I sighed as I fingered my hem. It was a brightly colored orange and red chiffon thing, the veil wrapping and shielding my body in its soft folds. I checked to be sure that it was securely tucked into the back of my skirt, smoothing the wrinkles in the fine fabric with fingers that shook only slightly.

It was almost my time to go onto the floor, dance my way out of the back room and take on the air of a somewhat innocent, somewhat come-hither female. I rolled my shoulders, rippling the veil and jingling my… well, my coin bra. I'm a bellydancer, and I've been dancing as long as I can remember. My mother was a descendant of the gypsies, and my father I never knew. Mother taught me what she knew of bellydancing, and the rest I learned on my own and from classes.

I checked my makeup in the mirror, swabbing a finger over my heavily darkened eyelid, dark colors contrasting sharply with my slightly pale skin. Mother told me that my father was a white man, and Mother is a gypsy woman, like I said. So my coloring is strange, sort of an olive-bronzy color mixed with white. My hair, which was tied back by a deep red satin strap so it would stay out of my way as I danced, is a dark, thick mass of waves. It is as annoying as anything to deal with, knotting within minutes.

The attendant who was running the show showed me three fingers. I had three minutes. Another sigh escaped my deep red-brown lipstick-d lips. I had better things to do, to be sure. My school year was starting soon, my senior year in high school, and there was so many other things that I could be doing to prepare. I was taking AP level classes in History and English, and the other classes were hard for me. I was beginning to take Russian this year as well, and I should study that.

But instead I was here, trying to earn money for college by way of tips from the customers that I would be entertaining with my dancing.

I stood up carefully, wary of knocking some part of my costume out of its place, and securing my finger cymbals, called zils, onto my thumb and middle finger. I took one last glance in the mirror and fixed my smile on. I've practiced this smile in the mirror until I knew that it was perfect, a closed mouth seductive smile that makes me look like I'm having fun.

Actually, I do have fun when I dance. It is a lot of fun, or I wouldn't do it. It keeps me in shape, though my figure certainly isn't one of the fast-metabolism ones that many high school girls have. I run in the afternoon to try and keep my weight under control, though I admit that having curves certainly helps with my dancing. You can't get any hip action if you don't have any hips.

I heard my name announced. It isn't my real name, but my stage name is Jysha. It's a slurring of one of my friends' names, Joshua. Josh was my friend when I was younger, then he moved and I haven't seen him since. I took my stage name based on his name because he was the only one I ever told about my bellydancing when we got to middle school.

My real name, Andrea Alisae Hawke, is certainly different than Jysha. My mother gave me my father's last name of Hawke instead of her own Italian name of Giovanni. Sometimes I wish I had her name. I think it would fit much better with my first and middle names… Andrea Alisae Giovanni. Hawke is so rough and sharp on the tongue.

But I digress. I headed onto the floor with my smile placed firmly on my lips, veil securely in place. It was a larger place, where I was dancing, and so I actually had room to perform a veil dance and remove it properly.

My zils chimed in time with the music. A live band always makes the dancing more fun, and this band was particularly energetic. I enjoy dancing slow as much as anyone, but for starting out I liked to dance fast and lively. I worked my way around the tables, smiling at the young children and shimmying my shoulders slightly at the older people, especially men. I'm not above a few suggestive moves if it earns me more tips. I do want to go to college.

I do the Egyptian/Cabaret style of bellydance. It's often about isolation of a joint, but I wasn't in the mood for that this time. I slid my head and my hips at the same time, throwing a ribcage slide into the mix as well. I heard a few appreciative murmurs in the crowd, and my smile deepened a bit.

I am not a bragging person. I am very shy at school, but for some reason it doesn't translate into my bellydancing. However, I will admit and say quite proudly that I am a very good dancer. At this place, a restaurant called Careed. I don't know if the owners made that name up, or if it means something, but at Careed they often hire dancers that are not as skilled, and it shows. I've seen other girls dance here that are good, and I've seen them that aren't as good.

