Anything But Graceful
by D. G. Driver
Grace Fuller is a fifty-year-old amateur ballet dancer in Hollywood, California. She’s okay with that. Most of the time. Until a new, young student questions why she still takes ballet classes at her age. Then all her insecurities rise to the surface. Grace once had dreams of being a Broadway star, but she gave up on them long ago. She only started dancing as a way to lose weight.
Now, Grace is a realtor selling houses to actors instead of being one. One afternoon, one of those handsome actors shows up at an open house. It’s Tyler Andrews, the dynamic boy she’d loved when she was in theatre school. He asks her out, and she’s captivated by him all over again. When Tyler learns about her talent for dancing, he pushes her to get back into performing, even connecting her with his agent.
Everything seems fine on the outside, but Grace is haunted by her memories of how Tyler left her when they were young. She has trouble overcoming her fears of rejection. She’ll have to learn to trust Tyler, her friends, and her own heart to believe that she deserves second chances at her career and love.
Release Date: July 25, 2023
Genre: Contemporary Romance
~ A Pink Satin Romance ~
Here’s another curious dancer who can’t stop herself from staring at me. Oh, she thinks she’s being discreet by watching me through the reflection in the mirrors, but I can see the angle of her eyes. The girl is pulling out all the stops. Her balance is focused, her turnout enviable, her flexibility extreme. She thinks I’m someone to impress. I could be a choreographer for a dance company or a theater. I could be scouting for new dancers. Why else would I, a woman probably a quarter-century older than her, be participating in a ballet class?
I should be used to it by now. Most of the people who take classes here are inconsistent with attendance but still regulars. This is a drop-in, pay-as-you go studio for professional dancers, so we often have new faces pop in from time to time. Kids who are on tour and want a workout. Others who need to brush up their skills before an audition. The occasional celebrity who has to dance in an upcoming movie or television shoot. We’ve had several of those over the years. The place has a reputation around Hollywood.
No one stared at me when I was younger. Over the past decade, that changed. At fifty, I’m the oldest dancer by a large margin. There’s no hiding it. I’ve even started letting the gray take over my copper hair. Why not? Embrace it. Plus, I kind of like making the young girls nervous.
I don’t like them thinking they’re better than me because they’re young. My plan had been to take it a little easy at class tonight. It was a long day, and I’m here more out of routine than desire. A challenge stands tip-toe before me now, and I decide to rise to it. Watching her eyebrows climb up and disappear behind those blonde bangs is worth every cube of ice I’ll have to apply to my muscles later.
Spencer winks at me as we finish up with our barre exercises and spread out on the floor. He’s teaching tonight. He’s a bit long-in-the-tooth for a professional dancer at thirty-nine and earns most of his pay now as a teacher and choreographer. Like me, he gets lots of questioning looks from the new girls, but the motive is quite different. They’re all hoping those dark brown muscled arms might belong to someone straight and single. Poor girls. They aren’t going to get a date out of him or a job out of me.
The combination he teaches is graceful and elegant. It contains all the basic ballet steps anyone who has studied ballet should know. I’ve done this combination many times, and it’s a favorite. The new girl skillfully glides through them all. Her extension exquisite. The lines of her body a bit exaggerated. She looks at me to see if I’m noticing, and she stumbles the slightest bit. It throws off her timing. Her lovely smile falters. She’s a performer, though, and she quickly forces it back onto her pretty face.
After class, while I take off my toe shoes and massage my feet, I overhear her chatting with some of the other students. Yes, she liked the class. It was the perfect amount of challenge. The class was on par with ones she took at NYU, where she graduated with her BFA in musical theater two years ago. She wishes there was a class this good in New York. She’ll definitely come again as she’s in town for the next few weeks, touring with a production of CATS. She’s making sure Spencer and I hear all of it. A couple of the regular students glance our way. They’ve seen this pony show before as well.
The students have mostly cleared out before the sweet young thing dares to approach us. She puts her hand out for Spencer to shake.
“Thank you so much. I enjoyed this class so much. I’m glad Delilah Yoon recommended it.”
Spencer nods enthusiastically. “Oh, I love Delilah. Is she your dance captain? We were in A Chorus Line together a few years back. Tell her Spencer Nichols says hi and to drop by.”
The girl’s eyes widen. Spencer is somebody! “Yes, she’s our captain and lead swing dancer. I play Victoria. You know, the white cat.”
“So, you’re not a singer then,” I jab. It slips out. I’m tired and ready to go.
The joy flees from her eyes, and she juts out her chin. “All the cats sing,” she reminds me. “We all have to be triple threats.”
“But the white cat doesn’t have any of the big solos, right?” I should let this go, but I don’t. “I always wanted to be one of the cats that sings ‘Macavity’.”
