Devon Lane was a school teacher. She taught Special Education at the elementary level. She was good at her job. She managed her classroom well, managed her children's behaviors well. She handed in all her paperwork on time. She was enthusiastic and emphatic when in front of her students. Her students liked being in her class. She came up with fun activities that had to do with the stories they were reading or what they were studying in math. The students came to her with their problems. One student told her about his dad's girlfriend who had a restraining order against the dad, and the girlfriend came back to visit and made her promise not to tell anyone. Another girl told Ms. Lane that her parents forgot to celebrate her birthday one day when she came in wearing a dirty shirt. At times, a brother and sister who were in the same grade because the brother was held back a grade would come in late to school and missed breakfast. Ms. Lane would always keep a stash of granola bars for them to eat outside the classroom doors so no one could see. Ms. Lane demonstrated care, empathy, and discretion when dealing with these problems, sometimes referring them to the student services office, however, if other agencies, such as the Department of Health, needed to step in. All in all, Devon Lane demonstrated superior control over her environment at work.
At home she lived alone. She worked out every day no matter what. There were days when she was feeling upset, and she biked on her stationary bike through sobbing tears, but Devon had control over her emotions and she wouldn't let them get in the way of her control over her body. Devon also exercised control over her diet, she ate a high protein, high fiber diet that was low in fat, sugar, processed foods, and generally anything bad. It was extremely restrictive. But for Devon it was easy as pie to follow. And she reaped the benefits. She had long blond hair that fell in thick curling locks down to her size zero waist. She had muscular legs and an overall athletic and lean body with the exception of her suspiciously large breasts. People occasionally asked her if they were "fake." Devon always eluded an answer. How would a school teacher, in the middle of nowhere South Dakota, afford plastic surgery anyway? For some reason she liked that people were talking about her behind her back. And although Ms. Lane was humble and didn't think much of herself, she did fantasize about the possibility of being that hot school teacher, the one high school boys fantasized about, the one other teachers whispered about, secretly hated.
Restriction and control were like second nature to Devon. Devon was a successful, strong willed woman. In every aspect of her life, Devon, Ms. Lane, was in full control. Her classroom was a tight schedule of rituals and routines. Her home life was the same. She was single. She would come home, work out for about an hour or an hour and a half, eat dinner, watch TV while grading homework and go to bed. Devon thrived in this structure but she began to wish for a little something extra with which to fill her time. And that is how she came across Argentine Tango lessons in the newspaper. Dance required discipline and step by step structure. At its more advanced levels it might be quite athletic, she imagined. It was perfect.
The lessons were being offered at the local community center and weren't expensive. They were at 7:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The ad said to bring a partner if you have one, but it wasn't required. Devon didn't have a partner and she went anyway. She put on a black dress that wrapped around her tiny body and tied across the waist and some black heels. That seemed appropriate. When she got there, there were all sorts of people there, as one might expect at a community center, but not as Devon expected from a Tango class. There were grotesquely tall people, fat people, old people. Was Devon going to have to dance with all these people? And not a single woman was in a pair of heels. They were all in bare feet, or stocking-ed feet, mingling before the instructor came in. Devon felt completely left out, in her shoes, not knowing who to talk to. She stood on the outskirts of everyone and noticed a man standing awkwardly on the outskirts as well, the other sides of the outskirts. Although Devon exercised superior control over every aspect of her life, although by every measurement Devon looked like a porn star, although Devon always presented herself well and always offered up good conversation and clever jokes, Devon was self-doubting. She was shy. It took a lot of nerve for her to walk up to someone new and strike up a conversation. Especially if she had to walk across an entire dance floor in a room full of women not wearing any shoes, in a room full of people she didn't know. But Devon took a deep breath and walked over to this other "other," this other outlier.
"So, what's with all the bare feet?" she asked him.
"Oh. They just take off their shoes because it's easier to balance that way. If they loose their balance slightly, they can always roll down to flat feet instead of falling over," the awkward man responded. Devon felt a sense of pride. She had taken ballet from pre-school all the way through high school. She knew how to balance her body, how to imagine a string being pulled up through her spine and through her skull as if she were hanging from it. It's how she learned to walk in heels. She decided she would leave her heels on.
