“Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing-” Benjamin Alire Sáenz
People do bad things, but some people make one mistake that changes everything. The mistake consumes them. I am some people.
Scars were a sign that you had been hurt, but you had healed. Scars fade, but they remind you of what had happened. She didn’t have scars because her wound was fresh. It never got time to heal. Three years had passed, but it didn’t matter how much time had passed when her wound was cut open so frequently.
“Davina, would you like to explain the assignment I just gave the class?”
Miss Alison knew I couldn’t, it was her way of putting me on the spot because she knew I wasn’t listening.
“I’m sorry, could you please repeat what it was?” I ask her.
Her lips press into a thin line, and she rolls her eyes. It isn’t news to her I wasn’t paying attention. She just pretends like it is.
“I was telling you guys to get your presentations ready for the exhibition show in two weeks.”
I sigh inwardly. The last time she heard me, she took it as a sign of rudeness. I was sure she hated me.
The exhibition show is definitely not something I’m looking forward to. Every dancer talks about passion and dancing what you’re feeling, but it’s so much harder than that. I wasn’t made to dance. My body doesn’t work that way.
The show is worth at least 40% of our grade. This will be the third year I fail. Showing up was worth at least 10 points out of the 80 we were graded on, but I never showed up. I didn’t deserve to dance.
“Now girls, go work on your Rond de Jambe.”
“Yes, Miss Alison.” They chorused, looking at me like why bother with this one.
“You dance like you have two left feet, Davina. The steps aren’t that hard,” Miss Alison said as she walked past me. The girls giggled and my face burned in embarrassment.
If only she knew.
I was born with two left feet because of a severe hox gene malfunction. These were definitely rare. It just so happened that I was a girl born into a family of dancers with a disability that prevented me from dancing. Sad, right? I know. Being in a dance class is useless, but I owe it to Mabel. I owe it to her so they can never find out.
It wasn’t always meant to be this way though. It never mattered until it did. It never mattered until Mabel stopped dancing.
She was going to be the dancer, and I was going to be the writer. She always said I would write her biography as she traveled the world, dancing in different countries. If only we knew. We never would have bothered to dream.
“Davina Allister, we need to have a talk,” Miss Alison said. We knew it was important when she used our full names. The other girls smirked. They knew what was coming. I did too. I wondered how I had escaped it for so long. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave, it was that I needed to. I don’t deserve to be here, but I can’t leave because I promised her I’d live out her dream since she couldn’t.
I followed Miss Alison to her office.
“Do you know how many teenagers would give anything to be where you are? You go to Idyllwild Arts Academy. I will not hammer how important it is that you make this exhibition show count because I expect you know what is at risk here. Show up! This is your last chance to make this work or we give your spot to someone who values it.”
“Yes, miss,” I reply, my face instantly becoming warmer. I couldn’t steal her dream and mess everything up. I had done that for three years now. I needed something to go right. I was getting up to leave when she smiled at me. She had never smiled at me.
“Feel the music. Dancing is so much more than your body movements. Feel it. Become it. Let it consume you. Your fears, your hopes, your wildest dreams. Tell a story only you could know so well. Feel the emotion. There has to be a story worth telling, right?” She’s right. There is a story worth telling, it just isn’t mine.
“If you tried hard enough, you could be a dancer!” Mabel exclaimed after she made me practice her audition piece with her. She was going to be a contemporary ballerina. I just knew it. I scoffed.
“I’m being serious,” she said.
“I know. Thank you,” I smiled at her, but she didn’t look convinced. The truth was, even if I could dance, I’d never be able to dance like she would.
“Even if I could dance, I’d never be as good as you are, Sirius.”
She blushed. Dad called her that. He said she was the brightest star in the sky. Mum called me Canopus. It was a nice enough gesture because she knew we couldn’t both be Sirius. It still made me feel bad, though. Like they thought I was second best.
But Mabel, she always called me Canopus, and suddenly it didn’t feel so bad. She claimed that Canopus was as bright as Sirius or even brighter. It just didn’t seem that way. She said we were the brightest stars in the sky. I was fine with it. She made things okay.
I wondered how I could claim she was the person I loved the most with what I did two weeks later.
“Wow! That was amazing.” Dad honestly looked impressed. I had never seen him look that way when judging anything we presented before him. Our parents want us to go to Idyllwild Arts Academy. It was the school they met and fell in love. We were meant to be showing him what we had come up with for our audition pieces.
Mum always told him not to put too much pressure on us. I was sure it was because she didn’t want any unhealthy competition between us. Three years later, I realize she knew it would break me. That was what she was avoiding.
