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I don't do that dance

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Harry is easily the worst ballet dancer in her whole Intro to Ballet class.

It’s no competition, really. She just cannot harness the power of her limbs enough to control them. She’s ruthlessly uncoordinated and insufferably clumsy, and no matter how hard she tries to memorize the choreography and follow along with their instructor, she always gets lost during Barre. Or falling over during center. Or, most mortifying of all, literally kicking her classmate in the face doing grand jetes across the floor. She’s just not cut out for the restraint ballet requires, which is a damn shame because she actually really loves to dance. She’s famous for her hoe-dances on the tables at house parties, so much so that last semester she decided to take Intro to Contemporary on a whim, thinking maybe it she could learn to drop it like it was even hotter.

Contemporary turned out to be a good use of her time. She got credit for rolling around on the floor and voguing, basically, and the instructor was also really into contact improv so if she was lucky, they’d do contact-style warm ups sometimes and she got to roll around on the floor with her classmates, which was even better. Contemporary sparked a few things in Harry: one was a more than idle interest in dance. The second was a renewed appreciation for how much she liked rolling around on the floor in leotards with girls. She'd convinced herself in high school that she couldn’t do such things without making them weird, despite how much she she loved watching Center Stage on repeat as a teenager, feeling all confused without realizing why. She felt like something was about to awaken in her, so, she signed up for Ballet, anticipating a full blown revelation. Maybe she could do girl thinks without having anxiety attacks.

Instead, all that happened was hours of humiliation. She hates ballet. Or, she really likes watching other girls do it, but she’s just so bad at it. She’s not refined. She’s not graceful. She’s bad at memorization. She misses contemporary, when warm ups consisted of star-fishing across the studio floor to Peruvian pan flute music. She’s tired of Mozart and feeling ugly, which are, thus far, the primary features of her ballet class.

Everyone else is pretty decent. Or, they have at least one strength where she has zero. There are girls who don’t look particularly elegant doing the moves, but they’re capable of keeping up and remembering what they are. And then there are these gorgeous dancers who look perfect, but struggle to keep rhythm or whatever. Harry seems to be the only one who can’t accomplish a single element of ballet dancing.

Except Taylor Swift, she guesses. But that feels different, because Harry is actually trying. Taylor very clearly does not give a single fuck. She’s just taking the class as a placeholder, or for easy credit, or for some other reason. Harry doesn’t know, because she never talks to Taylor. She just knows she exists, and that she’s also very bad at ballet, which is surprising because she looks like the type that would excel at girly, pretty things. She’s tall and has golden blonde hair that she always wears in a big, high, crimped ponytail. She wears red lipstick to class and always looks the part in her set of classic pink tights and leotards with matching flats.

Based on appearance alone, Harry might guess she actually knew a thing of two about ballet, but after a few classes it became very clear she had no investment or natural talent for it whatsoever when it came to dancing. But unlike Harry, who arrives early and stands close to the instructor and counts and sweats and busts her ass, Taylor always stands in the very back row (because she shows up late, usually chewing gum), and phones it in. And Harry’s not judging her or anything. She just feels like if Taylor tried, maybe she’d be ok at ballet. But Harry is trying. She’s trying her very hardest, and has been the whole semester, and she’s still just terrible at it. Their instructor, a perpetually frazzled grad student named Kat, is clearly losing patience. Harry suspects she simply could not have fathomed a budding dancer as pitiful as her.

—-

Before Harry even realizes it, Thanksgiving break comes and goes, which means finals are just around the corner, which means she’s probably going to fucking fail Ballet, since 75% of her grade is dependent on being able to perform five minutes of choreography with her classmates to show she knows the basics. And she doesn’t know the the basics. She’s barely got the barre warm up down; it’s a miracle if she doesn’t forget fourth position exists or if Kat doesn’t have to physically come up and manually put her arms in the right place a few times before giving up. She's fucking hopeless.

