ana-Maria up her pace even further because Colleen needed to jog to keep up with the agile, though older, woman.

Once inside the coffee shop, Ana-Maria let out a sigh of relief as she unraveled her scarf and reached for her coat's top button - the temperature was on the pleasant side of warm so the heavy winter gear wasn't needed. Knowing exactly where the best seats in the house could be found, they moved past a couple of vacant tables before she chose one not too far from the counter. Pulling out Colleen's chair with a smile, she put her knitted scarf over the backrest of the other one before she found her wallet. "What kind of coffee would you like, Colleen?"

"Oh, I don't know…" Colleen said and looked around the establishment. Over at the Bookworm Sanctuary, she had often heard of Giardella's Coffee & Croissants since it was owned by the sister of one of the bookstore's regulars, but because she lived in a different part of the big city, the right opportunity to visit the establishment hadn't presented itself before.

Everything was shiny, classy and squeaky clean. The dominant colors were white and gold, but there were chrome highlights along the counter and around the spotlights that had been built into the fireproof ceiling. Several large percolators made of stainless steel blubbered merrily, and no less than three coffee mills were running simultaneously to grind the whole coffee beans - one of them was an antique model that appeared to be at least a hundred years old. The strong scents of coffee produced by the machinery filled the entire store and made Colleen's nostrils flutter in anticipation.

The croissant bakery itself was beyond the counter. The customers had full view of the tables, and could in fact follow the pastry they had ordered from a mere glob of dough until it was presented to them in a white cardboard box or on a plate. Several people were doing just that, and one of them even took pictures of the process on his telephone. "Oh, I guess they have all kinds of special blends here?" Colleen continued after having made a quick visual tour of the premises.

"They make their own, actually…"

"In that case, I'll just have what you're having," Colleen said with a smile. Unzipping her down jacket, she took it off before sitting down on the chair Colleen had pulled out for her. Her StayKool deodorant added a few more exotic fragrances to the mix, and she was relieved she had taken the time to shower - reeking of sweat in such an environment, not to mention in such esteemed and exciting company, would have killed everything stone dead before it could have developed further than what it already had.

Nodding in an affirmative fashion, Ana-Maria soon moved over to the shiny counter to place their orders.


Ana-Maria returned holding a tray that carried the perfect setting for two: two pie forks, two teaspoons, two napkins, two plates loaded with warm croissants that looked and smelled deliciously, two ceramic mugs, a small jug of warm milk, a few miniature bags of white sugar, and finally a stainless steel coffee pot that carried the store's name on it in a golden scrawl.

Grinning from ear to ear at the pleasant situation she found herself in, the retired dancer transferred the many items onto the table before she distributed them between herself and Colleen. "It was easier to buy a pot of coffee… I hope you'll like it. The blend is called Maestro Mochaccino, and it tastes like heaven."

"I'm sure I will. Thank you very much, Ana-Maria," Colleen said and reached for the stainless steel pot at once. As she poured the creamy coffee into the mug, a delightful scent spread up from the hot beverage. "Oh, yeah!  I'll definitely like it!" she continued with a grin.

Ana-Maria grinned back as she took off her coat and sat down. She studied the two croissants for a few moments before she presented both plates to the woman at the other side of the table. "Marzipan and raisins… or chipped hazelnuts and creamed butter?  My sweet tooth loves them both, so just pick which one you think sounds the most delicious."

"God!  I can feel the calories piling on my bones already!" Colleen said and let out a snicker. "I can't imagine you even having a sweet tooth… tell me, how do you manage to stay in such a fantastic shape?"

"Oh, that's easy… I dance four hours a day!" Ana-Maria said with a chuckle.

"Right… uh… I'll pick the one with marzipan and raisins," Colleen said and pointed at the plate in Ana-Maria's left hand. "I'm a fool for raisins."

"So am I," Ana-Maria said and put down the appropriate plate on Colleen's side of the table. "But I do love creamed butter as well," she continued as she took her pie fork and went to work on the hot pastry.


The Maestro Mochaccino had been such a runaway success that they had ordered a second pot of the intense, creamy coffee even after finishing their croissants. Neither of them felt a need to rush anything, so they kept sitting at the table while talking about this, that, and everything in between. The mood between them was easy-going and pleasant, and Colleen felt an equally pleasant warmth spreading out inside her that didn't just stem from the delicious mocha.

