Alex can always hear Kara walking up the hallway toward her room.
It’s not entirely her fault. She’s heavy footed; still trying to find the right balance between her strength, and her control over it. And it’s always more pronounced when Kara is feeling an emotion particularly strongly; if she’s excited, or angry, or nervous. Her feelings get the better of her, and she forgets that she can kick her way down three stories into the basement, if she wanted.
Most of the time, when Kara pokes her head into Alex’s room, she hasn’t heard her coming, and Alex supposes it’s because she floats down the hallway, because she’s trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Because most of the time, when Kara comes to her room, Alex tells her to go away.
Alex does feel a little bad about it. But Kara always shows up at the worst possible times. Like when Alex is in a homework flow that had taken her hours to fall into, or when she’s on the phone to Vicky, or when she’s just in a plain bad mood because teenagers are moody, damn it, and the last thing anyone wants to deal with in that moment is an annoying, kid sister who has dumb questions about how fish sleep, or why “Mine” and “Whine” rhyme, but “Cough” and “Dough” don’t.
On this particular day, though, Alex is just lying on her bed, propped up against the pillows and her headboard, reading. So when Kara peeps inside, looking apprehensive with her eyebrows raised, and her lip caught between her teeth, Alex just looks at her over the top of her book.
“What?’ Alex demands when Kara doesn’t say anything. ‘Why are you hovering in my doorway?”
“May I come in?’ Kara asks.
She’s always so polite; it’s one of the things about her that can set Alex’s teeth on edge. She’s so perfect all the time.
Alex just gestures at the space in front of her, and Kara stomps quickly over the threshold.
“What are you reading?’ she asks.
Sitting up in bed, Alex brandishes the cover of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at her.
“Interesting,’ Kara comes a little closer; she dances a little on the spot, apparently only just resisting the urge to sit down on the end of Alex’s bed. ‘Is it a book about hunting?’
“What? No, it’s…’ Alex sighs, and puts the book away. ‘It’s just a story. For Lit class. I have to finish it by Monday, so whatever it is you want, you have to be quick.”
“I’m sorry,’ Kara says, looking embarrassed, ‘I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“It’s fine,’ Alex shrugs. ‘I’ve been reading the same sentence for the last few minutes away. What’s up?’
Kara wrings her hands in front of her, and Alex feels concern rise up in her chest. What’s up with her? This wasn’t like when she couldn’t shut off her super hearing and heard every horrible word screamed during an argument at a house ten blocks away, or when she accidently ripped the door off Mom’s car in her eagerness to get inside, or when she’d dislocated Dad’s shoulder in a rough game of tag.
She’s worried about something, Alex can tell. But about what?
“Spit it out!’ Alex laughs, unable to take the silence any longer.
Kara smiles then, and Alex feels the tension ease a little in her chest. If she can smile like that, it can’t be all bad.
“It’s about the school dance,’ Kara begins slowly.
“What about it? You’re going, aren’t you?’ Realisation clicks to life in Alex mind, and she shifts awkwardly on her bed. ‘Oh, is this… I mean… are you going with somebody?’
“Yes,’ Kara says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. ‘I’m going with you.”
Alex snorts. “Yeah, we’re going together because Mom is driving us, but that’s not what I meant. Are you… going with a boy?’
Kara frowns. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
It’s moments like this, when Kara looks at her completely bemused, and says “I don’t understand” in that flat, monotone, robot voice of hers that reminds Alex of how truly alien she is. But it doesn’t grate on her like it used to, and they’re at home where no-one will look at her like she’s a freak, so Alex’s patience doesn’t snap.
“Are you,’ Alex asks, loudly and clearly, ‘letting a boy escort you to the dance?”
Kara’s eyes widened with realization. “Oh! No! No, there’s no boy.”
Alex sighs in relief, feeling her cheeks burn a pink that probably matches the exact shade of flush that tinges Kara’s cheeks. She didn’t want to have that conversation.
“Am I meant to let a boy escort me?’ Kara asks suddenly, looking worried.
