Chapter 21 ~ Reclaiming My Spirit
For days now I have pretended to be asleep, what is the point of living anymore? I love Axel, I do, but I just don’t see my value, my self-worth had taken a brutal hit when I faced the accusers and wall of hatred and judgement.
“I love you, Butterfly, don’t give up on me yet – I will never give up on you.”
His soft, warm lips pressed lightly against my forehead before Axe was gone, how did he always know what I was thinking? Guilt coursed through my veins, I shouldn’t shut him out, but I can’t help it, how much more punishment am I meant to endure?
I feel as though I’ve been fighting a war my entire life, soldering on against everyone who dared condemn me and my innocence. I have fought bravely and every time come off second best, hope is no longer my friend, and I have no strength left to surge ahead, to dispel the crucifixion aimed at me for merely being alive. It would be easier if I just slipped away in my sleep – no pain – no memory – no more heartache.
I could be free.
Last night Axe made me eat, I appreciate his kindness, his heart was always bigger than mine, but maybe he is better off without me in his life. Lord knows I am nothing special; he could find a woman worthy of his magnificence. I looked to my right and noticed the steaming hot plate of sausages, eggs and mushrooms – this time with a coffee and not juice. I adored how Axel changes it up, yesterday’s meal didn’t work so he thought I’d eat something different. It was not his cooking; it was that I feel like even food is too good for me.
My stomach growled ferociously as the aromatic deliciousness invaded my senses – damn my body for betraying me and screaming for sustenance. Today’s flower was a pink rose, my insides melted at the mere sight. I snatched a sausage, and the rose off the plate before slinking back under the covers once more. That man knew how to make me smile, even when I didn’t deserve it, vermin were meant to be vandalised, not encouraged.
During the day I slept some more, didn’t bother eating, but I managed to do more thinking, hell that’s all I ever did these days – I just couldn’t shake the anger and despair filled gorilla that had taken root upon my back. I didn’t deserve to live.
Extracting myself from the comforting and safe huddle, I shuffled into the bathroom – what I was greeted with, was beyond horrifying.
My hair was tattered and knotted, my brown eyes bland and lifeless, the outside of them swollen from the sad emptiness that washed through my soul continuously, and my skin was so bad, all dry and patchy, flaking around my chin and nose, even my teeth had started growing a forest of its own. Shit, I’m a mess.
“Urgh,” I cried out in disgust. “You let him see you like this? Gross.”
I needed to do something, yes I was feeling lost, a little sad and confused but shit, I had never looked this atrocious in my entire life, my hygiene standards had disappeared completely, packed up and vacated, volunteered for extended hiatus and left me sweltering in a cesspool of body odour and bad breath. Deciding it was time to forfeit the self-inflicted lack of cleanliness and have a damn shower; I spun the handles, disrobed and stepped in.
There is something magical that happens when water makes contact with your flesh, invigorating and replenishing to both body and mind. I washed, groomed and exfoliated every bit of tainted skin I could before feeling somewhat human and exiting, finally dressing in a new shirt of Axels and some booty shorts. While I was on a role, changing the linen was a must, the pungent smell of my exhaustion hibernation was beginning to soil the sheets. Depression fucks everything up.
I removed the dishes from the bedroom, tidied it up in general – after all, Axe loved ‘hospital-grade clean’, always had been a neat freak, then I wandered the vast emptiness of Axel’s penthouse. The darkness of the stormy outside mirrored the hurricane inside my chest, the raindrops that fell upon the windows, replicated the tears my soul continuously cried. I felt as though the weather lived within me – we connected on a deeper level.
My fingertips trailed the outline of the expensive material possessions, Axel had accumulated over the years, more money value sat inside this apartment then I had seen in my life, but as I meandered slowly down the hall, my feet planted in front of the door Axel was inside of last night – my at-home ballet studio.
He had kept his promise, after all these years, after everything we’d suffered through – Axel had retained his vow. My heart clenched painfully knowing how much we had been tortured.
Pushing open the door and flicking on the light, I drifted casually inside. Everything I had asked for filling the room, sometimes Axel blew my mind at what his heart was capable of.
The portable barre sat in the middle of the room and naturally, my hand reached out, grasping the rail firmly as I stared at myself in the mirror – my whole self, every inch on display. My body had thinned even more than before, I guess stress had further weakened me, but what appeared instantly, was my feet. They naturally rested in the correct positioning after years of being told to ‘turn out my feet’, ballet was something I had to work hard at, hone every day. Perfection did not come easily or naturally.
I smiled fondly of the memory as my feet maneuvered on their own.
“First position… second… third…”
“Daniella, straighten that posture and turn out those feet.”
“Yes, Miss MacKaye.”
I adored my dance instructor; she was tall and elegant – her lines and extensions both graceful and regal, she floated as one with the air.
“Again. You must always begin at the barre Daniella; the barre knows you and any problem in life can be faced with going back to the start. Now, first position… second… third…”
The footwork I had memorised and could do in my sleep, but this is what you did to warm up, it prepared you for the performance. Forth position and fifth position – yes.
