The lights went out.
They came back on.
Then out they went again.
For a while the dance studio flickered between light and dark in rapid fire, followed closely by jeers or cheers, until eventually the darkness won the electric battle.
But this was no disco. It was the wind and rain duking it out over encroaching fall. The class continued in the dusky light, without music, until even the dancers' shadows disappeared into the darkness.
“I'm sorry, girls. I'll have to cancel class,” says the teacher. “But don't worry … we'll make it up over vacation,” she soothes.
Such is the excitement of a new school year: Dance class and gymnastics, soccer and 4-H, parties and play dates. Not to mention, headaches.
“Homework comes first,” I scold, angry at myself for agreeing to this crazy schedule I slated.
“I will not hound you,” I hound her. “If you don't finish your homework there will be no dance class. There will be no gymnastics. There will be no soccer.”
She stares at me with the glare-y eyeball. But says nothing.
She finishes her homework and hands it over, disappearing into the mess she calls her room.
“I can't find my ballet shoes,” she hollers.
“I know where your dance shoes are but you need to redo questions 3, 7 and 12.”
“What's wrong with them?”
“You tell me,” I tap my finger on the offending worksheet.
She “harrumphs” and bonelessly collapses into the chair.
She's mad at me. She doesn't like to be wrong. She likes being called into question even less. I can understand, but her reaction irritates me all the same.
“I don't want to be the heavy, but you know homework comes first … and I'm not going to harangue you …
She scribbles over the answers and draws lines indicating where she should have placed the numbers.
“Not. Good. Enough. It's too confusing. Do it right.”
She hates me right now – I don't really blame her, I hate myself right now, too – but she erases the marks with a furiousness that threatens to tear the paper and starts again.
“There. It's fixed.”
“... Just check your work.”
It's always about who gets the last, exasperated word.
She shrugs her shoulders.
“It's in the car. … your dance stuff is in the car, you didn't bring it in from last week. Let's go.”
“This is our future,” I think to myself as she quietly puts on her seatbelt and waits for me to turn on the radio. Right now she wants to hear “her songs,” but soon it will be the wall of noise between us so we can just hear ourselves think.
Once we arrive at the dance studio, she flits in as light as air. I lumber in behind her, still weighed down by the guilt of frustration and anger and knowing that I will stew in those juices for the next hour.
Until the lights went out.
And came back on.
And went out again.
And then she was standing before me, with her dance bag slung over her shoulder. Smiling.
“Aren't you glad I did my homework already?”
“More than you can imagine.”