The next thing I knew was a sound breaking through the boundaries of my sleep, jerking me away from the surreal, illusionary images I forgot the instant I woke up. I fluttered my eyes open, just to see the face of a pretty, young, dark-haired girl hanging only a few inches above mine. Startled, I almost leaped out of my bed, but I could just restrain myself and recover before I would scare the living daylight out the other girl with a sudden move.
'Good morning, have you slept well?' The girl said with a sweet voice and she smiled as I ran my fingers through my weary hair. Anne, I recalled her name was.
The happenings of yesterday slowly came back to me as I got out of bed, and I nodded in reply. How strange that I had totally forgotten about my new life. Even when it had only been for a brief moment, it had completely slipped my mind. How that had been possible was still a riddle to me, because I hadn't thought forgetting something as exciting and grand was contingent. 'What time is it?'
'Nearly eight, so we'd better hurry if we still want to eat something before practice starts.'
I felt a touch of gratitude towards the girl. She'd made sure I wouldn't be late for lessons. She'd taken care of me, even when she risked missing her own breakfast for it. It made me emotional and I had to resist the abrupt urge to hug her. Instead, I hastily put on a simple crème colored dress. I would probably have to wear one of the costumes like the other girls too at the dance practice, so I didn't waste more time on my appearance.
As we walked out of the room, I tied my hair in a simple bun on top of my head.
'Thank you,' I said awkwardly after a few minutes of silent walking. I wasn't used to someone looking out for me. Surely my parents had loved and cared about me, but they both had had jobs and had been occupied for most of the day. The only time I would normally see them was in the evening, when they both were exhausted from a long day of work. And even then I was in most cases the one who was taking care of them.
'That's okay, I, too, have known the feeling of being the new girl. It's hard, but it will get easier, you'll see.'
I simply nodded again, but her words couldn't convince me. Doubts and insecurity plagued my mind and I found myself trembling at the thought of ballet class. What if I messed up? What if they didn't like me? What if madame Giry would tell me that, after all, I wasn't what she'd thought? Would I be able to stand such a thing? I wasn't sure anymore and all I wanted was to hide back underneath the sheets and to drift off into my dream world again.
'What is it, Angèlique?''It's nothing,' I shook my head, trying to lose the discouraging thoughts as well. But they didn't seem as easy to get rid of. Instead, they continued tormenting me as we neared the dining hall and I felt the sudden urge to run away. My legs didn't listen to me anymore and I felt as if they could give away any moment. I didn't want to face the other people, I was too scared.
'Angèlique?' Anne softly pulled at my arm as I had just stopped walking in the middle of the hallway.
I didn't answer her and just stood there as one of the marble statues in the lobby. I'd probably fit right in, with my crème colored dress and a face like that of a ghost. Not to mention I had undoubtedly the same look of terror on my face as most of the old, Greek statues of long lost heroes.
Anne's expression changed and for a moment she looked at me upset. Then she put both her hands to her waist and angrily knitted her brows. 'Will you stop that,' she said, almost infuriated.
I looked at her in confusion. What had I done this time?
She rolled her eyes. 'The pondering, and raising yourself to the ground.' She took a step closer and took one of my hands into hers, then she looked me straight in the eye. 'There is no need to doubt yourself, my dear.You are very talented and a sweet girl as well. Please, have a little more faith in yourself.' With that, she gave me a soft squeeze in my hand and looked at me with a look of utter reliance. She had faith in me, it said.
I tried to smile, but failed immensely because of the tears that burned in my eyes. It had been long since someone had said such a sweet thing to me. Maybe it had been even the first time, I couldn't really think clear anymore. With all of my might I forced the tears back, but it was no use. Within seconds my eyes overflowed and the tears streamed down my face. I tried to hide it in my hands and keep Anne from seeing me cry, but she just silently pulled me into her and buried me in a tight, meaningful embrace. At first I was hesitant, but after a few seconds I let her hold me. It was actually quite a relief to have the tears finally flowing. All the sadness of leaving home, the fear of being out of place and the insecurity that had been plaguing me the last two days finally found its way out of my body.
