The Solo

January 13, 2013
I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten a solo in the Nutcracker. My audition had been far from perfect. I felt heat rising up my neck and face as the other girls started to congratulate me. How will I get out of doing this? “Hey Victoria! Congrats on the Arabian solo!” a girl I recognize from class said. I mutter my thanks, make sure my sleeves are covering my arms, grab my dance bag, rush out the dance studio doors and sprint across the parking lot to my dad’s SUV. I stand outside the passenger side of the car and spastically yank on the door handle until my dad decides to unlock the door.
“Hey Tor. Did Ms. Edwards post the parts for the Nutcracker yet?” my dad asked as I slid into the car and buckled my seatbelt. I nod my head. “Well what part did you get? Did you get a group or a duet?” my dad asked.
“Neither,” I replied. “I got a solo. The Arabian one.” I lower my window, and catch a glimpse of my tan reflection in the side view mirror. A strand of dark brown hair falls into my face and I tuck it behind my ear. I personally think I look like my father, but almost everyone says I resemble my mother. I have my dad’s long legs, big brown eyes with flecks of green, and easily tanned skin. The only thing my mother and I have in common is ballet. I saw a video of her dancing once. She was good. But I don’t see any resemblance when I see pictures of her.
“This is wonderful” my dad said, interrupting my train of thought. “Maybe this can help you get over your stage fright, so when you become a dancer for the ABT-”
“Just stop.We both know that’ll never happen.” I said. My dad fell silent as I glared out the window. He started to talk again, breaking the silence.
“I meant it though. I think this will be good for you.” He looks up into the starry sky. “She would’ve been so proud.” We spend the rest of the car ride in silence, both of our minds over-thinking everything.

When we finally arrive home, we both run off to our rooms, rushing to get away from the other. My door creaks loudly when I open it. Slowly, I walk to my bed and collapse on it. I start to drift off, my subconscious awakening as I close my eyes.

“Victoria” a soft voice sings. “Won’t you come say bye to your mommy?” I run towards my mother on chubby toddler legs, one arm reaching towards my mother, the other wrapped around the neck of my teddy bear. She puts on a scarf and hat, scoops me up into a big hug and kisses my forehead, her eyes glazed over with tears. I grin at her, my little smile stretching across my face. She swipes at her eyes, with a gloved hand.

“Mommy, where are you going?” my small voice asks. She doesn’t answer my question, instead she places an envelope in my hands, and tells me to give it to my father when he comes home. She tells me she loves me, and I tell her I love her too. My mom grabs her bag and opens the red front door. A blast of cold air enters the house. I hear the click of the lock, and I look out the window, my eyes following her as she walked through the snow, stopping to make a snow angel, and gracefully getting into her car.

The memory stops there. I remember my dad, crying over that letter, the letter I had delivered to him, in his room that afternoon and again, after the police came and told us that they’d found her body, tangled and broken inside her wrecked car. And I remember confusion. I didn’t know that the letter I had given my father, was my mother’s suicide note, and I most definitely didn’t know he’d hate me for it 11 years later. I was three. 11 years passed and I can’t get over it. I shudder at the memory, and pull up my sleeves. I count the scars on my arms. 18 scars, yet somehow, not one of them were fatal. When people notice that they’ve never seen your arms, they get a bit suspicious, and when I pull up my sleeve and show them, they recoil. They just don’t understand what you have to go through to be able to bring a blade to your own skin. My clock beeps, urging me to get some rest.