As she’s packing up her dance bag a week or so before the performance, she must be looking especially pale or panicked or something, because Kat dance-runs over to her and taps her on the shoulder. “Mind staying a bit Styles? You too, Swift. I have some extra credit opportunities I want to talk to you two about. We’ll wait until the rest of the class clears out.”

Harry is embarrassed, but mostly she’s just relieved Kat is taking pity on her. She tugs off her battered dance flats and pulls on her Chelsea boots, staring at the scuffed up floor of the studio as Taylor collapses next to her, smelling like perfume and cigarette smoke and not at all like sweat because she probably didn’t even manage to break one for all her lack of effort. “We’re that bad, aren’t we?” she giggles, knocking their shoulders together hard enough Harry feels jostled, cheeks heating up because every time a tall blonde beautiful girl touches her she feels simultaneously blessed and unworthy.

I am,” Harry mumbles, looking up at Taylor with mopey eyes and a pout before she has to look away because she’s too Seventeen Magazine pretty to look at dead on without feeling insecure. “You’re not so bad.”

Taylor widens her eyes before she busts out laughing. “Oh, I’m terrible. I can’t dance to save my ass, all my moves are like, dad at a barbecue status.” She unzips her dance bag and pulls out some gum, offering a strip to Harry, who takes it gratefully. “I just have an appreciation for the art form of ballet and some credits to burn my senior year,” she explains as she chews, smacking her red-painted lips. ”What about you? How did you end up in this hell hole?”

Harry frowns, wishing she had a better story. “I thought I would be good! I was good at contemporary. And I can sort of pole dance, but without the pole. Or like. Grind. On tables. M’actually a master-grinder,” Harry admits sheepishly. Talking about her Hoe-Dances is harder without a few vodka sodas inside her, and Taylor runs in much different social circles, so she’s probably never witnessed them herself.

“Oh you are, are you? That’s sexy,” Taylor giggles, wiggling her shoulders in a little shimmy before she adds a pointed “me-ow,” to the end. Harry giggles, relieved Taylor is goofy, just like her. She worried she might be one of those mean girls. Harry may or may not have some cheerleader induced Tall-Blonde-Girl trauma left over from highschool. Girls like Taylor activate her fight or flight.

“I dunno if it’s sexy,” she admits. “But it is something.”

In that moment, Kat strides back over to them, rubbing her palms together, prematurely greying hair escaping her tight bun. “Ok girls. Now, I don’t want to insult you or anything, but—”

“We suck,” Taylor announces from the floor, grinning. “Don’t worry, we were just talking about it.”

Kat sags where she stands, looking relieved. “Ok, good. I was trying to figure out how to put that delicately.”

“You are in the presence of the two least delicate girls in the class. Don’t worry. Speak freely and speak now, Captain,” Taylor adds. She salutes, and Harry grins to herself. She actually really likes Taylor Swift, She wishes they’d talked sooner, that she’d at least made a friend in this class instead of just suffering and feeling shitty about herself the whole time.

“Well, I don’t want you two to give up. Maybe you’ll have a breakthrough with the choreography before the final. I’ve seen it happen! But in case you don’t, I wanted to give you a chance to make up some points.”

“Thank you, thank you so much,” Harry bursts out. She’s not even that studious; she’s failed classes before or let assignments fall through the cracks or been too hungover to make it to class. It’s more that she actually likes dancing, and she wants a chance to make up for being terrible at it.

“You can write a paper for me,” Kat explains, handing them a print-out each with some topics to choose from. “There’s a few options, history, choreographers. Or you can attend a dance performance in town and write a review, if that suits your fancy. You can even work together, if you’d like. As long as you each complete a three pages worth of content on a topic of your choice and present it to the class.”

I’d like to work together, personally,” Taylor says, shooting a conspiratorial look at Harry before reaching over and pointing to a name on her paper. “Oooh! Loie Fuller, I love her! Can we write a joint paper on Loie Fuller?” she begs. “Or a power point or something? Her stuff is so visual, I feel like we’d need to have a video element to really get it across.”

