Author's Note: Hey everyone! Okay, so I didn't update in the next 24 hours after I uploaded this story like I said, and I apologize for that, because I had tons of things to do, but to start this second chapter off, I just feel the need to say...wow, you guys...wow...I just casually checked to see how many people were checking this story out and I can't believe that a lot of you around the world (and surprisingly so many countries) have read this story and it amazes me and overwhelms me (in a good way) so much that you all took the time out of your day to read this story and honestly, it means the world to me, so give yourselves a round of applause. As for those of you who reviewed, thank you so much for taking your time to send me your feedback as well and I truly thank you so much for your support! That's all I gotta say! Now, a word about this chapter and the next, you all finally get to see what Amanda's up to at the studio, plus, some appearances from more A-Troupers (maybe one a lot of you have most likely been waiting to see) and a little Season 3 reference thrown in. Let's see if you'll be able to find it. I hope you're enjoying this story as much as I am and actually, I'm almost done. This won't be the final chapter though. Expect one or two more.
As the phone call suddenly ended without another peep from Amanda, Noah knew and understood that she seemed to be in such a hurry that she had no time to carry on the conversation between them any further and simply dismissed it with a shrug as he placed his phone back on his side table, continuing to button up the rest of his shirt...but he couldn't. He simply couldn't dismiss the thought. Not yet, at least.
In the spur of the moment, Amanda's abrupt finish to their phone call didn't seem to bother him one bit at first glance, because he knew for a fact that this happened before. But this time was different. Not only was he slightly bothered in hindsight; he also found this entire situation incredibly unusual. Whenever he Amanda found the time to have a little chat on the phone once they both returned home after school or after dance rehearsals, no matter how busy either of them were, especially Amanda, catching up on her homework and other personal errands outside of dance, she would normally set aside the time of day (or night) to spend as much time as possible with Noah, even if it meant multitasking. Even he would do the same in a heartbeat. What made this situation even more out of the ordinary was the fact that while he was in the middle of asking her to spend the rest of his birthday with him, she immediately cut him off before he could proceed any further and that was most definitely unlike Amanda. There they were early in the morning sharing a pleasant conversation as if time stopped for just the two of them when right at that moment when he decides to ask her out for the day, she ends the call without an explanation...just like that. There was definitely something fishy about this situation and Noah was determined to find out.
As he headed for the washroom to gently comb the tufts of his hair, as he opened the door, he was suddenly met by the mew of his orange tabby cat, Montevideo, who simply sat right next to its doorframe, his wide emerald orbs staring intently into Noah's and his two front paws reaching out for his owner and immediately, Noah was taken in by his feline's adorable behavior, causing him to give off a small goofy smile staring down affectionately at his pet.
"Hey buddy, you're up early too!" Noah bent down slightly (thankfully not enough to hurt his injured back), extending his arms for the feline to jump into them as he naturally did, causing Noah to whimper slightly at the force of his cat's heaviness, "Do you know what day it is today, Monty?"
There was no response from the cat other than a wide yawn and a flick of his ears and whiskers and the protruding of his fur brushing against Noah's palms and forearms, causing them to tickle.
"No?" the young brown-haired boy chuckled in amusement as he continued his one-sided 'conversation' with his cat, "Well, today's my birthday and I really want it to be great. I'm sure if it were your birthday, you'd want to do the same, huh?"
Still no response from the straight-faced tabby. Then again, it was Noah supposedly conversing with him and he knew that he'd get no reply...did he?
"Well, I'll take that as a yes then," Noah shrugged as he lowered Montevideo to the floor and switched on the washroom's lights and locked the door, picking up his comb in the process, "So, if you really wanted your whole day to be absolutely perfect, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."
As he brushed his hair in its frequent upward style, Noah figured that taking the time talking to his cat could get his mind off of Amanda's unusual behavior over the phone...but it didn't. Still, he was utterly confused why she would even think or dream of turning down a day with her own boyfriend, of all days, on his birthday, but little did he know that this had something to do with him and there was no way he was letting Amanda get away with anything until he found out what was really behind the scenes behind the schemes.
