Authors: Megan Atwood
The whole school was abuzz about the shoes. Kayley felt a little guilty thrill every time she heard about it. In English class, Mr. Boynton made an announcement:
There would be room searches that night.
Kayley had only a slight trickle of sweat at the thought. She felt she'd hidden the shoes well.
Madeleine tapped her on the shoulder as the English lesson started.
“Hey,” she whispered, “that was some awesome dancing.”
Kayley turned around and gave her a cold smile. “Thanks.”
Madeleine looked so genuine all the time. It was starting to bother Kayley lately.
She didn't know why, but she just felt mean.
“You know, I haven't seen you lugging around that big bag of Sour Patch Kids we got you.”
Kayley shrugged. “I'm not twelve anymore,” she said and turned around. She could practically feel Madeleine's quizzical look.
Three minutes later, a paper ball landed on her desk. Kayley looked over to Ophelia, a few rows over, who was frantically gesturing to her to open it.
Kayley was annoyedâall of a sudden they wanted to talk to her? Still, with Ophelia's eyes on her, she opened the note and read it. Ophelia had scrawled “What is up with you lately?” across the page. Kayley frowned and crumpled it back up, sticking it down in her bag.
What was up? Ophelia and Madeleine were best friends. Madeleine was taking Kayley's spot in ballet and everywhere else. All Kayley had was her dancing, so it was time to harness that electricity she'd been feeling ever since stealing the shoes. Time to show them who was boss.
That mean feeling spiked again as she noticed Sophie and Emma whispering and looking over at them. She'd show them all at practice that night.
Madame made the same announcement at practice that all the teachers had.
be searches tonight in your rooms. And anyone caught in possession of those shoes will be severely punished.”
Kayley had to suppress a snort. Well, who in her right mind
keep the shoes? She was confident of her hiding place, but if she hadn't been, she would have hidden them in someone else's room. That way, they'd get in trouble.
Kayley shook herself. What a mean thought! She could be sarcastic and insensitive sometimes, but she was never deliberately cruel. She shook her head. Probably not enough sleep.
As Madame led the class through their warm-up, Kayley felt that electric feeling rush through her again.
And when it was time to dance, she knew she killed it. She bourrÃ©d off center with a genuine smile on her face, not the usual fake one she put on for performances. Madame looked her way with an approving glance.
Next, Madame clapped her hands and said, “OK, stepsisters. Sophie, Emma. Your part.”
Kayley sat down and leaned into a wide stretch as Sophie and Emma took their places. Both started the first sequences for their parts in the show.
As they twirled, Kayley stared at them in a trance. She knew she was better than they were. That was why Madame had given her the part of fairy godmother in the first place. Madeleine, well, she was hard to compete with, though Kayley felt she had at least come close with her recent improvements. But Sophie and Emma weren't nearly as talented as Kayley.
Sophie hit an arabesque and then began her pirouette piquÃ©s. Kayley was concentrating so hard on Sophie's feet that her stare could have burned a hole in the floor.
And then Sophie's ankle turned.
The whole company seemed to gasp. Patrick stopped playing the piano with a string of wrong notes. Madame rushed to Sophie, crumpled on the ground. Emma held her hand.
“Patrick, be a dear and get the nurse, won't you?” Madame said.
Patrick nodded and rushed out of the room, coming back moments later with Nurse John. In one big movement, he picked up Sophie and carried her out.
The whole thing had happened so quickly that Kayley could barely breathe.
Madame came back in the room looking frazzled.
“Class dismissed for today.”
The ballet dancers gathered their things quickly and walked out in twos and threes, talking excitedly. Emma took off to the nurse's station while Madeleine and Ophelia walked out together in their two-person huddle, barely noticing Kayley.
As she neared the door, Madame called out to her, “Kayley, you'll dance the part of the stepsister” and then hurriedly ran out the door, frazzled in a way Kayley had never seen her before.
It took a moment before the thought sunk in.
Kayley was no longer in the corps! She had a solo. Her heart leapt with joy.
But then she had a prickly little thought. What if she had somehow caused Sophie's accident? Maybe her good luck meant bad luck for others?
She shook her head. No. Sophie's accident was just that: an accident.
Heart lightened, Kayley practically skipped out the door, excited about ballet for the first time in a long while.
At dinner, Kayley was so thrilled about her part, she hardly ate. But she was also bored of the dinner table conversation.
She sat at her normal place with Ophelia, Madeleine, and Emma, but it had been a few days since she had eaten with them and the whole situation felt weird. She stayed quiet, and she knew that was weird for everyone around her too. She picked at her vegetables.
