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Modern Dances

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

by Melissa L. White

Image of a couple dancing the tango.
Image credit: Preillumination SeTh on Unsplash

After their Tango lesson, Stacey and Desiré decided to have a drink at Tony Nicks bar. Desiré changed out of her dance shoes, hurried into the ladies’ room, and ran a comb through her long dark hair, then spritzed herself with Chanel Coco. She and Stacey met back in the lobby. Stacey adjusted her pink Kate Spade cat-eyed glasses and expertly painted on cherry red lipstick without using a mirror. Desiré wore no makeup, her dark eyes a blazing contrast to her pale creamy skin.

“There’s Jason,” said Stacey. “Do you mind if I ask him to join us?”

Desiré shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

When he entered the lobby, Stacey approached him.

“Hey Jason, if you’re not teaching a late class, would you like to join us for a cocktail at Tony Nicks?”

He glanced from Stacey to Desiré then checked his watch.

“Sure.” He grabbed his black leather jacket from the coat rack and put it on, flipping up the collar. “That’s my favorite bar in all of San Francisco. Thanks for the invite.”

It was a cool April night, with a full moon shining high above. They walked down Union Street to Stockton and made a left at the corner. They entered the bar and found it packed with wall-to-wall hipsters drinking heavily, then made their way to the lounge in the back.

“What would you like to drink?” asked Stacey.

“The usual,” said Desiré.

“Scotch on the rocks,” said Jason.

Stacey went to the bar and squeezed between two businessmen in suits, downing Tequila shots. Jason touched Desiré’s elbow and said, “There’s a table. Let’s sit down.”

When they sat down, Jason leaned in towards her and shouted over the music, “You’re really good at the Tango. Have you studied before?”

“Ballet. Years ago. But this is my first attempt at the Tango.”

“Where did you study ballet?” he asked.

“ABT in New York.”

“Wow. That’s impressive. You have a real flair for dance.”

“Thank you.” She smiled at him.

He took her hand and lifted her arm off the table, then ran his fingers lightly down her sleeve, holding her delicate wrist.

“You really blew me away in that first class,” he said. “You were so elegant and sensual. I’ve never seen a woman that confident and poised at her first Tango lesson.”

Desiré blushed.

“Would you like to have lunch with me tomorrow? I don’t teach my first class until 2:00 pm. We could meet anywhere you like.”

She laughed. “I’m old enough to be your mother.”

“No, you’re not,” he countered. “How old do you think I am?”


“Not even close. I’m 33. So, what are you? 35? 36?”

She laughed again, suddenly noticing his dimples, his square jaw, and his bright blue eyes. “I’ll be 50 next week.”

His eyes widened. “Get out. Really?”

She nodded.

“You don’t look it.” He touched her hand on the table between them.

She lowered her eyes.

“I’m teaching swing dance tomorrow night until 10:30. But we could go out after that.”

Desiré cleared her throat. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean I’m 17 years older than you.”

“So what?”

“Jason, I’m too old for you.”

He frowned. “I disagree. I’ve been watching you for a month now and I think you’re beautiful.”

He leaned in closer to her and put his arm around her shoulder. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go out on a date and see what happens.”

“I don’t know, Jason.”

“What’s wrong? Are you seeing someone?”

She shook her head.

“Then why not go out with me?”

She desperately wanted a drink. She glanced up at the bar and saw Stacey laughing with the businessmen who were buying her shots.

“I haven’t been with anyone since my divorce,” she said.

“So how long ago was that?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She shifted nervously in her seat.

“Try me.” He took her hand and kissed her fingertips.

“Four years.”

“Are you serious?”

She nodded.

“Not one man in four whole years?”

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“I believe you.” He looked into her eyes and said, “Can I kiss you?”

She felt like getting up and running out of the bar. Why did he make her so uncomfortable? He was actually pretty cute.

Image of a wine glass and a collins glass on a bar.
Image credit: Sérgio Alves Santos

She glanced up at the bar. Stacey was gone. She looked at her watch; it was 10:45. She shook her head. “Stacey left. She was my ride home.”

