TUBE, DRAFT 1, CHAPTER 34 (EXCERPT)
Spotlights blinded Olesya. Familiar rush propelled her to the proscenium. Below it the orchestra pit yawned black, with no visible musicians. Music poured from it in a rollicking echo, performed live. A heavy drapery concealed backstage. The whole scene could fit into a carriage, its rim looking out at a moving landscape. Except it wasn’t. It faced the audience, dark rows of seats. In the middle of it, a few runs down, sat a figure, a stark silhouette shrouded in the shadows.
Olesya’s heart jolted. The floor thrummed, faint rumble of wheels percolating through it. She moved automatically, without thinking, her feet stepping lightly, quickly, the tips of her pointe shoes tapping on the boards, her neck stretched, head high. Once in position, she heard Larisa behind her, then Inga, both trotting with lifeless precision. Then came Mitya, the soft pitter-patter of his prance unmistakable. How many times she had heard it, how many times she registered it as part of dancing routine, a signal for her move, nothing more.
It’s beautiful, the way he reads the rhythm, refined, weightless. Why didn’t I notice before?
Her ears attuned to the music.
The figure in the audience nodded with approval.
Olesya bit her lip to stop herself from calling out.
One, two, three. One, two, three, four. Five, six. Effacé!
One arm up in a curve, another hovering gently, palm facing downward. Right leg thrust out, en pointe. Olesya strung her body upward, a delicate wisp, did a pirouette and let her head turn last longer, her gaze tarry on Mitya’s bloodless face, his eyes bottomless from terror, the red ribbon tight around his throat, trailing up into the high reaches of the stage, to the lighting bridge.
It’s like gallows. He could be jerked up any second.
A brutal head rush spun her vision, and Olesya stumbled. Recovered.
“Olesya! Watch your step.” Alla Borisovna’s whisper cut through the music.
She flinched as if slapped.
Fifth position. Arms smooth, flowing.
Without realizing it, she repeated the director’s words in her head, clinging to them, steeling herself in ballet routine, anything but to think of the meaning of the ruddy ropes, to stay calm, to perform. Her mind detached and she floated above the dancers, watching their formation, a long V folding into a lozenge, then three diamonds, Makar in the center, his lips a bloodless surly grin. She pieced the picture bit by bit, snatching fractions of images out of the corner of her eye, at every arabesque darling to glance up, at every balancé tilting her head just enough to throw a look back, stretching her bourrée a few seconds longer.
Alla Borisovna gesticulated her outrage from the wing.
Olesya didn’t acknowledge it as she usually did with an imperceptible nod of her head. She passed her eyes over familiar angry lines as it were none of her concern and focused on the audience instead. The black spot where the face should’ve been swayed slightly with the music, lit from behind with faint glow so that she could see the outlines of her father’s head and nothing more.
Do you like it so far, papa?
(Watercolor by fashion illustrator Sere Rivers.)