Chapter Eighteen: Dancing Through Life
“Make sure to keep an eye on him.”
“And don’t let him get up for anything except going to the bathroom.”
“Ja. Anything else?”
_____ thought for a moment. “Oh, yeah. If he starts coughing really bad, lay him on his side. Don’t touch him. If anything, just rub his back.”
Ludwig sighed as he opened the front door for her. “Alright. I think I can handle it, Fräu.”
She stepped out through the doorway onto the front porch, still looking at the blond German. “And if he doesn’t eat everything you put on his plate, that’s okay.”
She stepped off the porch onto the yard. “And give him some honey in a little while, okay?”
Ludwig nodded. “Ja.”
“And you can take his temperature too, but that’s not really––”
“_____,” he interrupted. “I can handle it.”
_____ pursed her lips, then nodded at him. “Okay.” She turned around and walked to the man on the front sidewalk. “See you later, Luddy.”
Ludwig nodded politely and went back inside the house. _____ bit her lip, still unsure about all this.
“Worried, chica?” asked the man beside her.
She sighed. “Yeah, kinda. I mean, it’s just that I’ve been the only one who really took care of him for the past week, and now. . .”
“It’s like when a first-time mom finally hires a babysitter.” He chuckled. “Face it, chica. You like him.”
_____ rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I like him. I love him. He’s a bit of a douche bag sometimes, but he’s really kind once you get to know him.” She smiled. “He’s a good friend.”
He nodded. “Sí, he is. Now, you ready to go?”
“So, what exactly are we doing, anyway?”
Antonio set his bag on the floor as the two entered an almost empty room with a large mirror covering one of the walls. He smiled. “We’re dancing, chica!”
“Dancing?” She looked at him, a bit dumbfounded. “Uh, sorry to disappoint, chico, but I don’t dance.”
“Oh, come on! No need to be shy, it’s just you and me!”
She shook her head. “No, lemme rephrase that. I can’t dance.”
“¿Qué?” Antonio tilted his head for a short moment, then smiled. “Oh, that’s okay, chica. I’ll teach you.”
_____ blinked. “U-Uh, I don’t think that’s a really good idea. . .”
“¡Tonterías! You’ll do fine! Here.” He led her to a seat near the wall and sat her down. “I’ll dance first. Any requests for the song?”
She paused shortly in thought, then pulled out her iPod and hooked it up to a boom-box on the floor. After a brief moment of silence, a song played, causing Antonio to laugh.
“Santana? Really, chica?!”
“Yes, really! Now dance!”
Still chuckling, the Spaniard began to dance to the song echoing through the room. He held his arms up at an angle and moved his feet to the beat. His hips started to sway to the beat, putting his whole body into it. The chorus of the song played, and Antonio twirled around once while rotating his pelvis.
_____ let out a wolf-whistle as she eyed his figure. “Man, I wish I had that swing in my backyard~!”
Antonio immediately stopped dancing and looked at her. He made a hilariously baffled face then burst out laughing. He held his stomach as he stumbled to the wall near _____, putting his hand on it and leaning there. He dropped his head, still laughing, then forced himself to calm down.
“¡Ay dios mio, chica!” he sputtered out, a loud chuckle interrupting him a few times.
She smirked. “Pretty good, huh?”
“¡Sí! ¡Sí! ¡Muy cómico!” He sighed, having apparently rid himself of the giggles, and took _____’s hand. “Now it’s your turn to dance, chica.”
A bright shade of red dusted her cheeks as she was pulled to her feet. The song had ended and now a new one began to play.
“The trouble with schools is,
They always try to teach the wrong lesson,
Believe me, I’ve been kicked out of enough of them to know.
They want you to become less callow,
But I say why invite stress in?
Stop studying strife,
And learn to live the unexamined,
Life. . .”
Antonio raised an eyebrow. “I’ve never heard this song before, chica. . .”
_____ smiled. “Don’t worry. I know the lyrics.” She took hold of both of his hands. “And the moves.”
She moved her right foot back, balancing it with the tip on the floor. She brought her left foot back, moving with the rhythm, and repeated the cycle several times as the song slowly reached its correct tempo. She tugged at his hands, silently telling him to move, and she pulled him around in circles. They moved together, swaying and sweeping as the chorus played.
“Dancing through life,
Skimming the surface,
Gliding where turf is smooth,
Life’s more painless,
For the brainless,
Why think too hard,
When it’s so soothing,
Dancing through life,
No need to tough it,
When you can sluff it,
Off as I do,
But knowing nothing matters,
It’s just life,
So keep dancing,
Through. . .”
The music began to pick up, and the pair followed, making their movements faster and more fluid. Antonio was smiling, impressed at _____ for knowing how to dance when she didn’t even know how. She giggled as she turned a few degrees with her leg up behind her. She immediately stopped when the song slowed down again, the blush returning to her face.
“What’s the matter, chica?” asked Antonio, concerned.
_____ pursed her lips, her eyes on the floor. She pulled away from him and stopped the music. “Okay,” she said quietly. “I think I’m done dancing.”
Antonio blinked. “What? ¿Por qué? You were doing such an amazing job! Why would you want to stop?”
“. . .Because I just didn’t wanna dance anymore.”
He shook his head. “You are the weirdest person I’ve ever met.”
She glared at him. “¡¿Por qué no te callas?!”
