For the first time since Thursday, I left the house not wearing high heels. Commencement meant everyone looked all put together on campus, quite contrary to Ann Arbor's usually hippie style. I had gladly blended into the well-dressed crowd.
But now, graduation was done, and it was back to flip flops for the walk to the studio. My other reason for looking perpetually on point this weekend was that my unofficial rival was in town. CJ's maybe ex-girlfriend Sarah should have left town earlier today, so yoga pants and a sweatshirt was all I donned for my walk to ballroom.
I had just recounted to Alyssa on the phone how my gossip-loving roommate Elizabeth had spotted CJ and Sarah holding hands after commencement. My minion had immediately texted me this development from across the Big House. I wasn't pleased by the news, but I was pleased that I had a minion to report the latest drama to me. I had become the Michigan version of Blair Waldorf.
Alyssa was continuing her latest tale of roommate drama when I ascended the stairs leading to our loft studio. I smiled at Alex, who was sitting at the end chair facing the stairs before turning the corner to the hallway that was used as a lobby. I glanced around for Joey, but instead say a sheet of unfamiliar black hair.
The black hair could only be one person: unfamiliar to the studio, she was familiar to me.
It was Sarah.
Phone pressed firmly to my ear, I blew past the dark haired figure to turn the corner to the changing room. Like a seasoned vet, I flipped on the lights and dropped my bag.
Like someone who wasn't a seasoned vet at dealing with girls who may hate my guts because I momentarily stole their boyfriends, I threw my hair over my shoulder, held my chin high, pressed my phone to my ear, and flew back down the hallway. My pace was just fast enough to indicate I had more important things to attend to than hang out waiting for my partner, but slow enough to not show intimidation.
My heart was pounding out of my chest as I bolted back down the stairs to continue my phone conversation outside until Joey got there.
I could have sworn CJ told me she was leaving Monday. This was completely unexpected, and I had no clue how to handle it. For someone usually good with words, I didn't have the slightest clue what to say to Sarah.
Fifteen minutes later, I hadn't seen Joey. Had I missed him during my brief run into the studio? For the sake of not looking like I had surrendered my practice space to Sarah and to actually practice if Joey was there, I tossed the door open again.
Midway up the stairs, CJ walked from the front studio. Upon hearing my voice talking on the phone, he turned and gave me a quick wave. In that split second, I saw an apology in his eyes.
CJ was still wearing cargo shorts. CJ had been at the studio for at least fifteen minutes and hadn't changed into dance pants? Something was wrong.
And I knew that something was me.
"Is Joey here?" I asked to the lobby at large. Everyone's head turned toward me, and Sarah wasn't in sight.
"No," Alex responded over the music.
"Thanks!" I said peppily and turned on my heel, "Ok, we're good Alyssa," I chirped into my phone, hopping back down the stairs again.
I paced the block until Joey got there.
"Sarah's here," I said in lieu of a greeting.
"What?" Joey's eyes lit up in shock.
"I'm still shaking," and I described our encounter a half hour previous, "So this might be a little awkward, I don't know what kind of a trap I'm walking into, and I'm not even wearing a kick-ass outfit!"
"Oh shut up, you can kick anyone's ass in anything."
Eyes peeled for a flash of black hair, I walked into the studio a third time and changed into my purple standard skirt as fast a humanly possible. God forbid Sarah walk into the changing room when I was in my underwear. I pulled down my grew cami to show the most of the illusion of cleavage created by my push up bra. I was ready.
And by ready, I mean I screamed across the studio for another minion, "Alex!" I hissed loudly into the main studio.
Alex scampered over from where he was helping a newbie.
"Am I loosing my mind, or was that Sarah?"
"Oh my God," Alex pushed his hair back in his characteristic way, "I didn't get a chance to warn you when you walked in. It was her."
"Damn," I hissed under my breath.
"I saw you do a double take when you got in," Alex noted, "They're in the front studio so you're safe in here."
"At least I get the biggest of the three studios," I shrugged and Joey joined me.
It took a solid twenty minutes of quickstep for my heart to return to a normal pace and my hands to stop shaking. Dancing in a billowing skirt with my long hair being thrown about with every turn gave me a much needed boost of confidence. It also helped that the last time Sarah had seen me dance, I sucked considerably more than I did now, so if she caught sight of me in the mirror, not only would I be looking glam, my dancing was clearly better too.
An hour had soon passed without sight of CJ or Sarah, and at the next opportunity, I beckoned my minion to my side, "Are they still here?"
"They left," Alex reported, "I saw CJ leave a little bit ago on his phone, and Sarah wasn't with him. I assume Sarah got mad that you were here and left and CJ had to go do damage control."
A dark smile stretched across my glossy lips, "Well look who got to practice tonight: me."
"You've got an evil look going on," Joey noted as Alex went back to practice.
"The North is my territory, this is my studio, and I'm not going to let some bitch from the East take my practice space."
"You are a queen," Joey smiled.
"I just stand my ground and she self-destructs," I smirked, "She left the studio and I'm still here, therefore I win this round."
"King and Queen in the North," Joey high-fived me, invoking our old Game of Thrones inspired nicknames.
I almost reached to adjust my invisible crown.