“Nah,’ Alex waves a hand dismissively. ‘Some girls might, but you don’t have to. You’re young enough for get away with boys still being icky.”
“Some of the boys in my class are nice,’ Kara says. ‘Except for Timothy Bernstein. I don’t really like him much.”
Alex laughs at this. She’s never heard Kara say she doesn’t like anything, other than eggplant.
“He’s always tugging on the ends of my hair,’ Kara explains, folding her arms over her chest, ‘and he called me “four eyes”, even though I clearly only have two.”
When Alex explains that this behaviour is sometimes just something boys sometimes do when they actually like a girl, Kara is understandably confused.
“But that makes no sense,’ she reasons.
Alex shrugs. “Boys are idiots. Anyway, that’s what Mom told me. Don’t worry, I told her it was stupid too. Oh, and you make sure to point out Timothy to me on Monday. I’ll talk to him.”
Kara nods, promising to do so. Alex muses that she probably wouldn’t be so quick to agree if she knew that when she said “talk”, she actually meant something much more violent.
“Okay,’ Alex says, throwing her hands up in the air, ‘so if it’s not a boy, then what is it?”
Slowly, tentatively, Kara moves toward the bed again. Alex resists the urge to roll her eyes. What does she want, an invitation?
Probably, she thinks, seen as you yell at her all the time to go away.
Alex crosses her legs, making room. Kara’s eyes light up, and she sits down eagerly. The mattress ripples under her enthusiasm, and Alex holds onto the headboard until it settles.
“We had dancing on Krypton,’ Kara begins softly, looking wistfully out of the open window to the perfect autumn day outside. ‘I accompanied Mother and Father to a few balls. They always danced to beautifully together, and I practiced a few myself… but I imagine it’s quite different here on Earth.”
A memory flashes through Alex’s mind then; she’s eight, dancing with Dad at a cousins wedding, standing on his toes as he walked her through a very bad version of what he said was meant to be a waltz, but Mom had said more strongly resembled two people Irish dancing over hot coals.
Alex suddenly feels sad.
“So, you don’t know how to dance,’ Alex observes.
“I think it will be rather silly,’ Kara chuckles, ‘to attend a dance and not be able to participate.”
“And you want me to teach you?’
Kara looks bashful again. “Would you mind?”
Alex can hear her parent’s voices in the back of her mind already.
Take care of Kara, Alex.
You’re the big sister now, it’s your job to take care of her.
We all have to work together to help Kara fit in.
It isn’t even this that finally influences Alex’s decision. Kara is looking at her hopefully, and as much as Alex wants her to just fit in, she knows Kara wants it more. The dance has been all anyone can talk about at school for weeks. And once Alex had explained to her exactly what it actually was, Kara’s enthusiasm had matched the rest of the school.
She just wants to go and have fun – to be normal. Kara hasn’t been invited to many things; this is going to be her first big social engagement since arriving on Earth. Of course, Alex wants her not to make a spectacle of herself, if only to save her the embarrassment she usually feels when Kara does something weird, and everyone at school looks at Alex for an explanation as to why.
But its more than that. Alex is surprised to find that she honestly and truly just wants Kara to have one positive social experience.
“No,’ Alex finally says, ‘I don’t mind. Just let me finish this chapter and I’ll be right down.”
An enormous smile breaks over Kara’s face, lighting her up. She says “thank you” over and over, and, too caught up in her excitement, she dashes from the room in the blink of an eye, clearly faster than she means to.
“I’ll wait for you down here!’ Alex hears her call from downstairs.
Alex laughs, rolls her eyes, and flips the book back open to page forty-seven.
When she finally enters the living room half an hour later, Kara is sitting on the arm of the sofa as promised, with an enormous bag of chips cradled in her arms. She’s chewing away loudly, staring into space.
Alex frowns at her, feeling her mouth water. She hasn’t eaten since breakfast.
“Where did you get those?’ she asks.
It takes a moment longer than it should have for Kara to respond. She blinks out of her reverie, and when she realizes Alex is standing there, she beams happily up at her.
