Authors: Megan Atwood
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The cursed ballet / by Megan Atwood.
pagesÂ Â Â Â cm. â (The Dario Quincy Academy of Dance ; #3)
ISBN 978â1â4677â0932â3 (lib. bdg. : alk. paper)
ISBN 978â1â4677â1629â1 (eBook)
[1. Ballet dancingâFiction. 2. DanceâFiction. 3. Haunted placesâFiction. 4. SupernaturalâFiction.] I. Title.
Manufactured in the United States of America
1 â BP â 7/15/13
eISBN: 978-1-4677-1629-1 (pdf)
eISBN: 978-1-4677-3322-9 (ePub)
eISBN: 978-1-4677-3321-2 (mobi)
To my parents, for their constant support. And to Patrick, who literally held me up when I fell down. My love and gratitude to you.
“Betsy, the answer is no. No, I say.”
John Johnson III straightened out his perfectly fitted suit and brushed off imaginary lint. “My word is final.”
He stared out the window, past Madame Puant's head. Someone who didn't know him well would have thought he was being cold. A person who looked more closely would see the sheen of sweat over his upper lip, the nervous tic in his eye.
And no wonder.
“Excuse. Me. Sir,” Madame Puant said. Johnson flinched with each syllable. “If I remember correctly,” Madame continued, “I am the ballet mistress at this school. And as such, I will decide which ballet we put on, thank you very much.”
Her nose flared, the sharp intake of breath like the sound of a bull snorting. Johnson turned, sitting forward in his chair.
“Betsy, be reasonable. This ballet hasn't been performed inâ”
“Thirty years. Yes, I know, John. Which is exactly why it's time to do it again.”
Madame Puant began shuffling papers on her desk. A clear dismissal.
“As the owner of this school and this building, I have to insist you not go forward with this production. Now, I don't believe, ahem â¦ I don't hold to the idea that this place is cursed, but neither you nor I can deny that when the company at this school performs
, someone gets hurt. Do you want that on your head, Betsy?”
Madame Puant stood up slowly and imperiously. “You brought me here for a reason, John. I do not subscribe to curses, or to the supernatural, and I know in my heart of hearts that it's time we put such nonsense to bed. We will do
. And with the ballet gods as my witness, not one of my girls is going to get hurt.”
The fire in her eyes burned through Johnson's silk vest and scorched his stomach. He stood up to leave but turned around before he reached the door, the tailored suit moving around him like a second skin.
“Betsy, I hope to God you're right.”
Madame Puant sat back down in her chair and watched through the window as John Johnson III stepped into his Bentley and drove off.
A person who didn't know her well would think she was calm and composed. But a person who looked more closely would see Madame Puant's fire begin to slowly flicker out.
“Get off my ribbon.”
Ophelia shoved Kayley, and Kayley tumbled into Madeleine, who bumped into Sophie and Emma. All five girls began to giggle.
Kayley rolled her eyes. “Good lord, Ophelia. This is ballet class, not rugby practice!”
Kayley sat down, tucking one leg under her and keeping one knee pointed up in one fluid motion, then finished tying her pointe shoe. When she was finished, she put her foot over Ophelia's ribbon again.
Ophelia stared at her with daggers in her eyes, and Kayley burst out laughing. Ophelia reluctantly smiled.
Sophie, who was doing a splits stretch, said, “What's going on with you, Ophelia? Long night? Did you go out with a boooyyyy?” She shared a smile with Emma.
Among all the girls, Ophelia was definitely the most daring. She managed to meet boys from in town more often than the others, and she would often sneak out for dates. They never lasted long, though. Ophelia breathed, ate, and slept dance. No townie boy ever understood that.
Ophelia breathed out in exasperation, “No. It's not all about boys, you know!”
Madeleine grinned slowly. “Just most of the time, right?”
The rest of the girls cracked up. Ophelia ignored them. She was nervous, but she didn't want them to know. She could feel Kayley looking at her.
a boy. Ophelia knows something,” Kayley said. “OK, Ophelia, spill.”
