Daisy’s pliés are sloppy, but she’s been getting better these past months. He can picture her practicing at home, using her sink for support. She looks into the mirror, sees her mousy hair and freckles and thinks “I wish I was pretty and talented like Rose is.” Her parents are always away at work and she has to take care of herself. She packs her own lunches and the kids at school make fun of her. They used to call her “glasses kid.” The name didn’t bother her (it’s a dumb nickname anyway), but the fact that she’d been singled out, excluded, treated as an “other” would sometimes make her cry when she got home from school. She convinced her parents to get her contact lenses, but she still cries sometimes when she gets home.
In the studio, when the teacher passes by, Daisy always puts her head down. Evan always see the instructor’s finger flicking upward. He is telling her to keep her chin up, which she does, but her eyes still look like she’s somewhere far away and miserable. Evan can tell she is just looking at her reflection in the window. She is telling herself that she is not pretty or talented enough. One day, Evan will walk and and put his arms around her and tell her that everything is going to be okay. He’ll support her small figure as she performs a perfect plié and glides through the air like a sparrow through the glades.
Violet isn’t interested in improving herself. She doesn’t go to classes as much anymore. She sometimes runs late and gives Evan strange looks. Evan is worried that she might suspect him and tell the instructor and he will call the police. If they knew about him, it would ruin the purity of their dance. Violet isn’t pure, though. Evan is pretty sure that she knows and wants him to look. She likes to have men give her attention. She must have a boyfriend that keeps her from practice. Evan thinks she must come from a poor family that wants her to dance, but she just wants to smoke and listen to music and make fun of ugly kids. Violet often argues with the teacher. She doesn’t take ballet seriously and the teacher knows it. He has given up on her, would rather she didn’t stay and wilt the beautiful bouquet he has arranged in his studio. If someone nurtured her, loved her for who she is, to give her light where she is accustomed to darkness. Maybe she would open up… Evan stomps out his cigarette and lights another. Violet always gets him flustered, makes him feel urges he doesn’t want to. But when he watches Rose, all his worries melt away.
Rose is the image of blissful serenity, the idol of the class. She’s probably been here since she was a toddler, the older pupil that everyone looks up to. Fifteen or sixteen and almost a woman. She ties down her breasts. They’ve grown out more than she’d like and it gets in the way of her dancing. She combs out her hair so each strand flows free, glistening with a reddish hue in the sunlight. Evan imagines her as the head cheerleader and valedictorian. She is almost too mature and soon she will be too old. She’ll miss out on her childhood and she’ll look back and regret it. Her parents are trying to make her into something they never managed when they were her age. They push her hard to be studious, to get good grades and excel. She can feel the pressure burning at her heels, but she never lets on while she’s in class. She just grits her teeth, an unconscious rebellion against her parents who paid for all the beautiful dental work. She tries to convince herself that she’s dancing for herself. Her parents want her to get good grades, work in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. She’s on the debate team and works with the school newspaper. If she has time to go out with friends, her parents won’t let her go. They’re worried about her “safety.” She is alone. Without dancing, she has nothing, no one.
Evan pictures himself behind Rose, wearing black tights. He supports her from the shadows, lifting her high into the air. But nobody notices him. They cry out “Rose! Rose!” They only see her, how beautiful and elegant she is. All the while, he supports her. High into the air, she flies away from all the pain and the loneliness. And they would only talk about her and her beauty and her grace… and they would love her. He wouldn’t let his parents touch her. Nobody was fit to touch her. They would watch and love her, but only his love was real…
Evan thrusts his cigarette to the ground without stepping on it. He tucked his hands into his overcoat’s pockets, pulling it tight on his shoulders and shuffled away. He was here yesterday and he’d be there tomorrow. The cigarette remains on the curb, smoldering, the cherry still burning red.