Emma said, for the thousandth time, “There was just no reason she should've turned her ankle. She's done those moves at so many practices â¦ !”
Ophelia, who had ignored Emma the first 999 times, suddenly perked up. “Oh, there's a reason all right.”
Emma and Madeleine leaned in while Kayley just crossed her arms over her chest. This ought to be good. Ophelia loved being in the spotlight and loved making stuff up. Normally, Kayley loved the stories Ophelia concocted, but she wasn't in the mood that night.
“It's because of the shoes, of course,” Ophelia said. She picked up a green bean from her plate, ate it triumphantly, and sat back.
Now Kayley was interested. “What do you mean?” she asked. She hoped no one heard the hard edge in her voice. She cleared her throat and tried to soften her tone. “I mean, how could some old shoes in a case cause Sophie to turn her ankle?”
Ophelia smiled wide and leaned in again. “I heard they're a good luck charm for the school. As long as they stay public, you know, like, everyone's, they guard against bad things that happen to dancers. Now that they're gone, well â¦”
She shrugged, as if to say, who knew?
Emma's eyes grew wide. “This school is so weird, there are so many strange things that happen â¦ I can totally see it.”
That couldn't be true, Kayley thought. She shook off the idea and said, “Oh, come on. Sophie turned her ankle because ballet dancers get hurt! They just do! It happens.”
Ophelia grabbed another green bean off her plate and said, “That's just the legend I heard. I remember hearing the maintenance man telling some freshman who asked why a pair of ratty shoes was in the case. He seemed to take the whole thing personally.”
“Well, he must be going nuts, then, if that's the case,” Madeleine said. “Someone stole those shoes right out from underneath him.”
Emma shook her head. “I just don't get it. Who would do that? And how crazy â¦ It must be someone who really needs some attention. I feel sorry for them.”
Kayley dropped her fork. She bent under the table to pick it up, glad for the distraction. Emma felt sorry for her? Whatever. Who was the better dancer now? Maybe the company would be better off if Emma hurt herself too.
Once again, Kayley was startled by her own thought. Emma was her friend. And she had never wanted anyone to get hurt, ever. What was going on with her?
She put her fork on her plate and got up to leave, mumbling, “I'll see you guys tomorrow.”
Emma stood up too. “I'll come with you. I want to go visit Sophie in her room. She is so bummed. Do you want to come with?”
Kayley swallowed guiltily. “Uh, I have a lot of homework to do since I missed yesterday.”
Emma said, “Oh my gosh, I forgot you were sick. I was wondering why you'd been so quiet.”
Kayley made her way to the dishes station, wishing Emma would just go visit Sophie and leave her alone.
Kayley gave an awkward laugh and said, “Yeah. I'm feeling better, though.”
As Emma and Kayley started up the steps, Kayley took a peek at Madeleine and Ophelia, still at the dinner table. They were looking up at Kayley, whispering once again. Suddenly, she was crazy nervous that they suspected something. She started walking faster up the stairs.
Emma kept pace with her. “Well, it sure seems like you're doing better, with your dancing, anyway. No offense, but things weren't looking that good for you for a while.”
Kayley balled up her fists. How dare Emma say something like that? Who was she to judge Kayley's dancing?
And like that, Emma's feet came out from under her and she fell down the stairs.
Kayley looked at the bottom of the staircase and at Emma's twisted arm in shock. People thronged around Emma and began to help her up. What was going on?
And then a thought came, unbidden. Maybe Emma deserved that fall.
Kayley gasped at herself and felt the blood leave her face. Who was she turning into? She turned to run up the stairs, taking only one quick peek back at Emma and the throng of people.
She saw Ophelia eyeing her suspiciously.
Back in her room, Kayley couldn't catch her breath.
She'd thought that Emma deserved to have an accident. And then she did.
She shook her head. But that was crazy to think she could
people have accidents. And anyway, the shoes were supposed to give Kayley
luck, not make other people have bad luck.
Unless maybe she couldn't have one without the other.
She took out her sushi slippers and peered in at the shoes. She took one out and stroked it.
It looked harmless enough. The shoe's design was just beautiful, and once again, Kayley felt mesmerized. She reached her hand into the second sushi slipper.
Then she jumped a mile high when a knock came at the door.
Quickly, she stuffed the one shoe back in her slipper as a voice carried through. It was the maintenance man.
“Room search. Open up.”
Too paranoid to put the sushi slippers away, Kayley had an epiphany: she would wear the slippers with the shoes in them. She shoved her feet in the plush slippers, amazed that everything fit. She scooted along the floor and opened the door.
