New Steps

Shutterstock © And illustration of a lady's legs wearing tap-dancing shoes Illustration: Shutterstock


The things we do for those we love… even if they turn out to be rather good for us, too

“Your bag and coat goes over here, Nan.” Poppy indicated a row of chairs at the side of the hall above the Old Fire Station.

Kathy, who had paused in the doorway, followed her granddaughter in. It was a Saturday morning in January. Dust motes danced in the winter sunlight that shone through the high windows.

The room was cool, but not cold. She shivered – her nerves were getting to her, but she was determined not to let them show to Poppy. After all, she was here as support.

“Have you got water?” Poppy asked.

Kathy lifted the bottle she’d filled before leaving home, smiling. Makes you wonder who’s the adult, she thought.

They were the first to arrive, and all was calm. The last time she’d frequented this place on a Saturday morning was too many years ago to count. She’d probably been a little older than Poppy, who was almost nine.

Funny, though, it had barely changed. There were the wooden shutters at the far end, behind which she knew there was a kitchen. Chairs were scattered against the walls, and at the front were small, neat wireless speakers on a table. That was different. Back in Kathy’s day a redoubtable elderly lady would sit at the piano, belting out familiar tunes.

The smell, though; that was evocative. Kathy could detect polish, coffee, weak squash and rich tea biscuits, she was sure.

While Kathy sat and tied her shoes people filled the hall, and the noise level rose. Mostly young girls chattered and hugged one another, glad to be back in each other’s company following the Christmas holidays, no doubt. There were a couple of women, though they were younger than Kathy.

Poppy stood on the edge of a group, quiet, listening. She could be shy with those that weren’t close friends and family, and before Christmas she had asked Kathy if she would come and try out her tap class with her.

Sian’s moved to Wales, Nan. I don’t want to go on my own. You’ve done it before. Would you come with me?

When Poppy first demonstrated her new steps a few months ago, Kathy had told her granddaughter how she’d taken tap too, many years ago.

Kathy had baulked at practising at home with Poppy, protesting she didn’t have the correct shoes.

As if that was the only reason.

“I can’t believe the classes still happen in the same place, too. I love that!” she’d added, clearly with too way much enthusiasm.

It turned out that the class was run by the granddaughter of one of the sisters who’d been in charge all those years ago.

“It’s fate, Nan,” Poppy had said. “You can be my new BFF on Saturday mornings.”

Although Kathy wasn’t sure she believed in fate, the thought of being Poppy’s BFF, even just for Saturday mornings, had flooded her with warmth and love. It was good to feel needed. How could she possibly say no? Despite no longer having tap shoes. As though that was her biggest worry. There was her age, her fitness and memory of all those steps – or lack of – too. And the desire to hibernate in the cold, dark post-Christmas months, trying to fight off the winter blues.

“Course I’ll be your Saturday morning BFF, Poppy,” Kathy had replied, smiling on the outside, hopefully hiding her apprehension.

And, now, here they were. They’d sourced the right sized shoes over the Christmas break, and Poppy had advised Kathy on what to wear.

“Baggy T-shirt and leggings, Nan.”

They were easy enough to find in her wardrobe, though she rarely wore them to exercise in.

Kathy wove her way to the back of the room. Poppy followed.

“Good morning everyone,” a voice called out, over the top of rhythmic pop music which blasted from the speakers. “Are we all ready for the new year and new steps? Fabulous, let’s get warmed up.”

It was easy enough to keep up to begin with, Kathy thought. Raising heels and toes, even quickly, wasn’t too much of a challenge.

After that, Kathy did her best to keep up, concentrating hard, taking the odd moment or two to catch her breath. Some steps came back to her, others not.

The hour whizzed by. Often she followed in Poppy’s footsteps – which were feet perfect.

“How was your muscle memory for the steps, Nan?” Poppy asked as they changed shoes again at the end.

“Not sure muscles remember that far back, Poppy,” Kathy replied. “But I expect they will remember today tomorrow morning.”

“I’m glad you came, Nan,” Poppy said as they gathered their things.

“I am too, love,” Kathy replied. And she was, for her sake as well as Poppy’s.

She linked her granddaughter’s arm as they shuffle-ball-changed their way to the high street, looking forward to next Saturday morning with her BFF.

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.