Standing against the wall, away from the activity of the party, June rested herself and took in the sight of co-workers conversing, having fun. "Fun" was probably a subjective word as she had to fight back an urge to yawn. She wasn't the only one standing against a wall at the venue, but no one occupied more solitude than her as she scrolled through content on her smartphone. It wasn't really a boring party, but it certainly wasn't as glamorous as advertised in the planning phase.
June worked at a greeting card establishment. Not even close to the size of Hallmark, but the intention of it was to someday rival them. It was the kind of place that had it in them to want to celebrate every big holiday, especially on the day of, when their cards had already been sent out, and were gaining them the revenue they needed to thrive, or some months, survive.
As business was booming that year, someone had the bright idea of celebrating outside the office. They had a connection with the owner of a dance club where they celebrated Valentine's Day, and for a generous rate and favor, they had the place all to themselves. For June, it seemed unfortunate as it imitated her high school prom almost exactly. The beautiful people having fun in the center, the less attractive standing a ways away, and June having her eye on someone who barely knew she existed, her Australian heart-throb Auggie.
Even if she upgraded her opinion of her looks from ugly to plain over the years, she still lacked the confidence to do what some girls around him were already doing - dancing.
"Nice party," someone next to June asked.
June turned her head quickly to see a woman standing near her. Caramel-colored hair, facial beauty resembling starlets from 50 years ago, and a nice figure were the first things she noticed about the woman, and despite not looking below her shoulders, she could tell the woman was statuesque. Looking out at the crowd like June was, quick, friendly smiles were exchanged as they glanced at each other.
June didn't know how to respond to her comment except to politely smile, so she let silence fill the air, while the other was happy to fill it.
"Reminds me of high school; people off to the sides, at the center. Minus the dancing, I guess."
"So why aren't you at the center with the other beautiful people," June asked in her head. It was very perplexing to be standing next to someone who looked like she could've been a head cheerleader. June was a decade past her prom, and yet an insecurity grew in her, as if she was going to be set up for a cruel prank beautiful people play on plain ones. Most of the office was a friendlier bunch, but the occasional prank was expected among them, even if they'd been good-natured up to this point. Looking around, she started to notice a few unfamiliar faces, and realized one of the staff said that a few employees under the club owner might show - their little off-time before having to work on Valentine's. She could only assume her new acquaintance was part of that.
"Yeah," June finally contributed. "At least the dress code is more relaxed."
"True. Casual does have its advantages."
June noticed the she was wearing jeans, flats, and a sweater. The way she wore it, she was doubly happy no one suggested more than casual wear for the party, afraid of how she could be put to shame next to the stunner next to her.
"I'm Camille, by the way."
June half-expected her to reach out for a handshake, but given her name and another friendly smile from Camille made it much easier to extend the same courtesy.
"June. Nice to meet you."
June looked out amongst a few of the clusters of people talking, and saw the club owner Denise chatting a co-worker, and someone she didn't recognize.
"You work for the host?" June asked, cordially contributing to the conversation.
"No, just friends; dropping off something for her. Didn't even know she had parties this early."
"I think she worked something out with an organizer from my office."
"You might've gotten lucky with Denise; don't know that many clubs that would open early for a private party." Camille knew that was a half-truth, as the right amount of money or influence could loosen a club owner's policy on that, and that a group like this probably lacked both. Denise was nice about things like that though, about as nice as Camille could be, which helped cultivate a friendship, work-involved or not.
"I hope you're having fun."
June couldn't think of any way to positively spin it; fearing anything that came out of her mouth might sound sarcastic, she held back from saying anything, even if that alluded to an answer. If the silence would endure long enough, she would automatically go back to her phone, giving the impression of multi-tasking between it and the non-conversation she was having. That notion didn't last long with Camille.
"As presumptuous as this is, may I make an observation?"
June looked back at her, nakedly reacting to her question, face full of surprise and disarray. There was little observation to make about some like her, from someone who looked like Camille, that would've been positive, according to June's own experience. The question was almost as strange as how it wasn't asked in a sardonic matter; she had a "big sister" tone of voice, the kind she wished her older sister actually had when she was having problems.
"It's probably best if you go over and talk to him."
"Who?" June feigned ignorance.
"The guy you've been staring at across the room since before you found me standing next to you."
June maintained the facade as well as she could, confusingly looking out at multiple people in the crowd, looking everywhere but where Auggie stood. She looked back at Camille to see her looking squarely in Auggie's direction. Her lips formed something between displaying happiness and concern. "Consideration" was the word June's inner thoughts derived.
