A/N: Written for the Kurtoberfest prompts 'witches' and 'cursed object', but not in the Halloween sense, unfortunately. It's more interpretive. Not Blaine or Klaine friendly.
"And one, and two, and three, and – Hummel!"
Kurt comes out of his leap and lands on the outer edge of his right foot, almost twisting his ankle, thrown off by having his name barked across the room.
"Yes, Ms. July," Kurt says, fighting to keep the snap out of his voice.
"You're a quarter beat behind," she announces loudly, banging her wooden cane on the floor in time with the rhythm of the music playing. "Catch up."
Cassie turns back to the rest of the class and Kurt pulls a face.
"Do that again, Hummel, and you'll be washing dance belts after class."
The dancers around him titter, and Kurt feels his cheeks go cold. He always felt there was something witchy about Cassie July - the way she can tell when someone is out of step, even with her back turned; how she can pinpoint your exact mistake without having to look at you; how she can identify people by their footsteps alone as they shuffle into the room. He doesn't think she can actually make good on her threat about the dance belts, but the laughter that travels from student to student is enough to make him keep his face impassive, and get him concentrating harder. After all, each of these other dancers can perform perfect leaps, while he's close to snapping his ankle with every landing.
Kurt moves along with the line of students back to the front, preparing to take another turn at landing a passable grand jete. He sees it in his head, pictures himself doing it, tries to feel his body lift, his feet leaving the floor, his body gliding aloft, then coming back down to the floor and, hopefully, walking away without a major injury. He approaches the starting line – a strip of tape placed on the floor at the far end of the room, giving the dancers enough space to perform at least two grand jetes in a row.
Kurt puts his toes to the line and all activity in the room stops. It doesn't stop for everyone, but since Cassie made it a point to single him out, everyone feels the need to stop and see if Kurt messes up a second time.
He takes two quick steps forward and then leaps into the air. Before he even makes it to the ground, her voice bellows out again, "You're listing to the left like a drunk sailor." Cassie stomps her way down the line to meet him at the end. "What the hell's wrong with you?"
"I don't know," Kurt says, feeling the need to defend himself. Maybe he doesn't like being called out on his mistakes, but he can at least acknowledge that she's right. Whether he hates it or not, there's something wrong, and since Crazy July is the so-called professional, maybe she can help him fix it. "I feel…off balance."
She tuts disapprovingly and shakes her head, swinging her blonde hair back and forth over her shoulders. She waves an idle hand at a T.A. who takes over.
"So, you run off to Lima for a week, do God knows whatever you guys do in Ohio, and then you come back to my class with two left feet. I mean, why do you kids keep going back there?"
Kurt bites his tongue and waits for her next scathing comment. He learned from the first day of class that Cassie asks very few questions that she actually wants the answers to.
"That's not a rhetorical question, Hummel," Cassie says to Kurt's surprise, her usual no-nonsense but jeering tone taking on a serious edge. "I really want to know. You and your little girl friend Rachel shuttle off to Ohio at a moment's notice, and you usual both come back a disaster. So, why do you guys keep going back there?"
"W-well," Kurt stammers, anxious at being put on the spot for his ridiculous travel habits in front of a room full of his so-called peers, especially since they always seem to know the details concerning the drama in his life without him having to say a single thing, "because, I've got family back there. And friends."
"Pfft," Cassie says, waving her cane dismissively and almost whacking him on the nose. "Friends and family will only hold you back, Hummel." She gives him a rather uncomfortable once over from head to foot, her eyes zeroing in on something in particular on the return trip. "And from the looks of it, it's started already." Kurt follows her gaze down and notices that her eyes are focused in on his left hand – specifically, the new piece of jewelry on his left ring finger. She hisses dramatically as if she just saw a gaping, infected, pus-filled wound. "My God, Hummel! When did you get that?"
"I…uh…" The answer, of course, was simple. Blaine proposed to him on his last trip back to Lima. But after the scolding he just received for the amount of times he goes back, that simple answer flies right out of his head.
Besides, there was a degree to which he had hoped she wouldn't notice it.
Kurt looks at her face, her nose scrunching up as she stares at the ring, as if glaring at it will make it disappear, but then her expression changes, and the Cassandra July who looks up at him is vastly different from the woman who likes to yell at them, call them names, and put them through their paces.
