Author's note.

This for the Review Game forum's Writing Challenge Contest. The prompt is "Ballet is woman," given by Faithless Juliet, who was last month's winner.

Read on. :)

M i s f i t


Kate Marshall

Hannah exited the high school building with a relieved sigh. Pulling her hood over her hair, she weaved through the masses of students and tried to keep to the covered walkways. Rain fell in sheets, drenching her by the time she reached her car.

Traffic was slow and tedious: the drive to the ballet studio felt endless. Hannah finally cut the engine outside of the tiny studio. It was a gray thing, small and forgettable and nestled between two shops on the south end of the outlet mall. Hannah ran to it; she darted between the cars and into the studio.

Mrs. Sophia was fussing again, Hannah noted when she stepped into the building. Oddly noticeable, the ballet teacher's accent carried in the spacious hall. Passively Hannah watched Sophia's victim squirm; apparently he did something wrong. Not that Hannah knew. She'd taken ballet when she was young and had never been even slightly talented.

Hannah walked along the wall, looking for Nora, but having no luck in her search. She rounded a corner and ran into something hard, warm.

"Oh, sorry!" a male voice exclaimed.

She lifted her eyes to the body in front of her. "Ethan... Hi."

Hannah was new at her school, which was difficult since she was a senior; it was a little late to make friends. But it was also May, so she knew everyone in all her classes, and Ethan... Why was he here? she wondered to herself.

Ethan Wilkins was the school's best basketball player, not to mention the coach's son.

He rubbed the back of his neck and stepped away from her. Hannah immediately felt the lack of warmth; he was burning. "Sorry about that," Ethan offered, chuckling nervously. Hannah raised an eyebrow at his behavior. Since when was he shy? "I ah," he paused to look at the door, "I'm just looking for... for someone. To - to pick them up-"

A little hand grasped Hannah's. "Hi!"

Hannah looked down and smiled at the three year old, moving her attention away from Ethan entirely. "Hey, Alice. Have you been a good girl?" She knelt beside Alice and patted her blonde head, so unlike her own brown hair.

Alice nodded her head several times. "Yeah!"

With her hands on Alice's shoulders, Hannah scrunched her forehead up as she wondered aloud, "And where's Nora? You're supposed to be with her." Nora was not only Mrs. Sophia's assistant, but also Alice's babysitter during the day. Hannah hadn't seen the ballerina anywhere.

Alice stared up at Ethan and answered distractedly, "In the back." She stepped forward and tugged on Ethan's jeans. "Hi, Ethan," she greeted, not properly pronouncing his name. "You danced... real pretty today." Here she smiled widely and leaned against Hannah.

Hannah stifled a shocked response. She held Alice to her and picked her up, cradling her in her arms. "Real pretty, huh?" Hannah remarked, unable to stop herself. She grinned as a mortified expression overtook Ethan's face.

"I-" The floor tiles seemed to be intensely interesting to him, Hannah thought to herself. Finally he looked up at her, desperation evident in his eyes. "Just don't tell anyone, alright? It's embarrassing."

Alice began to rest her head in the crook of Hannah's neck. Hannah tucked a piece of brown hair behind her ear and opened her mouth.

Ethan interrupted her with, "You know everyone would just laugh."

That was true enough. The jocks on his basketball team weren't going to commend him for being manly enough to do ballet. Not in the least. And teenagers weren't always the most accepting crowd; that Hannah knew. She knew that well.

Alice shifted once more in her arms. Her childish, light voice murmured, "Are we going? I'm tired, Momma."

He has very nice eyes, Hannah observed. Ethan set his blue eyes on the child in Hannah's arms and stared, dumbfounded, for several moments. Then he shook his head and averted his gaze to hers. His lips seemed to form the beginning of the word Momma, but Hannah just smiled.

"Don't worry about it," Hannah said, rubbing Alice's back in a soothing manner. "You think you're the only one with secrets, Ethan?" She turned on her heel and disappeared through the doors at the entrance; she vanished into the rain.