'I'm so scared, and I miss my family so much.' I sobbed 'What if it all goes wrong? What if I mess up? Everyone will be so disappointed in me and I'll have to pack my bags again and go back home.' I cried uncontrollable. Anne was great though; she didn't ask me anything, just held me tight and kept stroking my back comfortingly. I had needed this, I realized as the tears finally stopped coming. I felt so much lighter, as if a weight had been lift of my shoulders and I tried to steady my breathe again. Just as I finally had found my composure back and wanted to suggest to get something to eat, the doors of the dining hall – which had only been a couple of feet away – burst open and a mass came out. Some of them went to where I knew the stage was, others went into the maze of hallways, only a small group walked up to us. I could recognize them immediately. The redhead, the doll-like blonde, another dark blonde and a black haired girl walked up to us.
'Where were you guys?' Adrienne cried out as soon as they had reached us. 'We'd been waiting for you to finally come.'
'But then Adrienne got so hungry that she just decided to eat anyway,' Marie-Claire chuckled.
'Well, if it wasn't for me, now all of us would still have empty stomachs.'
It was only then I realized just how hungry I was. Of course that wasn't very strange, as I hadn't eaten a lot at dinner the day before either. I regretted my outburst a few minutes earlier. If I'd kept my composure, maybe my stomach would be filled by now.
'Fortunately,' Meg said, as she pulled out something from behind her back. 'We haven't completely forgotten about you two.' She gave us both two white bread rolls with cheese.
My stomach rumbled and I felt my cheeks redden from embarrassment. 'I'm sorry.'
'That's quite alright. But I am afraid you two have to eat on the way to practice, as I think maman won't be very happy if her dear ballerinas will be late.' Meg then added with a meaningful glance at me. 'Especially not a certain one of them.'
For the second time that day my face got warm and I shyly looked at my feet. I mentally scolded myself for being such a cotton ball. I had blushed two times already and it wasn't even nine o'clock yet. This promised to be a good day...
'Come on, we're already late as it is.' Marie-Claire said as she pulled at Meg's arm.
Meg nodded and began walking. She smiled at me one last time, as if she, too, knew how nervous I was.
We walked in silence through the hallways as Anne and I quickly finished our breakfast. I was so grateful to Meg at the moment. If it wasn't for her, I would have probably had to dance on an empty stomach, something that rarely affected my movements for the better.
'Oh, here we are.' She opened the door and we went into the backstage area of the auditorium, walking up to the stage. Dazzled, I realized my thoughts had completely drifted off again and I shook my head, I should really try to keep my thoughts in the present from now on.
I couldn't help but once again marvel at the magnificence of the place. It must be wonderful to be the prima donna. Standing on the edge of the stage, singing and showing your very soul to thousands of people you knew were all there to hear you sing.
'Mademoiselle? Mademoiselle Fournier?'
I snapped out of my trance and turned around to see the ballet teacher, madame Giry, look at me in expectation. I stared at her blankly, not knowing what to say or do. The nerves had caught up with me again and I wasn't sure if anything could help me at the moment.
'I asked what your measurements were.'
'O-oh,' I stammered. 'I-I don't really know.'
She sighed 'Alright, we'll get you a fitting costume later, you can put on this one for now.' She handed me a package of linen and gestured for me to go change.
Just like the day before, I ran backstage and quickly changed into the costume and my pointé shoes. The costume was a short, light blue dress and had a pretty ribbon on each side of my shoulders. It was nearly a perfect fit, only around my waist I could feel it hang a little loose. I closed my eyes for a second, praying to God I wouldn't mess up and then went back to the front.
'Ah there you are, you can take a place between mademoiselles Gaudet and Rousseau.'
I did as she said and went to stand next to Marie-Claire and Adrienne.
'Alright, now everyone is here, let's do a couple of silent routines before the orchestra and the singers arrive. From the beginning, just follow my lead.' She said and turned her back at us.
My body was all tensed up for the few seconds of perfect silence that followed. The same insecure thoughts raced through my head again and I was afraid I would go unconscious right there and then. But suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and I glanced back.
Meg gave me an encouraging nod and winked at me.
Before I could even thank her, though, I heard the voice of the dance instructor count down and I turned back to see her.
pagebreak~At the time the singers came up all tension had flooded out of my body. Though the steps had seemed very complicated at first, I soon noticed that it was easier than it looked and I was a fast learner. The other girls hadn't been practicing this dance for long, so that made me feel even more at ease. I didn't stand out half as much as I had expected.
