The school bell, the final one for the day, rings. My teacher is scribbling on the board yakking about some weird math equation but of course, no one really pays attention. We all leap out of our old, rusty school chairs and start leaving. I push my way through the crowd and meet up with my best friend, Zaara.
She’s waiting for me at our usual hangout spot: the water fountain. The (probably dirty) water spills from the center and splashes out, showing a pretty display. It looks prettier with Zaara standing and smiling next to it. Zaara is no doubt the best friend ever. At first, it may not look like it, but once you really get to know her, you’ll be glad you even talked to her. She is a shy, introverted girl who loves studying. She has soft brown eyes and swishy black hair that stops a little beyond her shoulders. She wears glasses too, but they probably make her look even prettier. The only thing is….she keeps bugging me to tell my parents the secret I’m hiding from them.
Ever since I was 7, I’ve had this huge of being a dancer. I had the reflexes and moves and I dance really well, or so I was told, so I went up to my parents and told them I wanted to be a dancer. They had gasped and slowly shaked their heads, clicking their tongues the whole time.
“Dancing is for pretty, tall, skinny, talented girls. I’m sorry, but you’re none of them. And as your mother, I don’t remember raising you into a girl with sudden huge dreams that are impossible. You should make yourself useful, like being a doctor. Now go clean your room.” My mother had said.
And yeah, I was upset. Obviously. But then I turned really mad. This was my life, my dream, so how dare she try to control it? So I followed my dream and….it turned to me lying to my parents saying I was going to mathletes but actually going to dance lessons. Is it my fault? It’s my future, my dream, meaning I have control over it. Period.
As we walk onto the big street that leads up to our houses, Zaara starts our usual conversation. “Lyra, you have to tell your parents. You have to go up to them and sincerely tell them that being a doctor and studying is just not your thing. Although, that future sounds great to me.” Zaara gushes, and I raise my eyebrow at her.
“Oh. Sorry. My bad.” She stutters.
I roll my eyes. “That idea is so not the kind of thing I would do. You know what I would do? I would stomp up to them, shout in their faces while giving a whole lecture on how I’m living my life, this is my future, and therefore I have control over it. If they want me to become a doctor, why didn’t they become doctors themselves? I tell you, my family is weird.”
Zaara smiles at the way I always talk too much. She thinks it’s cute. But then, she sighs. I know it’s because I don’t want to open up to my parents. As we walk in silence, I can start to see the row of houses in my neighborhood. “Can you cover for me again today? I got dance lessons.” I look at Zaara pleadingly.
“Ok, fine. I’m such a nice friend, I know.”
“Yeah, because we’re both such dedicated students and we work hard.” I say in a sarcastic tone.
“The only thing is, I’m actually smart!” Zaara grins and tells me. I crack up and hug my best friend.
Inside my house, I tell my parents I’m going to mathletes again. My mom happily smiles at me and says that I’m such an obedient girl. Ha ha. I quickly change in my room to my pale blue leotard and cover it all up with sporty baggy clothes. I run out of the house because I’m about to be late. “Bye! See you at Six!” I shout on the way.
“And for our last exercise today—a freestyle dance with an arabesque used as as an ending.” Everyone get away from the barre and come to centre position. We will only have one person do it today though, because we don’t have that much time. Let’s have Lyra today. Lyra? Is that ok with you?” Sasha asks.
Sasha is an amazing ballet dancer and instructor. Rumor has it that she mastered cheerleading and ballet at the same time when she was 9.
Say what? “Uh yeah sure, that’s fine with me.” I respond.
I start with a slightly crouched and slumped position and make it a more graceful, wavy move. The music is slow, so I drag myself across the floor. No leaps this time, but I do manage to show off my talent with a triple turn. At the end, I walk slowly to the corner of the floor and do an arabesque. Other students, Sasha, and the pianist clap for me. I blush a little, and sit with my other girl-mates. Not that I know any of them.
At the end of the class, Sasha stops and tells me she wants to have a little chat with me. Uh-oh. Does she know what I’m hiding from my parents? Am I getting in trouble? But that isn’t what she wants to tell me this time.
“Lyra Dixon. Very nice little show today.” She says. “You’ve been selected to enter a dance competition. Other schools and studios will be participating, but since you’re so good, you might actually win.” Sasha smiled at me. Wait. What, really? Me in a dance competition? Sasha goes on. “It’s on Friday at 11 am. It’s Monday today, so you have 4, 5 days to practice. You better do well.” I’m speechless. “Oh, and another thing. Bring your parents with you.”
I find myself distractedly doing my Physics homework while all I can think about is the dance competition.
Tyler comes racing to my room and says, “Mom’s calling you for dinner.”
“Tell her I have extra school stuff to do and um, I’ll be a little late.”
“Ok cool! I have time to finally finish with Rival Waters.”
“Rival Waters. It’s this novella I’m working on. Just gotta proofread the last chapter and it’s ready for publishing! And um, please don’t tell mom or dad.” Tyler replied. “They’ll say it will distract me from studies.”
“Oh, all the very best! Don’t worry, I won’t, I feel you. Oh, and you can have dinner, Tyler. When I mean late, I refer to half an hour or so.”
“I always have dinner with you and today’s no exception.”
“Alright, whatever you say. Love you.”
My brother is sweeter than chocolate.
