Numb Like Her

Chapter 31

"What do you mean I can't dance?" she questioned acidly. "Medda, you've seen me- For seven nights you've seen me dance! I am stronger now, I can—"

Medda shook her head sadly at the feisty girl, "It's too risky. I cannot risk your life like that again. You…my, beautiful girl, you would draw too much attention. I'm only thinking of you."

Ira looked away angrily. She couldn't be mad at Medda after all that she had done for her. But she had been working so hard…and for what? Sure, she could dance now, even if it was only for her, but…it wasn't the same.

Medda watched her for a moment, hesitating, "But I've been thinking...there is another way, my dear."

Ira's cold eyes flashed up to the woman's kind face, seeing the lines under her eyes; she was so tired.

Medda rose from her desk and walked around to Ira, taking her hands. She smiled gently.

"When you first danced on my stage, there was a little girl and her sister in the audience, in the fourth row… and they watched you, dear, memorizing every move you made."

Ira's eyes narrowed, reading Medda's kind eyes.

Medda chuckled, "They…their parents came to me the next day, asking if we had dance lessons. And I thought…well, I think you would be a wonderful teacher."

Ira's eyes slowly softened as she repeated Medda's words in her head. A teacher?

Ira looked down, slightly embarrassed, "They're parents would not want me to teach their children."

Medda touched Ira's chin and tilted her head up, "My dear, you are a new woman. You can do anything your heart desires."

Ira dropped her voice, "You…you think I could be? Be a good teacher?"

She thought about the teachers in Russia, their harshness and perseverance. But then she thought about the dancers here, their kindness…Medda's kindness.

Medda beamed, "I could see it in those girls' eyes: they wanted to be you, dear. They wanted your passion, your strength. Even if they're horrible," she laughed and then smiled softly, "I don't think they'd be the only ones to benefit from it."

Ira looked at her for a long time. Children. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen a child, or even spoke with one. She didn't know children, didn't know their language. She was not good company for children…

But she reflected on the feelings that fluttered lightly in her stomach when she saw them in the street, running and playing, walking hand in hand with their fathers, their mothers…something she would never have.

She took a deep breath, fighting the red burning in her cheeks, the sting in her eyes.

Medda kissed her forehead softly. "I don't mean to upset you, Ira. But sleep on it."

….

Kid Blink and Mush flew down the streets, dodging people as they pumped their legs to carry them faster, their mouths open as they panted. They had abandoned their papes once they had read the headline: the city was buzzing loudly, gossiping lips moving as fast as their running legs. Everyone knew. And they had to tell Ira.

Mush ran next to Kid Blink, the paper clutched in his hands, and little did they know that the other Newsies were behind them, sprinting to keep up.

They burst through the back stage doors and saw Medda and Ira leaving Medda's office. The two women looked up at them, their expressions concerned and confused as they watched the Newsies pant for breath in the doorway.

"Kid Blink?" Ira asked. "What's wrong?" Her expression darkened and her voice was harsh, "Where's Jack?"

Kid Blink shook his head and Mush stepped forward, handing her and Medda the paper.

"Read," he gasped.

Ira and Medda's eyes latched onto the headline. Ira's wide eyes flashed to Mush's face, burning with fierce surprise. She didn't believe it.

"It's all over," he said breathlessly. "Everyone's talking about it. They arrested him last night."

Medda looked up to see Jack appear among the Newsies, stepping through the door and weaving his way through the muttering boys. His dark intense eyes were on Ira.

"Let me see it," he said as he unthinkingly went to Ira's side. Medda handed him the paper.

"It must have been your friend, Medda," Racetrack said, looking over Jack's shoulder at the headline:

ROCKEFELLER ARRESTED FOR POSSESSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ILLEGAL FOREIGN DRUGS: LINKED TO MURDERS AND DISSAPPEARANCES.

"He must've finally busted him," Race said darkly.

Ira looked up and met Jack's eyes. She didn't know what to say or to think…

"I hope the bastard burns in hell," Kid Blink said.

Just then, David came through the door and the boys shouted at him to read the paper. He went to Jack and Jack held out the paper, watching him scan the headline.

David's eyes were the size of dinner plates.

"They did it," he said, meeting Medda's eyes. "They got him."

"The question is," Race said emotionlessly, "For how long?"

The Trail of Garrison Rockefeller dragged through August, September and into November. Pictures of his distraught wife and mother plastered the front pages and his father's enraged quotes stood out from the black inked paragraphs. Papes spread all over the city and it was the first time the Newsies begged for more to sell. The headlines were the best the Newsies had ever seen:

ROCKEFELLER EMPIRE IN DANGER?

GARRISON ROCKEFELLER JR. DISOWNED BY ROCKEFELLERS

FUED AMONG PULITZER AND ROCKEFELLER

ROCKEFELLER WIFE BREAKSDOWN ON STAND

The trials were ugly, rumored of a pay off, and the city seemed divided: those who thought he had been framed and those who shared the view of the Newsies. They celebrated but kept their eyes peeled; waiting to see what tricks he or his family would try to pull.

Meanwhile, Ira kept busy, paying no mind to Rockefeller. Medda had found her a space for a dance studio, right above the Irish family's pub. They were more than eager to work a deal with Medda, happy to have Ira. It was a vacant attic that stretched the length of the pub. The floor was wooden and clean; the pub owner's wife had kept it in good shape, hoping someone would rent it. Medda said she would pay full cost for it until Ira accumulated business. Medda had collected names and had spread the word to guests, but not publicly.

"This is great, right?" Kid Blink said as the guys looked around the spacious room. "Your own place…now you can get off that roof."

"Hey," Ira said sharply. "I liked the roof."

"I don' think parents will be too happy ta have their bundle of joys dancing five stories above tha street," Racetrack observed. Ira pushed him, smiling.

Mirrors were brought in to line the front wall. Ira walked along the floor, watching her reflection. Windows were at the far end of the room, overlooking the ally where clothes lines hung, casting shadows in the sunshine. She was still so unsure, afraid even. But Medda said she would be there with her and that gave her some comfort.

Ira imagined little feet on the floor, each eager to dance just as she had been when she was their age…Her heart thudded: if Ira was this nervous to meet the children, she didn't want to think about meeting the parents…

"Ignore 'em," Jack said, leaning against the mirrors, watching her. "They don' matta."

"That's smart, coming from you," she said scathingly.

He rolled his eyes, "Ya know what I mean!"

Ira came to the studio every day up until the night before her first class. Jack and the guys would come by to walk her back to Medda's, hinting at the dishes they wanted for dinner. It all became so normal, a routine. She had never had one of those before.

On the night before her first class, she was shaking so badly that she had to hold her hands. She didn't understand it; she could dance just fine with eyes on her. But these were little eyes, learning from her. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply. If she thought too much, she wasn't dancing.

As she moved across the smooth floor, she remembered her days in dance lessons, what she first learned from her teachers. She practiced the dance steps in front of the long mirrors until night fell, mapping out lessons for the first time in her life.


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