"Devon Lane," she said, extending her hand.
"Mark Bishop." They shook hands. The man looked forward to continue waiting for the instructor, who was five minutes late at this point. He was avoiding Devon's glance. She took his look away as an invitation to look him over which undoubtedly made the poor man feel more uncomfortable. He was very tall, well over six feet. He had thick wavy blond hair that was punctuated with brown streaks. It was cut in a longish haircut. Very inviting, Devon thought. He was slender but strong seeming. Devon was sure he could lift all one hundred and fifteen pounds of her. She hoped she could get to the lifting phase of this dance class soon. The awkward man had a slender waist made more prominently evident by his contrastingly colored belt. Devon found herself very attracted to this man's features, including his awkward, shy side. Her controlling personality wanted to possess him. She was certain she wanted to dance with him but she didn't know how the class was structured. Was she going to have to dance with every guy? Was the instructor going to choose someone of a more suitable height for her? Devon realized that her looking had turned into staring and she turned her glance in the direction of Mark's. Finally the dance instructor walked in.
"Okay dancers! Are we ready?" He was about halfway between five and six feet. He wore loose fitting black slacks with a belt and a loose fitting silk blouse tucked neatly into his belted pants. He walked with his hips leading each step, as if he were fucking someone with each stride. A walk reserved only for effeminate gay men and, apparently, dance instructors. With the look he gave Devon on his way in he was most certainly not gay. He had an accent Devon couldn't place, possibly Russian but not quite. He noted her heels. "We have a brave newcomer today! What's your name?"
"Okay. You'll be dancing with me today. I'll teach you the basic step, and once you get the hang of it you can dance with...Mark. Mark has been with us for four years. He got off to a rocky start but now he's very well practiced. He'll take good care of you," said the instructor.
"No offense, but I don't need anyone to 'take care' of me. I just want to learn how to dance," Devon said, deeply offended.
"All right then," said the instructor, humoring Devon, "Let's get started." He walked over to the stereo and, turning on some very old fashioned tango music, he addressed the whole class. "I want to see nothing but the basic step for this song. No embellishments, nothing. Just perfect balance, perfect control, perfect communication between partners." Everyone seemed to know who to partner up with and got started. The instructor began showing Devon the basic step and after the first demonstration she followed along with him, in her heels and they danced side by side.
"You've danced before," he said.
"That's why you're not afraid of a pair of heels," laughed the instructor. And they did the female's, the follower's, basic step side by side a few times to the music until Devon was ready to do it partnered up. "Now, you know what to do, you know the basic step, but as your partner, as your leader, I'm going to tell you what to do." This didn't sit well with Devon. No one told her what to do except for maybe her principal, and he even had the right mind not to bug her too much. "And this is how I'm going to do it." The instructor grabbed Devon's waist with his right hand and held her right hand with his left. "When I want you to step forward I'm going to step back. You are not to start stepping forward until I step back. This is how we communicate. Understand?" Devon shook her head. She understood but didn't like it one bit. "When I want you to step forward and to the left I will push on your back with the back of my wrist and press on your hand like this. I will move my shoulders this way." The instructor made the series of slight gestures and Devon produced the beautiful step forward, swinging her dress up, arching her foot in the leg that wasn't bearing any weight, turning her head away from the instructor to show her displeasure in her having to follow him. This whole follower/leader arrangement went against everything Devon stood for as an independent woman. Then again, Devon thought, she was so independent she was alone. The one friend she had was female and lived thousands of miles away and she hadn't had a date in an embarrassing amount of time. This leader/follower business all did make her look quite beautiful.
