I Was Here
Rose searched backstage for Daisy, wanting to make sure everything was alright with her costume for the opening number. She finally found the teenager peering out the side of the curtain concealing the stage.
“There you are! I’ve been lookin’ for you everywhere. I need to do a final costume and hair check.”
Daisy turned and tried her hardest to hide her tears. “She’s not here.”
“Oh, my darling girl. C’mere.” Rose held her arms open for Daisy and held her tight as she cried. Blind fury boiled in Rose’s veins. Daisy had invited her mum to the dance recital and, apparently, Tess had decided not to show.
“I’m so sorry, Daisy. I really am.” She nudged Daisy and encouraged her to stand straight. Rose pulled a tissue from the slanted line of her lavender, one-shouldered costume. Dabbing the young dancer’s eyes, Rose attempted to soothe her. “I know it’s hard, but try to put the fact that she’s not here outta your mind and focus on who is here.
Daisy sniffed and smiled. “Aye, my Da’.”
“Yeah and Ellie, and your grandparents. They came from Scotland to watch you own the stage, so that’s what you’re gonna do. Alright?” The teenager nodded. “Good. Now, let’s go fix your make-up and get ready. Show’s about to start!”
They squee’d in sync and headed back to the dressing room assigned for the older dancers.
The Broadchurch Harbor Centre had been so kind as to let Amy hold her first recital there for a minimal fee. Amy, Clara, and Rose had worked tirelessly over the past two weeks on programs, costume repairs, and showing parents how to create the perfect hairstyle and stage make-up.
Now, it was time for the students to shine. This was Rose’s favorite part. So many of the girls had overcome shyness or anxiety and were now excited to dance for their family and friends.
Amy came and put an arm around Rose’s shoulders. “You ready?”
Rose smiled at her longtime friend. “Yeah, I am. Thank you for this, Amy. I’ll never stop owing you for givin’ me all this.”
Amy squeezed Rose in a one armed hug. “You did the work. All I did was offer you a job. Now, come on. Let’s line up.”
The opening number included the teachers and student teachers (Daisy was Clara’s assistant). All of them were wearing the same lavender one-shouldered body suits. Sheer lavender silk started just under the bust line and flowed down with an uneven hemline to their knees. Clara suggested styling their hair half up with flowing waves to match the costume. Overall, the effect was breathtaking.
The lights dimmed in the auditorium and the curtain parted. Rose peeked back at Daisy, winked and mouthed "show time".
Alec looked at the empty seat his ex-wife was supposed to be occupying and scowled. He had tried again, for his daughter’s sake, to talk to Tess about the way she had been treating Daisy, but she wouldn’t hear anything about it. She had made her opinion known when Daisy had chosen to spend the holidays with him and Rose.
“Your daughter has made it perfectly clear how she feels about me. I’ll talk to her once she apologizes for hurting me.”
“She has nothin’ to apologize for, Tess. She’s tired of you constantly puttin’ her down. She doesn’t need someone harping on her every move or thought. She needs her mother to encourage her and love her.”
“Pushing her to be the woman she should be even though it’s tough is loving her. I’m through with this conversation. When she’s ready to apologize, I’ll listen.”
Ever since, Daisy had tried to speak to Tess, but had never said what her mum had wanted to hear. Daisy would call once a week and the call had always lasted less than one minute. Sending her mum an invitation to the recital with a handwritten note had been another way Daisy had tried to reach out.
I know we haven’t been getting along but we can still try. I miss you and I love you very much. Please come to my recital.
Alec had read the note at Daisy’s request and thought it perfect.
Tess’s empty seat spoke volumes.
The lights dimmed and Alec pushed the thoughts of his ex out of his mind. The curtain opened. A low-lit spotlight shone on stage left, violins, strumming low, poured over the sound system, and Amy stepped barefoot into the light.
She sashayed gracefully across the floor as an acoustic guitar’s strings were plucked. When the vocals and piano started simultaneously, the lights came up slightly and the ginger woman executed a gentle running leap landing into a roll. She continued her flowing movements alone on the stage until the second verse started. She was then joined by Clara who began her own choreographed twirls.
When the chorus started, his Rose danced out on her tiptoes.
I was here
I lived, I loved
I was here
I did, I’ve done
Everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know
I was here
To Alec, there was no one else on the stage but Rose. She was so graceful in her leaps and turns. She sank to the ground, limbs swaying fluently. She positively glowed, her smile beaming to the crowd. The music overwhelmed him. He felt a tear leak from the corner of his eye and couldn’t even be embarrassed about it.
When Rose stood, the three teachers' movements synced and they turned towards the left. The first beat of percussion ushered the student assistants onto the stage, spinning out diagonally from the back corner of the stage.
Alec’s breath caught when Daisy appeared. His little Flower was beautiful, but he could no longer call her little. He was finally seeing her as the young woman she was becoming.
Watching her glide across the stage made him think of his sister, Alice. Daisy had definitely gotten her talent from her aunt. He chanced a quick glance at his parents and his heart swelled with how proud they looked.
