Broken Dancer

A lot of things left Diane’s life that July afternoon on that stretch of Highway 58.  Gone were the days of dancing with Jack, the fancy dresses, sheer stockings and high heels she loved wearing, and the short shorts in summer.  Gone were the whistles of the construction workers who danced a ballet with crane cables and naked chests on the skeleton of the new building going up next to her office.  They had been there every morning when she walked past from the parking lot to the lobby.  Now it wouldn’t matter if they were there to jeer and invite her to join them.  She wouldn’t be walking down that street ever again, not after the firemen had cut her out of the crumpled pile of steel and plastic that had been her car and the paramedics had whisked her broken body off to the hospital.

The orthopedic surgeon had screwed her leg bones back together with stainless steel and titanium, and after a four weeks and lots of drugs, most of the pain went away.  She was able to feel the little needle-sharp wheel that Dr. Moresby kept running up and down her thigh and calf, and with some pain and effort, Diane could wiggle her toes.

“With a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to walk again”, explained Dr. Moresby.  He smiled.  “You know, you’re a very lucky girl.  Not so long ago, you’d have lost both legs.”

Lucky?  Was it luck that blew out the tire?  Was it luck that turned the car through the guardrail and down the embankment?  These questions scratched at Diane’s mind, ploughed through her reason and logic, and planted the seeds of despair.  That despair grew into self-pity and then into hatred of everyone and everything around her.  She hated the women visitors who walked around on their perfectly smooth, nylon-clad legs.  She hated the nurses who walked quickly without any obvious effort down the hall.  She hated Dr. Moresby for standing straight while he congratulated her on being only a cripple.  

The strongest hatred, and one that scared her when it came, was for the paramedics.  Why hadn’t they just let her die?  Dying would be better than what lay ahead of her.  Diane didn’t want to live out her life bound to a wheel chair, but that was her future.  Even though Dr. Moresby said her bones were starting to heal, when she moved her legs she thought she felt movement that meant they weren’t.

Since she wasn’t really sick, they transferred her to a convalescent care facility that worked as an adjunct to the hospital.  After she’d arrived and been given a room of her own, she’d met with the doctor assigned to her case.  Doctor Williams had restated what Dr. Moresby had told her.  Because she was only twenty-three, her bones would heal quickly, but she wouldn’t be using them to carry her weight for at least another six weeks.  The nurses would help her get to the bathroom and would take her to meals in a wheelchair.  A physical therapist would work with her every day to strengthen her muscles and help alleviate pain.

Dr. Williams explained.

“I’ve recommended a therapist to work with you.  Rich Harris has worked with cases like yours before and he’s had great success.  What he’ll be doing first is keeping your legs from losing muscle tone until you start walking again.  Rich also knows how to reduce the pain you’re feeling.

“Once you’ve healed enough, he’ll start you out with a walker.  After that, he’ll give you some crutches.  Once we get you to that point, there’s no reason you can’t go home.  It’ll take more therapy to graduate you to a cane and then to moving on your own, but Rich can explain all that to you.”

Diane had listened and nodded her head, but inside, she was ashamed and enraged.  There she was, twenty-three years old, and living in what amounted to a nursing home.  Most of the other residents were in their sixties or older, and through the open door to her room, she could see them moving slowly down the hall with their walkers or canes.

Diane knew she’d never even make it to a walker.  Just moving caused her pain and the drugs weren’t helping that much.  Trying to walk would be more painful than she’d be able to endure.  Jack would never want a partner in that shape.

Jack had tried his best.  She knew that.  He had been at the hospital every day  and then at the convalescent center for the first month.  Then his visits came every other day.  After the second month, he called to say he would be very busy with a different job, but would come as often as he could.  He hadn’t called again for three weeks.  Diane wasn’t surprised, really.  Who could expect any man to stay with a woman trapped in a wheel chair?

That morning in November, one of the floor nurses wheeled Diane down the hall to a door with “Physical Therapy 6” painted on the outside.  Inside, it looked about like the room in her high school where the jocks worked out.  There were weight machines, exercise bikes, parallel bars, and mats on the floor.  The nurse locked the wheels of the wheelchair and said something about being back for her in about an hour.  

The big clock on the wall slowly ticked away a little more of her life this morning, and the occasional pigeon stopped to peer in the windows.  Diane pulled the hospital gown to her waist and stared at her legs.  The once smooth, slender legs rounded by firm muscle had become thinner and lined with pink scars that mapped the path of Dr. Moresby’s scalpel. They were horrible and those scars would be there for the rest of her life, reminding her that her legs were still fragile.  

Diane traced one on the inside of her left thigh until her finger touched the cotton of her panties, and frowned.  Soft downy hair that matched the mane of light caramel on her head now covered her scarred limbs.  Diane had not thought of shaving until that moment, and sighed at the thought that this was another thing she probably wouldn’t have to do ever again.  Why should she shave when no man would want to touch her?

“You wanna put that down so we can get started?”

Diane started at the man’s voice behind her.  She had been so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn’t heard the door open.  With one quick motion, the gown again lay draped over her legs.  A warm flush covered her face and chest.

“Don’t be embarassed.  You can look at yourself whenever you want, I guess.  I’m just not used to having my patients flash me.”

“I wasn’t flashing you.”

He grinned at Diane.

“I know you weren’t.  It was just a little joke.  You know about jokes, don’t you?”

Diane looked at his grinning face and hated him for that grin just as she hated that grin on the other people at the convalescent center.  Her voice was angry, but didn’t begin to reflect the anger in her mind.

“Yeah, I remember jokes.  There’s the joke about me walking again, for one.”

Rich looked at the young girl for a moment and though he was still smiling, his thoughts were of both pity and determination.  She’d been a beautiful young woman, still was even with the scars on her legs.  Those would eventually almost disappear, but the scars in her mind would be there forever unless he could convince her she was still the same woman as before the accident.  He’d have to do that in order to get her walking again.

He’d read the doctor’s report on her condition.  Diane had suffered a broken left femur, multiple fractures of her right tibia and fibia, and two broken ribs.  Her femur was now held together by a titanium rod screwed inside the bone and titanium plates now held her tibia and fibia in place.  The two broken ribs had been left to heal on their own.  Doing anything to support them would probably have resulted in pneumonia or other respiratory disease.

A careful look at her latest X-rays that morning had told him the bones were well on their way to knitting back together. Her chart said she was still feeling pain, but there was no reason for that.  All the incisions had healed and her bones were held firmly in place by metal plates and screws.  The pain must be in her mind, her mind’s way of confirming the thought that she’d never walk again.  Doctor Moresby had come to the same conclusion and was only prescribing aspirin for that pain instead of anything stronger.

She wasn’t yet healed enough to take her full weight on those legs, but she was healed enough to start using a walker if she’d help him maintain some strength in her legs. The tone of her voice told him she wasn’t ready to do that yet.

Rich had no doubts she was capable of walking again.  He’d worked with patients with more serious injuries and they walked again, but those patients had the determination to keep going even when it hurt.  He didn’t yet know how he’d build that determination in Diane, but he knew he’d find a way.  That was what he did with people – flirt, cajole, tease, or taunt them until they were ready to try, and then praise them for each little step they took towards recovery.  The rest was easy.  It was just a matter of strengthening muscles and re-teaching muscle control.

