Maybe it was the lights, or the song, or the way Nikola looked at her as if she hung the moon, but a good rumba was not on the cards for her that night. From the moment the singers started everything else fell to pieces. Every judge pulled her up on it.
"Clunky, stompy, pigeon toed." The audience boo'd but Helen quite agreed with him. "You walked your walks instead of dancing them. Really, a rumba should be mesmerising, but yours was more like passing a car crash." She nodded as he said, almost gently, "And you know it."
"Ok, now Shirley?" Tess asked.
"Oh Helen, where's the firebrand from the tango a few weeks back? This feels like you've gone backwards. Your arms should fully extend, not just your legs. I did like Nikola pulling you across the floor, but," she shook her head, smiling sadly, "this was not your dance."
Motsi's expression resembled Shirley's. "Your footwork wasn't as clunky as Craig says but you could see you concentrating. You have the ability to make it look natural, but this evening it didn't happen."
Even Bruno couldn't cheer her up, and really, she felt like she didn't deserve the cheering. "What happened, Helen? The last few weeks you two were playing off each other beautifully. This week? Your dance lacked emotion, or even connection. Where was your eye contact from the tango? Rumba is just as intense." He shook his head. "Not your dance."
"And the last couple through to next week is Will and Abby, meaning Helen and Nikola are in the dance off." The light above their heads went red. Nikola growled, but squeezed her shoulders. Helen knew Tess was still speaking but she heard none of it. She'd buggered up.
"I'm sorry," she murmured to him as the band played the theme sting to get them off stage.
"Are you kidding me? Helen…" He looked around then dragged her to a dark corner near the stage. "You don't need to apologise. You know you can dance this. What happened?"
She shook her head. "I'd rather not say."
"You're on in thirty seconds," a stagehand announced, smiling. "Critiques."
They nodded. "Whatever happens, Helen, I'm glad I got to dance with you," he murmured, squeezing her hand.
It all became a bit of a blur again, Shirley reminding her to show her connection with Nikola. "This could be your last dance."
Oh. Oh no.
"I'll keep a part of you with me," blasted through the studio but Helen barely heard it. All she did was look at Nikola, showing her emotions through the dance like all the judges wanted, ignoring everything else (his hands on my stomach, pressing up behind me, lips close to my ear, one last turn together, end looking at--)
"Savršeno," he murmured as they rested their foreheads together, lowering in time with the music to the floor. "So much better."
She smiled as the applause erupted around her, and didn't stop smiling through the judges unanimous vote to keep her. Jumping for joy with her arms around Nikola, she decided no more holding back.
No-one would ever get to know how she felt for him (He's just my friend), but she would no longer hold back in her dancing.