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Breaking Pointe

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Friday, August 27th - Auditions


Chest heaving and ribs burning with each gasping breath, Adam thinks that there were nobler ways to die.  Hunched over with his hands on his knees, he pulls in every bit of oxygen that his body will allow and, using his arm, wipes his forehead.  The entire studio smells of sweat. Even though Adam prefers to focus only on himself, especially during auditions, it’s hard for him to ignore that everyone’s clothes are soaked through.  It’s even harder to ignore the puddle of sweat that’s forming under Tad Carruthers. He attempts to shake out a spasm that hits his calf as he straightens himself and looks at his face in the mirror.  Damn, he hasn’t looked this bad since that one time he tried a spin class with Blue.


“Run it again!” Aurora’s voice trills, “At this rate, none of you will be getting the part.”


Next to him, Lynch catches Adam’s eye.  A sense of relief washes over Adam upon seeing Lynch’s face mirror his: flushed and in definite pain.  It’s the first time Adam has seen nearly all of the wickedness stripped from his expression. Exhaustion is causing his attention to stray from himself but he finds comfort in hearing the out-of-breath dancers around him and seeing that Lynch is struggling too. This has to be the hardest Aurora has ever worked them.


“Come on, gentlemen,” Aurora claps her hands, “Let’s go. Starting positions.”


There is a collective exhale; they’re all too exhausted for it to be a sigh or a groan.


“Ronan Niall Lynch!” thunders Aurora. Adam and a few other dancers jump at her shout.  “One more look like that and I’ll be giving our janitor the night off so YOU can mop the floors.”


On Lynch’s other side, Kavinsky lets out a sound resembling a laugh, quickly followed by a grunt as the back of Lynch’s hand collides heavy and graceless into Kavinsky’s abdomen.


“Boys,” Aurora’s voice is quiet, dangerous, warning. It quickly flips back to its trilling self, “Gansey, dear, could you start from the top?”  When Adam thinks of Aurora, the phrase ‘small but mighty’ came to mind.


As requested, Gansey begins playing the piano accompaniment for the 20th? 21st? time -- Adam stopped counting around the 12th mark.  As Gansey begins the intro, he offers Lynch a sympathetic grimace but Lynch misses it. Something about their friendship strikes Adam as odd but he never has enough energy to dwell on it, chalking it up as something he won’t understand.  Regardless, Adam catches the one-sided exchange and smiles a little. Somehow even smiling hurts. Every single inch of Adam aches and he wonders when he’ll hit the point where everything becomes numb. He sorely hopes, as his limbs begin to move through the first few steps of the choreography, that this is the last run through.  All he can think about is how much he aches and how he can’t wait to shower and then fall into bed. Aurora’s voice severs his thoughts like a blade, “Adam, pay attention!” He isn’t certain that it’s possible but his face grows redder, layering embarrassment on top of body heat.


He knows more than anything, more than the scream of his muscles, more than the sweat on his back that he needs to get out of his head.  Being too inside his mind is both a now-problem and an overall-problem -- fluidity and overthinking are Adam’s main roadblocks on the path to becoming a better dancer.  There’s no hope of getting this part -- or any other part -- if he doesn’t focus. Adam does his best to empty his mind and pull his focus away from dwelling on the boys around him and pull his focus away from dwelling on his soreness in order to dance.  Only dance. Nothing more. Nothing less. Dance. He guides his breath to match the metronome that sits atop the piano, wills his legs into a latticework of steps and jumps and turns, focuses his arms to be soft but sturdy as they frame the movements of his body.   He hopes it will be enough, he hopes he will be enough.


Monday, August 30th - First Day of Classes


The hall is crowded with enough students to make Adam claustrophobic but being so focused on getting to the cast list postings dulls any sense of anxiety.  Everyone is pushing and huddling around the bulletin board that declares their fate for the upcoming semester. Adam holds his breath as he pushes through the swarm of dancers.  His gaze is stuck on the small black lines that he can’t yet read. They blur and meld together and then sharpen and separate as his eyes work on focusing on the sheet. Only a few more shuffles and Adam will see if his hard work has paid off.  He’s able to make out the title of Aurora’s original contemporary pas de deux piece when he runs into a brick wall. Or maybe the brick wall ran into him.