Spencer shakes his head at me. “Grace Fuller, you know as well as I do, the only cat you can play is Grisabella, the old washed-up one.”
I smack the back of his head both for the insult and for giving my name to this girl. The last thing I need is for her to look me up on the internet when she gets back to her hotel room and figure out that I’m a big fraud.
If the girl has been offended by me, it doesn’t matter. She still doesn’t want to hurt her chances of impressing me. “Oh no, ma’am. You’re a beautiful dancer. I’m sure you could pass for… I mean… Have you ever been in CATS?”
“No. I’ve never been in CATS.” I soften my expression to let her know I’m not bothered by her. “We’ll have to get tickets and go see your show one night. Right, Spencer?”
“Oh, yes. Of course.”
She looks like a toddler being handed a lollipop. “Really? Would you? I’ll arrange comp tickets for both of you. Let me know what night.”
She hands a headshot and resume to Spencer because it has her contact information on it. Then she asks one more question as coyly as possible. “Are you two together?”
“Us?” I point to Spencer and back to myself. We both start laughing.
“You make a cute couple,” she says.
“Oh no, honey,” Spencer says, laying it on thick. “Gracie doesn’t date. Even if she ever did, she’s not exactly my type.”
The girl nods understanding, her cheeks turning bright pink. She thanks us again for the class, and then she skedaddles out of the room. Once she’s gone, I take off my ballet skirt and slide into my sweatpants. I sit on the floor and tug on my sneakers while Spencer turns out the lights. Wrapping a sweater around me, I follow him out of the dance room, down the hall, and into the office where he drops the picture into the trashcan.
“What? No CATS?”
“Lord, no,” he says. “I can happily go the rest of my life without ever seeing a production of that again. Once is exciting. Twice is interesting. After that, you begin to realize that the show is stealing away valuable hours of your life that can’t be replaced. And don’t even get me started on the movie.”
“She’ll be so disappointed.”
“And yet, she’ll survive somehow.” He grabs his jacket. “We going out?”
Twenty minutes later, we are nestled in our favorite spot in our favorite place. Stomping Grounds is a coffeehouse on Melrose, a couple blocks away from the studio on Highland Avenue. It’s full of mismatched cushy couches and armchairs around short coffee tables littered with L.A. Weekly papers, old Backstage or Hollywood Reporter magazines, and fliers for upcoming shows around town. There’s a small stage in the corner that is often used for open mic nights or for local musicians or comedians trying out new material.
No one is gracing us with their talent on this early Monday evening, thank goodness. I’m enjoying the endless stream of 90s alternative rock coming through the speakers. A bar with a variety of different stools lines one wall. Along one wall is a bar with a variety of different stools. Along with coffee and tea, the place serves up whatever treats Rhonda, the owner, feels like baking that day. She has some bottled beer available in the fridge and always has some Baileys Irish Cream or Kahlua on hand for those who want to spike their lattes. Neither the treats nor alcohol are exactly legal for her to sell as she doesn’t have a liquor license and her baked goods haven’t been approved by the health board. In the twenty-eight years Rhonda has owned the joint, she hasn’t been cited for them. The place is quiet and goes mostly unnoticed.
“It’s no big deal,” Spencer is saying, defending himself from my wrath about my name being given out. “She won’t remember it.”
“Yes, she will. She’s looking me up right now,” I say. “She’ll show up next time with a whole different expression on her face. I’ve seen it before. The what-the-hell-are-you-doing-here face.”
“Then you show her what the hell you’re doing there.” He takes his latte from Alix, Rhonda’s teen son, and passes him a couple bucks as a tip.
Alix hands me my spiked iced coffee, and I put it down on one of the newspapers. He leans over and whispers in my ear, “He’s right, Grace. You can dance circles around anyone.” I give him a couple more dollars. He winks and walks away.
The sweet boy has actually seen me dance, so I know he’s not completely bullshitting me for extra tips. Years earlier, when he was still Sophia, he took dance classes from Spencer at Goldie Glitz dance studio over in Santa Monica. When Sophia began his transition to Alix, the dance classes ended. Spencer offered to train Alix personally to dance as a man. Alix came to a few of our classes. He was talented and had a lot of promise. He needed more strength training to really make a go of it. In the end, it was more work than he wanted to do, so he quit. He’s making his way through college now.
“I hate it when the super young girls show up,” I admit. “We need to work out a system where you text me to abort my plans to come to class when one of them walks in the door.”
“I won’t do it.”
“Why? Help protect me from the judgement of Gen Z dancers.” I take a good swig of my drink. Rhonda gave it a good kick, and I appreciate it.
Spencer leans back in his cushy chair and crosses his arms. “First of all, you don’t need protecting. You are a queen, and that class is your domain. Second of all, and I’ve said this a million times before, you can always change your status from amateur to professional. It’s not as hard as you think.”
