Charles & Claire Ch. 12bySchuppinzigh©
"Sure Charles, what time?"
"Yup... oh Charles?"
"I'm ready too."
We kissed each other goodnight, and we went into our respective bedrooms.
Bright and early the next morning, I met Claire in the hall. We found a room, and using my IPod, played and danced to 'Footloose', adding a few subtle moves, like the Half Windmill... which I saw a couple do earlier in the Competition. We added a couple of them into the routine. We did the routine to music a few more times, then thought we should stop, and relax until 'Showtime'.
I went to see Annie and she was alone in the girl's bedroom, crying very quietly. I asked Claire to please wait outside for a moment, and then went back into my Mom. I put my arms around her and quietly asked, "What's wrong, Mom?"
"Your father, Charles - your father just called and he's, he's leaving me... leaving us." Her crying intensified.
"Mom, what're you talking about? Leaving us - leaving us for where?"
"It's not a where, honey - it's a who. After twenty-two years of marriage. Your father's left me for another woman, his executive assistant no less. She's thirty years old... how can I compete with a... thirty-year-old?" The sobbing was un-relenting now.
"Mom, do we need to leave here, and go home for you two to try to work this out... I'll do whatever you want; leave, stay, just tell me what you want me to do? You know I love you; if you want to let him go, just let the dirty shit... sorry Mom this makes me so damn mad. You deserve so much better than he's ever given you."
"Thank you, honey... let's not tell anyone else about this yet, OK? I need to focus... just focus, on you and Claire, and help the team. I'll be the only manager you'll ever need, X." Her smile returned.
"We've had a handshake deal since our first Competition. We'll deal with this when we get home. I have a baseball bat with his name on it, Mom... just say the word, and I'll break both of his kneecaps."
Laughing, no... snorting, Mom said, "That won't be necessary Charles, he'll need them to work and pay me child support as well as a monthly check so we can live in the style to which we've become accustomed."
"Yeah, Mom - Go for the bank account. Hit him where he hurts, just below... the bottom line."
That made Mom snort again, and she just grabbed me and said, "You always seem to know just the right thing to say, Charles... thank you, honey. Your girl's been waiting for you patiently outside... go to her, tell her what happened, if you'd like. Ask her to keep it to herself, if you tell her anything, OK?"
"All right Annie." I gave her a kiss on the cheek and went to Claire.
After a bit, Annie came out and joined Claire, Kalista and me as we walked around, just looking at all the pretty clothes that all the dancers were wearing, music blasting from all over, couples practicing, and overall general bedlam.
A young couple came up to Claire and me saying, "We can't wait for the next dance that Charles & Claire are dancing. You guys are so much better than the rest of those posers. I hope you win the Rising Star Award. We'll be there for you."
"Thank you," Claire and I said together.
"I can't get over how much everyone is telling us, that they want us to win. Is it just because we're thirteen or is there something else going on I don't understand," Claire remarked?
"Claire," mom interjected. "A lot of it is cathartic, everybody wishes they could dance. These fans of yours think you're dancing for them and they're purging their feelings out to you with each dance you perform."
"Thank you Dr. Mom," I said. She slapped me on the back of the head in retribution. And love.
I started to see posters everywhere that said, "We Love Charles & Claire," and they were all over the place. I heard a 'here they come' from somewhere up ahead of us, as we broke through the crowd, there were a few thousand light bulbs going off, and people were sticking microphones in our face and were asking questions faster than I could hear any of them. There was a whistle from behind us. It was mom. She said, "One person at a time, please... Remember, they're only thirteen years old, people!"
A woman I recognized from the TV news came up to us saying, "Can I ask them three questions with an option for a follow-up with each one?"
Mom looked at us, and then said, "Yes, First question."
"Is it true that the two of you, have never had a professional lesson in dance," the woman asked?
I looked to Mom, who nodded that it was all right to answer. We'd anticipated that we'd have someone wanting to question us, and Mom suggested I check with her after being asked, in case she thought it was a 'gotcha' question.
"No ma'am... we've not, every step we've ever learned, I've taught us both." The crowd around us reacted with a buzz.
"Follow-up... and do you plan on getting a professional to teach you those steps, that you haven't learned yet?"