I have no choice but to complete my boring homework and submit it to my mom. My parents have always been like this. Academics first, nothing above it. With all the extra-credit time at school, classwork and dance, my life is an absolute mess.
They have to know about the dance competition or I can’t go. And there’s no way I’m missing this once-in-a-lifetime oppurtunity. I need to talk to Zaara. I keep muttering under my breath. I hastily finish my homework and facetime Zaara.
“Heyy. Just got done with homework, the History one got pretty messed up. Had to do it all over again. Sooo did you tell your parents ‘bout it?” Zaara’s voice was as honeyed as ever.
I unconsiously ignore everything except the last question. “About that, nope. I still don’t know if I should. If I do, they’ll kill me. If I don’t, I can’t go and I’ll kill myself. Either way, you’re invited to my funeral. And oh, please let Keith know that I crush on him. I only want you to keep that secret till my grave.”
“Life doesn’t always go that nice on everybody. It’s just giving you lemons this week. Take it easy ok?”
“Well, I’ll just chuck it on life’s face and say no, thank you and take my oranges.”
“Sarcastic, yet funny.”
“Your homework, hon.” My mom smiles in satisfaction of what she’s doing.
I hand her my homework for the day. “Algebra. Chemistry. English and History.”
“You’re really improving in Chemistry, good.”
I fake a smile. “Um, mom, I have to tell you something. Please call dad as well.”
“What’s wrong swee’heart?”
“I’ll tell when dad comes as well.”
Tyler always respected my privacy. He puts his tab away and turns to go into his room.
“No, don’t leave. It’s alright if you stay.”
“Oookk.” And he evidently grins a little. I pretend not to notice.
“What’s the matter?” my dad asks in his deep, masculine voice.
“Lyra wants to speak to us.”
“Please take dinner, mom.” I say hesitantly “I’ll tell it.”
“Well, early dinner isn’t my thing, but anyway, go on.” He smiles and I know he’s not unhappy about it.
My mom takes dinner and the four of us sit at the table, six eyes fixed on me.
“Um, I have something to confess.” Their silence urges me to continue. “I have been lying to you the whole time, about mathletes.”
Their eyes narrow in suspicion and I don’t know how long I can stand this. I muster up all the courage I’ve ever got and quickly run through truth (a.k.a. fourteen times, mirror-front, rehearsed speech). “I’d enrolled for dance classes and all this time I went for dance instead of mathletes. I know, this is a hard truth to accept but I’m truly sorry. I—I just love dancing and it’s been my passion for a long, long time and I just couldn’t let that go away. I’m so very sorry.”
I stared dolefully into the Spaghetti Bolognese on my plate, waiting for the bomb to explode any second from now.
“Well…” said my mom and I strained my eyes up to look at them. To my utmost surprise, they were smiling. I mean, did God actually hear my fervent prayer?
“You’re not mad at me for trespassing you?” I ask weakly.
“Guess what? No.” my mom smiles genuinely at me.
I cannot take in any of this. I wait in silence.
“Well, I have to say that I overheard you talking to Zaara on Monday. I realized my mistake and talked with your father, right Derek?”
I look at my dad and he goes with a smiling, subtle nod.
“And also, I took your book, sorry!” My mom smirks. I wonder if adults still do that.
“I missed Anna.”
She goes to her room and comes with my favorite book. ‘I Dreamed I was a Ballerina’. The life story of Anna Pavlova, my insipration since seven.
My mom hands me the book and I take it solemnly.
“I am very sorry, I know I’m such a bad daughter. I just should have—”
“It’s not your fault, dear. The wrong is on our side. We tried nailing all of our hopes onto you. We took control of your life. We weren’t good parents, and we are sorry.” I hadn’t loved mom so much until now.
“You take your academics very importantly along with dancing and I’m very proud of you, darling. Also, I’m very sorry.”
I smile at them and my eyes start swimming.
“You’ll rock tomorrow!” Tyler exclaims.
My mom looks away from me to Tyler and says, “You can come too.”
“Um, school?” Tyler asks confused.
“Take a day off.” My mom smiles the you-can-believe-me smile.
“Woohooo!” Tyler low-screams but no one can hear it except me.
“And, Tyler’s writing a novella, Rival Waters. He told me not to tell you but I think you’re safe now.” I chuckle.
We reached there one hour ago, my parents took their seat among the audience. I’d invited Zaara and her parents so they came along as well, Zaara was so happy for me.
I was to meet Sasha in the green room. Right now, Sasha’s rehearsing the routine with me. All was well.
“And for our third contestant, Miss Lyra Dixon of Swift Ballerina Studio.”
The audience gave a loud applause which I hadn’t really gotten anywhere except Achiever’s Award at school.
“Always remember to smile while dancing.” Sasha wished me the best and I walked up gracefully to the center of the stage.
My body was being hugged tightly by Sasha, my arms flung around her neck. She was delighted, I think. “Lyra, you were, so, so great on the stage. Your performance was extra-ordinary, you don't know how happy I am for you. I feel very proud of you, Lyra.”
My parents, Zaara’s parents, Zaara and Tyler were all beaming around me. Their faces said I did a good job. Zaara hugged me till her glasses creaked. “God, I hadn’t seen you dance before. Lyra, you’re sooo good at it.”
And now for what I feel, grateful for everything.