"I see you have some attitude. I like it! Let's try that step again, but I want you to embellish it. As your right leg passes your left, let your right ankle criss cross your left one a few times, like this, before you put your right foot down. But don't do it until you feel me gesturing you to do so. Let's walk through the whole basic step together." Devon did as she was told, she waited for the instructor to make the first movement, she followed all his gestures, she criss crossed her ankles, she slid her feet together, he spun her around. The instructor was a show off. His gestures, to her, seemed harsh and almost sloppy; they were overemphatic. It became clear that he was used to dancing with inexperienced women, fat women, sloppy women, women who weren't attuned to slight details, a minor flick of the wrist, a slight increase in pressure on the lower back. The instructor dipped her, dragged her across the floor, showed off the elaborate moves he could pull off with the newbie. All the while Devon wanted to be a good dancer because she had always been a good dancer, she had always been good at everything she tried. So even though it went against every grain in her body to follow, to be the follower and not the leader, she did it, all the while playing the part of the pissed off woman, walking away, in a sexy way, to the rhythm of the music of course, a few steps at one point, turning her head to the side when things got too close, staying poised and in control of her body. Finally the instructor realized he needed to attend to the rest of the class and was being a bit too flashy. He paired her with Mark and Devon breathed a sigh of relief.
Mark was wholly a different dancer. The instructor told her he had gotten off to a rough start but, Devon extrapolated, through years of dedicated practice he became a fantastic leader. He was most certainly too tall for Devon but his leading abilities made up for it. His gestures were far more subtle. He pressed on different parts of Devon's back, surprising Devon with the movements this created in her. He flicked her hand gently, and Devon was able to carefully and in a controlled manner slide into new positions. He was much less of a show off and much more in sync with Hannah's personality, it seemed. His gestures pressed her into careful, precise, controlled movements, movements she liked. She liked following Mark. With the right leader, Devon was a good follower.
With the right leader Devon was a good follower. This thought confused Devon. This was a side of herself she wasn't familiar with. It really threw her off guard that she enjoyed so much something that required her to follow and not lead. These thoughts circled through her head over and over again and Devon tried to make sense of them, tried to make sense of these conflicting drives to be a leader in the workplace, but come 7:30 on Tuesday and Thursday nights, oh God did she want to follow and to be led. Devon decided to go back to Tango. She melted in Mark's arms and as he became her usual partner she got to know him better and better. He had a wife at home who had no interest in dance. He led her to embellish her movements more and more and Hannah became an exemplary Tango dancer. The instructor often called upon them to demonstrate new movement combinations to the class and even encouraged them to enter a few competitions.
For now, Mark was that right leader. He was so perceptive of Devon's needs. It was as if she weren't following at all with him because he was so attuned to her needs. He led her to create such careful, controlled and, of course, beautiful movements. Together they looked spectacular, perfectly in sync. Devon asked Mark about his home life nonchalantly on several occasions but he always brushed her off. His wife was always fine. His kid was always playing baseball. That was the end of that. Mark was suave on the dance floor through years of practice, but those years of practice didn't translate into the rest of his life. Off the floor he was awkward. He walked with an irregular gait, moving his legs hesitantly, as if insecure about each and every step he took. He slouched no doubt to make up for his tall stature, something he ought to have known was considered a desirable feature. His conversations were always short, that is to say, he was always short in conversation, answering questions with the briefest response possible, ending the discussion as quickly as possible, always hoping the other person would walk away. Conversation always made him nervous. Any social interaction made him nervous. Mingling was the worst for him. Those few minutes in dance class before the instructor always so rudely strolled in late were hell for Mark. Mark originally took the tango class as a way to get over some of his social anxieties, but it wasn't working. In the process, he discovered he was quite good at this new hobby of his, so he stuck with it, despite its social pains.
Mark and Devon actually won second place at one of these competitions. They were perfectly in synch with each other, sensing each other's moves as always, but this time Devon was far more flashy. She embellished many more steps than usual and that got the attention of the judges, and the dance instructor. Several people from the tango class attended the competition that Friday night. They all went out to eat at the local diner afterwards. Devon looked like a drag queen in that diner's lighting and in her stage make-up. All of the men sitting at the table thought she looked incredible anyway.
"I was so sure they were going to mark us down points when I hesitated on the second count in the first song... the second count!"
"You couldn't tell you were hesitating," said the instructor. "It looked purposeful. You... guys looked great out there. I'm proud of you."
