CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

“Come on Franny we are going to be late!” Daria screamed from the bottom of the stairs.

“Coming. I’m coming. I should not have drank that much,” frantically Francis was gathering up her things, trying to get herself together. “Is Camilla awake?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see her. I thought she left early like always.”

“You didn’t check on her?!” Almost breaking down Camilla’s door, Francis pushed her way in to see Camilla still in bed, snoring. “WAKE UP CAMILLA! YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE!”

“Holy shit!” Camilla threw herself out of bed. “Oh my god. Oh, my god. Oh my GOD!”

Francis rushed back out and down the stairs, “She just woke up Daria.”

“Well, there is no point in all of us getting fired. CAMILLA! We are leaving! We will tell them you had a family emergency!” Daria shouted up the stairs.

“DON’T YOU DARE! I WILL KILL YOU!”

“See you at the studios!”

“FUCK OFF!” Camilla had never been late, in fact, she was always there an hour early before company class. She is the one who was there doing her pilates and stretching. Doing pointe work before the work day even began. Basically a bun head. Frantically she threw herself together and rushed down the stairs, nearly almost tripping. She rushed out of the apartment, slamming the door, pointe shoes falling out of her bag. Gathering her stuff quickly, a blurry figure grabbed a shoe and ran off it with it. “COME BACK! THOSE ARE CUSTOM FREEDS!” Flinging herself onto the cold, wet, gray concrete, “I just got mugged for a pointe shoe.”

“Miss do you need some help?” A hand stretched down towards Camilla’s pressed into the concrete face.

“No. I’m fine. Just having a rough start.”

“Can I get you anything? Do I need to call the cops? Did he get your wallet?”

Sighing, “No. He got a custom Freed.”

“Sounds valuable. Piece of art?”

“No, it’s a shoe. A ballet shoe.”

“Oh.” Camilla finally peeled herself off the pavement and stared up at a strikingly handsome man. Early thirties, with salt and pepper hair, a jawline that would make you clench, and green eyes that glowed. He smiled at her, a half smile, the kind of smile where only the right side of your lips curl up. Offering his hand, “Can I buy you a cup of a coffee?”
“Yes. I mean no. I am so late. I have to get to the subway.”

“Can I drive you? My car is right here. I saw what happened and pulled over.”
“What? You drive in the city?”

“That is your response?”
“No, my response is that you are a complete stranger. And regardless of your good deed, I don’t even know you. You could be a crazy killer or some New York stalker.”

“That’s true.”

“See you are a creep. You would have drugged my coffee or something like that and next thing you know my body would be found in New Jersey. Have a good day.” Camilla collected herself and ran off towards the subway. The subway car was full, Camilla gripped tightly to one of the bars, as she was jostled back and forth. Murmuring under her breath, “I am totally going to get fired. I’m not even going to be warm or prepared. I left my headphones on my desk. I don’t even know if I brought clean tights.”

The whistling of the subway car gliding on the tracks came to a screeching halt. Camilla’s head whiplashed forward slamming into the bar. “FUCK. CAN I NOT CATCH BREAK?!”

Everyone in the car looked at her. Most of them were business men heading towards the center. Most of them looked shocked. “Are you okay mam.”

“I’m not a mam.”

“Unfortunately, there is a problem up ahead with another car. We apologize for the delay.” The car sighed and moaned. After the initial shock, most of the passengers went back to their reading, texting and daily habits. One guy spilled his coffee on another and was pulling out cash to pay for the dry cleaning. Another man straightened out his newspaper and began reading again. The woman sitting in the handicap seat started knitting her fuchsia scarf again and humming in a low tone. Camilla looked around. For the first time in a long time, she had no focus. Her mind was racing. She set her dance bag down and pulled out her brush and container of pins. Camilla slowly twisted up her hair and started to pin, her eyes darting back and forth between her car companions. Making sure no one was judging her. On the defensive, she began to do her makeup, her eyes daring in the mirror of her compact. The subway started to move again, slowly. When it finally got to her stop she was already an hour late. Hurrying across the plaza towards the studios, her heart began to race even more.

She walked into the large eight-story, white building and showed her work badge. Waiting for the elevators nerves started to sink in. The elevator ride seemed extremely slow, going up to the fourth floor. “Good morning Camilla, is everything okay?” Nancy the receptionist greeted Camilla.

