Butterfly, p.8
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       Butterfly, p.8

         Part #1 of Orphans series by V. C. Andrews
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  I groaned as I sat up, and when I stood, I felt a bit woozy, but I tried to hide it from her. I knew that I had no choice but to dance for her.

  "Just take your shower quickly," Celine ordered.

  My legs felt so tight. How could I ever dance? I had trouble walking. Nevertheless, I forced myself into the shower and stood under the water, letting it stream down my neck and back. It did make me feel a little better.

  "Hurry downstairs," Celine said as she left my room. "I want you to do some warm-up exercises before Madame Malisorf arrives. Dimitri is already here. He'll coach you," she added and my heart started to pound as I thought about him and his creepy eyes inspecting my body.

  It nearly exhausted me to put on my leotards and shoes, but I did it. When I descended the stairs, Mildred came out of the living room where she had been dusting and polishing furniture. She looked very surprised.

  "You shouldn't be out of bed, Janet." She put her arm around me and began to turn me back toward the stairs. "Mr. Delorice left me orders and--"

  "My mother wants me at my dance lesson," I said.

  "She does? Oh." Her tone of voice made it clear which Delorice she was more afraid of crossing.

  "Janet," Celine called sharply from upstairs.

  "I'm coming," I said and hurried up to the studio.

  Dimitri was at the barre stretching. As usual he was totally oblivious to everyone and everything around him. I approached, took my position, and began. Finally, he looked at me.

  "Today is your big day," he said. "If you're nice to me, I'll make you look good."

  He laughed and broke away to do what I had already learned were frappes on three-quarter pointe. He made it look as easy as walking and from the smug look on his face, I knew he was showing off. His arrogant smile was beginning to make me feel sicker than the flu.

  Madame Malisorf arrived within minutes and looked pleased that I had already warmed up.

  "Let me see your feet," she ordered and inspected my pointe shoes. "Excellent. Well done, Celine," she told my mother, who nodded and smiled. "Pull up," she ordered.

  A ballet posture that aligns the body so you stand up straight with hips level and even, shoulders open but relaxed and centered over the hips, your pelvis straight, back straight, head up, weight centered evenly between your feet, was known as pulled up. Madame Malisorf told me to imagine myself suspended by a thread attached to the top of my head. She said I did it well and that I had excellent posture.

  "The most important thing to remember for pointe work is proper coordination of your whole body, each part adapting correctly and without strain to any new position without losing your placement, Janet," Madame Malisorf began, her nasal voice sounding haughtier than usual.

  Dimitri, at her side, demonstrated. He looked like a giant puppet to me.

  "We have worked hard at developing your strength. I want your knees absolutely straight like Dimitri's. I am satisfied that your ankle joint is sufficiently flexible to form with the forefoot at a right- angle when on the demi-pointe. Do not curl or clutch your toes. Dimitri," she said and again he demonstrated.

  As I began the exercises and moves she ordered, she continually yelled, "Line, posture, line. No, no, no, you're sagging. Why are you acting so weak? Again, again. Dimitri," she said with frustration. "Another demonstration. Look at him, watch him, study him," she commanded. Finally she lost her patience and seized me at the shoulders and turned me toward Dimitri. "Watch him!"

  He stepped right in front of me, maybe half a foot away and began.

  "See how important posture is?"

  "Yes, Madame," I said.

  "So? Why today are you forgetting it?"

  I looked at 'Celine. She shook her head gently. I would be permitted no excuses. I couldn't even mention my being sick. I began again, trying harder. My body shook so much inside, it felt as if my bones were rattling, but again, I kept it all hidden.

  Dimitri demonstrated the rands de jambe en l'air, the petit and grand battements, everything with an air of superiority. The music pounded in my ears. I felt more awkward than ever, and every time I gazed at Madame Malisorf, I saw her disapproval and disappointment.

  "Stop, stop, stop," she cried. "Maybe it's too soon," she muttered, shaking her head.

  "No," I moaned. My ankles felt like they would snap and my toes would probably be permanently cramped, but I could not stop. My new life depended on it.

