Chapter One Rock Bottom
Last night I dreamt I was in hospital again. My nostrils full of the antiseptic stench that filled every corner of those buildings. Recent memories plagued me in my dreams. I relived the worst moment of my life over and over. Seventeen years old and my career already lay in complete ruins.
I had barely been back in the country and my mother had already lined up consultations with the top surgeons for second and third opinions. Her gentle hand laid itself on my arm, ‘The clicking is starting to bother others.’ Looking down at the fidget cube in my hand I realised I had been absentmindedly flicking the light switch side instead of rubbing the worry stone side like I had promised I would.
Slipping it into my jacket pocket just in time to hear my name called. ‘Ciara Grey.’This was the last name on my Mother’s list. If he couldn’t give me any hope my dream of being a professional ballet dancer would be over. Feeling the pressure of the crutches in my pits was enough to propel me forward. I had to know if there was a way to dance again.
‘No.’ Looking over his glasses frames his gaze unsettled me enough for me to forget I was supposed to be speaking English full time again, ‘Prostite menya pozhazluysta.’My stomach twisted as dread swept through me. He really was the last name on the list. ‘Pardon me?’ He sounded baffled. Not a Russian speaker then.
“You must excuse my daughter. She has been living in Russia for the past 8 years. English has become second nature to her. I believe she asked for clarification to your ‘no’.” My mother shot me a warning look. Shifting uncomfortably in my seat I resist rolling my eyes at her. She doesn’t get it.
Looking up from examining my most recent knee x-rays the specialist rearranged his features into a mask of genuine sympathy.‘I’m sorry Ciara. This isn’t the result we were hoping for. The operation worked to a certain degree, but you will not be able to dance professionally again. Not to the same calibre with the daily stresses required for a ballerina.’
Spots dot my vision. My mother’s gentle hand grounds me, her modulated tones seep through the fog surrounding my thoughts. Pen scratching loudly across her notebook, she verbally goes over his recovery regime for my next few weeks. The crutches lean against the far wall in vain hope that I would walk out of this room without them. Tentative taps on the underside of my arm draws me back into the conversation.
They both patiently wait for an answer to a question I missed during my emotional crisis. I don’t know what they expect from me. Dancing has been my life for as far back as I can remember. They both wait for me to say something. Anything. Words fail me for the first time in my entire seventeen years.Staring at them both I wait patiently for a direction.
I couldn’t thank him for taking away my life. I refused to thank him for the demise of my entire career. I didn’t have a plan. I had no idea what I was going to do next. Gritting my teeth against the scream of agony rising up from deep within my soul, my eyes must have conveyed all I couldn’t say. Shaking his head in real sympathy he carried on speaking around me, ‘I assume her education took a back seat to her career. Get her back into school with daily counselling sessions.’At least he recognised my numb state for what it truly was. Beautiful trauma.
Leaning forward, face hidden behind a thick wall of hair I expertly slip my air pod back into my ear. Keeping the music turned off was the only way my brain could cope with the reality being thrust upon me. How could I separate myself from the very air I breathed? Excise the sheer need to dance from my soul? If I couldn’t hear music without dancing how was I to survive in a world full of sound when I could no longer express my innermost thoughts? The crutches appear in my sight line. Accepting them I awkwardly balance everything until I can gracefully leave the room not waiting for the end of the appointment.
Boxes greeted me as soon as I limped into my sitting room at our Sydney property. I hadn’t been here for years. Modelled on colonial times the sandstone buildings overlooked the harbour with a prime view of the bridge itself. Taking in the updated details in a glance I shut the double doors behind me locking out the rest of the world. Nosy lot.The local media had caught wind that someone was in residence and were currently camped out on the lawn hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive daughter.
Swallowed by my own pit of despair, I didn’t leave my wing of the house. Once my mobile started ringing all I could hear was the music. I didn’t want to hear the music. Stopping myself from smashing my phone against the wall to prevent further torment. I needed to dance but I craved silence more. My social media blew up with my friends asking if I was okay at random hours. Pausing to force myself to stop and breath, I switched the offending item off and buried it in a drawer. I was far from okay. My random decision to delete all my accounts left me feeling more isolated yet free from random judgemental comments.
My face flashed back at me on the television with made up stories to go with it. I didn’t want to deal with it all. I needed to do a Britney and shave my head. Latching onto the first solid thought that bounced through my mind in the last few days I found that you tube video that showed how to shave your head.Sectioning off my hair I raised the scissors and stared at them in fascination. I didn’t care if it was even. I didn’t care period. I needed to make a change. Silver blades flashed. Strands of hair slid down my shoulders. Determined, I hacked at the next section of hair with vigour. Undoing the bands, my waist length hair now fell unevenly around my chin. Loud banging on the door distracted me from the mess I was standing in. Only one person had the audacity to ignore my request for privacy.
