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Ballerinas

I freeze. Every muscle in my body tenses, the blood in my veins runs cold; my every thought turns to jelly and slips through cracks to the void of darkness below. Cat-like hairs stand tall and rigid prickling like an ally-cats fur along the bony line of the back of my neck; horror, fear, disgust, repulsion crash down over me as that word consumes my every thought. That word, the word, fat.




“Go look in the mirror Emily, you can tell you’re getting fatter” she sneers, eyes glinting face red, yelling. I shrink back in fear, fear of the truth in her words as they slap across my face like goblin bees stinging and striking as they whip around about me. My breathing shallows, my heart is pounding; a bass drum pounding, booming in the silence. I can’t really be fat, can I, am I?




“God Emily, you look like you’ve gained at least fifty pounds over the summer!” What? Tears fill my eyes, that cannot be. She has to be lying to me, right? Salty waters sting my eyes; I do not let them fall, I never let them fall. Because I am a ballerina and ballerinas are tough they never cry, they never ask for help or show any pain, ever. Or at least that is what my parents have drilled into me for the past seven years ever since I started dancing when I was four.




“Seriously Emily, if I was you I would think about going on a diet” she scoffs and turns in disgust slamming my door behind her. I feel my jaw line tremble but still refuse to cry, because ballerinas never cry and I am a big tough ballerina. I don’t want to be, I wish I could go run crying to mothers side; but I am too old for that, I am eleven and more importantly a ballerina. The last time I cried was in the store because my feet were hurting me, father snapped at me to be quiet. I will never, never let them see or hear me cry ever again not ever again.




“Hey, its time for ballet” my father yells up to from down the stairs. Shuddering I grab my bag, and head towards my impending doom. The very dreaded time, has come again as it does every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.



“Hey look everyone, the fat elephant showed up!” Madeline, the girl in my ballet class jeered as I entered the ballet dressing room, everyone laughed. “Why don’t you go kill yourself, no one wants you here, you’re so fat and you suck at ballet.” A few “yeah’s” and “why don’t you’s?” filtered through the crowd of my fellow peers. I will not cry, I will not cry I chant in my head over and over again.




“Look at you, you’re so disgusting. Look at the fat on your stomach! Look everyone, look!” Madeline chanted, and they did their eyes raping my body from head to toe stripping me of the last of my dignity and pride. I Hate this, I don’t understand. What did I ever do to them? Be a better dancer, the favorite? It’s not my fault if I am talented, or if the teacher treats me different, more superior to them.




“Fatty, fat, ugly duckling. Look at her run, at her jiggling fat and ugly face. Slap her ass as she runs by” Madeline chanted slapping my butt as it came time for class to begin on her way out of the dressing room; all the other girls did the same. I want to go home, I wish I could quit. I can’t take any more of this, its been three years already and she never stops.

Holding back my tears I walk out onto the dance floor, ballerinas are tough, I can do this. No you can’t fatty the voice in the back of my head whispers Madeline is right and you know it, the voice jeers. But as the music starts and my arms and legs begin flowing gracefully like a swan on a lake, the voice disappears lost in the rhythm of music and dance. And for a short time, I am happy and at peace.



“How was dance?” she asks as I sit down for dinner at the dark brown table, short legs swinging back and forth.

“Fine” I say indifferently pushing the food around on my plate with my silver four pronged fork. She scoffs, and then there is silence except for the chewing and swallowing of people eating, I do not. Though my stomach is growling and I am starving, I hold back. Maybe not eating for a while will help me lose weight, then I will be pretty and perfect again. Maybe then she will love me again.

“I’ve been thinking I want to quit ballet” I say into the silence. A fork drops, someone chokes, someone spits out water, there is a deep awkward impenetrable silence hanging like fog around the table.

“But you love ballet” my dad exclaims in shock. No, you love it.

“Good, no more rehearsals or all day long concerts” she says in relief. She hates it that I dance, my dad though I don’t know what his deal is. He wants me to dance, that’s the only reason why I didn’t quit the first time, day, week, month, year Madeline started bullying me. For him, because I would rather face harassment then the wrath of his disappointment and chagrin; I hate letting people down and disappointing them.

“Quitter, quitter” my younger siblings began chanting, no one said anything or stopped them.