As the clock ticked past five in the afternoon, the croissant store filled up with an endless parade of office workers who all wanted to buy to-go cups on their way home from stressful days behind their desks, but neither Colleen nor Ana-Maria paid any attention to the constant din that rose from the many business-suit-clad men and women who continued to yap into their ubiquitous telephones while they waited.

The two women sitting at the table smiled, laughed, reminisced about their former and current careers, and spoke about their dreams for the future. Gentle secrets were shared, including a few naughty ones, and more than one shy glance was exchanged when the topic turned to matters of the heart.

Colleen knew she had succumbed fully to the almost magnetic pull of the older woman sitting opposite her, but she didn't care. All she cared about was the fact that she was finally allowed to live a little. She studied Ana-Maria's lips that moved with such elegance as she spoke; she studied the fine lines around the graceful mouth and eyes that continued to sparkle regardless of the topic. She studied the way Ana-Maria seemed to cock her head and look up at times like she was trying to remember a particular detail, and she studied how her slender fingers continued to linger on the ear of the ceramic mug whenever a sip had been enjoyed.

The warmth inside her reached all corners of her body and soul, and she reveled in the sensation that was so rare she couldn't even remember the last time she had felt it. Now that she had, she realized how much she had missed it - and that she never, ever wanted to let it slip away again.

"If I mark Valentine's Day?" Colleen said as the conversation turned to that touchy subject. Her shoulders moved up and down in a shrug. "I do and I don't. It's been a while since I've been on a date or anything. But I do watch an old romantic movie and drink some white wine. It's the thought that counts, right?"

"Right," Ana-Maria said before she fell quiet; her nervous demeanor had suddenly returned. She began to fidget with her ceramic mug, and her tongue once again licked her lips. She looked up at Colleen twice before she cocked her head and offered the other woman a shy smile. "So… I guess you're not doing much on Valentine's Day this year…?"

Colleen stopped breathing. The conversation had taken a surprising turn into uncharted territory, but she wasn't about to complain if it carried on in the direction it was going. "Uh… no. No, is the short answer. And the only answer, to be honest." Her thumping heart insisted she took a deep breath if she wanted to remain sitting upright in the chair, so she did.

"Ah, so if I… sorta… asked you out, you wouldn't-"

"I'd say yes in a heartbeat, Ana-Maria," Colleen said truthfully. Despite what her heart told her, she stopped breathing all over again as she waited for Ana-Maria's next move. When a few seconds went by filled with nothing but nervous fidgeting, she began to chew on her lips.

"Well… how about… I invited you out for… a Valentine's Day date… then?" Ana-Maria said in a voice that alternated between a croaking mumble and a loud and clear message.

A breath of relief escaped Colleen as she took in what she had just heard. Beneath the table, she knocked her knees into each other just to make sure she wasn't dreaming the whole thing. When she felt her limbs collide, a broad smile spread over her features. "I would like that very much."

"Oh, thank God… that took ten years out of my life right there," Ana-Maria mumbled before she sat up straight and offered the younger woman a smile that was no less broad than the one she had only just received. "Fantastic!  So… oh, this is going to sound really cheap… but I don't have a car so I can't pick you up where you live. Would it be possible for us to meet here at the croissant café instead?  Perhaps at five o'clock?"

"Oh, absolutely!  That works for me," Colleen said and nodded so hard her hair moved.

Ana-Maria's fidgeting returned with a vengeance as she seemed to compose the next part of her statement. When she noticed she was in the middle of pushing the ceramic mug all across the tabletop, she pulled her hands back and hid them in her lap. "I know it may sound a little odd to meet here, but… uh, but I'm thinking that we might use it as a starting point for… uh, something else later on in the evening."

"It's not a hard sell at all, Ana-Maria," Colleen said with a grin, " 'cos you had me at 'Hello and welcome'."

Ana-Maria broke out in a wide-eyed stare and a wild snicker that - judging by her flushed cheeks - seemed to take the older, confident woman completely by surprise. "Oh… that's… good," she said once she had recovered from the outburst.