"You know, dance isn't all physical, Kurt," she says, and Kurt jerks back a hair. He can't remember the last time she called him by his first name. "A lot of it is emotional. You need your outside and your inside to work together. You need to have a level of harmony that transcends everything else. Oh, you'll have your bad days, your bad reviews, your rude audiences, but when it comes down to it, you have to leave all those things at the stage door, because they just don't matter." She opens her arms out wide, gesturing to the other students dancing in the class, to the music playing in the air, to the whole that is NYADA. "This is what matters."
"Dancing matters more than life?" Kurt asks skeptically.
"If you want to be a dancer, yes," she says. "Or if you want to be an actor, then that matters more. Want to sing? That matters more."
"Life doesn't matter?" Kurt asks, not sure he entirely understands. He's heard of performers giving up their lives for their art. He's not sure he's one of those types of performers, and still, he can't think of a single other thing he's ever wanted to seriously be.
"What you do here," Cassie says, tapping her cane on the floor for emphasis, "is life. This is it! This is all! This is everything! And you don't need anything or anybody weighing you down. So, if I were you, I would take that accursed thing off."
Kurt raises both eyebrows. Even with all of her glaring at his engagement ring, he didn't expect her to say anything like that.
"That's your dance advice?" Kurt asks. "Take off a ring that weighs less than an ounce and my balance will return?"
"No, that's my life advice," Cassie says, her voice and her eyes softening, invading his space just enough so that no one else will hear. "Look, Kurt, I know about the guy, and I know what he did."
Kurt scoffs. See? Everyone knows the details.
"And?" he says defensively.
"And I know that you're not over it."
"Yeah," Kurt says, turning his face slightly away, but he can't hide his furious blush. "How?"
"Because if you were, those jetes that I've seen you do in your sleep since you started my class wouldn't be a problem for you now."
Kurt glances subconsciously down at his ring, which feels strange because most days he kind of tries to forget that it's there. What she's saying still doesn't make a whole lot of sense where dancing is concerned, but he also doesn't want to admit that she might be right. From the moment Blaine slipped the ring on his finger, it felt unnatural, clumsy. It's an intrusive presence. He hasn't gotten used to it. He always feels it. No amount of ignoring it makes it any more comfortable. When he takes it off to shower, he finally feels normal again, but the second he puts it back on, he feels heavy. Lopsided.
"You know, Kurt," Cassie says, "the world is full of boys with rings, ready to tie you down. And later in life, when you're old and fat and you're on your seventh knee replacement surgery, if that's what you really want, that's fine. But now - now is your time, and this" - She gestures around the room again – "might not come around again. Are you really willing to give that up for a boy who weighs you down?"
Kurt fiddles with the ring on his finger, twirling it around while he thinks, and Cassie rolls her eyes. Cassie hates getting the kids like Kurt because Kurt has talent, real talent, but he also has something that other people don't and that she can't teach. Abilities that are natural and that truly stand out. But he's also the kind of kid that wraps his self-worth around other people and their opinions of him - unworthy people, from what she's heard. Losing him to some dime-a-dozen Ohio boyfriend would be a damn shame, but she can't make this decision for him. She doesn't know if she's getting through to him, but she can't have this wasting any more of her class time.
"Hey," she says, "you do what you wanna do. You wanna tie yourself down at 21 or whatever, that's on you. But from now on, if that ring is going to keep knocking you on your ass, you either don't wear it" – She points to the door with her cane – "or you leave my studio."
Cassie turns on her heel and walks back to the center of the classroom, taking over for her T.A., and leaving Kurt with a bigger decision than does he dance with or without his engagement ring. He's not entirely sure what he should do. Her advice is good advice, and it isn't only about dancing. It's about everything, everything important to him, his whole life. It's definitely something to think about. He'd worked so hard to get where he is – played second fiddle to Rachel, auditioned twice, took risks he never thought he'd have to take. His road to NYADA has been, by far, one of the hardest he's had to travel.
But so has the road he's had to walk to get to Blaine.
But should that road be so hard? Shouldn't having Blaine in his life make things easier, not harder?
Kurt can't make a decision about his whole life right now, but he can make one about this class.
He doesn't notice Cassie's eyes watch him when he goes over to his bag at the front of the room, or the small smile curling the corners of her mouth when he slips the ring off his finger and puts it into his bag. All he knows is he's going to let it go for the time being, and feel what it's like to dance again without it.