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A New Dream is Born
She’s a star, or at least that’s what everyone in her small town says. That’s what propels her to move to New York, to audition for Complexions, a prestigious dance company that she’s been dreaming of all her life. Her parents send her off with bright smiles and hopeful waves, all the while praying that their little girl will make a name for herself.
The day of the audition she wakes up early, taking extra care to comb back her hair and twist it up into a high, perfect bun. Then she boards the subway from her expensive loft, twisting her hands and trying to calm the flurry of nerves building inside of her.
She is given the number fifty- six. No longer known as Aliyah, she becomes a number in a mass of amazing dancers. The first fifty are called in, and she peers through the one- way glass window, straining to see her competition. The combination is difficult and the choreographer quick in his teachings. She has barely had time to see the choreography before he claps his hands and the music begins.
Aliyah can scarcely believe her eyes. The girls step up into the line, churning out like the little robots the choreographer has just given. Yet he is not happy; his eyebrow creased, he murmurs to his assistant, who quickly jots down notes. Aliyah swallows, stepping away from the mirror so others can get a glimpse.
She can’t do this. No matter how she compares in her home town, she will never reach these girls. Biting her lip, she slowly grabs her bag and walks slowly to the door. No one notices her- why would they? She is just another small- town girl who has realized that her dreams are nothing more than that.
She trudges down the sidewalk, willing herself not to cry. Her future has been shattered in mere moments, and no one is there to offer her any consolation.
“Wait!” She turns, surprised. Who would be calling her in a city full of people? It’s a woman, petite and slim though obviously middle- aged. Her suit bears the tag identifying herself as a company employee. “The audition isn’t over yet.”
“Yes, I know,” Aliyah replies, attempting a smile and only achieving a grimace. “I don’t think I can do it. I’m just going to go home before I embarrass myself.”
“You shouldn’t say that. You won’t get anywhere, talent or not, with that kind of attitude. What is your name?”
“Aliyah. Aliyah Jenson.” The woman reaches forward to grab Aliyah’s number off her leotard and smiles sympathetically.
“Aliyah? What a pretty name. I’m Karen. I wouldn’t be discouraged by other dancers. Do your best, and if you really try they’ll notice you.”
“Thank you, but I think I’ll just stick to entertaining my neighbors.” It’s supposed to be a joke, but Aliyah lacks the light tone and upbeat voice, the woman pretending not to notice. Instead, she hands Aliyah a card fished out of the black bag slung across her side.
“When you realize how much dreams mean, give me a call. If you can’t face those girls, you can face the choreographers by yourself, right?” The woman smiles at Aliyah, plunging her two fingers into her mouth and whistling for a taxi. Before Aliyah can say thank you the lady has already sent the taxi off, Aliyah inside.
The first thing Aliyah does when she gets home is call her parents. The heart-wrenching failure she expects to hear in their voice never comes. Slight disappointment, of course, but she’s pleasantly surprised to find that they still stand behind her dreams, even though now they’re hopelessly dashed.
She finds herself absentmindedly fingering the small business card even though she knows she should be unpacking and not lying on the couch. But she continues to do so, too disappointed in herself to even try getting up.
Her dream of showing up at the audition and blowing everyone away is nothing more than a painful recollection now, but maybe she’s been thinking too highly of herself. She’s not cut out to be a dancer in New York. For the first time in her life, Aliyah doubts her future as a dancer.
The next week she moves back to her hometown, too dejectedly to do anything in a city of dreams. She dreads the disappointment she’ll face, but nothing can beat how ashamed she is of herself.
Her parents are better motivators than she is. They shove college applications in her face, promising it isn’t too late, but Aliyah takes them unwillingly. Her whole life has been devoted to dance. Without it, who is she?
In the end she does fill out the applications, write the essays, and send them off. But lacking is the enthusiasm of a graduate fresh from high school and ready for the next step, because she isn’t that person. She’s a person who’s had her dreams walked on by none other than herself.
She graduates- a year older than everyone else in her class, but graduating none the less. Her roommate, a bushy- haired girl named Diana, promises to get in touch soon, to talk about the future and get together. Aliyah isn’t interested, but nods and takes her phone number anyway. Just another phone call she will never make.
Aliyah ends up succeeding in life. She becomes a well- known author, putting on paper her old love of dance. But for her this isn’t success, its plan B. It’s the alternative to the future she dreamed of but didn’t let herself go for.
The successful book provides enough money for Aliyah to move out of her old apartment. As she’s cleaning out the boxes of leotards and frayed dance slippers- trying to block out the painful memories associated with the things- she comes across the small business card, folded and stuffed in the corner of the last box.
After gazing at it for a moment, she moves to where her cell phone rests, picking it up slowly as she looks at the number on the card. Every button she presses makes her more sure, and she clears her throat as the phone reaches its third ring.
“Hello?” It’s a slow, deliberate old woman’s voice, and Aliyah loses her confidence the minute she hears it. “May I help you?”
“Hi… Karen?” Aliyah glances at the card to check the name. “Karen Bashmikov? I don’t know if you remember me… my name is Aliyah Jenson.”
There’s a pause on the other side, as if Karen is trying to remember the name. Why would she? Aliyah is just one of many girls that didn’t make it in the dance world. Aliyah paces into her practically empty kitchen, running her hand through her tousled hair. Why is she even doing this? What does she have to gain from this woman she barely knows?
“I walked out of a Complexions audition some ten years ago and you told me to call,” Aliyah prompts, feeling like a complete fool.
“Many girls and women alike have done the same thing,” Karen relied finally. “But I do remember you. I was so sure you’d return, but you never did.”
“Dancing wasn’t my call.”
“Was it not? How do you know?”
Aliyah paused, unsure how to answer. She could practically see the older woman smirking in satisfaction on the other end of the line. Karen continues. “You didn’t. You still don’t, I see.”
“I don’t want your riddling wisdom. I’m happy with my life, and don’t need you to tell me otherwise.”
“Then why did you call?”
Aliyah bows her head, letting her pride slip. From there the conversion takes off, starting from where Aliyah has been and eventually turning to Karen’s past. Though they barely know eachother, there’s a friendship forming. Karen, the seasoned and retired old dancer can’t help but heap advice onto Aliyah, who is considerably younger and still has so much promise.
By the time Aliyah says goodbye her heart feels lighter. She’s finally able to let go of the pain she’s harbored since her teenage years, and move on. She’s ready for a new dream.