Moon White: Color Me Enchanted with Bonus Content (3 page)

BOOK: Moon White: Color Me Enchanted with Bonus Content
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three

T
HE
E
CHELON
D
ANCE
S
TUDIO IS LOCATED IN AN OLD BOXLIKE BRICK BUILDING
in the center of our sleepy downtown district. I’ve been coming here for ten years now, and sometimes this place seems like my home away from home. Naomi Lamb owns the whole three-story building. She rents the first floor as a restaurant, which has served everything from Mexican to Thai food and currently puts out a fairly respectable Italian menu. Naomi uses the second floor as her dance studio. It’s a pretty cool place with its shiny hardwood floors and one long wall with nothing but mirrors and barres, and the opposite wall with nothing but windows that overlook Main Street. And the whole place smells pungent with floor polish and rosin, along with something else, something sort of musty and old but good, familiar.

As usual, I park in the back and go through the side door, which leads to a dark, narrow staircase. These stairs go on up to a seldom-used third floor and a few old and mostly vacant apartments that my dance friends and I used to pretend were haunted back when we were little and looking for some cheap thrills. When I reach the second floor, I hear the strains of piano music echoing down the hallway. It’s the intermediate ballet class, the one I was in a couple years ago.

“Hi, Heather,” calls Katy as she dashes out of the bathroom,
still pushing one of her arms into her pale blue leotard. “Looks like you’re running late too.”

“It’s not even four yet,” I point out.

“Oh, I thought it was past four.” She adjusts her twisted sleeve and pushes her arm the rest of the way through. “I was studying at the library and lost track of the time.”

I smile to myself as we walk into the studio. Only someone as academic as Katy Morris could lose track of time while studying. I’m not sure if it’s because both her parents are teachers or because she’s a Chinese adoptee (I’ve heard that Asians are scholastically superior), but Katy really takes school seriously. In fact, dance for her is secondary to her studies. I never quite got that.

We sit down on the bench and begin putting on our toe shoes. Only three dancers are in the
en pointe
class this year, and Naomi keeps threatening to drop Rebekah Sanders if she doesn’t start practicing more. But at least Rebekah is here early today. I can see her already going through warm-ups in the back room. I hurry to lace and tie my ribbons. “I’m going to warm up too,” I tell Katy, who’s still fumbling with her tangled ribbons.

“Hi, Heather,” says Rebekah as she does a graceful leg stretch, arching her arm in a gentle curve. Sometimes I think Rebekah could be really good if she put some effort into her ballet. But I suppose I’m relieved that she doesn’t try harder. That allows me to stay where I like it most — at the top of our class. I suppose if our little dance school had a prima donna this year, not that anyone would ever say anything as lame as that, it would have to be me. But I’ve worked long and hard to reach this position. And I guess I sort of enjoy the status.

“How’s it going?” I ask Rebekah as I join her at the barre.

“Okay, I guess.” She sighs and pushes a strand of hair from her eyes.

I’m never sure what to talk to this girl about, since she does homeschool and sews her own clothes and enters baking contests, and her life is so totally foreign to me. But I know she’s older than me, and I have been curious about her plans following graduation. Or does she even have graduation? Like will her parents throw a party and hand her a diploma? Will she make a speech?

“Is this your last year of doing homeschool?” I ask.

“Yeah. I might actually get my diploma by Christmas if I finish my math in time.”

“Will you go to college after that?”

Her eyebrows shoot up and she looks slightly disturbed. “Oh no. No, I don’t think so.” She switches legs and turns away from me.

“Oh.” I switch legs too. “So what will you do then?”

She lets out another deep sigh as she bends over. “I don’t really know.”

“But you know you don’t want to go to college?” Okay, it’s obvious this girl doesn’t want to talk about her future. Whatever. Maybe I should just shut up.

“It’s just that I wouldn’t want to go to college right away,” she says slowly, as if she’s carefully gauging her answer. “I just don’t think I’m ready to leave home yet.”

“Oh.”

“Hey, you guys,” says Katy as she joins us. “Did you see the new girl?”

“New girl?” I glance over Katy’s shoulder.

“Yeah. She’s going to be in our class. Naomi just introduced me to her. Her name is Elizabeth and she’s really pretty.”

