Dancing into Trouble

August 17, 2008
“I’m leaving!” Bridget yelled as she flew out the front door.

“Stop, you just got home, you can’t possibly have to leave already!” Her mom yelled back, leaving the kitchen sink running onto the lettuce she was washing to catch Bridget at the front door. But she was already gone.

Bridget walked down the cracked sidewalk on her long legs. Her green flip-flops made a steady whack, whack, whack as they snapped to her foot after each step, and her mind created music to this beat. She felt the imaginary tune flow throughout her body like water, reaching to the tips of her fing ers and the ends of her toes. Walking to this beat, Bridget’s black dance bag smacked against the side of her body as she thought about the classes she had tonight.
Absorbed in her exhilaration, she was ignorant to anyone she passed. There were even some kids from her class at school that were still slowly walking home. A pack of guys, all wearing skater shoes and baggy shorts, swaggered past. They were talking about today’s biggest test. “Meyers test today was ridiculous! Why do I care how to say “to beat with a stick” in Spanish?” They ignored her, not even glancing in the direction of her pale face.

Arriving at The Institute of Dance, Bridget deeply inhaled, looking up at the tall, red brick building with its familiar ivy and large, glassy windows. Even just standing in front of this building filled her with giddiness. Looking into the picture window that showed the first-floor classroom, she watched dancers glide across the floor on weightless legs, almost hearing the whisper of their shoes and the smell of the studio air. She gripped the familiar iron door knob and pulled the wooden door open.

Stepping into the waiting room of the building, with its red carpet and walls so covered in posters the off-white color of the paint was rarely seen, the old secretary inquired, “Bridget, why are you here so early?” The secretary shuffled papers around on her desk. “Your classes don’t start for an hour and a half.”

“Oh, hi, I just…how is Liz doing anyway? Has she recovered from that fall yet?”

Bridget didn’t stop to hear an answer; she just walked straight back to the dressing room, even though she heard that cardigan-obsessed secretary calling after her. She changed into her favorite pink tights and an old black leotard, the one that she did the end-of-the-year show in about three year ago. Padding in her tight-covered feet to the nearest mirror, she pulled her dark, unruly, black curls into a tight bun. She hated her hair. It looked messy no matter what, even i f she slicked it back with hairspray.

Grabbing her pink ballet slippers, Bridget walked out to observe the classes before hers. Every time a girl messed up, she felt gratified in herself. She knew that would never happen to her. She didn’t mess up. After the class was over, the nameless, faceless, unimportant girls flocked to the teacher to offer up submissive curtsies. Bridget strolled into the room once they had cleared, to stretch on the back bar that faced the window. People hurried past on the outside sidewalk, not stopping to give the picture window a glance. That is, except one guy. Bridget saw him across the street, standing outside a Chase Bank. He wasn’t moving, or talking on a phone, or waiting to cross the street. Just watching.
Other girls in her class level started coming in. A tall, dark-skinned girl folded her torso over her extended legs. Lauren, the girl that got the big part in the Christmas show over Bridget put her water bottle on the floor near the door. Some younger girls that had just moved up a level stood next to the door, watching the other girls and fidgeting, too nervous to stretch.

