The Fall of a Ballerina

Before, the dance came naturally. She’d been a ballerina for most of her life, so her body knew what to do. With every dip in tempo or crescendo brightening the stage, her body flowed, graceful as breathing – happy to bend with every note. It had been her dream, her life for so very long. 

But that day had been different from the moment her eyes opened and she saw the man next to her. She nuzzled into his side, her heart warming at his presence. He slept so peacefully, his hand possessive on her thigh, this bare chest beneath her cheek. The rhythm of his heart was enough to insight the urge to move, to dance.

She should have known something was wrong when she moved to sit and a wave of dizziness hit her. She placed a hand on the nightstand. Why did her feet feel so far away?  She pushed away the thought and stood, her balance not quite right. 

She should have known something was wrong. She should’ve known everything was about to change. But like every performer before her, she lied when he asked if she was alright. She claimed she was just hungry, even though within, she knew it as the lie it was. When he looked at her worriedly, she made a joke and kissed his cheek. And as she snuck out of his apartment to head back to hers, and then rehearsal, she denied the feeling that told her to go back and tell him how much he’d come to mean to her.

The movement helped. The trek back to her flat, not too far or rigorous, was only a few blocks away and yet when she arrived, she found herself breathing heavily. The cold of the morning having burned her cheeks and tightened her lungs. Ignoring it she changed and grabbed her bag.

She does not remember when the numbness began. Only that, as she stepped onto the stage, she felt off. Usually, her body would glide over the polished wood as though she were air, the jumps were so high that she felt like she flew, and the spins which would incite giggles should she not hold them back. 

That day, her legs felt tight, her muscle slow to respond, her balance uncontrolled. She made it through warm-ups fine. They stretched, then completed their rounds of leaps and jumps. 

He entered then, his dark hair covering his eyes and a broody expression on his face. She tried not to smile. She knew it was all an act. For all the grumpiness he showed the world, she knew his heart was gentle, his humor uncontrollable. 

Rehearsal started immediately. The other dancers split into groups as he directed which scenes they were to focus on for the day. She was in all of them, as the lead it was expected. It was also understood that she had to be perfect. Every time. Had any of the other dancers suspected weakness, they would have come for her. So, she performed each step as though they had always been hers. 

The longer she danced, the more she felt ill. She pushed it down, but the longer she spun and leaped with the music the worse it became. With one large pass across the stage everything changed. Something shifted within her. 

A splitting ring filled her ears. Her head went fuzzy, her vision swimming. Then, the world tilted.

Lifting to point, her ankle gave out. The muscle in her thigh turned rubber and she tumbled to the ground. Pain lanced through her side as she collided with another performer. She could hear the angry calls from the director, but they sounded so far away, down a deep tunnel filled with cotton.

Forcing her arms to listen, she pushed herself to a seated position. The entire company stood along the sides, mixtures of worry and delight lining their faces. She swallowed hard, willing her limbs to keep her upright. The director stomped toward her, lips moving.  Nothing registered. She tried to ask ‘what,’ but the words came out garbled. She shook her head, trying to clear away the fog.

His eyes went wide, fear glittering blue. Before he could stop her, she tried to push to her feet. She failed. Her leg gave out and she fell, her face hitting the floor hard. Blood splattered from her nose and calls of alarm rang around her. She felt, but could not see, the stomping of feet against wood planks of the stage as they rushed for her.

The director gasped as his beautiful ballerina unbalanced then fell so uncontrolled he swore she would not wake up. Her body was limp, all signs of life leaked away with a few drops of red. Reaching out, he rolled her over. He brushed back the strands of hair which had escaped her bun. Blood smeared across her cheek and lips, making her ivory skin even paler. He screamed out her name as she began to seize. Her body jerked, her strong muscles contracting violently.

A few figures fell back to the wall only to slide down to the floor. Others ran for their bags in need of a phone. Somehow he heard as one hit the numbers for 911 and the hopeful ringing that followed. 

Maybe that was in his head. He didn’t know.

All he could do was brace this shy, yet vibrantly beautiful woman, as she fought for her life. Had she been just a ballerina, an employee, perhaps the fear rushing through him you would not be so bad. He would care yes, but he knew there was more to this story. She was more. Against all plan, she had snuck into his heart. Her soft voice as they discussed the show had so contrasted the strong opinion and absolute dedication in her eyes. 

Yes, she was far more than ever expected. They’d kept their relationship secret, afraid that the others of the troop would claim favoritism, but as she lay there gasping for breath the tears fell from his eyes.

He could hear the others screaming for help. Someone had gone outside to lead the emergency personnel in. 

She stilled and he pulled her into his arms. For only a second, her eyes cleared and met his. He swore he felt the words she could not say. Her breathing became shallow and he felt the world become less. It dimmed and narrowed. It became colder and he knew even before they began CPR, that the woman he had come to love had died. 

Someone wrapped their arms around him and pulled him back. The EMTs placed her flat on the stage and began the process of saving her. All he could think was, please don’t leave me. 

He did not care that she would, more than likely, never dance again. He did not care that life they shared may be forever changed by these moments. All he cared about was that she lived. That she was there, with him, again.  

He said so. He spoke the words aloud for all to hear. There was no sounds of shock, no proof of surprise. The troop had known all along and they had respected it. More surrounded him, touched him. Tried to provide support. 

They were the longest moments of his life. But when she gasped, air rushing into her lungs as if for the first time, they all released a sigh of relief. She was loaded onto a gurney and taken away. Before she disappeared, the troop helped him up, handed him her things, and shoved him into the ambulance. 

He sat on the bench next to her, watching the two men treating her as they spoke in low voices. When they looked to him, he realized he’d been speaking. Of what exactly, he didn’t know. 

One smiled gently then moved to aside. He choked as the most beautiful eyes he’d ever beheld gazed tiredly back at him. He took her hand and kissed it. Knowing that from now on, there was no path for him, unless she was there with him.

Published on OBW Blog January 15, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

Scroll to Top