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The First Dance



Nearly every cell phone in the room was aimed at Mark and Serena as they started their first dance. Etta James was telling the world that her love had come along, at last, and everyone knew Serena felt the same way. She’d had her share of heartbreak through the years, Mark showed up and swept her off of her feet. 

It was one year and one month to the day when they were introduced at Takiya and Rob’s engagement party. Who would’ve thought they’d make it to the altar before them? Who would’ve thought they wouldn’t be together on this day?


Rob’s cell phone was snug in his pocket, next to the keys he contemplating using very soon. He was extremely happy for Mark, they’d been friends since 8th grade, but he wasn’t in the mood for happiness. Not at a wedding that wasn’t his. Not looking at Takiya in her bridesmaid dress. Not six weeks after their breakup.


The bridal party joined the newlyweds on the dance floor and Takiya awkwardly took Jason’s hand and led his as far from Rob and still on the dance floor as possible. They danced in front of an aunt or cousin of Serena’s that she couldn’t name but knew. Auntie or Cousin What’s Her Name smiled and took her picture as she thought that this should have been her wedding. 


They danced in a very slow circle and she caught a glimpse of Rob looking like he was ready to go. It was a look she knew all too well. It was the same expression he wore at her parent’s house, her work functions, out with her friends. He always seemed like he had somewhere else to be.  Anywhere but where they were. 


It was a huge part of the reason she’d broken off their engagement, broken away from their six-year relationship. She felt he didn’t invest in her, always seemed indifferent about her work, her goals, her accomplishments, her interests. The rest of her reason was based on feeling stuck in the relationship. She was growing, her career taking off, but the two of them seemed stuck in a holding pattern.


Rob caught a glimpse of the ring he saved nearly two years to buy for Takiya as she danced with Mark’s brother. He stepped in as the best man when Rob decided the wedding was too much after the breakup. He didn’t want to cause any issues for Mark and Serena, so he’d voluntarily bowed out of the party, not allowing the line sisters time to even discuss if Takiya wouldn’t participate. 


Mark protested but understood and asked a friend from work to step in for Rob, who thought it was better for everyone involved. The truth is, he hadn’t felt close to Mark in years, even though he moved back to their hometown two years prior. There was just something different, something he couldn’t put his finger on.


It was the same feeling he got when he was around Takiya’s family or friends or at one of her functions at work. He didn’t feel like he fit in. He wasn’t smart enough, always felt like everyone was looking down on him. Takiya had three degrees and worked at a Fortune 500 company, her father was a judge, her mom a professor, Serena did something with computers and Mark was a doctor. Rob had maybe ten community college credits and worked for the city. A job his mother got for him after several false starts following high school. It was a good job, but he wasn’t going anywhere but the corner cubicle.


It weighed on him that he wasn’t good enough for Takiya. For her family. For her friends. For this new Mark. He had so many ideas of what he could do to turn his life around but never followed through on any of them. He thought about joining the military when he was younger but backed out. He talked with his cousin about starting a landscaping business, but it never went anywhere. He thought aloud about opening a restaurant and Takiya mentioned finding investors and he quickly dashed the dream soon after.


After dancing for nearly an hour, Takiya finally sat down to take a break. Her feet were killing her. She left her flats at the hotel. Rob would have reminded her on the way out the door to grab them. Those were the things she missed most about him; the way details never slipped past him.  He was so observant and seemed to know what she was thinking even before she did. Their time apart had been particularly tough on her, as she was constantly reminded of the little things he seemed to do that she never acknowledged. She’d nearly run out of gas twice, forgotten to renew her driver’s license and was almost always late for her train in the morning. 


Their partnership worked for them. Until it didn’t work for her anymore. Where were they going? Where was Rob going? He was a dreamer but seemingly lacked the motivation to chase any of those dreams. The final straw was when he refused to apply for a supervisory promotion at his job, even after being recommended for the position.  His defense was he didn’t want to feel locked into that job. A job he’d been in since he was 20.


A few shots of Hennessey and laughs with the old crew took Rob’s mind away from Takiya and his frustrations with his life. After the fourth shot, he happened to catch a glimpse of her rubbing her ankle.  He realized she’d forgotten her flats and if she was photographed barefoot, she would never hear the end of it from her mother. 


He missed that ankle. Missed that foot. He missed her. Either it was the Hennesey or Beyonce, but he felt the need to go over to talk to her, to check on her. He took the first step but stopped himself. Instead, he turned around and ordered another round for the guys.


We’re going to slow it down for all of the couples in the house.


The DJ made the announcement and the dance floor started to clear. People headed to the bar, back to their tables for a break or to grab their significant other. A few older men headed to the exit, presumably for some air. A few of Mark’s cousins headed the same way, presumably for something else.


Curtis Mayfield’s unmistakable falsetto and unforgettable ingredients boomed from the speakers and caused Rob and Takiya to each look at the DJ’s booth. Neither had a clue what they would find there, maybe Mark, Serena or both, but there had to be an answer. This was their song. It was to be their first dance at their reception. It was the song Rob sang to Takiya when he first told her that he loved her. She missed hearing him sing in the shower.


It didn’t take long for their eyes to find one another. Rob fought the urge to look away. Takiya fought tears. That stare held everything. The entirety of their relationship, the days that kept them holding on, the pain of their breakup, the hope for reconciliation. It was all in the forty feet that separated them, along with the few couples that made their way to the dance floor.


He didn’t need to look back to know that it was Mark’s hand on his shoulder. Was he holding him back or pushing him on? For once, he didn’t overthink and walked towards Takiya. As she realized Rob was walking towards her, she wondered if her hair and makeup were still in place, hoped the sweat had dried. She spied Serena’s smile out of the corner of her eye and realized the happy couple put this plan in motion.


Five feet.


Such a short distance, but so far from the inches they spent apart. In those inches they shared their dreams, their fears, well she shared and he listened. Those inches were where they lived. Where their loved lived. Those inches became feet and the love died. Or did it? Now, five feet and what felt like forever separated the two of them, but they both reached out to one another.


She was on her feet before he even made it to her. Their hands locked and Rob led her back onto the dance floor. They danced quietly for the first minute, neither knowing what to say or wanting to destroy this moment. There was so much to ask, so many answers stirring in their hearts, but nothing was said, there was nothing to say.


Curtis sang.

They danced.

Drinks were poured.

Pictures were taken.

They danced.

Smiles were faked.

The cake was cut.

Bouquet was thrown.

They remembered.

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