"I know what I gotta do," Noah grinned proudly as he looked at himself in the mirror, nodding to himself before turning to Montevideo who was now found sitting atop the closed toilet seat.
"My question is...do you?"
Meanwhile, Amanda, still resting her back against the purple velvet couch though she was far from relaxed, waited impatiently for Michelle to arrive, fumbling and fiddling with her fingers and nails, her restless mind shrouded in a chaotic muddle filled with nothing but mounds of unwritten party plans piling up one after the other, hoping that she would remember everything to the last detail once the whole team gathered. Then all at once she remembered that the only one she let in on her plans was Michelle and that she had forgotten to alert the rest of the team and Riley, wide-eyed upon realization of the problem. Then again, Amanda knew there was no time to waste dwelling on a problem than to find a solution, be it sprung from spontaneity (if she was lucky) or common sense, and it was clear that once Michelle arrived, the first thing they'd do is inform Riley and all of A-Troupe about their surprise-party planning. After all, who else was there to tell? One could only wonder.
"Hey," a familiar, soft-spoken voice chirped up energetically, catching the attention of the brunette girl, none other than a young lady just about her age with flowing blonde locks, greeting her with a bright smile as if she hadn't slept a wink. It was Michelle.
"Hey!" Amanda beamed, leaping off the couch, greeting her friend in return with a hug, "I'm so glad you could make it!"
"Well, guess who made it too," another familiar voice and another familiar face with straightened and slightly shorter blonde hair chimed in cheerfully followed by a chuckle, peeping from behind the junctions entrance with a single rounded wave, approaching Amanda and Michelle.
"Hey Riley! I was just about to text you right after I hung up on Michelle."
"Nah, there was no need to," Riley said followed by another one of her infectious chuckles, "Michelle told me all about it on the way here. I was actually heading to the studio myself until we met halfway by the bus stop."
"Good for you!" Amanda exclaimed then clapped her hands together in a 'business-like' sort of manner, "So, you know what's going on? Can we get started now at least a little bit?"
"Well, all I know is that it's Noah's birthday and you're planning it...huh Amanda?" she nudged her teasingly along with Michelle, causing the brunette to blush at the mention of her boyfriend's name and share a brief moment of laughter before reverting to a serious tone, "By the way, how is he? How's his back?"
All at once, their shared little atmosphere in the junction suddenly jolted in abrupt silence and seriousness at the mention of Noah's injury. He hasn't been back on A-Troupe since then and none of them knew of his results, except for Amanda, and his prolonged absence has since begun to worry Riley all the more now that regionals was fast approaching much closer than ever.
"Noah's doing a lot better than I thought he would," Amanda responded, hoping to bring a happier note on the subject of his absence, "He's been resting his back a lot, taking his medication daily, refraining from his dancing, which has really been tough on him and of course, the rest of the team, even if he needs to more than anything. But lately, nothing's been bugging him down, thankfully, and most recently, he's been spending time working a lot on his music and singing." She ended with a bashful smile, her cheeks blushing a crimson red.
"Oh, that's nice to hear!" Riley exclaimed, relieved that despite Noah's major setback, he's been keeping himself in high spirits, which would be utterly unusual for someone in his position of all things. Then again, it was Noah they were talking about.
"Well, I'm glad to hear he's doing better, hopefully even more in time for regionals. And yeah, I remember you mentioning his working on his music sometimes. Part of me wonders why he hasn't considered using one of Lost and Found's studio booths before."
"I take it you've been spending a lot of time with him while he's away?" Michelle questioned straightforwardly yet teasingly with a clever smirk implanted on her features, staring into her friend's hazel orbs which could only mean she was searching for an honest answer.
Amanda, on the other hand, couldn't help but release an uncontrollable blush of a bright red shade, followed by a giggle to match her unadulterated coyness.
"Well...I...um..." her eyes flittered and darted feebly across the junction, avoiding eye contact from Riley or Michelle until she eventually gave up trying to conceal her giddy schoolgirl-crush state and looked them in the eye, "...yeah...I may have spent more time with him than I thought I would..."
"But hey, that's my job! I'm his girlfriend and all I want is to be there for him," she concluded with one of her eye-rolls and a smile to top it off.
