She’s used to dreaming about dancing slowly straight up a snowy peak, and if she paused, or froze she would fall screaming to her death. She always woke before she hit the ground sweaty and panting; a failure who couldn’t make it. Which is why she doesn’t understand why her otherworldly fairy muse can barely pronounce words some days. Lapin, he calls himself, she can’t describe what he looks like because he constantly changes form. It’s always men she finds attractive, but must he flit between different bodies so often? It seems so unprofessional, even for a living dream.
He pushes her until her feet are raw with blisters and her body is about to collapse by the end of their training sessions. Sometimes she suspects he may not understand the physical limits of a human body or even care. He glides across the room and she ends up a mass of aching muscles with nothing but tears of frustration for her efforts whenever she tries to mimic him.
At night, they smash their mouths together in between breathless challenges. She rips his shirt only to receive a smirk that says ‘is that all you got?’ before he digs his teeth into her neck.
She knows who she was; a starving waif with barely a penny to her name who’s had to claw her way to the stage for even the privilege to dance.
While Lapin fills the air with mindless chatter that reveals his wit isn’t exactly burning bright. It occurs to her that he never talks about himself. She doesn’t know where he comes from if he has a family, friends when she asks his usually bright face falls. “I’m not important this is all about yee sweetling,” he says. She catches him glancing over his shoulder. Suddenly her insides feel like ice and she forces herself to forget about it.
When she dances across the stage for her first big performance, she can’t help but feel warmth in her chest as she dances for the world. She looks out into the audience expecting to see him in the front row clapping and cheering her on only for her eyes to flash upon an empty seat. She’s so thrown off, she doesn’t see the falling beam until it’s too late…
“I didn’t think you’d come,” she tells him a week later. She wants to run to him but her crippled broken legs won’t allow her to move. “I heard you got a new dancer.” She tries not to sound bitter, after all, she understands the way this world works, that she was always replaceable, but she can’t help it. She’ll never reach the top of that peak now.
“You’ll still visit, right?” she can’t help but ask, hope bleeding through her hard exterior. The quiet devastation on his face says more than words ever could. “Can’t you break the rules just once?” she asks him.
“Rules keep us safe,” he responds in a weird tone, then he turns and walks away…
She’d like to say he’s out of her life, but she knows when she finds money being delivered to her doorstep at about the same time his new dancer becomes a sensation. She wishes she could say she threw it into the fire and laughed at the notion, but the little hungry girl inside clung to those notes saved and scraped every bit she could.
She sees him one more time in her life at the funeral of his famous dancer who was barely thirty when she died.
She finds Lapin after the funeral with a different face but still youthful, he sits at her grave tracing the letters with his finger and a look of frustration. “I still can’t spell her name, she thought me an awful bampot yee know,” Lapin said softly.
“You’re smart about the things that matter,” she says.
“You should not be here,” he warns.
“This was supposed to be me, and as hard as it’s been I’m glad it’s not,” she admits
. “What I give, does...” His face squished up in frustration the way it used to when he can’t find the words. “I hate it,” he finally settles on. She nods with the kind of understanding that comes from having nothing to do but think.
“You’ve changed, Marnie,” he tells her uncomfortably.
“You haven’t, you’ll just keep dropping beams on the girls you like and draining the ones you don’t care for as much.” His face pales. “I should hate you.” the woman in the wooden chair with wheels says taking his trembling hand. “Whatever frightens you so, I hope you’ll one day stand up to it.”
He touches her cheek and she sees nothing but raw tenderness on his face. “I have to go, would you like more money?” he asks carelessly.
“I want to see you dance, one last time,” she admits. Lapin lights up, gives her a sweeping bow, kisses her hand, and obliges. He moves like a phoenix rising from the ashes. When he finishes panting and sweating he rises to lay one last kiss on her mouth before he departs, taking his secrets with him. And when she’s old and grey and beyond fear, she’ll regret never seeking answers to the many questions she had but will content herself with the memories she’ll keep locked away.