The Dreamer and The Dance

Isabella Anderson was a beautiful woman. At this very moment however, she felt too exhausted to worry about her looks. Sweat ran down her lithe dancers body in rivulets, soaking her sky blue leotard and making her wish she’d worn the much more resilient black. The colour suited her however, and this morning she had dressed to impress. Pale pink stockings coated legs that were long, thin and deceivingly well muscled. Honey blonde hair was piled into a neat bun, but already tendrils of curls were escaping despite the exorbitant amount of hairspray she’d used to keep it there.
It had been her eyes that had been the deciding factor for the artistic director. At the last cut-back, she had stumbled slightly in one of the rigorous routines the choreographer was putting the girls through, but he had kept her on, letting another go who probably should have stayed. He could see potential in her movement and she could sing, undoubtedly, but he was still waiting for her to truly speak to him through dance. Her eyes though, her eyes had so much to say. Bright blue and alight with energy, they would look amazing on stage, and the upward sweep at the edges that gave her sharp featured face a cat like grace made him want her for the lead more than other, more able dancers. It did not shame him to choose based on looks, this was show business after all and he had to find the girl who could look the part, not just act it.
She stood in front of him on the stage, waiting patiently with four other girls, their chests heaving from the exertion of yet another routine designed to cull them further. They’d been at it since ten in the morning and now out of the hundreds that had originally auditioned there was just five and the sky outside had begun to turn grey with the coming dusk.
“Alright girls, take a breather then we’ll get into your individual routines. We’ll go in number order, so -” he glanced down at the clipboard in front of him, “Janine, you’re up first, Isabella, you’re last.”
The girls were too tired to do anything but nod before rushing off the stage and into the wings. Isabella picked up the towel that was lying on her bag and dragged it over her face before taking a sip from her water bottle. She knew it was close, she knew the five of them going for the lead role were fairly evenly matched in technique, she just needed to pull out all the stops in her solo. She cursed herself for fumbling in the fourth cut-back, knew that it had nearly cost her and knew, more than anything that she could get this part.
She watched from the wings as Janine took to the stage. She was exceptional, skin coloured dark like honey, gorgeous dark eyes and a body that she showcased in a tight hot pink leotard. She had more potential than any of them but she was young, just eighteen and Isabella knew that they would see her as inexperienced and underdeveloped as an artist. Isabella was older, more experienced but there were some kinks in her portfolio as well.
It had been a long while since she’d had to audition for a part; she’d forgotten what it felt like, the waiting, the nerves pulsing, the adrenaline rush and the exhilaration that came from simply being on that stage. God it was good to be back. It was time for her to prove to them that she was ready, that nothing was going to stop her from fulfilling her dreams. .
Full, lush lips turned up with a grin as she walked onto the stage to do just that.
“Alright Isabella, show us what you’ve got.” Jon watched as she took her place centre stage and nodded into the wings for the music. “Please”, he mumbled under his breath, “Make it spectacular”. He could see the exhaustion plaguing her body but could not let that be an excuse, the other four girls were just as tired, had been put through an audition process that separated the better from the best, but still he needed more.
She gave it to him. The music began and her face lit up. Her whole body seem to lift with energy and she performed, she really performed. She gave it everything she had and more and hoped desperately that it would be enough. She felt amazing. Imagining she was performing to a theatre full of people she let her voice rip from her chest and the bumping and grinding of the self-choreographed routine take over so she could be free.
There was silence in the theatre when she was finished, broken only by her gasping breath. Her legs felt as though they couldn’t hold her, every muscle was trembling, every bone aching but her mind was clear.
It took every ounce of will power he had not to scream out right then and there that she had the part, but Jon remained composed, putting his hand on the casting director’s shoulder to whisper, “She’s the one.” She only nodded in mute agreement.
Jon grinned at her before rearranging his notes. “Alright,” he said, his voice echoing in the empty theatre, “House lights up please. Girls, you can come back on now.” He watched as the four girls joined Isabella on stage. They stood mutely, staring up at him through eyes in varying colours, all filled with exhaustion and hope.
Isabella stood in the centre, taking comfort in the hand that had been placed on her shoulder. She looked at Abigail, best friend and rival and smiled slightly before glancing back up.
She could see very little of the men and women sitting in the centre of the theatre, but knew they could see every move she made. Producer, director, choreographer, they were all there along with many others who made the decisions that could shatter the life of some and send others soaring.
“Okay, we won’t keep you waiting with our decisions; you’ve been here long enough.”
The voice that echoed around the theatre was the same one that she had been hearing all day, strong, masculine and faintly accented, she knew it was the artistic director, knew that this man was the one to whom all others went to for guidance.
“As you know, the story we are telling has three major female characters, Andrea, Rebekah and the lead, Helen. The cast then is as follows, Janine you will play Andrea, Abigail we’ve given you the role of Rebekah and Helen goes to Isabella. Kimberly and Kathleen you will be understudies.”
Oblivious to the emotions he had just stirred, he continued “We’ll let you get home now, get some rest, and see you back on Monday to begin, we look forward to working with you.”
Isabella starred up at him, big eyes tearing slightly, but otherwise perfectly still.
“Belle, Bella.” Abigail whispered, tugging her hand. “You got it, you got the part.”
“What?” Isabella jumped when Abbey put her arms around her.
“You got the part, you got the lead.”
“I…got the lead?”
“Of course! Didn’t you hear what he said? You’re the lead!”
Isabella felt her body go limp and let Abigail hold her as she sat, stunned in the middle of the stage.
“Well, I knew you could do it. You’re back Bella, after everything. You’ve finally done it. Don’t you want to come back and cool down? You’ll be hurting tomorrow if you don’t.”
“You go.” Isabella whispered. “I’m just going to sit here a moment.”
Abbey kissed her on the cheek. “Alright Belle, but don’t be too long, take a deep breath okay?”
“Okay.” She stared into her hands, trying to keep the tears at bay as Abbey left the stage.
“Are you alright?”
Isabella jumped at the sound of his voice and looked up, craning her neck to see further. He was well dressed, that’s what she noticed first about him, what she always noticed first. Grey pants, pressed with army precision, sleek leather shoes, a narrow belt and a white shirt rolled up to reveal strong forearms, covered a body that to her dancers eye was well proportioned and well muscled. When he crouched beside her she got a clear glimpse of his face before she looked down at her hands again. Lovely, she thought as her heart thumped hard in her chest. Sandy coloured hair that was nicely mused from running his hands through it and slightly curled, deep brown eyes with lashes that would have given him trouble as an adolescent and a face that she just itched to run her hands over.
“Are you alright?” He repeated, concerned now for the girl was white as a sheet.
“Fine, thankyou,” She whispered.
He handed her his water bottle, waiting as she took a sip. “Thanks.” She handed it back, glancing quickly at him before returning her eyes to her lap.
She was shy, he thought. How could she be shy? “Rough day huh?” He brushed his fingers under her chin, smiling as she lifted those bright blue eyes to his.
“No” she said, suddenly eager. “It’s been the best day.”
“Glad to be of service.” He stood and held out his hand. She put hers in his gratefully and let him haul her to her feet. “Jon, Jon Saunders.”
“You’re Jon Saunders?”
“Let me guess, you expected someone older?”
Bella stared in surprise at the man who had just given her the best break of her life. He towered over her, the hand he still held was dwarfed by his rough palm. She put him at about twenty-nine, much too young to already be renowned as a talented artistic director.
“Yes…no, I don’t know. You’re just not the man I’d put to the voice.”
“The voice?”
“The one telling us what to do, who to go, who to stay…who’s going to lead…”
“Ah, and that would be you, although you don’t look too impressed by the idea.”
“Oh no, no don’t think that.” She reached out to cover their intertwined hands with her other, narrow fingers curving gently over his, “It’s nothing like that, I’m just shocked that’s all. I’ve been off the circuit for awhile; it’s just nice to know I still have it.”
“You still have it, saw you stumble at the fourth though, it could have been the end.”
“I know, but you should know that you won’t find anyone who will work harder than me, you won’t find anyone with more determination than me.”
“I know, I’ve read your file,” Numerous times, he thought. “You’ve had quite the recovery.” He didn’t mention that the file had not described the extent of her injuries or how she had come by them.
“Tell me about it. I’m fine now though. I should go cool down.” He was staring at her making her want to twine her arms around her body to protect herself. She held herself perfectly still, despite her lack of attire.
“You should, I wouldn’t want you to be sore on Monday, it will probably be bigger.”
“Oh, I won’t be sore – you don’t have to worry about that. It was nice to meet you, even if you aren’t what I expected.” She felt reluctant to leave, wondering what it was exactly that had put that look in his eyes.
“You aren’t precisely what I expected either. You look larger than life on the stage but up close, well, you’re very small.” He stared for a moment more, “You have the most startling eyes.” He added quietly, amused at the flush of embarrassment that brightened her features.
“I won’t let you down.” She said turning from him and walking away.