She always looks at Alex that way. Alex doesn’t know why.
“Somebody is watching The Simpsons down the road,’ she says, jerking her head to the left. ‘You know that episode where Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart?’
“Which one?’ Alex chortles, and helps herself to a large handful of Kara’s chips.
Kara just hands her the bag, and passes her an unopened bottle of soda that’s still cool; beads of condensation tickle her fingers as she accepts it gratefully and takes three long, deep mouthfuls.
“Okay, so…’ Alex puts the food down and dusts the crumbs from her palms. ‘Dancing, huh? What sort of dances did you do on Krypton?”
“Oh,’ Kara says excitedly, jumping to her feet. ‘Well, there was the Mantow, and the Niable, and the…”
“Stop,’ Alex frowns, putting a hand up. ‘I don’t speak Kryptonese, remember? Why don’t you just show me.”
Kara nods, and thinks for a moment, apparently trying to remember the steps to a dance she’d never tried. Alex doesn’t know what to expect, and when Kara finally starts to move, she knows that this definitely wasn’t what she’d been picturing.
It’s like the interpretive dances she’s seen the theatre kids try at school. Kara sways around, arms moving around above her head like she’s a paper doll, caught in a very strong, slow breeze. She twirls a little on her toe, and begins a whole different movement involving her head. Then it changes again, and she goes back to the arm waving and… and then she suddenly stops.
She looks at Alex, letting her arms fall slack at her side. Alex can see Kara’s cheeks are burning.
“I don’t remember the rest,’ she admits bashfully.
“That was…’ Alex searches for the right word, and finally settles on, ‘… interesting.”
“It looks better with two people,’ Kara insists.
Alex purses her lips, trying to think of something to say to this, but fails and just begins clearing a space. She shifts the coffee table aside and rolls up the rug, revealing the polished floorboards beneath, and tells Kara to take her shoes off. She does as Alex instructs, leaving both girls in their socks.
“We have lots of different dances,’ Alex explains. ‘There’s like, the waltz, and foxtrot, and tango… but we won’t be doing any of those at our dance. They’re for competitions… and old people.”
She crosses to the radio and flicks it on, turning up the volume a little on the first song that plays which is a tune Alex recognises as something Dad will listen to in the last hours of the night. He likes old school music from the seventies.
“So this is a band called, ABBA,’ Alex explains. ‘People like to dance to them a lot.”
Kara nods, looking seriously at the radio. Like she’s going to be quizzed later on the lyrics, or something.
“So you just find the beat…’ Alex begins shuffling slowly on the spot to demonstrate ‘… and move with it. Like this, see?”
Kara’s blue eyes look down at Alex’s feet, and then she begins to move as well. It takes her a few moments to find the right beat; she gets confused about which instrument she’s meant to be following, and Alex tries not to laugh as she tries to match the tempo of the cymbals.
But finally she gets it, and her head starts to bob along, and a smile spreads out across her face.
And then her arms go up in the air.
“No,’ Alex laughs. She steps forward, grabs Kara’s wrists, and puts her arms back down by her side. ‘This isn’t an arms-in-the-air dance. Just step… and step…’
Alex holds hands with her as they step side to side in unison. Kara looks down at herself and smiles, and then looks up at Alex.
“This is easy,’ she grins. ‘Is this all dancing is?’
“Well, this is the basics. If you just do this all night, you’ll be fine.”
“What else is there? Show me!’
Alex wants to protest, but Kara is looking so eager that she feels herself crumble under her enthusiasm.
“Okay, okay, hang on…’ Alex goes back to the stereo and tunes the station again, looking for something more modern.
“Ooh!’ Kara suddenly cries as a song crackles to life. ‘I’ve heard this one before. I like it!’
Alex tries not to roll her eyes as Britney Spears suddenly starts crooning from the speakers. She wants to protest again, but Kara’s already stepping to and fro, and Alex just sighs and straightens up.
She crosses back over to her, and takes her hands again, getting her attention.
“This one you can move your hips to.’