“Fine, but you will go Friday, after that you can stop.” My dad says annoyed and angry, disappointed. I wish I could tell them about Madeline, but with a bad relationship already that would just make everything worse. Plus ballerinas are tough and solve their problems by themselves, they are independent and don’t need anyone. They are tough and never cry, they are their own person. Without feelings or emotions or fears or hopes too apparently.



Thursday comes and goes, I do not eat. On Friday I dread going to ballet, afraid and humiliated but knowing I have to go at the same time too. “Chicken girl” Madeline sing-songs not five seconds after I poke through the curtain; fatty the voice in my head jeers.




“Aww is wittle baby Emily going to go cry?” she begins to fake sob wiping her eyes and sniffling. My face begins to warm as a deep red blush fills my face with anger; there aren’t even tears in my eyes! “Poor unwanted fatty, no one loves you you know. Not your parents, not even God. No one would miss you if you died. I hope you get in a car accident on your way home and die.” She laughs, and so does everyone else. I try to deny the truth in her words, but she is right. I am unwanted, fading, fat, unloved, and no one would miss or even notice me gone.




“Fatty, fat, ugly duckling. Look at her run, at her jiggling fat and ugly face. Slap her ass as she runs by” she chants and slaps my butt, how did she come up with that? All the other girls do the same. They have done it every day before and after I dance for the past three years in a row, every single day. Today I am numb, one sentence lingering running through my mind: Not even God could love you.

I do not eat again that night, or the night after that. Maybe if I lose enough weight, God will be able to love me and my parents too. “Keirstin, do you think I’m fat” I whisper to my best friend and orchestral stand partner in class the next day.

“Yeah, but so am I so don’t feel bad” glancing down I see she is skinnier then me, so if she is fat, is she saying I’m obese? You disgusting fat pig of course, just look at yourself that voice whispers from the back of my head again, it’s been doing that a lot lately. I wish it would go away. Sighing heavily I put my violin away, “geez, you are kind of tubby. I think you should go on a diet” she remarks looking over me as I stand. Wow, thanks Keirstin, way to be blunt.

“When’s your ballet concert show thing?” she asks distracted her mind already on boys and make-up, I wonder why she even bothers.

“I quit” I mutter half-heartedly.

“What? Really? When? Want to hang out after school today then?” wow, shallow Keirstin, shallow.

“I officially quit Friday, and no I can’t hang out today I have stuff I have to do today after school”

“Oh, okay. I see.” Her voice is far away, eyes glazed. No you don’t see, you only see the surface. The breath leaves my body, as I step into the commons and freeze. So many people! I can’t do this, I can’t I am too fat! They’re all staring at my fat, my disgusting dirty jiggling body; I turn and run fleeing. I can hardly breathe panting locked in a bathroom stall too afraid to come out, paralyzed. And until the bell rings, I don’t.



Five months go by in this manner, starving myself for weeks and hiding in the bathrooms at lunchtime during school. I even skipped English class one day when we were supposed to do speeches, the thought of getting up in front of people to terrifying to even attempt. I am too fat, I cannot give a speech, and people would be too distracted by my double chin and jiggling face to concentrate on what I was actually saying. If not even I can look at myself, how can I expect others to do the same?

How can I even keep friends? How can someone as fat and disgusting and ugly as me have friends in the first place? Why do people even bother talking to me? The green metal railing is cold against my stomach, the hard smooth pavement pressing into the bottoms of my soles. All I need is to step over the railing I am leaning so precariously over, to fall over the edge down to the river below me. Like Madeline said, no one would miss me. No one would probably even notice my absence, what’s to stop me from jumping? I will never be pretty or skinny or loved, so why stay, what’s the point?

My eyes close, a rain drop falls on my nose. I do but don’t want to jump, Madeline’s words her phrases give me gentle pushes; each one sending me closer towards the river below. Muddy waters dirty, dirty just like me. Tainted and soiled, we are one in the same. Damaged and broken graceful and flowing, dancing and twirling and—wait, what am I doing here?

I am a ballerina, ballerinas are tough. When life hands them lemons they make lemonade, they never give up. What am I doing leaning so precariously over a bridge? Ballerinas never cry, or mope, they are invincible what the am I doing? Quickly I take a couple steps backwards, trembling I continue to stare at the moving water. After a few more seconds of staring I turn and walk away without a backwards glance.





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