  Dimitri looked at me and then stepped up beside me.

  "Let's try again, Madame," he said, putting his hands on my hips. "I'll help guide her through it."

  Reluctantly, she clapped her hands and we began. Dimitri whispered in my ear, explaining how I should move and which way to lean and turn. I felt different, better and safer in his strong hands. He had great strength and was practically holding me up at times,

  "Better," Madame Malisorf muttered. "Yes, that's it. Good. Keep the line. Good."

  I felt like a limp dishrag when the lesson finally ended. My leotards were soaked through.

  "An adequate first attempt," Madame Malisorf declared, stressing the word adequate.

  "She'll be much better tomorrow," Celine said, wheeling up to us.

  "Perhaps not tomorrow but soon after," Madame Malisorf allowed.

  Dimitri was sweating almost as much as me.

  "Thank you for your extra effort, Dimitri," she told him. "You should take a warm shower immediately," she added. "I don't want my prize pupil going out in the chilly air and getting sick. Celine?"

  "Of course. Go up and use my shower, Dimitri. Janet, show him my room, please."

  Madame Malisorf turned to Celine. "In two weeks I'm presenting a recital with my newest students and Janet will be included."

  "Oh, Janet, that's wonderful. Did you hear what she said? Thank you, Madame. Thank you," Celine said. "Your first recital. How wonderful, Janet."

  "Recital?" I squeaked. "You mean with an audience and everything?"

  "You will be ready," Madame Malisorf declared with a small smile, "for what you will be asked to do."

  "Oh yes, she'll be ready. Whatever it is, she'll be ready," Celine assured her.

  Dimitri took his bag and followed me out of the studio.

  "You were awful in the beginning," he said as we reached the stairway.

  "I was sick. I'm still sick. I had a fever this morning," I complained.

  He laughed.

  "I'm glad you didn't tell Madame that. She hates excuses," he explained. "Lead the way," he added, nodding at the steps. I started up. "You know your rear end has become quite tight and round just in the short time I've been working with you."

  I was too embarrassed to say anything and continued upstairs where I showed him Celine and San- ford's bathroom. After I'd given him a clean towel I hurried away to my own room to shower and crawl back into bed. My ankles ached worse than any other part of my body and when I took off my pointe shoes, my feet were covered with red blotches.

  I turned on my shower and took off my leotards, but just before I stepped into the stall, I heard Dimitri say, "Pull up."

  I spun around, shocked. There he was with a towel around his waist, gazing at me.

  "Pull up," he said again. "Posture, posture."

  "Go away!" I cried, covering myself as best I could. He laughed.

  "Come on. Pull up. Remember what I told you about that group that dances naked?" He reached for my hand. I wrapped my hands around myself tightly, but he was too strong and pulled my arm away from my chest. Then, in another motion, he undid his towel and stood naked before me. I couldn't take my eyes off him, despite my shock and terror.

  He went on his toes, pulled me closer, turned me around, and lifted me in the air. Then he set me down and pressed his body against me.

  "There," he said. "Didn't that feel good?"

  He laughed and scooped up his towel, wrapping it around his waist as he walked out of my room.

  I could barely breathe.

  My head was spinning. Slowly, I
sank to the floor and sat there, stunned. A moment later, I thought I was going to retch. I literally crawled over to the shower and stepped into the steamy stall.

  Within minutes I got out, dried myself quickly, and crawled into bed as I had planned Just as I closed my eyes, I heard my door open and Dimitri looked in.

  "Until tomorrow. Oh. And as I said, very nice and tight little rear end. You're going to be a dancer after all," he added with a laugh and was gone.

  Not only couldn't I talk, I couldn't even think. I pressed my hands to my stomach and turned on my side. In moments I was asleep.

  I'd only been asleep a few hours when I woke to the sound of bickering. I knew I had slept awhile because it was already dark outside. Sanford's and Celine's voices carried down the hallway. He couldn't believe she had forced me to take a lesson.

  "She had a fever. Dr. Franklin said she has the flu, Celine. How could you put her through all that physical exertion?"