Rose guided Daisy in a flip and Alec did not miss the affectionate smile she gave his daughter once she straightened. His breath caught and, at that moment, he knew his plan for later in the evening was meant to happen. He touched the left side of his suit over the inner pocket where a small velvet pouch rested, and smiled.
The bridge of the song was winding down as the three teachers formed a line behind the five young girls. The vocals stopped for a beat and when the singing restarted, the dancers executed triple spins, all perfectly synchronized.
Everyone in the audience disregarded the ‘do not clap until the end of the number’ rule and broke out into loud cheers at the impressive showmanship, but it was Alec who had started it. And I'd do it again in a pacemaker-assisted heartbeat.
His girls. His incredible girls.
The ladies on stage broke apart after the spins and each proceeded to perform their own personal routine. To Alec’s amazement, the eight dancer’s moves complemented each other and flowed seamlessly together. He switched back and forth between Rose and Daisy, admiring the way their personalities spoke through their movements; Daisy a young woman slowly gaining her confidence, and Rose, a woman who finally knew exactly where she belonged.
After the final chorus, Rose and two of the student teachers Alec didn’t recognize, took center stage performing gravity-defying acrobats, wowing the audience.
The music began its decrescendo and, by the last line, the dancers had all come together to form a pose that any Greek sculptor would die to create.
The lights went dark as the final note played. Since the curtains closed immediately after, the dancers missed the standing ovation they received that was, once again, started by Alec.
The second Alec spotted Daisy walking out of the back stage door, he scooped her up in a hug that lifted her off the ground, unmindful of the two bouquets he was holding.
“Oh, my Flower, I am so proud of you! You looked so beautiful up there.” Alec squeezed her tighter as she laughed.
“Thanks, Da’.” Daisy buried her face in his neck like she used to do when she was little. “I love you. ‘M so happy I have you.”
He set her on her feet and brushed her hair off her shoulders. He spoke through the lump in his throat. “I love you too, Daisy, and as long as there’s breath in my body, I’ll be here for you.”
She smiled and nodded.
“Here.” he thrust one of the bouquets at her, a dozen daisies. “For you.”
“My favorite flower! Thanks!” She leaned up on her tip toes and kissed his cheek.
“Quit hoggin’ mah gran’dau’her!” Craig Hardy exclaimed. Alec rolled his eyes at his dad but released Daisy.
Ellie sidled up to Alec. “You look like you’re about to burst with pride, sir.” Alec nodded. “She really is amazing. Rose too. I mean, I knew she could dance, but she just blew me away.”
“Aye. She’s definitely meant to be on stage. Thanks for comin’, Miller.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t‘ve missed it. That’s what friends do, you lump. They support each other.”
Alec sighed. “Go away, Miller.” The words were said with a slight smile. Ellie bumped him with her hip before joining in on congratulating Daisy.
Alec turned towards the door to wait for Rose. He knew she had to help Amy and Clara make sure all the students made it safely to the care of their parents and then clear the place of all the costume bins and props they had brought. It was a surprise when she came out with her garment bag slung over her arm as soon as she did. He'd expected her to take much longer picking up.
She smiled when she spotted him holding a dozen red roses. “Are those for me?”
Alec walked over, holding the flowers out to her. “Aye.”
Rose took the bouquet, immediately bringing the flowers to her nose, inhaling the fragrance. “Thank you, Alec.”
He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
“You’re welcome. The show was fantastic, but you were bloody brilliant.” It was dark and Rose was wearing stage make-up, but nothing could hide the reddening of her cheeks. “Come on, love. Let’s go eat.”
Rose removed the hair dryer she kept at Alec’s house from the cabinet under the sink and turned it on. She had taken a shower while Alec was visiting with his family before bed. Now, free of the entire can of hairspray she had used on her hair and the two inches of make-up she’d caked on, Rose could relax and reflect on the recital.
It had gone off without a hitch. They had been prepared for every possible contingency. She, Amy, and Clara had hugged it out at the end, all commenting on how perfectly the night had gone.
Rose was so proud of all the students. As always, she’d had to talk a few girls down when their stage fright had started to get the better of them. Those incidents aside, Rose had been in her element. Helping with costume changes, fixing hair and make-up, hugging the dancers as they came off the stage, and seeing how happy they all had been with their performance reminded her of why she’d chosen this as a profession.
Dancing with Daisy had been a joy. Rose was so proud of the way the teenager was transforming herself. She was confident, and knew her body and its limits. Daisy was going to go far in life and be amazing in anything she decided to do.
As for herself, being on stage had been a thrill. The music and bright lights were like a drug to her, making her feel a high she’d hadn’t realized she’d missed. And the applause… before meeting Alec, she would’ve said the applause was right up there with having a satisfying sexual experience, but now it was second. Nothing could feel as amazing as being with Alec, whether being intimate with him or not.
Being around Alec and his family, Rose could easily see what it must have been like growing up in the Hardy house. His parents had regaled her with childhood stories that had Alec blushing down to his toes. His family had accepted her with open arms and she'd been reluctant to leave their company, but she had been in desperate need of a shower. Hair now dry, she put the hair dryer up and tightened the towel around her.
