Ain't No Mountain HIgh Enough...

Submitted into Contest #181 in response to: Write a story about someone who has to “move mountains” to get what they want.... view prompt

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Bedtime Coming of Age Kids

Ain’t No Mountain HIgh Enough…

There once was a girl called Lydia. She was pretty and sweet, but not the prettiest and sweetest. She was smart and clever, but not the smartest or most clever. She never won awards for her work in class. She was fit and active, and loved being outside, but she never excelled and got blue ribbons at contests…she preferred to just challenge herself. In fact, Lydia was quite content in her own little world; it was a beautiful place. She dreamed of mountains, and seas, and blue skies and birds that she chatted with would land on her finger and sing to her in her world. It was a magical place. But every once in a while, Lydia longed for the prizes and good grades her classmates would win. It didn’t seem fair, as she certainly tried hard, that she never got the accolades she so wanted and deserved. 

During recess, while the other kids screamed and yelled on the playground equipment, Lydia would go off in her world in the fresh air. She was quiet, and didn’t like yelling or screaming. It seemed so immature and counterproductive. Girls would hang upside down and show off, but the monkey bars only gave Lydia blisters; she couldn’t see the point. Boys would throw balls and hit each other, and occasionally an errant one would hit her; Lydia didn’t like being hit by things. In fact, because she was sweet and quiet, boys would bang into her, throw paper wads in her curly locks, or spill things on her during lunchtime. Her mother told her that’s how boys show they like you and want your attention. Lydia thought this a ludicrous way of getting it! Why not just say ‘hello’? Seemed to make a lot more sense. Lydia was usually lost in her beautiful world, singing songs back to the birds, but she wouldn’t mind sharing it. Or, because it could be quite lonely, she wouldn’t mind being invited to play with the other kids, but being hit seemed more an insult than an invite to her. Besides, the bigger, meaner girls in class would do similar things; drag her by her neck in the classroom when no one was looking. Stuff her into a stack of tires so she couldn’t get out. Her mother told her that’s because they wanted her to be their friend; Lydia thought that being dragged around by force was a funny way of showing that. Nothing ever happened to these kids as punishment. In fact, most of the red and blue ribbons were handed out to this lot come Game Day, so they were rewarded for being bigger and stronger. It seemed patently unfair to Lydia, so she just watched from the sidelines in her little world. It was a safe place to be…

Lydia’s mother sensed her daughter’s frustration and decided to enrol her in something she could excel in. Since she was graceful and loved to dance around the garden, she thought ballet would be a good fit. It wasn’t a team sport, there were no balls flying apart, it was silent so no screaming, and it was a magical activity. Since she was pretty and sweet, she fit the part. In the large mirrored studio, Lydia was lost in a bigger world she could see reflected in the glass. Her blue leotard was the only thing she could see, and squinted so she looked like a bird in her mind, with her curls up to look like a crown of gold like her feathered friends in her world. The other girls didn’t matter; she couldn’t even tell you what they looked like. Lydia was very good at following directions, something she never got awards for in class, so she loved learning the new French words for dance steps, and shaped her body best she could to conform to them. During floor exercises, out in the centre of the room, Lydia saw the mountains, and the rivers and seas…she saw the birds that sang and danced in tune with the classical music. Ballet clearly placed her directly in the world in which she lived. 

For her first recital, her dance teacher did a very simplified version of Swan Lake. Lydia loved it! Dressed in a white tutu with a feather headdress, she felt like the beautiful birds she saw in the rivers below the mountains in her world. Sure, they didn’t sing, but they moved with the grace of a ballerina. Lydia’s mom bought the record to practise the dance to the music at home; and practise she did! She had a long mirror in her room, and danced and tried to be as perfect as her young self could be. Come the recital, Lydia danced her heart out. 

She continued with ballet for a few more years, but the bullying at school got worse. Lydia now had something she loved to do. She was already tiny, but now with her straight posture, the kids assumed she was being aloof. They really picked on her, so she decided to be a tomboy and drop out of ballet around the 4th grade. She changed from wearing pretty dresses, and now wanted to sleep in her brother’s bunk bed and play with his toys. It seemed being tougher was the only salvation for her at school. Her parents went along with this for a year or so, but they realised there was something wrong. Her mother asked around, and a friend of hers at the bank had a daughter that was a former ballerina. She had trained with a Russian ballet master, and started teaching. So, her mother enrolled her there. It was a more disciplined environment. Lydia did well following a more strict dress code and curriculum. She focused more on technique, and getting more advanced. She no longer wandered into her world, she learned to stay in the moment. Besides, by now the music told her the story or world she was living in at that moment; some dark, some light, some heavy and slow, some quick and jovial. She learned her world could be more diverse, more beautiful and rich, based on the music and mood of the dance. This was a performing company, and Lydia rose quickly through the ranks so she could perform as many different types of rolls at as many different venues as possible. 

