The lights are blinding but cause my eyes to sparkle when hit at just the right angle. As if I’m a bird soaring among the clouds, I leap forward captivating the audience. I hear them all exhale as I land swiftly and can’t manage but to smile wider. When my music has ended I run gracefully off of the stage, losing character as soon as I stepped foot into the wings. I reach down and fix my pointe shoes as I try to successfully regulate my breathing.
“That was beautiful,” a voice of one of my teachers tells me.
“Thank you,” I sigh happily. I turn away from the people around me and head back towards the stage.
“Remember Bella, the box is next,” my teacher looked at me forcefully. “We talked about this a hundred times, you have to exaggerate your lines and expressions when you open the box and Angela comes out of it.”
I nodded understanding what this meant, basically if I didn’t do it I’d be dead meat. I walked over to the dancer who would be getting into the box momentarily. “I promise I’ll exaggerate everything so the audience will be shocked when you jump out of that box and dance!” I flashed a grin at her and the both of us laughed quietly.
The music stopped our conversation, cueing us to enter the stage. “Good luck,” the dancer whispered to me as she carefully stepped inside the box.
“Remember to exaggerate and make this ballerina doll look good!”
“Of course, it’s why I’m here. See you in a minute.” I closed the door of her box and ran onto the stage. I danced over to the life-size box painted pink with a gold ribbon on it. When the music changed I knew it was time for me to open the box’s door and for Angela to jump out of it and start dancing. I stepped toward the box and opened it wide for the the audience to see—
There was absolutely nothing inside of the box, no ballerina doll was anywhere in sight. I didn’t know what else to do other than keep dancing, so that’s what I did. Once the section of the ballet was complete I hurried off of the stage once again, but this time I was greeted with panicked faces.
“Where is she?” Asked the teacher.
“I don’t know,” I looked at her in shock that she thought I had something to do with Angela’s disappearance. “She probably got out of the box to fix her shoe or something and missed her cue.” I was trying to be practical, what could’ve happened to a girl in a theater.
“Bella,” my teacher faced me. “Go find Angela,” she ordered. I turned away from her and raced down the many flights of stairs searching for Angela. I called her name out as I ran from dressing room to dressing room. I went into my dressing room, the floor was covered in costumes and the only thing that drew my attention away from the mess was a yellow sticky note dangling on the mirror above Angela’s bag.
A note was written sloppily across it in red ink. “She deserved exactly what she got,” I read out loud to myself in disbelief. I was as stiff as a board standing there in the vacant room. I slowly gained the movement back in my legs and walked back up the stairs, noticing a mother close a door quickly pulling another mother in with her as I passed. The two women glared at me which made me move faster.
“Bella what took you so long!” They all grabbed me forcefully as I approached them.
“Here,” I handed them the small sticky note. “I found this above Angela’s bag.” The teachers all gathered around the note and I noticed all of their jaws drop in unison.
“What does this mean?” They whispered to one another.
I tried to keep myself busy by placing my stray hairs back in place, and fixing my tutu. There was a single blue string swaying when I moved, so I ripped it off trying to stay distracted. Suddenly everyone backstage turned to me and just stared curiously.
“Did you do something?”
“No! Angela’s my friend, I could never do anything to her.”
“Then what happened?”
“I don’t know, I put her in the box then went on stage. Something had to have happened to her between getting into the box and going on stage.” I was becoming extremely concerned of the absence of my friend. “The note,” I stammered. “What does it mean?”
Everyone exchanged troubled looks. “It means something happened to Angela.”
I didn’t notice the mothers I had passed on the way back up to the stage had entered, and joined the conversation until now.
“You need to go back on stage and dance like nothing is happening,” one of the mothers told me.
“I can’t possibly do that,” and with a push I was back in the blinding lights moving as light as a feather. The audience had no idea that a dancer was missing. They had no clue that we were left a suspicious note that caused us all to panic. The audience just wanted a show, little did they know they would be getting more than they paid for.
I could taste the sweat dripping down my face, but it wasn’t from the dancing. I was so disturbed at the thought of Angela missing I began to sweat profusely. Continuing to float across the floor, I was grateful when the final bows finally came.
Once the curtain was down, a swarm of people approached me. I only noticed the police officers standing by my instructor who opened her mouth carefully to speak. “We called the police to help us find Angela. We know she has to be around here somewhere.” She fiddled with her silver chained necklace.
I just nodded hoping that she was right and I joined the search for Angela. The first place I went to was the box I had just placed her inside of before she disappeared. I walked around the box slowly, trying to notice any helpful details. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found. So I stepped into the pink box and observed the inside. There was a small scratch towards the upper back of the box where her head would have been. I found this unusual because no one ever complained about hitting their heads.