Isabella stepped gingerly into the steaming hot bath that Abigail had ready for her when she made it home. It was tinged green from the powder they used to relax tight muscles and smelt faintly of a medicine cabinet, but she sighed gratefully as she slid her legs under the surface and rested her head on the ledge.
Smiling she turned to the phone extension next to her and picked up the receiver. Dialling the number that she knew better than her own, she sat back and let her free had fall to rub her aching calves. Her soft smile of contentment turned into a grin as the phone clicked on to the answering machine. She waited for the obligatory dial tone before she spoke.
“Darcey, Darc, it’s me, pick up the phone, I know you’re there. Put whatever it is you’re writing down for a minute and pick up the – “
“Belle?” Her sister’s husky voice poured over the phone and Isabella sighed in response.
“Hey Darc, what are you writing?” Isabella held the phone with her shoulder and reached to grab a hand towel from beside the bath, using it to wipe her face free of the grime of hard work.
“Oh, I’m almost finished the one about the girl detective whose partner gets murdered, you’ll like it I think.”
“Darc, you haven’t written a book I haven’t liked yet, in fact, you haven’t written a book that anyone hasn’t liked yet.”
“Just because the reviews say they’re good doesn’t mean they are.” Her sister was her own worst critic; Isabella didn’t know anyone more determined to succeed except maybe, herself.
“Darling, the reviews say they’re magnificent, in fact, I do believe the last said something along the lines of ‘incredible, absolutely incredible’.” “Yes, well, that was then, this is now, but it’s coming along well. Let’s not talk about me though, how did everything go today?” At the other end of the phone Darcey’s fingers were tapping nervously on edge of her laptop.
“I got the part.” Darcey stopped tapping.
“You got what part?” She said, caution in her voice.
“I got…the part, the lead, I did it Darc. We did it. Everything’s going to be okay now.”
“You got the part? I don’t believe it!”
Isabella listened, grinning as her sister rattled off a stream of praise, waiting for her to pause. Finally she stopped and silence hung over the line.
“Darc, it’s okay, I know you’re worried, it’ll be fine though, I promise.”
Darcey sighed, knowing that her sister had seen straight through her. “I know.” She said quietly, “and I am so proud of you, I just…you need to be careful, you know what the doctors said.”
“Darcey, I know what they said, but I’m going to do this, there’s too much riding on it now so stop worrying and let me tell you about the absolutely gorgeous artistic director.”

