Chapter 17 ~ R&D Dance Studio
“Oh my god, today’s the day.”
Rachael was twirling around the studio like a four-year-old as Carl drew her image in his sketchbook. I’d be damned surprised if that girl doesn’t have a ring on her finger by the end of the year – he was that enamoured.
Axel was on his way over to the studio, he had texted to let me know he was collecting Dad, whom I was elated by the news he was willing to venture outside of the house. The fantastic thing about Axel was, every night he would drive all the way back to Dads and every morning, all the way to the city. I assured him that he didn’t have too, but he simply stated ‘he wanted too’ and that was the end of it. Inside though, I wasn’t at all complaining, we had been forced apart for too long, and now, we were reclaiming our separation.
“Stella, Carly helped me with our shirts and logo, this is yours.” Rachael thrust T-shirt into my face as I was standing in front of the mirror, fixing my locks into a tight ballerina bun.
I held it out in front of me, the shirt was pale pink and had a black silhouette of a woman in the first arabesque position with the letters, R&D Dance Studio under the extended leg, with Ms Hutchinson, sprawled in bold black print on the back.
I smiled as I lowered the garment, “Rach, this is beautiful, thank you.”
She threw her arms around me and squeezed, she was indeed a magnificent creature, so selfless and warm. “Oh, Stella, this is just the beginning of all the amazing things we are going to do.”
I couldn’t help but gush with such pride, Rachael didn’t understand just how much, what she had done, meant - she had always been such an incredible friend.
“Okay you two, the balloon clown is here and the man delivering the popcorn machine, slushy machine and candy floss maker, I told them to set up by the entranceway.” Carl smiled at his muse lovingly, yep, those two are infatuated.
“What are we on?” Marshall asked as he came up behind Carl, Regan hot on his heels.
“Thank you both for coming,” I replied.
Rachael jumped right in, “Marsh, you are on the popcorn, Regs, you are on slushies.”
“Fabulous. Do the adults get Vodka mixed with their slushy?” Regan enquired hopefully.
“Oooo, that sounds delicious,” Rachael clapped enthusiastically beside him.
“No!” I paled, “just normal ones, the last thing we need is to get them mixed up and have a room filled with drunken children.”
“Relax Ballerina, we’ll save that for after,” Regan clipped.
I slipped my new shirt over my head and over my white leotard. The pink complemented the mesh skater skirt and white tights perfectly. I had been practising a lot on point, but I had forgotten just how punishing ballet points were on my poor feet – and how expensive. Training was my life for so many years, yet such a small break, and it felt as though I had never danced before.
A familiar face entered the doorway, “Hello, is this where the new dance studio is?”
I smiled fondly, “Tessalee, what are you doing here?”
“Daniella. I was happy to see the leaflet in my mailbox, told a few of my friends, they’re bringing their kids too.”
We embraced warmly, “thank you so much for coming.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
“This is Rachael Kraussman,” they shook hands, “she is the other teacher here.”
“Nice to meet you, and who are these two?” Rach bent down to eye level with the girls hiding behind Tessalee.
“These are my girls, Gera and Mila.”
“What beautiful princesses, ready to become elegant dancers?” Rachael asked, and they nodded.
Just as we were getting acquainted, in through the doors walked three other mums with their children. I guessed they were Tessalee’s friends because she hugged them and began chatting immediately.
So far, we had six girls and one boy in total, not bad. Our first class was due to start at 4 o’clock, it was already five past by the time Dad and Axel finally arrived.
“This is wonderful, your mother would be so proud of your courage.”
As I hugged my father, I felt a pang of sadness in my heart – she had always encouraged my dancing, and yet never got the opportunity to watch those years of unwavering dedication, play out in front of the big stage like we dreamed. It was daily reminders such as this that solidified the truth – I had been a terrible daughter, and she deserved so much better.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“C’ mon, now’s not the time. Filly was always proud of you and loved you no matter what. Now, what can I help with?” Dad had always called Mum his ‘filly’, the term of endearment still held firm despite her no longer being with us.
“You can keep those boys in line if you like?” We turned to see Marshall and Regan had already started throwing empty popcorn boxes at each other.
