Fate is a funny thing. You most likely already know that. Maybe you have wondered from time to time why are some among us are so unfortunate? Is it just luck? Could it be a random draw? Sadly, no one has any real answers. I can tell you, however, about a little girl whose fate was as twisted as her crippled legs.
Clara Lebed was having a wonderful dream that night. In her slumbering mind, she felt this evening was important. She found herself backstage trembling with excitement and nervous anticipation as she stood behind the curtain.
The crowded theatre fell into a hush as the orchestra began to play an uplifting melody of hope.
As she listened to the music build her heart rate quickened. Each passing second brought Clara closer to her long-awaited debut as the dance company's prima ballerina.
She stiffened with resolve and determination as her cue approached. The velvet curtain parted to reveal a beautiful, slender young lady.
At first, she could have been mistaken for a flower. Delicate and graceful yet strong and powerful. Her first moves were slow, like a flower blossoming in the moonlight.
Clara began to fasten her pace, like summer rain upon silken petals. She prepared for the jump. She smoothly leaped up, up, up. Her skirt billowing behind her she felt free. Then thing it all went wrong. Clara felt herself falling. The crowd screamed with horror. Her eyes widened as she hurtled toward the wooden floors. She reached desperately for something, anything! There was nothing to support her. She tumbled through the stage. Falling, Falling.
Clara woke up sweating. Her stomach felt hollow. She moaned. Just another nightmare. She rolled to the side of her bed and fumbled for her braces. It was the braces that had caused her to fall. Her braces were her burden.
Clara Lebed dawned her heavy braces and creaked down the hallway. She passed by the open door of a small but neat bedroom, she heard the soft snoring of her six siblings.
Ever since her mother had died she had left behind her husband, Graham Lebed, and all her children. Clara, Gelsey, Margot, Galina, Alica, Marie, and Erik.
As she went downstairs, she was lost in thoughts of her mother. Warm olive skin, how she did her long, glossy brown hair into a messy, but fairly pretty braid. Clara laughed softly to herself. Her mother was the complete opposite of how her father looked. His skin was fairly light and his blonde hair even whiter.
She crossed to the kitchen and grabbed a jug of milk and some cocoa powder. She started up the stove and allowed the milk to warm in a pot. As she waited, Clara was flooded back with memories. This kitchen had once been a happy place. She remembered the smell of baking bread as her mother, or Mami, as they called her, but Clara on her feet and danced her around the kitchen. Than Popi would come in and waltz Mami around, Clara still holding onto her leg, giggling. Then the polio had come.
Clara got up and removed the pot from the stove, and went to retrieve a cup from the pantry. She added the powder and stirred. As she mixed she watched the swirling of the chocolate, it painfully reminded her of Mami's mesmerizing eyes. She felt something plop into her drink. She felt her cheek. A salty tear had slid down her face. What used to be was even more painful than polio. She must not let others see. Just as she blew the steam from her cup she heard a noise.
In the doorway, there was a little body, wrapped up in quilts holding snuggly to his chest, a hand-sewn teddy bear. Clara gestured for Erik to come forth. She would have stood if she could. Erik toddled forward. He took her hand. Erik spoke around the thumb in his mouth. "Cera," (Erik was very little and could not quite pronounce her name. Clara didn't mind. She found it extremely endearing.) Clara put her other hand atop of his blonde ringlets. "Hello, Erik. Did you have a scary dream too?" Erik nodded vigorously. "Well, some hot cocoa should warm you right up." Erik got an excited gleam in his eyes. He adored chocolate. He ran over to a corner of a kitchen where he kept a special stool. Erik was very small for a four-year-old, and he couldn't even reach the lowest counter. Popi had made him a special stool. Popi had painted the stool honey yellow and put bees and bears on it
Erik hefted it across the kitchen and scooted it closer to his sister's chair. He sat on it and looked up at her with huge brown eyes, just like their mothers. Clara handed him the cup. With contented slurping sounds he drained the hot drink. With a contented, "Ahh". He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Sleepy." Clara also yawned. "Me too." Together they climbed back up the stairs. "Sleep with you?" Erik asked hopefully. "Yes," Clara answered. Erik crawled into her sheets as Clara sat on the edge of her bed and undid her braces. She slipped in bed and held Erik close.