The weeks leading up to the Nutcracker flew by quickly. Before I knew it, it was December 15th. One day until the Nutcracker. I was scared. No, actually I was terrified. I can’t get on stage by myself. I can’t. I’ll make a fool of myself. Gosh, I’ll freeze up on stage. In front of my father! In front of my friends! The rehearsals after school the day before had been okay. My mistakes weren’t terribly noticeable. The choreographer did give me the evil eye a few times, though. The only good thing, was that my costume had long sleeves. One less thing to worry about.
I spend the whole day in rehearsals. I leave the theater through the side exit with the other dancers. I stand up on my demi pointe and look around the parking lot. I spot my dad’s car, and rush towards it. Opening the car door, I slide into the passenger seat.
“You know,” my dad starts as I buckle my seatbelt, “one of these days, you’re going to have to let me watch one of your rehearsals.” I shake my head at him. He turns to look at me. “I’m serious Tor. How are you going to dance alone in front of an audience when you won’t even let me watch?”
“I didn’t want a solo. It’s completely out of my comfort zone.” I start raising my voice at him.
“Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t want one?” My dad asks, scrunching his forehead.
“Because,” I state, “You wouldn’t be as proud of me. Not that you’re proud of me anyways.” I don’t look at him as I say this.
“I am proud of you.” My dad says. “You work hard, you’re intelligent, you always try your best, and I’ve noticed that the razors have stopped disappearing from the bathroom. Stop doubting yourself, Tor. It’s hurting you.” My dad starts up the car and pulls out of the parking lot. Throughout the whole car ride, I go over my dad’s words. Does he really think that? Is he really proud of me?
When we get home, I trudge up the stairs, taking in my surroundings, as if I was seeing them for the first time. The light green paint was new and the dark wood floors were gleaming. I’d passed by these things every day, but had never really payed attention to them. I reached the landing, walked down the hall to my bedroom door, and pushed it open. My large, ivory framed bed looked small in my big room. I looked around my neat room. Everything in here is ivory. My room has no personality.
“Huh.” I muttered aloud. I run out into the hallway and pull down the attic stairs. They clunk loudly, and a cloud of dust rises up from them, making me cough as I walk up the steps. Ew! When was the last time someone cleaned this? Ugh! I enter the attic, and judging by the dust on the boxes, no one’s been in here in at least a decade. They’re all either labeled with my mom’s name or the word “Christmas”. I start opening the boxes labeled with my mom’s name. I pull out pair after pair of pointe shoes, ballet slippers, dance pictures and posters. Grabbing as many as I can, I drop them off in my room, and run downstairs to get thumbtacks, scissors and glue.
An hour later, my dad knocks on the door. “May I come in?” he asks.
“Sure,” I reply. Walking into my room, my dad looks around in shock.
“Wow... I like what you’ve done with the place...” He comes over to where I am, and admires my work. “I like that picture,” my dad points at a poster of a ballerina in Grand Central Station. “But it’s a bit crooked, don’t you think?” my dad asks. He fixes it, says goodnight, and leaves my room.
I stand back and admire my work. I started a living mural on my bedroom wall. I pinned my mom’s pointe shoes to the wall on top of some of her dance posters. It was a bit messy, but it made my room look lived in. It was imperfect... Like me. I loved it. I practiced my dance for half an hour, then I decided to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up and immediately got butterflies. I pulled my hair into the neatest bun I could possibly make, and applied my heavy stage makeup. My dad called me from down the stairs and gave me a time check. A quarter after twelve. That gives us an hour to get to the stage. And three hours before I perform. I start to get anxious. I just want this to be over with.
My father and I arrive at the stage early, giving me three and a half hours to practice. I join the other girls while they do the barre exercises. We start out with demi and grande pliès, and finish with grand battements. Everyone goes to their dressing rooms after that to get ready. I practice on and off for the remaining hours. Finally, I get a call through the intercom to get to the stage. I walk to stage right, shaking.
Ms. Edwards sees that I’m shaking, and gives me a hug. “You’ll do great, don’t worry so much.” she whispers in my ear. I nod and repeat her words in my head. You’ll do great, don’t worry. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. The curtain closes, and the other dancers rush through the curtains. I stand at the edge of the curtains and wait for my song to start. Your dad is proud of you. Your mom would be too. She’s watching from heaven. I start talking to myself in my head. My song explodes from the speakers, and I inhale deeply.
Stepping out of the curtains, I walk slowly into the blinding stage lights. I can’t even see the audience! It’s perfect. Getting lost in the music, I dance the best that I can. Before I know it, I have no more steps to dance and my song has ended. The audience cheers. I must have done something right to get such a loud reaction. Walking off the stage, I’m greeted by another huge, bear hug from Ms. Edwards.

“Victoria!” Ms. Edwards shouts. “That was wonderful! Best Arabian I’ve seen. Ever!” I turn a million shades of red. Patting my back, she smiles. “Go get ready for the finale Victoria.” I nod at her. Skipping, I hum a few lines from the Arabian piece as I run back to my dressing room.

After the finale, I sit in my dressing room in baggy sweatpants, uggs, a tank top and a sweater. A loud knocking comes from my dressing room door, startling me. “Hey, Tor, let me in.” My dad says through the door. Opening the door, I see my dad smiling and holding a bouquet of poinsettias. “I brought you Christmas flowers.” My dad says, his smile now goofy and stretching from ear to ear. I get up to take the flowers from him and he picks me up and spins me around, as if I was still a small child. “You danced so beautifully!” My dad shouts. Laughing, we walk to the car. “Tor, I have to go to the store, but I know you’re tired. I’ll bring you home first... Is that okay?” My dad asks. I nod. Maybe I can decorate the house for Christmas.

My dad brings me home, and leaves. Rushing, I pull the Christmas boxes out of the attic. We haven’t decorated the house in years. I wrap garland around the staircase and the crown molding. I set up our fake tree, and wrap the lights around it. I check the clock. Wow. It’s getting late. I wonder where dad is. I hear the garage door opening, and my dad walking into the house. “Tor!” he screams, his voice strained.
“I’m in the living room, dad!” I shout back. I hear him trudging around the house. He comes into the living room, with a five foot evergreen Christmas tree, that was shedding pine needles, leaving a carpet of green on the floor. Pausing, he looks around.

“Well. It seems you’ve beat me to it Tor.” My dad says. Chuckling, he puts the tree down. “I thought we’d put up a tree this year... And I thought it would be more special if it was real.”

“We can just put up two trees, to make up for the years that we didn’t put up one.” I say.
We spend the rest of the day decorating the two trees. The real tree is our ‘hodge-podge’ tree. It has silly fun ornaments on it. The other has a Christmas-y theme to it. It’s adorned with red, gold, and silver Christmas ornaments. Stepping back, I take in the two, sparkling trees. It’s going to be a good year, isn’t it...

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