Chris and Erik continued rehearsing during scheduled times in the mornings, and before he knew it, the premiere was fast approaching. Though nothing further was found in his locker since he reported the threatening drawing to Nathan, fear continued to haunt him.
One day, when Erik moved to change the music, Chris tried to push back thoughts of the threatening letter and sketch. He’d heard Beau bragging about the Odetto costume, that he looked perfect in it. Any day, Chris could receive the heartbreaking news that he was being replaced. It was entirely possible that Beau, not Erik, was trying to scare him away.
“Erik,” Chris spoke up, unable to contain his inner turmoil. “Do you wish that...well, do you regret picking me?”
Erik looked at him with surprise from where he stood, his finger hovering over the play button. “Hm?”
Chris failed to mask his troubled expression and sighed. “It just seems like you and Beau have worked together for over a decade, and you two are in sync, and…” Chris trailed off as his mind conjured the dead Odetto drawing.
“It is true,” Erik said. “But I chose you to dance the pas de deux with me. Do you doubt me so much?”
“No, not you. It’s more that I—”
“You doubt yourself.” Erik clucked his tongue. “Ah, what do I do about your insecurity, Harper? That is something I cannot teach.”
Chris’s mood sank further. Erik was right. How was he supposed to let go of his worrying?
“Have you ever heard me trying to replace you?” Erik asked.
“Have I ever told you I wanted you out?”
Erik nodded matter-of-factly. “You see. Your worries are not real.”
“But you act so unhappy around me,” Chris said, accusation unintentionally seeping into his voice.
“You have nothing to do with my cloudiness. Now, Harper, you had better start paying attention, or I will start getting ideas about replacement.”
Chris tensed as Erik played their song and they began the entrée, the first portion of the pas de deux. On a positive note, he had to admit their dance flowed much more effortlessly with the reversed roles. Ledo had an alluring aura—an air of tragedy and drama that Erik seemed to naturally convey with ease.
“You are doing well,” Erik said after they finished the fifth round of Odetto and Ledo’s Finale. “You are not nailing the 32 fouettés, but we can reduce the amount of spins.”
Chris wiped his sweat with a towel. In truth, he wasn’t certain he could master it in five more days. “Thank you.” He dabbed at his sweat again. “How are you feeling about the premiere next week?”
“I do not know. My mind is a fog about this now, to be truthful.”
“Not because of you,” Erik said. “But why do you act so…strange?”
Chris tensed. “What do you mean?” Had he caught on to his inappropriate staring? Had his eyes lingered on him too long, too often?
“By that I mean…you hide yourself. You are very skilled, yet, somehow, you have not moved up in your career.”
Chris eyed Erik cautiously. “Because…” He paused. He had no reason to get personal with Erik. “I don’t know.”
“It bothers me,” Erik said. “Because you know what you hide. You showed it when you first danced as Odetto and when you were dancing by yourself to that music a couple weeks ago. Remember? It was a song with guitars.”
Chris nodded, recalling.
“You seemed very relaxed, powerful, and also passionate. I would like to see that more.”
“Oh.” Chris thought about it. “Yeah, I can try.”
“You do not need to feel guilt for shining,” Erik went on. “It is hard, I know. I made a promise not to feel guilty at a young age, since…” He trailed off, something slightly vulnerable in his tone that had nothing to do with language difficulties. A hint of sadness. “Anyhow, I think you will do fine for the premiere.”
Chris blinked, realizing for the first time how much effort Erik was putting into connecting with him and training him, despite their cultural barrier and rivalry. He’d been so focused on Erik being against him, that he’d missed all his other positive offerings.
“Thank you, Erik,” he said.
Erik smiled the slightest bit and Chris was hit with drunken sway. Despite reason, he contemplated asking him out for a drink, to break the ice and mend things between them. Yet, Erik’s solitary vibe still intimidated him. He always went off on his own during breaks. He never talked of anything outside of Swan Song during their time together. Chris struggled.
Ask him out for an innocent drink? Or maybe not innocent drink?
“Erik,” Chris began. “I was wondering…”
Erik gave him his blank stare—the kind of stare that made him feel like a piece of furniture in the room, his smile gone. Chris furrowed his brow. “Er, nothing. Have a good night, Erik.”
Erik lingered by the door. “Harper…”
By the time Chris turned to him, Erik was already halfway out the door. “I will see you tomorrow. Au revoir.”
He made au revoir sound like a question—something someone said before disappearing into a glimmer of gold dust.
“You can call me Chris,” Chris said, though Erik was already gone and the doorway was empty.