“Perfect,” Kat says, holding her hands up gratefully. “Trust me, if you guys pass, it helps me out too. So please. Pass.”

“We’ll pass,” Taylor promises, grabbing Harry’s wrist, looking at her with wide, blue, pleading eyes “Do you know Loie Fuller?”

Harry does not. In fact, she’s shocked Taylor does, she thought the passing comment about appreciating the art form of ballet was just another joke, but apparently not. It makes her realize how many judgements she makes without even realizing it, how many assumptions she holds about pretty girls to explain away the reasons why she’s weirdly afraid to talk to them, to combat the multitude of uninterrogated fears. “Nope, but I’m ready to learn,” she says.

“Perfect!” Taylor cheers, squeezing Harry before she lets her go. “Lemme give you my number, so we can find a time to meet and brainstorm. You’re gonna love her. Her stuff is wild.”

And just like that, Harry has Taylor Swift’s number, and she’s not sure why, but it feels so good and thrilling and triumphant, she wants to skip all the way back to her dorm after ballet class, when her feet usually drag in defeat.

—-

That night, Harry offers to meet in the library, but Taylor tells her to just come over to her dorm. my roomie is still out of town for thanksgiving. i’m lonely! is her text, and something about it makes Harry’s blood quicken, though she’s not sure she could identify why. Still, she shrugs on her jacket and packs up her laptop and notebooks into her backpack and walks across the quad to Taylor’s dorm all the same, deciding to ignore the bubble of anxiety in her throat.

Taylor’s wearing very short Victoria’s secret gym shorts and a white tank top when she answers the door, and she shivers dramatically in the hallway as Harry follows her to her room. “Oh my god, it’s cold out there. Hope the walk wasn’t long.”

“Nope, I live on the quad too,” Harry explains. “I only suggested the library so I’d look more studious.”

Taylor laughs. “If you’re looking to impress me, I’m not the academic type. I actually dropped out of high school and was homeschooled my last year. I love learning but hate the whole going to class thing… I’m only here as a trade off. My dad says I can peruse music full time if I get a degree in something practical to ‘fall back on’ soooo. Here I am. Trudging through a business major.”

“And taking ballet classes,” Harry offers, gingerly sitting down on the bright pink beanbag chair in the corner of Taylor’s room, surveying all the country music posters on the walls. She points to Shania Twain. “I love Shania, by the way. Man, I feel like a Woman is my ultimate get rowdy song. ”

“Yeah?! the one you pole dance to without the pole?” Taylor asks, smiling a very sly smile that makes Harry feel like she’s just missed a step on a staircase. “I knew I was gonna like you, Ms. Harriet. Shania is everything.”

It’s pretty easy to talk to her, considering that Harry keeps worrying she’s gonna hyperventilate every time their shoulders brush, which is often because whenever Taylor laughs at something, she leans back into Harry’s space, drapes herself across her lap. It’s not that Harry isn't used to girls touching her, or anything. She’s pretty touchy-feely with her group of friends, and she did sports in high school, and then there was the contact improv in Contemporary. She’s genuinely cuddly, given the right circumstances. But Taylor feels like a different species of girl, to Harry. The sort of girl who called her dyke in high school, who told her not to look in the locker room. The sort of tall, pretty, blonde girl whose boyfriend drove a flat-bed truck and was the star of the football team. The sort of girl who was destined to become a big country star, and leave everyone else in the world choking on her dust.

Harry is being unfair and she knows it. Taylor has already proved she’s not like that, that she doesn’t think Harry is weird, that she’s not homophobic. Loie Fuller, the choreographer they’re writing a paper on, is apparently a lesbian, and Taylor shared this information so effortlessly that Harry’s pretty sure that between the two of them, she’s the one who's more comfortable taking about that sort of stuff. “I’m totally obsessed with her,” Taylor says dreamily, finding another video of Loie’s videos on youtube to show Harry. “She’s had the reason I got obsessed with dance in the first place. I just love all that fabric, the long arms…so beautiful,” she sighs.