Kara’s entire body freezes, and then her hips suddenly start jutting side to side, like she’s using an invisible hula hoop.
“No!’ Alex laughs. “Like this…”
She steps side to side, and swivels her hips in-between each step. Kara watches her for a moment, then tries the movement herself. Alex tries not to laugh again, but Kara’s is so rigid she can’t help the snort.
Alex puts her hands on Kara’s hips, and shows her again, trying to get her to relax. Kara is looking so serious.
“Chill out,’ Alex instructs. ‘Just listen to the music, okay? And let your body do what it wants to do. But not,’ she added quickly, grabbing Kara’s arms as they began to rise again, ‘with these. I’ll show you the arms one next.”
Kara slowly eases into the song, and into the roll of her hips, and Alex feels it’s safe to take her hands away when Kara’s eyes fall shut and her head begins nodding along with the beat.
Then the song changes, and Snoop Dogg starts playing, and Kara’s eyes fly open.
“Nope,’ Alex says, dancing along to encourage her to keep going. ‘Don’t stop. It’s a bit slower, just match the beat. And if you’re feeling really cool…”
Alex begins moving her shoulders as well, and begins making little wave motions with her arm. Kara’s grin almost pushes her cheeks to the limit, and she matches Alex’s movements, and Alex is relieved that she’s actually really starting to get it.
The beat is catchy, and Alex hadn’t realised how much she likes this song until now. She forgets about Kara for a second and just keeps dancing, taking her own advice and letting her body do what it wants to do. She runs a hand through her long, brown hair, and swings her hips around, and nods her head, and then begins stepping around a bit.
Kara is copying her every move.
The song changes again, to Kesha, and Alex grabs Kara’s hands once more.
“Here,’ she laughs, and begins the stepping from side to side again, mixing it up with the shoulders and the head-nodding.
Kara laughs too, clearly enjoying herself, and Alex lets her go and watches as she just goes for it. She’s a quick learner; her arms still seem to want to rise in the air, and Alex tells her it’s okay to do that to this song, and shows her how.
“How will I know which song is okay, and which isn’t?’ Kara asks, still stepping away.
“If no-one else is doing it,’ Alex explains, ‘you don’t do it.”
“So I should just do what everyone else does?’
“But you told me to let my body do what it wants to do.”
“It can make you look weird,’ Alex says bluntly.
Kara purses her lips, looking displeased with this fact.
Alex sighs. “Look, you think I don’t wanna dance around like an idiot like I do in my room? Here, watch…”
She crosses back to the radio, and searches the stations again until she finds it – The Offspring.
Alex barely catches the look on Kara’s face before she chorus starts, and she’s off.
Her legs kick out, her head bangs up and down, she plays air guitar and she sings along as loud as she dares because Dad hates this band, and she doesn’t want him to come inside and tell her to shut it off, not does she want him or Mom to see her dancing like this.
The guitar, bass and drums, and the grit in Dexter Holland’s voice set her skin on fire with adrenaline. It churns in her gut and sets her heart beating, and she dances as hard as she can, almost forgetting Kara is even there until the final two drum beats, two punctuations to the song that she mimes out with closed fists.
And then the song ends, and the room goes quiet.
Alex is breathing hard. She flips her hair out of her face and looks at Kara, who is looking right back at her with wide eyes.
“See?’ Alex gasps, catching her breath. ‘Weird.”
Kara lets out a laugh. “That was amazing.”
“Pfft,’ Alex scoffs, folding her arms over her chest, and trying to pretend she’s not happy to hear this. ‘People only dance like that at rock concerts, or in mosh pits. We will not be doing that.”
“There are certain dances for certain events?’
“Yeah, sure. Like disco’s usually have this sort of move…’
Alex points at the floor, then raises her hand diagonally and points at the ceiling, and then drags her two fingers over her eyes while wiggling her hips.
Kara smiles with delight.
“We won’t be doing that either,’ Alex insists.
Kara sighs and sits down. “There are a lot of rules to dancing. So what can we do? What’s cold?’
