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I stretched my toes, perspiration on my skin. Small breaths left my mouth as I welcomed the delicious ache in my body. Ballet was my life; I couldn’t live without it. It was the air I breathed. Nothing gave me a sense of purpose as this classical dance form did. I let my calf muscles stretched while I performed a cooling down ritual. My body was tired and
exhausted but at the same time, exhilarated.
“And you can now rest,”
My instructor was a very experienced woman and a talented Ballerina of her time. She was one of the most sought after instructors and choreographers of the world and sat on the admissions board of Julliard. I remember performing in front of her. I was nervous, but I didn’t let it show on my face. I presented my most confident self. Mary, my instructor,
was thoroughly impressed. My routine was different, complex and refreshing. It was one of the most pivotal moments of my life.
When the time came for auditioning for the New York City Ballet company, Mary forwarded a glowing recommendation and I was selected on the spot. It wasn’t difficult because Mary was now our instructor here as well.
All the girls stood up, bowed and walked out of the rehearsal area.
Mary nodded at all of us and left the premises. I sighed and picked up my bag. As refreshing and nice it was to be back in New York, I still missed Seattle. More than Seattle, I missed my Ambrose. Ballet distracted me from him but not for long. The nights were especially tricky when even my sore muscles couldn’t keep my thoughts away from him.
I walked outside of the rehearsal area. Malcolm stood in a stoic position. His gaze didn’t reveal
anything, but I knew he was careful and alert. Ambrose had asked Malcolm personally to head my security team and act as a personal bodyguard. I didn’t want any of it; I wanted anonymity. Just lower my head and lead my life, but Ambrose was anything but subtle. He was over the top with everything. I felt the security to be slightly too much, but no one was asking for my opinions.
My Uncle too, had now jumped in. I had spotted a few fed agents lurking around here and there.
Malcolm opened the door of the car for me, and I quickly stepped in, trying to avoid attention. Malcolm sat beside me.
“I don’t want to say because like no one asked, but this is all a bit too much,” I whispered.
“You are right; no one asked. But to lend an opinion, this is less. We need more security.”
“Why? Did something happen?”
“Yes, I identified a few characters lurking around, trying to be anonymous. To someone else, they probably seemed normal people, but I can identify a spy from a mile. And I spotted at least two. They are Tsar’s men.”
“What if they belong to the Vasilakis or Valentine syndicate,”
“They don’t; Alexander had given me the intel of all the members.”
“So, are you going to inform Ambrose about this,”
“I already did,”
“Right. Why did I even ask?”
An uncomfortable silence settled in the car. Even the driver shifted in his seat. I looked down at my fingers, examining my nails. I had never grown them; they were always neatly clipped. I didn’t even really apply any nail polish. Ballet required its dancers to be neat and hygienic. I was mostly just clean-faced and applied
make-up only when going out or during a function.
“I think I should apologise,” I whispered.
“It must have been boring for you to just sit outside the rehearsal area,”
“I don’t find my job boring. Does Ballet ever get boring for you?”
“No, it can never be boring,”
“Same here. I like my job, and I do it with complete focus. Which is why I am successful at it,”
“I get it, thank you.”
Another uncomfortable silence followed.
“So,” I whispered. “What is it now?” “You and Alex,”
Malcolm rolled his eyes and turned to me.
“You know Malcolm, you are trying to act all unbothered and cool, but I know you want to be with him,” I stated, “I have seen lovesick Romeoslike you throughout my life. Do you think with this devil-may-care attitude you will be able to ditch your feelings? You can only deceive your feelings for so long, but they will catch up with you, Malcolm. I suggest you take some strong action because Alexander is a catch.”
Malcolm kept staring at me. He was impassive and looked bored.
“Malcolm! I said something, can you please respond,”
“My face is my response,” “Malcolm!”
“Alright, well, Alexander is a nice guy. And he is someone that I see in my future.”
My heart sighed, and I smiled at him, I blinked the tears away. Alexander would be ecstatic to know of this admission.
“But why didn’t you tell this to Alexander? You know he craves you,”
“I know he does. And it worries me. I don’t want him to have any feelings for me.”
“Because there is so much happening all around us. With Tsar around and Ambrose finally trying to mend things with family, I don’t want to deter from that path. I want to be focussed on these two things. With Alexander coming in my life, I am
putting both of us into danger. What if at the end of it all one of us dies? What about the other?”
“You cannot let uncertainty cloud your affection for Alexander,”
“This is not uncertainty, Bell. Tsar is a strong opponent. He already knows about you. I knew they were his men. Maybe tomorrow he will try attacking this establishment, I have to keep allthese possibilities in mind.”
I gulped and nodded, looking out of the window.