He smiled at Diane.

“You know, I’m working with a woman who’s seventy six.  She broke her hip about the same time as your car accident and yesterday she took the first steps with a walker.  You can be doing just as well or better if you’d just try.  Surely there’s something you’d like to do again if you could learn to walk.”

Diane frowned.

“There’s not much chance of me doing that ever again.  Even if I could get out of this wheelchair, which you and I both know I won’t, I’d never be fast enough or graceful enough.”

Rich arched his eyebrows.

“Ahhh, so there was something you liked to do.  What was that?”

“It doesn’t make any difference now, now does it?  I’m always going to be a cripple.’

Rich grinned.

“Well, you’re probably never going to win a triathlon or make it to the Olympics in gymnastics, but I doubt those things are what you wanted to do.  Tell me.  Maybe I can help.”

A tear rolled down Diane’s cheek as she thought of how her lifelong dream had evaporated when her car crashed through the guardrail.  First it was dance classes when she was five.  When she was ten, her mother had taken her to ballroom lessons and she had fallen in love with the dances and the music.  Diane felt she had found her niche in life.

Her first competition was when she was twelve.  Her partner wasn’t a very good dancer so they didn’t win, but Diane didn’t care.  She felt so feminine and grown up in the long dress and high heeled dance shoes.  The heels weren’t very high, but they were still high heels just like a grown-up woman would wear.

By the time she was in college, she was competing with Jack at least once a month and her instructor said they had a good chance of at least placing in the US competition circuit.  They did just that a week before her twenty-first birthday and had begun winning competitions shortly after that.

Diane had been on her way to a practice session with Jack when the accident happened.  The next competition was only a week away and they were still working on a new routine.  The choreographer said they’d knock the socks off all the judges.  Now the only thing without socks were her feet.

Diane looked up at Rich.  He was still smiling and had a questioning look on his face.  Diane’s sorrow changed to fury.  Rich wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly understand how she felt.  He’d just smile and like Doctor Moresby, he’d tell her she was a very lucky girl to still be alive.  Diane wasn’t really alive, or at least she didn’t feel alive.  She felt like she was just going through the motions of eating and sleeping because her body wanted to survive more than her mind did.

Her voice was bitter.

“You can’t help.  Why would you think you could?”

Rich held up his hands.

“Hey, if you want to wallow in self pity, that’s your business, but if I don’t know, I sure as hell can’t help.  You might at least give me the courtesy of telling me so I can tell you I can’t do much about it.  You’ll have confirmed your thoughts, and I’ll feel like I tried to help.  We’ll both win.”

He was smiling again, and in a sudden burst of rage, Diane told him.

“I was a dancer, a damn good dancer and I was going to be one of the best.  That’s all gone now.  You can’t do anything about it, so stop trying.”

Rich frowned.

“So that’s it?  You thought you’d make it to Blackpool and now you think you can’t?  Maybe you were that good, but I doubt it.  Those dancers are the best few out of several million dancers from all over the world.  What makes you think you were that good?”

Diane drew herself up in the wheel chair and pushed out her chest.  

“My instructor said I was.  How do you know about Blackpool and what makes you so smart you can judge me?”

Rich grinned.  Maybe he’d found the reason for Diane to work at getting better.  He just had to convince her she could probably dance again.

“Well, believe it or not, inside this dashing, handsome, physical therapist is a ballroom dancer too.  I know about Blackpool because I went there for the last competition.  No, I didn’t compete.  I’m nowhere that good, but watching was fantastic.”

“You went to Blackpool?”

“Sure did.  Got there the day before the competition started and stayed until the last dancer left the floor.  As for the part about judging you, I wasn’t.  I was just saying the dancers at Blackpool are the very best in the world and it would be a bit unusual for you to be that good.”

“How would you know if you’ve never seen me dance?”

“I don’t.  You’ll have to show me sometime before I can say one way of the other.”

Diane frowned again.

“There’s not much chance of that happening, now is there?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  To be honest with you, no, you’ll probably never dance as good as the professionals at Blackpool, but also to be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with them.”

Rich smiled to himself.  Diane was still feeling sorry for herself, but at least her eyes were shining and she was interested.  Her voice was more questioning than enraged as well.

“How could you not be impressed?”

“Well, to me, dancing is something I enjoy doing because I can dance to what I feel the music doing.  The professionals with their choreographed routines don’t usually dance anything recognizable as the dance they’re doing.  It’s more about dance a few steps and then pose, dance a few more steps and pose again.  With some of the routines, I got the feeling it wouldn’t have mattered what music was playing.  They’d have just danced the same routine with the same steps and the same poses.

“I liked the young kids in the rising star competitions a lot more.  At least I could see waltz patterns when they did a waltz and cha cha patterns when they did a cha cha.  The older folks dancing between the competitions were pretty neat too.  I hope when I’m in my seventies I can dance as well as some of them did.  I’m thirty, so I guess I have a few years left to practice.”

Rich caught the hint of a smile on Diane’s face.  It was just a twitch of her lips,  but it was there.

“So, tell me Diane, did you dance a routine or did you just dance?”

“For competition, we danced a routine, but I like just dancing too.  We were practicing so much, I didn’t get to do much social dancing.”

“Who is ‘we’?  You had a full time partner?”

“Yes, Jack was my partner.”

“And where is Jack now?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t seen or heard from him since a month after I got here.”

Rich frowned.

“Doesn’t seem like he was much of a partner.”

Rich saw tears again when Diane answered.

“Well, what would you expect him to do?  He has a whole dance career ahead of him.  He couldn’t hang around waiting for me to heal, because I won’t.  He’d have to find another partner.”

“Well, still, you’d think he’d stay in touch.  Those tears tell me you wish he had.  I would have.”

Diane sniffed.

“You’re not a real dancer though.  You’re just a guy who likes to dance.”

“That’s true.  I’m not a professional, but even if I was, I wouldn’t walk away from my partner just because she got hurt.  I might find another partner, but I’d stay in touch and try to help her get well again.  That’s what a good partner would do, well, unless he didn’t feel anything for you except that you were a good match for him.  If that was the case, you’re better off without such an ass.”

Diane had fire in her eyes when she spoke.

“He wasn’t an ass.  He was just interested in his own career.”

“More interested in his career than in you?”

Diane didn’t answer quickly, and Rich could see she was thinking.  Finally, she looked up at him.

“I…I guess so.”

Rich grinned.

“Wouldn’t you like to show him what he gave up?”

“How would I do that?”

Rich shrugged.

“Dancing again would be a good start.”

“I can’t do that and you know it.”

Rich’s face was firm.

“Diane, if that’s what you really believe and want, that’s what will happen.  You’ll spend the rest of your life sitting in that wheelchair and mad at the world because you can’t do what you want to do.  If you’ll give me a little effort, I’ll be able to help you dance again.”

The nurse opened the door then, but Rich held up his hand and the nurse closed it again.  He looked back at Diane.

“Diane, you might not win Blackpool, but if you want to, you’ll be dancing again and you’ll feel good doing it.  We’re out of time today, but you think about it before you come back, OK?  I’d kind of like dancing with you, that is if you can lower your standards enough to dance with a guy who just likes to dance.”