“If you’re so into this side of it, why didn’t you take dance history? Those classes are more credit than the studio classes, and you don’t have to dance,” Harry asks, mesmerized by the video, eyes locked on the hypnotic, circular dance. It really is beautiful. The fact it was invented by a lesbian makes it even more exciting, but she’d never say that aloud.

Taylor giggles, grins at Harry again in that way that feels strange, magical. Like she’s telling a secret they’re both supposed to know. “Wellll you don’t get to stand in the back and watch girl’s asses in leotards in a dance history class, if you know what I mean.”

Harry stares, suddenly dry-mouthed. She does know what Taylor means. She knows everything, now, in a sudden rush of ice-cold clarity. Why Taylor likes Loie Fuller, why she doesn’t care about class but shows up every day, what that tacit secret she keeps in her smile is about. Harry knows, but at the same time she doesn’t—can’t— believe it. Taylor doesn’t look like the type of girl who likes other girls. She doesn’t look like the type of girl to look at their asses. She looks like the type of girl who wants to be a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader when she grows up. She looks like a bitch. And Harry feels fucking horrible because when it comes down to it, she’s the bitch here, the one who can’t detach this real, live person from her preconceived notions about pretty girls. She’s so afraid of being judged for maybe being gay that she decides to do the judging first, to isolate herself from anyone who might be a threat. And it’s not fair. “Oh,” she says, feeling her cheeks color, her gaze drop. “I didn’t. Um.”

Taylor gets quiet, gathers herself. “Yeah I don’t just like ballet…I like ballerinas. I thought you knew. I sort of have a reputation.”

“Well,” Harry mumbles. “I have a table dancing reputation and you hadn’t heard about that, soI guess—“

The tension dissipates as Taylor busts out laughing again, doubling over, blonde hair cascading everywhere. “Oh my god, I was about to freak out because I thought you were about to freak out. I was like oh my god did I misread this girl? is she secretly a religious freak? I’m so relieved you’re not.”

“No! Not a religious freak,” Harry explains, rubbing her hands over her blushing cheeks anxiously. “I just. I dunno. I’m really awkward talking about this stuff. Girls called me gay in high school a lot, and I don’t—well. I don’t really even know if I am or not, but because of what happened I try not to assume that people are, so I just… assume they’re not which is. Well. It’s just as bad.”

Taylor nods along quietly, sympathetically. “Hey, it’s ok. I get it.”

“You do?” Harry asks, drawing her knees to her chest.

“Yeah. Totally,” Taylor explains, sitting back, propping herself up on her elbows and gazing up at Harry knowingly. “I feel like we all sort of go through that.”

The we is unsettling, at the same time it makes Harry feel…nice. Not alone. She used to feel exposed and cut up and stripped naked and picked apart by those girls in high school, but this, whatever it is, is different. She decides not to press on it, and defect instead. “So, what parts of the paper do you want to write? I’ll take anything. I just want the extra credit.”

“Well,” Taylor says, sitting back up and opening up a blank powerpoint presentation, so easily shifting gears. “I’m interested in her technique and her personal life most, so you want to take the bits about like…her later career? And her lasting influence on dance? I bet there’s lots of stuff out there on it.”

“Sounds perfect,” Harry says, jotting it down in her notebook, ignoring the tremor of her hand. “I’ll start researching.”

“Great,” Taylor says brightly, cracking her knuckles and bending down over her laptop. “I’ll stop drooling over the videos and get to work.”

Harry chews her lip, and thinks about Taylor Swift standing in the back of their ballet class, and watching her dance with hungry eyes

—-

The thought refuses to leave her alone all through the weekend. She doesn’t let herself obsess over girls that often because she always feels bad and dirty and confused afterwards, but she keeps having to text Taylor about their Loie Fuller paper so it’s sort of impossible to not remember those red red lips saying I don’t just like ballet…I like ballerinas every time her fucking phone buzzes. It’s really annoying. On Sunday night she drinks too much PBR at a house party and tries to kiss a boy, but the second she feels his hot, boozy breath on her chin she has to jerk away. She dances on a table that night and takes her top off and everything, and in the midst of her drunken haze, she thinks about texting Taylor if you were curious about the hoe-dance, here’s the address. You can come watch. Bring some Shania. Luckily, she walks back to her dorm and passes out before she makes any more stupid decisions.

