Walking on Tippy Toes

By DF Huettner

M-1egan?”

Megan looked up from her drawing table to see her mother standing in the doorway to her bedroom.

“You should be sleeping. Tomorrow’s your big day. You need your rest.”

Megan’s hand flew over the poster sized drawing, charcoal lines curving to form her latest clothing design, a flowing gown with thin straps.

“Yeah, Mom. In a minute.” She picked up the cardboard pen to feather lines giving folds of the gown shadow and depth.

“Don’t you Yeah Mom me, young lady! You have worked too hard for this. You have the leading role in this production. Tomorrow is your big debut. Now I said sleep and I mean it!”

“I’m almost done. This is my newest design. I think it’s my best one.”

Megan’s mother marched into the room to her drawing table.

“Let me see it.” She snapped her fingers and held out her hand as Megan worked feverishly to finish the drawing before showing it to anyone. But her mother would not wait. She reached over the table and grabbed the parchment.

Megan raised her hands lest a rub mar her vision as the poster flew away from her.

Her mother held the poster up.

Megan looked for appreciation of her talent in her mother’s eyes, but her mother’s brows furrowed.

“You are a dancer, Megan, not a clothing designer.” She turned the poster to hold it at its long side and moved her hands apart, violently tearing the design in half then put the halves together and tore again, quartering the work. “Go to sleep!” she demanded tossing the parchment into the air to pirouette to the floor. “After tomorrow your whole world will be different.” With a satisfied look at her daughter she marched from the room.

Megan was too shocked to move, too stunned to cry. Yes, she could dance. She could dance well, well enough to climb to the top of the local troupe. But it wasn’t who she could be, who she dreamed to be, who she was.

***

The ride downtown to the auditorium was icily quiet. Her mother drove with determination and Megan looked away through the side window watching buildings fly by. As they neared the theater district, the lights turned against them, bringing the car to a halt. Her mother finally spoke.

“Look, Megan, I know you’re angry at me for last night. But today is important, more important than any wishful dream you might have. After this dance you will be a star. This is it, your big chance. It’s what we’ve worked for.”

“We?” Megan said quietly.

“You… Nancy… and me.”

The light turned green. They turned the corner and drove down the block and into the parking garage under the civic auditorium.

“It was my best design.” Megan pursed her lips as a tear flowed down her cheek.

“Let’s not talk about it.” Her mother parked the car and they walked to the elevator.

Standing as the cubical lifted them to the lobby of the theater Megan broke and muffled a sob, sniffing back her tears and shame at being weak enough to cry.

“I had to keep you in focus. It was what I had to do,” her mother said as the doors opened to the warmth and splendor of the opulent lobby. “Do you want me to come back with you?”

“No!” Megan nearly shouted, causing some around them to look in their direction momentarily. She looked her mother in the eye. “Let me go.”

Taken back for a moment by the fierce look of her daughter’s face, her mother paused to regain resolve.

“This is your future, Megan. You know what you have to do.”

Megan turned and ran down the long, narrow hall that led backstage to the dressing rooms.

***

As she tied her ballet slippers, Megan could feel her mother sitting in the audience reading the playbill. She would have suffered through the evening’s eclectic local venue of the orchestra and choral music waiting for the ballet performance. Her mother knew the ballet well, but she would still be reading the summary, scouring for typos.

“You ready for this, Honey?” It was Nancy, Megan’s coach and the director of the ballet troupe, looking in on her star. She was all smiles and hugs. But seeing Megan’s face she held the dancer by the shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

Megan looked sorrowfully into her director’s eyes. “Just nerves, I guess.”

Nancy hugged her again. “Oh Megan, you’ll be wonderful!” Then she was breezing away. “Five minutes!”

