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Good morning beloveds! One of the books that will be out later on this year is Graduate Education, Tanisha and Angela’s story. Those of you who’ve read Learned Behaviors know who they are. Those of you who haven’t…I’m rolling my lips in at you like my mama does me when she’s disappointed but staying quiet. But as you may know (if you don’t what are you waiting for), Tanisha transfers to a different school. And on her first trip back…well, y’all know how I do! Enjoy!

“Come on, Angie, you know you want to come.”

She really, really didn’t want to go to the impromptu dance performance the students were having for the long break. It was bad enough she had a ridiculous amount of work to do and a major exam coming up, but watching dance? Hit a little too close to home now that Tanisha was gone.

Every part of her that had any sense should have been happy about that. Angela couldn’t deal with seeing T every day, seeing that hurt that never seemed to abate, being reminded of how quickly their time together had fallen off the rails, and knowing she was the cause of it? Yeah, she should’ve been flippin thrilled to get away from that. But goddamn she missed T so much it hurt. No, she wanted no part of going to an event where Tanisha should be, but wasn’t. Especially when she was the cause of it.

“Nah, Stacy, I’m just going to stay here. Have a lot of work to do anyway.”

Stacy rolled her eyes. “Girl, Tanisha is not going to be there. You’ve got to stop moping over the girl you broke up with. Against my excellent advice, I must say.”

Dammit. Angela had forgotten Stacy was the one friend who told her to accept that she’d found her soul mate and just go on and marry the girl. That shit still sounded silly, but missing her hurt worse.

“I know she’s not there, but it’s still hard, you know?”

Stacy sat at the edge of Angela’s bed. “We all have to make hard choices, and you made yours. Now you have to move on. Yes, sure, you can stay locked up in this wack-ass room for the rest of the year. Or, you can get the hell out and live a little.”

Angela would never admit that Stacy was right. Besides, that girl had enough confidence; she didn’t need to be told. “Fine,” she said, putting the book down and standing. “I’ll go.”

“Good.” Stacy stood and nodded. “Meet you downstairs in five.”

If Angela let herself, she’d find every excuse under the planet to stay right where she was. She hurried through changing and was downstairs in six minutes, only to find Stacy there, tapping her foot on the vinyl floor. She snorted at the display.

“We going, or are you gonna stand there and tap your foot all night?”

Stacy narrowed her eyes, then laughed. “Touché. Let’s go.”

They walked over to the dance hall and found a healthy crowd already inside. She remembered coming to these with Tanisha, wondering why she didn’t get up there and perform. She’d never gotten a good answer. T always mumbled something about not being comfortable yet, even though she practically danced her way everywhere. Down the halls, in the bathrooms, through the kitchen, going to and from classes. Anywhere people could see, stop, and stare, just not on a stage.

Lord, would she ever stop thinking about her? Stacy was right; she was a mess, and she needed to move on. She shook herself and rolled her shoulders back, determined not to spend the entire evening feeling sorry for herself.

Stacy dragged her over to a spot smack in the center, a few rows back, where they’d have a good view no matter where the dancers were. The lights dimmed not too long after, and Angela settled into the performances.

They were good. Damn good, and it wasn’t fair that the only thing she could think about was how good Tanisha would look up there. How much she’d fit. She couldn’t appreciate the grace they showed or how fluidly they moved. Try as she might, all she could see was the lack where Tanisha should be, even though she’d never performed before.

After the last performance, the lights came back on and Angela blinked rapidly to clear the spots from her eyes. As good as it was, she still wasn’t sure she wouldn’t have been better served staying in her room and pondering her life choices.

“Hey, does anyone want to come up here and dance with us?” One of the performers asked. Angela vaguely recognized her, but the name escaped her.

There was a brief hit of silence, then she spoke again. “I promise we don’t bite.” A round of laughter followed, then Angela noticed some shuffling in one of the corners. The girl on stage took a step in that direction and nearly squealed. “ TeeTee, is that you? Girl, get your ass up here!”

No. No, no, no. This was not happening. Angela shot a terrified look at Stacy, who looked just as shocked. “I thought she was in Florida,” Stacy whispered. “Angie, I swear, I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay. I know.” I know. Angela had to assure her, even as her brain spun. What was T doing here? Why hadn’t her dad said anything? Why was she sitting there, gawking at the woman she adored more than her next breath, instead of hightailing it out of there like every rational part of her body demanded?

Tanisha shook her head and held her hands up. “No, you guys have done such a great job. Tonight is about you.”

God, that voice. The last time she’d heard it, Tanisha had been in tears, looking young and vulnerable and still so disgustingly beautiful it’d taken everything in her not to take all the words back and promise never to let her go. Now she was laughing, sounding like she’d found her place. Just not with Angela.

The girl from the front snorted and stalked over to her, tugging on her hand until she stood, then pulled her onto the stage. Angela audibly muffled her whimper, because good goddamn Tanisha looked…amazing. Simply outstanding. Angela had tried to stay away from her in the months after they broke up, so maybe she’d just missed it. But Tanisha was stronger, like she’d been working out harder. Her body had firmed, and she’d always been steel under that absurdly soft skin. And…now Angela would get to see her dance in public. She’d done stripteases that would be forever seared in Angela’s mind, but hadn’t been comfortable doing this before. What had changed in such a short period of time?

It didn’t matter, because after a quick huddle with the other girls, Tanisha stepped up like she’d always belonged there, and Angela was lost. Her eyes tracked Tanisha’s movement as she glided across the stage, taking cues from the other performers and interpolating ones of her own. It was magnificent. She was magnificent, and Angela was the fool who let her get away.

She lost track of Tanisha, too caught up in the hell of her own making to focus. When the people around her, including Stacy, burst into applause, Angela forced her attention back to the front. Tanisha was beaming in a way she hadn’t seen in so long, and it was a gut punch to see it.

She also knew the moment Tanisha realized she was there. Her smile froze, and for a second her eyes widened, a fist clenched at her side, and she reverted to the girl who’d begged Angela to give her another chance. Then she blinked and it was gone, probably impervious to anyone else. Tanisha hugged the other dancers, waved to the still cheering crowd, then disappeared back into the stands.

People started to disperse, and Stacy tugged at Angela’s arm. “You ready to go?”

Angela couldn’t answer, not until…there she was, tucked over in a corner, like she was talking herself into or out of something. “You go on ahead,” she said, barely moving her head, her attention fixed. “I…I need to try.”

Stacy followed her line of sight, then sucked in a big breath. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” she muttered.

She was going to need it.

Did I…did I just end this on a cliff-hanger? Totally not my intention, but it seemed like a good place to stop, since this little interlude has taken on a life of its own. I’ll finish this up for you next week. Until then, have a great one! And if you haven’t picked up Learned Behaviors, to get the background for these two, grab your copy here!