Although she believed passionately in relationships built on trust, Caroline knew she would never tell anyone about Jackson. Especially her husband Dave.
“Whatcha’ reading, babe?” Dave asked as he clomped into the kitchen in his heavy work-boots. He leaned over the chair to give her a kiss on the cheek. She could smell the piney scent that infused all of his clothes from working at the sawmill.
It took her a moment to drag her eyes away from the photo of Jackson. In the photo he was onstage wearing only tights, his brown bare chest shining in the stage lights.
“Just a dance thing,” she laughed nervously as she folded the magazine closed.
“Buncha’ fruits,” Dave muttered as he went over to the fridge. “You get my lunch packed? Me and your dad are headed out to check out a woodlot by the Johnson’s today. Probably going to be another slow day with the rain and mud. You and the kids should have supper without me.”
She waited impatiently for Dave to get his thermos of coffee and the lunch that she had already packed and get out the door. She forced herself to wait until she heard the Oregon Loggers work truck start up in the driveway before she looked at the magazine again. But when she did she felt the same rush she had the first time she’d seen him 15 years ago.
“Jackson! You’re late!” Alphonse Poulin had yelled when he walked into the studio.
Caroline stood waiting at the barre like a wallflower. The only one with out a dance partner. She saw his reflection in the mirror. He was the blackest man Caroline had ever seen.
“You! Blondie from Oregon! Voila your dance partner has arrived! On y va!
She was in New York for 3 weeks of a summer dance intensive program for high-school students at Julliard and it was the first day of M. Poulin’s Partnering Workshop.
“Bonjour mademoiselle” Jackson joked as he extended his hand. She had never touched a black man before and was surprised by the softness of his hands. “And you are…?” he asked.
Caroline realized she’d been holding his outstretched hand for an inappropriately long time.
“Caroline,” she whispered. He leaned in closer to hear her. She could smell his aftershave or perfume or some exotic scent that had never reached her before in Oregon.
Still holding her hand, he gestured to the center of the studio. “Shall we dance, sweet Caroline?”