Where was dad? She scanned the crowed. Mom was two roads back and Brian–it didn’t matter where he was as along as he wasn’t laughing and talking in the auditorium with his friends. At her last recital, ugh, so embarrassed, Brian talking the whole time and distracting her co-dancers and after the show people wondering who those boys were talking the whole performance and she pretended like she didn’t know.

Now her father hadn’t even made it. Her mother was just sitting next to an empty seat, stage right.

The music fluted over the speakers, it was almost her chance. If she did well this year maybe someday she’d be lead next–probably not, though. They only gave the leads to the senior or above and only to really good dancers. You are really good, Dad would say if he could be in her thoughts.

Huh, now’s your chance to prove it, Al. She took a step at her que. The bells around her wrists and ankles jingled. She held her head high, eyes near the catwalk, step and step, she brought her eyes slowly down to where Maya Ness was standing looking from side to side. Maya was Gerda, the heroine.

Al held her arms up and bent, then flowing out and stepping toward Gerda with a jingle of bells. Gerda turned to look at Al. The reindeer, Bae. Somehow Al knew, before the look on Gerda, or Maya’s face turned to black, small shock, that something was wrong. Al’s eyes widened. Her heart was suddenly in her throat, the heat of the stage lights intensified. She suddenly needed to pee horrible. It always happened when she got nervous. She tensed and leaned her head to one side as if it were part of the dance, then continued her step.

Maya Ness wasn’t an idiot. She recovered quickly, following along with Al as if there was nothing wrong. But Al’s face was burning. How could she have made such a stupid mistake. Ugh! Goodbye lead, goodbye life. She could have screamed at herself.

The rest of the scene, her part in it, ended in a blur. She fell into her steps so easily and didn’t rush, but tried to leave her thoughts and embarrassment behind. It didn’t matter that the audience hadn’t noticed. Or maybe they did–she didn’t know.

When she went off right with Maya they trotted back stage.

“What on earth is wrong with you?” asked Maya.

“Nothing,” said Al. Maya was taller than Al by half head with dark straight hair she’d inherited from her Japanese mother. “I just forgot.”

“You’re a fucking reindeer, Alex. It’s not that hard to remember,” said Maya.

Al caught her breath. She’d never had someone talk to her like that before. Maya used words meant to hurt. And they did.

“Just go find your antlers and do better in the next scene,” said Maya. “You aren’t the only one that looks like an idiot when you mess up. You leave us all hanging when you do something like that.”



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