"Here! Here!" said Bob, another member of the dance class, raising his water glass. He was slightly overweight, balding, but one very capable leader. Devon and the instructor shared a prolonged glance over their glasses before sipping from them. Devon looked stunning. She wore a purple dress that had a very low cut v-neck and one of those spectacular push up bras every woman has in her arsenal. Her dress stopped mid-thigh and had ruffles around the bottom. It exposed her well defined legs which were made complete at the feet with purple strappy heels. Devon wore extra thick eyeliner that night with a hint of eye shadow. When she turned her glance downwards, into the glass, away from the instructor, she exposed expertly crafted makeup. When it was time to leave, the instructor walked Devon out to her car.
"I'm actually giving Mark a ride home," she said.
"Some other time then," replied the instructor.
"Some other time," said Devon, pensively. Mark popped into Devon's passenger seat shortly thereafter. It was winter and it was freezing. Devon's car was an old 1988 Cutlass Ciera and took a significant amount of time to warm up. They had to wait at least another 15 minutes for the car to be warm enough to drive and get the heat going. Mark was curious and asked Devon what the instructor wanted. Devon evaded the question. She wasn't sure what she thought about the whole thing.
"I don't know. Just... some... thing," she said, waiving her hand up in the air and shaking her head. Mark let it go. He let it go because Devon let so much of what he talked about go. She drove him home and asked, "So why no car? Your wife out of town?"
"Yeah, she's got Jacob at my father's house. He has a game out there tomorrow. The other car's in the shop. Timing belt issue. VW." Devon was stopped in the driveway. Mark didn't get out of the car. He seemed to be composing himself. "You did really great out there tonight."
"Yeah! Thanks to you! You were fantastic. We did well together. Second place!" Devon was exited. Mark still sat in the car. He was still composing himself. After months of reading Mark like a book, reading every little gesture he made, Devon knew him pretty well. She knew he had something else to say, or to ask.
"Do you want a cup of coffee?" he finally asked. It was cold outside. "We just got this new cappuccino maker and my wife swears by it but it's all the same to me. If you like coffee, that is. If you don't that's okay. Or if you have somewhere else to be." Mark was babbling like he always does when he's nervous. Occasionally he did this when she asked him about his wife and he managed to babble on for five minutes or so without actually saying anything of substance. Occasionally, if Devon picked the right topic, Mark would babble on for five minutes and say something really smart.
"Coffee, I mean, cappuccino sounds really nice," said Devon in the most soothing voice she could summon. She could tell Mark was nervous about asking her into his empty home and she had an inkling of an idea why that might be. She found this endearing, complimentary, sincere. "I have no place else to be. I'd love to discuss the finer points of the evening with you." She parked her car in the garage and they walked into the house.
The home was arranged on two stories. The décor was nothing short of bland. Beige walls, beige couch, beige countertops, and that biscuit appliance color Devon was sure no one ever bought. But all was neat and tidy. Mark took Devon to the kitchen and she made herself comfortable on one of the wooden stools behind the center island. Mark fidgeted a little with the cappuccino machine and managed to produce two fine cups of coffee. He sat down next to Devon and they shared an extremely awkward silence over the coffee. Devon looked at Mark as if she could see right through him. He felt as if she could see every secret and burning intention in his mind. She leaned back in her stool and sipped her coffee confidently and comfortable with the silence, in contrast to Mark. Mark, on the other hand, grew more and more uncomfortable the longer the silence lasted. He pulled at the collar of his shirt, even unfastening his tie. He shifted positions in his stool. His hands shook when holding the little cappuccino cup. This shaking was very clear every time he picked up or put down the cup onto its saucer because it made a slight rattling noise. Devon somewhat enjoyed watching Mark's discomfort climax. She enjoyed the possibility that her charms or maybe her appearance had such an affect on a man, even if it was a man quite gauche by nature. She wasn't used to having this kind of influence over someone, even though she wasn't certain it was she who was making him nervous. Devon was still self-doubting, but compared to Mark she was a cougar. But she liked the idea of making Mark nervous. She really liked the idea. She was really beginning to like this uneasiness in Mark. It gave her a sense of control over him. She knew she could put him at ease.