11-16-2011 05:35 PM
The crisp autumn twilight was alive, breathing deeply through the flame tinged leaves. A symphony of cicadas, crickets serenaded the fading days. The voice of the foliage tickled Belle’s ears. Drawing a deep breath she flicked her wrist. The lock on the service door popped open. Casting a last, lingering glance over her shoulder, she slipped through the narrow opening, dragging a bag twice her minimal width after her. It was all she had left. This was her only chance, no matter what the court had ruled.
A tear snuck down her thin, pale cheek. She swiped it away with a cautious touch, the area still painful, bruised and tender. She was little more than a wayfaring wraith as she stepped into the shadowed studio. It was Sunday; most families were at home with a good meal and better company, such was the norm. Not for Belle, however.
She cringed inwardly as memories rose out of the dark. The rage. The pain… No! Shaking her head viciously, Belle drew her mind back to the present. That was all in the past and so it would remain. She wasn’t going back.
There was only one way to go. Sitting at rock bottom with her life in ruins, her courage in tatters, her bones…healing, Belle smiled in wry, broken humour. Forward, onward, upward. One foot in front of the other. A day, a step at a time at least that was what the psychologist had said. Dr. Truvey had never taken the Greyhound Bus Company into account.
A ticket from New York, NY to Charleston, SC had cost her nearly $130.00. The hitchhiking from Kingston to New York had been shockingly easy. The bus station in the City had smelled of diesel, stale air, travel grime and freedom. She had boarded the bus without a backward glance.
Nearly twenty hours later she arrived. Alone and exhausted, but far from lost. She had the address of a youth hostel and Celeste Dance Academy in the pocket of her jeans. With a grimace Belle knew jeans had cost more than the bus ticket had. Another reminder of the world she had left behind.
Jeannette had purchased the jeans and everything else she had brought on 5th Avenue just prior to the start of the school year. The injuries Belle had acquired at the end of the last school year were fading by then. It was critical to Jeanette to keep up appearances, which included Belle. It had nothing to do with guilt.
Released from Mount Sinai at the beginning of June, Belle began to form her plan. She had to break free. Her fractured left ankle and shattered right wrist were from a disastrous fall down the graceful steps of the Sinclair home, or so the report stated. No one had thought to look for other causes. Belle knew the truth, but knew no one would believe her. Her father certainly hadn’t.
Echo House had been built by Belle’s great, great grandparents in 1834 and had passed to her father, upon the death of her paternal grandmother, Mimi. The summers spent at the old house with Mimi and her father, Stephen, were the only bright spots in a dismal past. Things had gotten much worse after Mimi’s passing and the death of her father the previous winter. A heart attack. Stephen Sinclair had been 42.
Her life was a mask. A happy, bitter mask of supposed normalcy. When Grand’Mere Mimi had died, Jeanette demanded that they move into Echo House even before Mimi was cold in the ground. To appease his young, vain wife, Stephen Sinclair put in for a transfer at work. When it came through, they picked up, packed up, and left the quiet, beloved hamlet of Hurley, NY. Jeanette had hated it. Belle loved it.
Ripped away from her community and friends she had known since before she could talk, Belle had withdrawn. She retreated into activities at which she had always excelled. Riding and dance. Luckily, Kingston provided her with outlets for her beloved sports. Belle spent every minute she could away from Echo House, which had become a prison with Jeanette in residence. Every lingering trace of Grand’Mere Mimi was eradicated. Belle’s heart ached with unshed tears, unspoken words.
If Stephen Sinclair had noticed a change in his daughter’s demeanor, he didn’t say anything. He put it down to Belle’s age and recent circumstances, as she had just turned 12 when Mimi died. If she smarted off or cringed from Jeanette’s attempted to bridge the distance between them, he blamed it on the fact the Belle had been motherless until he had married Jeanette when Belle was 5. Neither Belle nor Mimi had warmed to the vivacious, occasionally superior Jeanette. It was a mystery Stephen Sinclair would never solve.
