~Pas de Deux~ A dance between two people; a love story. At the incessant screaming of his alarm clock, Russell let out a low groan and rubbed the exhaustion from his face. It seemed to take too much energy to slam his hand atop the plastic devil, silencing the reminder that Monday had come and work must resume. The music teacher slowly dragged himself from warm, thick blankets and into the cold shower that greeted him every morning. It was always a battle. The awful apartments where he could afford residence had limited water usage every month, and as punishment for the little money Russell made as a college professor and a musician he had to choose between waking up an hour earlier than normal for a hot shower, or suffering through cold ones should he desire to sleep in. Some days the warmth was too much to resist, but the most part Russell craved his rest. The man worked like a dog and saw little money for his efforts, and while the promise of heat in the morning was one that most would rise early for, he begrudgingly admitted to himself that the fresh cold woke him up and made him more alert. Still, it was miserable to say the least. Cold showers after five hours of sleep was not a fate he would wish on anyone. Once he had stripped from his pajamas, Russell stepped into the cold water, sucking in a breath and shuddering. He hated the rude awakenings as much as would be expected, but he also knew that the sooner he cleansed himself the sooner he could be dressing in warm clothes fresh from the dryer, and if that wasn't motivation he didn't know what was. Russell stepped out of the icy showers and dried himself off, unable to contain a sigh of relief at the heated clothes he dressed himself in, a simple knit turtleneck and white slacks. After a quick breakfast and an even quicker few minutes to attend to personal hygiene, Russell snatched a coat from his closet and the suitcase from his bedside table and left his humble home. The air outside was even colder than the water in his shower. He watched the breath from his mouth fog into the space before him, wondering briefly if people could make rings in the air like they could with smoke. Of course, Russell was foolish enough to try, warranting odd looks from those who stood beside him at various intersections and crosswalks that made up his morning route. But he knew better than to pay them any mind. His mother had told him long ago that a playful mind is a happy one, and happy minds make the world a better place. Russell had always thought it a cheesy saying at the very least, but since his mother had said it he held it dear to his heart. I should call her later, he thought as he entered the academy where he taught. I'm sure she'd like that. "Professor Jackson," came a soothing voice from just behind him. The music professor turned around and smiled to greet Madame Beaumont, the head ballerina of the school's dance program and professor of her area of study. He offered a hand to shake hers in amiable friendship. "Good morning Madame," he told her with a warm smile. "Awfully cold day, isn't it? My fingers are freezing." "Indeed," she laughed, "I noticed that as well. I might set up a space heater for my girls to warm up their toes before practice. I'd hate to have any of them falling off." Russell nodded his head in amused agreement, about to ask what she had approached him for until she pulled a piece of paper from her briefcase and handed it to him. It appeared to be a schedule of some sort, indicating times after school hours and various room numbers, but he couldn't make immediate sense of it. "What's this?" "Ballet schedule," she informed him kindly. "Our pianist for practice got in a dreadful car accident and can't be expected to return for at least six months. I would go hiring a new one but you know as well as I that the school has been suffering some budgeting issues and I'm not sure that I could find a professional willing to work for the price they've given me." The Madame met his eyes, a desperate plea waiting behind them. "Please, Mister Jackson, my girls need to practice with musical numbers before the Christmas show in December. It's only a month away, and your symphony can't be there for every practice I'm afraid. Would you mind offering your time to help? There would be a small pay in it for you, though certainly not what a man of your stature deserves, I'm sad to say." "Of course I'll help." Russell's answer was immediate. "I could use a little extra money, and I've always been interested to see what goes on in your end of the school. I can't do Tuesdays or Thursdays, but Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will work just fine." "Oh, thank you." Madame Beaumont looked near tears, and it was clear she had been stressing over the situation for days on end. "Thank you so much, professor. I look forward to seeing you at the end of the day. You can swing by my office at lunch and I'll give the sheet music to you for looking over during the break." "Sure." He smiled. "Room 706?" "706," she repeated with a nod. "Thank you again, Russell. I truly appreciate it. I owe you one." "Yeah, yeah," he laughed as he walked away, "just make sure to sell out the next symphony concert and we'll call it even!"