TUBE, DRAFT ONE, CHAPTER 28. TO DANCE OR TO DIE (EXCERPT)
I can do this. I can, I can. I will show you...show you, papa, how much I have learned, how good I am. Look at me. Are you proud of me? This is my dream, this is what I’ve always wanted to do, remember? I’m doing it, papa. I’m doing it. I hope you will be proud of me, of all the work I have done, the years of practice. This is all for you, all for you, so you can...
A strangled sob escaped Olesya’s throat. She choked it down, wiping at her eyes, glancing back. Her vision doubled. Mitya caught her arm, steadying her. Behind him Pushkin stepped out uncertainly, Masha, Lida with her hand at her neck, holding on to the necklace as if to a lifesaver.
The uneven concrete buckled and caved under the snowpack. A thin layer of ice made Olesya trip and fall painfully on her knees and hands, adding to the bruises and drawing new blood. A gust of wind ripped at her skirt, lifting it and folding it over her head. She brushed it off, her hands getting tangled in the gauze.
“Olesya,” Mitya reached to help her up, but she was already standing, smoothing the tulle, staring straight ahead.
“I’m fine,” she pranced in her quick little stage steps and stopped where she thought was the middle of the platform, stretched her neck, swept up her arms and poised, one leg out, toes en pointe, waiting for the right note to come.
The squall of a freezing gale made her shudder, but she kept her position, gritting her teeth, taking her mind out of her body, into the observational place of the audience. At every practice she imaged herself sitting in the front seat, watching her own feet change position, her legs bending in a plié, chasseing to a glissade, her arms flicker, her head turn. The map, the map on the floor, the sequence of steps, the tempo, the liquid flow of the music.
One. Two. Three. One, two, three, four. Five, six.
Three more beats until her move.
She glanced about, the customary sweep of the stage.
The locomotive sat on the rails like a dark whopper of a slug, the cab window shining yellow, all ten headlamps turned on, shafts of bright argent skewering the night in front of it like a projector in a movie theater. If those were its eyes, they couldn’t possibly see Olesya’s performance, and yet every inch of the machine’s metal hide was watching her. She sensed its illusory feelers crawl over her skin.
The sleeper car, in contrast to the mostly dark head, blazed with electricity. On the upper level Galka’s face plastered against the glass, the window next was shored off by the curtains, and underneath it, in the window on the first level the pasty countenance of Alla Borisovna hung on her thin neck as if suspended in air, her eyes round, her hand on her cardigan’s top button. No other roomettes seemed to be occupied. At least visibly Olesya couldn’t detect any presence in them.
The last room where Larisa’s and Yanchik’s bodies lay was dark.