Alex chuckles. “You mean cool. Uh, well there’s some dances that everyone does together, and some other moves… but I don’t know if you’re ready…”
“Please show me,’ Kara says excitedly, eyes sparkling again. ‘Please, Alex.”
“Well, alright. I don’t know if anyone will be doing these at our dance, but hey,’ she gives Kara a sideways glance, ‘stranger things have happened.”
Alex changes the music again. It takes her a while to find the right song, and when she does, she tries to show Kara how to do The Running Man. She demonstrates, first how it’s supposed to look, and then she slows it right down to show how her feet move.
When she stands aside to let Kara try, Kara jumps and steps so hard the entire house shakes.
“What was that?’ calls Mom from upstairs. ‘What are you two doing down there?’
“Nothing!’ Kara and Alex call back in unison.
Mom doesn’t respond, obviously choosing to believe them. Alex and Kara exchange a look, and then burst into a fit of giggles.
“Maybe,’ Alex says, grabbing the radio up, ‘we should practice this out on the deck. Mom will kill us if you put a hole in the floor. Come on, I’ll show you how to do the Cha Cha Slide.”
Two nights later, Alex is sitting at her desk, finishing off her hypothesis for her chemistry assignment, when she sees something move out of the corner of her eye.
The doorway to her bedroom is almost always open; Mom insists. Alex is sure it’s not only just so they can keep an eye on their teenage daughter, but so Kara feels like she can come in anytime she likes, which she almost always does.
It had annoyed Alex greatly in the beginning, but she’s too used to it now to really let it bother her. It’s not like she’s ever doing anything nefarious in there anyway, other than slacking off on her homework occasionally. And she doesn’t mind Kara visiting so much anymore.
Her desk faces the window, giving her an excellent view of the yard down below, and of the ocean beyond that. But when her chair is on the right angle, her peripheral vision stretches just enough for her to sense movement past her bedroom door.
Just like tonight.
Alex doesn’t think much of it at first. She assumes it’s just Mom doing laundry, or Dad pacing back and forth as he tries to solve a problem for work, or even Kara reading another of her dozens of story books she’s borrowed from the Library.
There’s movement again, and Alex head whips around quickly, just in time to see Kara. She was half right; Kara is pacing outside in the hall, but she isn’t reading a book.
She’s walking. Backwards.
Alex gets to her feet and crosses to the doorway just in time to see Kara coming back toward her, backwards again, and Alex suddenly realizes what she’s doing.
Kara doesn’t notice her straight away. She has headphones on; she’s listening to Alex’s old discman that she’d handed down to her just after she’d first arrived.
She only looks up when Kara bumps into her.
“Oh, Alex!’ Kara breathes, swiping the headphones from her ears.
Alex pulls her into her room, and looks her up and down. “Were you just moonwalking?”
“Eliza showed me this man on the television, Michael Jackson?’ Kara beamed up at her. ‘He is a very good dancer. Do you know him? Anyway, he did this dance…’
Kara pulls away from her, and demonstrates such a perfect Moonwalk that Alex’s mouth drops open.
“How are you doing that?’ she asks.
“I’ve been practicing,’ Kara grins. ‘You think it’s okay?’
“Kara, do you know how hard it is to Moonwalk?’
Apparently she doesn’t. Alex insists she show her again. Kara happily does so, and upon close inspection, Alex realises that she’s actually hovering just the tiniest of fractions above the floor.
“You can not do that at the dance,’ Alex asserts.
“Why not?’ Kara demands softly, looking defiant. ‘Jeramiah says it’s a cool dance. And the objective is to look cool, right?’
“The objective,’ Alex growls, taking the discman out of Kara’s hands, ‘is to blend in, and not get busted as an alien who can fly and punch through walls and lift trucks over her head!”
Kara’s face scrunches in annoyance, producing an impressive crinkle between her eyebrows. But Alex just folds her arms over her chest, looking stubborn. And from the sigh that heaves from deep in her chest, Kara seems to accept her fate.
“Fine,’ she groans.
