Perfect

She walked out of the bathroom feeling empty and thin, the way she liked to feel. Her point shoes clicked on the wood floor as she stepped into the hallway.

“God, Adrian, what took you so long?” Emily stood there with her hand on her bony hip, staring at Adrian.

“Sorry,” Adrian said. “Come on. Let’s get to rehearsal or Mr. Silvain’s going to have a fit.”

Adrian and Emily walked into the empty studio. Sunlight streamed in from the floor to ceiling windows in the back of the room. The whole room spun slightly as Adrian walked toward the glass. She looked out over the city of Baltimore. Miniature cars and tiny, doll people moved around on the street below. Adrian looked down at the pale, pink tutu on the ground by her feet. She sighed, grabbed the tutu, and slipped it on. Then she turned around slowly and faced the wall of mirrors.

Her hair was slicked back, cemented more like, onto her head. There was a perfectly round bun on the top of her skull. Not a single rebellious, wisp of hair was out of place. Her face was pretty enough. Black eyeliner outlined her brown eyes. Her lips were smudged with red. Adrian’s eyes swept quickly over the next part of her body. Her lean neck, bony shoulders, protruding collarbones, twig arms, and flat chest were all covered by a long sleeve black leotard. Then there was the tutu. The elastic waistband hugged her just below her very visible rib cage. Adrian hated the way it emphasized the size of her waist. “Too thin,” her mother had said, the first time she saw her in it. Mr. Silvain had simply nodded and said, “That’ll do” in his thick French accent. Adrian focused hard at herself in the mirror. She looked at her two slender legs. The tutu was just long enough to cover the fact that her thighs didn’t touch. She looked like an almost flawless ballerina.

“Alright girls. Let’s go.” Mr. Silvain had suddenly materialized in the room and stood by the CD player waiting for Adrian and Emily to move to their places. The girls hurried to the rosin box and covered their shoes in the dry chalk. As she walked to her place Adrian moved her head back and forth and swung her arms around trying to loosen up her joints. She felt shaky and sore.

“Are you ready?” Emily asked. Her tutu swished towards Adrian. “We have to be perfect this time,” she murmured.

Adrian and her tutu turned towards Emily and hers. “We will.”

“Girls stop chattering. Let’s start.”

Adrian’s arms carved into over-rehearsed positions. Her toes twitched inside the shiny satin prisons of her pointe shoes. Adrian and Emily were frozen elegant pillars. Their tutus seemed to grow out of their waists. Adrian took a breath and then plastered a smile on that adequate face of hers.

Play. Music rushed into her ears and then down deep into every dark, cobwebbed corner of her being. Adrian’s fingers reacted first. Her arms and shoulders followed close behind. Her head was next, rolling and swaying. Her smile never wavered. Her blushing tutu began to bounce and swish as her body moved. Adrian’s arms went up, and she sautéd and coupéd and pas de chated. She glanced at Emily in the mirror to make sure their movements matched.

“More energy!” yelled Mr. Silvain.

Adrian threw herself into a pirouette and the pink tulle of her tutu wrapped around her like the cloth of a mummy. As it unwrapped it rustled.

“Grand jeté!” Mr. Silvain cried.

“Be perfect,” whispered the tutu.

Adrian let her whole body lift off. She had one moment of stillness and freedom while she was abandoned in mid air. Her tutu was a pink parachute around her. Gravity and the ground came quickly after that, and her tutu became a mushroom cloud. There was one final arm movement, and then she relevéd onto her toes. Adrian stayed perfectly still and balanced. The tutu quivered. Stop it. Stop moving. Adrian stared at the tutu in the mirror. It shook more. Mr. Silvain was staring at her. He wouldn’t turn the music off even though Adrian and Emily’s dance was finished. The classical music blared through the speakers, and Mr. Silvain walked towards them.

“Emily, that was good. Go get some water.” Emily left quickly.

Adrian stayed on her toes. She saw herself in the mirror. She was quivering all over. Her neck and forehead glistened with sweat. Her tutu shivered and whispered.

Mr. Silvain said quietly, “Get control, Adrian. You must be perfectly still.”

“Perfectly, perfectly,” said the tutu.

Adrian steeled her nerves. She tightened every muscle in her body. She glared at herself in the mirror. Be still. She exhaled, and turned herself into a statue.

“Perfect,” said Mr. Silvain. “Now, go get some water, and let’s run it again.”

Adrian ran to the bathroom without bothering to take the tutu off. She rushed into the stall, stuck her finger down her throat, and vomited the few contents left in her small stomach. She lifted her head up from the toilet. She felt empty and thin. Her tutu brushed against her arm. Adrian felt almost perfect.

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