Antonio looked at her, his eyebrows raised high on his forehead. He stepped toward her and gently took her forearm. “That wasn’t very nice, you know. . .”
She didn’t answer.
He sighed. “Look, cariño. . .How about we just call it a day and go home, sí?”
_____ nodded slowly. “Okay. . .”
The two left the dance room a few minutes later and were walking down the hall when they heard a noise. _____ turned her head in the direction of the noise, and she soon realized that it was the faint sound of a piano. The sound seemed to bounce off the walls, and she turned to Antonio and asked, “Where’s that coming from?”
The Spaniard smiled, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the hall to a doorway. The door was cracked open, and _____ could easily see a man seated at a grand piano, his back to the door. He was playing so passionately and beautifully that she couldn’t help but smile. Beside him on the bench sat a young woman with long, light brown hair that fell wavily down to her lower back.
“That’s Roderich Edelstein and his wife Elizabeta,” whispered Antonio. “You didn’t meet them at the conference because they were off teaching.”
“Teaching?” _____ whispered back.
He nodded. “They’re interns for a local music director. Well, Roderich is. Lizzy just kind of follows him around everywhere.”
“Mm.” _____ leaned closer toward the door, trying to hear better, but she lost her balance and fell to the floor, pushing the door wide open.
Roderich heard the noise and stopped playing, and he and Elizabeta turned around to look at _____ sprawled painfully across the hard floor and Antonio standing awkwardly in the doorway. Elizabeta immediately knelt down and helped _____ up.
Roderich blinked at her. “Antonio, who is this?”
“¡Ah, sí!” Antonio put his hand on _____’s shoulder. “This is _____ _____. She’s a friend of Alfred’s who came to visit for the summer.”
He furrowed his brows in bewilderment, then sighed. “So why were you two standing outside my door?”
“Uh,” started _____ nervously, “well, we were just down the hall a little while ago, and then I heard you playing the piano and I just. . .wanted to listen.”
Roderich nodded slowly in understanding, then smiled at her. “Well, why didn’t you just ask? Anyone is welcome who is willing to listen.” He held out his hand. “I am Roderich Edelstein. A pleasure.”
_____ shook his hand.
“And I am Elizabeta, his wife.” She also held out her hand. “It’s wonderful to meet you. Alfred talks of you often.”
_____ felt her face heating up as she shook Elizabeta’s hand. “H-He does?”
“Igen. He does. He tells us all of the things you two used to do when you were little. Oh, the stories he told!”
“Is that so?” A large blush covered her face, and she held her hand over her mouth as she remembered some rather embarrassing events between her and Alfred that she would prefer not to tell.
Antonio sensed _____’s embarrassment and said, “Oh, yeah. We gotta go now. We’ll see you guys later, okay?”
“Alright.” Elizabeta beamed at them. “It was very nice to meet you, _____!”
_____ nodded. “Nice to meet you, too.” She and Antonio turned and left the room, walking a little ways down the hall until they reached the main doors. They went outside and, with _____’s consent, headed for the mess hall.
“Yo, guys! I’m back!”
_____ stepped into the house, Antonio on her heels. They walked through the living room, saying hi to Kiku, Feliciano, and Lovino as they passed by, and went upstairs to Gilbert’s room. The albino was sitting up in his bed talking to his brother, and he looked up at them and smiled tiredly. “Servus, ihr beiden.”
_____ smiled apologetically at him. “Hey, Gil. How’re you feeling?”
He shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I haven’t thrown up in an hour, so that’s good.”
She nodded, then looked at Ludwig. “He do okay while I was gone?”
“He threw up twice und had three major coughing fits,” stated the German.
“Mm. So he did okay.”
A hint of conviction crossed Ludwig’s face for a split-second, and then it was gone. _____ took it as a sign that he was totally unprepared for the kind of sickness that overcame his brother, and she patted him on the back, leaning over and whispering into his ear, “Thanks, Luddy.”
A small smile tugged at Ludwig’s lips, and he stood up from his seat and left the room. _____ smiled and gave Gilbert a quick hug before walking out herself. She spotted him at the top of the stairs. “Hey, Lud.”
Ludwig turned when he heard his name called.
She smiled at him. “Thank you. It really was nice of you to take care of Gil while I was out.”
He nodded, unsure of how to respond. “Ja. You’re welcome.”
“What’s the matter, Luddy?”
He looked at her. “What? Nothing.”
“Well if you ask me,” said _____, “it kinda looks like you don’t think you did anything––what’s the word––worthwhile?”
Ludwig sighed. “I didn’t.” He lowered his head to look at the floor. “Mein bruder is sick. Very sick. Und I have no idea how to take care of him. He is in pain, und I don’t even know how to comfort him.”
_____ paused, then smiled gently and patted his shoulder. “Hey. He was sitting up. He was smiling. He’s probably cracking jokes with Toni right now. He’s sick, yeah, but he’s still managing to smile.” Without warning, she wrapped her arms around the German, causing him to go stiff. “Thank you, Luddy. You did good.”
Ludwig relaxed, lifting his hand and patting _____’s head. “Thank you. When I’m taking care of him, there isn’t someone to tell me if I’m doing it right. Danke, _____, for telling me that.”
She smiled up at him. “You’re welcome, Luddy.” She released him and descended the stairs.