Alex nods. “Good. Now go dance outside someone else’s door, I’m studying.”
Kara is half-way out the door, before she turns back.
“Are you going to dance with a boy at the dance?”
Alex looks around, blinking in surprise. “What?’
“Jessican Liendman today was talking about how she wanted to dance with Michael Preston,’ Kara says, sitting herself down on the edge of Alex’s desk. ‘And then Lisa Carter said she wanted to dance with Heath Anderson, and then… well, you said I didn’t have to dance with a boy, but what if a boy wants to dance with me? Do I just tell him to go away? Or is that going to look weird, too? And if you don’t dance with a boy, why would it be weird of me not to?’
Alex is momentarily floored by this outburst. But she recovers quickly, and throws her hands up in the air.
“Fine. Come here…’
Kara gets to her feet again, and when Alex opens her arms up, Kara steps into her space.
“If a boy asks you, and if you want to dance with him… do not feel any pressure to, even if he gives you big doe eyes – you don’t own anyone anything… then this is how you do it.”
Alex grabs Kara’s wrists, and puts both her hands on her own shoulders.
“They are meant to put their hands here,’ Alex says as she places her hands on Kara’s hips, just below her waist. ‘If their hands go any lower, get rid of them.”
They begin to sway slowly without music, a respectable space between them. Alex explains that some boys can get handsy, and eager, and that Kara is under no circumstance to stand for any behaviour that makes her feel uncomfortable, and that if anything happens that makes her feel this way, she is to come and find Alex immediately.
“Are you going to dance with a boy?’ Kara asks again.
Alex understand why she asks. School dances bring this side out in everyone, and if everyone at school is suddenly talking about it, Kara will assume that’s the norm.
“I hadn’t planned on it,’ Alex admits. ‘I was just going to hang around with Vicky. We usually just go to these things together.”
“So I don’t have to dance with anyone?’
Alex changes their stance; she takes Kara’s right hand in her left, still swaying slowly.
“You can just dance with your friends.”
“I don’t have any friends.”
Alex pulls her in closer, and presses her cheek against her temple, feeling a sudden rush of emotion at these words.
Kara is so innocent, and admires Alex so deeply, that she just accepts the sudden change of position. Her grip on Alex’s hand tightens slightly, almost to a level of discomfort, but Alex ignores it.
“Y’know,’ Alex mutters, knowing Kara can hear her despite the softness of her voice, ‘you don’t need a lot of friends. It just takes one person to love you, to make you feel special.”
Kara pulls back, and looks like she’s about to say something mushy. Alex clears her throat loudly and ushers her from the room before she can even open her mouth.
“Go practice in your own room,’ she insists with a small smile.
Kara takes her discman back when Alex thrusts it into her hands, gives her a soft smile in return, and plods back down the hall to her own room.
Alex’s mind buzzes long after she leaves, thinking about boys, and Kara, and dancing, and how ridiculous her own life has become in such a small amount of time.
Alex dismisses Kara as soon as they enter the gymnasium. She takes a moment to check that the loud music isn’t too much for Kara; when Kara assures her she’s fine, Alex adjusts the hair she’d helped Kara style, smooths out a smudge of make-up at the corner of her mouth that she’d applied for her, and waves her off.
The gym is decorated with blue and silver streamers and balloons. Coloured lights are flashing about, and the rumble of chatter and feet dancing on wooden floorboards is drowned out by the loud music that’s booming from the speakers, set up either side of the DJ’s booth.
Through the dim, Alex sees Vicky and the other girls by the punch bowl, and heads straight for them.
“Oh, my god,’ Vicky squeals, looking Alex up and down as she approaches, ‘this dress is amazing!”
Smoothing her hands down the soft fabric covering her, Alex shrugs. “Mom helped me pick it.”
She wants to tell Vicky how amazing she thinks she looks, but Alex doesn’t get the chance. Vicky is already chattering on about Luke Hodge, and how it’s her sole purpose for the evening to get at least two dances in with him, and how only one of them has to be rated PG-13.