“All right, ladies, let us begin.”
Bridget concentrated on pointing her feet, keeping her shoulders down, having her hips aligned, jumping high and lightly. In between combinations, the other girls whispered and giggled, gossiping about school, and boys, and clothes, and other pointless things. “I hope Jeremy takes me to prom like he said he would, it’s just like him to flake out like this…” Bridget kept her focus and did not talk. If the instructor, who liked to be called Jennifer but Bridget only called Mrs. Rift, praised her, Bridget glowed with contentment. It made her feel whole to be praised.
After class, Mrs. Rift pulled Bridget aside. “I wanted to talk to you about something.” Mrs. Rift tucked a stray piece of auburn hair behind her ear. “This may sound odd, Bridget, but I think that you need to lose a little bit of your focus. Talk to the other girls more, maybe even so some other activities.”
Bridget smiled politely and said, “Thank you for your suggestion, Mrs. Rift, I will be sure to consider it.” But inside she was incredulous. She knew what was going to get her ahead. And that was focus.
“Alright, then,” Mrs. Rift said uneasily. “Just come and talk to me if you ever need it, okay?”
Bridget nodded over her shoulder on the way out, going to change into her pointe shoes.
After her last class of the day, Bridget stepped out onto the road now lit by streetlights. She started off on her way back home, but out of the corner of her eye she saw a man approaching her. Frightened, she sped up.
“Wait! I would like to talk to you!” The man called from behind her. Bridget kept walking. She would not be drawn in that easily.
“I was watching you dance through the window today! You have some real talent!” Bridget stopped and slowly turned around. She realized it was the man that had stood across the street earlier watching the window. It disturbed her but fascinated her at the same time. Had he really been watching just for her? Had he been waiting all this time?
“So?” He rubbed a hand over his prominent five o’ clock shadow around his jaw, which was the same dark brown as his short curly hair. His shirt wasn’t collared or pressed; it was just a crumpled old t-shirt. Old jeans covered his legs, and on his feet were white and red Pumas.
“So, I would like to discuss with you an opportunity to travel with my company. We perform around the world.”
Bridget felt air whoosh from her lungs. A tingling started in Bridget’s stomach, spreading up towards her head, prompting her to speak.
“How about Thursday, right after you get out of school. Meet me here, and then I can take you to my studio. Come prepared to audition. He extended his hand towards Bridget. “Deal?”
She looked up into his face, trying to judge whether to trust him. He pulled a side of his mouth up in a crooked smile and cocked an eyebrow.
“Deal.” She reached out and shook his hand.
“Here is my card, in case you have any questions
“Oh.” Bridget felt stupid. She knew she should have asked for his card before agreeing to meet with him. She studied the vanilla-colored card, looking at the phone number underneath the name Walt M. Dunnel. The company’s name was Dance Inspirations.
“I think that you would fit in well with my company. I treat my dancers with great care. We have a special bond. ”
Bridget felt a tingling rise in her chest at such a prospect. “See you on Thursday, then.” She sa id, and walked away.
That night at home, Bridget did not tell her mom of the meeting she had made. Bridget’s mother was the kind of person who had lived in the town she lives in now since birth. She married her high school sweetheart and did not go to college, having Bridget instead. She wanted Bridget to stay in town, maybe go to college a couple of hours away and get a nice, useful degree that would always pay the bills. The only reason she didn’t expect Bridget to marry her high school sweetheart was because Bridget rarely had friends that were girls. Even the idea of Bridget having a guy that was just a friend was almost ridiculous. So, the last thing she wanted was for Bridget to have a career in dance. Bridget figured she would see how the meeting went and then talk to her mom about it after, if a job was offered.
The next day and a half sped by in a blur of anticipation. Bridget acted like herself, but every second of every day she felt as though she was poised on the verge of something great and wonderful. Even the mocking of kids at her school didn’t faze her; all she thought of was their disbelief when she one day become a famous dancer. The only moments that these fantasies escaped from her brain was when her mother nagged at B ridget.
“What’s going on, Bridget? You hardly ever say anything to me anymore. Your whole world is dance.”
“What’s wrong with that?” Bridget shot back, angry about her mom’s attitude to her passion.
“You need more than that.”
It would go on and on, in the kitchen at breakfast, when Bridget’s mom drove her to school, when Bridget did her chores. Bridget’s mom knew something was going on, but Bridget refused to give in. She was not a child anymore; she could make decisions for herself.