That night as she lay in bed trying to fall asleep, Rich’s words came back to her.

“If that’s what you really believe and want…”

Diane knew she believed she’d never heal enough to dance again, but was that what she really wanted?  Did she want to just watch other dancers and remember how it had been before?  Could she ever even watch another couple dancing without breaking into tears?

The tears streaming down her cheeks told Diane she couldn’t ever be content to just watch.  The thrill of being on the dance floor and knowing other people were watching her every move came back to her then.  Most dancers, even beginning dancers, knew how difficult it was to make the dance look as fluid and easy and she could.  Their applause after a dance and sometimes during had caused a thrill nothing could ever replace.  If only she could have that back, if time could just reverse itself and she’d never plunged through that guardrail.  But time couldn’t reverse itself, and she was doomed to always be a watcher and  remember what might have been.  

What if Rich was right and she could dance again?  Of course, he wasn’t right, but what if he was?  He seemed to believe she could really learn to walk again and would then be able to dance.  

The more Diane thought about it, Rich was acting like the choreographer she and Jack had used.  When he’d introduced a new pattern to their routine, a very difficult pattern, Diane had at first doubted her ability to do it.  The choreographer had then broken down the pattern into small steps and walked them through it.  The pattern was still difficult, but knowing the small steps and how to do them correctly soon made it doable.  After that, it was only practice that polished the new footwork into the smooth execution of the moves.

Rich seemed to be much the same.  He’d told Diane that first she needed to gain back the strength in her legs.  After that, she’d progress to a walker, then to crutches, and finally, to holding her weight on both legs.  He was breaking her recovery into steps, just like the choreographer.  The steps weren’t very small, but they didn’t go immediately from a wheelchair to walking.  Maybe he was like the choreographer and knew how to do what he was telling Diane to do.

At nine the next morning, a nurse wheeled Diane back to Physical Therapy 6 and left her alone in the room.  Rich walked in a couple minutes later.

“Sorry I’m a little late, but I was watching a video about rumba.  I always thought rumba was an easy dance to learn, but watching that couple showed me all I learned was the basic step and a couple of simple patterns.  I couldn’t believe how sensuous and seductive the follower was.  It was like she was trying to convince her partner to…well, you know what I mean since you’re a dancer.”

“Was”, said Diane.  “I was a dancer.”

“But you still know what I mean, don’t you?  I mean, her hips were like they had a life all their own.”

“She wasn’t moving her hips”, said Diane.  “She was using her knees to make them look that way.  It’s called Cuban motion.”

Rich stroked his chin.

“Cuban motion, huh?  I seem to remember my instructor saying something about that, but I’m not sure I really caught on to what he was saying.  Does it look like this?”

Rich stepped forward with his left foot, then brought his right about a shoulder’s width away and parallel with his left, then closed his left foot to his right.  Diane chuckled.

“Well, that’s the first half of the rumba basic, but it was pretty stiff.  You need to loosen up a lot.”

Rich smiled, partly because Diane didn’t sound mad and partly because he thought maybe his plan would work.

“What does that mean, ‘loosen up’?”

“It means you look like your knees don’t work and you’re just stiff-legging it.  You need to use your knees to make your hips move like they’re supposed to.”

Rich faked a frown.

“That’s what my instructor kept saying.  Maybe you could show me what you…oh…I forgot.  You won’t try to stand up, will you?  That’s a real shame.  It’d be a real thrill to dance with a professional one of these days.”

Rich had been watching Diane’s face while he talked, and thought he saw her frown change when he said he’d like to dance with her.  Her question confirmed that she was thinking about what he’d said.

“Are you just saying that to get me to try, or do you really mean it?”

Rich scratched his head.

“Well, both I suppose, but I really would like to dance with you.”

“Do you really think I could dance again?”

Rich leaned forward and put his hand on Diane’s.

“Diane, I can’t promise you’ll be a great dancer again, but I’ve worked with a lot of people over the last five years who were in worse shape than you.  They learned to walk again well enough they didn’t show any signs of being injured.  If you can do that, you should be able to dance.  As my instructor once said, dancing is just walking to music.  What I can promise is to do everything I can to help you if you’ll help yourself.”

Diane felt a tear stream down her cheek.  She wiped it away and then looked at Rich.  For the first time, Rich saw a glimmer of hope in her eyes.

“What would I have to do?”

Over the next two weeks, Rich worked with Diane to put some strength back into her legs.  At first, the exercises were just trying to lift her legs.  It hurt Diane to try that, but Rich helped her at first by lifting some of the weight.  He also worked on returning flexibility to her legs by bending them at the ankle, knee, and hip.  These exercises caused some pain as well, at first, but as she gained a little muscle strength and flexibility, Diane felt something else.

She and Jack had never been intimate, and though he’d touched her in a lot of places, those touches didn’t cause her to have any feelings about them other than trying to follow his lead.  With Rich, it was different.

Rich would hold her ankle with one hand and her thigh just above the knee with his other and then push them together to stretch the muscles.  The muscles stretched, but Diane was more aware of Rich’s hands.  His touch was gentle, like she imagined a lover’s touch would be, and he didn’t force her to bend her knee.  He just helped her do so.

As she progressed, Rich would often run his hands over her legs to check for muscle tone.  He was as professional about doing that as the doctors who had examined her before, but to Diane, Rich’s touch made her tingle.  She didn’t know if it was because her legs were bare or if it was because Rich was so gentle, but once the pain diminished she began to feel those tingles every time he touched her.

As her muscles regained strength, the shape of her legs began to return.  Diane was pleased at that.  The scars were still there, but not quite as pink as before, and the sensuous curves she’d once cased in nylon showed her she was really getting better, just like Rich said she would.  

On the third week, Rich started feeling her calf muscles, but then looked at Diane  and chuckled.

“You’ve been busy, haven’t you?’

Diane grinned.

“You mean because I’m not all hairy?  I asked the nurse for a razor and shaved when I took my bath.  I didn’t like being all hairy.”

Rich grinned back.

“If I wasn’t your therapist, I’d say you have some great legs there.”

Diane felt a thrill a little like when she’d danced.  She didn’t think Rich cared about anything except her leg muscles, but he must be a regular man if he thought that.

“It’s OK, you can say that.  It was nice that you noticed.”

Rich had noticed.  He’d been noticing her legs as well as the rest of Diane for the past several weeks.  He’d had to try hard to remain professional, but there was really no option.  Doing anything else would have posed the threat to the convalescent home of a lawsuit, and to him, probable loss of his license and maybe even jail time.  Rich decided that, based on her saying she hoped he’d noticed, a small compliment probably wouldn’t be misinterpreted and might help with Diane’s self esteem.

“I always notice if a woman has sexy legs.  I think a lot of other men are going to notice once you’re up and walking around.  I’m also thinking it’s time to get you up and doing just that.  You’re not up to full strength yet, but you’re strong enough to get started with a walker.”

Rich walked to one side of the room and came back pushing a black walker.  He grinned as he positioned the walker in front of Diane.

It doesn’t have racing stripes and it’s not turbo-charged, but it’s the best we have.     Let’s get you up out of that wheelchair.  I locked the brake, so grab the handles and pull yourself up while you push with your legs.”