“Good idea,” he smiled warmly before striding off.
“I’m proud of you, Butterfly.”
Axel’s embrace filled me with excitement, his adoration had always been my weakness. “Thank you for being here.”
His lips pressed against my temple, “I will always be there for you. But it looks as though our Dad is attempting to add alcohol to the slushy’s – hey Dad…” Axel growled as he and Regan looked up with false innocence marring their mischievous faces. Those two were trouble, that’s for sure.
I glanced down at my watch for what felt like the millionth time, surely a free preview class with the promise of entertainment and munchies would have drawn more people? My heart sank as the minutes ticked by, and no other new participants appeared. I was trying to remain positive but found doubt creeping in.
“What do you want to do, Stella? It’s twenty past.”
“Rach, would it be okay if you instructed them right now, I have the heartbreaking feeling that the low numbers, are because of me.”
“Of course, but don’t think that Stella – you’re amazing.”
I tried to put on a brave face, she wasn’t capable of understanding how it felt. “Thank you, go – I’ll get the bar set up while you warm them.”
Rachael skipped off and took control as I internally battled with the devil conscience on my shoulder, cussing me out and convincing me that the lack of participation was my fault. I suspected this town could not see past the indiscretions of my youth, or the fact that I had simply fallen in love with Axe. I hoped that now knowing of the towns meeting and with time, they would have overlooked our history, but I guess my hope was in vain.
“Do you need a hand?” Axel interrupted with a sympathetic face.
I sighed, “sure, can you grab the other end, I’ll move it to the middle.”
We lifted the bar, moving it to the centre so Racheal could show the kids their positioning. “I can see your struggle Butterfly, this isn’t because of us or our relationship.”
I scoffed, “what possible explanation could there be Axel?”
“Maybe this town is not ready for a dance studio?”
“There was one in the past, remember? I believe I attended it.”
“Okay, but maybe…” His words were cut off by the arrival of screeching tires and slamming car doors. My brow furrowed, being late and rushing is one thing, but so many sounds filtering in from the parking lot, there was definitely something happening. Dad jumped to his feet and peered through the opening, his head snapped in our direction with a look of horror that spoke volumes, upon his face.
Axel brushed past me in a rush to see what had Dad captured so bizarrely, then he turned, pushing me away from the doors. My heartbeat picked up, and panic trickled through my system, “what, what is it? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just stay away from the entrance,” Axel warned with a stern mask – that’s when I heard it.
A chorus of voices punctured harshly through our silence.
…Inbreeds are not welcome here…
…Send them to hell…
…You deserve to die…
My stomach churned as dread washed over me, the screams of disapproval and judgement slammed into my heart without any resistance. The hard, poisonous words swirled around us as tears welled in my eyes, there was no mistaking it, they were here because of me.
“Block it out, I will deal with this,” Axel called for Marshall to hold me back as he and Dad stepped outside, closing the door, to confront the horde of protestors that had arrived. I ripped myself from Marshall’s clutches, I needed to see, I had to face it.
I stomped forward, my usually light footsteps now representing giant’s feet as each ascend bellowed heavily in my approach. I inhaled deeply, preparing myself for the worst and peered out through the glass sliding door.
What I gazed upon was something out of a movie, and no amount of breathing could have possibly readied me from the horrendous scenery. The large group were angry – furious.
Bile rose up the back of my throat, and I began to shake. A rush of pure fear flooded my body – it was high school senior year all over again.
My eyes burned at the sight of the insulting signs, the horrific slurs offensively smeared across the handheld posters of judgement and damnation. Tears poured from my eyes as I watched in disbelief. The congregation wanted blood – my blood – a town that could not, even after all these years, see me for the person I was.
~Inbreeds must die.
~Incest will not go unpunished.
~Whores are not welcome here.
~God will get you.
~Sinners attend R&D dance studio.
The rally of aggressive condemners shouted and swore, vicious accusations decreed as truth, and all pointed at my relationship with Axel. I stepped backwards, shaking profusely and grappling at my restricting chest as it collapsed in on itself. I was in a wind tunnel, the monstrous sound of air as it rushed around me, only amplified the moment it hit my eardrums.