“Fucking watch where you’re going, Parrish,” the brick wall growls.


“Whatever, Lynch,” Adam mutters in response,  pushing past him to face the cast list, not paying any mind to the solid knock of their shoulders.


All of the blood drains from Adam’s face.


/Dream Things choreographed and directed by Aurora Lynch

Orla Sargent

Adam Parrish/


Stunned, he stands still, just staring, allowing himself to be jostled by the throng of students.


/I did it. I can’t beli-- /


A noisy exhale -- that he can somehow hear over the buzz of his peers -- interrupts his thoughts.  Adam slowly turns to look over his shoulder to the source of the exhale. He’s met with one of Lynch’s leveling glares.   


“Listen--” Lynch starts, but Adam cuts him off.


“If you have something shitty to say, Lynch, save it for your boyfriend,” as soon as the words leave his mouth, he knows he shouldn’t have said them.


Lynch’s face goes the darkest that Adam thinks he’s ever seen it and his voice drops low, “Kavinsky isn’t my fucking boyfriend.” A vein in his neck flutters as he clenches his jaw. “I was gonna say congratulations.”


Adam blanches.  He doesn’t have time to apologize, Lynch has already disappeared into the crowd of students.  Adam covers his eyes with his hand and breathes noisily out of his nose, before dragging his hand down his face.  He so wishes he could revel in his accomplishment, in his pride. Instead, he feels like a complete ass. For the first time, after years of Lynch trashing him and him trashing Lynch back, he feels like he has just crossed some sort of line.  Even though he’s said worse things, there’s a feeling at the base of his stomach that is gnawing against the echo of “I was gonna say congratulations.” He wishes that the tiles of the school will open up and swallow him down into the boiler room where he can be burned alive.  Adam glances back at the cast list. “I was gonna say congratulations.” Something about the look on Lynch’s face and the sound of his voice tells Adam that his words hurt this time.  Really hurt. And it’s something he can’t quite shake.


Adjusting the backpack strap on his shoulder, Adam sighs and walks off to his first class of the day.  It’s anatomy, one of the classes he’s particularly looking forward to this year. As he walks in, Mr. Smith is writing on the chalkboard, already preparing notes.  Adam has had Mr. Smith as a teacher before, so he knows, to check the lectern for the seating chart. Sure enough, atop the day’s lesson plan is a neat, handwritten seating chart.  Adam glances down, then glances up to where his seat is and withers. Most every student has already arrived. It’s clear which seat is his; not many are empty. Still, Adam checks the seating chart again and chews at the inside of his cheek.  Blue catches his eye from where she sits, looking incredibly miserable, next to Gansey. If he wasn’t in his own predicament, he would smirk or maybe throw her a wink. Instead, he casts her his own miserable look as the bell rings.


“Mr. Parrish, if you could kindly find your seat.”


He nods and slides into his chair at the lab table he shares with Lynch.  The entire left side of his face heats up from what he is convinced is a glare from his tablemate.  He doesn’t turn though, instead Adam keeps his gaze trained forward, on the chalkboard, on the teacher as he hands the stack of syllabi to a student at the front and gestures vaguely to her to take one and pass the stack along.  A classmate at the table in front of them turns and hands the diminishing pile to Adam. He takes two and passes the remainder along. Keeping one syllabus for himself, he slides the other across the high-pressure laminate tabletop in front of Lynch, still keeping his eyes everywhere but on his tablemate.  Adam knows he can’t look at him without apologizing first. Unfortunately, it will have to be later; he knows that the first few minutes of the first class of the new semester is not entirely the appropriate time to say, “I know we’re not really friends but I was an ass earlier and I feel like I need to apologize so I’m sorry.”


Mr. Smith starts up the spiel of classroom expectations.  Adam casts a forlorn gaze across the classroom where Blue seems to be suffering nearly as much as he is.  That’s when a student bursts through the door in what could only be described as a theater-worthy entrance.  Adam blinks at the boy’s outlandish accessories that are clearly outside of the dress code. He blinks again.  Yes, somehow his hair is that tall.


“I’m so sorry I’m late,” the boy says with no remorse and all grandeur, “I’m--”


“Mister…” Mr. Smith squints at his student roster, “...Cheng.  I know this is your first day here at The Academy so I will give you some leeway but it would do you well to know that a late entrance should never--” The teacher’s voice grows quiet and far away.  It has nothing to do with Mr. Smith’s voice and everything to do with Adam losing concentration.