Our group took a small break as the orchestra settled in their pit and the singers began to do a warming up in the form of scales. I envied their voices, how beautiful they sounded. Elegant and strong, yet at times as fragile as glass. 'Who is she?' I asked Anne, nodding my head discretely to a young woman with one of the most magnificent voices I had ever heard.
'Clémence Dampierre,' she told me, her voice filled with a contempt that I didn't not quite understand.
I nodded and turned my head to watch her again. The woman was so beautiful and had such a capital voice, that I couldn't possibly imagine what was wrong with her. She wore an expensive looking dress, made of gold and red fabrics. Her long, curling golden hair fell down on it as if it were liquid gold and her porcelain face was almost too perfect to be true.
'What'cha looking at?' Adrienne asked as she came to stand beside me.
'Clémence.' Again the disdainful tone in her voice.
'Oh, I wouldn't do that if I were you,' Adrienne said with a giggle, but then turned serious and came closer to me, still looking me in the eyes. 'She's the devil in true form, I swear.'
I couldn't help but laugh, how ridiculous these girls were acting.
Adrienne furred her brows. 'I wasn't kidding. Just watch me.' She turned and gracefully walked over to the angelic singer who just had finished another scale. 'Hello mademoiselle Dampierre,' the redhead said in her most polite tone of voice. 'I just wanted to compliment you on how beautiful you were singing.'
Clémence rose one of her eyebrows, then she tilted her chin slightly and looked down upon the little ballerina. 'Who said you could talk to me, you little ballet rat?' She spat out the words, even more than Anne had done before when she named her.
Suddenly I understood why she had done so. Angrily I pounded across the stage, up to where the two girls were.
'What is wrong with you?' I exclaimed. 'She just complimented you and you snarled at her as if she had just insulted you in the worst way possible.'
'How dare you speak at me like that? Have you any idea who I am, how easily I could get you back on the streets again where you belong? You aren't even worth speaking to me.'
I bit my lip and tried to control myself. I wasn't at all an aggressive person, but this woman really needed to be put back with her two feet on the ground. She might think she was so superior, but someone with a personality like this wasn't even worth looking down upon. 'You're wrong,' I told her, smiling 'It is you who isn't worth talking to me, or for that matter anyone here.' I turned my back to her and stormed back to Anne, pulling Adrienne with me.
'Wow,' Marie- Claire, who had been standing next to Anne, said chuckling. 'You sure told her who is boss.'
I instantly turned red. 'I just couldn't stand seeing her talk to Adrienne like that. It was horrible.'
'Madame Giry, you'd better keep your pupils in line, instead of having them shout at me.' A voice sounded from across the stage and I turned to see Clémence complain to the stern woman. I hoped she wouldn't turn against me too, because I was sure that that could make my ballet career a Hell.
'Alright, alright, calm down. What happened?'
'She,' and with that she accusingly pointed her perfectly manicured finger towards me. 'Has insulted me and yelled at me.
I felt my mouth drop and found myself speechless. How was it possible that such a beautiful girl was such a demonical creature? God must have felt extremely jocular when he created such an adversative girl.
'Is that true, Angèlique?'
For some reason I still found myself unable to speak, but fortunately Adrienne made a step forward. 'It was my fault, really. I talked to mademoiselle Dampierre, Angèlique simply stood up for me.'
Madame Giry raised an eyebrow, but didn't ask any further. 'Okay everyone, all back to work. We've got a lot left to do and I think this intermission has lasted quite long enough.'
All the girls quickly gathered around the woman and listened while she told us what would be next. It was all very simple really, we'd simply put the small parts of the dance together and now do the whole thing, then she would teach us the final part.
'In position,' she called and walked up to me. 'Angèlique, I suggest that you take note not to interrupt the singers anymore. It might actually help you to survive around here.'
I nodded, then smiled. 'Thank you, madame.'
~ Thank you all for reading my story, I hope you are all enjoying it. And yes, I know I know, the Phantom is yet to come, but I promise you that when he does, he will make a grand entrance!