Looking at Mom again, I answered, "What we haven't learned yet, we haven't needed to learn yet. We're only thirteen years old, you know."
That response made the crowd around us all laugh a bit.
"Next question: Are the two of you a couple?"
I smiled as I looked up at mom. Turning back to the questioner, I said, "Yes, we are. We are promised to each other. Show them your ring Claire?" There must've been thirty or more cameras, taking who knows how many pictures after Claire put her hand out to show everyone how it sparkled.
Claire smiled and demurely said, "We plan to dance together until we can't dance any more, and all we've ever done, is kiss." This comment made me blush a bit.
There were shouts of 'kiss her' from all around us. I turned to Claire and asked, quietly, "OK with you?" Her response was predictable, and we kissed in front of all the cameras. When we broke apart, there was a group 'Awww' from the crowd.
"Last question, what are you doing after the Competition's over? What's next for Charles & Claire?"
"Well, our Junior High School's Spring Dance is next week, so we'll be getting ready for that. We won't be doing any other NDCA Competitions until school is out, in May. For any more information, please talk to our manager, my Mom - about the details."
That broke up the crowd again, this time dispersing most of them as well. Some important looking gentlemen came up to us, and asked to speak to us, privately.
Mom, Kalista, Claire and I, walked away from the crowd that was now milling about. Mom got on her phone, but whom she was calling, I didn't know.
The man flashed an official badge that looked like Mickey Mouse in the shape of a FBI style badge. Jimmy joined us at this point, stating, "I'm their sponsor, James Bradshaw of Bradshaw Family Cotillions. What is this all about?"
"We represent WEDCO, the parent company of all things Disney. We'd like Charles & Claire, 'IF' they win the Rising Star Competition, to be part of the 'I'm going to Disneyland' family as well. We've dealt with amateur athletes before."
"This, in no way, invalidates their amateur status. All we want from them, is when we ask, 'Charles & Claire - you've just won the Rising Star Competition at the NDCA National Finals. Now what are you going to do?"
"We want you to say, 'We're going to Disneyworld in Florida'. If you don't win today and tomorrow, this offer is invalid... otherwise ... please think about it, Mrs. Newman and Mr. Bradshaw - here's our number. Please let us know the moment you decide. Thank you, and good luck to the both of you kids, I know we'll all be watching you this afternoon as well as tomorrow."
They turned to leave.
"Excuse me sir," I asked.
"Are you asking each of the four remaining dance couples to do this?"
"No, we're not," he answered matter-of-factly.
"Why not, sir?"
"Well son, we want... you and Claire, to represent Disney Enterprises."
"Sir, pardon me for a moment but, unless you ask the other three couples to do this - Claire and I are not interested."
This sent a shockwave throughout the group of people in this conversation.
"Mrs. Newman, do you have anything to say to that?"
"I agree with my son - all of them, or none of them. If I hear that you offered this same deal to any of the other dancers, individually, WEDCO will find itself in a class action discrimination suit... and we have the high ground on our side."
Wow, Mom - The Disney people were taken aback by Annie's aggressive stance, and quickly re-bounded by saying, "Thank you very much, Mrs. Newman, we'll be waiting to hear from you."
Mom started to walk away from the men, turned around and said, "We've been asked to be on The Letterman Show gentlemen... make your next offer... your best offer." They left us alone at that point.
"Mom, wait up a second," I asked. She smiled at me. "Mom, did we really get asked to be on Letterman," I added quietly, "or was that all a huge bluff?"
She leaned into me, and quietly responded, "A complete bluff, Charles... being pissed off at your father right now, really helped me sell that, don't you think?" She broke into a beautiful smile.
"Remind me to not play poker with you ever again, OK?"
"Ha-ha... Charles, that was a remarkable thing you did, refusing, unless all the competitors were asked to be included."
"It just didn't seem fair, that only Claire and I'd been asked. Was it because we're so young... or so white?"
"That's the million dollar question, Charles. Besides we could very easily be asked to be on Letterman, I'd think if... when you win, we'll be called by somebody; if not Letterman, than Jay Leno or my favorite, Craig Ferguson."
Claire caught up to Mom and me, with a gleam in her eye. "Charles, that was magnificent, telling those... people that we wouldn't do it unless all of them were asked. Just another reason why I love you."