“I saw him checking me out in Gym the other day,’ she says, trying to sound nonchalant. ‘I know he’ll say yes.”
Alex chuckled, pouring herself a drink. “If he doesn’t, I’ll dance with you.”
Vicky snorts as she accepts the drink Alex hands her. “If Luke sees us dancing together, he’ll definitely be up for it. So yeah, sure, I’ll dance with you.”
She wants to tell Vicky that’s not what she means, but doesn’t get the chance when more girls approach them and begin gossiping about boys and what they’re wearing.
It’s enough to distract her from Kara… at least for a little while. Despite Alex’s limited experience with boys, all the girls are still eager for her opinion on different topics about them. And after she gives them what they want to hear, her eyes begin to search the room for her little sister.
In front of her, the dance floor is full of the swaying bodies of her impeccably dressed alumni. They’re all sticking with the usual “shuffle on the spot” dance that Alex had insisted Kara try and conform to. Kara had been buzzing about all the dances she was excited to try the whole car ride there.
But Kara isn’t hard to find. Not only because of the fact that Alex had helped her get ready, and knows what she’s wearing (a deep blue dress that flared out from the hips; Alex and her mother had gone shopping with her almost a month ago to find something suitable, and they had both agreed that blue was definitely her colour), but because she’s one of the few people standing off the side of the dance floor.
There are a few people around her, apparently just as self-conscious and wary of joining the sea of swaying bodies as she is.
Alex watches her for a moment. Kara adjusts her glasses on her face, fixing them in place on her nose as she observes the rest of her classmates dance to an upbeat song. Alex can see she wants to join in so badly. Alex wonders if her reluctance to join in is because she doesn’t want to get too close and accidently hurt anyone. Both Mom and Dad had tried to caution her about how sometimes kids liked dancing too close to one another, and that she should try and keep her distance. But this is something else entirely.
Finally, just as Alex thinks maybe she should go talk to Kara, one girl crosses over to her. Alex watches as the short, red-headed girl jerks her head toward the floor, indicating for Kara to come join in. Kara’s face breaks out into that giant grin of hers, and with a little nod she follows her out into the crowd.
“I’m so glad we can go to the real dances next year,’
Melissa Spartan’s voice jolts Alex’s attention back to her friends. The four other girls are all nodding emphatically.
“Do you think they really spike the punch bowls, like in the movies?’ asks Nicole Brewer.
“My brother told me,’ Vicky mutters, so they all have to lean in to hear her over the music, ‘that the Quarterback snuck Jack Daniels into their senior prom, and he kept letting people shot it out in the parking lot.”
As they giggle, Alex looks back around over her shoulder.
“Alex,’ Vicky asks, tapping her on the shoulder, ‘who are you looking for? I told you, Brad isn’t here yet…”
“Not him,’ Alex snaps impatiently.
Vicky sighs. “Oh, right. Your sister.”
Alex winces at her friend’s tone, knowing she really only has herself to blame for it. She really hadn’t been very kind at all when Kara had first arrived, and Vicky and the rest of their group had just poached off Alex’s harsh words and expressions of dislike, assuming that’s how she really and truly felt.
She can’t see Kara in the crowd of moving bodies, and a flare of panic jolts through her. She should go look for her. What if Kara hurts someone? What if she’s just standing there like a statue, too scared to move?
But then the song changes, and Will Smith starts rapping away.
Her friends behind her all let out a chorus of glee, their “I’m too old and cool for this anymore” demeanour fading away temporarily in light of a beat that is just too catchy to fight against.
And then there’s a louder cry of delight, and a hole starts to form as the cheering continues, and Alex can finally see Kara.
She’s in the middle of the circle, completely on her own, doing The Running Man.
And then The Sprinkler.
And then she’s Voguing.
Kara moves through each little dance Alex had spent hours teaching her with much more fluidity and ease than she had on that Saturday afternoon, and like just like when Alex had caught her dancing in the hallway, Alex can tell she’s been practicing – a lot.