I notice the clock on the wall. “Hey, it’s a couple minutes past four,” I announce. So we all go back into the main part of the studio,
and I see that Naomi is talking to a slender blonde girl who’s about my height. “Come meet Elizabeth Daniels,” she calls out to us. Then, one by one, she introduces each of us, telling a bit about our dance background, ending with me. “And Heather has been with me since she was this high.” Naomi holds her hand down low, then reaches up and pats me on the head. “She’s come a long way in her dancing too. I’m very proud of her.”

“Thanks!” I smile at Naomi. This is high praise, coming from our teacher. Naomi’s always been careful not to elevate anyone’s talent over another’s. That’s just one of the many things I respect about her.

“Elizabeth’s family moved to Westport last week,” Naomi continues. “She was born in Connecticut, but her dad’s work relocated them up here from Southern California.” She puts an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “I know all about her, because Elizabeth’s mother is my best friend.”

“Naomi is my godmother,” says Elizabeth. “She’s the reason I originally got interested in ballet. She sent me a pink tutu when I was about four. After that, I was hooked.”

“And Elizabeth has been en pointe for nearly three years.” Naomi winks at us. “And I happen to know she’s a very accomplished ballerina. I think she’ll fit right in with our class.”

Naomi claps her hands and calls out some instructions to Sienna, our new piano player. Sienna only started working for Naomi this fall, and she seems like a real character and slightly out of place in the dance studio, but she never says much and she plays really well. I keep thinking I should talk to her and make her feel more welcome. Something about her dark eyes reminds me of my mom. They have this sort of intensity, like she’s thinking some very important thoughts. But there’s no time for socializing today because we’re
already beginning our regular practice routine.

I quickly learn that not only is Elizabeth
accomplished
, she’s also extremely good. In fact, she’s outstanding. Normally I take the lead in our class, and Katy and Rebekah work to keep up with me, but today it’s all I can do to keep up with Elizabeth. This girl is going to keep me on my toes — literally!

I’ve actually broken into a serious sweat when it’s only midway through practice. And I’m also getting more than a little worried. Elizabeth Daniels is way out of my league. I suspect she’s been to some pretty advanced ballet schools. Consequently, I feel certain there’s no chance that I’ll get the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy this year. Not with Naomi’s goddaughter in the ranks. Combine her talent with her looks, including that long, wavy blonde hair, and it’s plain to see that I’m history. Crud, Elizabeth even
looks
like the Sugar Plum Fairy!

I tell myself not to be jealous and I try to refocus my energy into a perfect arabesque, holding it just a second too long, which makes me lose my balance. Oh well.

As soon as class ends, I grab up my stuff, excusing myself by saying that I need to get home quickly, and then I leave. Of course, it’s not true. I can go home whenever I like. I just want out of there. I wipe my sweaty forehead with the back of my hand as I scurry down the stairwell. Okay, I’m probably obsessing over this sudden feeling of displacement. I just need to catch my breath and regain some perspective. I know I wasn’t dancing my best today. For one thing, I was too uptight. My best dance always comes when I’m relaxed. But how can I relax next to someone like Elizabeth? Maybe I just need to give it time. I go through these mental aerobics as I drive home, trying to reason with myself, but as I pull into our driveway I feel crushed. Maybe I’ll quit ballet altogether. I’m tempted to call
Lucy and pour out my problems, but then I remember that Lucy is mad at me.

“It’s the equinox this weekend,” I hear Augustine saying as I come in the back door. “I think we should throw a little celebration.”

“Uh-huh,” says my dad.

I can tell by the contented tone of Dad’s voice that he and Augustine are probably in the middle of one of their kitchen embraces. I hate walking in on them when they’re like this. I feel so intrusive, so out of place. It’s like they should still be on their honeymoon or something. They certainly don’t act like the parents of a teenager. But then I guess they’re still technically newlyweds. Even so, sometimes I want to tell them to get a room. Oliver rubs himself against my legs and I lean down and scoop him up, scratching under his chin until he purrs happily. I guess we all need a little affection sometimes.