I am good at what I do, and I usually get tipped well for it. As I moved into my veil dance I saw a man who looked to be in his early twenties or so waving a bill in the air. I slipped across the floor to him, still working my veil. I offered my arm, a deep red armband the color of the strap in my hair encircling the upper part of it, to him. He tucked the money into the band and I thanked him with a smile and a nod, then turned back to the rest of my audience.

I wafted my veil around, first holding it up like a flag and sliding my head around behind it, then turning in circles to free it from its loose tuck-in at the base of my back. As I worked it out I stopped spinning, and I shielded my body with it and prepared to let it down near the exit in time for the band to start up with another fast paced song. I finally struck a pose and held it as the final plaintive notes of the woodwind type instrument faded away.

I almost leapt into my last dance. Now was the proper time for tips, and I readily and happily worked my way around the tables and collected my dues. With the women and little kids, I offered my hip to tuck the money into; with the men I took money only in my armband or in the straps of my coin bra… on the back, where it reached around to fasten around my middle back. I learned my lesson in offering up the front of the coin bra for money two or so years ago. But that's another story.

As the music began to increase in tempo I mentally sighed. It's the bands favorite thing to do, work the dancer into a shimmy and then see how much money falls out of her. I don't like it, and I've learned to not overwork the hip shimmy. It causes me to lose my hard-earned money, and I get unhappy but still have that damned smile on my face.

So they made me shimmy, and I lost a few bills. I ground my teeth and smiled, then left with slight dips of my head and bows to the audience, thanking them.

I snatched my veil up from the attendant and headed for the changing room, grabbing my duffel bag full of regular clothing and slipping into the stall. I quickly changed and wiped most of the makeup off my face, leaving the room and looking for the manager. I got paid besides my tips, and I got paid somewhat well. My reward this time was thirty dollars, and I hadn't counted my tips yet. They had gotten mixed up in my clothes as I changed, and I would count them when I got home. I thanked the manager and left, my little death trap of a car calling my name.

It's a beat up car, but I love it. It's an older Toyota Tercel, the backseat only has one working seatbelt, it doesn't have side view mirrors, and it makes strange rattling sounds when I shift gears. Also, I don't think much of speed limits. I've never gotten a ticket, and I do go much faster than I should.

I unlocked the door and slid into the deep seat, tossing my bag into the back and turning the car on. I clunked the gears into reverse and stuck my head out the window to check for other cars. There were none, and I refrained from roaring out of the parking lot. I did, however, roar out onto the highway, a true smile on my face. I love my car.

I got home at around eleven. Mother was asleep and she'd left me dinner, which I smelled as I came into the house. I picked up a cold pasta salad and chicken, heading into the living room. Mother and I don't care about eating wherever, and it's usually easier to eat on the couch. I opened my book that I was reading for AP History, The Thin Red Line. It's always been one of my favorites, and I was glad that we were reading it for that class. I quickly became engrossed in the struggles of C-for-Charlie company and lost track of time, my empty bowl from the pasta salad sitting ignored on the table.

Then exhaustion hit me like a sledgehammer, and I remembered that I had to go shopping tomorrow. My teeth bared in an unattractive growl. I really don't like shopping. I had to get school supplies for the next year, and find my mother a birthday present. Which meant the mall.

I went to sleep depressed, but I counted my money and put away my bellydance costume first. I'd made, with the thirty I'd gotten officially, around fifty dollars. Not a great night, but not bad either. So I wasn't that depressed when I went to sleep, but I wasn't happy. I despise shopping.


Okay, favorite people. I know this is another story that y'all think I ain't going to finish, but the beauty of this one is that it's almost done and saved into my computer! Isn't that exciting? And I am leaving by the end of the month, so it's a quick little story, and hopefully... well, I'm not going to give anything away.

Enjoy, and please tell me what you think. I'm trying to make the chapters longer and longer, so bear with me, yeah? Yeah.