On Monday when she heads to Taylor’s building to add her notes to the powerpoint, she’s a complete ball of nerves, and her head still hurts from all that terrible beer. She keeps worrying that Taylor knows, somehow, that she can’t stop thinking about her, and she almost wants to disclaim it, say It’s not what it seems, I swear except it probably is what it seems. And that just makes her want to ask Taylor about it, to get some much needed insight. If I can’t stop thinking about you, does it mean I have a crush on you? Were they right all along, and is that why it hurt so bad?

Instead she just bites her tongue and sits on the floor while Taylor sits in bed, trying her hardest to write her paper.

“Is anything coming?” Taylor asks after a few minutes, reaching off the edge of her mattress to pat the top of Harry’s head, where she has her curly brown hair in a messy bun. The touch almost makes her kick out reflexively and knock her entire laptop off her thighs, but she manages to keep it locked up.

“Not really,” she mumbles. “I’ve written like two sentences.”

“Same, and I love Loie, so you must really be suffering,” Taylor says. “I’m gonna put some Shania on. To get the blood flowing. To get rowdy.”

Harry should say thank you, or make a joke, or something. She should say I might be having a gay crisis or maybe I hated those girls so much because they were right and I wasn’t ready. She should launch into a distracting karaoke version of Man, I Feel Like a Woman. She should do a lot of things, but what she does do it decidedly turn to Taylor and awkwardly blurt, “I know I’m a shitty dancer, like the worst. But still. When you were in the back, did you…when you were looking at everyone else. Did you look at me?”

The second it leaves her lips, she wants to die. Positively melt into the pink and red striped rug on Taylor’s floor like spilled liquor on a valentine. Instead, she just sits there, silent, heart shoved so far up into her throat she can’t say a word.

Taylor looks at her, visibly surprised for a few seconds, eyes wide and blue and flashing. Then, she cocks her head carefully, squinting. “Did I look at you…like did I check you out?”

“Yes,” Harry says miserably. “I don’t—I wouldn’t mind. I don’t mind, if you did. I’d be so flattered. But also if you didn’t, I’d understand, I’m so bad at ballet and—”

Taylor flips her hair from one shoulder to another, the move so smooth, so calculating. “You are terrible,” she says easily, before her gaze flicks up to burn into Harry’s. “But that doesn’t make your ass any less cute.”

It sits there in the room between them, a sentence with a life of its own, living, breathing. Which is good, because Harry certainly can’t breathe.

“You think my ass is cute?” She squeaks eventually, after entirely too long. She’s equal parts relieved and terrified, the revelation of all that sensation crashing over her like the tide. Her whole body is hot all over, hands sweaty as she wipes them on her black jeans. “I mean it is cute, I know that, but like. You think so?”

Taylor closes her laptop, and slides off of her bed to sit beside Harry on the floor. “Ms. Harriet Styles. You are easily one of the three cutest girls in our ballet class and that is a fact. I would have probably dropped it without you in the front row. Well, no, that’s a lie. I would have kept it, for the credit. But I would have been bored,” she announces.

Harry has no fucking idea what to say, but she feels fucking crazy. Shivery and giddy and—-sexy. Like she wants grind on a table, sober, which has perhaps never happened before. She wants Taylor to look at her, like she’s been looking at her, like she’s looking at her now. The idea of looking at Taylor is still terrifying, (even if she really really wants to and knows she would like it) but knowing Taylor wants to look at her? At her ass? It’s exhilarating. “I had no idea,” she says, trying to sound coy.

