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Card Challenge: Day 13

Card Day 13: Dancing ballet slippers, cobwebs in the corner of the card.

The old recliner smelled of baby powder and stale perfume, and it released a gasp of the aroma as Georgette adjusted in the chair. She wrinkled her nose at the old, nursing home stench, smelling the scents of days and weeks and months of sedentary life in that chair, in that common room. It seemed like the winter dragged on longer and longer each year, meaning the outdoor patio was closed. The days grew short, the dark grew deeper, and Georgette resigned herself to the chair in front of the high definition TV she did not really appreciate.

It was another game show, another fake smile on the screen promising wealth and fantasy but delivering, mostly, paid advertisements. Georgette glanced around the room. She was the only one still awake in the common room, and the nurses at the station were more focused on chitchatting and an occasional glance than what was going on. She stood, careful to balance on her cracking legs before shuffling over to the remote. She nabbed the device from the side table, shuffled back, and quickly flipped the channel.

The national ballet was on, and she was not going to miss it just to watch someone not win millions.

Georgette settled into her chair, watching the graceful figures dance across the screen. The video quality on public television was poor, but it was good enough for her still sharp eyes to pick out the tiny flourishes that made these dancers in a class above. Of course, she could also still pick up the minute flaws, the hesitations in a leap, the wobble in a spin. She smiled, her mind turning back to her own time in the spotlight.

She had been very talented. Even at a young age, she had a sense of her talent, though it was generally buried under mounds of self-doubt and perfectionism. Her practices were rigorous, organized, and intentional. Day in and day out she ran her drills, completing various programs and techniques. It was a labor of love, however, because as soon as the house lights came down and the music began, she was free.

Georgette remembered the feeling of standing on the stage, the wooden floor springy yet firm beneath her feet. After her practice, the routine was second nature to her. The movements flowed like water from the crown of her head to the tips of her perfectly pointed toes. She sometimes found herself picturing herself as the embodiment of the music, floating across the stage. She was smooth and lean, wrapped in a silky leotard that shimmered beneath the brilliant lights. Her feet, bound tight in laced slippers, whispered across the stage, landing with soft thumps after each leap or spin. Her steps were a gentle, human counterpoint to the music, lifting it and supporting it with her body.

Of course, as they always did, her thoughts turned ot him. Her wonderful partner standing on the other side of the stage, smiling his broad smile as he watched her spin. As the tones rose and rhythm hit the right time, he would burst onto the stage. He was so tall, strong, and handsome. She would have swooned for him had she not been holding the perfect arch from head to toe. His appearance was always a breathless moment where her heart fluttered into her stomach.

Clyde’s hands were strong, secure, and warm against her waist, gently holding her aloft or leading her through the next step. Georgette remembered how, with some partners, it was impossible to maintain the organic, fluid movement of the music. She had always felt as if she were wind, spinning over the earth, trying to lift a pile of litter into some fantastic spiral. But with Clyde it was different. He had the same practiced grace, the same in-tuneness that Georgette prided in herself.

It was a match made in heaven, and a love written for the ages. She smiled as she remembered their career on stage together. The lights, the cameras, the music. It was a romance written in a poem, and a life she had loved for so long. Her stage career had, of course, been cut short by the birth of their youngest daughter. Clyde’s career had, unfortunately, been cut just as short by a fatal congenital heart defect, undetected until it stole him away in the midst of the night.

It was there the memories grew painful. She had tried to return to the life she knew, but that meant trying to shuffle her life and the life of three children below the age of five. The stage managers, once so smiling and congenial, refused to bend to accommodate her small family. The women back stage, some of whom she had taught and danced alongside for years, snickered at her slightly out-of-practice steps, at the stumbles she made as she re-learned the unfamiliar shape of her post-motherhood body. They loved to dote on the children, pinching little James’ cheeks and letting him dance on their toes. They dressed Becky and Jana in feathers, painting their faces brightly. Georgette only hoped that those few memories were bright ones, not as laden with embarrassment or helplessness for her children as they were for her.

She could not support a family on the meager paycheck of a second tier ballerina. Instead, her children grew up with a mother who worked long hours in the local diner, selling greasy spoon food with a brilliant smile.

Now, Georgette looked at herself. Her feet were tucked into a different kind of slippers now. While once strong, they were now wrinkled and feeble, conveying her with shuffling, unsteady step around the nursing home halls. Her legs that had once been so taut and lithe were now saggy and unsteady. They snapped and popped with every movement she made. Georgette thought of how she had carefully arranged her hair into a tight, golden bun. Now it hung around her shoulders, grey and thinning.

One thing, however, had not changed in all those years. On her hand sat the tiny diamond wedding band, its gold arms still holding tight to her ring finger. And, despite the consequences of age on her body, she still had the quick wits and bright smile that had carried her through. She still had a loving family, three smiling children who made their way through to visit her each week, coming by with hugs, kisses, and chubby grandchildren that asked wide-eyed questions about life before.  She still had the national ballet on public television every Thursday afternoon.

Georgette smiled. Yes, time had waged a cruel war, but she remained stalwart and graceful, occupying her own center spotlight. It had taken her years, but Georgette smiled at her life of fame, talent, heartache, and success. She closed her eyes and, in her dreams, she danced.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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