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Ballerinas in The City
Author's note: A black and white picture of a little ballerina, a past in dance and a good cup of tea were the ingredients to inspire me to write this ten page heartwarming story all in one night. I felt a strong connection with Harlem and where he was coming from - its amazing how I just came up with these characters and yet they just feel so real.
When Chloe Arrows and I were dating, we would go everywhere around New York together. Chloe was a ballerina born and raised in Montreal city. If the ballet industry was a country she would be the princess and, like every other ballerina, she thought she was above everyone. Then she met me - a quiet boy from Savannah, Georgia - Dad, an actual family oriented rockstar and Mom, a
bubbly artistic writer every person would dream to have lunch with.
All in all when I was out of the house, at nineteen to pursue my dream in the most ordinary city in the entire world - I was bound to be swooned over by girls.
Even though I had all the stunning girls at my feet, no one made me more crazy than Chloe. Something about the stereotypical blonde dancer made me trip and fall for someone who you’d expect her to be. Looking back, the only thing I appreciate about being with Chloe Arrows was the little ballerinas she taught, who I considered little daughter figures.
One day after a whole day of job interviews for Chloe - she came home to our apartment, stomping her heels around the floor. All the noise she made was when I was on the phone with my mom - checking how my little sister Jasmine was doing back home.
“It’s just not fair!” Chloe pouted over Mom’s voice on the other line.
“Sorry mom, I-... that was Chloe, I-...okay I will tell her you said hi now I-... I love you guys too. I gotta go, love you!” I placed the phone on the coffee table and ran to Chloe’s aid. She scampered around the kitchen while making a lovely pot of tea.
“Damn Carol!” Chloe sighed.
“Why, did she lower your pay again?”
“I’m going to teach an intermediate class, six through eight year olds...” Chloe stuck her nose up and looked out the kitchen window dramatically.
I rolled my eyes when her back faced me. “Honeydew, I thought that’s the class you had your heart set on?”
“For the lower class!” she snapped into tears.
Serenity School of Dance, the dance studio Chloe basically lives at is so
shallow and stuck-up, they integrated the rundown, paint-chipped, cobwebbed building into a place where poor dancers were accepted but pay for what they get.
Which didn’t make any sense because Chloe was the cherry-on-top of the whole dance school, why would she be teaching for the ‘charity’ class?
Either way, I still didn’t like the idea of separating the dancers just
because of their economic differences. Their backgrounds didn’t define who they are, their hearts did. Of course Chloe and the rest of Serenity School of Dance-aka Later Day Saints of Snots-disagreed with every little helpful request I made. So as Chloe sobbed about how she
wanted to be with the ‘actual’ dancers, I bit my lip and stayed quiet.
The next day, Chloe and I made our way through the haunting
hallway of the fourth floor at the dance school. She strutted in front of me with her big bug-eye sunglasses bouncing along with her bleached curls. The reason I stayed behind was to talk with my dad over the phone, to hear his new song.
“I’m performing this at Red Rocks on Saturday.” His voice of static told me.
“I know how much you love Red Ro-” Yet again Chloe cut the words and my
attention off my parents and on to her.
“Harlem!” she called for me down the hall. “Get the door for me, I don’t want to leave my bag on the floor where the poor kids have access to it!”
I could tell Dad can hear everything she said hence the disappointed sigh he let out. “You don’t need that...”
“I know.” I whispered, I told him goodbye and I hung up my
phone to hold the door for Chloe.
“Beautiful girls first!” I joked as I held the door to Studio 12 for her.
She walked pass me searching in her purse for her Pointe shoes - “You’re such a dork!” she murmured.
I shut the studio door behind me and looked up to find myself in a room a billion times less elegant than all the other studios I’ve seen usually framing Chloe in an angelic rehearsal.
Glossy wood floors, sparkling crystal chandeliers intertwining with the refined mirrors covering wall to wall was just a fantasy for this studio. Instead two small windows
barely providing light for the chipping bird’s egg blue paint and the cracked mirror at the side. The barres were not even barres - just fossilized pipes from the boiling room arranged for support. The floor was so rickety and
creaky, springs stuck out from the floorboards. All I can say - was it wasn’t a lovely sight to see.