Ophelia had been dying all morning to share her information. She'd tried hard to keep it inâhaving a secret was deliciousâbut she couldn't anymore, especially since Kayley was like a clairvoyant witch and knew it anytime Ophelia was hiding something.
“All right,” Ophelia said. “Here's what happened. The other day, I heard Madame talking to that owner guy. And I swearânow, I could be wrongâbut I swear I heard them talking about
! I think Dario Quincy might be putting on
Madeleine looked thrilled and clapped her hands, but Sophie, Emma, and Kayley were silent.
Ophelia exhaled in frustration. “Oh, come on, you guys. You don't really believe in those rumors, do you? Like a bunch of idiots?”
Kayley looked at Sophie and Emma. “What about the little ghost hunt you took us on a couple months ago? You know, for the ghost who was stealing our trinkets?”
Ophelia waved her hand. Kayley could be such a stickler for facts sometimes. “Oh, that was ages ago. And anyway, I didn't really believe it was a ghost. It was just something to do! Something less boring than sitting around in the dorms.”
She reached in her bag for a hairpin, then wrapped the hair around her bun and stuck the pin in, scraping her head.
“Madeleine held her hands out and shrugged. “OK, I'm lost. What's going on?”
Ophelia rolled her eyes again. “Oh, these yahoos think that performances of
are cursed here at the academy. It's been a rumor since before I came here. The school hasn't put it on in years.” She stood up and threw her leg on the barre. Class would start any minute, and she wasn't feeling the least bit limber.
Kayley stood up too, then Sophie, Emma, and Madeleine.
“Thirty years to be exact, Ophelia,” Kayley said. “And I suppose you think you'll get the role of Giselle?”
Ophelia raised an eyebrow and worked to suppress a smile. Of course, she thought she'd get the role. She was the best dancer in the company, with maybe the exception of Madeleine. But she just had a feeling in her stomach that she would be Giselle. She'd wanted to play that part since she was ten, the first time she'd seen it done.
Kayley went on: “Yeah, well, the last three times this company has put on
âthe only three timesâthe ballerina who played her died.
, Ophelia. Do you want to die?”
Ophelia twirled around and stared at her. “Of course, I don't. But I
. It's just a stupid rumor.”
Emma shook her head. “I don't know Ophelia. I mean, why now? Why are we putting it on now?”
Just then, Madame Puant walked into the room with the piano player, Patrick. She knocked her cane on the ground three times, signifying the start of dance class. “Barre exercises, everyone!”
Ophelia took a quick peek at Kayley and Madeleine, who were sharing a look. It didn't matter. If they were going to do
, Ophelia wanted the lead more than anything else. It didn't matter what the other girls thought. She held onto the barre and followed Madame's warm-up instructions: tendu, back-side-front, pliÃ©, then relevÃ©.
As they warmed up, Madame took a breath and then said, “All right, class. We have decided on our next ballet.”
Ophelia could feel the whole class breathe in with anticipation. This was one of the best parts of being at the schoolâlearning, rehearsing, and putting on a ballet. What every dancer at the school came for.
“We are going to perform
The class erupted in talk and chatter. Speaking over everyone, Madame yelled, “And our Giselle will be none other than Ophelia.”
Ophelia broke out in a huge grin. But the class had gone silent. Silent as a morgue.
As if they were grieving for her already.
After class, Ophelia could hardly stop smiling. Kayley, Sophie, Emma, and Madeleine kept throwing worried glances her way, but she ignored them.
Giselle. Her dream.
As she walked out the door, Madame tapped her arm and whispered, “My office. After class tonight.”
Ophelia nodded and noticed a bead of sweat on Madame's temple. Well. It was hot in the studio.
Through breakfast and all her classes, Ophelia could feel the stares on her. Not that she minded. She'd never admit it to anyone, but she loved the attention. Still, she started to feel uneasy.
In French that day, Mr. Beauchamp gave her looks of pity and let her get away with speaking English.
In history, Ms. Traysor gave her back a paper: She saw a
scratched out and an
written to the side.
At lunch she dropped a fork, and the girl next to her ran away crying, “It's already started!”