“Well. I try to be stealthy. Are you gonna freak out now?” Taylor asks, idly picking at her french manicured nails. “I think a lot of girls are sexy. If you want to just be friends and write this paper together, I can easily roll with that. But if you want to make out…or show me that master-grinding action you mentioned? I’ll roll with that too.”

Harry sort of wants to cry. But she also sort of wants to make out and grind with Taylor Swift.

“Um,” she says, taking her hair down because the tightness of the elastic in her bun is starting to give her a headache. “I don’t know, actually. I really like the idea of making out with you, but like. I haven't kissed a girl before, and I feel like I’d be bad at it?”

“I’ve got good news for you,” Taylor says, holding up her index finger before she twists to grab a tissue out of the box on her bedside table. She folds it neatly, then presses her lips to it, leaving a perfect red mark. “It’s exactly the same as kissing boys. But softer, and more delicious, and about two hundred and fifty times better.’ Then, she wipes the remnants of her lipstick off again, very ceremoniously.

When she’s done, her lips are bare but still stained, and Harry licks her own. She can hardly think of anything else, now, so she locks eyes with Taylor and says, “Ok. I want to.”

Taylor grins, and leans in. “Good.”

It is very soft, and very delicious. Taylor’s lips are pillowy and gentle and she uses them butterfly-sweet for a long time before tongues ever get involved, and when they do, it’s Harry who flicks hers out reflexively, feeling drunk on the smell of perfume and cigarettes like a cloud around them both. This is so much better than any of her ill-fated attempts at being normal. “Mmm,” Taylor murmurs, taking Harry’s eager mouth cue to flick the tip of her tongue teasingly over the corner of her smile. “If you want to stop, just stop. Just let me know.”

Harry doesn’t want to stop. She feels things falling into place as Taylor cups her cheeks between her cool palms and tilts her just right and licks into the heat of her mouth. She feels her whole past making sense as she boldly climbs into Taylor’s lap to straddle her, to feel the narrowness of her hips between her own thighs. She feels decades worth of buried truths working themselves to the surface of the earth like excavated diamonds as Taylor carefully, deliberately moves her hands to cup Harry’s ass. “Does it feel as good as it looked from the back of the studio?” she pulls away to ask, unable to stop from grinning huge and wide.

Taylor kisses her chin, then throws her head back and groans. “Better. It’s like. Little but juicy, at the same time. Like a peach off a tree…not one of those grocery store, dining hall peaches. The real deal.”

Harry shivers, lets herself fit the curve of her body into Taylor’s searching palms, lets her gaze drift down to Taylor’s body, realizing in this moment how many times she’s wanted to do that, but stopped herself short, before she even realized she was refusing a circuit to complete.

She’s wearing a loose shirt with no bra, her tits hanging soft and palm-sized (like real-deal peaches) under the worn thin fabric. She must notice Harry staring, because she laughs breathlessly, arches her back like a cat. “You can touch them,” she says gently, searching Harry’s face, licking her lips. “If you want to. M’always looking at girls tits in their ballet leotards too. S’ok.”

Harry very much wants to. “I don’t look,” she murmurs, inching her hands nervously onto the warm heft of Taylor’s tits through her shirt, thumbing over her nipples, stunned and dry-mouthed at the way they harden up so easily. She feels like bruised fruit, like skin, like summer. It’s a glorious thing to touch in the middle of an extra cold November. “I don’t let myself.”

“Well. This time you can,” Taylor promises, tilting her head back, the line of her throat smooth and kissable. Harry dips down and presses her lips there because she can and she wants to, and her heart follows suit when she feels the speed of her pulse. “Every fantasy you push down and bottle up. I volunteer as tribute,” Taylor murmurs. Her voice is a vibration under an open mouth.

Harry kisses her, and squeezes her tits, and rolls her hips in rhythmic, experimental thrusts. It feels good. It feels right. It’s so much better to rub against a girl than it is against empty air while boys watch her, it’s so, so much better she sort of wants to cry. But she also sort of wants to make out and grind with Taylor Swift. So, that’s what she decides to do.