  "You don't understand," she told him. "She has to understand obstacles, overcome them, build an inner strength. That's what makes the difference between a real dancer and an amateur, a child and a woman. She did well enough today to be invited to a recital. Didn't you hear what I said? A recital!"

  "She's too young, Celine," Sanford insisted.

  "No, you fool. She's almost too old. In a matter of weeks, she's grown years. You don't know about anything but glass and that stupid factory of yours. Stick with that and leave our daughter to me. You took away my chance, but you won't take away hers," she cried.

  And then there was silence.

  Nine

  Despite what Celine had said at dinner, I didn't get to meet my new grandparents until the day of Madame Malisorf's recital. Twice a year she held a recital to debut her new students and showcase her older ones. The new dancers like myself were given a variety of exercises and moves to demonstrate. The older ones each performed a scene from a famous ballet. Dimitri was dancing the lead in Romeo and Juliet.

  Because I learned and practiced in my own studio, I had never met the half dozen other beginning students. Consequently they didn't know how far I had progressed and I had no idea what they could do either. When Sanford, Celine, and I arrived at Madame Malisorf's studio, the other students and I studied each other during warm-ups as if we were gunfighters soon to be in a shoot-out. From the intense expressions on the faces of the parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, I sensed that everyone was hoping their son or daughter or sibling would look the most impressive. I knew Celine was hoping that. All the way to the studio, she bragged about me.

  "When they all find out that you not only didn't have any training before you came to live with us, but you hadn't even seen a ballet, they will be amazed. And wait until they discover how quickly Madame Malisorf put you on pointe," she added with a little laugh. "I can just imagine their faces, can't you, Sanford?"

  "I still think she was rushed along a bit when it came to that, Celine," he said softly. He was the only one to notice my horrible aches and pains and asked me each night if I wanted a hot pack or a massage. Sometimes it was so bad I could barely walk the next day.

  "I thinkMadame Malisorf is the best judge of that, Sanford. If she didn't think Janet was doing well, she wouldn't want her in the recital," she insisted.

  As if I wasn't nervous enough already, Celine's words and ultra-high expectations were making me tremble. Maybe because I was so nervous, my feet ached even more. They were so swollen, I could barely lace my shoes this morning.

  When we got to Madame Malisorf's studio we saw that a small crowd of spectators had already arrived, made up mostly of families of the dancers, but also, according to Celine, consisting of some ballet lovers and other teachers, even ballet producers on the lookout for potential new stars.

  The studio had a small stage and a dressing area behind it. I was already wearing my tutu and pointe shoes, so I was ready for warm-ups. I had just begun when I saw Sanford wheeling Celine toward me, and an older man with a charcoal gray mustache and an older lady, tall, with her hair a tinted bluish gray and teased, walked beside them. The woman wore far too much makeup, I thought, the rouge so dark on her cheeks and the lipstick so thick on her lips it made her look like a clown.

  The gentleman was in a dark blue suit and tie. He had a spry walk and a friendly smile lit by blue eyes that made him look almost as young as Sanford. The elderly lady's face was taut, her gray eyes flint cold. Even when she drew closer, she looked like someone wearing a mask.

  "Janet, I want you to meet my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Westfall," Celine said.

  These were the two people who would be my grandparents, I quickly thought. Before I could speak, the gentleman said, "Hello, dear."

  "Hello." My voice was barely louder than a whisper.

  My new grandmother gazed down at me and from head to toe I was assessed, weighed, measured.

  "She is petite. Nearly thirteen, you say?" she asked Celine.

  "Yes, Mother, but she moves as gracefully as a butterfly. I wouldn't want her to be any different," Celine said proudly.

  "What if she doesn't grow much more?" Mrs. Westfall asked, and as she stared down at me I noticed she was sparkling with jewelry. Around her neck she wore a dazzling diamond necklace and her fingers were covered with rings, rubies, diamonds, all in gold and platinum settings.

  "Of course she'll grow," Sanford said and his indignant voice surprised me.

  "I doubt it," my new grandmother muttered. "Well, where are we supposed to sit?" she said, turning and looking at the already well-filled auditorium.

