Claudine splashed through a puddle, eyes fixed on the new york skyline as she lengthened her stride and began to fall back towards manhattan. Running was a guilty pleasure, supposedly too much impact on her already overworked joints, and the off season, without the constant training pressures, was her last chance to enjoy the city like this before the curtain raised once again.
Soon, she'd be back in class, and then on stage again, with more eyes on her since her last performance at seishou.
First back to paris, hoping to recover the person she'd been before the accademy, before the unrelenting pressure of auditions, of rivalry, of her. But there hadn't really been space there, and paris had been was a bad place to recover from a broken heart.
New york though. New york was all about broken hearts, about hurting and healing, falling and rising, shining bright and burning yourself up at once. She'd stepped off the plane for a christmas shopping trip, descended to the A train, felt the rough edges of the city- Where paris had elegant silk and polished mahogany, and tokyo bright neon and age worn maple.She heard a young woman singing for her supper on the floor and joined in under her breath, growing in confidence until it had become a duet and then an impromptu performance.
She thought she'd found a new rival there, a replacement, for something lost, and vowed to come back another night and reflect and amplify the shine of another, just for one performance.
It wasn't until later, when she saw the cautions against dancing on trains that she began to hope that it might be what she now has- a city to challenge her, not a single star, but a constellation, in which she was now just one of many stars, reflecting and challenging one another to shine brighter.
When she climbs out of the subway, she's got a smile that reaches her eyes for the first time in months.
That christmas she returned to paris, lost herself in melancholy and christmas, gave small trinkets to her parents, a CD she bought from that first woman, who'd taught her what new york meant, to her sister. On the 27th she was on a plane again without a plan beyond a return to the city where she could once again be a star. Her parents fretted, her therapist sent her along with a stern reprimand to be careful, a referral and a glint in her eye. The referral sat in her inbox- she didn't need it, she was here to become someone else, not saijo claudine, of japan, or Ms.Saijo, the lost girl with the sad smile, but Dina, another(remarkably skilled, but rust) hopeful coming into new york on a jet plane.
The first thing the new life came with was a haircut, before she even checked into the airbnb.
She walked back out onto the streets with asymmetric and far shorter hair that she would later realise flagged her as both new and getting over her first serious lesbian relationship.
Rivals appleanty aren't all the city provides- she crossed the city like a comet, swinging close to other celestial bodies- and, what bodies she orbits, in the back rooms of clubs and expensive hotel rooms and cramped apartments- but never lingering, always moving on.
She began performing in her apartment, but quickly realised that neighbours who work nights are not the happiest to be woken up by an out of practice voice, and began paying for access to a small dance studio under manhattan bridge, frequented by yummy mummies and off broadway performers. She's not ready, not yet, to shine again with the brightest stars. When their requests for advice and not so subtle social climbing become unberable, she crosses the river to broadway, first to the musical stage, her first home, but soon once of the bodies she's orbiting for a time takes her to the fall gala, and a month later she's auditioning for the corps.
A run of clear crosswalks ends, and she snaps out of her thoughts to spin right up 5th avenue, watching the sunset through the trees, and then for a final sprint across the park, walks across to sit in front of the theatre, and collapses to lie on her back.
Tomorrow, she begins her first season as a principal dancer at the new york city ballet. It's been a long five years, recovering from seisho, and she knows some of her classmates have risen faster, but she also knows none shall shine as bright as she knows she will.
She rises off the pavement, begins heading north to her apartment and nearly falls again when she catches sight of a head with a purple ribbon disappearing down to the subway. Her breath catches and she steadies herself, breathing slowly and gripping her knees. When she looks up, the memories have gone back to the past and her breathing is steady. Maya's in tokyo, living the life she's always been destined to live- lead roles, adoring fans, the support of her classmates. She's no reason to come to new york, to break everything dina has built for herself.
Godfrey leans back in his chair, looking out of the theatre across the plaza.
"You understand, this company- and my role in it- has not been without scandal?" He asks "and you understand why you're here?"
Maya doesn't relax her posture, shoulders set and back stiff. "you want me because I'm a clean face." she says "and because I'm always perfect"
"that would be a... Polite way to put it"
Maya just smiles.
"And while we-I- need you to do this, you do not have free reign over the stage"
"I will bring a shine to your stage, not burn it down"
His head nods back and forth on his thin neck.
"Well then if that's it..."
"Actually, a question?"
Maya shrinks, internally scolds herself, looks up and meets his eyes- Tendo Maya does not shrink from an audience, no matter how small or prestigious.
"One of your Ballerina- A Dina Saijo?"
"We trained together,"After what's gone on the last few years here, he does not need to know the full story "I wondered if she knew of my appointment?"
"I'm afraid not." He looks down "We've had to do this very quietly, given the circumstances. Would you like us to ask her to come in early? We could have her show you the theatre?"
"I wouldn't want to be a bother, I'm not even sure if she remembers me." She looks away- maya is an excellent actor, but even she can't pass off such a blatant lie.
They exchange a few strained pleasantries, and Maya signs a contract as a principal dancer for the new york city ballet, retrieves her coat and heads for the subway.