No More to the Dance

No More to the Dance

by Amy Bechtel

Illustration by Darryl Elliott

Lilly Cordova caused quite a stir when she first joined our ballet class. It was no fault of her own, even though she arrived late and we were already warming up with plies; she slipped in silently, dropped an apologetic curtsey to the teacher, and found a place at the barre. But when our pianist looked up and saw her, his jaw dropped and he played a full eight counts in the wrong key. If he’d been playing something less cumbersome than a piano, he would certainly have dropped it on his foot. My brother Johnny’s a musical wonder, to be sure, but he’s far too easily distracted by a pretty face.

And Lilly was a beauty, no doubt about it. Glossy black hair tied back in a short ponytail, liquid dark brown eyes with great long lashes, a perfect dancer’s body—slender and delicate in leotard and tights. Johnny recovered fairly quickly, considering, and had only a few more musical lapses during the rest of the class. Most of the girls found his mistakes entertaining (although Marianne, the teacher, did not). I tried to pretend that I didn’t hear the mistakes, that I wasn’t Johnny’s sister, and that I hadn’t recommended him for this job. I don’t suppose I was markedly successful.

No matter what Johnny played or what he flubbed, Lilly danced flawlessly. She never seemed to notice his mistakes. After I had watched her at the barre for ten minutes, I was already wondering what she was doing in this class. It was the studio’s advanced class, and all of us had been dancing on pointe for some time, but there were no future ballerinas among us. This was a quiet little class, catering mainly to students from the nearby university, along with a few kids and a few working women like me. Most of us just danced for fun and exercise, and none of us were particularly skilled. But Lilly was. Every move, every step at the barre was performed with incredible precision. On the floor her skill was just as great. As I watched her I began to realize that she reminded me of someone, perhaps of one of the great ballerinas of the past. There was something in her look, in the way she moved. But I could not place the resemblance.

In the dressing room after class Lilly accepted the other girls’ admiring comments with polite courtesy, but with no enthusiasm. She didn’t laugh or smile. It didn’t occur to me to wonder about that. After all, she was new here, and perhaps she was shy. And I was in a terrible hurry to get changed into street clothes; I wanted to hustle Johnny out of the studio before Marianne decided to fire him.

Johnny was waiting for me outside the dressing room door, still looking rather starry-eyed. I took him by the arm and drew him outside into the parking lot. “I can’t believe I talked Marianne into hiring you,” I said. “She’s going to kill me.”

“Mmm,” Johnny said. “OK.”

“What do you mean, OK? After she kills me she’ll fire you, and then how will you pay your share of the rent?”

“She won’t fire me, Heather,” Johnny said confidently. “I’m the best pianist she’s got.”

I gave him a look.

“Usually,” Johnny amended. He climbed into the passenger seat of my battered old Rabbit, and I gave a sigh and got in behind the wheel. I had just put the car into reverse when Johnny grabbed my arm.

“Wait,” he said. “It’s Lilly.”

“Oh, Johnny.”

“I just want to see what kind of car she drives. Wait just a minute.”

Johnny watched breathlessly as Lilly unlocked the door of a white Oldsmobile and slipped inside. As she backed out of her space, Lilly’s headlights illuminated the interior of the Rabbit. Then they swept past and all we could see of her car was a pair of red taillights. Johnny sighed and said, “I wonder where she lives.”

“We’re not following her home.”

“Why not? I’m in love.”

“You’re not in love. You’re in lust.”

“OK, so I’m in lust. She’s beautiful.”

“She is, isn’t she?” I pulled out of the parking lot, noticing with some chagrin that we were, at this moment, following Lilly’s car. Oh well, surely she would make a turnoff soon. “You know, Johnny, she reminds me of someone. A dancer I’ve seen on video. But I can’t think who it is. Does she seem familiar to you?”

“Mmm. I feel like I’ve known her all my life.”

“I mean, does she remind you of someone.”

“Remind me of who?”

“Oh, never mind. Maybe it’s just because she’s such a good dancer. I can’t imagine why she isn’t with a company. She must be nineteen or twenty; it seems like she should be out making a name for herself. I would, if I had that kind of talent.”