Diane did try, but she couldn’t get her body in a position that would let her do what Rich asked.  She looked up at him.

“Could you help me, at least until I figure this out?”

“I suppose I can, but you have to push with your legs as well as let me lift you.”

Rich pushed the walker to the side and then positioned himself in front of Diane.

“Put your hands on my shoulders and pull with your arms and push with your legs when I raise back up.”

When Rich straightened up, Diane pulled herself out of the wheel chair. Things hadn’t gone exactly as Rich had planned though.  He’d intended for her to pull herself upright and then stand there while me moved the walker back in front of her.  Instead, she pulled herself against his chest.  Rich felt her breasts pressing into his chest and her cheek against his.

Diane hadn’t intended for that to happen either, but she didn’t want to put any more of her weight on her legs than she had to so she’d pulled up as hard as she could.  When she felt herself pressed tight against Rich she was first embarrassed and then shocked to feel a little tingle race through her body and tighten her core.  She knew she was blushing when she said, “Sorry.  I guess I pulled too hard.”

As gently as he could, he lifted her hands from his shoulders.

“No problem.  You can hold on while I put the walker back in front of you, but just enough to stay balanced, OK?.”

Rich reached to the side and pulled the walker closer, then eased away from Diane and slid it between them.

“OK, Diane, put your hands on the handles and use your arms to hold enough of your weight you can still move your legs.”

Diane did as he asked and was surprised that she didn’t really have to use her arms as much as she’d thought.  She was standing up and holding most of her weight on her legs and it didn’t hurt.

Rich stepped back and grinned.

“You look a lot better standing up than sitting down.”

Diane smiled.

“Thank you, I guess.  What do I do now?”

“Let’s just try to get you used to moving your legs a little.  Remember the rumba basic?  That’s what we’re going to do.”

“You want me to dance?”

“Well, it won’t really be dancing, but the steps will be the same and it’ll get you used to the feel of the walker.  Come on, right foot back a little, then left foot to the side, then close.  Let me see you do that much.”

Diane tentatively stepped back half a step.  It didn’t hurt, so she took the side step and shifted her weight to her left foot, then closed with the right.  She felt a few little twinges as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, but that’s all they were, twinges and not pain.

Rich smiled when she looked up at him.

“See, you can do it.  Now do the second half of the basic.”

Diane stepped forward with her left foot, then to the side with her right, and then closed the left.  She looked up at Rich and smiled.

“I did it.”

“Yes you did.  Was there any pain?”

“No, not really.”

“Great.  Now, just stand there for a minute while I do something.”

Rich walked to a table next to the wall and picked up his cell phone.  A few seconds later, a slow, latin rhythm song began playing.  He came back grinning.

“If I remember right, this is the first song I learned to dance rumba to.  That’s what we’re going to do today.  Just do the basic without moving the walker.  Oh, and take it easy on that Cuban motion thing.  I don’t want you stretching something that hasn’t been stretched in a while.”

The music was a lot slower than she’d usually danced to, but it was about right for Diane’s weakened muscles.  Even as slow as it was, for a few minutes she couldn’t keep up and that frustrated her.

“You don’t have to worry about my Cuban motion.  I’m way too slow even for this.”

“Nah.  You’re doing fine for someone who hasn’t moved much in the last couple of months.  Just keep trying.”

Diane tried a couple more times and then frowned.

“I’m telling my legs to move, but they won’t.”

Rich smiled.

“You’re thinking too much then.  Tell you what we’ll do.  I’ll stand in front of you like we were dancing and put my hand on your back.  You won’t be able to frame up with me, but I can lead quite a bit with just that one hand.  My dance instructor said that’s the hand that does most of the leading anyway.”

Rich slipped his right hand under Diane’s arm.  He couldn’t reach her shoulder because her arm was in the way, so he placed it on the small of her back.

“OK, here we go.”

He waited for the start of a measure and then started the rumba basic step.  As he moved, Diane’s years of dance classes took over and she followed.  Rich smiled to himself at the lines of determination in her face.  She was really trying.  After all the talk that she’d never walk again, she was really trying.

The song lasted another couple of minutes and then because Rich had set up his phone to repeat it, started again.  For the next ten minutes, he stood in front of Diane and led her through the steps of the rumba.  After five minutes, she was a little jerky in her movements, but she was keeping up with the tempo.  By the end of the ten minutes, Diane was moving her body as well as just her legs.  It wasn’t true Cuban motion, but he could imagine how she’d once looked when dancing.  

Diane concentrated on moving her feet for the first few minutes.  After that, she fell into the rhythm of the music and they seemed to move by themselves.  She knew she wasn’t moving gracefully, but she was moving.  Even though she was basically just standing in one spot, it felt good to be feeling the tempo of the music and moving with it.  Maybe Rich had been right all along and someday she would be able to dance again.

Rich stopped moving, slipped his hand from her back, then went to the table and stopped the music.  He was grinning when he came back.

“That’s enough for today, but you did great.  How did it feel?”

Diane smiled, something he’d not seen in all the days he’d worked with her.

“I don’t know.  It felt good to be moving with the music, but it was frustrating to not be able to move more.”

“That’ll come, Diane.  Your body hasn’t been doing much for a long time and it needs to get stronger.  The exercises we did helped, but your muscles have to get strong enough to support all your weight.  Give it some time and we’ll get you there.  Now, let’s get you back into your wheel chair.  Just put your hand on my shoulders like before.”

Diane didn’t know if she was weak from the exercises or what, but after she had one hand on Rich’s shoulder and started to put the other one there, her right leg buckled.  She shrieked and instinctively grabbed for Rich.  She ended up with her arms around his neck.  She felt her breasts pressing into his chest and the walker pressing into her tummy.  

Rich hadn’t expected her to fall, so he wasn’t prepared to catch her like he would any other patient.  Like Diane, his reaction was instinctive.  He caught her under the arms and that pressed her even tighter against his chest.  

For a few moments, neither moved because they were both surprised.  Then, Diane apologized as she moved one hand at a time from Rich’s neck to his shoulders.

“Sorry about that, but I started to fall down.”

“No problem, Diane.  I caught you.  Let me get this walker out of the way and then sit you down.”

After the nurse wheeled Diane back to her room, Rich had another hour before his next patient.  He spent most of that hour thinking about Diane.

She was different than his other patients somehow.  It wasn’t her age.  He’d worked with young people before who had sports injuries or who, like Diane, had been injured in an accident of some sort.  He’d had to catch a few, just like he’d caught Diane, but he’d never before had the feeling he’d had with her.  That bothered him a lot.  He was a professional and a professional would have only felt the satisfaction of helping his patient learn to walk.  He’d felt a lot more than he should have.

What bothered him so much was the way she’d felt pressed tight against his chest.  That was exciting, but wasn’t what caused the feeling.  The feeling was one of wanting her to stay like that, her arms around his neck and her body pressed tight against him.  He’d have to be careful that didn’t happen again or he’d lose the ability to objectively evaluate her progress and decide what to do next.  

He started that just before the nurse took Diane back to her room.  He told her he wouldn’t need to check her for muscle tone again and to start wearing street clothes to their sessions instead of the hospital gowns.  At least if he had to touch her, street clothes would offer a little more material between them than the filmy hospital gowns.