“Morning Nancy. Things are just great,” rolling her eyes and sarcasm dripping from every syllable, She clocked in and went to the rehearsal boards. She scanned thoroughly to see if anything drastic had changed. Nothing seemed different. No studio rehearsals. Just theatre block and tech again. She walked through the maze of hallways of New York Ballet Theatre and made her way to the bridge. The bridge connected the studios to the theatre. Taking the elevator down to the dressing rooms, she could hear the girls laughing and going about their business. Paranoia sank in. As the elevator doors opened she could see the corps de ballet girls shuffling in and out of the dressing rooms. “Hey, Camilla. Heard about your family, hope everything is ok.”

“Are you ok? Hope your family is hanging in there.”

She shrugged and walked faster. Throwing open the door to the dressing room and sitting at her station she began to unpack, “What did you tell them, Daria?”

“We said you had a death in the family. Your family dog that you loved and had since you were ten.”

“I’m allergic to dogs.”
“Well, then you won’t miss him that much. But everyone bought it.”

“Thanks for nothing. You could have woken me up.”

“You are a grown woman Camilla. It isn’t my fault you drank half the bar.”

“Never again. I’m never going out with you again.”

“Don’t say never. I take that as a challenge.”

“Shut up Daria. Where is Francis?”
“Oh, Francis… Reed asked to see her after company class,” Daria became serious. Camilla moved slower, “Did he sound mad? Or say what it was about?”

“No. He just walked into the studio somewhere between adagio and frappes and asked to speak with her right after company class.”
Camilla paused from her routine, “I didn’t see any casting change ups. So it couldn’t be that serious.”

“Sure? Not serious. Talk with the artistic director three days before we open Swan Lake. That isn’t serious at all because he has so many better things to be doing,” Amelia joined in the conversation. Her long brown hair swayed back and forth. “You were the one who even said she was getting fat, and she’s your friend and roommate.”

“Look. Don’t test my patience today,” Camilla’s mousey sharp voice clipped at Amelia. The other corps girls started to laugh, “Lighten up Camilla, you should be thankful that Francis is on the chopping block and not you.”

“Yeah be thankful he’s still focused on Francis’s weight and not your absence due to your hypothetical dog dying.”

“Sure, I guess,” Camilla mumbled.

Alone in her dressing room, Yvette looked at herself in the mirror. Her slender body, every muscle defined and her rib cage pushing from under her skin. Yvette has been a standing principal ballerina for over ten years and had been the company’s prima ballerina for the past five. Constantly having to be on top of her game she had been pushing herself day after day. Her reputation was one that she was a stuck-up, narcissistic, ice queen and that she was demanding and difficult. Some say that Yvette was born for ballet, that it was in her blood and destined to be a leading lady of ballet; some girls are lucky like that.

Her blond hair was slightly receding from all of the years being pulled back into a bun, and her skin needed a good dose of sunshine. Yvette’s stringy fingers stroked her makeup brushes that stayed lined up precisely at all times. Her eyes grazed over the palettes of makeup, bobby pins and various hair pieces.

Knock. Knock. The door swung open as a dresser from the costume department came into her dressing room. Hanging tutus on garment racks, “We finished making the adjustments on your bodice for Swan Lake. If you lose any more weight there will be nothing left of the costume or you,” jokingly Theresa laughed. Yvette smiled back through the mirror.

“You know, you shouldn’t let the pressure get to you,” Theresa’s hand lightly touched Yvette’s cold shoulder.

“It doesn’t,” her voice matched her body temperature.

“Are you sure about that? I’ve been here a long time, and I have seen five beautiful principal dancers come and go. And each and every one of them had their way to cope with the pressure. Don’t let Reed get to you.”

Yvette’s face looked directly at Theresa’s old wrinkled face.

“So, it Reed. You know, he is just another egotistical male in ballet. Claiming to further the art, but we all know his main focus is him. You shouldn’t let it bother you.” Theresa left as Alexander was walking in shirtless.

“Are you ready for another run of this shit?”

“Of course. Are you going to remember the choreography this time?”

“You would think after as many times as I danced this crappy ballet it would retain.”

“It would kill you if you didn’t smoke so much weed? You know it reeks on you in the third act. Do you have to smoke every intermission?”

“Do you have to be lazy and make me do all the work. It wouldn’t kill you to jump now and then, would it? Oh wait, you are getting older and losing that,” Alexander knocked drying pointe shoes off of the ledge of her window and walked out.

She knew he was right; everyone knew it was time for her to go. She could barely get through a three-act ballet, and her extensions were getting lower. She knew shew as going to look ridiculous as the Swan Queen, but she didn’t have another choice. Yvette wasn’t prepared to leave ballet; she just felt like she reached a new layer of emotional depth to bring to her craft. Ashley wasn’t the only one being prepared for Odette during this run through of Swan Lake. Four other women had been rehearsing as well. Two had already performed the ballet last time it was in season.