There was no one left to turn to, except this chance. Grand’Mere Mimi had told her about an older cousin, a namesake Mimi, who attended Julliard. Belle had Googled Mimi Beaudelaire. What she found was awe inspiring and heartbreaking. Mimi had suffered a seizure and a severe fall, which curtailed what, would have been a blindingly successful career with the Metropolitan Ballet. Mimi hadn’t let it get the better of her, however. As soon as she was on the mend, she had pulled up her roots, left New York and Julliard, relocating more than 500 miles south in Charleston, South Carolina.
Once in Charleston, Mimi bought the floundering Southern Tap and Toe dance studio, renaming it Celeste. The young dancer’s reputation had preceded her and within a month of opening the doors, she was booked solid with classes six days a week from noon to nine. Rave reviews of her teaching methods and of her own abilities had crowded the Google links, Belle had searched. There was no mention of Hilary Sinclair – Beaudelaire, Mimi’s mother and Belle’s aunt, a well known and often feared matriarch of New York high society. Mimi, it would seem, had severed all ties and left against her mother’s orders.
Now Belle had broken free, searching for the last family she had. She moved with the graceful caution of a hunted doe into the hushed expanse of the studio. A barre ran the length of three sides of the long mirrored room. Small lights similar to the ones seen in theatre aisles glowed along the base of the mirrors covering three of the four walls. The floors were old, lovingly polished hardwood. The planks were each nearly two feet in width and of varying lengths, but fit together with an eerie precision,as level as a sheet of perfect glass.
11-16-2011 06:19 PM - edited 11-16-2011 06:37 PM
It was a world of shadows, masks, reflections. Belle’s muscles, her heart were screaming. She pulled the service door shut, but the lock didn’t catch. She waited, listening for the slightest sound of movement. The apartment overhead was empty. Setting her bag down on a convenient padded bench, Belle pulled out her well worn dance gear, a present from Grand’Mere Mimi at her last birthday. It had been Mimi’s last party.
The young intruder spotted a small office off to the right of the main entrance. Gathering up her things she ducked inside, shucked her jeans and top and was back out in a twinkling. Her luxuriant black hair was all ready bound up in a dancer’s knot. With her street clothes in hand she returned to her bag. Her feet were bare, as silent as a panther’s on the caressing surface of the floor.
Rummaging through the depth of the enormous dance bag, her thin fingers connected with cool leather. These were what she had been look for. Her braces. They had arrived at the hospital, while she was recovering from her ‘fall’. From a Friend, was all the note enclosed with the package had said. The braces were decidedly unique in both their simplicity, effectiveness and construction.
Each was made of a single, solid piece of the finest leather Belle had ever felt. There was no stitching, almost as though it had been peeled off a leg, whole. The hide was uncured and amazingly pliant. It bonded with her skin as though it were a part of her. The tension was perfect, keeping the weakened joints stable, while allowing Belle to press herself to the limits. The velvety leather was a cool contrast against her warm pale skin as she pulled the braces on.
Slowly she stood and stretched. Joints popped and creaked as she folded over into a back walkover. Belle grinned. She was amazingly dexterous. Methodically she stretched and loosened her cramped muscles, allowing her anticipation to build. She pulled her iPod out of her coat pocket and walked over to the small sound station she had spotted while in the office. Plugging the battered little device into the port, she flipped through the playlists until she came to the one entitled Mimic. Picking up the remote to the unit she returned to the barre and ran though the prescribed and routine, warm up. When she was able to touch the toes of her left foot to her knot, she knew it was time.
Belle didn’t pull out her shoes, not for this run. The balcony outside her room at Echo House had made her feet strong, but Jeanette would have noticed the worn out dance shoes, so Belle had worked, long into the night, her feet, bare against the summer warmed masonry. Little by little she had regained strength, her progress and fierce determination had astounded her physicians. She never told anyone of her secret, but those braces gave her strength she would not have had otherwise.
Headphones in, music pounding, she had stretched, strengthened, repeated the painful bitter work, allowing her anger, her own rancorous feelings to fuel her drive. She was at rock bottom and she needed every ounce of courage, reckless and blinding hope she could lay hold of. Nightwish, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Simple Plan, Tchaikovsky, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Andrew Lloyd Webber…Anything with a dark, melodic line became her heartbeat, the rhythm but which she set her course.