Madame stood with Bert and said, “A quick look through your room, Kayley. You may stay here while Bert searches.”
Suddenly Kayley had a thought: he had seen her looking at the shoes. For the second time that night, her heart began to race.
She hoped she was as forgettable to him as he was to her.
He showed no signs of recognition as he began searching her room. She sat down on the bed and bounced her knee.
Madame stood by her. As Bert searched her shoes, Kayley felt ecstatic that she'd put the slippers on. Bert was practically tossing the rest of her footwear in the airâif he'd done that with her slippers, the pointe shoes would have surely flown out.
She looked down at her slippers and noticed the tip of a ribbon sticking out of the back of her slipper. When Madame spoke in her ear, she jumped yet again.
“I've been very impressed with your dancing as of late, Kayley. I see you took our talk to heart.”
All Kayley could do was nod her head. She tried hard not to look down at her feet so that Madame wouldn't either.
Madame continued as Kayley started chewing on her fingernails. “All it took was a little extra effort on your part. It's good to see the fire back in your eyes.”
She patted Kayley's shoulder, and Kayley shuddered so much that Madame drew her hand away as if she'd touched a hot stove.
Madame narrowed her eyes. “Are you OK, Kayley?”
Kayley nodded. “Yes, just tired.”
Madame scrutinized her face. “Yes, you seem like it. You have dark circles under your eyes. When Bert's finished here, you should go right to bed.”
Bert stood up. “I'm done here. No shoes here.”
Kayley had a hard time not sighing with relief. She put one sushi slipper over the ribbon poking out and said, with real feeling, “Yes, I think I will go right to bed.”
Madame nodded and walked out with Bert. “Remember, you have class tomorrow! And it seems as though everyone is getting hurt.” She frowned, then turned back to Kayley. “Be careful tomorrow. We seem to be having a rash of bad luck.”
When the door shut, Kayley dropped back in her bed. That was close. She was suddenly so tired she could barely keep her eyes open. But when she tried to sleep, nightmares of falling ballerinas kept her tossing and turning.
At morning class the next day, Kayley was almost an hour early. She'd gotten no sleep and although she could feel the weariness in her bones, the events of the past two days had made her so anxious that she welcomed the thought of dance practice.
After her warm-up, around five thirty, Ophelia stormed into the room.
“I thought I'd find you here.” She crossed her arms across her chest. “What. Is. Going. On. With. You?”
Kayley stopped her turning. “What is going on with
?” she shot back, suddenly feeling the weeks of isolation. What had happened to the two of them?
“Me?” Ophelia said. “You're the one acting all strange! You stop trying at class, you don't care about anything â¦ and then all of a sudden you stop talking to everyone and become this Ã¼ber-dancer!”
Kayley shot daggers with her eyes. “Jealous, much? And anyway, I'm surprised you even noticed, with your head so far up Madeleine'sâ”
“Yeah, right. I think
the jealous one. Madeleine hasn't been acting like a freak.
were supposed to be my best friend, but you disappeared.”
Kayley heard real disappointment in Ophelia's voice. A pang of longing shot through her. She did miss her best friend.
But then Ophelia's eyes hardened. “Anyway, like you could ever compare to me as a dancer.”
Only Ophelia would say something like that. But instead of the rueful amusement Kayley normally would have felt, she felt rage.
She was twice the dancer Ophelia was now.
Madeleine walked in and seemed to see the sparks between Kayley and Ophelia.
“Guys?” she said timidly.
Kayley turned on her. “What.”
Ophelia began to shout: “You are being such a bâ”
Before Ophelia could finish, Madame walked in, along with most of the company. Practice commenced.
Kayley couldn't stop thinking about Ophelia's rude comments. When it was time for Ophelia's solo as Cinderella, Kayley stared at her with unrestrained hate.
Ophelia turned around and around in a quadruple pirouette, then performed a complicated series of movements that even Kayley couldn't take her eyes off of. But she kept thinking that maybe she could even be Cinderella if Ophelia were out of the picture. Then Kayley's parents would finally be proud of her. And Ophelia would get what she deserved.
As Kayley had the last thought, Ophelia landed a grand jetÃ©. Her knee gave out beneath her and she collapsed to the floor.
The popping of the knee snapped Kayley out of her trance. This was the third time she'd had such vicious thoughts and the third time something happened about them.
Whatever else was going on, Kayley knew one thing: The shoes were causing bad luck all around her. Without asking to be excused, she ran to her room.