  "Those are our seats to the right there." Sanford nodded at some empty chairs in the first row. That appeared to please my new grandmother.

  "Well, let's sit down." She headed toward the seats with a graceful gait, her head held high.

  "Good luck, young lady," my new grandfather said.

  "Afterward," Celine said, taking my hand, "we'll all go out for dinner and celebrate."

  "Just relax and do your best," Sanford told me and gave me his special smile.

  "Oh no," Celine cried when she turned in her chair. "It's my brother. Who expected he would come?"

  Daniel came strutting down the aisle, a big wide grin on his face. He wore a cowboy hat, a pale yellow western shirt, jeans, and boots. Everything looked new, but because the rest of the audience was dressed as if it were really a city ballet theater, he stood out and caused an immediate wave of chatter.

  "That's how you come dressed to this?" Celine said as he approached us.

  "What's wrong with what I'm wearing? It cost enough," he added. "Hey, break a leg," he said to me. There wasn't a seat for him so he took a place against the wall, folded his arms, and leaned back.

  Soon after Daniel arrived I left my family and joined the other performers who were at the barres exercising. Dimitri stopped and came over to me.

  "Relax," he said. "You're too tight. This isn't exactly the Metropolitan Ballet, you know. It's just a bunch of proud parents mooing and gooing." "Are your parents here?" I asked.

  "Of course not," he said. "This isn't anything."

  "It is to me," I admitted. He smirked. Then he smiled that arrogant smile and I was sorry that I'd let him know how important tonight was to me.

  "Just pretend I'm out there with you and you'll be fine. In fact," he said leaning toward me, "imagine I'm naked."

  My face instantly grew hot. He laughed and moved off to join the older students. I saw them all looking my way. He was whispering to them and they were smiling and laughing. I tried to ignore them, to concentrate on what I was doing, but my heart wouldn't stop thumping and I was having trouble catching my breath.

  Finally, Madame Malisorf took the floor and the room grew so still you could hear someone clear his throat way in the back of the audience.

  "Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming to our semiannual recital. We will begin today with a demonstration of some of the basic, yet difficult ballet exercises, what we call the adage po
rtion of our class, to be performed by my primary class students. You will note how well the students maintain position and balance.

  "All of them, I am happy to say, are now dancing sur les pointes or on pointe, as we say. As some of you who have been here before know, toe dancing was developed early in the nineteenth century but did not become widely used by ballet dancers until the eighteen thirties, when the Swedish-Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni demonstrated its potential for poetic effect. Heritage, style, technique, grace, and form are what we emphasize at the Malisorf School of Ballet.

  "Without further comment, then, my primary students," she announced, did a small bow, and backed away, nodding at the piano player as she did so.

  We knew what we had to do as soon as the music started and all of us took position. The most difficult part of the routine as far as I was concerned was the entrechat, something I had just been taught. The entrechat is one of the steps of elevation. The dancer jumps straight up, beats the calves of the legs together in midair, and lands softly. Madame Malisorf wanted us to connect that with a pirouette before coming to a graceful stop, and then a bow, hopefully to applause.

  I looked at my new grandparents and then at Celine, who wore a small smile on her lips. Sanford nodded at me and gave me a wider smile. Daniel looked like he was laughing at everyone. He stepped away from the wall and pretended to go on pointe and then fell back against the wall.

  The music began. As I danced, I noticed every one of the primary students glancing at everyone else. I remembered how important it was to concentrate, to feel the music, to be in your own little world, and I tried to ignore them. The only face I caught a glimpse of was Dimitres. He looked as sternly critical as Madame Malisorf.

  The pain in my feet was excruciating. I might as well be in some sort of torture chamber, I thought. Why had Madame Malisorf been ignoring my agony? Was this really the way a dancer developed or was Dimitri right: she was pushing me because Celine wanted it that way?

  Soon after we had begun, the girl beside me began to close the gap between us. Madame Malisorf never had us rehearse together. It was just assumed we would all remain in our own space and do what we were taught to do. I should have paid more attention to those around me because the girl came down after a turn and actually grazed the skirt of my tutu with her right hand.

 
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