The Sweetest Fix Page 2

Reese shifted in her oxfords. “About my payment…”

“See Cheryl at the front desk.”

“Will do! Thank you.”

Briskly, she turned on a heel, but the owner of the dealership stopped her progress. “Oh, uh, Miss Stratton.” He scratched behind his ear. “We don’t need you tomorrow.”

“Why? Tomorrow is Saturday. Is the sale ending early?”

He hurried to look back down at his clipboard. “No.”

“Oh.” She swallowed a handful of tacks. “Gotcha.”

Minutes later, Reese clutched the envelope containing a twenty-dollar bill to her chest and tried not to slip on the ice on the way to the station wagon she’d borrowed from her mother for the gig this morning. A bumper sticker affixed to the rear window read Dance Mom Taxi. To the right, there was another one that said Sorry, We’re Late for Dance. Directly above that one was Dance, Sleep, Repeat. All three of them were faded.

Reese threw herself into the driver’s side and started the engine. The radio came on full blast and she smacked it off, dropping her forehead to the steering wheel, watching her misty breath curl in front of the speedometers.

“If you stumble,” she whispered, squeezing her eyes closed, “make it part of the dance.”

On the drive home, she passed beneath a sign on Main Street heralding the 2021 Regional Dance Champions and their coach, Lorna Stratton.

Over the course of a decade, Reese’s mother, once a celebrated dancer in her own right, had led Cedarburg’s dance teams to regional victories—and even one state title. She was nothing short of a local legend. And although it riddled Reese with guilt to admit it, even silently to herself, Lorna was the last person she wanted to face right now, fresh from her mortification and holding twenty bucks. Walking proof that their dream for her hadn’t come to fruition.

Unfortunately, sneaking into the house wasn’t a likely possibility when the engine of the station wagon announced her arrival like a freaking missile launcher. Reese winced at the drag of the gear shift and shut off the engine, pulling her coat tight around her body and exiting the car, looking left and right upon entering the kitchen. Creeping on the balls of her feet—

“Reese’s Pieces! At last, you are home!” Lorna twirled into the kitchen on a painted pink toe, her shirt tied up beneath her breasts, proudly displaying her stretch marks and a couple of tattoos circa the eighties.

Reese’s lips curled into an automatic smile. It couldn’t be helped. She adored her single mother-turned-dance coach superstar mother. Truly, she did. The woman’s energy, optimism and confidence were unmatched.

It was just really, really hard for Reese to be around her when disappointment hung over the kitchen like a raincloud, casting everything that was once so bright in shadows.

“How did the performance go?” Lorna asked, perching her chin on folded hands.

“Amazing.” Reese upped the wattage of her smile. “You couldn’t drag them away.”

From the free coffee.

“That’s my girl,” Lorna said, coming around the kitchen island.

No, strutting. Doing kind of a slow step-bounce, her lips folded inwardly.

It was how she walked when she had big news. Or a secret.

Or when she knew who’d gotten sent home from The Bachelorette and was trying not to spill the beans but couldn’t help being super smug about it.

“Mom. What is it?”

“Oh nothing.” She dropped into a plié, pulling something out into the open from behind her back. “Only that you got a letter from the contest.”

Reese’s stomach dropped to the floor. “What contest?”

Which was a stupid question. A stalling tactic. She’d entered one contest and one contest only in the last year. Dance for Bexley.

Once a year, Bernard Bexley, famed Broadway choreographer and elusive New York City culture icon, chose five Broadway hopefuls to perform in his presence on the stage of the Bexley Theater. If they managed to impress the stoic luminary, he would green light them. In other words, he would make the appropriate calls to fast track the dancer to The Dream. Also known as a paying position in a Broadway ensemble cast. His assistance was invaluable.

The stuff of every dancer’s fantasies, including Reese.

“It’s probably a rejection,” she said now. “Thousands of dancers submit. From all over the country.”

“Don’t think like that!” Lorna scolded, slapping the envelope into Reese’s palm. “There’s no reason he wouldn’t pick you. That audition tape was transcendent.”

“It was pretty great.”

“Of course it was. I did the choreo and you slayed it.”

Reese blew out a breath and kicked off her oxfords so she could dance around on the balls of her feet. “Okay. Oh, Jesus. I’m going to open it.”

“Hold on. We need better lighting.”

Her mother tapped the dimmer switch, considered, tapped it again. “Perfect. Go.”

Reese slipped a finger beneath the envelope flap and paused. “Come on, Bexley.” She ripped it open and drew out the letter, her insides curling up like the Wicked Witch’s toes after the house got dropped on her head. Due to her utter anxiety, the lines were blurred for a moment before racing back together and clearing.

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