“Oh, please, Spencer,” I say. “That ship sailed before I even started dancing. You know that. I’m too damn old. I’m only a few years younger than Debbie, and she retired from professional dancing nearly two decades ago.”
“Not a comparison. She has rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and feet. If she didn’t, you bet your ass she’d be performing right now.”
Debbie White owns Dancer’s Room, our precious studio. She’s rarely there anymore due to her condition.
“I’m one bad fall from never dancing again myself,” I remind him.
“Drink your milk. Take your calcium pills.” Spencer isn’t putting up with my whining this evening.
“Let’s drop it.”
We’re both quiet for a moment, drinking our coffees. Spencer’s gaze drifts away from me to stare at the bulletin board on the wall. It’s covered with colorful notices about band gigs, local theater productions, furniture for sale, and phone number fringe-edge fliers pleading for roommates to share apartments. After a moment, he rises from his seat and goes to the board. He pulls some tacks out and wads up out-of-date notices and rearranges the remaining ones so that everything is straight, and the most pertinent information is visible.
Alix whisks the trash away from Spencer. “Thanks. I’ve been meaning to get to that for a while.”
Spencer squints dubiously at him. “Oh, I’m sure you were, Alix. I think there were papers up here older than you.” He removes another pink flier to reveal a full-color printed image underneath. “Ooh, like this one.”
His efforts have revealed a promo poster he’d made for Dancer’s Room years ago. The background picture is a female dancer at the ballet barre, left leg in front attitude, left arm in fifth position, back gracefully arched so that her arm mostly obscures her face. The copy reads: Never Stop Learning! Drop-In Dance Classes for Advanced Dancers with class times and the address below it. Spencer takes it off the cork board and holds it up for me to see better.
“Well, look at that. I wondered if it was hiding under there after all this time.”
I roll my eyes. “Spencer—”
“Look at that gorgeous dancer with her beautiful arch, her hand so graceful, hiding under all that nonsense.”
“That’s not fair.”
Alix takes the picture. “Wait. Is that you, Grace?”
Reluctantly, I nod. “Notice my face is indistinguishable.”
“When was this taken?” Alix asks.
“Oh, about eight years ago,” Spencer says. “We did some of her and some of me. Some of us together. This was our favorite because it was simple.”
The memory warms a chuckle out of me. “I remember we joked about how it was an ad for a studio for advanced dancers, but the picture was of something you learn in a beginner’s class.”
“But you’re doing it so perfectly,” Spencer says with a flirty grin.
Alix hands the poster to me. “If I didn’t know, I’d say that was the body of someone not much older than me.”
“I’ve already tipped you, Alix.” He shrugs sheepishly, and I shake my head. “Go get me a biscotti.”
Alix wanders off. Studying the photo again, I remember how proud I’d been of that shoot. I framed some of the images we caught that day and put them up in my apartment. I was forty-two at the time, still older than most dancers when they retire.
Spencer snags the poster from me and tacks it back up on the board, right on top of other more current fliers.
“You know that the class schedule on there isn’t even accurate anymore, right?”
He gives me a pointed look. “This place isn’t exactly sending customers in droves over to the studio. I want people to see your sexy body.”
I blush like a preteen. “Stop.”
“I won’t stop. Someone besides me and a handful of ballerinas need to appreciate that gorgeous figure and imagine those long, luscious legs being wrapped around him—”
“You’re ridiculous.” I bite into the biscotti as soon as Alix hands it to me.
Spencer sits down next to me on the couch, forcing me to make room for him. I don’t have to wiggle over much. Spencer is lean. Not an ounce of body fat. I drop my head on his shoulder.
“I’m not being ridiculous. You are. All right, pushing the fact that you desperately need a lover aside,” he waves his words away as if batting at a fly, “I’ll get back to the main point. You are a brilliant dancer. You should do something with it. I’ve been telling you this forever.”
I have to take a calming breath. “Look, there’s no point in you telling me again. I’m too old. Get it through your head.”
“You’re not, though.”
He sifts through the magazines on the table, checking the dates on them. Finally, he finds the issue of Hollywood Reporter he’s been looking for. “I saw this the other day, and I wondered what you might think of it.” Spencer flips to a page, points to a headline and hands the magazine to me. Before I can comprehend the words in front of me, he explains. “A film is being made based on the life of Martha Graham. The biography has been optioned, and they are going to start a search for an actress of-a-certain-age who can dance.”
“Martha Graham was a famous choreographer of modern dance. Not ballet.”
“You can do modern. It’s like ballet with flat feet.”
“Don’t let Debbie ever hear you say that!”
He wriggles his nose. “Oh please. She’s a purest. She hates how young people have turned contemporary dance into high school angst routines. I, on the other hand, love the shit out of it.”
“Me too. So expressive.”
“Annnnd, I’ve seen you tackle it during our Friday classes. You’ve got the technique.”
