ber that night, the feel of the slipper, the ribbon snug at my ankles, the tight bodice of my costume that showed off my perfect tiny waist, the moisture forming at the nape of my neck. I remember before I even see it repeated on the disc. I remember looking out into the audience that night, my performance almost complete, and seeing Lily in the second row and the disappointment in her eyes and how that shook me and gave me permission all at the same time for what came next. Relevé, relevé. My well-trained muscles and bones were speaking to me, ordering me to perform. Relevé, Jenna. But I was frozen. The music passed me by. Relevé, Jenna! The audience is fidgeting. Uncomfortable. Hoping that the moment can be salvaged. I’m not sure it can. I am looking at Lily’s eyes on me, but I am seeing us at her kitchen counter just a few days before. I was complaining about my upcoming recital.
‘Who are you, Jenna? How can anyone know if you don’t show them?’
‘I’m tempted. Just once I’d like to let it out.’
‘And what would you do?’
‘While I was there onstage, I’d move in all the ways I’ve dreamed of. I’d stomp and grind and swing my hips and show them all.’
‘So what’s stopping you?’
I remember she was serious, and I remember looking at her like she was crazy. ‘It wouldn’t be appropriate. I’d let too many people down.’
‘You mean your parents. I think they’d live.’
The audience is holding its breath. The music has stopped.
Relevé, Jenna! My muscles are demanding action.
Stomp! Grind, Jenna. Swing your hips!
And then I feel it. My calves stiffen. My heels lift. Relevé. And then a quick hop to en pointe. Hold. Hold. Down to fourth position, plié, and bow. The audience heaves a single sigh of relief, even though I am completing my dance long after the music has stopped. Their zealous applause erases the gap.
I have delivered. That is all that matters.
A bit for someone here.
A bit there.
And sometimes they don’t add up to anything whole.
But you are so busy dancing.
You don’t have time to notice.
Or are afraid to notice.
And then one day you have to look.
And it’s true.
All of your pieces fill up other people’s holes.
But they don’t fill
‘Over here!’ Claire calls, waving her arm.
Lily waves back. Neither of us move, and Mother resumes her walk through the tide pools. The ride to the beach was tense. We hardly talked in the car. Mother insisted we go, saying the unseasonably warm March day was perfect for a walk at the beach.