Chloe curled in the corner between the wall with the windows and the wall with the mirrors. She texted away while tying her new Pointe shoes all the way up to her calves.
I sat in the chair on the other side of the room - diagonally the other corner from Chloe’s space. The words Dad spoke echoed through my head and heart. As I was about to open my mouth to speak to her about our relationship, the door cracked open.
A little bright eye peered through the darkness along with a pale nose. The first little girl slowly opened the door to walk in. Her appearance matched the studio like a dance student with more privileges matched the more flashy studios. She tumbled in, shy and
nervous with eyes focused on me. Her tutu was tattered and the bow pinning her hazel hair up was done sloppy.
Chloe looked up from her phone for a slight second then back down,she didn’t even give a damn that her first student has arrived. I felt the moment would get awkward if nothing was said to the poor girl so I spoke for Chloe.
“Hello!” I smiled. The little girl turned to look over her shoulder as Chloe looked up to give
me a sour look. The little girl started to walk closer to me - “What’s your name?”
“Cecilia” she giggled.
“Cecilia? I like that name. My name is Harlem and the ballerina over there is named Chloe, she’s your instructor.”
Another little girl appeared, then another and another. Till
about seven girls all crowded around me so I could introduce them to their class. Different skin colors, dirty faces and holes in tights.
The girls all had darling smiles on their faces because they were excited for one thing - to dance.
Everyone was all in the studio when Chloe jumped up and got the girls’
attention. “Alright girls, to the barres!” she commanded them to do.
She turned on ‘The Swan’ from the Carnival of the Animals.
They all danced together along to the scratchy classical music, pouring out from the dusty speakers. As I watched their smiles grow bigger and more confident, I knew Chloe was doing something right in her sour life.
The next morning I met Chloe at Studio 12 with a decent sized box of macaroons from the Laduree bakery. About fifty macaroons total were tucked in the box - a perfect amount for the little ballerinas who deserve them.
The girls poured in and I set the box on the chair in the corner for
access to the macaroons. I told them they can have as many as they
want and without instructing - they politely got in a line to get their
tiny tasty treats. I nodded my head and smiled - agreeing with myself
that I did good that morning. So each morning I came to the studio with breakfast to
start their off their days and the girls all huddled together at the end of dance
class to give me ‘thank you’ hugs.
One day, the littlest of the girls - Tina, tugged at my sleeve to tell me
something “Impor-ra-ra-tent...” she couldn’t pronounce it right. I knelt
to the floor and listened to her. “My mommy s-says she can’t buy me dance
classes anymore.” She sobbed.
That night Chloe snickered about how the small class was dying down
because their parents had to ‘cut down’. “The less, the lower stress!” she said
So I paid for the little ballerinas’ dancing lessons and soon their
little sisters, and a brother, joined the class. Chloe and the dance school were
Chloe pulled me out to the back in the alley and lit a cigarette. There right beside me was a big red bucket of cigarette butts where Chloe’s will be shortly after she shouted at me. “What are we going to do about those damn little girls?” she shrieked. I shrugged my shoulders as she ranted on about her own problems. “Stupid Carol, should have never assigned me to this class!”
she took a long drag of her cigarette. The smoke rushed out between her bright red lips and she continued on. “And you buying them breakfast every morning doesn’t even help!” she dug her finger into my chest and poked rapidly.
Chloe stomped back inside and I followed her. “Have humanity, my god!” I told her. She stopped and turned back to look at me with a dark glare. “I mean you should at least try and have respect for them. They’re no different from
your favorite students just because they live in flats, Chloe!”
Chloe stormed up to me in an instant. “I’m not going to...” she said quietly. “As for now, Mr.Sweetpants, you march your ass up there and teach those little animals to dance.”
She walked off before I could come up with something clever to say. So I shrugged my shoulders again and walked up the many flights of stairs to the little strong army of dancers. I didn’t know how to dance nor’ teach for Chloe, but I had a plan up my sleeves.
I burst into Studio 12 saying “I’m going to take you guys shopping!” the words slipped out of my mouth without thinking. I knew nothing about fashion or the fashionable
stores that dotted New York City. They all scattered towards me with their confident smiles bursting through their tired faces.