That night as Diane lay in her bed trying to fall asleep, that afternoon came back to her.  She hadn’t intended to fall and she hadn’t intended to end up so close to Rich.  It had all been because of her weak legs, but that didn’t change how she’d felt.  The exercises had brought back memories of dancing with Jack and the fact that she was actually moving had made her feel good about herself.  Having her breasts pressing into Rich’s chest had made her feel something else.  It was a feeling of wanting to be there, snug against his muscles with his arms around her.

I was just excited because I was standing up, and I was thankful he caught me, she told herself, but her mind didn’t believe that.  It didn’t believe when she decided she just had those feelings because Rich was trying so hard to help her.  She finally fell asleep trying to convince her mind that she hadn’t had those feelings at all.

For the next week, Rich had Diane doing the rumba basic standing in one place.  After two days, she was able to get up from the wheelchair by herself and Rich was thankful for that.  If he didn’t have to help her, he didn’t have to touch her, and if he didn’t have to touch her, she became almost just another patient.  The memory of her body against his sometimes changed that, but he shook it off.

After that week, Rich started Diane taking small steps as she pushed the walker along.  For two days she had difficulty coordinating her movements.  Rich knew that was because she hadn’t walked in over two months, but he thought he had a way to help her.  On Wednesday of that week, he watched her struggle to get one foot in front of the other, then stopped her.

“What you need is a way to get everything working together.  Let’s try an idea I had last night.”

Rich picked up his cell phone from the table and tapped the screen twice.  The music of a slow waltz filled the room.  He turned back to Diane.

“You remember how to waltz?”

“Yes, but I don’t know if I’m fast enough yet.”

“Let me lead you and we’ll see.”

Rich took the same position as he had with the rumba.

“I’ll walk backwards this time.  Ready?”

Her first steps were faltering and Rich had to hold Diane up a little, but she soon found the rhythm and began walking.  She was stiff and she was slow, but she was following him down the floor of the room.  When then reached the wall, Rich guided Diane to turn the walker around and started back.

Diane felt the music stir her muscles into the familiar steps of the waltz, and after a dozen of those steps was thrilled to be moving in time with the music.  After two laps of the room, she was keeping up with the music.  It was a very slow waltz, slower than any she’d ever danced to, but she was keeping up and it felt almost like she was really dancing with Rich.  The slight pressure on the small of her back kept her moving forward, just like it had when she danced with Jack.  By the end of the session, she was even bending her knees a little on the right counts to move her body up and down.  She knew she wasn’t smooth and she wasn’t graceful, but she was doing it.

After that day, Diane worked hard at learning how to walk again.  After a week, she used the walker to go back and forth between her room and the therapy room.  In another week, Rich surprised her with a pair of crutches.

“You don’t need the walker anymore.  Give these a try.  You’ll be able to get around faster.”

Diane practiced with the crutches by walking up and down the corridors of the convalescent home, and a week later, Rich told her he was releasing her to go home.  She’d still need some help learning how to walk by herself, but she’d only see him once a week instead of every day.

Diane was happy to be back in her apartment.  She could do what she wanted, when she wanted, and not be bound by the schedule of the convalescent home.  She was also lonely.  Jack hadn’t even sent her a card, much less visited or called since that last day he’d come to the convalescent home.  She guessed what Rich had said was right.  Jack was more interested in his dance career than in her.  She spent a lot of time reflecting on that, and shed more than a few tears knowing that while she might dance again one day, she’d never be able to interest another man in partnering with her.  That understanding caused her to feel more alone.

After the first day, Diane realized she wasn’t so much lonely as much as she missed seeing Rich every day.  The bright spot of her week became her trip to the convalescent home to work with Rich.  It was a break in the boring hours of sitting at home and watching television programs or reading a book.  The first week, he started her out walking with the aid of parallel bars that ran along one wall.  She had trouble until he played the same slow waltz on his cell phone.  Then, everything seemed to fall into place.  

When she could keep up with the waltz, Rich played a slow foxtrot and encouraged her into the slow-slow-quick-quick steps of that dance.  It took Diane two more weeks, but after that, she could do those steps by holding on to the parallel bars to maintain her balance, but without using her arms to hold herself up.  Rich gave her a cane at the end of that session and told her she didn’t need the crutches anymore.

“The cane will help you maintain your balance, but you probably won’t need it much.  Try it out this week and let me know next week if you’re having any problems.”

At her session the next week, Rich had her walk across the floor without the cane.  Diane didn’t stumble or seem to have any problems, and Rich congratulated her.

“Diane, I think we’re about done with you.  You have a little bit of a limp, but that’ll go away in a couple of months.  You can keep your cane, but try not to use it.  What you need now is plenty of exercise to get those legs moving like they used to move.”

“What kind of exercise?”

“Walking.   Walk in the park.  Go to the mall and walk laps.  You might also consider going dancing.  You like dancing and it’s great exercise.”

Diane shook her head.

“No, not dancing.  I’d look like a cow on crutches.”

“Well, if you don’t try, you won’t know that, now will you?”

“If I do try, I’ll know it for sure and I don’t want that.  Besides, I don’t know any men who would want to dance with me besides you.”

Rich had thought that after this last session, he’d be able to forget about Diane and get on with his life.  It wasn’t working out that way.  He told himself he couldn’t let her leave thinking she was as recovered as she’d ever be.  As soon as that thought entered his mine, he realized that was just an excuse he was making to himself.  He didn’t want this to be the last time he ever saw her.

It was a crazy thought, he realized.  He was seven years older than Diane and they were as different as night and day. There was only one common thing between them and that might not be enough.  There was only one way to find out, and he might just convince her to keep trying in the process.

“Are you busy this Saturday night?”

“No.  Why?  Are you asking me out?”

“Sort of.  Can I pick you up at your house about six?  I need to show you something.”

Diane didn’t know where he was taking her, and Rich wouldn’t tell her even though she asked.  He just said it was something she needed to do.  Half an hour from her apartment, he turned into the drive of a church.  Diane chuckled.

“You’re taking me to church?  I didn’t think I’d been that bad.”

“Well, it’s a church, but that’s not why we’re here.  They have a basketball court in one of the wings for their youth league.”

“So, we’re going to watch them play basketball?  I’m not really a big sports fan.”

“No, we’re not going to watch a basketball game.  Just be patient and you’ll see why we’re here.”

After they got out of his car, Rich opened the trunk and took out a small cart with a folding handle.  On the cart he put three rectangular boxes with black fabric covers and what looked to Diane like a notebook and another small case.

“OK, I have what I need now.  Let’s go inside.”

When they walked into the building, several people were standing on the basketball court and talking.  They were of all ages from late twenties to two couples who looked to Diane to be over seventy.  Rich said, “Hello folks.  Sorry I’m late but Diane and I got into some traffic on the way over?  Give me a couple of minutes and I’ll be ready.”