11-16-2011 08:22 PM
On a twelve by ten rectangle enclosed by graceful Victorian wrought iron, Belle had rebuilt herself from the ground up. Swallowing her fear, hiding away the emotional scars, regaining her shattered self-esteem and knitting her fractured bones. She built endurance, fighting with her shadow; it fought back each and every night. Her desk chair was a huge balance ball, abused to the point of near destruction, but it stayed inflated.
Belle had learned how to balance on it in a full stand. The added height made her giddy, added to her recklessness. She pushed harder, higher. She bounced, reaching as far and high as she could go. She walked the railings of the balcony. And danced like a half wild, barefoot urchin on the sun warmed flags. She taught herself how to bend and weave and twist, until she could move as silently and gracefully as a cat. She was a dancer, but she was also a fighter, a survivor…And in order to survive, she had left.
She lifted her eyes, meeting those of her reflection. Her face, waifish, was drawn and tired, but there was a light in her big brown eyes. Jeanette’s parting gift stood out against Belle’s porcelain complex like a banner of war. Belle drew a deep breath in and held it. The remote to the sound system in hand, she pressed play. Her playlist washed over her in a soft, sweeping tide as she set aside the remote.
06-15-2012 11:31 PM
The first bars of Keep the Streets Empty caught hold, Belle drew her hands together, fingertips touching, pressed against her thin chest. Like a martial artist, with feet together, she bowed to her reflection as it, too, bowed to her. Stepping off with her right foot, she went into a spin, her toes kissing and pressing into the glossy floorboards. Grip, release, twist, two steps right, one back, round…Step out, back, round…Repeat. Stretch, extend…left leg out, toes on point. It was ghostly dance of a leotard clad phantom, soft and smooth, imbued with an unspoken strength.
06-18-2012 11:37 PM
Her toes gripped, released, lifted and tossed as she swept through the barrage of movements. The songs changed again. The dark, driven symphony of Nightwish’s Storytime. Adrenaline flooded her system. Both feet hit the ground with the merest rush of sound before she pushed off with savage, wiry strength, whipping her thin frame into the air and set it whirling like a Spinner dolphin. End over end, her hands hit the boards, Belle tucked and rolled, coming to her feet in one fluid motion. Momentum pressed her forward into another tumbling pass. Any gymnast worth her salt would have been green with envy.
Belle found her rhythm and stride. The reckless, heady high hit like a hammer as the song condensed and built. The young dancer locked eyes with her flying reflection, knowing what was coming. Like an image out of Mirrormask, her reflection stopped mimicking her motions and went into a counterpoint pattern. As Belle bounced, stretched, whirled and twisted, the reflection lifted, tossed and spotted each and every motion. Belle’s feet never touched the ground as the iPod continued onto I Want My Tears Back.
06-18-2012 11:58 PM - edited 06-19-2012 12:03 AM
As the last notes faded, Belle touched down, grinning at her reflection. The new Kelly Clarkson song Stronger began to play. With a megawatt smile she lifted her hands, assuming a fighter’s stance. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…” Twirling about, she lashed out, pummeling her reflection, dodging, ducking, and tucking. Down the length of the studio and back again. Round and round, she went, shadow boxing her reflection.
Breathing hard, she drew up. Pressing a wayward lock of hair back, Belle set up for the next song. The bubblegum poppy goodness of Tell Me Something I Don’t Know set her bare feet flying. Sharp, quick, and fluid, Belle whipped and slid and stepped and twirled. Modern pop. Jeanette had hated it. Belle reveled in it, cherishing the freedom of expression it allowed her.
Naturally echoed in the speakers, coursing through her veins like a living force. Again her reflection took up a counterpoint pattern. Lifted and partnered, she pressed harder, free of fear. Each motion was crisp, clean, and innate. The child was a breathing embodiment of grace. Round and about, down and back she went, without missing a step. Stretch. Lift. Spin. Point. Extend. Reach. Toss. Grip. Slide. Step. Feet together. Right leg out and twist. Belle whirled like a weather vane, her forehead tracing the floor.