"Careful, kids... cameras at six o'clock," Annie warned.
As a joke, I looked at my watch and said to my Mom, "What?"
"Oh you kidder you. Your final four appearance is on live TV tonight the two of you... so be careful with your emotions, if at all possible." She was looking directly at Claire, when she added the last part of that.
"Annie," Claire said. "If... when we win tonight, I've no idea what I may do, but I'll try to control myself around your hunky son." I wasn't real sure, but I must've blushed at that.
As we walked casually towards our check-in, Jimmy came up to us and said, out of breath, "Letterman called... David Letterman himself, just called me and said, win or not, he wants the kids on the show the day after tomorrow. They are paying for four tickets to New York, and a hotel stay for the same four people. I'd be honored, but I should ask you, who's the fourth?"
I responded immediately, "Jimmy, as much as we're so thankful for you, Claire and I'd like to ask the little girl behind you, if she'd go with Annie, Claire and I, to New York to be on the TV Show."
A 'new' shrieker is born... and her name is Kalista McArthur. She came running up to me, and jumped into my arms, just like before. I leaned into her and said, "This is to make up for that Competition we couldn't bring you to last year. Would you like to go with us to New York, Special K?"
"You bet your ass I would!" As quickly as she said it, she turned eleven shades of pink and peach. "Gosh, I'm so sorry, everybody," she said, her eyes moistening.
"You can't talk like that on the TV show, Kalista honey. Now's the time to get that out of your system," Claire said, but giggled anyway.
"Charles & Claire," Annie said, tapping her phone, "Charles, put down the little girl... sorry Kalista, and head on to the check-in, Kalista go with them, be their chaperone." I heard a snort behind me on our way out.
We got to the check-in, and they confirmed whom we are, and that we were performing last, and that they had our music.
I had asked for the order of the dancers, and they said, first the Cha-Cha, then the Tango, the Foxtrot, and lastly us, with our Jive.
Mom showed up, saying that Jimmy was joining the rest of our group in the stands.
Less than ten minutes later, the Announcer came on.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, dancers of all ages. Tonight is a real treat. Besides the terrific Competition that's about to happen, NBC has decided to tape tonight, and show it on one of it's sister networks in the coming weeks. Be kind, this isn't a football game, this is a dance Competition, we've higher standards, don't we?"
The whole auditorium yelled, "Hell Yes."
"Thank you ladies and gentlemen, you restored my faith in dance Competitions just then. TONIGHT, we start with four... and we'll end with two. Give a big shout out to each of our remaining dancers,"
"Seventeen-year-old - Jaylyn Williams and Jeffrey Rodriguez."
A lot of sound came from the audience for Jeff and Jay.
"Eighteen-year-old - Kim Chang and William Jennings."
They had their share of support from the crowd as well.
"Seventeen-year-old - Wendy Smithson and George Gonzales."
A very strong sound of support came from the house for them.
"And, our leaders, after three dances - Thirteen years old - Claire McArthur and Charles Newman, better known as 'Charles & Claire'".
To use a grossly overused expression, the crowd went wild... it was so intimidating, to hear all those people shout out our names... almost surreal. We waved, I spotted a camera with the red light on, and so I directed Claire to wave into it with me.
The Announcer released everyone, except the first dancing couple of the afternoon, Jay and Jeff, who were doing an American Tango.
As before, we decided to listen but not watch the Competition. We went to a relatively quiet spot and talked.
"Claire, we weren't expected to be here tonight, somebody else was... so relax - remember to breathe and enjoy the music and the dance. If we do this as well as we have before, this is our Competition to win, nobody else's?"
The first couple was done. The next couple up was Kim and Will, doing a Cha-cha. Their music started and about halfway through there was a shriek, not loud enough to be heard very far, but it sounded like someone was in a great deal of pain.
We wandered over to where the noise was...George Gonzales, the dancer, was lying on the floor in quite a bit of pain, grabbing his leg, and Wendy was standing by him waving her hands around for some reason; I guess they're out of the Competition.
"Claire get ready, we're next," I realized.
"I feel so bad for George and Wendy, they've worked just as hard as we did, probably harder... she told me, she's been dancing since she was seven years old."
