Playing with Fire

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Pas de Deux with Death

I sat up, drenched in sweat, to the frantic beeping of my alarm. I groaned, pulling back my hair and rolled out of bed, shoving my pointe shoes, leg warmers, and a tutu into an old gym bag before slipping into a leotard, tights, an old t-shirt, and sweats before heading downstairs.

“Hey, how are you feeling, ” Carver asked, sipping on coffee as I clomped downstairs.

“What do you mean?” I asked nervously. He couldn’t know about the dreams I’d been having.

“Don’t you have a hangover? You did drink quite a lot fairly fast last night,” Carver asked, offering me a cup of coffee.

I took a quick moment to assess, but I felt fine. “Nah, I’m good.”

“Nice looks like you also inherited the hangover resistant gene,” Carver said, putting his cup in the sink. “You ready to go?”

I sighed and followed him out. I tried to remember the last time I’d spent this much time around my family.

“What do you think about that guy from yesterday?” I cautiously asked Carver.

“You mean our supposed grandfather?” He said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I mean, don’t you think that it’s suspicious that he shows up right after our parents die, and there’s absolutely nothing to prove that he is who he said he is. I mean, there are absolutely no pictures of him anywhere.”

Carver sighed. “Honestly, I don’t see why you’re so worried. So dad didn’t ever talk about his dad or keep any pictures around. They were probably estranged. He probably just put him down as our legal guardian because he didn’t want to burden Charlotte with having to take care of two teenagers.”

I shrugged in reply. I guess Carver’s explanation made sense, but something about him made me uneasy. I didn’t want to put any more tension on our already uneasy relationship.

The rest of the ride passed in silence until we pulled into the parking lot for both the studio the gym.

“I’ll come to the studio and get you when I’m done,” Carver said as we got out of the car, and I nodded complacently.

I unlocked the studio, plugged my phone into the stereo system, and began stretching, loving the comfortable familiarity in what had been a bizarre couple of days. I moved through warm-up and a series of steps from class and tried my best to focus on the movements, but I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering.

As much as I wanted to believe Carver’s explanation, it all just seemed too weird. First the weird super vivid dreams, then mom and dad die, leaving us in the care of an estranged grandfather who no one had ever heard of before who happens to show up at the reading of their will. And now Carver and I were going to be living alone with him? It was just too weird to be a coincidence.

The music stopped, and I pulled myself back to reality shedding the sweats and putting on a tutu. I needed to practice my variation of La Esmerelda for the American Youth Grand Prix. I grabbed the tambourine and ran through my variation a couple more times before I heard the door open.

“I’m almost done, Carver. I just want to run through this variation a couple more times. I just need it to be perfect,” I called, not looking over at him as I restarted the music.

I took my place, looking in the mirror to make sure my feet were in the correct position when I saw a cloaked figure out of the corner of my eye.

“Hilarious, Carver, but can you please take that thing off. I really have to concentrate,” I asked, rolling my eyes. When the Carver didn’t move, I turned around, crossing my arms over my chest. “Seriously, you look ridiculous. Just take that ridiculous robe? You look like a more sinister version of a monk, and the overall effect is really disconcerting.”

When Carver didn’t respond, I gulped, beginning to feel nervous. “Can you at least take off the hood? Not being able to see your face is really weirding me out,” I said, trying to act natural and ignore the blood pounding in my ears. It occurred to me that this might not be Carver. My mind flashed back to the sorcerer from my dream, and I wanted to run. I scanned the room for exits, but the figure blocked the only exit in the room.

“Oh my god,” I whispered as the figure raised what looked like a crossbow. I squeezed my eyes shut. This had to be another one of my crazy dreams. Please wake up, I whispered over and over to myself. I opened my eyes, praying that I would be back in bed warm and safe.

Instead, I was still stuck in the dance studio with the cloaked figure who was now pointing a crossbow square at my chest. Time seemed to slow down as I tried to process what was happening. Everything came into sharp focus as I realized that I had to do something if I didn’t want to be murdered by a crazy person in a cloak. I ran towards one of the fire extinguishers hoping that I could throw it through the window, creating an exit that wasn’t blocked by a madman with a crossbow.

I reached for the fire extinguisher and hurled it across the room, praying that it would break the glass. When I heard the crack of glass shattering, I smiled despite myself. I ran, glancing over that the figure who appeared to have been momentarily startled by the glass breaking sprang back into action. He cocked the crossbow and let it fly. I froze, unable to make my feet move as I watched the arrow fly directly towards my chest. Instinctively I threw my hands out as if they could protect me.

I screamed as the arrow pierced my chest, and I fell to my knees. The hooded figure screamed now in flames. I coughed, trying to catch my breath as I crawled away from the flailing flaming man as he ran frantically, trying to put out the flames. Briefly, I wondered how he had caught on fire. Had it been something I had done? I coughed again, wiping away something wet from my mouth. Choking on something wet, I looked down to see my hands covered in blood.

Clutching my chest, I felt my fingers wrap around the smooth wood of the arrow that protruded from my chest. I feebly attempted to pull the arrow out, but it hurt too much. I felt cold despite the growing fire that had engulfed the cloaked man’s body that lay less than ten feet from where I was now. Carver ran through the door, screaming my name. I tried to respond, but I couldn’t make a sound. Instead, I felt the blood gurgle in my throat. As Carver lifted me in his arms, I lost consciousness.

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