She’s even doing moves Alex hasn’t shown her, like the Pop and Lock, and moves Alex hadn’t approved. But it doesn’t matter. Kara is dancing away, looking focused and excited and careful and happy, all at the same time, and the crowd around her grows and doesn’t jeer or frown at her in judgement, it eggs her on. They’re loving every second of the show Kara is putting on for them.
And then she does a little twirl, on the ball of her foot, and slides perfectly into The Moonwalk, and everyone loses their minds.
A laugh breaks free from Alex chest as she watches, unable to believe what she’s seeing. When Kara glides to a stop, six different people run over to her and pat her on the back, urging her to do it again.
“Oh, my god,’ laughs Vicky in Alex ear suddenly. ‘Is that Kara? What is she doing?’
“Killing it,’ Alex chuckles, not aware of the swell of pride she feels until much later.
“What a geek,’ Melissa says snidely.
Alex tears her eyes away to look back around. Vicky isn’t laughing like the others. They’re all looking at Kara in that way, like Kara’s just walked into the room carrying a sack full of manure over her shoulder. Like she’s an insect on the floor.
Something inside Alex snaps. What the hell is there problem? Kara’s just having a good time, dancing her heart out. She isn’t hurting anyone. Why are they looking at her like that? Why are they laughing?
Besides, Alex has spent a lot of time and energy turning Kara into this version of herself they see before them now, and they think they can just mock her like that?
“Yeah,’ Alex snarls, and their laughter dies instantly, replaced by dazed blinks, ‘but she’s a geek who can dance, and who isn’t too cool to go have some fun for once in her life… unlike some people.”
They’re all slack-jawed and wide eyed, and any other time Alex might have panicked that she’s completely blown her perfect little friendship group. Her night isn’t supposed to go like this. She’s meant to be embarrassed by her, too. To ignore her. To just let Kara do what she’s going to do, and enjoy her night off with Vicky, and just have some time to herself for once.
But now, in this moment, with all the mean things anyone has ever said about Kara ringing in her ears, she realized she doesn’t care. It’s the first time she’s seen Kara really truly happy. Kara, who never looks down at her nose at anything; who always puts on a brave face, even though Alex knows better how much pain she's really in, because her room is just down the hall from Kara's, and she can hear her crying out in her sleep for family who can't hear her; who just wants so badly to belong, just like Alex does.
And someone who has traveled light-years across galaxies and through supernovas, who’s been to planets no-one can imagine and seen things no-one can conceive, and who’s entire world had been destroyed, in Alex's opinion, deserves to have just one night of pure happiness, without small-minded jerks judging her for just two God damn seconds.
The song changes again. The youths on the dance floor arrange themselves into rows, and with one last scathing look at her friends, Alex lets her feet carry her out to the dance floor.
“Alex!’ Kara smiles as Alex crosses to her. ‘Did you see? I did the Running Man without breaking the floor!”
“I saw,’ Alex laughed, trying to shush her with hand gestures. ‘Where did you learn to Vogue?”
“Eliza showed me,’ Kara replies. I know, you said it wasn’t cool, I’m sorry. But that song was really good and I just forgot.”
“I’m not mad,’ Alex smiles. ‘You did really well!”
Kara’s smile is like sunshine – blinding and warm. ‘Do you want to dance with me?’
Making a mental note to ask her mother where she had learned to Vogue, Alex takes position next to her sister.
“You remember what to do?’ she asks. ‘Arms out first, like this…”
Kara doesn’t need any more instruction. The Macarena had been one of her favourite dances to learn, and Alex had even caught her practicing in the backyard more than once.
Alex hasn’t actually done the Macarena in a long time, but as she follows along with Kara beside her, the steps come back to her quickly and easily, and she doesn’t feel embarrassed or self-conscious. Kara's enthusiasm is infectious, and Alex feels her sense of responsibility for the blonde girl beside her, and her inhibitions and worries about what anyone thinks of her, melt away.
Like her little sister, she's going to do what she wants to do.
Like her little sister, for one night, she's going to let herself feel happy.