“The universe is throwing us together like star-crossed lovers.”

She laughed. “I live in the Marina. Do you mind giving me a lift?

“Come on,” he said then held out his hand for her.

She smiled, took his hand, and let him lead her out of the bar. He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. He was six feet four inches tall. She was five-seven. She liked the way her eyes met his chin.

When they reached his car, he opened the door for her.

“I live at Beach and Fillmore,” she said.

“Great neighborhood.”

They drove in silence until they reached Chestnut. Jason made a left turn and glanced at Desiré. “So, what made you want to take Tango lessons?”

“One night I was watching Dancing with The Stars and thought to myself, ‘I can do that,’ but I figured I had about as much a chance of getting on that show as flying to the moon. So, Tango lessons seemed like a better idea.”

He laughed. “I’ve been watching you every Thursday night for the past month, wanting to get to know you.”

“Really? “God’s honest truth.”

When they reached Fillmore she said, “There’s my building.”

He pulled up and double-parked next to a blue Mercedes.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said.

“I’ll walk you to the door.” He got out of the car and walked her up to the building.

“Can I call you tomorrow?”

She nodded; looking up at him, searching his eyes, then gave him her number. He leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips.

“Good night,” she said.

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

She unlocked the front door and stood in the lobby, watching as Jason drove away.


He called at 10:15 the next morning and asked her to meet him for lunch. She declined, saying she had a staff meeting at 12:45 and didn’t have time today. He suggested lunch next week. He told her that she was beautiful—inside and out, and that she had no idea how sexy she was. She listened to him talk, until she felt her cheeks flush.

“I better get back to work,” she said.

“What’s your email address?” he asked.

“Desiré Barnes at”

“Lucas Film? What do you do there?”

“I work in human resources. I’m a recruiter.”


That afternoon he sent her a link to one of his Tango lesson videos on YouTube. She watched the video on her computer until Stacey stopped by her office for a coffee break.

“What’s that?” asked Stacey.

“Jason sent me a video link. He wants to take me out.”

Stacey watched the video a moment longer. “Go for it.”

“He’s 17 years younger than me.”

Stacey laughed. “Cougar.”

Desiré held up her right hand and made a pawing motion. “Roar.”

Stacey laughed. “That looks more like a famished sex-kitten than a Cougar.”

Desiré got up and grabbed her coffee mug to get a refill. She turned and “meowed,” softly over her shoulder.

Stacey laughed. “Queen of the jungle.”

Desiré winked, then headed out to the coffee station down the hall, humming “Hakuna Matata” a little too loud, and slightly off-key.


Image of two lanterns with candles burning, and a third candle holder with a candle burning.
Image credit: Jonathan Borba

That evening when Desiré got home from work, Jason called and asked her to join him at Tony Nicks after his last class. She declined. He hesitated then told her she reminded him of a Goddess. Because she embodied the essence of divinity.

“My dad always used to say, ‘There’s divinity in everyone,’” she said softly.

“I agree,” he said. “And learning about your divinity is what life is about.”

“I don’t feel very divine most of the time,” she said. “My self-esteem took a nose-dive when my husband left me for a younger woman.”

“I’m sorry you went through that. But self-esteem is learned. Just like walking, talking, or dancing. It’s all a matter of training.”

“Who trained you?” she asked.

“My parents. I was lucky. But like Fred Astaire once said, ‘People seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I’ve known are taught or trained.’”

“That makes sense,” she agreed. “So, you actually see divinity when you look at me?”

“I see someone who has no idea how beautiful she is.”

She blushed, saying nothing.

“Don’t you believe me?” he asked.

She hesitated, then asked, “Do you see divinity when you look in the mirror?”

“I see myself as Sean Connery in all his James Bond films– you know; charming, handsome, and dangerous.”

She laughed. “Okay 007. Charming and handsome, yes. But are you really dangerous?”

“Absolutely. And I’d love the chance to show you that dangerous isn’t necessarily scary. Can I call you tomorrow?”

“I’d like that.”