I grabbed her hand and said, "How does Claire Newman sound about right now? When we dance for our first Nationals, we could be married, Mrs. Newman."
She looked over at me and that smile was back. She squeezed my hand, just as Kim and Will came off the floor. We smiled at them and they smiled back.
The announcer came on and said, "There has been an accident... Wendy and George won't be performing tonight, so the remaining three couples will be First, Second and Third, but who will win? We have one more pair of dancers."
"Accumulating, the highest comprehensive score in the NDCA History of the Rising Star Competition, that goes back thirty-seven years, are the youngest competitors ever in the history of this particular award to participate; Ladies and Gentlemen, performing a Jive to the song 'Footloose'; thirteen-year-old - Charles & Claire."
We went out to the middle of the floor, got in our opening position, but first Claire leaned over and gave me our kiss, and we started, clapping and getting the crowd quickly into it, I was looking at my girl, my dance partner Claire, as we moved to the music. Our new Half-Windmill was very popular, that thing happened again, where the place went dead quiet and all I heard was Kenny, who was singing the song.
Our quick spins drove the people crazy. There were people dancing in the stands, there were people singing in the stands, it was truly a moment I never thought I'd be part of, but I was, and we were getting ready to end this, and Claire's hips were going wild, we did another Half-Windmill, which got everybody excited again.
Our hips were together, our arms were together - it was amazing.
The last measures were coming up, and we ended it like never before, with Claire on my lap, in tempo. Only those who had known our choreography could've told you it wasn't choreographed that way... but it sure is now.
Claire started laughing about the mistake, but didn't give it away... that's how we intended it to end, if anybody asked.
The stands, I understand held over twelve thousand people, the most ever at a Rising Star Competition, and every one of them was screaming their bloody heads off. I heard a few 'your de man, Charles' and 'just one more' from some other people.
The Announcer tried to start talking a couple of times, but was drowned out by the huge clarion of sound. We just kept waving to everyone, the excitement was palpable... just amazing.
Finally, the Announcer said, "Ladies and Gentleman, it certainly is too bad they can't dance for an Open Championship for two more years, but that means, two more years of what we just saw... and they're only thirteen-years-old. The scores are in... Charles & Claire have such a lead in points, they could NOT dance tomorrow, and still win... so Ladies and Gentleman, you been witnesses to the birth of a Championship Dancing team - Charles Newman and Claire McArthur, Charles & Claire - are the Rising Stars of the NDCA!"
It sounded like an explosion... a wall of sound.
"If you'll all calm down, they've a dance in reserve for tomorrow, if they'd won. How'd you like to see that right now?"
An immediate roar came from the crowd.
"Yeah, you would - make some more noise, for Charles & Claire."
As the crowd settled down, Claire gave me a kiss to start, I wasn't sure if this was going to be 'Ooh La La', or 'Sunrise Sunset'. I saw a look from Mom that was her pretending to be playing the piano - oohh... that must mean, 'Sunrise Sunset'. It was finally quiet enough to start.
We snapped to 'close', Claire gave me a kiss, and we started to dance. It was so quiet now, you could hear our feet slide across the floor, our spins felt effortless, and our promenades were perfectly together. The crowd wasn't making a sound either. I could hear a few faint whispers, people trying to be quiet, so others could enjoy us dancing.
Our waltz was our favorite of all the dances we'd learned so far, and this one was no different. Annie had recorded it for us and had played it as perfectly as she had our first Competition.
The end of the music was near, and I added a Double Reverse Spin, which we'd never done before in a Competition, but Claire handled it like a professional. The music was over... and we were through dancing.
You've heard stories of people who were caught in the eye of a hurricane, and they'd tell you it was peaceful, but they knew that one hell of a storm was just moments away.
Breaking into the silence was the Announcer.
"Wasn't that just the most magnificent slow waltz, that you've ever seen in your life, people - tell them how much you liked it, it's OK, make some noise, people!"
It went from blissfully quiet to sounding like a jet engine, in a matter of seconds. Mom came out to join us and started waving with us. She leaned over and said, "The Disney People have agreed to take all four finalists to Disneyworld, if you two will do their spot for them. Oh, and David Letterman himself called back and would like ALL of us there on Friday, and they'll take all eight of us, instead of the original four. Damn, kids... I could get used to this!"