Tessalee’s friends grabbed their children, marching them out of our studio and into the wall of blazing sound – I do not blame them for it.
The gathered mob accusers stood their ground, spearheaded by none other than Greta’s old offsider and high school best friend, Briar Charles, raging murderously at my father and Axel as they faced off against them.
“Block it out, Ballerina.” Marshall had my face in his hands as he forced me to focus on his words. “Block it all out, they hate us too because we are gay.”
But the past had come back to haunt me.
I had never really given Briar a moment’s thought, until this very second, her eyes flared with hatred – spurring on the horde with manipulating hateful lies. She had obviously become someone important within the church community and was guiding her flock of sheep with an iron fist of brutal judgement.
Trepidation and mortification swept over me as the tears of pain blurred my vision, there was not enough air entering my lungs as I wept. Why would someone do this to me? What had I done that was so horrendous to cause this kind of backlash and travesty?
The words penetrated the glass, the potency of their venom gathered, surrounding the room as alarm and shock crept out from the confines of my abused mind – my soul had not been rid of the haunting memory, and this display was the cold realisation bucket splashed in my face.
My existence was a sin.
An arm draped over my shoulders offering comfort, but it burned like acid, and I recoiled, ripping myself away. Everything that touched me would be destroyed.
“This is not you Daniella, this town is crazy,” Tessalee offered.
“No…” the ratty whisper escaped my strangled throat. “This is me, they believe we are wrong.”
“No, don’t listen to that. The town was warned years ago, there is no law against this – you two have done nothing wrong. You are not even actually related.”
But her attempted support fell by the waist side. I had been through enough trauma, enough false accusation, and this was just confirmation to me – no one would be able to accept that Axel and I were in love.
Heaving rapidly as my chest burned, I scrambled to the bathroom, slamming the door in the hopes to block out the hurtful accusations and blame. I fell to the floor as hate ravished my abused mind.
I don’t deserve to live.
Sobs of agony ripped from my throat as I drew my legs close to my chest, trying desperately to curl into the smallest ball I could.
I am worth nothing.
Flashbacks of the signs drenched my head, they viewed me as a sin, a blip in need of removing. Wave after powerful wave slammed into my chest as I trembled on the cold floor, the excruciating pain of being cast out and condemned was more than I could bear.
I should kill myself.
The world would be happy, it would. I have to leave, go, find somewhere away from here and away from this hurt – if I can’t be with Axel, then I should not exist at all. The sound of violence violated the door of the bathroom, it was like smoky tendrils seeping through, searching for me. I threw my head back as I howled in torturous torment, blinking furiously, trying to clear the tears that pooled in my eyes.
On the edge of the basin sat a lone razor and a can of shaving cream. It must have been Carls, I hadn’t noticed it was even there until now, and it appeared like a bright light through the haze of ravishing stings and stabbing struggles.
I reached up, gripping the small blue implement tightly and dislodged the blade from its frame.
They hate you, kill yourself.
A hard knock pounded against the wood, but I ignored it – I had to leave.
My hands drastically shook as I heaved and spluttered, this was my only way out, this was what I deserved – this, was the best outcome for everyone.
“I-I’m s-so s-sorry Axe, I-I’m sorry.”
His life would be better now, I would no longer drag him down, Rachael down – my father down. They would carry on without me, live extraordinary lives, shine bright, and not be burdened by the ugly sin that I am.
Do it, do it now.
There was another thunderous bang upon the door, but I refused to give it attention. I needed to do this, the earth was not meant for me. These people I loved would only be held back by my being alive.
I had fought against the cruelty for too long, and just when it seemed my chaos was ending, it was thrust into my face, reminding me all over again.
“Open the fucken door, Daniella.” Hard fists of fury beat against the door again, but once again, went unanswered.
They will be better off without you.
I raised the small silver blade to my wrist, holding the sharpened edge lengthways against my skin.
The voice in my head was right, I needed to die.
“Butterfly… open this door.”
Do it, no one wants you here.
“I’m so s-s sorry,” I whispered as the sobs of damnation flowed out.
I pushed down, piercing the soft flesh.