"I know, it's none of my business, and we've barely met. Really not trying to toot my own horn, but I have an eye for things like this. I see it all the time, people feeling but not acting on their impulses. I can't say whether those impulses are good or honorable, but if I get a sense that the people are good-natured, it saddens me to see them at least not try."
Camille was given an incredulous look; it slipped a bit as her eyes quickly shifted down, and seconds later back in Auggie's direction before looking back.
"Walls like this are an easy comfort zone; the safest place to avoid social embarrassment. I don't know if this is your first, but I've had several like this to cling to, afraid of the person I really wanted to talk to toward the center. Jim Sands was the last guy I looked at from across a room, with pining eyes."
"How long ago was that?" June asked, unsure if what she was being told was true, but interested in where the story went.
"Seven years ago. I was breaking out of my shyness from grade school, but some guys with the right features could still give me butterflies, and I'd find myself fluttering all the way back to a wall, wondering if he'd think of me as a pretty butterfly or underdeveloped caterpillar."
"Maybe she had plastic surgery done seven years ago," June told herself sarcastically at hearing the caterpillar line.
"You went out to meet him?" June asked aloud.
"I had help. An old friend who saw me looking out in the crowd slipped a hand between me and the wall, gave me a good shove. I looked back and gave her daggers, she stuck her tongue out at me. Turning to see Jim talking to a few girls, like Auggie is right now, not feeling a wall to cling to for the first time, I got this sink or swim feeling. I remember myself huffing and saying 'screw it - go get the sunken treasure.'"
"I got the courage. Went up to him in slow steps; think tightroping toward him, trying not to embarrass as I approached, which is funny, since I think I'm usually pretty good on my feet. But the closer I got, the more I was in earshot of some of the things he was saying. If I was good at reading lips, maybe the illusion would've been broken sooner, but the romantic persona I'd given him from afar all but shattered. Some of the things he was telling those girls, things they were into that I wasn't. By the time any of them noticed me, all they got was a pleasant smile from me as I walked right by them."
"So, things worked out." June's voice bordered on making a statement and asking a question, as she was unsure if what she heard was some happy ending to top off the motivation of her wallflower story.
"Seconds later they worked out; I gave a look back toward Jim thinking 'what the hell was I thinking,' and that's when I bumped into a different guy. We both got our clothes stained from the drink he held. We apologized at the same time, then laughed, then talked, then had a good dancing."
Just like her reaction to the end of a cheesy romcom, a smile tugged at June's lips.
"A little convoluted, I admit. And you can bump into a nice guy anywhere, I know, but I hope my illustrating the positives of stepping out there wasn't..." Camille looked at June tentatively, gauging her response to the story. "too annoying?"
"No. It wasn't annoying. It was a nice story; I'm glad that worked out for you, but it doesn't work out for everyone."
"You're absolutely right, it doesn't. But I think the ones who are worse off are the ones that don't try and never know. I didn't have the luxury of meeting Jim before hand to know myself. Have you spoken to him?" Camille gestured toward Auggie with a look.
"Yeah, we work for the same start-up. Seems like a good guy after talking to him."
"When's the last time you talked to him?"
"Almost a year ago. Lots about him could have changed since then."
"Yet I wonder if your feelings have. You're still on the sidelines, as if you're waiting for your chance. And you have that look of wanting to be in the game. You were better than me at hiding it, but I still recognize it. You don't get touchdowns from the sidelines."
Camille paused and chuckled to herself, wondering how she came to a football analogy.
"I'm not going to give you a push out there. But, just something to c-"
"Cammy," a voice interrupted from behind her.
Camille turned to see Denise, the club owner. They exchanged smiles Camille turned back to June once more to finish her sentence.
"Just something to consider," she looked back out to Auggie and June, before excusing herself from June's company.
June watched both women step away, Denise talking about a CD, and something about dancing. June tore her attention away from the to look back at Auggie she noticed was sitting and talking with his friend. A male friend, she noticed, as he hadn't gone over to dance with them. Camille's pep-talk and the opportunity of him being alone gave her a small push of consideration. She could actually do it. It was a gamble, and for the first time in a long time, she thought more about what their was to gain instead of to lose.
She kept this train of thought going until a co-worker walked up to her to start chatting about things. She barely recognized her, and would've easily mistaken her for being one of Denise's acquaintances. The conversation seemed pretty one-sided as June was half-paying attention, but the woman didn't seem to mind. The faint smell of liquor off of her told June that she was a pretty chatty even when tipsy, whoever she was. June excused herself as politely as possible to the bathroom before this woman could get another drink in her. It was a little motivating that June saw Auggie head for the men's room.
