Just like her cousin Rory on the hugely popular TV show Saturday Morning Dance, Thea loves to dance. She learns the show’s routines off by heart each week, despite her mother’s attempts to convince her that dentistry would be a far more fulfilling career choice.
Release Date: 11/2013
“Thea?” I hear my mom call out from the kitchen. Her voice distracts me from what I’m doing—what I’ve been doing for the last forty-five minutes—and I miss the step I’ve been getting wrong over and over again. Ugh. What is wrong with me today? I press pause on the remote and take a deep breath, trying to refocus. Okay, one more time. I rewind a few seconds, and it’s only as I’m ready to start over that I frown, realizing that the “Thea” I heard might not have been the first time Mom has “Thea’d” me in the last ten minutes or so.
I take a couple seconds to think about how annoyed she sounded.
Maybe about a seven?
“Coming!” I yell back, hoping that I can buy myself a few more minutes. “I just need to…” I let my words trail off, because not only does Mom already know what I’m doing up here (the thumping on the floorboards is a dead giveaway), she doesn’t entirely approve.
As I press play again, I decide, this time, to concentrate on my cousin Rory’s image on the screen. She and her partner Noah aren’t the lead dancers in the advanced segment on Saturday Morning Dance today, but it’s easier for me to follow someone I’m so familiar with, even if she is in the background.
The only problem is, as soon as I focus on Rory, I don’t get any further than before, because I simply lose it. The show today is a special eighties show, and the two songs we’re dancing to in the advanced segment are both Michael Jackson. The first one was “Thriller,” which was a whole lot of zombie fun. This one is a song I don’t think I’ve heard before—”P.Y.T.” I’m loving it, though. And Rory obviously thinks it’s a find as well, because she is goofing around back there with her partner, trying hard not to laugh—if that smirk on her face is anything to go by. Fair enough, really. After all, there’s some pretty weird stuff going on in that song, including…
“Michael Jackson’s ‘Pretty Young Thing,'” a voice says, and I turn to see my mom behind me, leaning against one of the house’s tall metal columns. “I haven’t heard that song in years. I thought I recognized that grunting and panting. Oh, and let’s not forget the odd chipmunk vocals at the end…”
I press pause on the remote again and raise one eyebrow as I stare at her. “Um, I hate to bring this up,” I remind her, “but you’re the one who dated him.”
“Once. One date. Before all the…fuss. And I was seventeen. It hardly even counts.” She shakes her head with its tight cap of trademark blond Hartley curls.
My eyebrow travels even higher now. “Hate to break it to you, Mom, but I think any number of dates with Michael Jackson counts. Especially now.”
She sighs at this, defeated. “Yes. Especially when people won’t let you forget about them. Wait, hang on. Not that there was ‘them’ as in, plural dates. It was one date. I’ve told you before. We got ice cream. It lasted forty-five minutes max. It was nothing! A publicity stunt, really. Now, dinner in five minutes. Understand?”
“I’ll be right there,” I say, going back to the TV. There’s no point quizzing her on how many scoops and what flavors MJ got, because I’ve asked her a hundred times before and she can’t remember. Yet—and this is just unbelievable to me—she can remember the exact outfit my dad, the scriptwriter, wore on their first date. And every course that he ordered. And how she fell for him when he somehow accidentally dunked his tie in his glass of red wine, then tried to pretend it was some kind of sophisticated wine-tasting maneuver. (I’ll stop here before I vomit.) Sure, I love my dad, but come on, Mom…really?
“Oh, and Thea?”
I look back at her now, in case she finally has remembered Michael Jackson’s ice cream preference. “The problem is you’re not hitting the fourth beat hard enough. Hold it for a half second longer and you’ll get it.” And, with this, she steps forward and pulls off the move effortlessly. “One, two, three and four. See? Don’t be in such a hurry all the time.”
“Um, okay.” I rewind, ready to start over, my eyes wide. How long has she been standing there? And how can it be that easy? Anyway, I take what she said and run with it. After all, my mom’s been in the entertainment biz for forty-one-and-a-half of her forty-two years. (She started at six months with a soap commercial—six months pretty much being the average age every Hartley enters show business. Oh, except me, of course. I’m banned.) She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to stuff like this.
Ready to give it another try, I choose not to focus on my goofy cousin. Instead, I opt to follow Lucia and her partner Tobias. Nice and safe. And when I get to the step I keep messing up, I hit the fourth beat harder and hold it that half second longer.
And my mom’s right.
I’ve got it.
With a big smile on my face, I press pause one more time and swivel around to see my mom still hovering. But she doesn’t look equally happy that I’ve mastered the step that was tripping me up. In fact, she doesn’t look happy at all—she looks kind of…deflated. She takes the few steps over to me then reaches out to push some of my sweaty curls back behind one ear. “Oh, Thea,” she says with a sigh. “Honey, be careful what you wish for.”