"Just be sure that he isn't taking so much of your time away from you," Michelle gently admonished Amanda with an uncertain yet cautious tone in her voice, "He isn't really forcing you to stay with him 24/7, is he?"
"No, no, no, Michelle, it's nothing like that!" Amanda assured her best friend defensively without offense taken, "I enjoy spending time with Noah. A lot. Let's say, when rehearsals are done or I've got no homework or Math final or nothing to do, really, I wouldn't mind spending the rest of the afternoon with him. Sure, he might seem crazy and awkward, like he is, but he's fun to be around and despite all that kookiness, he always knows exactly what to do or how to cheer me up when I'm feeling down, and that's kind of why I like him. It's hard to put everything into words but that's how I feel. And because of that, I just kinda wanna give something back to him for everything he's done for me and for the team and I was just thinking that maybe a surprise party for him would be the perfect opportunity to do just that."
Despite their knowing Amanda for a long while, or rather, ever since their time of friendship with her, Michelle and Riley have never seen their friend this earnest and vulnerable before, let alone about a young man in her life who entered it first and captivated it the next. Now they understood why she was willing to go through all this trouble early in the morning to throw him a party and they were more than willing to help Amanda make this special occasion the best it could be for a fellow teammate and of course, a dearest friend.
"Besides, not everyone in the team has seen him since and it would be great if they at least get to spend some quality time with him and catch up while he's recovering," Amanda continued, "I think it would mean the world to him and more."
Riley and Michelle turned to each other, sharing a smile at the thoughtfulness of their friend, then back to Amanda, one of them ready with an eager response.
"No Amanda, you don't think. You know it," Riley smiled warmly, placing an affirming hand on Amanda's shoulder, followed by a nod of agreement from Michelle.
"So, does that mean you're both in?" Amanda asked her friends in a hopeful tone although already knowing what their responses would be.
"Yeah!" Riley replied enthusiastically, her voice trailing upwards as her eyes widened.
"Was that even a question?" Michelle said jokingly with just as much enthusiasm as Riley, followed by a giggle.
"So, shall we head up to the studio and..." Amanda cleared her throat before displaying a playfully false southern accent, "...git 'er done?"
The three ladies shared yet another moment of laughter before Riley broke the silence.
"The get 'er done girl is on it!" She said, striking a classic muscle pose, then placing her arms around her two friends as they strolled towards the junction's exit.
"Wow, Noah's craziness must've rubbed off on you seeing you've spent so much time with him, huh Amanda?" Michelle said with a playful smirk, constantly diving at every opportunity she could to give Amanda a taste of the tease.
"Shut up," Amanda laughed, giving her friend a nudge on the ribs in return as the girls made their way to the exit, heading down the hall and towards the stairway that led to The Next Step Dance Studio.
Meanwhile, as Michelle, Riley and Amanda ascended the stairwell leading to the dance studio, a sudden familiar noise light tapping and stomping of hands and feet stopped them in their tracks, coming from the hallway that led straight to the Rehearsal Room and Studio A, except this noise was coming from Studio A, leaving the ladies confused. Sure enough as they continued walking towards Studio A, they noticed its green metal doors spread wide open and the chandelier shining as brightly as it always did with an unmistakably familiar slim-bodied flexible figure maneuvering acrobatics in the distance. Now, this left all three of them in even more surprise than confusion. Who would be rehearsing in the Studio at this hour long before dance rehearsal would even begin?
"Wait a minute..." Riley frantically hastened towards the studio doors, Michelle and Amanda following closely behind her, silently panicking to herself that someone had broken into the studio early in the morning.
"Riley, did I tell you you forgot to lock up the studio last night?!" a loud-spoken, shrill voice hollered at sight of the studio head as she landed her back-flip on her feet. There was only one dancer in all of The Next Step who would dare overstep her bounds and speak in such a manner to the newly appointed head of the studio.
"Oh, I, um...didn't realize it 'til-erm-now," Riley stammered awkwardly, her fists clutching the insides of her black jacket's pockets, "Thank you, Richelle."