I don’t know how - but we ended up at FAO Schwarz purchasing toys
galore. I couldn’t care any less, at least these girls were having the highlight of their childhoods. They all ganged up and chased me in their little toy cars down the isle. They buried me in stuffed animals, dressed me up in fairy clothes and made me bracelets out of wooden beads.
I took the girls to see the Radio City Rockettes, just a little glimpse of their future lives and to Strawberry Fields park where they played hide n’ go seek while I sat on a bench to keep
a close eye on all of them. Then my phone rang through my messenger bag,I flipped it open to find Mom calling me, I looked up to check on the girls once more then answered my phone.
“Hello...” this voice wasn’t Mom’s.
“Hi?” I blankly said back.
I could hear snickering laughs in the background as if it was on speaker phone. “Guess who you’re talking to?” The voice was young like a teenager’s but gentle.
Mom’s voice appeared - “Just take a wild guess, Harlem.”
I thought for another second then nodded my head side to side. “I still
don’t know...” I laughed.
“Harlem, this is Jasmine.”
As soon as she spoke those words the sun peered through the dull, white clouds of New York. The sunlight broke through the tall buildings and hit the green of the park trees. My mute sister, a sister who was proved she could never talk in her life, just spoke to me. Uneven yet so beautiful I felt myself wrapped in the sunshine. The girls played with their grins on their faces and they looked up at the warmth and glow.
“Jasmine...” I sighed.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and did a double look at the little ballerinas dancing whimsically around the park. Turns out once you do something really good for others something you could only wish for is given to you. Either way I was happy for Jasmine and the ballerinas - giving them the biggest place in my heart. Chloe Arrows wasn’t worth my time, she has her own time. I finally found my place in the world - as a young man made of harmony.
“Jasmine, I-... I have a surprise for you.” I said quietly.
I covered my phone so she couldn’t hear me calling for the little ballerinas.They all scurried over to me wondering why I was crying.
“What’s wrong?” Tina frowned.
“I’m fine...” I laughed. “I’m fine.” Then with a big grin I said - “On the count of three scream as loud as you can - I love you, Jasmine.”
“I love you, Jasmine!” we all shouted at once.
I could hear her sniffing over the phone as if she was crying along too.
“Harlem, what-” Dad laughed in the background.
“I’ll explain to you when you guys come and visit, as for now - Jasmine, there are no words to explain of how happy I am for you.” I said in an uneven, blissful voice.
We said our goodbyes and I waited for her to hang up. The past few weeks I’ve had were as amazing as can be. I stood up with the girls giving me a big group hug. We walked through the park like a duck and it’s children in the charming sunlight of Central Park. Positivity filled our hearts.
“Can I ask why are we even here if you don’t talk to Chloe anymore?” Dad asked. Jasmine, Mom and him followed me down the long narrow hallway to Studio 12.
“Here’s the reason...” I laughed opening the door to the studio.
As my family entered one out of the many newly renovated dance studios, the girls popped out from their hiding places. A banner made by them read - ‘Welcome to New York, Jasmine‘ which hung over the table of macaroons. “Surprise!” the girls all said.
A dark brunette beauty named Trinity Delion, a tap dancer, was now the girls‘ new teacher. As for Chloe she quit out of stress and selfishness. Trinity and I...we've been getting closer. She was too sweet and amazing to pass by.
She came up to my sister and parents to greet them. Mom
instantly had an interest to her - “You tap dance? You must be a Rockette!” Mom looked at me with a wink.
“Mom...” I bashfully smiled.
“We approve!” she whispered to me.
I snuck away so Mom and Trinity can talk about my childhood and I.
I walked up to Dad, he examined a macaroon, wondering “What the hell is this?”
“They’re like French pastries, don’t be afraid to try one - they’re really good!” I assured him.
I nudged Dad’s arm as a made my way to Jasmine, she sat on the floor with all the girls braiding her hair. I sat on the floor facing her to notice her eyes sparkly with tears. She gave me a laugh as she tried to hold them back. She bit her lip and grinned for the first time I’ve seen her grin in a long time.
“You’re so crying.” I joked.
“No, I’m not! I just have something in my eye...” she giggled.
Jasmine and I both laughed as the girls put flowers in her hair. She picked one out and put it behind my ear. She laughed even louder once she saw me wearing the flower. She had Mom’s bubbly laugh mixed with a delicate beat of happiness.