With the women's room adjacent, June entered and sighed as she looked in the mirror. She couldn't even feign having to use the bathroom, even as nervous as she felt. She simply listened for the sound of the men's room opening up, waiting for her chance to run into him. It could be easy to exit to find someone entering the men's room, but she patiently waited, splashing some cool water on her face, practicing her posture and reapplying some makeup.
It could've been nearly ten minutes of waiting, but she finally heard the sound of a nearby door creaking open, and took that as her cue. In opening the door herself, she heard what sounded like Denise's voice speaking to everyone, followed by some different music beginning to play. What played before wasn't as loud, but this new music was meant to be in the forefront of everyone's attention.
June opened the door to find Auggie looking out at a crowd gathered around someone dancing. She smiled at him, brighter than she could contain, but not enough to show her crush. He gave her an equivalent smile, as they slowly approached together to a vacant space in the crowd. In the center they saw Camille dancing to the new music.
Talk amongst the crowd of Denise presenting Camille and a dance gave a bit more insight as to what the pair had missed. Things along the lines of "Camille lost a bet to Denise and had to perform," or "Camille might've asked to do this to liven things up" were spoken amongst the greeting card partygoers, but thing became quieter as the dance and the music gained more detail.
Camille slowly moved herself to the beat, hips shaking and swirling to the beat. Her eyelids stayed closed most of the time, clearly lost in the enjoyment of her dance. Her wallflower story seemed absolutely unbelievable to June as Camille moved effortlessly, unabated, fully immersed in what she was doing, even more extroverted than June was introverted.
The music was clearly a remix of some sort, arranged in a way to take advantage of expertly cut dialog from TV, movies, and certain songs to create custom lyrics. Not all of them were clear, but June and everyone else easily caught words from the refrain - "love spell" "you are mine" "kisses" " you belong to me." Vocals of Nina Simone, Madonna's "Erotica," and a dash of Spice Girls complimented the audio. Put together it all seemed rather original, catchy even; the kind of seductive music you'd expect to hear from 90s pop stars at the height of their careers at the height of her career.
The caramel-haired woman now had everyone's attention, undulating unabashed, her torso and limbs making bolder movements, her dance style a mix of exotic and almost solo flamingo-style dancing, at first. She walked with a confident gait in the circle surrounding her, giving everyone a close view of her catwalk strut. As Camille crossed June's path, the smile she already had grown for the second June caught it. Men and women alike seemed to enjoy everything she did; borderline risqué, but creatively tasteful.
Camille noticed one guy moving to the music similar to how she started in the circle; he had a good sense of the beat the way he shifted his torso. From the very center of the space made for her, Camille pointed in his direction, calling him out. He seemed surprised as he watched her finger crux toward him, a playful come-hither stare filling his vision. He took slow steps toward her, letting his body follow the music as he did so. A few women surrounding them were giving a few catcalls toward the attractive, agile, rhythmed man. The song was clearly made to promote female empowerment in a sexy, romantic dance, and yet he looks and empowered and as skilled as she was.
At some point, the music transitioned, some of the quieter beats remained as scintillating, belly dancing music lead the song in a new direction, and at least one of the dancers as well. Camille automatically took to the music while the male dancer regressed to simple motions, finding a new rhythm to dance to. June finally noticed that Camille had changed sweaters. The color hadn't changed much, from a dark muted red to a brighter burgundy, but there was a festive design on her new one, a pink heart shape with an arrow piercing through it. And the new one was cut low to show off her midriff, showing a navel ring of a cupid and heart shape. Lights overhead gleaming down, it glistened in everyone's eyes as they watched it and her roll her femininely-toned stomach in waves. Hands above her head, her style changed to part ballerina, part bellydancer.
The male dancer seemed to barely find a rhythm while focusing more on that bellyring. Several of their audience thought the man was beginning to transform into a snake, for how carefully he followed, sometimes mimicked every last move of hers. Every so often one of her hands would extend to him, luring him closer, manipulating him to fall and rise as she wished. Sometimes he would find the rings adorning her fingers just as easy to follow as the belly ring, as her fingers danced as fluidly as she did. Like the circle she walked along their audience before, Camille moved counterclockwise this time, reversing her strut while still rocking her hips in waves and from side to side, twirling occasionally. Her fluidity gave people the impression that she was gliding on air, just above the ground, even moonwalking in her flats. The "snake" followed her path, enraptured, the face of a pacified zombie while moving serpentine-like when she wanted. For most of the audience, it was as authentic as a snake-charmer dance could be given the circumstances, the only live showing they'd ever get to see in their lifetimes.