"So, what brings you here this early?" Michelle spoke up, questioning the younger dancer, nearly staring her down with her gaze with attempted intimidation, "Without Riley's permission?"
Neither the question, nor Michelle's gaze seemed to intimidate Richelle one bit. If anything else, Michelle was a force facing another force to be reckoned with having just about the same amount of chances getting even.
"Well, someone's gotta be brushing up for regionals while no one else is since someone didn't put this girl in the qualifier," Richelle disregarded Michelle's last statement, shooting a quickly glanced glare at Riley with an indirect guilt trip.
Now it was clearer than ever that she hadn't gotten over her losing her spot with Skylar to take on the final regionals qualifier to Piper and Alfie's duet. The three studio veterans were in a stunned silence at the seemingly direct and brash attitude of this young firecracker of a dancer although they somehow knew and understood that Richelle meant no offense nor disrespect and her remarks simply branched out of her boldness and ambitious determination of constantly proving herself to the team.
"Anyhoo, I'm actually glad you all showed up since I'd honestly be happy to help you with anything at all...especially your dancing, you know, techniques and tricks and all, just so they could be good enough for when we all make it to regionals," she added confidently without a hint of hesitation in her eyes nor her tone, "Yes, Michelle and Amanda, I'm talking to you. You're welcome."
In an awkward silence, Michelle, Riley and Amanda exchanged wide-eyed expressions at yet another one of Richelle's bold remarks and the attitude written all over it.
'Rude,' was all Michelle could think to herself about how it seemed Richelle had talked down to A-Troupe veterans of all people, such as herself and Amanda while Amanda, in turn, simply remained silent and rolled her eyes. Michelle then approached Richelle with a brisk stride, staring directly into her eyes with the same attempted intimidation she previously had, her eyebrows raised to a confident and authoritative height and a sarcastic smirk that came along with it. Amanda then raised her arm to stop Michelle from proceeding, in turn being stopped by Riley, who knew that Michelle was doing the right thing by standing up to Richelle and putting her in her place.
"Listen, Richelle..." she began with a haughty chuckle, "Amanda and I are senior dancers here at The Next Step and we've been on A-Troupe longer than you have and you've been here for how long? Hmm...one year. Not even that long."
"Yeah, so? What's your point?" Richelle questioned Michelle just as haughtily, her demeanor implacable in its solid foundation.
"We don't need your help, Richelle," Michelle stated bluntly, continuing to stare the younger dancer down, "Especially not with dancing."
"But we do need your help, Richelle!" Amanda chimed in, raising her arm as she slid next to Michelle, earning a wide-eyed 'what the heck are you doing' sort of glare from her, though ignoring it, "With something else! And it has nothing to do with dancing."
"Hmm...nothing to do with dancing huh? Well I guess it's best you just leave me in peace with my acro and do whatever you need to do because you're wasting my time," Richelle replied nonchalantly as she returned to stretching, "See you in rehearsal!"
"No, Richelle, you don't understand!" Amanda called out relentlessly, not in the very least intimidated by her, "It's not about dancing but it's about someone."
"Someone, huh?" Richelle questioned pretentiously as she leaned and stretched her arm to her left, "Well, whoever this someone is, is this someone from A-Troupe or B-Troupe or does this someone need some help with some dancing?"
Amanda crumpled her hands on her forehead in a facepalm, frustrated that Richelle wasn't taking her remark seriously but even more, that she didn't bother asking who this someone is even if that someone was to be celebrating something special on this very day.
"In case you didn't know, because clearly you don't," she started off loudly then muttered the next phrase under her breath, her words finally catching Richelle's attention, stopping her from her stretching, "This someone is a part of this team who happens to be someone really special and someone who is celebrating his eighteenth birthday today! Now you know! You happy?!"
"Hmm...let me guess...is this someone I've known for a long time?" she smirked within a giggle, already knowing the answer to her own question, hoping to catch a reaction out of Amanda or even Michelle and Riley, who were visibly relieved that she began to show even more interest in this discussion than they ever would have expected out of her.
"Yes, like a long, long time," Michelle remarked as Riley and Amanda nodded and spoke their responses simultaneously.
