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My feet are cramping up and my back aches. My muscles can’t take it anymore; they’re screaming for mercy, and inside, my heart is too. I try to hold my position longer, just a second longer. But my step falters, and I come crashing down onto the ground.
“Again,” a voice says firmly beneath the shadowy corner of the ballet studio. My breath is shallow and raspy, so I stay on the ground, trying to catch my breath.
“Get up,” it calls again, “Do it again.” I swallow the big lump in my throat.
“I can’t Father, I’m too tired.” I cry. My feet, legs, and arms are bruised and I’m pretty sure my right pinky toe is broken.
“You’re weak, that’s what you are! Do. It. Again.” He growls. A single tear escapes my eye and rolls off on my cheek, but I push off my arms and get on my feet. I raise my chin up, facing the mirrored wall and prepare for a fouette, which is hard because I have to do 5 complete turns and stick it. I wipe my cheek before I begin but it does not go unnoticed.
“Are you crying?” He utters in disgust. I bite down hard on my quivering lower lip until I taste that rusty taste of blood.
“No.” I reply in an intended firm tone but instead my voice breaks. I hear the hard footsteps coming across the vast, polished wooden surface and feel the searing pain on my cheek before he even strikes it. My hand comes up to my stinging cheek as I look at him in the face but avoid his eyes.
“You are weak. Shame in having a daughter, you bring our family disgrace.” His voice echoes throughout the studio and I hear those same words repeated to me again and again. He turns on the balls of his feet and exits the studio, slamming the door loudly. I look at the door until I am sure he will not turn right back around and come back in. It was all I could do before shaking uncontrollably and falling onto the ground. I pull my knees onto my chest and cry. The mirrored wall showing a perfect reflection of a girl who’s anything but graceful right now. I know I should get up and keep practicing, but I am very tired due to an empty stomach. But I am not allowed to eat, until my dancing is perfected.
Until I am perfected.
I walk out into the cold blue night. It’s snowing and I begin to shiver underneath my leotard. I look towards my house with its towering 3 floors and vast lawn; I never could call it home. Everything was dark, except for the lights coming from the first floor. I can barely see Father and Mother in the dining room. They’re dining without me; no doubt discussing me.
Their imperfect daughter, who can never live up to their expectations.
The snow seeps into my ballet shoes, wetting my feet with cold water. It’s windy and freezing, but I don’t care. I look back at the studio that was made especially for my training. I remember when ballet was my passion, how devoted I was to impersonating the perfection and grace as that of a swan. I was but a child, not fully understanding that ballet, for me, was meant to be honorable, not recreational. I began with eagerness then expectations kept getting built, the bar was always being set higher, and higher, until it was so high I couldn’t reach anymore.
I look onto the forest that stretches endlessly away from my house. It’s strange and eerie feature beckons to me. Where I will end up, is a mystery. But there is not much to expect, because pain is no longer a fear.