Kathleen slipped off the table where she’d been sitting and tucked her phone away. “My mom’s here, gotta run…” She grabbed her bag, threw quick one-armed hugs around the rest of us and dashed off. I slid up next to Trish on the table to take Kathleen’s seat, still warm under my butt.
Marna had just come out from the dressing room in time to catch the last hug. “You’re not changing, Rach?” she asked me.
I shook my head.
“Why not? Aren’t you coming to the party?”
“Her grandparents couldn’t make the show and she has to go take pictures,” Michelle said, making that last word sound as nasal as possible.
“Aww… they totally missed out. You were delicious,” Marna said, leaning close and licking my face. It was a private joke we shared, but it was one all the girls would get, and they all laughed. Marna’s brain-to-mouth connection doesn’t always come with a filter. I had started to answer about the pictures, and Marna’s tongue licked into my open mouth.
“Not funny,” I said, spitting a little in hopes the other girls wouldn’t think anything of it.
“Ow! Horse sex much?”
It was Kenny, Michelle’s boyfriend arriving to get her.
I hate Kenny. I can’t for the life of me see what Michelle sees in him. It’s not because he calls me “horse face.” I’m the tallest girl in the Sunlight Dance Company, 5′ 11″, and 112 lbs with knobby knees and elbows and a long face. I’m not ugly, but if you gave me a Mohawk, someone might try to put a saddle on me. I’m used to jokes. Kenny’s just a stupid jerk.
Michelle never sticks up for me. We’re supposed to be friends, but she’s the prima ballerina at Sunshine, and everyone knows it’s not because she’s the best dancer. It’s because she isn’t built like a horse. Her ass looks good sticking out from under a tutu and she doesn’t complain when Richárd, our choreographer, squeezes it. We both know I’m the better dancer and sometimes it gets in our way.
I can forgive Michelle. Kenny is her boyfriend after all, but this time, all three girls laughed, even Marna, and I just couldn’t take it. “Tell my mother I walked home,” I said angrily and I jumped off the table and stormed out of the theater. Any other night I’d be humiliated walking down the street in a dress leotard, but I couldn’t have cared less tonight. I ran to the end of the block, waited at the red light, and then carved my way impatiently between the passing traffic to cross against it.
Tonight was my last performance with Sunshine. Before the show, Richárd caught me for a second alone. He’s never mean or extreme, just horribly inappropriate. He pushed his hand between my legs. “I have acquaintances who would be interested…” He squeezed the inside of my thigh. “…in someone like you.” He let go. “I can get you into a professional dance company, Rachel. Think it over, would you?” And he rushed off. He would never do anything more unless I allowed it. That’s hardly the point.
“Which do you want to be, Rachel, a woman or a dancer?” my mother asked when I first complained.
“God, Rach, he does it to everyone,” said Marna.
“Say what you want. I’ll say it’s not true,” said Michelle.
Not far from the theater, I passed by a restaurant with outdoor café seating. “Rachel!” I heard a young girl’s voice call out. I ignored it. I knew who it belonged to. Her name is Clarissa. I’d noticed her being seated with her parents before she noticed me. They must have seen the show and gone for dinner.
Clarrissa’s a Junior I. She adores me, and why not? She’s me six years ago, except prettier – tall, graceful, exceptionally talented for her age. It wasn’t her prepubescent adulation that pushed me hurriedly past her. I love the attention at the studio and sometimes I stay after to work with her. It was the look in her eyes. Clarissa’s eyes begged me to tell her mother she wasn’t good enough to dance, and I hated that I knew why.
Clarissa’s always telling me I should try out for So You Think You Can Dance. I never had the heart to tell her I flew out to Utah for the auditions last year. I couldn’t tell her what it was like to dance your heart out, dance your life out, only to hear, “I’m sorry, Sweetheart, that’s a no for me.” It would crush her dreams.
Without turning my head, I saw the excitement in her face as she jumped from her chair to run after me. Her expression changed quickly to pain as her mother’s fingers shot out and pinched the flesh on her arm, twisting it and pulling her back down into her chair. She would have a bruise tomorrow with a made-up excuse.
Marna came running up behind me. She’d chased after me when I left the theater but waited for the light. “Rachel, wait up. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
Delicious is what Richárd says when he means sexy. Marna and I had had fits of laughter over it one night, wrestling to see who could lick the other like an ice cream cone, Oh you’re so delicious! Marna had meant exactly what she said, no filter, but I didn’t have the wherewithal anymore to tell her so.
It was my mother I was angry at. I’d been angry at her for years, six years of being delicious. The twisted flesh on Clarissa’s arm had pained me as if it were my own. Rage burned furiously in me like napalm, refusing to die down. What could I do? It was the ultimate irony. I held the glass hammer. I could bring it down… on Richárd, on mother, on me, on Clarissa. It was a hammer of glass in a world of glass. Nothing would be left but shattered pieces.
“Isn’t that that little girl from the studio who always wants to be like you?” Marna asked.
“It is,” I said, turning my rage back toward the café and Clarissa’s mother. It was time for some broken glass. Clarissa deserves to be a dancer and a woman.
© 2014 Anne Schilde
Because I shouldn’t have to choose between dignity and success. #YesAllWomen