Desiré got up early the next day and went running at Crissy Field. Afterwards, she noticed a text message on her phone. It said:

Dear Ms. Barnes:

When I am on special assignment, such as the time I was huddled on a rooftop in Tokyo at midnight replacing the silencer on my Walther PPK and looking for my keen opponent – I ease the strain of the moment by fantasizing about you. My Moneypenny, leaning across your desk like some elegant cheetah, whispering in my ear a certain request that makes me smile even now.

What an imagination you have.

Yours professionally,

Jason Payne,

British Secret Agent

She read it again, laughing. Her phone pinged, and there was another text from Jason:

I miss that rapier wit and that exquisite leonine body of yours.

Would you like to go to the Smuin Ballet?

She texted him back:

Yes! I’d love to. What time?”

Jason called her tight then and there. She answered quickly. “Yes, James?”


“James? Are you there?”

“It’s Jason. James must be your other boyfriend.”

“James as in Bond.”

He laughed. “I knew that. Moneypenny. I was just testing you. Hey, I have tickets for the Smuin Ballet. It’s the Saturday matinee?”

“Yes! Absolutely.”

“Great. You’ll love this show. It’s a compilation of ballet and modern dance all set to Frank Sinatra music. It’s called Fly Me to the Moon.

“Can’t wait to see it.”

“I’ll pick you up at 1:00 pm.”

“I’ll be ready.”

They ended the call, and she went straight to her closet and started pulling out clothes to try on. She wanted to wear something that made her look sexy, and not matronly. After trying on six different shirts, she settled on a lilac silk blouse and her pale lavender suede jacket with skinny jeans. She liked the way the pastel colors made her dark eyes stand out.

Jason arrived that afternoon at 1:00 and she was already downstairs waiting. She hurried out to his car, and he opened the door for her.

“You look stunning,” he said.

“Thanks, so do you.”

Jason wore black slacks and a black cashmere turtleneck sweater.

“This is my Sean Connery outfit,” he said. “It drives women wild.”

She laughed. “You’re funny. And sexy, and a great dancer. Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“Do I have to answer that right now? Or can I have a cocktail or two first?”

“Ah. Someone broke your heart.”

“Is it that obvious?”

She shook her head. “Just a feeling I get.”

“She left me for an older man. A rich dude who could give her a life that I just couldn’t afford.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m better off without her.” He reached over and turned on the CD player. “I’m glad you could come today. I got the tickets from a guy I teach with at the dance studio.”

“Dancing is my passion,” she said softly.

“Mine too. It makes me feel alive.” He looked over at her.

She smiled wide, her eyes twinkling. “That’s right! It’s like being in an elevated space, where you’re in tune with the universe.”

“Exactly,” he said, pulling onto the freeway.

She loved modern dance performances. The emotion, the energy, all that contraction and release, the flowing costumes, the loose hair, the bare feet. She loved how it felt wild and free, with an element of danger. They talked about their passion for dance the entire way to the show.

When they finally eased into a parking spot, Jason killed the engine and said, “Don’t move. Let me get the door for you.”

She watched him hurry around to the passenger side and open her door.

They went inside the theatre and found their seats. When the lights went down and the show began, Jason put his arm around her and whispered, “Thanks for coming with me. It means a lot to share this with someone who really appreciates modern dance.”

“Thanks for bringing me,” she whispered.

They watched the show and lost themselves in the magic of the performance. Desiré had not enjoyed a dance performance this much since seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lincoln Center in New York several years ago.

They left the show feeling energized and giddy. Jason invited her to dinner at Liverpool Lil’s near the Presidio where they drank way too many glasses of champagne. He took her hand and gently sucked on her fingers one by one, until she felt her toes tingling.

They left the restaurant, and Jason drove them to the St. Francis Yacht Club where they parked the car and sat gazing at the moon on San Francisco Bay.

Image of yachts docked at the marina at night time.
Image credit: Chris Karidis on Unsplash

“It’s been a wonderful day with you,” she said.

“It’s not over yet.” He began to suck on her fingertips again.

“I’m drunk,” she said. “If you keep doing that, I’ll undress you with my eyes.”