The Kingdom of the Shades from Petipa’s La Bayadère was a dream sequence. Megan danced the title role of Nikiya, the temple dancer. As the scene opened, she was already dead (as ballet dramas go) and so she was a ghost. The male lead, warrior Solor, loved Nikiya and became depressed enough at her death to smoke opium. Hence, he landed in The Kingdom of the Shades, the dream sequence. Solor, played by the insufferably vain Bobby, was the first to show his talent and he danced well, running and leaping with grace across the stage. Megan took her position in the shadows on a raised platform at rear center stage where presently a spotlight potted up showing Nikiya in her dazzling white costume, a beautiful ghost. Solor noticed her and beckoned with his arms longingly as the music reached a crescendo.

Megan had to remain motionless during this introduction of her character so she scanned the audience, finding her mother seated in the middle of the fifth row. The music played on, and Megan was surprised to hear words forming in her head along to the beat, lyrics to the tune. I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes.

The spotlight dimmed plunging Nikiya into darkness and crushing Solor’s hopes, so he danced around some more finally sinking to his knees in despair. Megan entered from the shadows of back stage left to light applause and danced over to the kneeling Bobby and struck a pose complimentary to his.

The first part of the dream sequence was a pas de deux, a dance for two. The accompaniment was a beautiful solo violin. They danced together accomplishing striking maneuvers that exhibited their prowess. Megan stood on the toes of one foot and raised her other foot above her head in the arabesque penchée, a standing split, as Bobby slowly turned her around in a complete circle. Then they were back bounding across the stage apart and together. The music swelled and so did the words in Megan’s heart. I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes. When she moved to the front of the stage and faced the audience, Megan suddenly broke pattern, bringing her hands up before her, making fists as though holding something then moved her hands apart quickly. She brought them back together then tore them apart again releasing her fingers and pirouetting as she lowered herself to the floor en tombé, then was up executing traveling steps to the back of the stage causing Bobby to chase her.

“What are you doing?” Bobby whispered, but she turned and ran to the front of the stage.

The lyrics were overpowering. I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes. Again she did the standing split maneuver and Bobby slowly turned her around. Consumed by her passion, Megan took a deep breath and closing her eyes began to sing, tentatively at first, but gaining in strength until her voice could be heard in the audience as far as the fifth row.

“I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes.”

“Are you crazy?” Bobby whispered as he turned from the audience.

“I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes,” Megan sang louder.

The maestro looked up at them in horror. This was ballet, not opera! There is no singing in ballet! Yet there was nothing he could do but continue to direct the music.

“I don’t want to be a dancer. I want to design clothes,” Megan sang again and again as she continued to perform the ballet as if nothing were wrong yet singing all the time until it came time to exit the stage. Bobby beckoned longingly as she walked backwards to the stage right rear corner, leaving the stage lights for the dark wing.

Nancy was waiting.

“Have you lost your mind?” Nancy whispered as vehemently as she could. “You have ruined this performance! You’ll never dance for me again! Your ballet career is over!”

“Immediately?” Megan asked, reaching behind herself to unfasten her tutu.

“No wait!” Nancy said, grabbing her elbows. “Will you finish the dance tonight?” She was pleading with her eyes.

“Yes,” Megan said.

Nancy tightened her grip. “Correctly?”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’ve made my statement.”

Megan thought about Mother sitting out in the hall, her design for her daughter’s life suddenly torn apart. The music was coming around to her cue to return to the stage.

“Mother was right. After tonight my life will never be the same. I was doing what I had to do,” Megan lifted her chin. She pulled free of Nancy’s grip and walked toward the lights of the stage. Stopping, she turned and saw her mother advancing behind Nancy, consummate fury in her eyes. But Megan was immune. With a smile she walked out into the spotlight where no one could follow.

——————–

DF Huettner, a poet and novelist, lives in rural Maine. He has been published in online ezines and literary journals, Planet Magazine, Nuketown News, Indian SF, Eskimo Pie, Harlequin Creature, and others. His novels are published on Amazon Kindle. His website is huettner.wix.com/author

 


Comments are closed.