IT’S ALWAYS BEEN YOU—you know that, right? You didn’t have to be onstage for me to see you in a spotlight; when you were around, everything else faded to the background, like some cheap cardboard set. Looking back, it doesn’t even seem real, what happened with us. I see you in flashes, a fouetté turn that won’t end, my eyes focusing for a split second, grounding me in between spins: your smile, your laugh, the way you looked so mad when you got nervous. The curve of your waist in your leotard. Your silhouette on the train that night, looking out the window with the whole city stretched out behind you like some crazy constellation. The weight of you in my arms as we practiced our lift, and how our eyes locked, so full of trust.
I swore I’d never let you down. I didn’t know then it was a lie.
127 days left
PAS DE COURU, tombé, manège of piqué pirouettes. I ran the steps in my head, over and over, one after another like subway cars hurtling through an endless tunnel. Every move, every turn, every line of each leg, each elbow, each vertebra every second had to be on point. En pointe. I had to be on my toes, literally, and light on feet that felt like bricks by the end of each rehearsal. The puns were endless, but, as we liked to joke back then, the struggle was real.
“She’s not even paying attention.” Liv flicked the back of my neck through my scarf with a thin, icy finger, and I heard you laugh.
“What?” I snapped back to life, or as close to life as I could get in the unforgiving January chill. My breath danced in front of me in a quick burst of cloudy vapor.
We were huddled at our usual spot at the Revson Fountain even though the marble was so frigid that sitting down meant sacrificing all feeling below the waist. Liv and Ethan always bitched about my love of the fountain because it wasn’t the squares, or the steps, or the clock, or any of the other “normal” hangouts. You were the only one who understood why I wanted to go—had to go—where we could pull our sore legs up against our jackets and look out at Avery Fisher Hall, those big cement columns encasing the delicate glass interior like a ribcage, and behind that, deep inside, its beating heart: ballet.
“He’s here,” Liv sighed, turning my head manually with her hands. “Three days late, but who’s counting, right?”
Of course Liv had seen him first. She’d always had a knack for knowing when a fellow Beautiful Person was in her orbit, almost like her brain came equipped with a thermal sensor for figurative hotness.
“Calm down, he’s not even that famous!” Ethan scoffed, peering through his glasses across the square. “He was basically only in one movie, six years ago. I don’t know why everybody’s flipping their collective shit.”
Despite its proximity to greatness in the heart of Lincoln Center, the Janus Conservatory had never had a celebrity before. I mean, there were plenty of famous alumni, and even a few teachers who used to be big deals. But all of the students, regardless of talent, were decidedly wannabes. Until Dave Roth.
Ethan was upset because Dave’s sudden second-semester senior year transfer was all anyone could talk about, which meant that everyone had stopped talking about the original play Ethan was producing for Senior Showcase. It was no secret that he liked to think of himself as the star of the drama majors, even though he’d switched from acting to directing sophomore year.
“Yeah, he’s just a normal dude,” you said matter-of-factly. You’d been perched next to me on the icy marble, bouncing restlessly on the toes of your well-worn Converse high-tops, but then you leapt down in front of me, holding out a French fry like a long-stemmed rose. “C’mon, you have to eat,” you grinned, your eyes twinkling out from your messy mop of dark curls.
“I am eating,” I said, inspecting my locker-smushed turkey-and-spinach wrap with trepidation. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get much down with the wave of nausea I’d been riding all day. You, on the other hand, could pound junk 24/7 and still dance circles around everyone else—including me. It was completely infuriating. You shrugged and popped the fry into your mouth.
“A ‘normal dude’ who played Angelina Jolie’s son,” Liv said. “I mean, didn’t he win a Golden Globe?”
Pas de couru, tombé, manège of piqué pirouettes. My Showcase audition—the single performance that would likely determine my entire future—would begin in three hours.
“No!” Ethan practically screamed. “He was nominated for a Golden Globe. Which means nothing, by the way. It’s a drunken circus.”