It seemed only minutes before her alarm rang and Clara hit the STOP button several times unnecessarily. She grumbled and continued on with her daily routine. Doing the mandatory leg massages instructed by her therapist. She leaned over and gripped for her braces on the side of the bed.
Clara hated Mondays. Some reading this may hate Mondays as well. You have to go to school or work. When you get home, you do more work. Clara didn't mind school or work, you could even say she enjoyed it. What she didn't enjoy was people coming up from behind her and kicking her crutches from out beneath her and making her crumpling to the floor. People chased her around, throwing things. Clara was an easy target. Her crutches were cumbersome and awkward. Her leg braces were just too heavy. It was also from Monday until Friday, she had to visit her therapist. She knew it was for her own good but that didn't make the medicine any sweeter.
Gelsey was downstairs making eggs and bacon. Clara admired Gelsey, although Clara was two years, Gelsey had quickly adapted to her mother's death, her father's depression, and her sister's illness. She cleaned and cooked and found paying jobs for everyone. Gelsey worked at a baker's not far from the house. Galina earned money by walking dogs. Margot was hired for laundry services. Alica was paid for mending clothes. Marie worked at a local library sorting books. Even little Erik earned his stay by assisting the elderly with packages and carrying them into their apartments.
Clara hobbled downstairs like if on cue Galina walked over and pulled her a chair. Clara sat, she hated being like this, she was so useless!
Clara looked around the kitchen taking it all in. Faint flowery wallpaper, an old wheezing stove, a pathetic coffee pot. The two only things she liked in the kitchen were the cupboards, her father had crafted those with such care. With faded wildflowers, the rest painted white. The second item was china locked up in a glass shelf. It had belonged to Mami. It was from her mother country, southern France in a small village with dirt roads and quaint buildings. Mami told Clara she grew up yearning to live in Paris. The china was from The City of Lights, it had dainty ballerinas all in different poses. They smiled kindly down at you. Mami had loved ballet. In her village, all she had were all folk songs played on a fiddle. In Paris, music leaked from everywhere, smooth and elegant.
Gelsey came sweeping up to her arms loaded with dishes. In one swift move, she laid all of the platters down at once. Clara ate. Gelsey was an excellent cook. Everyone finished. The routine was carried out. Gelsey was to take Clara to the therapist. Galina was to be temporarily placed in charge until Gelsey returned to her post and they would go back to work.
You may be wondering where Popi was in all of this. The Lebed children had rarely seen him since their mother had died. He had locked himself in the bedroom. In the early days, they heard sobbing and on bad days the roaring of rage and the shattering of glass. These fits of rage were followed by more sobbing. He was really a poor fellow. Shattered in heart and mind.
Once the table had been cleared and dishes washed Gelsey opened the door and the two ambled down the road.
Just as fate can be cruel it can be kind. Say you pray for a miracle or ask for divine help. An example is you prayed to a celestial being like God, you ask to be a kinder person. God does not just grant your sin. Instead, he gives chances to become a kinder person and erase your sins. Now Clara had prayed for so long for her life to change. For her health to change. For her father's grief to be lifted. For a better life for her sisters and brother. They worked so hard. No one had asked them to take on the responsibilities of an adult before they were even in their teens. They didn't deserve to be eating thin meals sparsely throughout the day. They didn't deserve to by wearing shabby second-hand clothes. Money shouldn't be such a hard thing to find.
Stuck in daydreams of marble mansions four stories high and diamond necklaces worth more than the Lebed's entire flat; Clara was rudely brought back to reality their arrival. The two were together in the waiting room. Ms. Nomel was glaring behind the pane of glass. She smiled at them like a snake would smile at a mouse right before the mouse was swallowed. "Appointment?" Ms. Nomel had a voice like an acidic lollypop. Sweet but undoubtedly venomous. Her face even looked like the underside of a snake. Scaly and pale yellow her bleached blonde and blinding lipstick was definitely not helping her serpentine looks.
Nomel had a particular dislike for Clara. Ms. Nomel didn't like anyone. especially children. When Clara was eight and still learning the feel of her hefty braces. Clara was wobbling across the waiting room, Ms. Nomel had jumped out from behind the counter to reprimand Clara about being ruckus in the waiting room. Ms. Nomel had her awful neon shoes squished. She screamed like a banshee. Not because of her toes but because there was a dent in the awful plastic pointed shoes. Nomel had never forgotten. She stared icily through the glass. Clara and the old lady had a showdown. At last, a perky young nurse opened the door, "Clara Lebed, the doctor will see you now"
Dr. Mow had seen a lot of children. Even though Clara was locked in her braces, Dr. Mow had seen something in her. Most children had lost hope right after they had been told that their disability would change their lives. Before polio, Clara had always dreamed of being a ballerina.