Something in his stomach clenches and, before he realizes what he’s doing, Adam is looking directly at his tablemate and hears himself whispering. “Hey,” he hisses, “Lynch.”  He slowly turns to Adam with a perturbed raised eyebrow. “I’m sorry.” Lynch’s eyebrow arches even higher. “I’m sorry for, you know,” Adam shrugs, “earlier.” He feels a flush gathering under his freckles and wills it away.   Why am I so embarrassed? I know Kavinsky has said worse things to him. Hell, I’ve said worse things to him. What’s the big deal?


Lynch’s face holds little emotion, “Forget about it,” he mutters curtly.


This makes Adam stop short.  He didn’t know what he is expecting but it isn’t that. “What?”

“Just forget about it, Parrish.” His voice has grown thorns.


“I know, I just wanted you to--”


“I said, forget about it, Parrish.”  This third time Lynch’s voice is raised and each syllable is its own word.  


Anger flares within Adam and he opens his mouth to respond.  


“Mr. Lynch, anything you’d like to share with the class?”   Adam clamps his mouth shut. All the attention is drawn from Cheng to them and, for the second time that day, he wishes the floor would swallow him up.

Lynch’s eyes, colder than any nor’easter, stay trained on Adam. “No.”


“Then kindly keep personal conversations out of the classroom.  Now, Mr. Cheng, if you could please take your seat next to Mr. Czerny, we can finally start class...” he glances at the clock behind him on the wall, “...ten minutes late.”


Mr. Smith doesn’t get two pages into the syllabus before someone in the back of the classroom starts snoring softly.  Lynch is scribbling broken Latin in the margins of his syllabus and Adam is trying to discreetly read what his tablemate is writing.  As he squints, not being able to discern the handwriting, Lynch swiftly flips the syllabus over and punctures Adam’s concentration with a scowl that could frost over Central Park in the middle of July.  Part of him wonders how many glares Lynch can hand out in a day before running out. Another part of him wonders if Lynch is hyper-aware or if he really is that bad at being subtle. The third part of him is bothered by how “I was going to say congratulations” and then “Just forget about it, Parrish” keep cycling around in his head.  



Later in the day, when he’s in line to get lunch, he’s startled by Blue and a hug that could only be described as a leprechaun tackle.  “Adam! You did it! You got the part!”


He wheezes a shaky laugh before he offers Blue a smile -- a real one, all teeth and crinkled eyes.  “I still can’t believe it,” Adam says as he scratches the back of his neck.


“You should. You deserve it.” She nods with a beaming look on her face.  He imagines Blue has gotten that same look from her own mother many times. “You really deserve it.”


Suddenly, Adam feels bashful, kicking at a scuff on the floor. “Thanks.”  He pauses. “But what about you? I heard you did pretty well too.”


Blue gives a casual shrug.  “Sort of. I’m an understudy for the part I wanted.”  She shrugs again. “One of the seniors got it. I’m hoping she gets picked up by a company before the show.”


“Cirque du Soleil, maybe?”


She scoffs, “I don’t care what company it is, so long as I can perform.  Hell, I don’t care if she breaks her leg, so long as I can perform.”


“You don’t mean that.”

“No, I don’t mean that.”


They both laugh, light and airy.  Sometimes Adam wishes he could live inside small moments like this with Blue.  They remind him of when it all started, when they started dating, when they were happy.  He remembers how their relationship soured quickly, how Blue broke up with him, how it took him an embarrassing amount of time to diffuse the contempt he held for her.  But once it was gone, it’s like nothing bad had happened. Adam found that they went right back to the way they were when they started dating, they were closer even, just without the messy romance part.


Blue gently bumps her shoulder into Adam’s upper arm.  “Hey, do you know what’s for lunch today?”


“I’m not sure.” He shrugs, “I didn’t check.”


She stands on her tiptoes and leans around the line of people, trying to get a better glimpse of what’s being served.  “They better have yogurt.”


Adam lets out an easy laugh.“I think they know better than to not have yogurt.”


“Yeah, the ballerinas might start a riot.”