My mother’s mouth settled into a grim line as she took in the changes to my appearance. ‘Ciara what did you do to your hair? Your beautiful hair.’ She swept through the door on a mission. It was the first time I had let her near me since the bad news. ‘I haven’t painted the living room walls with blood yet if that’s what you’re checking for.’ My dry words were a poor attempt at humour. Her fingers danced through the jagged ends of my hair pulling against the roots slightly. ‘As much as I love your new expression of freedom darling your new school isn’t as liberal.’ She perched uncomfortably on the sectional I had pushed up against one wall.Not giving me a chance to argue she tapped the earpiece in her ear, ‘Call Stasia.’ Waiting to watch her work her magic was hell. Even my decision to rebel was about to be reversed. I turned to clean up my bathroom. ‘Stasia darling. Ciara needs your magic. Mmhmm. No. She was cast in a role that required chin length shag and the director ended up going with his second option. Extensions. Tonight? Perfect.’
Leaving the hair in the waste bin under my sink I straightened to see her waiting in the doorway. ‘When do I leave for this school?’ Even conversation between us felt stilted. ‘They will take you on Monday. Your flight leaves Sunday at 2pm. It is followed by a short boat ride across to the island. I think you will like Waterways. They were very understanding.’
Quickly tapping the school link into her phone, she lets me peruse the website. Island.I was going to school on a freaking island. Astounded by the wealth of new information now at my fingertips I quickly sifted through all the speculation until I found what I was looking for. Understanding? Narrowing my eyes, I raise my head and glare. Just how much of my traumatic experience had she shared. ‘Naturally they expected you to get back to training as an assistant in place of dance. I managed to get them to agree to daily counselling as long as you choreograph for the school.’ Unfazed she reminds me, ‘Everything you do once you step foot on the island determines your future.’ Same old pressure of life then that’s good to know.
‘Ciara it has been two days since you got the news.When was the last time you ate?’ she tried approaching me from a different angle. An angry growl echoes around the room punctuating the question audibly. ‘I don’t remember.’ Honesty seems like the best policy at this point.Picking up my house line she dials 0 for the kitchen, ‘Susie prep some soup and crackers for Ciara please. I don’t know. Please hold.’She turns to me embarrassment swimming in her sable eyes, ‘Do you eat chicken soup?’ Nodding I let my gaze run over my room seeing it properly for the first time.
Silver vines climb to the ceiling on a grey back drop with a black C book holder fixed to the wall over it. A red sectional couch spans the length of the opposite wall.Silver carpet. A black four poster bed in the corner on the diagonal. The prerequisite chandelier hangs from a white ceiling adorned with crown moulding. In short, once again no expense had been spared in trying to drag me into the fashionable world of colour.
‘A swim in the outside pool will do you some good while you wait.’ She decrees. Following her into the walk-in closet, she removes a suit from one of the drawers in the centre island and a cover from a hanger. ‘Towels are in the pool house. Clear your head. I’ll have someone come find you when your food is ready.’
Blinking in the sunshine and fresh air I drink in the view of Sydney’s central business district with its sharp skyscrapers rising high to touch the atmosphere. Heat radiates up from the red sandstone pavers reminding me that I should be bundled up against a five-degree day full of ice and snow. Keying my music to play through the outdoor speakers the serenity is broken by the dulcet tones of Elena Temnikova.
Limping over to the edge of the pool the girl who stares back at me reflects how I feel inside. The time for her is slowly passing. Diving into the image dismissing her from my reality I surface and then slice through the water with sure strokes. Searching for that soothing serenity that encompasses my frame of mind as I reach the end of my first lap. Would it really be so bad to go to a boarding school? I was already used to living away from my Mother and the whirlwind that was her social life.
As the music dissipates in the water, I’m aware that someone is waiting for me poolside. She must be feeling upset I decide scrutinising the worn lines on her face.Mother usually had the staff deal with me through the day, so she didn’t disturb the creative process. ‘I thought we could have lunch out here today.’ She smiles before helping me to the nearest chair where the crutches and knee brace lay waiting for me.
‘Will I have to wear a uniform?’ I ask the first frivolous question that crosses my mind. ‘During the school day. After hours, you may choose your own outfit as long as it fits the school code. I’ve already taken the opportunity to put together a small sample of the new collection.’She eats a small forkful of pasta before adding, ‘Everything will be waiting on the island. All that is left for you to pack is the things from your Russia boxes that you cannot live without. I can have them shipped tomorrow or you can take it with you.’
‘What happened to Mishka?’ Until now, even I hadn’t thought of my sweet companion of four years. ‘I had him taken to our house in Moscow when I closed up your apartment in St Petersburg. He’ll be looked after there especially since you can’t have him with you at school.’ She smiles, ‘I know how attached you are to your little Egyptian Mau. I promise that he’ll be waiting at whichever house for your school holidays.’
copyright 2020 M. J. Wright
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