Diane watched as Rich took the covers off the two larger boxes.  When she saw the cloth fronts, she realized they were speakers.  The third box was a CD player with an amplifier.  In a pocket on the side of that cover were two long electrical cables.  Rich sat the speakers on the floor on each side of the gym and used the cables to connect them to the CD player.  After plugging the CD player into the outlet on the wall, Rich took a microphone from the small case and inserted the plug into a jack on the CD player.  He turned the switch on and then tapped the microphone to make sure it was working.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  Before we get started, I’d like you to meet Diane.  Diane came along to help me tonight so please make her welcome.  Now, let’s dance.”

Rich flipped a switch on the CD player, and the same rumba song Diane had heard so many times flowed from the speakers.  One by one, couples formed from the group of people and they began dancing.  Rich turned to Diane.

“Well, what do you think?”

Diane frowned.

“They’re terrible dancers.  Is this what you brought me to see?”

“Yes, it is, and yes, they are pretty bad, but they’re enjoying themselves.  It’s what I told you once before.  Dancing is about feeling the music and doing what the music makes you feel like doing.”

“So, how are you connected with them?  Are they former patients?”

“No, well, the man of that older couple is.  He had a hip replacement about a year ago and I worked with him.  The rest are just the dance club I started a few years ago.  We meet on Tuesday nights for lessons and then have a dance every Saturday night.”

Diane chuckled.

“The instructor must not be very good.”

Rich smiled.

“The instructor is me.”

Diane looked at Rich with her mouth hanging open.

“You told me you were just a guy who likes to dance.  You didn’t tell me you taught dancing.”

Rich shrugged.

“Well, I didn’t think I was good enough to tell you I teach too.  I am a guy who likes to dance though, and right now, I’d like to dance with you.”

Diane looked at the floor.

“Rich…I…I can’t dance.”

“Like you said you’d never be able to walk again?”

Diane reluctantly followed Rich onto the gym floor, and when he took her right hand in his left, put her left hand on his right arm and frowned.

“Are you sure you want to do this.  I’ll probably embarrass you.”

Rich smiled.

“More sure than I’ve ever been about anything.”

Diane started following Rich’s lead and was surprised at how much his lead felt like Jack’s.  He wasn’t overpowering and he wasn’t weak.  He just gave her enough pressure to tell her what he wanted her to do.  The first pattern he led her through was one she’d learned in her first dance classes.  The second pattern was more complicated, but she’d done it before in competitions with Jack.  The third she’d never done, but by following Rich’s lead Diane surprised herself by doing it.  

When the music stopped, Diane realized she and Rich were the only couple still dancing.  The rest were standing there on the floor watching them.  As the last note ebbed away from the speakers, the people started to applaud.  

Diane couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Why are they clapping.”

Rich chuckled.

“Because they like the way you dance.”

“But I was awful.”

“No, you weren’t.  You probably aren’t as smooth and graceful yet as you will be, but you’re head and shoulders above all these folks.  You just can’t admit that to yourself for some reason.  That’s why I brought you here, to make you see that.”

Diane didn’t say anything, but she hugged Rich.  After a few seconds, he gently pushed her back.

“Everybody is wondering about you, and I have to go keep the music going.  Come with me.”

Rich picked up the microphone and held Diane’s hand while he spoke.

“Folks, I sort of brought a ringer with me tonight.  Diane’s a professional dancer and she’s my partner for tonight, although she might dance with somebody else if they asked her nicely.  Now, how about a waltz?”

Rich was able to dance with Diane about every other dance.  The men in the club lined up to dance the others with her.  After three hours, Rich took the microphone again.

“Well, folks, that’s about it for tonight.  Thanks for coming and thanks for making Diane feel at home.  I’ll see you again on Tuesday, right here.  We’ll be learning a cha cha pattern that will make you ladies look really sexy.”

As the last couple left the building, Rich turned to Diane.

“Well, still think you can’t dance?”

“No, I guess I can, not as good as before, but I can.  You dance as well as Jack though.  Where did you learn and why aren’t you competing?  You’re good enough you should be.”

Rich shrugged.

“I took a dance class for an elective in college and liked it.  After that, I took another one and then another.  I did end up competing in college competitions, but I really wanted to become a physical therapist.  Once I got my license, I wanted to dance again, but I didn’t have a partner so I started this club.  I dance with most of the women at the dances and they like it.  I’m also keeping the older people moving, so it’s kind of like I’m doing physical therapy as well.”

“Then you were faking it when you showed me the rumba that first time?”

“Well, yeah, but you needed that.  Now, you don’t, so I thought I’d show you there’s a dancer still inside of you.  You just have to let her out.  Did you have fun?  It looked like you did.”

“Yes, well except with that one guy.  He said his name was Harold.  He doesn’t have much of a lead so I had to sort of lead myself.”

“Yeah, I’ve been working with Harold, but it’s hard.  He won’t lead me so I can show him what he’s doing wrong.  He says that would make the others think he was gay.  He really needs to dance with a woman who knows what she’s doing.  Maybe I’ll find one, one of these days.  Would you like a cup of coffee before I take you home?”

Rich dropped Diane off after a cup of coffee and some interesting conversation.  They talked about dancing and about how he thought she was doing great.  Diane tried to say she wasn’t, but he could see her smile when he complimented her on how she’d done.  

That smile made him feel good, too good he thought.  He tried to remind himself that Diane was just a patient he’d helped learn to walk again just like he’d helped many others.  Every time he tried to tell himself that, though, the thought that she was different than the others pushed its way into his mind.  It wasn’t that she was pretty, though she was.  It wasn’t the way he’d seen her concentrate on learning to walk again, though she had once he’d convinced her she could.  No, it was the way she’d felt when he held her as they danced and the way she smiled and…Rich had the same feeling he’d had when he met Ronda, his first wife.

It was just a feeling that he liked having her that close.  Dancing with her, even though they weren’t really all that close, had brought back that feeling.  That feeling became more intense when Diane had hugged him at the end of the first dance.  

It was probably just a hug of thanks, but it had made him think about how much he’d liked having her with him.  If he hadn’t been so much older than Diane, he might have tried to see her again, but she’d never want to be with a man seven years older than she.  Rich showered and went to bed wishing he was in his twenties again but knowing that wasn’t possible.

That night when Diane snuggled into bed, she felt happy, happier than she’d felt in a long, long time.  She’d danced again, not very well in her opinion, but she’d danced.  Most of the men had been easy to follow even though they didn’t have a very strong lead because they only knew simple patterns.  She found she could do those simple patterns easily and had tried to put some of her former grace into doing them.  She’d been better at some than at others, but the men had all complimented her and the women had all asked her how to show them how she made the moves so graceful and sensuous.

Dancing with Rich had been different.  He knew the same simple patterns and had danced them, but he also led her through some she’d only done in competition.  It was hard to make her body do what she wanted in those patterns but she found herself welcoming the challenge.  It was different, though, from when she and Jack had practiced a routine and she worked on each tiny little detail of every move.

Dancing with Jack had been an exercise in concentrating on feeling his lead, positioning her feet properly, and putting in the correct body moves to add sensuality, or sexuality, or grace to a dance as the dance required.  Jack was always ready to criticize her if she made a mistake, and sometimes he got angry with her even though the mistake was his.  Unlike Jack, Rich only smiled when she made a mistake and complimented her when she did something right.  Dancing with Rich had been relaxed and…she smiled…it had been fun.