No one noticed how strong the beats were getting; Camille and her snake kept mouths and minds silent for the duration of their dance. But the silence was filled with the remixed lyrics, still playing in everyone's head. The male snake wasn't alone in the expression he bore; everyone gradually started to look like him. Auggie and June awareness of themselves was a miniscule percentile compared to Camille. The rest was a steady stream of repetitive words. Not a soul in the club was unconvinced that a love spell hadn't descended upon them. Inaudible suggestions were hidden behind binaural beats, the overall spell much more intricate than anyone could've realized, as was Camille's intention when she made it.
She'd fallen a little bit into the spell herself, but it was a self-induced spell, invoked well before the music began. She was truly in-love with dancing like this, and the power she could hold over a captive crowd, or just one lucky dance partner. Her ingenuity led to having both, as her snake was reduced to a puddle of aroused and unshakable fascination. He crawled to follow her, or stayed on his knees, the last of this strength being used to imitate puppet strings tied to her fingers and belly to pull him upwards, downwards, or closer. Spinning her hips in a hula-hooping motion led his mind to spin three times as fast.
Everyone else had found themselves in a state of standby. Their bodies were still while taking in suggestions from the unheard lyrics, while their minds prepared them for a fantasy to live out. Men and women found themselves on their own dance floor in their heads, everyone around them unspecific dark forms in human shape, only becoming detailed if the person desired them. Words lacing their thoughts told them to seek out who they could desire, anyone they could harbor a passion for. Those who could find someone would give the each other their full attention, while still minding the dark human forms dancing around them. In the absence of a partner, the person would dance to the beat themselves, seeing the person they'd want to dance with the most.
June and Auggie only needed to turn to themselves to find a suitable partner. They both felt like the star of their own movie, the hot, sensually signature scene of a romance picture. Auggie more supporting actor than actor, as all men were in the room, following the pace that the women set with their bodies. June slowly took to the lead role, more fascinated with what she was being coaxed into, enjoying the suggestions, but slow in acting on them. She didn't move nearly as much as some of the women around them, becoming savant snake charmers themselves. Camille could've programmed a full dance floor worthy of an R or X-rated film, but she kept things at PG-13 level, giving everyone incentive to take it to R or higher on their own time later. June had yet to rise above PG, until she felt a helping hand, and an additional voice speaking directly into her ear.
"It's time for that wallflower to bloom."
The new voice sounded so close to one already in her head, so she welcomed it with open, placid arms. Her wrists were gripped as she found her arms waving as provocatively as Camille's had.
"Feel that bright sun shining down on you, as warm as the month of June."
Extra body heat helped simulate that warmth.
"It's the love spell, it's all around you, in you, in the one you dance with. It helps you bloom into the beautiful woman it knows you are."
Her knees bent and stretched against her will at first, not stopping until it became her will to dip and rise, and have Auggie follow her.
"Give in to it; all it wants is to make you feel good."
A gentle hand stroked her stomach and hips, adding to the rising and falling motion, letting them become a draw to Auggie.
"You already feel good, but you can feel even better. The spell has helped you find someone, someone you can share a great passion with."
The pair's bodies closed the distance with each passing few seconds.
"He wants you, he wants to follow you, to have you lead him, in many ways. He wants to be yours."
"Yes," is what both women heard his Australian accent whisper. Both women happily smiled at hearing it.
"He's yours June. The spell has helped you realize that. The spell he feels is the spell you cast, with your beauty, your poise and grace, the will you have that overshadows him, or shines down on him. You are the sun that helps him bloom into what he needs to be - yours, June."
June gasped loudly as she felt that inner strength take hold of her. She could no longer tell the difference between Camille's words and her thoughts. They became June's words, as she spoke softly to Auggie. A hand at the back of both their heads softly brought them closer.
"Let him hear you, June." Camille emphasized "you," stating the real June she'd created.
Soon Auggie's ears were filled with June's passionate whispers and commands. In their dance, she took ownership of him, brought him close, told him now spellbound he was, reminding him how much he loved it. Camille giggled with glee as she saw June take some initiative, turning so she leaned deeply into his front, shifting her hips the way Camille had just taught her, moving his body and incentivizing everything by stimulating his crotch.