Yvette was the oldest female in the company, and her body had started betraying her. Her joints were becoming stiffer, she was becoming slower, and fatigued. Walking towards the window, she reached her shaky hands started picking up tattered shoes. Yvette softly set them neatly back into a row up against the glass. From her window, she could see women of New York going about their days, dressed in fur coats and wool stockings. One woman was holding her daughter’s hand, and hopping into a cab; a life that she wondered if she would ever have.

“LADIES TO THE STAGE. LADIES TO THE STAGE. ALL FEMALE COMPANY MEMBERS TO THE STAGE.”

Pulling her jacket over her arms, Yvette opened her dressing room door as two dozen women started filling the hallway to the stage. “I wonder where Franny is?” Daria looked concerned. Her eyes were pacing through the hallway, “Has anyone seen Francis?” Onto the stage poured the female dancers of the New York Ballet Theatre, creating a semi-circle around Reed. His tall physique, and his elongated neck. His arms crossed tightly around his torso. “Come on ladies, pick up the pace.”

The sound of pointe shoes shuffling into place, the women stared at Reed. “I have some announcements real quick before we start tonight’s run through. First I wanted to congratulate you all as tomorrow is opening night. This has been a really hard rehearsal process, and you ladies have definitely pulled it off. Unfortunately, I do have some announcements that will affect our company immediately. Francis has had a family emergency this morning, and will not be participating in the run of Swan Lake, which means her second cast alternate and understudy will be bumped up. Please make sure you know where you stand and all of your music queues. Secondly, after Swan Lake, we will be having four new ladies join the company. Two as principals, and two in the corps. Finally, the opening night cast list is going to be changing, and Ashley will be doing Odette opening night. Yvette, you will be doing closing night. Clarissa, Rachelle and YungHee, your casting is still the same. Baby swans for opening night will be changing as well; I want to see Daria, Amelia, Camilla and Leta. That’s all, see you back in an hour for the top of the run through.”


if you missed chapter one it is right here.
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CHAPTER ONE

Ballet fiction. Haha. I amuse myself when I can’t sleep

CHAPTER ONE: PRESSURE

Sounds of thunder echoed through the empty theater; pure percussion. Slowly the lights are brought up creating a haze across the stage, dimly lighting the elaborately painted backdrop. Then from out of nowhere, women dressed as swans appeared on their toe shoes, moving birdlike back and forth in a frenzy. “STOP. STOP. STOP. Amelia, you are out of line and Daria you are supposed to be a swan, not a crow,” a deep voice came from the darkness. Sitting in a sea of worn out red velvet chairs, the Artistic Director yelled into the mic, “Francis, go find someone from the costume department, you are spilling out everywhere. Have you gained weight or something.” All of the swans looked at her, embarrassed for her, and dreading what was to happen next. The air was cold and awkward, they stared out into the darkness trying to find where the voice was coming from. Francis began to panic, and before another word could be said, she ran off into the stage wings fighting back all of her tears. “Take twenty minutes ladies, and when you come back let’s go from the top of second act. And try not to be a mess. This is Swan Lake, not Duck Pond,” his voice was the voice of God in the theater. It put fear into everyone because you never knew if he was going to be in a good or bad mood. He transformed at the theater, in the ballet studios he was like a father figure; demanding but nurturing. In the theater, he was a reckless tyrant who held your career in his hands and your future in his eyes. That is the thing about a career in ballet, it is always uncertain and pending on the whims of an artistic director.

The women went into the dressing rooms. Their tutus flipped upside down against the backs of the chairs. Vanity lighting from every angle, and mirrors taunting them in every direction. Francis was not at her messy, filled with makeup and hair pins, station. As they slid on their warm-ups and leg warmers, the swans eyed each other in the mirror. “God. It wasn’t like she didn’t notice. I mean it is kind of obvious that she has been gaining weight,” a snarky mouse voice shrilled off.

“You are such a bitch Camilla,” Daria whipped around fast throwing a stick of eyeliner at her.

“Don’t get makeup on the costume, you know better. Or at least, you should.” Camilla had been in the corps de ballet for six years but hadn’t been promoted. This was her third time doing Swan Lake with the company, and every time Swan Lake came into the season’s repertory she was always cast as the same thing: SWAN #4. She wasn’t tall. Her height matched her voice. Small and mousy. The door swung open. Francis was standing in the opening while all of the swans gawked. She slowly walked down the aisle of chairs to her station and plopped into her chair, “They said they don’t have any bigger costumes and don’t have time to make a new bodice.”

