Bad For You

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20

Swan Lake.

This year we would be performing Swan Lake for the winter ballet.

The audition sheet is posted outside after class and students scramble to sign up. I hang back and wait for the crowd to disperse before slowly approaching, scanning the list. My eyes widen in surprise.

The lead role has been split this year. Instead of one person playing both Odette and Odile, it'll be two people.

This year we're allowed to audition for two roles. I'm not surprised that Lucy and Noelle signed up for both Odette and Odile. I really don't think either one embodies Odette though. However they're both wicked like Odile, so that role would suit them much better. With a sigh, I scribble my name under Odette, then reluctantly under Odile too. I knew I was going to have to compete with them for the lead role, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept. It just meant more petty drama ahead.

A pair of arms slide around my waist and pull me back against them. I smile as Theo presses a kiss to my cheek. "Hey."

"Hi," I turn my head slightly to kiss him.

"You weren't at your locker. What's up?"

I nod toward the audition sheet. "Just signing up for the winter ballet. It's Swan Lake this year," I can't help but frown and Theo notices.

"Not a fan?"

"It's not that it's just..." I sigh. "They split the lead role this year. Which sounds great in retrospect but that just means more competition."

Theo furrows his brow. "Remind me who's the lead again?"

"Odette and Odile. But it's usually played by one person. This year it'll be two people dancing."

"Okay...so what's the problem?"

"I have to sign up for the lead because of my mom but Noelle and Lucy also signed up...which means I have to go up against them."

"Ohhh," understanding dawns on Theo's face. "You're worried you won't get the part?"

"No. I'm worried I will."

Theo furrows his brows. "Wait, now I'm confused. That just means you're the better dancer. Isn't that a good thing?"

"I mean yeah, but it also makes me enemy number one. Remember how you made that joke about ballet being a competitive sport? You weren't that far off..."

"That's...wow," Theo shakes his head. "I had no idea being good at something could actually turn out to be bad thing," he looks thoughtful. "If you don't want to stir the pot why don't you just sabotage your audition?"

I smile sadly. "I can't. My mom will know I fucked up on purpose."

And I don't even want to think about what will happen if I don't get one of the lead roles.

My stomach twists in anxiety and I move away from Theo. So much is riding on this year, and now that Juilliard is out of the picture I need to land a spot in a ballet company after graduation or else my life will be over. I won't be able to dance and then my mother will disown me and I have no other talents or skills-

"Hey," Theo snaps me from my frazzled thoughts. "Breathe. It's okay." I don't even realize I was starting to hyperventilate which makes me panic more. Theo wraps an arm around me and I hold him tightly, taking deep lungfuls of air.

"It's okay, you're okay," he murmurs repeatedly. "Just breathe."

I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, inhaling Theo's scent. It's a mixture of something woodsy and fresh. Eventually I calm down, my breathing returning to normal. I exhale and pull back to look up at Theo.

"Remember that night you called me and I was having a panic attack?"

Theo brushes his thumb across my cheek. "Yeah."

"It was because my mom doesn't want me to apply for Juilliard anymore. She wants me to join a ballet company right after graduation."

"What?" They frowns. "Why?"

"Juilliard was just supposed to be a stepping stone to pave the way for me to join a company. But now she's convinced that I need to join right away or else I won't be able to get a job," I try to tamp down how much this is stressing me out, but my voice shakes. "I'm not ready for that though. I just need more time and everything is happening so fast-"

"No, fuck that," Theo says vehemently. "Fuck. That. Your mom does not get to control your life. If you're not ready to join a ballet company straight away, you should still apply to Juilliard. You should have options. It's not too late."

The thought of going against my mother terrifies me to my core. It's one thing wanting more freedom to do things, but when it comes to my ballet that's always been non-negotiable. She had a clear path that she expected me to follow and to deviate from the path would be unforgivable in her eyes. But I was afraid that if I stayed the path I was on now, there would be nothing left of me in the future.

"It's your life Rose," Theo says softly. "Don't let her take that away from you."

My life. It's my life.

And ultimately it's up to me to decide what to do with it.

___

I mull over Theo's words for the rest of the day, turning them over and over in my mind and trying to decide what I want to do next. After dinner I shut the door to my room and boot up my laptop, pulling up Google. I slide my finger across the touchpad, moving the arrow to click the search engine. My fingers hover the keyboard

It's your life. Don't let her take that away from you.