As Diane thought a little more though, she realized dancing with Rich wasn’t the real reason she felt so good.  The real reason was that she felt happy just because she’d been with Rich.  Maybe it was because they’d been together so much over the past several months, or maybe she felt something for him, or maybe it was because he seemed to be the only one who cared about her.  Diane didn’t know, but she did know she felt more for him than she had for any other man she knew.  She had to see him at least one more time to find out.  

Diane went back to work the next Monday because both Rich and Doctor Williams had both given her the release her company required.  It was good to be productive again, but Diane had difficulty concentrating because she kept thinking about Rich.  That afternoon, she called the convalescent home and asked to speak to him.  The receptionist said he was with a patient, but if she’d leave a number, she’d tell him about the call.  Diane gave the receptionist her cell phone number and then went back to work.

It was almost four when her cell phone buzzed.  She didn’t recognize the number, but she touched the screen to answer hoping it would be Rich.  Instead, it was a telemarketer trying to sell her a life insurance policy.  She quickly ended the call and then blocked the number.  She was putting the phone back into her purse when it buzzed again.  Diane held her breath and touched the screen again.

“Hello.”

“Diane, is this you?”

“Rich?”

“Yeah, this is Rich.  What did you want?  You didn’t hurt something did you?”

“No, I was just thinking over the weekend about…could we get together sometime and just talk?”

Rich heard the words Diane said, but he heard more in the tone of her voice.  It was like she was almost pleading to see him.  He pushed away the hope that maybe she felt something for him.  It had to be something else.

“Sure.  How about tonight?”

“I’d like that.  Can you come to my apartment?  I don’t really want to go anywhere.”

“I’ll be there about seven if that’s OK.”

At seven, Rich pushed doorbell of Diane’s apartment.  She opened the door, grinned, and then said “Come in.  I made coffee, but I have some soft drinks if you’d rather have one of those.”

Rich sat on her couch while Diane poured the coffee, and that thought about Diane feeling something for him came back.  When he’d taken her to the dance club dance, she’d worn some dressy pants and a frilly top, and he could tell she’d put on a little makeup.  The woman who’d met him at the door was dressed in a dress that accented her dancer’s figure, and she wore stockings and heels.  Her face was different as well.  

He’d always thought Diane had a pretty face, but that night, she was radiant.  Her long, dark blonde hair framed that face and then cascaded down over her shoulders to brush the bare skin revealed by the deep neckline of the dress.  Maybe she went to work dressed like that, but he doubted it.  Had she dressed this way because of him?

After Diane had brought them both a cup of coffee, she sat down on her couch and smiled at Rich.

“Well, how have you been getting along with out me being such a pain?”

“Oh, pretty good, but you weren’t a pain.”

“Oh yes I was.  I was feeling sorry for myself and hated just about everybody.  I never told you I was sorry for doing that to you, but I am.”

Rich shrugged.

“A lot of my patients feel that way at first.  You get used to it.  Is that why you wanted to see me, to tell me you’re sorry?”

Diane looked at her coffee cup because she couldn’t look Rich in the face.

“No.  I wanted to tell you how I…that when you danced with me, I felt…oh, damn…I rehearsed this over and over but now I can’t say it.  I’m afraid you’ll think I’m crazy.”

Rich chuckled.

“Diane, you’re a lot of things, but crazy definitely isn’t one of them.  Just tell me.”

Diane looked up.

“I…I liked being with you.”

“Well, I liked being with you too.”

“No, I mean, I really…I really liked being with you.  See, I said you’d think I was crazy.”

“Diane, we’ve been together a lot, and I tried really hard to help you walk again.  That’s probably what’s going on.  It’s happened to me before.”

Diane’s face turned sad.

“So you don’t feel anything for me?”

Rich put his hand on Diane’s.

“I didn’t say that, Diane.  I liked being with you at the dance club a lot more than I should have.  It’s just that I have to be careful.  It’s normal for a patient and a therapist to develop a relationship and that helps with the therapy, but usually, it’s just a temporary thing that stops for the patient as soon as the therapy ends.   If I tried to take it further, most patients wouldn’t think that was right.”

Diane had tears in her eyes.

“I’d think it was right.  I don’t want it to end.”

Rich moved down the couch until he was sitting next to Diane.

“Diane, are you sure about this?”

“I am unless you don’t feel anything too.”

“I’m a lot older than you are.”

“I don’t care about that.”

Rich stood up and walked to face Diane.

“Would you stand up for me?”

“Why?”

“I want to kiss you and it’ll be a little awkward to kiss you if we’re sitting down.”

Diane stood up and put her arms around Rich’s neck.  He kissed her gently at first, then with the passion he’d felt building but had tried to ignore.  When he pulled gently away, Diane sighed.

“I guess you do like me.  I’m glad.”

Rich held her tight and kissed her forehead.

“I have for a long time, but just like you couldn’t let yourself believe you could ever dance again, I couldn’t let myself believe there was anything there.  I guess you just gave me the therapy I needed.”

Diane opened her eyes and smiled.

“I have more of that therapy for you…a lot more.”

After he took her in his arms and kissed her again, Diane pulled gently back and put her cheek next to his.

“I’ve thought about this all weekend, Rich.  I decided if you didn’t feel like I did, I’d just have to live with it.  I also decided if you did, I’d show you how much I want to keep seeing you.”

Rich chuckled.

“I think you already did.”

“No, I didn’t yet, but I’m going to…if you’ll let me.”

“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘let you’.  Why wouldn’t I?”

Diane’s voice was a whisper.

“Because I want to give you something I’ve never given anybody before.  I want to give you me.”

Rich pushed her gently back and looked into her eyes.

“Diane, are you sure this isn’t just some crush?  I mean, it isn’t just a crush on my part, but this is something you can’t take back.”

Diane didn’t say anything.  She just took Rich by the hand and led him through the door to her bedroom.  Once they were inside, she put her arms around his neck again and smiled.

“I promised my mother I’d wait until I found the right man.  I can’t think of any man I know who’s more right.  Show me how right you are.”

Rich kissed her again, and when Diane stroked his hair, he cupped her hips and squeezed gently.  Diane caught her breath at his touch, but didn’t pull away.  Instead, she pressed her breasts into his chest.

Rich found the zipper on the back of Diane’s dress and eased it down while they kissed, then gently pushed Diane back.  

“Over your head or the other way?”

Diane stroked his chest with her forefinger.

“Over my head.”

Rich knelt, lifted the hem of the dress and started moving it up.  When the hem reached her waist, Diane raised her arms.  Rich pulled the dress from her body and laid it on the chair beside the bed.  Diane reached for him again after he turned back to face her, and while she covered his lips with hers, Rich undid the band of her bra.  Diane broke the kiss and eased away as he slipped the straps from her shoulders and down her arms.

Rich put Diane’s bra with her dress and then turned back to look at her.  She stood now in just her panties and stockings with an elastic lace band at the top to hold them up.  Her breasts weren’t large, but they were soft and rounded and her small, dark pink nipples stood out proud of her wrinkled nipple beds.

Rich smiled, said “Diane, you’re beautiful”, and then cupped her right breast in his hand.  Diane shivered a little, and then caught her breath when Rich lightly stroked her nipple.  Rich heard the nervous sound in her voice.