“You will be fine. Just strap the girls down with this,” Giselle threw over an ace bandage and then duck tape.

Francis looked at the taupe bandage and squeezed it tightly. “Five minutes ladies. Five minutes.” A voice over the loudspeaker echoed the room. The flock started to move out. Francis stayed behind. She unhooked her bodice and slipped her arms out of the painful elastics holding the pure white costume up. The elastics were so tight they left deep red marks on her shoulders and chest. Looking into the mirror, fully topless she began to tightly wrap the ace bandage around her breasts while fighting back more tears. This time tears of pain. “Do you need help?” Ashley, an apprentice with the company popped her head into the dressing room.

“Please.”

Ashley started the duck tape in the back and slipped her hand under Francis’s arm and pulled the roll over the top of her breast and pulled tight.

“Shit.”

“Sorry. I know it hurts, but you will get used to it,” her voice was calm and relaxed. “You know I have been taping my boobs down for years.”

“Really? I’ve never noticed.”

“It’s because I make it a point to not let anyone see.”

“Oh.”

Ashley began taping even tighter and worked her way down to Francis’s waist. She pulled the tape around and around then ripped it from the roll, “Done.”

“Thanks.”

“Here. Let’s see if it looks better. I’ll hook you in,” as Francis moved the bodice up she noticed she had more space in the costume. She could feel herself becoming a swan again.

“Wow. This really did work,” Francis started to laugh. Ashley peeped her head over Francis’s shoulder and smiled at her through the mirror. Her delicate fingers hooking the bodice together, tightening the corset laces, buttoning the buttons and snapping the snaps. “All done. Go get em.”

“Thanks, Ashley. Really.”

“You better go before you get yelled at for being late.”

Francis ran up the stairs to the stage. The music was already on, and when she looked out from the wings, she saw Page dancing in her place. She peeked her head from the wings, From the audience she looked like a floating head. She quickly pulled her head back in. Camilla was standing in the wings as well, “Don’t worry. He didn’t replace you. He is running the third cast of swans.”

“Thanks,” Francis looked around and other senior corps de ballet members were standing around watching the weaker cast run the second act. Machines began to buzz and the stage slowly became engulfed in fog. There they stood. Young apprentices, and new corps de ballet members: the up and comers of the company. Camilla felt uneasy and walked back towards the stage door. Francis could feel her heartbeat faster. “Where is Ashley? Is she ready? Her entrance is coming up,” the stage manager Lucy looked frantic. “I’m here. I’m here,” Ashley almost knocked over Camilla running from the door. In the five minutes that had passed, Ashley completely transformed from the dressing room. Her deep red lipstick contrasted her pale white face and blonde hair. She had pinned in her swan crown, and drastically changed from Ashley a nineteen-year-old girl from Kansas City to Odette the Swan Queen of New York Ballet Theatre. She went onto her toes and bourréd out, her arms gracefully moving with sincerity. The corps de ballet stood in their classic swan pose, not even blinking, as Ashley glided through the fog, back to the audience, arms moving up and down at just the right speed and quality. As she turned to the empty audience, her blue eyes sparkled in the stage lights. “Magical Ashley! Just Magical!” God approved.

“Fuck. We are screwed. At nineteen and an apprentice, Ashley is debuting as Odette and I can’t even get into the formation correctly,” Daria leaned into Francis. The two of them watching intently. Francis was watching in amazement while Daria’s laser focus on Ashley was of vicious jealousy. “I know I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I hope she hurts herself.”

“Wow, Daria. You are starting to sound like Camilla.”

“Franny, she is going to take your job and mine. Wait that is not true. She is going to get promoted before either of us do and she is still in diapers.”

“Well, she did win the grand prix two years ago.”

“Winning a fuckin’ competition doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to pay your dues. Isn’t that what Phillip always tells us. You have to pay your dues in the corps, and your handwork and valiant efforts will pay off? He is such a prick.”

“Really tell me how you feel Daria.”

“Fuck this. I am going with Camilla.”

Francis stood in the wings watching Ashley move. Francis had been in the corps de ballet for four years and was an apprentice for two years prior to that. Ashley glided from one side of the stage to the other, and Francis’s eyes followed.

Is Daria right? I have been busting my butt for six years in the company, and for another four years in the school. Now, all of a sudden Ashley is debuting as Odette. What am I doing wrong? Will I always be in the corps? Destined to be nothing. Oh wait, destined to be Swan number ten? 

“Ashley. What was that? That was awful. How am I supposed to have faith in you, if you start to die of stamina half way through the pas de deux? Where is Yvette? Someone get me, Yvette,” and God turned on her just like that. Ashley ran off stage, breathing heavily.

