Barefoot

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

The rising tempo of the music mirrored her frantic pulse.

She had arrived at the theatre with only minutes to spare before her audition, not enough time to study her competition, or even to stretch out her muscles. Her legs trembled while she watched the final movements of her fellow dancer.

Barely acknowledging the ringing applause, her lungs inflated with new oxygen. The theatre’s aroma of sweat and wood clung to her nostrils. A draught sent goose-bumps along her skin. Fierce-set determination contorted her features, her furrowed brows casting shadows over her wide, anxious eyes.

Why am I doing this?

“Elspeth Johnson!”

Breathing in, she stepped out onto the stage.

The cascading light from the chandelier was blindingly hot. It made her head throb and caused her stomach to churn in time with the murmurs that echoed around her, encasing her mind in dizziness. But she kept her head high as she made her way to the centre.

Another breath was drawn in.

Her eyes flicked to the conductor, awaiting the sound of the music.

The notes began to rise.

Giselle Act One… the Variation.

Just like I practised. It’s just like I practised. I just need to do it like I practised.

She slowly began to lift herself en pointe.

Crack.

Her teeth snapped down on her lip, instantly producing tiny ruby beads against the skin.

Despite this pain, she continued.

Each leg stretched and each arm bent. Her body twisted and swayed. Her feet balanced and tapped.

And with each new movement, jolts of pain wracked her nerves.

Elspeth’s skin stretched to breaking point, splitting along the length of her ankle while red stains blossomed upon her tights. But she still went through the motions, holding back tears with each new cry of her bones.

Keeping pace.

Step by step.

Concentrating.

Desperate.

I can still do this.

She rose into an arabesque

Crunch.

Her toes crumpled and her stomach dropped with the loss of height, dragging her down to the floor in a heap. If her mind had not been addled by the intense pain, she would have heard that the orchestra was no longer playing.

She would have noticed the hushed silence shrouding the theatre.

She would have seen the horrified eyes of the audience while they stared at her performance.

And she would have realised that it was time to stop.

But Elspeth was lost in the dance.

Her determination to finish overcame all common sense as she forced herself up to continue. Now she was running on pure adrenaline; a clockwork doll jerkily dancing to the ticking of her bones.

She stood up.

Trembling hands lifted her skirt as she began to gently tap across the stage, one foot raised en pointe once more while the other kicked out repeatedly.

Tap tap crack. Tap tap crack. Tap crack. Tap Crack. Tap. Crack.

In her mind she moved with strength, grace and power, despite the enormous pressure on her crushed toes and the salty sweat mixing with blood, stinging the exposed wound.

I’m doing it! I’m doing it!

A smile formed on her face, and her muscles unconsciously relaxed in relief as she made the last stretch, breaking her lucid state.

In this sudden clarity, a sound caught her attention… and her entire body became rigid.

“Elspeth that’s enough!”

“What are you doing?!”

“Stop!”

And in that instant…

Rip.

Thud.

Long after she collapsed, Elspeth waited to feel the sensation of falling. But it never came. The only feeling that lingered was the damp heat spreading around the gaping tear in her ankle, adding a thick layer of iron to the aromas of the theatre.

Silence fell.

It lasted only a moment.

Then people began to gather around her, and Elspeth could vaguely feel the pressure of hands on the back of her head, horrified cries of concern and constant questions, directed both at her and each other.

And as she lay there, her eyes clouded with shadows and her limbs throbbing in pain, one question echoed and ricocheted around her skull.

A single query that had plagued her long before she had arrived at the theatre.

The question that shadowed her lips as tears began to well around her eyes.

Where are my pointe shoes?

***

Another old anthology piece that I decided to polish up, again link is down below (feel like I should preface that I don’t get any money from these anthologies, just want to share them to support the society as it was a huge help in developing my writing). This was inspired by my love of ballet mixed with my tendency to make my characters suffer. I would love to do more pieces about ballet, a personal goal is to one day perfectly capture a ballet performance in a written description.

Between My Lines – https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Between-Lines-Creative-Writing-Society/dp/1497518318/ref=sr_1_5?qid=1572466635&refinements=p_27%3AUOL+Creative+Writing+Society&s=books&sr=1-5&text=UOL+Creative+Writing+Society

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