Jill, Rain, and I sit on the couch near the artists’ entrance to backstage, talking about The Nutcracker wrap party tonight and watching the snow queen perform on the flat screen monitor. We are second act girls. We dance Chinese, Peppermints, too young to be soloists, too old to be in the party scene. With our hair bobbypinned and sprayed into buns, all us dancers look alike.
Rain’s describing what she’s going to wear to the party, some expensive dress she talked her mother into, and asks me where I got my dress. It’s the most beautiful thing I own. In my bedroom, I danced wearing the dress, watching myself in the standing mirror. Silvery, the velvet changing colors as I moved, like scales of an undulating fish. The skirt full enough to do an arabesque. I danced like a mermaid in water. Hunting.
Forever 21, I say. Velvet, spaghetti straps. This short.
Rain says, Sounds cheap. Rain’s liquid eyeliner is perfectly winged. Her mouth is stained red, as if she’s been eating bloody flesh.
Even Jill elbowing me, mouthing, Whata bitch, doesn’t take the sting out of Rain’s words, the tarnish off the dress. I imagine what Christof would think of it, Christof of the dark curly hair, Christof who spotted me once in a pas de deux tutorial, his fingers light and hot on my waist. I imagine him stroking the velvet, saying, It’s so soft. I would tell him: If you stroke it one way. But the other way is all prickly, like a porcupine. He’d lean in close: Like you. And I’d gleam in that dress, no matter how dark it was.
Rain only shuts up when Jonny throws open the door. Jonny’s old, late 30s I guess, but he’s still hot. He’s a guest performer, hired because the studio doesn’t have enough good male dancers. He’s knotted a bulky magenta knitted scarf around his neck just so. Even though he looks silly in it, I think that all men must have such a scarf.
He dances like water. Like oil. He’s all sinuous lines. He makes me sweat.
Hello beautiful dancers, he says. And I feel beautiful, as if his words birth me into being.
Jill blushes. My hands sweat. On the monitor, the snowflakes are impossibly lovely, their legs long under short tulle tutus. Their fingers curve effortlessly, thumb under extended index finger; in my correction book I am always writing Be aware of your hands. Christof plays the Snow King, the muscles of his thighs defined under his tights.
Rain leans forward. Hello, beautiful Jonny, she says.
When Jonny dances Arabian, his purple velvet vest exposes the tattoo on his chest covering his heart. A compass rose, north pointing to his right shoulder. In the pas de deux, Winnie Tchen lays her hand on the tattoo and his hand covers hers.
I sit on my hands so they don’t reach out to him.
Jonny unfurls the scarf from his neck. Like a sail unfurls from the mast. He wraps it around our shoulders. Christof and the girls dancing snow run before us, parting like water around the rock that is Jonny as they descend to the dressing rooms. Unhooking the bodices of their costumes so they can breathe.
Jonny’s scarf smells masculine, of sweat and salt and earth. A smell that reminds me of the ocean, mermaids lurking around the hulls of ships to pull sailors into the depths.
When I was younger than you, Jonny says, I was waiting to go onstage after a solo by Nureyev. When he came off the stage, he held my eye. His sweat fell on my skin.
Jonny bows, follows the snow dancers down the stairs to the dressing rooms.
Jill rolls her eyes. I say, Modest much? Rain says to us, As if.
During rehearsals, I saw Winnie slipping from Jonny’s car, her hair falling from her tight bun. Her book bag on her shoulder, as if she could tell someone, Jonny’s tutoring me for finals. I could tell Rain about this, win some kindness. But I don’t.
The wool of the scarf itches and weighs on my neck and shoulders. I shrug it off and go down to the dressing rooms. Christof’s in the hall, still in his Snow King costume, his top spangled with glitter and low cut to show his smooth chest. Some of the glitter came off on his face, and it gleams in the florescent light. I wonder what he would tattoo over his heart.
Hello beautiful dancer, I say.
He turns to me in surprise. I don’t think he’s really ever seen me before. I shine in the light. I want to devour men like fire.
About the Author: Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com
Story Song: "Dress" by PJ Harvey