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En Pointe

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There's no reason for Eliza to be hanging around Paramount while they're filming Angel, except that she's bored and more restless at twenty than she was at seventeen, and it's fun to bug Joss sometimes. She loiters a little, flips through the script, drinks an orange soda and hangs out with David until he has to shoot a scene. When bugging Joss gets old, she ends up wandering the halls, and finds herself in a doorway, watching this tiny, fragile thing in a small dance studio, sitting on the wood floor with her back to Eliza, putting on a pair of pink satin shoes.

The girl is dressed in black, a tank top and stretchy cotton pants that are snug around the waist but wide at the ankles. Her hair is loose, long and curly down her back. The tank top cuts low enough to expose a healthy amount of skin, but otherwise the clothing is modest for a dancer. Once she's laced the pink ribbons up her calves with quick, knowing fingers, she stands and starts moving her feet, pressing the ball of one foot against the floor and flexing. It makes an unexpected creaking sound, and Eliza wonders what toe shoes are even made of. It doesn't really matter. She can't take her eyes away.

The girl does a series of warming-up movements, working at the shoes more than her body, it seems, until she really starts to dance, and then Eliza's just listening, holding her breath as she takes in the dull thump-thump-thump of the girl's toes on the wood planks. She doesn't think she's been spotted, though she's not hiding. The girl seems wrapped up in her movements, though there's no music, no choreographer. Her dancing makes its own music, a faint squeak when she pirouettes, the thud when she lands from a leap, the steady tap-tap-tap as she moves across the floor. Eliza's cheeks feel hot and she's not sure why.

Eliza did ballet once, as a little girl, but everything the girl does is more fluid, more precise, movements connected rather than lined up in a stacatto sequence of down-up-turn-bend-leap. Eliza was a little awkward, not the best in her class, and her little pink shoes were flexible and cheap. She never cared much about ballet, about being able to dance on her toes. It was too girly and frilly for an eight-year-old tomboy, but this is hard and driving and the strength in calves and thighs is evident as they support a lithe, never-slowing body.

The girl turns and turns, her leg swinging around as she pushes up for each rotation, her supporting knee bending in between, a whole host of body movements that have to all happen together for it to work. Later Eliza will learn the French word fouetté, and Summer's name. Now, it's just the girl, and her hard satin shoes. 

When Eliza's caught, piercing eyes pinning her in place, she can't move a muscle, and she's only aware of how her intense focus might be interpreted when the girl laughs softly, runs over, and teasingly runs the dusky worn toe of her shoe up Eliza's denim-clad calf. She doesn't know what to do. She runs. The laugh follows her. So does the memory.