Every week in Friday Free Web Fiction I post a first draft scene from my work in progress (WIP), or a short story, or an excerpt from one of my books. Today’s offering is from my Prunella Smith WIP, The Lock Smith’s Secret. Today’s story is a memory Prunella has of her last days as a ballet dancer.
I sat with my back against the studio wall and stared at my defeated shape in the mirrors on the opposite wall. The aching in my back was still there. Still would be so long as I danced, so the physiotherapists had said. Today the truth of that had finally sunk in. All the strengthening exercises I’d been working on so hard during the last few months had not improved the dull ache that inevitably grew worse throughout a day’s work at the company. A tear or two escaped and trickled down my cheek, I bent forward, ignoring the paid that caused, and unlaced my point shoes, more to hide my misery than speed the process of getting out of here.
I didn’t want to leave.
Dancing was my life.
But I could not sign up for another season; hiding the pain was as much a struggle as living with it.
Soft footsteps crossed the floor towards me. I looked up. Tom gave a sad kind of smile and joined me on the floor. His bare chest glistened despite having wiped it with the towel draped across his shoulder, and his blond hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. Claudia had worked us hard in this final class for the season. She’d even growled at me. Did she suspect I wasn’t as healed as I’d pretended to be? I wasn’t the dancer I used to be. Would she even offer me another contract?
‘You’re not coming back, are you?’ Tom said in a quiet voice. I’d told him last night that today I would decide.
I ripped the second shoe off and winced. Blood soaked the cotton padding. Distracted by the pain in my back, I hadn’t even noticed my feet.
‘You can’t hide it from me,’ he added.
He meant the pain. No doubt he saw the tension I felt in my brow. I nodded. “I’m sick of it. The doctors were right, damn them!’
‘Damn that bloody driver, you mean.’
‘Yeah. Damn everything.’ I threw the point shoes across the room. They bounced a couple of times then lay still. Dead. Like my career.
I lay back against the wall; the cool stone chilled my sweat. I sighed.
He filled the ensuing silence by dragging a white T-shirt over that beautiful strong chest. ‘You’ll find something else. Something that doesn’t cause you pain.’
I nodded, but I couldn’t envisage a life without dance.
He leaned against the wall beside me, stared at the ceiling and took a deep breath. ‘I’m going to New York.’
My heart made a little jump. Something different was just what I needed. ‘Great.’ I met his eyes with a smile, but instead of the inspiration I’d expected, I saw sadness. I … not we? He couldn’t possibly mean … My smile faded. ‘I can find something there.’
‘Work? In New York? Without the right papers? Be realistic Ella. Even if I don’t get the scholarship, my folks will cover me until I find a role somewhere. Me, but not you. How will you pay the rent?’
I frowned and shook my head. He hadn’t considered him paying for both of us. My misery deepened, plummeting into depths I’d never imagined. The accident hadn’t caused anything as bad as this. No pill could ease this pain. ‘You don’t want me to come?’ Even my voice sounded broken.
‘It just isn’t practical. But if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be back in a month.’
‘Tom, the other studio’s free, are you ready?’ Miranda called from the doorway. She stood there, still in her leotard and tights, hair scraped back tight against her skull as if to hold her head together, smiling as if this wasn’t breaking anyone’s heart. Everyone else had left already.
‘Soon.’ He at least had the decency to look embarrassed.
‘So I’ve been traded in,’ I said. ‘You didn’t waste any time.’ I sounded bitter. Hell, I felt bitter.
He sighed. ‘The audition is in two weeks. I don’t want to be partnered with just anyone for the pa de deux. I need to show my best.’
‘You don’t even like her.’
‘She’s a good dancer.’
I shrugged. Would she be the Fonteyn to his Nureyev? It certainly wasn’t going to be me now.
‘Maybe you can come over once I get established.’
An olive branch. Our eyes met, but I couldn’t read him. ‘Are you breaking up with me or not?’
He shook his head. ‘I don’t know.’
But I knew. The bell had just tolled on our relationship. If I couldn’t be his partner onstage, he had no room for me offstage. I knew how hard he worked. Dance was his life too. Dance, not me.
And I’d thought we were soul mates.
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