“Can you at least tell Alexander about this? He is hopeful,”
“No, I will not. And I suggest you keep this to yourself. It is better to have his hopes crushed than trapping him into false promises of an uncertain and undecided future.”
The conversation was over. Malcolm’s thoughts were final, and I knew I couldn’t speak much. I alsohad to respect his decision of not saying anything to Alexander just now. I will have to wait.
We arrived at my residence. It was a luxurious building in the Upper East Side and highly secure. Ambrose had begged me to reside in this location instead of the trendy studio in Brooklyn. I relented. He was as it is at his wit’s ends worrying about me and I didn’t want to pile on it.
The house was beautiful. With three lovely bedrooms and a fantastic terrace, I was indeed lucky. The apartment also had a beautiful fireplace, and it was the perfect place
to snuggle. I sat on a plush couch, watching the fire roar in front of me. My phone rang, and I picked it up.
“My beautiful Ballerina,”
I giggled. Ambrose always knew how to make me feel at ease. I sighed.
“It is always so good to hear your voice, Ambrose,”
“I know, and of course I miss your sweet voice too. I miss your warm body cuddled against mine, I miss seeing your face first thing in the
morning, and I miss our banters. I miss you so much, love.”
I sniffed and wiped a tear away. “When will you be here,”
“Soon, my Ballerina. But I am sending someone to you, and I am sure he will lessen the nostalgia just a tiny bit.”
“Who is it?”
Just then I felt someone licking my feet, and I looked down at happy Roofus. A squeal left my lips, and I hugged the adorable dog, he bounced
on the couch and placed his head on my lap, Roofus truly belonged there.
“Oh, Ambrose. I am so happy!” I cried, “thank you so much for sending Roofus here. I missed him somuch!”
“Anything to keep you happy, Malcolm informed how forlorn you were feeling. And you know how I feel when you are sad,”
“I do. Ambrose, this is the best gift ever. I don’t think we need you here,”
“Now, let’s not get too far!”
“Right, but this aside. How is everything going?”
“Things are progressing at a good speed, for now. Alexander has settled well with the family. We are now going to organise a meeting with all the syndicates.”
“Do you have all the evidence against Tsar?”
“Piling! The Wagner associates were helpful. They risked themselves to pass this information to me.”
“God bless them, but do you know where he maybe?”
“I know Tsar’s in the city, and he can be anywhere.” Ambrose sighed. “The city is a maze.”
“Do not worry; I am sure you will be able to find him.”
We didn’t speak anything for the next few moments. I was just listening to his breathing; it soothed my senses. Our silence was comfortable; I didn’t have to speak or talk to interact with him. We communicated still. Soon
my eyes started to droop, and a yawn escaped my lips.
“You are sleepy,” Ambrose stated.
“Today was exhausting,” I whispered.
“I don’t want you working too much,”
“I have just started, Ambrose. There is still a long way to go. I am enjoying each moment of this journey,”
“I love your sincerity and dedication towards your ambitions, Bell,”
“Thank you,” I shyly whispered.
“When all of this is over, my family and I, we will all attend a performance of yours. I want to show off the entire world your talents and capabilities. I want to show you off to the world, my sweet.”
“Oh, Ambrose. You are so sweet. I miss you so much,”
“And I miss you. I will be with you soon, just sit tight, my love.”
“I will, thank you,”
“I love you,”
“I love you too,” I whispered.
Ambrose didn’t linger and hung up. I knew he was missing me; the distance was hurting us. I wanted him to be with me, but he was not. I wiped my tears and walked to my bedroom.
The house was too big for only Malcolm and I. I felt all the more lonely just by the sheer size of it. I entered my room; Ambrose had designed it to my taste. Very feminine and girly. The room was in varying shades of spring colours. There was a
beautiful window that looked over the busy street down. It was all so fulfilling, and yet I felt unsatisfied because Ambrose wasn’t here with me.
Malcolm entered the room with a foldable mattress and a blanket in his hand. I looked at him with a raised brow.
“What is happening?” “I am sleeping here,” “What!”
“You heard me,”
“Loud and clear, but why are you sleeping here. The apartment has two other bedrooms that you can use, why mine?”
“My job is to protect you,”
“And I am not stopping you but isn’t this a little too much,”
“No, it is not. Someone might pass through the security systems and enter your room. I don’t want to take any chances. Like I said in the car, there are many possibilities, and one has to consider all of them.”
I let out a frustrated groan.
“Look, I understand I am overstepping boundaries here,” Malcolm said.
“But you can do whatever you want, and I will not judge you.”
“I don’t understand,”
“I know Ambrose is away and there might be things you would want to do to yourself, don’t hesitate on my behalf,”
My mouth dropped, and I threw a cushion at him. Malcolm expertly dodged it and laid his bedding down beneath the window. I jumped on the bed and quickly covered myself with the covers.