“I didn’t know it would feel like this.”

Rich stroked her other breast, then circled that nipple with his fingers.

“It’ll get better if you let it.”

“Show me.”

Rich lightly pinched that nipple, then bent down and circled it with his lips.  Diane gasped when he sucked gently, and when he licked the tip, she moaned.

As Rich took Diane’s other nipple between his lips, he rolled her panties down over her hips, then gently pushed her thighs apart so they would come off the rest of the way.  When they lay on the floor around Diane’s feet, Rich slipped his hand up her nylon clad inner thigh until he touched soft hair.  Diane moaned when his fingertips stroked the satiny skin of her lips.

He started to roll the left stocking down her thigh, but Diane touched his hand.

“Leave them on…please…my scars.”

Rich stroked her cheek.

“I’ll leave them on, but I don’t care about the scars.”

Rich quickly slipped out of his clothes and then eased Diane back onto the bed.  She put her arms around his neck and pulled his bare chest down onto her breasts, then kissed him again.  She moaned when he lightly pinched her left nipple, then moaned again when his finger worked its way through the downy hair of her sex to stroke her slit.

Diane’s body tightened when his fingertip slipped between her lips.  Rich kissed her, then whispered, “Just relax and let this happen.  I’ll try to make it as nice as I can.”

Diane stroked his cheek.

“I know it will hurt, but I want this.”

Rich did everything he knew how to do to work Diane into a state of arousal that would open her to that first thrust of his cock.  She responded to his every touch.

The rippled folds of her inner lips were already moist.  Rich carefully stroked those folds for a while before attempting to find her entrance.  When he did, his fingertip touched wet warmth.  He didn’t slide his finger in very far, just enough to gather some of that wetness and transfer it to her inner lips.  

Several times he did this until his fingertip slipped easily over the ripples and they seemed to be a little thicker.  It was then that he moved his fingertip up to the point where Diane’s inner lips joined.  He could feel her clit still hiding under its hood.  He stroked gently and smiled at Diane’s gasp, then moved back to her entrance.

She was snug, but not as snug as his first wife had been.  Rich knew that sometimes exercise can partially open a virgin, and he was thankful this seemed to be the case with Diane.  All he had to do was take her to the point of orgasm before his cock finished opening her.

He didn’t hurry her, but she was responding a lot faster than he’d anticipated.  After he stroked one fingertip in to that tightness and then back out for a few minutes, Diane was rocking her hips into each stroke and moaning with most of them.  

Rich saw fear in her eyes when he knelt between Diane’s thighs and lifted them.  He didn’t say anything.  He just leaned down and took her right nipple between his lips and sucked gently as his fingertip slipped up to that snug spot inside her again.  

Diane began to lift her hips then, and when he found her clit and rubbed beside it, she groaned and thrust her hips up hard.  She was nearly there, so Rich moved his cock between her lips and pushed in until he felt resistance.  Diane tightened up again, so he kept stroking beside her clit and changed nipples.

Things happened quickly after that.  Rich felt Diane put her hands on his back and pull as she gasped and her hips rocked again.  He kept stroking her clit until she cried out and her body began to arch up.  At the top of that arch, he took a breath and pushed his cock in hard.  Dianne cried out as his cock burst through the barrier and sank into her depths, then cried out again as the orgasm took her away.  

Rich stroked in and out a few times, but Diane’s sounds and movements caused by the orgasm made it impossible to hold back.  A few seconds after she arched up into his thrust, seed spurted from his cock, then again, and then again.  He was gasping for breath when Diane lowered her body to the mattress and pulled him down with her.

“Stay here with me tonight”, she whispered.

“Nothing could make me leave”, he whispered back.

Rich woke the next morning with Diane snuggled up against his side.  He stroked her hip and then up her side until he touched her breast.  Diane’s eyes fluttered open, she looked at him for a second, and then smiled.

“I want to wake up like this every morning.”

Rich chuckled.

“Be careful what you wish for.  Your wish might come true.”

Diane stroked the hair on his chest.

“I hope it does.”

“What time do you have to be at work?”

“By nine.  What time is it?”

“Almost seven-thirty.”

“I’d rather just stay here, but I probably should start getting ready.  You probably need to go home now, don’t you?”

Rich cupped her hip and then squeezed gently.

“Yeah.  I need a change of clothes.”

“Will you come back tonight?”

“I have the dance club tonight, but after that, I will.”

Diane raised up on one elbow.

“Remember when you said you needed to find a woman to work with Harold?  Could I be that woman?”

“You’d do that?”

“I’d try.”

“Well sure.  I’d love to have you help.  When would you want to start?”

“I could start tonight if that’s OK.”

“Sure it’s OK.  I’ll pick you up about five thirty if you can be ready by then.”

“I’ll be ready.”

The class had gone well, and Diane was more than a little proud of herself.  She’d danced through that week’s pattern with Harold twice and figured out why his lead seemed very weak.  Remembering how her favorite dance instructor had corrected her, she complimented Harold on how he did the steps and then explained how he could make them both look better.  Harold had tried and she started feeling his lead.  By the time the class was over, Harold had danced with most of the women and they all said they could notice the change.  

Harold was happy and so was Rich.  It was always difficult to keep men dancing because most had grown up thinking real men didn’t dance.  If the women in the class liked dancing with Harold, he’d keep on dancing.

When Rich had his sound system loaded into his car, he turned to Diane.

“You know, the people in the club really like you.  The men all want you to show them what you showed Harold.  I kept hearing from the women about how they want to learn how you dance the way you do.  If you want to keep working with them, maybe you could take part of each class and teach them.”

“Oh, I don’t know about teaching anybody.  I wouldn’t know where to start.”

“Like you said you’d never walk, and then when you could, said you’d never dance again?  I think you know how.  You just have to convince yourself you do.”

Diane grinned.

“I’ll need some help to do that…the same help you gave me last night if that’s not to much to ask.”

Rich pulled Diane to him and kissed her, then smiled.

“You don’t have to ask me for that, Diane.  You just have to be you.”

They still teach classes for the dance club each Tuesday night and have a club dance every Saturday though Diane has had a little trouble lately.  Six months after she became Mrs. Diane Harris, Nature didn’t come calling like always before.  She bought a test kit on her way home from work, and she and Rich watched the little window develop into a “plus” sign.  She’s six months along now, and it embarrasses the men of the club to get close enough to dance with her.  The women of the club are all excited about the baby.

Rich is thrilled about becoming a father.  After his divorce, he figured that would never happen.  Now that it’s going to, he’s so proud he tells everybody he sees.

Diane is excited but also a little worried.  As she told Rich when the doctor confirmed what the test kit said, “I don’t have a clue about how to be a mother.”

Rich just laughed.

“You’ll figure it out, just like you figured out how to walk and how to dance and how to teach other people.”

Diane put her arms around his neck and pulled her breasts into Rich’s chest.

“I’ll need some help to do that.”

Rich cupped her hips and squeezed.

“What kind of help did you have in mind?”

“Oh, maybe we could start by doing what caused this again.  Is that too much to ask?”

Rich kissed her, then grinned.

“You’ll never have to ask for that.  You’ll just have to tell me when to stop.”

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