After graduating from high school early, twenty-year-old Philippe Bergeron spent the past several years lost among the stars while fishing off the New England coast. A shoulder injury ends his dream of living reclusively on the water, and he finds himself lost among the bright lights of New York City. His older brother, Henri, has asked Philippe to chaperone his seventeen-year-old niece, Sophie, on her tours of the city's legendary dance programs.
Sophie meets with professional dancer and choreographer, Dario Pereira, to prepare a routine for her college auditions. Dario’s cool perfection and immaculate style contrast with Philippe’s awkward scruffiness, but it wakes desires Philippe thought he’d left behind. When the attraction is surprisingly returned, Dario’s confidence won’t let Philippe remain invisible. Unsure but curious, Philippe relaxes his rule of isolation, and as the summer progresses, his relationship with Dario leads him to a surprising discovery of his submissive sexual tendencies and a greater sense of self-awareness.
Tragedy threatens to destroy the connections Philippe has made and forces him to retreat into the shadows of his past, far from the radiance of Dario’s love. Ultimately, he must decide if it is time to stop hiding and set himself free.
“We had not intended to exile you from the studio, Philippe, but Sophie wanted the first part of her solo to be a surprise to you. We couldn’t very well surprise you if you watched us put it together, could we?” Dario led me back into the studio. I’d been walking around the Upper West Side for the better part of two hours, which I didn’t mind in the least—I was just a single grain of sand on the beach, here in this city.
I didn’t say anything as I headed toward my usual corner, but Dario stopped me. His wiry arm thrust out across my middle. “Sit up here, instead.” He grabbed me by the arm and led me to the front of the studio, and then he pushed me down to sit on the floor with my back against the mirror. Dario had no trouble being pushy.
Sophie took her starting position, and Dario moved to the corner where he started the music, an eccentric blend of bells and chimes and piano. And my niece began to move. The piece seemed to be rooted in ballet, which was clearly Sophie’s strongest suit, but Dario had woven into the piece many of the movements she had learned in the different modern and contemporary classes she’d taken since we’d come to the city. I guess he’d been paying attention when she’d demonstrated the different steps she’d learned in classes each day.
My overall impression of the piece—it was stunning—she was stunning.
Her body, longer and leaner and stronger than I’d ever before noticed, seemed to own the music. No, it was really much more as if her body was creating the music with its movements. She leaned and stretched, her back flat at first and then it gradually curved, and when she leaped, with her feet flexed and her hands posed like claws, I felt goose bumps climb up the skin on my arms.
And Sophie’s face reminded me of what I could remember of my mother’s. Proud and brave, and, at moments, even tough, but at the very same time, so fragile. But at the moment, she was looking over at me wearing an inquisitive expression, trying to gauge my reaction to the first thirty seconds of her solo. All I could think, though, was that she was everything I remembered my mother being.
“Phil, do you like it?” Her open expression shifted into being one of concern—and it was all Sophie I was seeing again. “Is it okay?”
But my eyes had filled up, and I fought to keep my tears inside. Images of my mother always brought me to this state. I looked to Dario, who now leaned against the far wall, and I saw that he was equally affected by her performance, or maybe it was by my reaction to it. Our damp eyes kind of collided—for a moment it was like we were of one mind—until he nodded a bit in Sophie’s direction, to remind me to answer her.
“Was it okay? Oh… oh, shit, yes.” I rarely cursed; my mother hadn’t approved of foul language. And then I was somehow up on my feet, looking across the room into her pale blue eyes. “It was… it was amazing, Sophie… I had no idea….” And then I was right beside her. “That dance was beautiful, Soph… you were beautiful.”
She blushed, pleased and proud. We quickly looked away from each other, though, uncomfortable with the emotion that charged the air between us.
“Well, I guess it’s time to call it a night, then.” Dario let us off the emotional hook we’d been caught on. He picked up his bag and his water bottle.
About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.