I saw it in his eyes that day that nothing I did would ever compare, but I kept trying. Big mistake. I tried all the time to make him notice me, to hold on to his affection. That was my biggest mistake because you can’t lose something that was never yours.
I never wanted to get into Idyllwild because I knew people would treat me like I was Mabel’s sister. I never felt creative enough and even though we shared everything, I didn’t want to share Idyllwild with her. It was her dream, but I did. I ‘auditioned’ because Idyllwild was mum and dad’s dream too, for both of us.
“Girls, please remember that this isn’t a competition. I’m sure both of you worked very hard on your audition pieces.”
I wanted to scream in his face that it wasn’t an audition piece, that term only related to performing arts.
It was too late anyway. It was too late the second Mabel played ‘Feel the Light’. He judged both of us before I had a chance to read my story. He condemned it from the beginning. He had no faith in me, but that didn’t excuse what I did.
So yes, there is a story worth telling, but she won’t tell it. Mabel wouldn’t dance anymore and mom and dad didn’t pressure her. I wish they had. Maybe it would have taken off some of the guilt I felt.
I needed to do this for her because she couldn’t.
“Yes, Miss Alison. I believe there is,” I finally replied.
She smiled at me like she knew I would figure something out. Maybe she didn’t hate me.
Only this isn’t about the exhibition show. It’s about so much more. It’s about three years ago. The dance video I selfishly deleted that would have gotten her into this school.
I hadn’t told her the truth till this day because I was so sure it would break the already fragile state our family was in. No, that’s not true. I didn’t tell her because I was afraid she’d hate me. If everyone else thought I was a monster, it wouldn’t hurt because I thought I was too but, if she thought so too, it would make it true. I would never stop reliving the moments in my head.
Her audition piece. I couldn’t dance, but I relived that moment in my head; the moment I realized I wasn’t good enough. When my admission letter came and she got nothing. I would never stop reliving the moments she sat on the porch and tore through countless letters. She did, every single day, until the day I went to her dream school and she told me to enjoy it for the both of us. I would never stop reliving the moments she came to watch the exhibition shows, and I saw her heart break. I couldn’t perform, not while she was watching, but it wasn’t like I knew what I was doing anyway. She was meant to be the one on that stage performing. I should have told her the truth.
“Davina, what are you doing here?” Miss Alison asked, placing her reading glasses on the table.
“You were right Miss Alison when you asked me if there was a story worth telling. There is, but I can’t tell it.”
She looked confused for a few moments before the realization of my words dawned on her. She was shocked, and so was I. I was still processing my actions as I was taking them.
“I can’t tell it alone because it’s not mine alone to tell.”
“You’re not making any sense Davina.”
“I know. But I need your help. I need you to teach me ballet before the exhibition show.”
“That’s impossible. No one can learn ballet in two weeks. Ballet is an art-” I had to cut her off before she rambled on and made me lose my train of thought. I hadn’t even decided if this was a good idea.
“Yes, you can. I’ve been in your class for three years. I have picked up a few things. You taught me that ballet is only 50% movements. I have the movements in my head and the emotion. Teach me the movements.”
She pinched her forehead, and her eyebrows creased. It was the look she had on her face when she thought about things too hard. “Fine, if it’s what you want. I’ll teach you. We’ll have extra lessons every day until the exhibition show. I have only one condition if I help you though and that is, you can’t give up. I won’t allow you to.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I tell her immediately. I thank her as she nods and I leave her office. I wasn’t going to let her slip through my fingers, not this time.
I don’t believe we just lived between hurting and healing. For a long time I thought we did, but I don’t think so, not anymore. Yes, we hurt each other, but we also forgive. We heal. We hurt the people we love the most without meaning to. We're human. But it isn’t okay to be a coward. We had to give them closure to let their wounds heal. I knew that now, and even if she hated me, I would never stop trying to earn her forgiveness.
I go up to the roof of the abandoned building now. The building we discovered four years ago. I hadn’t been here with her in the last three years. The star-shaped scar on my wrist flickers under the glow of the stars. It was once a wound, but it was fading and would disappear soon. Emotional wounds weren’t as forgiving.
I lay on the roof, look up, and see the stars. They illuminate the darkness and I feel safe. The audition, the lies, the betrayal- they now linger in the distance. It’s not as intense.
I see them. I know I do. Mabel taught me how to look for them, but I never checked, not until today. The sky’s two brightest stars.
“They’re like us,” she said, “They regularly appear together. They’re like two sisters crossing the galaxies together.”