"Mhmm! We're talking J-Troupe here," Riley added.
"Yeah! His nationals audition was just as insane as yours...and he was obviously the cutest," Amanda stated and of course, included her last statement in conclusion. That in itself was a giveaway, and she knew it, "...Do you know who it is now?"
"Wait! Don't tell me!" Richelle raised her hand towards the trio and shut her eyes as she began thinking out loud to herself in hushed tones, "I've known him for a long time...J-Troupe together...auditioned for nationals...eighteenth birthday...AHA! I've got this...Noah."
She concluded with a wide-eyed, beaming smile, her hands clapped together in triumph.
"I knew that!" the younger dancer proclaimed proudly.
"Oh, we know that you knew that," Michelle muttered underneath her breath, then turning to Richelle, "It kinda leaves me wondering why you made yourself guess anyway."
"So, yeah! Today's his birthday. I knew that too!"
She disregarded Michelle's statement yet again.
"In fact, I've known that since we were―well―little kids together! I don't think that should be surprising for anyone."
"Well, that doesn't really surprise me at all now that you've told me you've known each other for a pretty long time," Amanda said, dismissing Richelle's unintentional haughtiness, "That's why I'm glad we came to you for help."
"If this is about Noah's birthday then I'm glad to!" Richelle chimed in a more cheerful tone, "So, what did you have in mind?"
Now that was a surprise coming from Richelle's mouth, especially for Amanda and Michelle who knew this young dancer all-too-well to be the type who spoke her mind bluntly and directly without considering the ideas of others. In Riley's case, it was another story. Her sister, Emily, was the pioneer who previously held those qualities in her initial reigning position as dance captain. Thankfully, things were different now, but this all too familiar personality seemed to be rejuvenated and reincarnated by one of The Next Step's very own in their newer and younger generation of fresh faces and dancers this time round.
"Well, Richelle, I actually thought of throwing Noah a surprise party for this evening―"
"―And you want me to plan it?! Perfect! Count me in!" Richelle interrupted, beaming a brighter smile than they have ever seen her before.
Amanda, on the other hand, fell silent without another word daring to escape her presently pursed lips. At this moment, it looked like there was no way she would be sharing any more of her ideas anymore for as long as Richelle took charge. Of course, being one who was previously in authority of a dance troupe, she felt completely inclined to stand up to Richelle the way she used to towards others, but instead, she decided against it as she knew it would likely cause some trouble, personality-wise, at least. However, this wasn't the end of it. Someone who was seemingly more relentless than she stepped in to defend her friend and put Richelle in her place once again.
"Hold on, Richelle," Michelle spoke firmly, retaining eye-contact with her, "She wasn't finished yet and besides, Amanda was the one who had this whole party idea in mind and she woke up this early just to get it set up so therefore, she's planning it, alright?"
Richelle simply shot Michelle a sassy smirk, approaching her face-to-face in stride. She, Riley and Amanda knew that look all too well. This wasn't good. And if it went on further, this wasn't going to end well...at all.
"Okay, Michelle..." she walked up to the senior dancer and stopped right before her, looking up at her face and straight into her eyes without hesitation, "Who's known Noah the longest?"
Richelle's question may have been striking, but it wasn't an effective enough verbal ammunition to get Michelle off her guard.
"That doesn't apply here and I honestly don't think it matters," Michelle began firmly, unmoved by the very question.
"Well, it matters to me because, I get it, Amanda's Noah's girlfriend and I totally respect that, but how long has she known him for? Only less than a year?!" Richelle argued back just as relentlessly and harshly, "I'm Noah's best friend and we've known each other forever and I know even more about him than anyone else in the studio ever will! You've all just got to face that!"
"Well, if you really respected their relationship, or respected any of this at all, you shouldn't be taking over and getting all the credit for it; I guess that's what you're best at," Michelle concluded sternly and almost bitterly, looking Richelle right in the eye as she spoke, hoping she would at least attempt to be a team player, even if it meant doing it for herself, "And this really isn't about you; it's about Noah."
