Throughout everything, Michael had been nice, supportive, and understanding. After all, why would he bloody care if Billy wanted to dance, when he regularly pulled up ladies' knickers round his thighs?
Michael had been nice, serene, cool, and confident in himself and Billy. Then why had he started feeling left out?
"So how's the dancin' goin' along, Billy?"
Billy shrugged, shoving his ballet shoes down the front of his boxing shorts. "Couldn't be better," he mumbled distractedly, adjusting them so they wouldn't be entirely visible. Michael had noticed how Billy normally hid things down his pants; it was effective, sure, as no one was meant to be looking down there, but Michael found himself watching Billy while he did it.
"Bug off; you're bloody obsessed," said Michael, and then met Billy's eyes when he finally looked up.
He smiled. "Yeah, I suppose it's pretty wicked."
They started toward the door, Michael bringing up the rear rather slowly.
When they'd closed the door to Billy's home, Billy said, "Would you like to come to my practice, Michael?"
Michael felt very warm inside, and nodded. Maybe, after all, he'd been too antsy about being left out?
"Come on then, you bugger," Billy said happily, and Michael was dragged by his friend the whole way to the makeshift ballet studio.
When they came in after making sure no one from boxing knew Billy was there, Michael said, "Seriously, though; do you get to wear a tutu?"
"Aw, Michael; you're talking like a poof."
"I not a poof," Michael said faintly.
"Then don't ask me if I get to wear a tutu—alright, mate?" Billy was grinning, but Michael wasn't finding it entirely funny. "Just—come on."
Together they made their way to the boxing ring in silence. There, Mrs. Wilkinson met them, and shook Michael's hand warmly. "Who might this be?"
Billy's grin was blinding—to Michael, at least. "This is Michael; he wanted to come and watch us practice."
"You interested in dancin', too, then, Lad?"
Michael smiled weakly. "No, not really, Ma'am."
"Call me 'Miss', please."
"No thanks, then, Miss," Michael said, giving Billy a sideways glance. "I'm no good at dancin'."
"I've never seen ya dance," said Billy, and right then Michael could have smacked him. "Who's to say you're not utterly brilliant at dancin'?"
"I'm sure I'm not," Michael said quietly, and averted his attention to the stark white walls. Suddenly, he wished he was at home, regardless of a mad, drunken father or not. It almost wasn't fair, watching Billy dancing like he was a born-ready professional, and . . . just watching. Sometimes he wished he could join in, but he was no good with the dancing. And having Billy push him to try was . . . embarrassing.
"Come on, dearie, give it a go," Mrs. Wilkinson said encouragingly, holding out her hand for Michael to grasp.
Michael hesitated; wouldn't it be amazing to be able to join in with Billy, to dance with him? Michael knew Billy was special, knew he was likely going to move on with bigger and better things. Michael also knew that he, probably, would be left at home, working the mines. But to dance, to learn . . . to stay with Billy. . . .
"I can't dance, Miss," he said firmly.
Compared to Billy, he'd look like a flailing goose.
Mrs. Wilkinson groaned, irritated, and lit herself a match. Michael's dad smoked, too. He hated it. "Jus' give a try, will ya?"
Michael, without thinking, reached out and grabbed Billy's hand. He felt Billy stiffen, and Mrs. Wilkinson's eyes fluttered down to where Michael's hand was laced with Billy's. Then he felt Billy's eyes on his face, looked up quickly, and saw his stony expression: tight lips; wide, confused eyes; and knee-locked legs. He looked surprised.
Michael's heart sped up. He began to feel ill, let go of Billy's hand, and said evenly, "I can't dance, Miss." Then, he turned around, spinning slightly, and ran out without thinking about anything else.
Michael barreled down the street, feeling light-headed, and then rounded the corner, desperately hoping Billy wasn't running after him like he knew he was.
A moment later, Billy screamed, always true to self, "Slow down, you bag of shit!" Michael allowed himself to look over his shoulder; Billy was quickly gaining on him, arms pumping at his sides, his strong legs propelling him forward. He was startled at how fast Billy was, so he looked forward again and shrieked.
Michael stopped his legs from moving, stopped himself entirely, and a millisecond later, Billy's arms closed around him, ultimately stopping him from plummeting headfirst into heavy traffic.
"What the hell d'you think you're doing!" he was yelling furiously, dragging Michael back to safety. "You bastard!" Billy forced Michael's head around. "Honestly, have you gone mad! What's wrong with you?"
Michael's eyes shifted down the length of Billy's body, noticing how close they were. Then he shook himself. "Sorry, Mate."
"You better be," Billy growled, standing up. "What in hell's name was that back there? And then runnin' like I was gonna bite your bloody head off 'cause ya didn't want to dance?" Billy took a deep breath, and held his hand out. "Look . . . sorry, Mate."
Michael begrudgingly took his friend's hand.
"It's just—that was a bit wild," Billy said, trying to force a laugh. "For a moment, I thought you were trying to make a desperate attempt at suicide—I ran balls to the wall to get you out before your brains were on the road."
"Sorry, Mate," Michael repeated.
Billy nodded, quieting down, and bit down on his lip hard. "Will you come back with me?"
"You know, Billy," Michael said quietly, "I don't think that I want to." He looked away. "I'll see ya tomorrow . . . okay?"
Billy blinked several times. "Yeah . . . okay. See you, Michael."