I type in 'Juilliard dance program' and hit search.

A million search results pop up but I click the first one, the official dance page on the Juilliard website.

Dance, as an art form, reaches across centuries and cultures. At Juilliard, you will be encouraged to become a versatile and nuanced performer through the exploration of ballet, modern and contemporary techniques. You will learn the history and works from the past that continue to inform today's dance makers, and you will be challenged to create with celebrated choreographers. Through its classes, performances, and compositional opportunities, Juilliard fosters and empowers the next generation of exceptional artists and creative voices in the dance world.

I read through the entire page and even watch the video before clicking on the 'learn more' section under the bachelor of fine arts.

In our 4-year dance program – leading to a bachelor of fine arts degree – students learn the great traditions of both past and present. Juilliard develops artists who are trained in ballet, modern, and contemporary dance techniques. Juilliard dancers enjoy unparalleled opportunities to work with today's leading choreographers and perform both new work and existing repertory. In addition to a high caliber of technical training and performance opportunities, dancers will learn about the craft of choreography and immerse themselves in other facets of the field. Located at Lincoln Center in New York City – the arts capital of the nation – Juilliard prepares dancers for all the possibilities that lie ahead.

My heart leaps in my chest and my hand trembles as I navigate to the application page, looking over all the requirements.

Eligibility
In order to be admitted as a Bachelor of Fine Arts student, you must:

•Possess a high school diploma or its equivalent by the time you enroll
•Have a minimum of three years of prior training in ballet and modern or contemporary dance
•Currently be training for a minimum of 10 hours per week
•Reach the age of 16 by the time you matriculate at Juilliard

If you apply to this degree program and are denied admission, you may apply again. After two unsuccessful attempts, you are no longer eligible to apply.


As I read over the information, I realize I don't have a lot of time to submit all the required application material before the December first deadline. If I'm seriously going to do this, I need to work fast. There's so much to do and it feels like not enough time, I start to become overwhelmed. Is it even worth it? What if it's all for nothing and I don't even get in?

What's worse: trying and getting rejected or not trying at all?

I end up creating an account and starting the application process, but I don't get very far before there's a knock on my door. I shut my laptop so fast I wouldn't be surprised if the screen cracked.

"Come in!" I squeak, then clear my throat.

My mother opens the door. "Just wanted to check on you," she smiles. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing! I mean, nothing. Just doing my homework," I start to sweat, wondering if she could somehow read my mind or something. My mother steps further into the room, looking around. I shift nervously in my seat.

"Any news on the winter ballet?"

I relax, but barely. "Uh yeah. It's Swan Lake. They posted the audition sheet today."

"How exciting!" My mother grins. "I remember dancing in Swan Lake when I was your age. It was one of my favorite ballets. There's so much you can do with the choreography."

I force a smile. "Yeah, it's great."

"So what role did you sign up to audition for?" She asks casually.

"Well um, they split the lead this year. Odette and Odile will be played separately."

My mother frowns. "Oh. Well I hope you signed up for Odette. She's the prettier one."

"Of course," I start to pick at my nails. "But um, this year they allowed us to sign up for two roles. So I'm also going to audition for Odile. You know, just in case I don't get Odette."

"You will," my mother says firmly. "You have to be more confident."

"But what if I don't?" For some reason I'm pressing the issue, even though my brain is warning me to stop. "What's wrong with Odile? She's an important character too, and if the lead hadn't been split I'd be playing both." If I landed the lead in the first place.

But I don't add that part.

My mother narrows her eyes, then all of a sudden her face brightens. "Actually you're right."

My eyes widen in shock. "I am?"

"Of course honey. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Odile. In fact, if you got the part it would just show your diversity," she beams. "Either role is great."

I let out a breath of relief. "Yeah, I think so too."

"Well I'll let you get back to your homework," she smiles at me one last time before shutting the door to my room. As soon as she's gone the tension leaves my body. Argument avoided.

I re-open my laptop, but instead of continuing my Juilliard application I save it before exiting out and going to YouTube to search up old Swan Lake performances.

For research purposes.

___

I'm washing my hands in the bathroom the next day when the door swings open and Phoebe walks in. Instantly the air becomes awkward and I hurry to dry my hands while she stands there and watches me. I do my best to ignore her and just as I'm about to leave she speaks.

"You don't deserve him."