Still, it bugs me that I don’t recall my dad ever hugging my mom like that in the kitchen, back when she was still with us. Oliver jumps down and starts picking at his kitty kibbles, and I just stand there in the laundry room feeling like this isn’t even my house. Maybe I should just slip back out to the garage and pretend like I’m not here. But I can smell something cooking, and I suspect that Augustine is putting together some kind of dinner for us. Since cooking’s not exactly her specialty, I should probably stick around.

Augustine is vegan too, but my dad is not. Although he’s recently given up red meat as well as poultry, he still eats fish and eggs and dairy. And I must admit that sometimes, especially when he makes a grilled cheese sandwich, I consider giving up the vegan thing myself. And I suppose if I was to be perfectly honest, I’d have to admit that I probably only stick with it because it’s helped me lose a few pounds and because Augustine is so happy to have two vegans
in the house. Not that I don’t care about animals. I really do. But, like Lucy so frequently points out, milk cows probably don’t really suffer that much. Still, I’d feel like a failure if I gave it up after only a couple of months. I can do better than that.

I hear little giggles and that kind of quiet talk that warns me this is a private moment, so despite the aroma of dinner, I tiptoe back out the door, get into my car and drive north. I have no idea where I’m going, but this stretch of the road goes along the ocean and I usually find it soothing. I drive all the way to North Bay, a small coastal town about twenty minutes from Westport. Mom and I used to come here to get ice cream sometimes, but the old ice cream store was replaced by a cheesy tourist shop a few years ago, the kind of place that sells a little bit of everything and has lots of plastic junk lined up in its grimy windows. Still, I drive by just for old time’s sake. But I’m surprised to see that the store has changed. It looks classier. The sign says The Crystal Dragon, and some of the glassware in the window looks interesting. I pull in front and park, unsure as to whether it will even be open since it’s nearly six. But I notice someone walking inside, so I decide to check it out.

A bell tinkles on the door, and the first thing I notice is the smell. It’s an interesting mix of scents, very herbal and floral, but also sort of mysterious. I like it.

“Hello,” calls a woman from the back of the store.

“Hello,” I call back, pausing to look at a shelf full of candles.

“Can I help you find anything?” she asks as she approaches me. She’s wearing a long multicolored skirt, the kind that looks all wrinkly, with a loose-fitting velvet top that’s the color of moss.

“I just noticed your store, and it looked interesting,” I say as I pick up an orange candle and sniff it.

“That one is for success,” she says, “strength and authority.”

“Huh?” I turn and look at her.

She sort of laughs. “Oh, TMI, right?”

Okay, now I’m even more confused.

“TMI, as in
too much information
. You probably just liked the candle for its scent, right? And I go on and on about things you don’t really care about.”

“It does smell good.”

“It’s bergamot,” she explains. “That’s an herb that promotes things like creativity and luck.”

“Oh.”

“You see, these candles are specially designed with colors and scents that enhance your life. The line is called Magic Sense, and you picked out a good one.”

“So if I buy this candle and burn it, I will be successful and lucky?” I say in a slightly skeptical tone.

She smiles. “If only life were that easy.”

I nod. “But I do like the scent.” I pick up a red one. “What’s this one do?”

“That one’s for passion and love.”

I take a whiff but find the fragrance overwhelming.

“It’s scented with saw palmetto berry. It’s supposed to help you in the bedroom.”

Reminded of the scene I left behind in the kitchen, I quickly set the candle back. “I’ll pass.”

She laughs.

“I got a book about Wicca when I was in Scotland last summer,” I say as I look at a display of crystals. “I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but I think it has some information about things like herbs and stones.”

“Yes. They are all part of the balance of life. It takes a little time
to figure out how all the elements work together, but once you start to understand these things, your life will become more balanced as well.”

I nod as I consider this. Balance would be nice. I feel like I’ve been slightly off balance for months now, ever since Dad remarried in fact, and today I feel like I’m slipping totally sideways. “So using these things can help you get some control of your life?” I ask her.

She nods. “In a manner of speaking, yes. Knowledge is power, and understanding the earth and its elements can be very empowering. I have something for you,” she says, walking over to the counter. She picks up something that looks like a stack of cards, then shuffles it a bit and finally hands one to me. “Here.”

BOOK: Moon White: Color Me Enchanted with Bonus Content
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