Even though the ballet world changed Lydia’s purpose and drive, nothing changed at school. Because of the way she now carried herself and her slim build, the kids now thought she was stuck up. They bullied and picked on her. She was never picked to join teams, sit next to kids at lunch, or be a part of anything. By the time she was about to enter HS, Lydia was having downright panic attacks about this. She didn’t want to be hurt by the kids and endanger her dance career. It was Lydia herself that wrote the school district about the bullying, and took her learners permit with her mother in tow to explain her case. Her mother had always pleaded with teachers and thought that’s all she could do, and they said Lydia would grow out of her dreamie state and they would keep an eye out for her, but she still was picked on. Meantime, her mother had made arrangements with her ballet teacher, who taught adult classes at a nearby college. Lydia arranged her own transfer to another High School out of district, her parents arranged her transportation, and because her grades were good [never award winning good, but good], she was allowed to skip some classes so she could cross the street and study ballet instead of study hall. By that time, she was taking ballet several hours a day, every day, and intense eight hour a day workshops in the summer.

The minute Lydia entered that new HIgh School, she changed her story. Because she was pretty and sweet, and by now was slim and had a fashion sense, the new kids were drawn to her rather than repelled. In a heartbeat, she knew she never had to be a victim anymore, and could be popular and accepted. She spotted girls she liked, and sat with them, not knowing they were at the popular table. Lydia’s mother had taught her to sew years ago, since she made so many of her costumes, so by now she designed and made her own clothes, so HS was like a fashion show for her. With a graceful walk and bearing, the school corridors were her catwalk. Lydia went to the guidance counsellor, and argued her way into honours classes, glad to write essays to prove her intelligence. It had never been acknowledged before, even though her mother had her IQ tested a few times and it was quite high. Lydia got involved in activities, since no one was throwing anything at her; she enjoyed joining choir, drama and dance team. Boys now noticed her and didn’t throw things at her, but her focus was her future. Her schedule was tight, since her mother had to pick her up and get her to ballet class. Lydia’s grades improved, and she earned scholarships for college. She couldn’t just hang out with kids as her life was disciplined, but she sure was happier. 

Upon graduation with honours at 17, Lydia had several college credits in dance already, and scholarships to further her education. She had a clear plan, and the bible on NY ballet companies. The compromise was a performing Arts college in Seattle, so she went to school but also danced and got her degree. She did eventually wander to NY, and also London. She travelled as a ballerina, seeing the view on the train of the mountain, the rivers, the birds and blue skies of her world, not a reality. She danced on stages all over the place, and had picked up many more dance forms over the years. She had not only moved those mountains, she had travelled them as well. 

Ten years after graduation, there was a reunion. Lydia had kept in touch with some of the popular girls. But it was a fascinating experience to actually be around everyone. It seemed most had never left their hometown. High School sweethearts married each other and moved a block from their parents house, if not in the actual house itself. The jobs they had back in the day, flipping burgers or working at the checkout in the grocery store, were the same jobs they had today. The conversations now could have been merely left off from yesterday, not ten years later. Lydia had not lived in the area for years; in fact she won the farthest distance to travel, as she came from Europe. In HS she had won most likely to succeed, and indeed she proved that now. Outside of the popular girls, who had gone to sororities and married well and had careers, everyone else had stood still in time. As the slender ballerina dressed in a gown of white, Lydia stood out in the crowd. The boys, now men, that noticed her back then, noticed her now. The girl that was never pretty enough or clever enough to win any awards when she was young, won the biggest award now; a life well lived with success. She had moved the mountains and travelled them to follow her stars…

January 19, 2023 15:40

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Akash Joshi
07:19 Jan 26, 2023

This is patently one of the most graceful stories I've ever read. The most fun I had was when I read it the second time, but this time imagining it as a ballet performed against the backdrop of mountains, birds and blue skies. And obviously a train and an airplane in the last two acts. There is one line that I didn't quite understand: "She travelled as a ballerina, seeing the view on the train of the mountain, the rivers, the birds and blue skies of her world, not a reality." It feels like, it should be "not a dream," instead of "not a real...

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