I stop in my tracks and slowly turn to face her. "Excuse me?"

Phoebe lifts her chin. "I said you don't deserve him. Theo."

Dear God why? Why am I always being cornered and attacked? I'm a good person. I always try to be nice to everyone, even if I don't like them. I give money to the homeless and I mind my own business. So why are people constantly harassing me?

I sigh. "Phoebe do we really have to do this-"

"Yes, we do," she cuts me off sharply. "You think you can just swoop in out of nowhere and steal Theo away from me?"

"I didn't steal anyone. Theo is a person, not an object."

Phoebe scoffs. "Please. Don't try and act so high and mighty. I've known Theo for way longer than you have. I know what he's been through. I was there for him. We, his friends, were there for him. You weren't."

Taking a deep breath, I pray for patience before responding. "What does that have to do with me?"

"It has everything to do with you!" She yells. "I liked him first! I've always liked him!"

"Well it's not my fault he doesn't like you back!" I shout. "So get over it!"

Phoebe takes a threatening step toward me, and for a moment I worry she might attack me or something. The last thing I need right now is to get into a physical altercation in the restroom. I don't even know how to fight and she definitely looks stronger than me. We're not even in the same weight class.

But then Phoebe stops and sneers at me. "You know what? You're not even worth it. This thing with you and Theo won't last. He'll realize you're not worth it and dump you."

I know I should just take this opportunity and leave, but I can't help sneaking in one last jab. "Even if he does break up with me, he'll never date you."

Phoebe's eyes flash and I hurry out of the restroom before she does something crazy, like bash my head against the sink. I know I should tell someone about what just happened, but Phoebe could deny it, and it would just cause more problems. Plus her words keep repeating themselves in my head no matter how much I try to shove them out.

This thing with you and Theo won't last. He'll realize you're not worth it and dump you.

Of course she would bring up one of my biggest fears and jam it right into my chest. Theo wouldn't do that. I know he wouldn't, but that doesn't stop me from driving myself crazy from the possibility that he might. I pull out my phone to text him. This is my free period and I know he's still in class, but I need to see him.

Me: can you get out of class?

Theo: yeah. why? what's wrong? did something happen?


Me: i just need to see you. meet me by library

I pace outside the library anxiously waiting for Theo until I finally see him coming down the hall. "Hey," he says, sounding slightly out of breath. "I got here as soon as I could. What's wrong?"

I shake my head, feeling a tad guilty I made him rush out of class and worry so much. "Nothing. I just wanted to see you." And prove that Phoebe is wrong.

Theo doesn't look convinced. "Really?"

"Yes," I look around before quickly pulling him into a nearby storage closet, locking the door.

"Okay, now I'm a little freaked out," he jokes. "Are we having a secret meeting or something?"

"How soon do you have to get back to class?" I ask, trailing my hands up his chest suggestively.

Theo smirks. "That depends on what you have in mind."

I reach down to palm him through his jeans and he exhales sharply. "You know if we get caught we could get expelled," he says, but doesn't make any move to try and stop me.

"Then we can't get caught, can we?" I smile mischievously.

"Damn. I think I corrupted you," Theo whispers against my lips and I giggle before he kisses me. His fingers deftly un-button and unzip my pants before slipping underneath. My heart is pounding erratically and I feel lightheaded for two reasons. One, because we're totally violating school rules and two, I'm getting a major adrenaline rush from doing so. When his fingers slip into my wet core I moan and Theo bites my lip.

"Shhhhh," he murmurs.

"How can you expect me to be quiet-" my sentence is cut off when he begins to move his fingers, rubbing and teasing. Instead of finishing what I was going to say my lips fall open in a silent moan and my eyes flutter shut. Theo smiles against my mouth. I fist his shirt as we continue kissing, his lips moving to my neck. My mind becomes clouded with him, his touch, his presence.

Suddenly Theo withdraws his fingers out and lifts me up. I automatically wrap my legs around him and we stumble back into the wall. Something crashes to the floor and we both laugh before I grab his face to kiss him again, our movements becoming frantic. I need him now. Theo unzips his pants and frees himself. Just as he starts to push inside he stops.

"Shit," he curses.

"What?" I pant.

"Condom."

"We don't need a condom," I remind him. "I got the implant remember?"

"Are you sure?" Theo's eyes search mine.