When Isabella walked into the rehearsal room on Monday she found it empty but for Jon who sat in front of the piano staring at the sheet music.
He waited patiently as she warmed up, saying little as she went through the motions – stretching each joint and muscle until all of her, every part, was ready to dance. When she stripped off her tracksuit to reveal a black leotard and tights, he noticed for the first time the wide scar on her back.
Moving from the piano he sat beside her. “What happened to you?” He asked, running a finger down the wound.
She jumped when he touched her and turned to face him. “Does it matter?”
“It doesn’t affect your dancing?”
“Then it doesn’t matter in the slightest, but I’d like to know.”
She moved to grip the barre, drawing strength from its solidity. “I was shot, okay? I was stupid enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and I paid for it.”
“That’s why you were out for two years? Must have been a serious injury.”
“Serious enough. But I’m fine now. Could we please just get on with it?”
She lifted her eyes from the ground, glaring.
“You have so much fire, so much anger. I think it’s incredible, what you’ve done.”
“I did what I had to do to be able to dance again. It’s not incredible. It’s life. People do it all the time.”
“Such a young age to be a cynic.”
“It’s not cynical.” She said quietly, “It’s realistic.”
“Still, how badly were you hurt?”
“What are you asking me? Whether I’ll be able to handle it?”
“You almost broke down on Saturday.”
“I’m entitled to be exhausted after a seven hour audition.”
“What about a ten hour day?”
“Look, you need to stop. I can handle this, you need to trust me. I’m at the top of my game. I’m better than I was before I left and I’m going to prove it to everyone, including you.”
“Okay.” He paused, wanting desperately to get under the shield that she had drawn tightly around her, “Tell me then… would it be realistic to admit that I feel something for you that under the circumstances I should not be feeling?”
“I don’t know. Are you telling the truth?”
“Why would I lie?”
“Sometimes…in this business, people expect things from those working for them.”
He cupped her face in his hands. “What are you thinking? It’s not like that.”
“It’s not?”
“Of course not. There is no obligation here. It’s not some unwritten line in your contract. Isabella, it’s attraction – I simply thought it best to get it out in the open early. I apologise if it bothers you.”
“And if I feel nothing?”
“Do you?”
“If I do?”
“Then I’ll accept it. It’s your decision. But Isabella, your eyes, they are telling me there’s something here so I’m not so sure that I would believe you if you said there was nothing.”
Once again her eyes found the floor and held. “I don’t know you.” She said quietly.
Poised to run, he thought. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” He reached out and ran his thumb along her jaw, finally she looked him in the eyes, “Just ask.”
When she simply stared, bright eyes misted in confusion, he continued, “Sometimes,” he said, “Sometimes you can’t help but feel even when you don’t know a person. Figuring out why is the fun part. At least let me take you out to dinner.”
“You do eat, don’t you?”
She glared at him, “Of course I do.”
“Good. We’ll go tonight. I’ll pick you up about seven, alright?”
For a moment there was silence while she considered, “Alright.” She said finally.
“Good.” He ran his hands across her cheeks as he bent to her, “That’s good.” He kissed her quickly, softly, before pulling away. “Now let’s get to work.”

The Dreamer and The Dance


East Maitland, Australia

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