The music swelled and faded as the clomping of pointe shoes on vinyl slowed. As the last Tchaikovsky harmonies drifted away, Emily noticed sounds of late foot movements over the sprung floor. They were washed over by a wave of applause.
A flower. Emily was a flower, fading in with the rest of the garden. Not Alice, not the White Rabbit, not the Cheshire Cat or the Queen of Hearts…a flower. Emily had leaked her soul from her pores before the casting.
“You have to start somewhere, Emily,” her grandmother had assured her.
But “somewhere” shouldn’t take ten years, surely.
In the dimness of the wings, Emily fell into line between Meg and Jess. Meg was singing softly. Emily knew this was because she was nervous. She patted Meg on the shoulder and gave her a thumbs up when she turned around. Meg kissed her swiftly on the cheek.
What would a ballet company be without the corps? She reminded herself that pleasure was more important than fame. Besides, there were famous corps de ballet dances such as in The Nutcracker.
The first few notes of the new track seeped through the darkness. Emily breathed deeply. A blend of tanning lotion, hair spray and makeup foundation particles entered her lungs.
Ahhh, the familiar scent of performances. Only slightly less comforting than her grandmother’s cooking. Enjoyment.
Emily readied her arm position and skimmed across the stage. She ignored the dissatisfaction of her role, letting the scenery and lights— soft behind the wafting dry ice—move her mind into her body.
The dancers were a moving kaleidoscope—a spring flowerbed.
Emily smiled to Meg as they passed each other, waltzing in a garden of leaves and petals. Her tutu bobbed at her waist.
A second later, Meg was on the floor, her limbs resembling a starfish. Emily glanced down to see a loose flower petal from a dancer’s tutu. The delicate edges fluttered off the vinyl flooring as dancers wafted by. Another second later, Meg was back in formation after shoving the petal side stage with one sweep of her foot.
Emily tuned herself into the music once more until she felt herself slipping on something. She looked down and found the floor covered in petals and leaves. She brushed her hands over the coarse tulle of her ruined tutu. The other dancers stared. No one could dance safely, so she tried to gather up the pieces.
The others had stopped dancing. What happened to "the show must go on" she thought?
"Hey, wilted lezzie flower." A voice purred from the wings.
Nita. Nita, who played Alice. Nita who was holding up Emily's journal.
She scowled. “I feel so violated, Emily.”
Emily’s veins froze. Nita had read her journal: the love poems dedicated to Nita—to a girl who worshipped boys.
She realised that it must have been Nita who picked apart her costume backstage.
Everyone was staring, but the music remained. She breathed: embarrassment out, courage in.
Emily removed her shoes and the remainder of the skirt. She didn't have to think, just move…move.
She began a lyrical, contemporary phrase that she had learnt from the internet. The dancers moved away and gave her the stage. The choreography suited her body, feeling natural.
A hand clasped her shoulder. Meg was there; palm stretched—an invitation. Emily took it. They continued their duet—grounded and flowing—until the notes ran out. As the thunder of palm against palm rippled through their brains, Meg laced fingers through hers, her cobalt eyes sparkling. Emily squeezed.
Written for The Australian Writers' Centre Furious Fiction, March 2018 (edited since).