14 years ago
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I stood among rows of girls waiting. Waiting to hear if all our hard work was going to pay off. Today, I was going to hear if I got into one of the best ballet schools in the country. If I get this, I would be one step closer to performing in the National Ballet.
“Alright, if I call your name, please come forward. You’ve made the cut.” Madame Giselle the headmistress said in her thick French accent. Her intimidating gaze trained on the list in front of her. I tried to hold my back straight and proper, emulating her posture. She was everything we all dreamed to be. She was the prima ballerina of the National Ballet and now headmistress of the most prestigious ballet school in the country. I just prayed that my name was on that list.
“Poole, Ariel.” She called out. I couldn’t believe it. She said my name! I held my composure and walked towards the front of the room. I looked at the other girls who all had huge smiles on their faces.
I watched in surprise as Madame Giselle put down the clipboard after she said my name. There were only ten of us standing in the front of the room while thirty stood behind us. “The rest of you are dismissed. Successful candidates, please remain to receive your entrance materials.”
I did my best to contain my joy. I looked to my left to see the girls who would soon become my classmates. All of them were trying to contain their joy. Ballerinas should be calm, cool and professional. Just a few excited smiles were passed around.
When the door closed behind the final failed applicant Madame Giselle addressed us, “Girls, I am very proud of your hard work and dedication so far. Just know this is not the end. It’s the beginning. Before you accept your offers you must know that here we eat, breathe, and live ballet. It is why we have had more ballerinas in the National Ballet than any other school. If you are not prepared for that, tell me now.”
No one said a word. Everyone who applied knows that it will be a hard road in front of us but I know I am ready for it. I am going to be a prima ballerina if it is the last thing I do. “Then welcome. I look forward to seeing you in September. Have a good summer and keep up your training.”
We all lined up, taking our booklets. Madame Giselle looked at me with a smile, “Miss. Poole. I was very impressed by your audition. Keep up the hard work and you could be something.”
“Thank you, Madame Giselle.” I took the booklet from her. I did my best to hold in my glee. I grabbed my bag leaving the school.
Outside, my dad was waiting for me. His entire face smiling, his salt and pepper hair was getting too long again and flopped in front of his eyes. He pulled off his sunglasses pushing his hair back. Our matching bright blue eyes met, his filled with hope.
“So, how did it go?” He asked.
“I did it! I got in!” I jumped in his arms and he squeezed me tight.
“That’s my girl!” He has been extremely supportive of my dreams. Part of my knew it was because he knew it would keep me out of trouble and away from guys but I was cool with that. He meant well in the end, “Alright, we have to celebrate. We’ll go out of dinner. Anything you like.”
“I was going to go to Finn’s house to study,” I said. In reality, we were going to hang out. Finn was my dad’s favourite friend of mine. I think part of it was because my dad thought he was gay and the other part was because he was a total goody-two-shoes.
“You already work hard enough. Once night off won’t kill you.”
“Come on, Dad, I need to finish this year with good grades. If I don’t then I lose my place in the academy.”
“You work too hard, but we will celebrate tomorrow then. No excuses.”
So, the two of us drove home. When we got there I went straight to my room. I pulled my long red hair out of its tight bun. I brushed out my hair luxuriating in the freedom of letting it go wild. I changed out of my dance clothes, putting on a pair of jeans, a tank top and an oversized sweater. I brushed out my hair before packing up my school bag. I had to make it look like I was going to study.
“Bye Dad!” I called as I took the stairs two at a time trying to escape the house before my Dad could catch me. However, I am never that lucky.
“Wait a minute Jelly Bean!” I stifled the groan that wanted to pass my lips every time I heard my dad’s nickname for me. Instead, I turned around with a smile on my face.
“What is it?” I asked feigning innocence.
“It’s just going to be you and Finn tonight, right?” He asked.
“I want you to call me when you get there and be back by ten.”
“I know Dad.”
“And wear your helmet.”
“Of course Dad.”
“Alright have fun Jelly Bean.” He said and I smiled knowing I had passed his little tests.
“I will!” I grabbed my bike helmet and bike and headed out. I peddled my way to Finn’s. It was a nice ride. It was in that perfect in-between distance where it was too far to walk but not so far that my dad needed to drive me. It meant that I got ten minutes of blessed aloneness.
I pulled up in front of Finn’s house and tucked my bike on the side of the porch. I ran up to the front door. I rang the bell and waited for the door to open.
Finn’s mom Helen opened the door. She was a kindergarten teacher and had the cheery, always happy teacher face down pat. “Oh hello, Ariel! How did the audition go?”
“Amazing! I made it in. My dad and I are going to celebrate so I wanted to see if Finn wanted to come.” I said. Yes, I’m lying to my dad and Finn’s mom but I needed to cut loose every once in a while. I’m thirteen, a straight-A student and a competitive ballerina. Every once in awhile, I wanted to have some fun and Finn was the perfect person to drag along kicking and screaming.
