A Dancer’s Dream

Pasatiempo - - Stories - by Zascha Fox

It was open­ing night of The Nutcracker, and every­one was get­ting but­ter­flies in their stom­achs. My friends and I tip­toed up the stairs, grip­ping the cold metal rail­ing. It was our eighth time danc­ing in The Nutcracker. We reached the floor where the pro­fes­sional dancers and the creative-dance class dress­ing rooms are. I could feel the short, rough car­pet through my ripped can­vas bal­let slip­pers. The sounds of 4-and 5-year-olds gig­gling and talk­ing in­side their lit­tle dress­ing room be­came more ap­par­ent as we neared their room. We heaved open the heavy wooden door, which was so heavy be­cause they didn’t want the lit­tle kids to “es­cape.” With a loud twang, it hit the lit­tle spring that’s sup­posed to keep it from bang­ing against the wall. The room was filled with bright white flood­lights, chil­dren’s books, and toys. I handed an un­la­beled white en­ve­lope to the chap­er­one, whose face was pale and drained from hours of sit­ting with this group of kids. She thanked me by squeez­ing my hand. I would have given her some words of en­cour­age­ment, but they wouldn’t have been heard over the chat­ter­ing and whis­per­ing about why the “big girls” were here. With a smile and a nod, we shoved open the door and left.

Walk­ing to­ward the stair­well, I glanced at the big dig­i­tal clock that was mounted on the wall. We still had a few hours un­til our cur­tain call; why not look around a lit­tle? I hadn’t been on this floor since I was one of those lit­tle 4-year-olds in that dress­ing room. We looked at the names on each door in the long hall­way. A stout woman walked out of the laun­dry room, whistling the tune of “The Dance of the Su­gar Plum Fairy.” We peeked into the sewing room, but it was noth­ing but shelves and shelves of fab­ric and thread. When we peeked into the un­la­beled rooms, they were empty and cob­web-rid­den, as though no one had been in them for years. There was one door at the end of the hall, with a small sign that said “Aspen.” I won­dered if ...? Well, it couldn’t be ...

But there was some­thing in­side of me, telling me that this was the dress­ing room for the pro­fes­sional dancers from Aspen, and one glance at my friends’ faces told me that they were think­ing the same thing. One of my friends placed her del­i­cate fin­gers around the shiny brass door­knob, and af­ter tak­ing a deep breath, she turned it and pushed in­ward. It was un­locked.

The room was de­serted and pitch black. I cau­tiously ran my hand along the wall, feel­ing for the light switch. I found it and flipped it on. With a loud pop­ping noise, the lights turned on, one by one, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the long room. Mir­rors lined the walls and a counter ran along the perime­ter of the space. Each square foot or so of the counter was taped off, with some­one’s name scrib­bled on the mask­ing tape. The room was a messy jum­ble of open lip­stick tubes, spilled bot­tles of per­fume, bobby pins, and clothes strewn on the floor. I care­fully plucked a jew­e­len­crusted tiara from its open box and placed it gin­gerly on my head. One of the my friends wrapped a glit­tery white shawl around her shoul­ders, while the other slipped on a pair of worn and torn pointe shoes. Pages torn out of mag­a­zines fea­tur­ing fa­mous dancers were taped to the mir­rors. I spun around and a strand of un­ruly hair whipped across my cheeks. The stones in the tiara re­flected onto the walls and bounced off the mir­rors. When I turned around, the room had dis­ap­peared, and I was on the stage. I was wear­ing a glit­tery white tutu that sparkled in the spot­lights as I turned to face the crowd. They were all ap­plaud­ing loudly as I did a pirou­ette. I felt weight­less as I spun around like never be­fore. The mu­sic started, and I be­gan to dance, al­most like my body knew what to do. I slid down grace­fully into a split, just as the mu­sic ended. I stood up and turned to face the whistling crowd. I raised my hands and took a long, deep bow. I was smil­ing un­con­trol­lably to a stand­ing ova­tion!

Sud­denly, I froze. I heard the un­mis­tak­able sound of wooden toe boxes com­ing up the stairs. I looked around the large room, but there was nowhere to go.

“Funny, I could have sworn that I turned off the lights when we left,” I heard some­one say­ing, as the voice grew closer and closer.

The door­knob turned, and the door opened.

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