As I turned around I was greeted by a mother. “What are you doing inside of that thing? That’s the reason we’re in this mess, let’s not risk losing you too.” She pulled me forcefully out into the open.
“I just was trying to see if there was any evidence that could help us.”
“There will be nothing useful in that box.”
I just nodded to the mother apologetically, but what she didn’t know was what I saw on the door as she was pulling me out. There was a smear of bright red lipstick that I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t looking. The strange thing about the lipstick was that Angela was wearing a pink not red. I kept this information to myself not wanting to start a commotion because I wasn’t positive of what I was saying.
I bolted back down to the dressing room and dug through Angela’s makeup bag. Sure enough there was no red lipstick, just a pink. Becoming more intrigued, I took a look in the other girls’ makeup bags. There was absolutely no red anywhere which eliminated the possibility of a dancer having anything to do with Angela’s vanishing act.
“Are you alright dear?” The same mother I had just seen asked me.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“You sure, you look like you saw a ghost,” she laughed and pursed her lips together. That’s when I noticed it.
“Really, I’m fine ma’am.”
I searched high and low for my teacher who was allowing the police to interrogate the audience. I went around behind the stage where all of the equipment is kept, calling out for her.
My ears were suddenly filled with shrieks, my shrieks. Laying before me was a mangled body covered in cuts and bruises, laying in a pile of blood. There were sand bags and lights sitting on top of the body unforgivingly, and peeking out of the mess were two pointe shoes dyed red. My head began to pound and I screamed louder than before.
It took just a few moments for a crowd to appear behind me, staring in horror at the dead body. My instructor pushed her way to the front of the people and hugged me tightly. “It’s okay, we’re going to figure this out.”
I shook my head vigorously and pointed angrily to the swarm of people.
“What are you trying to say Bella?” She began to toy with her necklace again.
“Her, that mother.” Everyone’s gaze followed mine and cleared a path for the mom who was keeping an annoyingly close eye on me. She stepped forward looking as innocent as the rest of us.
I wiped the tears streaming down my face and glared at her. “I was searching the box to see if there was any evidence, this mother pulled me out of it hoping I wouldn’t notice anything. What she didn’t realize is that I am very observant. Not only did I see multiple scratches on the wood at Angela’s head height, explaining that someone caught her so off guard she jumped backwards hitting her head on the box. I also saw a smear of red lipstick on the door which Angela wasn’t wearing. She was wearing pink, and so are all of the other dancers. The only person backstage with red lipstick is you.” I diverted my attention back to the mother who looked shocked.
“That is some accusation missy,” she growled at me.
“I know, and I stand by every word I’m saying.”
“I couldn’t kill a little girl.”
“Really?” I ask sarcastically, my face getting red. “If I remember correctly, weren’t you furious that Angela got the role of the ballerina doll that you thought your daughter should have?” I paused for a second trying to get rid of the mascara lines on my face from my tears. “You were so mad that your precious angel wasn’t right for the character you resorted to murder. You killed a young girl who just wanted to have fun and dance. You didn’t get what you wanted though, nobody will ever forget her,” I turned and faced Angela’s dead body laying rigidly on the cold floor. “Angela will always be remembered as the girl who died being the best dancer she could be. She’s the girl who everyone loved, and the girl a grown woman was jealous of. Pathetic isn’t it? You and your daughter will be known as the killers who couldn’t deal with stopping for thirty seconds to realize that what you have is enough. Miss, you don’t need to have everything you want in life to be your best self.”
I gasped for air, I knew that what I had said was probably a little excessive. After I finished, I became a little worried that I could be wrong and this woman might not have killed Angela.
“Bella I think you should sit down.” My teacher placed her hand on my shoulder. I flopped onto the ground and held my head in my hands. “That’s not what I meant, I can get you a chair.”
“No, I’d rather be on my friend’s level.”
The silence was so deadly it covered the room like a thick layer of smoke. Through the unclear atmosphere I stared daggers into that mother’s eyes.
“I,” she stammered. “I didn’t, I didn’t mean for this to happen. Angela was just supposed to have some sand bags fall on her and be injured. The lights were not supposed to come crashing down, she wasn’t supposed to die.”
“I guess you should have thought of that before you killed one of my students,” my teacher yelled at her. “Take her.” The policemen took the mother by the arms and began dragging her away.
“Will my daughter get to audition for the part next year?”
“Absolutely not! You are going to jail for murder, and you nor your daughter will ever step foot in my studio ever again.”
As the psycho mother was dragged away, I turned towards Angela’s body. I crouched down beside her in the pool of blood. “You are an amazing dancer and an even more amazing friend. I hope you’re happy wherever you are,” I whispered quietly in her ear as I brushed a piece of her blonde hair out of her eyes. I knew if she was alive and I told her that she’d be buried in a pink coffin with a gold bow she’d laugh about it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t laugh about it so I kept it to myself.