Walking into the bedroom, she found her love lying on his bed in nothing but his snug, black boxer briefs, ankles crossed and hands behind his head. He was the epitome of a sexy, scruffy Scot. And the sexiest part about it all was that Alec didn’t believe it, being as humble as he was. About his looks anyway. He’s not so humble about his detecting skills.
She walked over to the dresser where she had a few drawers of her own. They’d been together almost ten months now and Alec had wanted her to feel welcome in his house. She grabbed a pair of blue cotton knickers and one of Alec’s old Beatles t-shirts and headed back into the bathroom.
“Everyone in for the night?” she called as she dressed.
“Aye. Daisy was positively knackered. Mother and Father were settlin’ in for the night. Mother loves the guest room duvet. I told her you picked it out. She said I finally found a ‘good one’.”
Rose laughed as she hung up her towel on the warming rack. “‘M glad.”
“Me too. Come here, lass.”
His voice was low, sending shivers down her spine. Exiting the bathroom, she saw he had sat up against the headboard in the middle of the bed. She climbed onto the bed and straddled his lap, draping her arms over his shoulders. Alec laced his fingers just above her bum.
“What’s up, my darling DI?”
Alec took her lips in a gentle kiss. “You were so beautiful up on that stage tonight.”
Rose tucked her chin to her shoulder, blushing for the millionth time tonight. “Thank you.”
“And Daisy… I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank you enough for all the time and encouragement you’ve given her. She loves you, you know.”
“She’s a wonderful girl and I love her dearly, Alec. I feel like I should thank you for letting me be a part of her life.”
He ran his hands up her back, pulling her down for a deep, languid kiss. Needing to breathe, Rose sat back, closing her eyes in contentment as Alec started carding his fingers through her hair.
“Rose, I wanna ask you a question.”
Forcing her eyes open, Rose met her lover’s chocolate brown eyes. He was studying her and she couldn’t figure out why. She was quite concerned. “Alec, what is it?”
He didn’t speak; his eyes just searched her face. Only when her brow furrowed did he give her a soft smile. Still not speaking, he put his left hand on her waist and reached his right hand to pluck something off of his nightstand. Rose tried to see what he’d picked up, but it was hidden in his large hand, so she rested her hands over his heart and waited.
Alec stared down at whatever was resting in his hand. “From the moment I met you, I knew you were different. I was incredibly rude to you an’ you didn’t stand for it. An’ that night I went home and couldn’t stop thinkin’ about you an’ how you told me to ‘piss off’. I wanted to get to know you more, but I figured you’d not want me around, but you gave me that second chance I’m still thankful for to this day.”
He began fidgeting with the mysterious object, still keeping it obscured, but finally meeting her eyes. “You have made… such a difference in my life. You’ve made me better. Ask anyone an’ I guarantee they’ll tell you the same.”
Rose couldn’t help but giggle at that. A boyish smile graced his features, looking so handsome that she couldn’t help but place a kiss to the crinkles by his left eye.
“I know you want to make a difference in the world an’ you’ve made the biggest difference in mine.” Moving his hands, Rose saw what he’d been holding in his hand. It was a red velvet pouch. Reaching inside with long, slender fingers, Alec pulled out a simple white gold band that was topped with the biggest rectangular diamond she’d ever seen. Her mouth dropped open in shock, tears springing to her eyes. Alec held the ring up between them with one hand as his other brushed away the tears that had started to fall from her eyes. “I love you so much, lass, an’ don’t ever want to be without you. Be my wife, please?”
Wife? Alec wanted to marry her! Rose didn’t hesitate.
“Yes!” She shouted before remembering there were other people in the house trying to sleep and lowered her voice. “Yes, Alec. Nothin’ would make me happier than to be your wife.”
If his smile was anything to go by, Alec’s uncertainty morphed into unbridled happiness. Rose was smiling so wide, her cheeks hurt. The pair giggled like teenagers as their teeth clashed in a snog, tears mixing on each other’s skin.
Alec was the first to pull back. “Give me your hand, love.”
Rose held her shaking left hand out to him, holding her breath as he slipped the ring on her fourth finger. She raised her hand to admire the symbol of Alec’s love for her.
“‘S gorgeous.” She cupped his face in her hands. “You’re gorgeous. I love you.”
Alec chose that moment to take her breath away with his mouth covering hers. She felt her body light up with desire as his tongue caressed every warm inch it could. After he had shifted and laid her down beneath him, he released her just long enough to shuck the shirt she wore. Clothing melted away swiftly, both ready to become one. Alec knew he needed to be quiet, but he was unable to hold back his groan of pure bliss as he slid into his fiancée’s welcoming body.
Rose and Alec spent the night whispering their love to one another and dreaming about the future that was stretched out endlessly before them, ready to begin the journey of their lives together, and to never look back.
The next morning, the entire town of Broadchurch heard the squeals of joy coming from one ecstatic teenager.