I nod feverishly, pressing my lips to his in an open mouthed kiss while grinding against him in encouragement. Theo groans into my mouth and in one fluid motion, slips inside me. I twist my arms around his neck and bury my face in his neck to stifle my moans. Without the barrier of latex between us everything feels so different. Raw. I can feel him pulsing inside me. Theo hoists me up and I thread my fingers in his hair as he fucks me hard and fast. I have to cover my mouth to keep from crying out.

When I come I swear I see stars for a moment. An entire galaxy. Swirling, spinning, bright stars. My body shudders as Theo slows down, then stops altogether, squeezing my thighs tightly as he climaxes. For a minute we don't even move, both of us breathing hard.

"Holy shit," he says hoarsely. "Fuck." His fingers grip my chin to kiss me again, his tongue teasing mine and stirring my arousal again. Finally we pull back for air and honestly I'm a little dazed. When Theo sets me down my knees almost give out and I have to grab his arm to steady myself. We adjust our clothes and fix ourselves as best as we can.

"Do you think your teacher will be mad at you for being gone for so long?" I ask. Now that I'm clear headed and the sex fog has left I'm worried Theo will get in trouble.

"Who cares?" Theo grins. "Totally worth it."

___


"Damn babe I thought maybe you died in the bathroom or something," Hannah says when I finally return to the library. "What happened? Were you doing a number two?"

"No, Phoebe ambushed me," I plop down in my seat next to her. "I thought she was going to beat me up."

"What? You should have texted me!" Hannah's eyes narrow. "Wait. If you almost got beat up why are you all flushed and breathless?"

I smile, then lower my voice. "Theo and I just had sex in the storage closet."

"No way! Get out!" Hannah shrieks and I shush her, slapping my hand over her mouth. When I'm sure she's calmed down I uncover her mouth.

"Seriously? I can't tell you anything without you nearly alerting everyone within a five mile radius"

"I'm sorry okay!" Hannah whisper yells. "How the hell did you go from almost getting in a fight to getting fucked?"

I shrug casually like it's no big deal. "I just texted Theo if he could get out of class after I left the bathroom." I conveniently leave out the part that it was fueled by the insecurity Phoebe instilled in me with her words.

Doesn't sound as hot when you add that part in.

Hannah shakes her head at me. "Damn girl. Estás viviendo la vida."

"What?"

"It means you're living life in Spanish."

"Not really."

"Yes really. Admit it. Your life was so boring before this year. So was mine honestly. Now you're almost getting beat up in bathrooms and fucked in closets. Total one-eighty."

I laugh. "True, but I'd be happier without the fights and drama."

"Nah, then it'd be boring. The drama adds a little razzle dazzle."

"That's because you're not in the drama."

Hannah smiles cheekily. "There's only two types of people in the world. The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe."

"Did you just quote Britney Spears?" I raise a brow.

"Yes but did I lie?"

I roll my eyes. "You're ridiculous. Actually that reminds me, you still need to tell me about your latest Tinder date."

"Oh my gosh it was horrible," Hannah frowns remembering. "He was so cute, but he could not chew with his mouth closed. Actually, he just had no table manners in general. He spit chewed up broccoli in my face."

I wrinkle my nose. "Ew."

"I told him I had to go to the bathroom, then I booked it."

"That's horrible. He probably felt so bad."

"Yeah and so did my face. And my stomach, because watching him eat made me feel sick."

I shake my head and open my laptop. Hannah glances at the screen where I'm working on my Juilliard application.

"How's the application process going?" She asks. "And why did you wait so long to start anyway?"

I hadn't told Hannah about my mother's change of plans. I'm not sure why. Maybe because at the time admitting it out loud would have made it feel real. Now I'm determined to go to Juilliard even if I'm scared shitless of what my mother will say or do.

I shrug. "Nerves I guess."

"Well I'm glad you didn't wait too long. We both have to get in no matter what, so we can move out of this crappy town into the big apple. I've even been practicing my New York accent," Hannah clears her throat. "Aye! I'm walking ere'!"

I laugh. "You're already on your way to becoming a true New Yorker."

Hannah grins. "See. Whada tell ya?"

We both dissolve into quiet laughter so we don't get in trouble by the librarian. "Seriously though, do you think I'll still be able to submit my application on time?"

"Definitely," Hannah reassures me. "You just have to work your butt off."

"Okay," I square my shoulders, preparing to do just that.

___



odette or odile? 🦢

xoxo, g💓
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