Now Ophelia was irritated. The curse was a stupid rumor started by jealous girls who hadn't been given the part of Giselle. But Ophelia was used to the jealousy. So for the rest of the day and through afternoon ballet class, she kept her chin up high, ignoring the little feeling that made her squirm ever so slightly. It was just a rumor.
Still, she was glad to go talk to Madame. No matter how intimidating Madame Puant was, she always made Ophelia feel better, just by her presence.
Ophelia entered Madame's office, dropped her bag on the floor, and sat in one of the gigantic leather chairs. Madame hadn't arrived yet, but Ophelia had been at the academy for three years now, so she felt comfortable splaying out and waiting. As she wiggled one foot, impatient to get the meeting going, she scanned the top of Madame's desk.
The normally tidy stretch of oak was littered with papers. Ophelia stood up to take a look, checking behind her to make sure Madame wasn't coming. Many of the papers were stamped with an official-looking stationery; what looked like old newspaper clippings peppered the rest of the desk. She leaned in closer to get a better look.
Curious, Ophelia leaned even closer and saw the corner of a book sticking out from underneath the papers. The pages of the book were old and yellow; some sort of ribbon stuck out from between two of them. A journal.
“Please have a seat, Ms. DuBois.”
Ophelia jumped from hearing Madame's voice. The ballet mistress walked briskly past Ophelia and began cleaning up the desk. Ophelia stumbled back into the leather chair and stammered, “Hi-hey, Madaâ”
Ophelia's voice trailed off as she realized how ridiculous she sounded. She cleared her throat and waited for Madame to finish cleaning off the desk.
Madame opened one of the ornately carved drawers and placed the papers inside, setting the journal on top. Then she produced a key from a necklace around her neck and locked the drawer.
She sat down and looked Ophelia in the eye, startling her.
Why did Ophelia feel like she was in trouble?
“You asked to talk to me, Madame?”
Madame continued to stare at her, crossing her hands and tapping her index fingers.
Ophelia squirmed a little in her seat.
Now Ophelia was getting nervous. She wondered if maybe she'd been spotted during some night out with some stupid townie boy. How could that have happened?
Madame sat back suddenly and rested her arms on the chair, looking for all the world like a queen in a throne. “I won't beat around the bush, Ophelia. You've heard the rumors about
, I take it?”
Ophelia relaxed her shoulders and felt relief flow down her spine. She nodded.
“Well, I don't take to such fancy.” Madame waved her hand dismissively, and Ophelia nodded again.
Madame's brown eyes found Ophelia's once more, and this time, they were burning. “But, my dear Ms. DuBois, many others do take to such fancy. And unfortunately, incidences have, uh â¦ fueled â¦ this nonsense.
believe is that our beliefs have a way of manifesting themselves. Of causing the very thing we wish to avoid. Do you understand what I'm saying?”
Ophelia furrowed her eyebrows. “I â¦ don't think so, Madame.”
Madame stood up. “What I'm saying, Ophelia, is that curse or not, for whatever reason, this ballet presents a danger to our school. A danger for you in particular.”
Ophelia felt herself shrink away from the intensity of Madame's gaze.
Madame continued: “So, I need to know: Are you afraid? Would you like me to rescind the part of Giselle? Tell me now, and we will not put on this ballet.”
It was Ophelia's turn to stand up. “Madame,” she said, crossing her arms, “I don't think you've ever found me afraid of anything. And I
be dancing Giselle. Better than anyone else here has before.”
She stuck out her chin. No way would she let some stupid rumor ruin the greatest role of her life so far.
Madame chuckled and walked to the other side of the desk.
“No, Ophelia, you are not afraid. That bravery and your dancing are the two reasons I believe we can do this ballet. You are exactly the Giselle we need. I do believe you are strong enough. But mark my words: if there's even a
of something untoward, the show is off.”
She patted Ophelia's shoulder and said, “Now, go get supper. You must be starved after our practice, and you must take proper care of yourself. I want my Giselle in good health.”
With that, Madame scooted Ophelia out the door, leaving Ophelia a little more baffled but mostly thrilled to known Madame believed in her.