This stopped Richelle clean off her tracks. Being the way she was, ambitious, determined and thoroughly passionate, she meant no offense with every word, but had her own ways of expressing her excitement and enthusiasm. Unaware as she was and aware as those surrounding her were, that was just the way she was and she would leave it alone until someone (particularly Michelle, at this moment) pointed it straight out to her whether she liked it or not.
"You know I didn't mean it that way and I don't mean to take over anything," the younger dancer now spoke slowly and softly, which was rare for someone of her personality, "I guess I was just really eager to help out with all of this surprise party planning for Noah. It's just that he's my best friend and the eighteenth is a serious milestone for everyone who gets to that age and I cannot go to sleep tonight knowing I wasn't involved with his special day at all."
Although it was very rare for someone like Richelle to open up to her fellow dancers and friends in the studio, showing her vulnerable and truly caring side she knew existed, this was the side of her that Michelle, Riley and Amanda were hoping to see, especially at this very moment that they were fortunate enough to. Amanda couldn't help but smile upon hearing Richelle's words, as if the toughest of nails holding foundation on The Next Step had gone soft with its vulnerabilities palpable.
"That's why we need your help, Richelle," Amanda smiled warmly, placing her hand on Richelle's shoulder, "What better person to ask than the best friend he's lucky to call his?"
Richelle then smiled up at Amanda, seemingly touched by her words, preparing to return the sentiment.
"Aw, I know!" Or not.
'And she's back,' Amanda thought to herself, shooting a smirk that spoke her thoughts loudly towards Riley and Michelle.
"Okay, so what's the first thing you had in mind?" Richelle asked away, now more politely than her previous remarks, now awaiting an answer for herself.
"Well, now that we asked you to help us out right now, why don't we―"
"―Call the rest of the team to get their butts over here to get this party set up right now? Excellent!" she cut Amanda off mid-sentence, clapping her hands together once again in delight.
"Whoa, that was fast," Riley chuckled, amazed at Richelle's speediness to catching on vital information, "You know something? Emily was right. You definitely have some of those skills to bring to the table if you're going to be dance captain."
"Not if, Riley," Richelle giggled to herself though projecting her words in a matter-of-factly fashion, "When I'm going to be dance captain."
'Yes, she is,' the young studio head thought to herself, responding to Amanda's previous thought as if either of them had some sort of telepathic communication to read each other's thoughts for that matter.
With that, she walked towards the yellow wooden cubbyholes to grab her phone from her dance bag to get started. The three ladies knew it was most certainly going to be a long day having Richelle involved with these celebrations plans, giving her piece and running her contributions her way, they had to admit how lucky they were to have Noah's best friend by their side, working together with them to make Noah's eighteenth birthday the perfect day. Now, all they had to do was wait for the rest of the team and they simply couldn't wait to get started, especially Amanda...even if she was most looking forward to the end result.
Author's Note: Here you are, folks! The ending to this slightly longer second chapter of "Save the Last Dance for Me." Apparently, in my schedule, it told me back then before I continued this chapter that "the next 24 hours" was a translation to "the next three weeks" upon updating. No, it is not, and I apologize for it. Well, what else can we do? I'm just really glad to have gotten this chapter out there and I really hope you enjoyed reading this chapter. I have to say, I had the most fun writing this chapter for these past few days. Who else was happy seeing Richelle in this story? Of course I wouldn't dare leave her out of this story, especially about one celebrating Noah's birthday. Why would I? She's his best friend and I adore their friendship so much! This chapter is also in respect of the Nochelle shippers who came across this story and even if it's a Nomanda-centric story, I hope you're still enjoying it, but most especially this chapter, because it's for you guys.
Anyways, I'd like to know what you think! Please leave me a review or PM, and once again, I thank you all, those who read and reviewed, favorited and followed, for your unwavering support of this story. It really fills my writer's heart (and my own heart) with happiness and I feel beyond thankful to be bringing this story to you. The next chapter will be coming to you soon (not in a month's time, hopefully, haha) and I can assure you it's something to look forward to. A shoutout in advance to my fellow TNS writer and friend Blizzard20 for inspiring me with her suggestions for chapter three. Stay tuned! You do NOT wanna miss this.