Three girls stood in the dark wings. The curtain would slide open in a moment. Open to light, open to the dark theater filled with the people they could hear mumbling — a drone muffled by the heavy tapestry. Red flashlights guided little ballerinas to their set places on the stage and hurried teachers placed their feet — yet again. The most charismatic little one grabbed the hand of the fairy standing beside her and told her again that ballerina hands are supposed to hold marshmallows SOFTLY — shh! — not look like graham crackers. The corrected rolled her eyes and hoped to gracious her mom would let her play soccer next year. The most jumpy little sprite did her inverted pas-de-chat holding her hands to her nose like a squirrel — Miss Abby I’m neervoous! A squeal that made the teacher smile warmly
You’ll be wonderful, Elliot. Remember to turn out and smile. Her voice was soft and deep and sank comfort into the girl’s hearts and they settled into their crooked little poses. Their eyes meant to face out, they truly did, but almost all were peering sideways at the big girls in the wings who’s tutus were lilac and who’s painted point shoes pointed and pressed as the older girls tried to keep their feet warm and stave off the anxiety they themselves felt on this opening night.
Bah BUm! The first music started.
Isabel, Jacki, and Grace took hands in a line they had practiced for what seemed like years now. They carried out their own ritual; Iz squeezing Jack’s hand, Jack Grace’s. It was their first year to be in anything besides a class dance. When the friends had seen the cast list that announced their trio, they had celebrated with cappuccinos — which to them seemed a very grown up thing to do. They loved to mount piles of sugar on the foam and watch it sink like seashells at water’s edge. Through the months of practice and renovation of the piece to now the girls had grown even closer in their friendship. Hours alone with just themselves and Mr. Sisyphus — marking and setting and running the piece until their bodies ached — had brought them through enough valleys and peaks that they felt they truly knew the other. Each girl’s weakness was carried by the other two and never held against them.
They ran the hand squeezing ritual one last time for luck and then it was their cue. So Together — as always — they fluffed on to the stage.
To be continued.