“I think they’re more afraid of you starting a riot.”


Blue glares but there’s a smile behind it.  “Speaking of rioting. Smith has it out for us.  I don’t know what I’m going to do about being lab partners with that pompous, insufferable piece of beige wallpaper.”


Adam lifts one shoulder, “Gansey’s not that bad.  I think you’ll manage.”


“I was hoping to make it to graduation without having a conversation with him.”


He exhales a laugh that’s more air than sound. “I mean you can still try.”  


They reach the front of the line.  Adam picks up two trays and passes one to Blue.  She leans around him to look the food on the bar. “Ugh. It is salad.  I appreciate the ‘Health Initiative’ they have going on but I miss pasta.”


“Do they have yogurt?”


She peers further down the line of food, squinting, “It looks like it.”


“Good. I don’t feel like being heckled into rioting with you today.”  She shoots him a look and pushes past him to grab a salad that is already doled out into ‘an appropriate serving’ on the plates laid out for them.  She tosses the plate and it clatters onto her tray and then takes three yogurt cups. Adam follows her through the line and to their usual spot at the small table near the southern bank of windows.  The summer had been long and he is happy to have Blue back. While it was peaceful staying at the Academy, working at the garage, improving his technique, and helping with ballet summer camps, it was lonely.  Blue is talking on and on about her summer at home with her family in between bites of yogurt. Once in a while, she points her spoon directly at him or brandishes it into the air, adding emphasis to her statement.  Adam eats his grilled chicken salad that, surprisingly, isn’t that bad. It’s green and fresh and a lot better than what the Academy was serving over the summer when the ballet camps came through. He watches her talk, all arms and facial expressions, and thinks that she would make a good actor if she weren’t so in love with acrobatics and contortion. It occurs to Adam that he might get in trouble later for not paying attention to Blue’s stories but he can’t help enjoying this.  He can't help living in this moment because, even though his interactions with Lynch are still cycling through the back of his mind, Adam is happy.


“...and anyway, Orla was awful the whole summer.  I think she went through five significant others?  You’re going to have a great time partnering with her.  I’m sure she’s going to hit on you if she hasn’t already.”


“Wait, Blue, are you slut-shaming your cousin?”


“What? No! Yes. Maybe. I don’t know!  All I know is that she will try to get into your pants.”


“Don’t worry; she won’t succeed,” he laughs. “She’s not my type.”


“Who’s not Adam’s type?”  Noah asks, plopping into the seat next to Blue with his tray piled high with food.  


“Uh, Orla, apparently,” she says, stabbing a piece of lettuce with her fork, shoving it into her mouth, and chewing angrily.


“What? I thought Orla was everyone’s type?”  Noah stuffs his mouth full of salad and talks around it, “That’s what she says, right?”


“She actually says that?” Adam asks, disbelief drawing his eyebrows high on his forehead.


Blue’s eyes darken. “Yes.”


A loud laugh boils up within Adam and barks out.  “Then she’s definitely not my type.”


“Then what is your type?” Noah asks, pointing a fork full of chicken across the lunchroom to where Gansey seems to be prattling on and on while his best friend looks less than enthused about the subject matter. “Is it Lynch?”


Adam, taking a drink, chokes on his water. He tries to talk between coughs, “What? No! Why would-- why would you think that?”


Blue looks to be holding back a laugh, while Noah shrugs and puts the large forkful of chicken into his mouth, “I wanted to see your reaction.  You did not disappoint, Parrish.”


“Oh, Noah, you’re horrible,” Blue declares but it’s clear she’s doing her best to swallow laughter.


Still coughing lightly, Adam looks across the mess hall to see that Gansey is still talking. But this time, instead of looking like he’d rather be cleaning a public restroom, Lynch is watching Adam with a dangerous smirk on his face.  Adam flashes an embarrassed smile and tips his head to the side with a shrug. He sees, but doesn’t hear, Lynch laugh, a real laugh. This catches Gansey’s attention and his head dips to the side, asking his best friend a nonverbal question.  Lynch points to Adam, saying some words that he can’t discern that causes Gansey to turn to look at him, beaming. Adam responds with a grimaced smile and a short wave that is more flick of his wrist than it is a wave. For the third time that day, he wishes the floor would swallow him up.