Dr. Mow looked at the wall. Mow grabbed a poster and rolled it up then he safely stored it in his desk to reveal at the right time. Clara limped in. She sat down at the edge of the bed and undid her braces.
Clara hated looking at her legs. They were thin and spindly. Her knees were knobbly like a newborn colt's. Her feet were slightly turned inwards. She had a bit of a bow-legged stance. Dr. Mow got down on his knees, he made low murmuring noises as he looked at the pale sticks she had for legs. "These legs are still straightening, definitely healing." Dr. Mow stood up. He offered his hand. Clara took it. She tried to stand up, Clara crumpled to the floor when the familiar fiery burning had began to melt her mind, numbing her brain with auguish. She grabbed the corner of a desk and hauled herself up. Without help, she wobbled still clutching the desk. The exercise began. Climbing up and down a ladder and other practices that would later leave Clara winded.
After, Dr. Mow cleared his throat, " I think it is time that we got you inspired." He grabbed the poster on his desk and revealed, a dancing girl. Under the girl's slippered feet, it read Dancing Competition, being hosted at the Children's Hospital. The lucky girl would get $500 and a free trip to Paris were a senior dancer would be waiting to teach her.
"Do you accept the challenge, Ms. Clara?" Dr. Mow was smiling. Clara was so stunned all she could do was nod.
In those weeks, Clara had worked harder than she ever had in her life. She took off her braces and learned to stumble from one room to the other. She began to jog. She kept Gelsey busy by constantly asking her for milk, cheese, fish, and other proteins that would build muscle.
Then the big day had come. It was a blur. She remembered about four girls all twirling, some stumbling. When Clara was called, she felt her legs tense. She stepped up onto the platform and began slowly at first, gradually going faster and faster. Everything was a blur. In the end, she was handed a date, a tickets, and a check. It was off to Paris.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Kylie this story is straight from your heart and perhaps experience. It touches the core of tragedy and displays the sparks of encouragement that leads to success. It teaches people to focus on the ability, not disability Sadly I have had the experience of such in my younger day. Your word pictures are fantastic, just watch the grammar, you might need to edit and replace, but do not alter the story Is the indication of chapters a promise of more adventures? I hope so Well done
Yes, thank you very much! I hope your health is well and that your life is nothing but happiness! About the grammar, yes, I apologize for that. Ivory Slippers was submitted in the dead of night and corrected at 11pm when the author had no more brainpower. I will definitely try to work on that! Grammarly can only go so far!
Oh my :D the end sentence of the opening caught me off guard completely hahah, loved the story!
Thank you for writing this story. I liked how Clara overcame the struggles in her life (the dream, how she was treated by others, etc.) and her physical limitations (the braces) enough to win the prize and go to Paris. She must've had a big smile on her face as she sat back in her seat on the Europe-bound plane. A well-deserved trip for all her hard work earning it. However, I did notice at least four typos (maybe a fifth): Clara Lebed dawned her heavy braces I think you meant "donned" (to put on), rather than "dawned" (to be awa...
Thank you! I will try to be more careful with my grammar! I do not have the money to hire an editor so I skim my stories at 4am. So sorry for all the confusion!
You're welcome and no apology needed. We're all human and we all make mistakes. As long as we try to learn from mistakes (ours and others'), I think we'll mostly do okay. Willingly turning a blind eye to mistakes is, in my opinion, a mistake in itself (as can be seen in American politics ... and not just over the past four years). No confusion, for the most part. Just wondered if I *had* found typos, or if you meant them to be as they are. You're doing my a favor, actually, because you're keeping my proofreading/editing skills nice a...
Kylie, I love this story. I currently take ballet classes, and I love it. (My teacher recently approved me to go "en pointe"!) Anyway, it really focuses on how she worked hard, and finally, it paid off to be able to go to Paris. I loved the connections between her mother wanting to live in Paris, then she was able to win the chance to go to Paris! #ClassicWritingSquad