“That’s wonderful! I’ll go get Finn.” Helen said turning away.
It wasn’t long until Finn came running around the corner like an excited puppy. He was a little cubby with blonde hair but had this genuine love and trust for everyone. He was the best friend a girl could ask for, “Ariel! Did you get in?”
“Yes!” I said jumping on the spot. What can I say? His energy is infectious.
“Yay!” He cheered wrapping me up in a big hug. I laughed as he rocked back and forth.
“Come on, grab your bike. We’re celebrating.”
“Coming!” He jogged back to grab his stuff before coming back out clipping on his helmet. The two of us left to grab our bikes. “So, where’s your dad taking us?”
“Nowhere. We’re going to our spot.”
“Let me guess, your dad thinks we’re working on a project?” Finn asked. Maybe I’m getting a bit too predictable.
“No, we’re studying.”
“Ariel.” He groaned. Total goody-two-shoes moment coming in 3. 2. 1. “Seriously? If he catches us we’re both going to be in so much trouble! He’s going to ground you and then he’s going to tell my mom and then-”
“That reminds me. I need to call my dad.” I cut him off. He could go off all night on why this was a bad idea but I knew that having my dad on the line would shut him up. I called my dad and gave him reassurance that I was safe. I hung up the phone to look at Finn who was straddling his bike looking at me with disappointment on his face.
“What happens if we get hurt? No one is going to know where we are.” Finn said.
“Grow up Finn. It’ll be fun. You need to stop worrying about everything.” I started biking.
I heard him grumble something about ‘stupid’ and ‘trouble’ but he did follow me. He may be a nervous wreck sometimes but he would follow me anywhere.
The two of us rode to the one local burger joint before going straight to the waterfront. We had the perfect place on the cliffs where we hung out and almost no one else ever goes to.
“I don’t know how you always talk me into doing stuff like this. We’re going to be in so much trouble when our parents find out.” Finn said taking a bite of his burger.
“IF they find out. Stop worrying. We deserve to goof off every once in a while.”
The two of us sat side by side looking out over the water. It is the best part about living in the countryside. You get to find places that are practically empty that are truly special like this.
“I’m going to miss this,” Finn said.
I looked at him in surprise. His face was downturned. Sadness was painted across his face. I was confused. We’re celebrating. It’s a happy time, “What are you talking about?”
“You got into a fancy private school in the city. You’re going to move there and I’m going to be stuck in the boonies. We won’t see each other anymore.” He said.
“That doesn’t mean that things are going to change. The two of us are going to be friends forever.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. I need you to keep me grounded. If I’m going to the big city, I’m going to need someone to tell me that I shouldn’t do reckless things.”
Finn looked at me with a sad smile, “And I’m going to need someone to get me in a little bit of trouble.”
I wrapped my arm around him glad that I had my tiny little sidekick. We sat there quietly just watching the waves as they passed. A lone kayaker travelling over the waves was our own little distraction.
“So, what are you looking forward to most about high school?” Finn asked.
“I’m just ready to have classmates that actually get me. Here, I just have you, but there, I will be with people who all love ballet just as much as I do.” I looked out at the kayaker just imagining how wonderful it would be. I’ve always been different from the other girls in my grade. All they want to do was talk about boys and gossip. I just loved watching ballets. The way the women moved across the stage was just magical.
“Yeah, hopefully, I can finally meet some friends who get me. I do not get the people in our grade.” Finn said and I laughed.
“Me either. Like what is everyone’s obsession with dating? I just don’t get it. The guys in our grade aren’t even attractive.” I said shuddering at the idea of dating one of the trolls they called a thirteen-year-old boy.
“That’s your opinion. You’re a bit of a snob sometimes.”
“I am not!” I said slapping him in the arm.
“Please, you’re a ballerina, a fussy eater and a music snob.”
“I’m a fussy eater because I’m a ballerina. We are elite athletes and have to be very particular about what we eat.”
“You’re eating a burger.” I looked down at the burger in my hands.
“It’s a cheat day.” We both broke out in laughter. I stole a fry from him and sat back when I noticed a wave hit the kayaker. They must have been blindsided because they were thrown from the kayak. I immediately perked up waiting for them to surface.
“Holy shit!” I yelled.
“The kayaker. They were thrown. I think they’re hurt.” I got up, my eyes were glued to the water praying they would surface. I pulled off my sweater and pulled off my shoes.
“What are you doing?” Finn asked.
I pushed off my jeans putting it in the pile of clothing so I was left in just my pair of cotton panties and a tank top. I took a few steps back and stared down the edge of the cliff. It wasn’t that far down. I can do this.