“You were great Ashley. He will give you another go. This is just the process. Don’t beat yourself up too hard,” Francis patted Ashley’s back.

“Yeah right. Get a grip Francis. This isn’t girl scouts where everyone gets a turn, this is ballet,” Ashley pushed Francis aside and walked off into the darkness of the theatre wings.

Time passed and Yvette made her way to the stage with Alexander, her prince for Swan Lake. They had been partnered together for at least ten years. The two were ballet royalty. Yvette became a principal dancer when she was twenty and made her first debut as Odette at twenty-two. Alexander was previously with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden but came to New York Ballet Theatre just for Yvette. The two stood in the wings, and Yvette leaned over Alexander, “Another one bites the dust.”

Alexander chuckled, “Let’s just see what the casting board looks like tomorrow.”

Yvette placed her hand into Alexander’s large palm and smiled. The two gracefully walked out and resumed where Ashley and Marco left off. Marco was still standing on stage, lost and confused. “Marco get off the stage,” the voice of God commanded. He ran off confused, “I thought he just asked for Yvette? Why is Alexander in my spot? I didn’t mess up. It isn’t my fault that Ashley doesn’t have what it takes.”

“Dude, like Yvette will ever partner with you. I mean she is Yvette Rumelad. Hello. Duh,” a corps boy chimed in laughingly.

“I guess. But if Ashley fucks this up for me, I am going to kill her,” Marco walked into the darkness as well, only the shimmer of his white tights could be seen.

A strip of light shot through the stage door, which disappeared quickly. Footsteps in pointe shoes could be heard. Daria and Camilla made their way back into the wings, “She is losing it down there. I feel bad for her.”

“Camilla. You hate her so don’t act concerned,” Francis lashed back in a whisper.

“True. But she doesn’t even have a contract yet. I mean she is an apprentice. Super messed up of Reed if you ask me. I mean like, if she blows this, do you really think he is going to offer her a job here?”

“I never thought of it like that. I wonder-“

“You wonder if he did it in on purpose? Probably. Reed is a sadistic douchebag and a horny dog rolled into one,” Camilla laughed, looking at her nails. “Wanna grab a drink after this? I feel like we are going to need it. We still have two more hours of rehearsal tonight.”

“I’m in,” Daria laughed. “I am going to need more than one.”

Rehearsal finished and the swans retired to the dressing rooms. They wiped off their make up and took of their adorned costumes. The elegant and scared swans became regular women in their twenties. Slipping into tee shirts and sweaters, scarves and sneakers the room went from a glamorous parlor of makeup and beauty to a simple locker room of women laughing and trying to get out of the workplace. As they cleaned up their stations, Francis neatly placed her station back together adding an ace bandage and duck tape to her line of beautiful cosmetics against the mirror. She starred down at the two things that might have saved her job, but the director didn’t even notice. “Come on Franny let’s go,” Daria’s voice was relieved and softer. The girls headed out of the dressing room and out the theater’s back door.

“Of course, it would be raining? Could our day get any worse,” Camilla’s mousy voice spiked.

“Come on, let’s grab a cab. It isn’t that big of a deal,” Franny laughed and walked to the curb. Covering her gelled back hair. “TAXI!” She yelled at the top of her lungs. “I swear, it is never like the movies.”

“Let’s go around to the front of the theater, we probably will have better luck out there.”

Daria, Franny, and Camilla walked arm and arm. Their hair still in crisp tight buns, their ballerina figures now hid under layers of clothes, trench coats, and numerous bags. The three of them waited on the curb, watching the city lights flicker. The three were giggling and laughing about the day’s happenings when the Reed’s voice could be overheard. “What were you thinking? You aren’t stupid are you? Are you? Answer me damn it. Don’t just stand there. Say something. God you are useless,” Reed stormed from around the corner in his rain dropped stained navy blue cardigan. His messy, wavy, slicked-back hair was slightly disheveled, “Ladies.” He nodded at the trio.

“Who was he yelling at?” Camilla whispered.

“Ashley?” Daria leaned in closer.

Franny could feel herself moving towards the alley next to the theater. She slowly turned the corner to find no one, “Was he talking to himself?”

“That wouldn’t surprise me. Come on girls. Taxi is here. Time to drink,” Daria hopped into the cab first. The girls packed themselves into the backseat of the onion smelling cab. The three were on their phones, checking their emails and social media. After a fifteen-minute drive, the three were safely delivered to their apartment. “So good to be home.”

“Don’t get comfortable Camilla, we are going out. It was your idea. I’m just going to shower real quick.”