Finally, finally, Thursday afternoon came. Bridget rushed from school straight to the familiar picture windows and cracked brick walls of her studio. She had told her mom that she needed to work on a group project in the school library until dance. Her mom, excited to think of Bridget socializing with anyone, even20if it was forced, cheerily told her to have a good time. He was there, waiting in front of the building. Walt M. Dunnel, of Dance Inspirations. Interested in her. This prospect swirled in her mind as she made the familiar walk to The Institute of Dance, bumping up against those corners of wildest dreams in the deep pockets of her mind, sparking fantasies of what is to come. The walk passed by quickly; before Bridget knew it, she was once again at that familiar sanctuary of ivy-covered brick. A dark figure stood way down at the end of the building, past the picture windows and closer to the next building, some old-fashioned diner. Mr. Dunnel.
“Hey! Glad you didn’t change your mind. I would have been extremely disappointed. Ready to go?”
Bridget nodded, almost too nervous to speak. He turned around and started walking, but not towards the parking lot, down the street instead. “Where are you going?’
“Oh, it’s not too far from here. I thought we could just walk. It would give us more time to get to know each other.” Bridget nodded again, a little confused.
Mr. Dunnel walked slightly behind her. Bridget wished he wouldn’t, because she had to keep glancing back to make sure she was going the right way. He was still wearing the same jeans and the red and white Pumas. The shoes squeaked a little each time he stepped, as if he wasn’t wearing socks. This time his shirt was a teal blue cotton polo, worn at the shoulders.
After about ten minutes, they arrived at a small, one-story building with wooden siding painted in an odd, faded green. Above the door, there was a crooked sign that read, “Marta’s School of Dance”. It was an old dance studio; she even remembered walking past it years before, when little girls in pink tutus would run in and out the door. The door was solid and heavy looking, and there weren’t any windows at all.
“Sorry for the state of the studio. This isn’t actually mine; I had to rent one while in town. Our center is actually in New York City, and the building there is in much better condition than this run-down old thing.” Mr. Dunnel said.
Bridget nodded, glancing at the building. He r hands were shaking slightly, and she was afraid Mr. Dunnel could actually hear her pulse throbbing throughout her body. She tried to calm herself, knowing she wouldn’t be able to dance if her head wasn’t clear, and her body calm. Mr. Dunnel opened the door, revealing that the building contained only a room. The floor was overlaid with a black marley; the front wall was covered in a mirror. A single bar ran across the back of the room. Bridget walked onto the smooth black floor, feeling the bounce of it beneath her feet.
“Why don’t I audition you first, and then we could talk about your opportunities with my company?” Bridget nodded again, running a hand over her slicked back hair to ensure that her curls were contained. “Although I am sure there will be no problems with your dancing. I already have developed a bit of a favoritism of you, Bridget.” Mr. Dunnel said this with a bit of a smirk on his face. This unnerved Bridget slightly, and it made her feel even more uneasy.
Mr. Dunnel stood at the front of the room, waiting, watching her, while Bridget slipped off her green cotton tank top and the shorts she had over her tights. Sitting down, she pulled on her ballet slippers and stretched out her hamstrings, even though she had warmed up before she came. She stood up and walked to the back bar, feeling as though her legs might melt into a puddle of liquid if she walked too fast. Looking back, she saw Mr. Dunnel. He was still by the front of the room, not saying anything, but keeping his gaze fixed on her. The room was unnaturally silent; no cars were heard going by. She couldn’t even hear Mr. Dunnel’s breathing. Putting her right leg up on the bar, she leaned over it and breathed deeply. Keep calm, she thought, this is your one big chance.
Suddenly, she felt the presence of Mr. Dunnel behind her. His sudden appearance startled her, made her feel unsure and dizzy, her arms feeling heavy and numb. Bridget felt Mr. Dunnel put his hands on her waist, whipping her around to face him. “Don’t worry, Bridget,” he whispered into her ear. “I always take extra special care of my dancers. They trust me. And you are my special favorite, Bridget.” Mr. Dunnel was overpowering her, forcing her down onto the ground with his hands on her shoulders. She could hear his breath now. He panted like marathon runner in sight of the finish line. “And no one has to know, Bridget. I know that your mom doesn’t even know you are here.”
=0 A
Bridget began to fight against him with strength that came from deep inside her. All she could think of was her mom. Why couldn’t she has just told the truth? What would her mom think now? But Bridget’s limbs began to feel heavy and numb as she tried to escape from Walt M. Dummel’s strong grasp. Her mind warped and time seemed to move slower, every moment using all the willpower she had. She tried to take deep breaths, to force away the unconsciousness that was threatening to overtake her. She was afraid of what would happen if she passed out. As her breathing slowed and her vision started to blacken at the edges, fear overtook her body. She couldn’t fight him anymore. Mr. Dunnel’s face was right below Bridget’s jaw, that five o’clock shadow scratching at her neck. He whispered, “That’s right, baby. Don’t worry. It might not even hurt that much.”
It was too hard. Admitting the horrible truth of her defeat, Bridget let her body react to the situation. Her consciousness slipped away like a rain drop down running down a window.

Bridget jolted back into consciousness and felt a deep, hollow emptiness. A burning ache settled into her stomach as her breath returned to normal and her vision came back. She was alone now, huddled on the floor of the old dance studio, where little girls had once jumped and twirled with visions of beauty in their heads. Trying to forget what had just happened, trying just to be grateful she was alive, Bridget grabbed her bag and clothes and ran home while tears pricked at her eyes.
She saw her familiar house, with the blue front porch that sagged in the middle and an overgrown garden. She ran up the stairs to yank open the door, already yelling for her mom. “Mom, mom where are you?” Her voice cracked as the yell ran into hysterical sobs. “Mom!”
“I’m here, I’m here, don’t worry, baby, what’s wrong?”
Bridget didn’t say anything; she couldn’t. All she could do was wrap her arms around her mom, breathing in her scent of detergent and vanilla. “I need you, mom,” Bridget whispered into her hair.As her mom rocked her from side to side like she did when Bridget was a little kid, Bridget felt that space in her stomach fill up. She felt whole.

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