“You are gifted, but that does not mean you are allowed to be slack or sloppy. Hone those skills, Daniella, show the world what you are made of, how strong you are inside. The fire and passion will carry you through your life, how badly do you want to be THE prima ballerina, Daniella?”
“So badly, Miss MacKaye.”
“Then show me, make me believe you are hungry enough for this. Prove to me you have what it takes. No matter how hard I push you, no matter how much it hurts – I know what you are capable of – I can see it in your eyes.”
“I will show you,” I growled.
“Extend that leg, point that toe – you need to give me more, you can always do better.”
And I did. I pushed harder, and my lines were straight, my head held high, the positioning of my entire body remained in perfect structure despite the sweat gathering across the surface of my skin.
“Rise, Daniella, the rail will support you, trust in the strength of your legs.”
My toes pressed firmly into the blocks as I rose to the tips, holding steady with every change in my footwork, I was ready, I yearned to be the best, even if it meant punishing my body beyond its physical limits.
“Beautiful Arabesque, and hold it, choose your spot on the far wall and concentrate.”
Miss MacKaye’s tone filtered through my ears, every rise, every dip in her delivery, as clear as the first time I heard it, the voice that filled my dreams.
Suddenly, my knee buckled and I fell to the ground, heaving for breath and disappointed by my inability to stay in perfect formation.
“Why c-can’t I-I d-do it? B-Be Perfect?” I sobbed.
Miss MacKaye appeared in front of me, squatting to my level with her hands on my shoulders. “Look at me, Daniella.” My saddened eyes locked upon her fierce grey ones, “perfection is unreachable, what you deem as perfect may not be what someone else’s definition is, all you can be, is better than you were the day before. You will fall many times in your life, not just in ballet but emotionally. How you rise after your fall will determine the outcome of your situation. You are only eleven years old, and you have more talent in your little finger than some of the most famous principal dancers in the world. Whenever you are lost, and struggling to find your place in life, you need to return here…” My instructor slapped the barre harshly with the palm of her hand. “Here, you will always find your way; the barre is where the answer lies. This is your home, and this is where you begin again. Now are you going to pick yourself up and show me what you’re made of, or are you going to sob on the floor?”
I heaved and spluttered as the memory faded from my mind’s eye. She was right, I never understood it at the time, but now, as I cried upon the floor, in the middle of the room that Axel had created for me, I finally understood the meaning of her words. I needed to pick myself up.
Self-pity time was over; I had to return to the beginning – to my home.
I jumped up from the ground and rushed out of my dance studio, grabbing my phone from the bedside table and connecting it to the Bluetooth speakers, stripping my clothes and rummaging through the pile of my belongings hidden in Axel’s wardrobe.
I found a leotard, tights, and ballet flats, tied my hair into a messy bun and then cracked my neck before returning to the middle of the ballet room and pressed play on my phone. Fifth Harmony’s – That’s my girl blew through the speakers as I began my stretches, working through those muscles that had been stagnant and useless for well over a week – it was time for me to claim myself. I had been knocked down yes, but was I beaten? No way in hell.
It was going to hurt, and my heart and body will protest, but I was more determined than ever – this is what inspired me, dance is what made me truly happy, and it was my moment to shine like the damn fierce boss bitch I am.
“I am enough, I am loved by some of the most incredible people I have ever met, and for me, that is all that matters.”
It was an affirmation, a sacred vow to my soul. I was going to rise above this and continue to grow stronger and be better than I was the day before – because... I. Am. Enough.
My body ached, protested and wobbled, perspiration dripped from my being, but I couldn’t stop – I couldn’t give in now. The company Rachael and I danced with, had let me go because I could not and would not conform to traditional ballet etiquette, while my steps were technically correct, my music choices were despised. I was out of the box and causing upheaval within the ranks of prim and proper. Once my music started, I was a machine, synchronisation of contemporary, ballet and melody, all left of centre but in perfect alignment. Comin’ For You by Brenne (Tim Halperin) bleared through the room as I twirled about, flowing with the music, allowing it to set my soul on fire – empowering me with every orchestrated movement.
Just as I split jumped mid-air, the tunes cut.
“Well this is a surprise,” Axel leaned against the entranceway with the cheesiest grin upon his handsome face.
“Fuck, how long have you been there?”
“Long enough to be transfixed. You’re dancing? In here?” He questions with more surprise than anything.
“How rude of me to force you into building me this room and leave it unused for so many years.”
“You looked incredible – free.”
“Oh, Axe, dancing makes me happy. I guess I forgot that.”
“Well in that case…”
“Chinese?” I cut in.
“Out or in?”
“In, I’ve been at this for hours, I probably stink.”
Axel stepped forward, eyes blazing with heated fire as he stalked slowly, predatorily. I had to swallow the nervous excitement that flooded my insides. “I’ve never seen you move like that Butterfly, so much passion.”
His lips melded with mine as our mouths moved as one, tongues entwining, grazing softly against one another’s as he lifted me and I wrapped my legs around his waist, grinding against him as he pushed us against the wall. “Ooh Axel,” I moaned as he trailed a line of sensual caresses along my jawline and down my neck.
“Food can wait,” he grunted, “I’m suddenly famished for what’s between your legs.”