Camille looked around the club, making sure that everyone was having a good time. Most of everyone was paired off, with a few people dancing as if they weren't alone. Luckily no one was bumping into one another. Denise off in the distance was dancing with one of June's female associates, really getting into what they were doing. Seemed like a dance of cooperation instead of dominance. She was glad that she didn't forget about different instructions for same-sex dancing.
She wanted to walk and dance amongst the crowd till the music stopped, but snake piled up at her feet hugged one of her legs to keep her close. He was told to open his eyes, and saw and moving up to see his spellcaster above, eager to take in her next suggestions.
* * *
"Wait, so you actually did two shows today?" Penny asked over the phone.
"Yep," Camille responded, noticing it was approaching the day after Valentine's. "The evening show was planned weeks ago, but when I dropped off a CD at Denise's club, I...got a little inspired, and decided to make a test run there. Smaller group, would help me work out the kinks for the big show."
"Hell of a freebie for them. How'd that go?"
"I got paid in experience; the first show was almost as perfect as the big show." Camille spoke with pride. "Music ran for 25 minutes, everybody was out practically in the first ten, then things got really jazzed up. Hot, but not steamy; steamy should be what's going on right now for a bunch of them. The second track played right after; gave them suggestions to help everyone keep things in their pants within reason, or until tonight."
"Regardless of couples?"
"Nope, singles got to mingle with each other. Anyone in a relationship is showing that significant other a lot of love by now."
"Jeez. It's a little frightening to think the Holidancer will strike twice a day now."
"She strikes when the moment suits her; you know that."
Both former roommates laughed into their phones, Camille's last sentence reminding them of the good times they had and all the things Penny has seen Camille do.
"So why was the day show 'almost' perfect? I've never known a show from you to go off with a hitch."
"They happen, but I usually improvise. Today though, I admit I cheated. I asked Keith for some help."
"Aha, so it wasn't purely just luck then."
"I was lucky he was available, and happened to be only like 15 minutes away. He was the perfect partner, the snake to my charms."
"He ought to be since you taught him. Wait, are you still teaching him?"
"I don't believe you're ever done learning anything when it comes to dancing. But yeah, he's still learning. He's going further into than he ever expected; I guess that happens when one sells themselves short."
"I'll bet he-ouch. No no Trent, slowly, just like that. That's right." Penny sighed into the phone, enjoying the luxuries of her new boyfriend.
"What's he doing for you tonight?"
"A foot rub, with more fun to follow."
"I told you he was more than happy to give nice girls the special treatments."
"And how right you were. I love how gift-giving he is, even after Christmas. How do you always find the passionate ones with high stamina though?"
Camille shrugged to herself. "I'm a festive, energetic, passionate girl, especially on holidays. I guess I just put a vibe out there that like-minded people respond to."
"And besides Keith, who responded to you today?"
"A little bit of everyone I'd met, but there was this one nice couple I met. They weren't necessarily a couple before, but it was hard to say they hadn't talked about it, last I saw them."
"Nice to know the Holidancer still doubles as cupid from time-to-time. And just talked?"
"No, a bit more than that. They were my inspiration for the day show, in truth. Sometimes a stronger push is needed to show a person something good. You'd know that, wouldn't you Penny?"
Camille didn't have to ask, she could feel the smile on the other end of the line.
"I'll fill you in on the details later, but I think I need to get off the phone. A desperate fan looks like they want an encore."
"'Encore,' eh? Yeah, tell him I said hi. Have a steamy one, Cam."
Camille ended the call and set it to voice mail, as she reclined in her plush loveseat in her apartment. Stepping closer, invading her personal space, was Keith dressed only in cowboy boots and a seductive smile, a long-stemmed rose gripped in his teeth.
She admired the young, virile body above her. He, like her, was a professional dancer who sometimes did a bit of exotic work on the side. Though nowhere near as gifted as she, she helped him excel in any form of dance he went for, and he proclaimed his eternal gratefulness to her, sometimes multiple ways from dusk to dawn, or whatever she was in the mood for.
There was no shame in his movements as he straddled her, dancing to a tune she'd set earlier. It wasn't playing now as it was even more amusing to watch him move in absence of a song. His legs spread hers, and he occasionally bent down to bring his face close to hers, daring her to take the rose from his mouth. He had to speed to evade every chance he gave her, until he felt a finger flick playfully at his erection, and a raised hand bringing his head down obediently. She caressed his jaw, and feeling the muscles loosen while she stole the rose from his mouth with hers. Her hand pushed him back to standing while she used the rose to tease him while he still tried to dance for her.
The love spell she cast lasted the whole day, and well into the next; A heady, pheromonal aroma to get everyone in the spirit of Valentine's.