Somewhere deep inside a jacket pocket, a telephone began ringing, and both women let out identical groans as they reached for their gadgets. The offending item turned out to belong to Ana-Maria.

"How about that?" Colleen said with a chuckle as she let her own, idle Samsung fall back into the pocket. "We have the same ringtone. That's what I call a co-inky-dink."

Ana-Maria returned the chuckle, but rolled her eyes as she looked at the caller-ID. "It's the academy. I swear, they can't exist five minutes without me there. I'm sorry, but I better accept the call."

"Oh, go right ahead," Colleen said and leaned back in her chair. While Ana-Maria spoke to her people back at the Performing Arts Dance Academy, Colleen sipped her Maestro Mochaccino that was still as fresh and delicious as it had been when she had poured it from the stainless steel coffee pot. The small break in the proceedings came as a relief to her. Not only did she need a moment to allow her brain to recover from the positive shock, her heart was beating an erratic polka in her chest at the simple, but mind-blowing, fact that she had just been asked out on a Valentine's Day date.

If anyone had told her back at the New Year's raffle that winning the gift certificate would result in a date with such an attractive woman, she would have called a lunatic asylum to have the person committed. But it did, and for the first time in far too many years, she had something exciting - and most likely terrifying once she got her mind wrapped around it - to look forward to on the dreaded day.

She couldn't keep her eyes off Ana-Maria's charismatic face as the telephone conversation went on. A lot could be learned about someone by studying them speaking over the phone, but she found little she didn't already know - an air of confidence and natural leadership fell over the older woman during the exchange. One brief sentence came to mind for Colleen: 'So damn sexy.'

The primitive nature of the pleasant images flashing across her mind's eye was a source of gentle embarrassment for her, but she flat out refused to apologize for finally having those notions about someone she knew in actual, real life.

As Ana-Maria wrapped up the telephone conversation, she let her eyes roll up to the ceiling while a long, tormented groan escaped her throat. "Dammit. I need to go back."


"An investor who was supposed to have shown up before lunch apparently misread the time on the appointment he had made with me. Or something. Anyway," Ana-Maria said and drained the last of her Maestro Mochaccino, "I'm really sorry, Colleen, but I need to go. I have to speak with him."

"No problem, Ana-Maria. I know all about that from my own work. I've had a blast today. So… see you the day after tomorrow, then?  Here, at five?" Colleen said, casting a shy glance at Ana-Maria while the older woman donned her winter coat and wrapped the long, knitted scarf around herself.

"Yes, and yes. I don't care who calls me then… I'll be here. And we're going to have a wonderful time, that's a promise," Ana-Maria said before she caught Colleen completely by surprise by ducking down and offering her a pair of quick pecks on the cheeks as a goodbye.

"Oh!" Colleen squeaked. She could still feel Ana-Maria's lips touching her skin even seconds after they had moved away. The sensation threatened to be etched into her brain. It caused an acute sensory overload which in turn rendered her unable to do anything but break out in a goofy grin.

"See you then. Bye for now," Ana-Maria continued, reaching down to give Colleen's hand a little squeeze as she left the table.

"Bye," Colleen croaked; the final, gentle touch had been her undoing. She tried to keep track of Ana-Maria Dominguez as the charming, and highly fascinating, woman exited Giardella's Coffee & Croissants in a purposeful stride, but she had turned almost cross-eyed with giddiness. Turning back to her mug of Maestro Mochaccino, she held a wide-eyed stare at nothing in particular for several seconds before she broke out in a girlish snicker and a resounding "All right!" that made the other customers around her stop what they were doing to shoot her curious looks.

Colleen Metcalfe didn't care - she was going on a date on Valentine's Day with the woman of her dreams. That she had only known the woman in question for a few hours didn't matter. She could hardly believe it, but it was the honest-to-goodness truth.

Draining the last few drops of her delicious coffee, she pushed the chair back and beat a wobbling path to the exit. She had already moved several steps away from the table when she remembered she really ought to get the fleece gloves, knitted hat, down jacket and her sports bag before she went anywhere. Letting out another girlish snicker at the way she had already drifted off on a pink cloud, she returned to the abandoned items to put them on…




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