“Why not with your hands?”

She giggled then slapped him playfully on the thigh. “Silly man. We’re in a public parking lot. I’m not some horny teenager.”

“There’s an element of danger. It could be exciting.”

She looked at him. He raised an eyebrow. She burst out laughing.

He leaned over and kissed her on the nose then traced his finger lightly down her neckline into her cleavage. She shivered, took a deep breath then said, “Screw it!”

She pounced on him, kissing him passionately, moving out of the passenger seat and into his lap. He kissed her back, fumbling with the buttons on her blouse. She quickly untucked her shirt then whipped it off over her head. She wore a black lace bra. She tossed her shirt over her shoulder then hiccupped, breathing heavily. He kissed her throat, her chest, her stomach until the windows began to fog up.

He pulled the release lever to recline the driver’s seat, and they suddenly fell backwards. She climbed on top of him, and her rear end hit the steering wheel, honking the horn.

“Shhh!” she whispered. Then they both started laughing. She couldn’t help it; what they were doing seemed so incredibly funny. Her shoulders shook as she laughed. Then she climbed back into the passenger seat, searching for her shirt, giggling.

“Moneypenny. We don’t have to do it in a car. We’re not homeless.”

“Danger, 007. We live for danger.” She hiccupped, fumbling with her shirt buttons.

“Here, let me help you.” He took her shirt, unbuttoned it then returned it to her.

“Thanks, James. You’re a prince.”

She slipped her shirt on, struggling with the buttons until he reached over and buttoned it for her. Jason took out his phone and requested an Uber. “I shouldn’t be driving,” he said.

She nodded, hiccupping again.

The Uber driver arrived two minutes later. They rode in silence to Desiré’s apartment.

“Can I call you tomorrow?” he asked, as he walked her to the door.

“Please do.”

He kissed her cheek then returned to the waiting Uber.

She stumbled upstairs then shed her jeans and fell into bed wearing her mis-buttoned silk shirt and underwear.


She awoke later that night when her phone pinged with a text from Jason. It said: “Thinking of you,” with a photo attached of Sean Connery and Lois Maxwell as James Bond and Moneypenny dancing cheek to cheek.

She laughed. He was such a positive force in her life. So carefree, funny, and physical. She loved the fact that he was so interested in her. She especially liked that he’d seduced her in a parking lot, then they’d thought better of it. She closed her eyes, telling herself that even if it didn’t last—and she was sure that it wouldn’t, due to their age difference—he excited her. She felt desired.

She texted him back.

“Take me dancing, 007.”

He replied:

“Tomorrow night, we Tango…after that, paradise…”

She replied:

“Perfect. As long as it’s not in a parked car…”

Jason immediately called her.

“We could always skip the Tango and head straight to paradise,” he said.

She laughed. “Great idea. In fact, why wait? Tomorrow’s a long way off...”

“Are you inviting me over right now?”

She sighed. “Not if it’s past your bedtime.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Image of a burning candle on a table in front of a window with baby's breath next to it.
Image credit: Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

They hung up and she lit the jasmine candle on her bedside table—no longer afraid of the future. She closed her eyes and imagined waking up beside Jason in the morning—and every morning for the next fifty years. Why not let herself think this way? It felt good having someone in her life again. Having something to look forward to—something to treasure. Like the rainbow after a storm. Bright and soothing. But even though it might be only temporary, it was still quite beautiful.

For this, she felt immense and profound gratitude.


Black and white photo of the author, Melissa L. White.
Melissa L. White

Melissa L. White is a screenwriter, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her screenplay about Georgia O’Keeffe won BEST SCREENPLAY DRAMA, and BEST BIOPIC at the 4Theatre Film Festival in June 2023. It was selected as a Finalist for the Catalina Film Festival in Sept. 2023. Her LGBTQ+ Rom Com screenplay, “Modern Marriage,” won 4th Prize in the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest 2021. Her recently published essay, Can AI Learn How it Feels to Cry? won 2nd Prize in the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Contest 2023. Melissa lives in Encino, with her fiancé, Mark, an award-winning commercial photographer.

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