I got dark only to shine
looking for the golden light
oh it's a reasonable sacrifice
burn burn burn bright
Numb | Marina + The Diamonds
Nina counts silently as she dances across the floor, hips turned out, toes en pointe, pas pas pas de chat, light as a feather, faster and faster than the eye can see and the earth dares to hold, she's almost almost almost flying—
“No! No, no, no!” Thomas slashes his hands through the air, destroying the memory of her inadequate performance.
With every slash, her ankles deflate, crying mercy to the force of gravity beneath her heels.
Thomas smashes his heel into the floorboards. “You must defy.” His heel clacks a staccato. “Defy, defy, defy! Do you not understand? No, no, of course, you don't.” He throws a hand over his shoulder and from the shadows Nina's understudy appears. “Show her, Lily.”
Protests flutter in Nina's throat: I almost had it, she doesn't say; I can do it, she doesn't insist.
Instead, Nina watches Lily dance, passionate, effortless, sensual Lily, and she wonders, Why did he choose me?
A glowing ember curves around Lily's hips, snaking down her thighs and caressing her calves before melting into the floor. Nina couldn't say how she knows this fire, but the taste of it's burning her tongue. Foreign and hot, a flaming liquor, and her throat's a desert desperate for rain. Lily feeds the fire, stoking it brighter, higher and higher, up and away, till the smoke clears the moon.
“You see? That is how it's done. That is passion.” Thomas gifts Lily an approving nod and the slightest of smiles; in return, Lily laughs and shrugs off his admiration.
Biting her lip, Nina offers a whispery reassurance: “I understand.”
Her voice lashes Thomas' spine and in an instant, he's upon her, hands cupping her jaw, fingers digging into her skin. Her mouth opens in protest, but no words escape. There's only his hands and the crushing strength coursing through him. His gaze is piercing and hot, flames tempered by the blue in his eyes. “Don't pretend. You will fool no one with false notes.”
Why? she whimpers, silently. When his hands release her, she falls to the floor.
“I am done with you for today.” And then he's gone, the echo of a slamming door reverberates back, driving the hairs on her arms upright.
There she lies, in the center of a cascade of mirrors shining her image, a shivering mess of limbs cloaked in white.
“Told you he's an asshole.” Lily scowls at the shadow left hanging over them, then jerks her head towards the door. “So, wanna grab a bite?”
Nina's head is shaking a denial before she registers the question. “No. I have to get this. I just need to practice.”
“You need to unwind, that's what you need. C'mon, just—”
“No,” Nina says, and the force of her words turns the air cold.
“Ooookay, do what you want.”
Then Nina is alone, but not bereft, no, not bereft of purpose.
She closes her eyes and breathes deep, calling Lily to her mind: the curving hip and the pointed toe, the laughing eyes and the flirtatious smile. As bidden, Lily dances for her, all fleeting feet and earthy sway, and Nina dances in time, one two three, one two three. The spark alights the floor between them, and they dance and dance, together, in time, toe and hip and winged arms. They twirl and leap and jaunt through the air, whirling in symmetry sublime. The perfect technique of Nina's bent wrist, the delirious passion of Lily's pointed fingers. There is nothing but the dance between them, sewing limb to limb, in perfect harmony.
And yet, Nina reaches for more. She spins into arabesque and her fingers extend, not to the sky, but to Lily, always to Lily, if only in her mind. For the first time, Nina beckons, her seductive force calls. But Lily does not return to her loving fingers and the yearning circuit breaks.
And there underneath the fluorescent lights of the dance studio, Nina awakens and discovers tears soaking her cheeks. Wishes and hopes and dreams echo weightlessly in her heart, without anchor to ground and steady her course.
She is hungry, she realizes. Ravenous. But not for food, never for food.
She wants to eat fire, living flame, swallow molten lava and let it ravage her insides, forge her bones into steel with a hollow point for a heart. Hollow for flight: the better to be weightless.
Her hands clench around her feet in a vice of a grip and heat rises from the soles of her slippers, a fever winding through the maze of scars she's scratched into the leather for traction. The heat leaps free, singing her palms, and the burn sparks through her limbs.
She imagines her bones snapping free and contorting into impossibly perfect form. It's a price she's more than willing to pay, if only she knew how to break beautifully, born of passion and flawless technique.
She flexes her feet, pushing till she hears the bones and tendons crack. Blood is seeping through the toe points of her slippers, but she doesn't mind. Bloodsoaked slippers are a signpost on the path to perfection.
Lily would stop at the sight of blood; she would make a face and demand a band-aid. But Nina, she will dance on. She'll dance on bloody toes and broken bones with the spotlight searing her retinas and the applause deafening all ears. She'll dance till her world ends, till her bones break free and the passion takes her beyond the limits of reason.
Alone, she rises, en pointe, and dances, pas pas pas de chat.
Take me, take me, she beckons the dance, and in the distance she hears the wisp of a whirlwind, a faint exultant sigh welcoming her home.
She dances into the air, her hands threading through the wind, her feet rising up up impossibly up.
She is becoming becoming becoming beautiful.