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You Were Always a Better Dancer Than Me

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“You were always a better dancer than me, Astrid…”

One, two, three. Caleb’s feet are bare against the dewy grass as he follows the rhythm of the music playing, his skin warm as the summer sun shines on him and the girl he’s holding onto. He squints as the light catches in his eyes, leaving him just able to make out a head of short brown hair and dimples that are caused by a soft smile.

He smiles back, closing his eyes against the bright light.

He clutches her hand tighter. It’s nice to hold, the shape fitting perfectly in his. It feels calming, and a warmth spreads from Caleb’s hand to his chest, then to his entire body, through every limb as if traveling through his bloodstream and filling him up with content.

He feels warm. He feels comfortable, at ease.

The hand on his waist is just as warm, making him feel fuzzy and giddy — he feels young again. It feels familiar like this, the music that plays around him and the gentle rhythm of his feet, dancing along in a way he’d nearly forgotten how to do. But his body acts just as it should, almost as if he’s on autopilot. His feet find their footing easily, and even with his eyes closed, he is moving swiftly and in a steady rhythm to the music. He stumbles a bit, but makes up for it with a smile and a small breathy laugh.

“You were always so good…”

The whole ordeal fills him with joy and a sense of happiness. It’s the feeling of being young and carefree, the ability to smile even if there’s no particular reason to, just because. It’s the feeling of untouched bravery to try new things that might seem almost impossible when one would stop and analyse them thoroughly before jumping into them. It’s the excitement that comes with having a full life ahead of oneself.

At the same time, he feels an overwhelming wave of peace to have her with him along the way. He’d missed her so much, he’d missed dancing with her like this. Everything about her is like home, giving him a strong sense of familiarity.

“…Astrid?”

But the voice that responds is not familiar.

It’s not familiar at all, and Caleb pauses, movement immediately coming to a halt as the dance stops. He’s filled with a cold feeling instead, the warmth having left his body as quickly as it arrived, leaving nothing but dread in its wake.

The voice is too soft, it’s not at all the one that Caleb remembers. It’s ridden with a thick accent, but it’s the wrong one. It’s too rounded, the vowels are all weird and the consonants just don't sound right, they just sound empty.

He opens his eyes immediately, blinking a few times to clear his vision. It still takes a second for his brain to kickstart, registering the person in front of him. He looks at blue skin and horns without recognition. He looks at purple eyes and wonders where the brown went. He looks at freckles and thinks back to dimples.

He doesn’t understand.

“J— Ja…?“

His voice trembles for a moment as he tries to make sense of the situation, as he tries to get his brain to work again, trying to get it to give him a proper explanation or solution to this problem that’s just risen. He’s usually so quick at these things; he has a near perfect memory, and he truly never forgets a face, but... This doesn’t ring a bell. No matter how hard he thinks, or how badly he squints at the stranger in front of him.

It doesn’t make any sense.

“Oh, well… You know, Caleb, you were a pretty good dancer too...“

The girl with the blue skin speaks again, and her voice nearly gives Caleb a headache. Not because her voice is sharp, loud or intrusive, but because it pains him to not know who she is, or why she’s replaced the one person he did know. A complete stranger replacing a loved one.

It doesn’t make any sense. And it doesn’t seem fair.