Which I didn’t, to be sure. I grew up loving music and dance, but having precious little talent for either. Apparently Johnny got all the family’s genes for music, for when he’s not distracted by a pretty girl he’s a musical genius. Last time I counted he had mastered seven different instruments, and he composes as well. For myself, I can’t play a note on any instrument known to man, and though I love ballet I’m hopelessly clumsy at it.

In front of us, Lilly’s car slowed and signaled a right turn. “Where’s she going?” Johnny asked in surprise. “That’s a dead end, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I think it is.” I slowed down as I approached the turnoff, wondering if Lilly was lost. After all, she was new in town. But she wasn’t driving hesitantly, like a lost person would. Instead she was building up speed. But there was no road where she was going, nothing but a dark empty lot full of trees.

A splintering crash split the night, and Johnny cried out. For an instant I froze at the wheel, in shock, then my foot found the gas pedal and I drove as fast as I dared to the road’s end.

“There she is,” Johnny whispered. “Christ! At least it doesn’t look as bad as it sounded.” He jumped out of the Rabbit, and I threw it into park and followed.

Lilly was already out of her car, standing in front of it in the headlight beams to examine the damage. Dust drifted around her, settling slowly toward the ground. The front bumper was bent askew, and the hood was thoroughly dented, but I didn’t see any further damage. The tree she had hit was still standing. Lilly was running her hands along the bumper when we came panting up.

“Lilly! Are you OK?” Johnny asked anxiously.

“I’m fine,” she said. “I thought I’d feel something more.” She touched the dent in the hood, shrugged, and got in behind the wheel. Johnny caught the driver’s door before she could close it, and I knelt in the dirt and touched her shoulder.

“Lilly, are you sure you’re all right?”

“Of course.” She looked at me in some confusion. “Who are you?”

“I’m Heather Munro. We were just in class together. This is my brother Johnny.”

“Oh yes. The pianist.”

There was a vague, unfocused look about Lilly, and I wondered if she had struck her head without realizing it. Or perhaps she was in some sort of shock. “We can take you to the hospital,” I said. “Maybe you should get checked.”

“No, thank you. I’m fine; I’ll just go home.”

“Let us at least give you a ride. You shouldn’t drive any more tonight.”

“I don’t want to leave the car here.”

“Johnny can drive it for you. Come on. Please.”

Lilly argued but I was adamant; there was no way I was going to let her drive. In the end she got into the Rabbit with me while Johnny checked her car, pronounced it reasonably safe to drive, and maneuvered it back to the main road. He pulled out behind me, and Lilly twisted in her seat to look at her car. Then she settled into the passenger seat and gave me directions to the Broadmoor Motel.

I knew the way to the motel quite well; it was across from the hospital, where I worked. “Have you been in town long?” I asked.

“No. I just got here.”

“Are you visiting someone?”

“Not really. I’m here with my mother. She’s consulting with some of the doctors at the University Hospital.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I hope it’s not serious.”

She shrugged. “It’s been going on a long time. There’s a research program here for multiple sclerosis, an experimental treatment. That’s what she’s here for.”

I nodded; I knew about it. In particular I knew one of the research assistants, a young doctor named Tyler Mackenzie, whom I had admired from afar for months.

“So what happened with the car?” I asked. “Did you lose control?”

Lilly shook her head.

“Then what happened?”

“I wanted to feel it,” she explained, “but there wasn’t anything to it, really. I thought it would be more exciting.”

“Exciting?” I said blankly.

She shrugged.

“Lilly, are you sure you’re OK?”

“Oh yes,” she said, a little sadly. “I’m fine. Really.”

When we got to the Broadmoor Johnny and I walked Lilly to her motel room; I was still worried that she might have some kind of head injury, and I wanted to make sure that someone was there to look after her. Lilly found her key, opened the door, and awkwardly invited us to come in.

In the room a woman was sitting at the table with a book in front of her; she looked up when we entered, and seemed startled to see us. But she could not have been half as surprised as I was.

And I knew why Lilly had reminded me of one of the great ballerinas. The woman at the table was wearing a red blouse and a black skirt, and for an instant I pictured her on stage, in a red costume with black sequins sparkling in th ...

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