“But what? You can dance. You’re still at the top of your skill level. Most dancers your age are not.”
I shake my head and put the magazine down. “For a film? Surely, they’ll be looking at famous actresses. They’re not going to want a nobody to star in a film.”
“Why not? It’d be a sensation! Imagine the press you’d get. Middle-aged Ballerina Discovered to Portray World-Famous Choreographer! The trades would eat it up.”
“Mmmm, I don’t know about that. Seems like people would rather pay money to see...” I fan my hand, revealing an invisible headline. “Favorite Celebrity Trains to Master Dance Skills for Movie Role! They’ll prefer a known face dancing so-so, possibly with a body double doing the tricky stuff, rather than take a risk on someone they’ve never heard of.”
“Let’s be honest, honey,” Spencer says in a low voice. “This isn’t exactly the kind of movie that’s going to rake in the sales. No one except us dancers know who the hell Martha Graham was.”
“Good point,” I agree. “So, what I’m hearing is, it’s going to bomb and what’s the point of this conversation?”
“The point is that you should audition for it.”
Spencer gestures wildly around him. “We are in Hollywood, Grace. Literally everyone we know is in show business. I’m sure someone can figure out a way to get to the casting agent.”
“I’m not an actress,” I say firmly.
He’s done with my arguments. Ripping the article out of the magazine, he stuffs it in my purse. “Think about it. Opportunities like this don’t come around every day. Wouldn’t being in a movie be a lot more fun than selling houses? Come on. Don’t lie to me about that.”
I couldn’t lie to him about that. Starring in a movie or a Broadway show was all I ever wanted to do—once upon a time.
* * *
“All right, everyone, say your name and tell us a little something about yourself.”
It was the first day of Drama 101 at Long Beach State. Our professor, Eli Williams, had us sit in a big circle. At twenty-six students, the class was too full. Most of us were freshman. Before class, frantic whispers fluttered about that at least four people would have to be dropped. I was queasy, hoping I wouldn’t be one to lose out. Planning my class schedule had taken me hours, and I wasn’t ready to tackle that puzzle again. I’d mapped out exactly what courses I’d have to take and when in order to get my major in Theatre Arts and minor in Business Management, all without having to quit my part time job. There was no room to change anything without having to add summers or possibly a fifth year.
The class took place in a black box theater, the kind of performance space that was intimate and modular. The smell of layer upon layer of scenic paint did nothing to help my nausea. Currently, the four walls were solid black. White might be a blank canvas for art, but black is the blank canvas for performance spaces. All of the chairs were stacked against one wall, our backpacks tossed on the floor along another. We sat cross-legged or on our knees uncomfortably on the cement floor. I regretted not wearing my sweatshirt because the air conditioning was pumping hard against the September heat outside. It stayed uselessly wadded up on top of my backpack, and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself to get it now that class had officially started.
One by one, my classmates introduced themselves. No one said anything about their favorite color or what they liked most to eat. Every single person said what high school they had attended and what show they had starred in while there. That’s right. Every person in the class had either been a lead or major character in a play or musical their senior year. I’d been Charity in Sweet Charity. I was a big deal for a few months. Got written up in the local paper and everything. Now having been the title character of the school musical garnered nothing more than appreciative smiles and nods of “yeah, I’ve heard of that show” before moving on to the next person in the circle who had played Annie (either the orphan or the sharpshooter) or Dolly, or Gypsy, or Peter Pan. If I thought I’d come to a school to retain my position as the best, I was mistaken. We were all sizing each other up and quickly realizing that getting a leading role in a show at this school might be harder to come by than we thought. Getting a part at all might be rough.
My ego took a beating with each introduction, and by the time everyone had spoken, I’d nearly convinced myself that I was in the wrong major. This certainly wasn’t going to get any easier when I started pursuing theatre in the real world, where there were even more people as good as, or probably better than, me.
Girls outnumbered the boys four to one in the class. Not unusual. I counted five guys, most of them ‘character’ types by the look of them. A little on the heavy side or too lean. Sure enough, I heard them mention their roles in shows like Guys and Dolls and The Music Man. The tall, handsome leading men types tended to get whisked away to the bigger and more expensive schools.
One guy stood out a little from the others. He had a sharper bone structure in his face. Even from across the room, I could see the brightness of his blue eyes. The green and white striped rugby shirt accented his shoulders. He pulled the sleeves up to his elbows, revealing strong forearms. His dark blond hair was long and curly on top, slicked back over his ears, and was long enough in the back to touch his collar. He introduced himself as Tyler Andrews, and his claim to fame had been playing Curly in Oklahoma at some high school in Northern California. Better than that, he managed to squeeze into his introduction that he did the ballet section of the musical himself—no stand-in needed. Ah, so he was a dancer. Well, that didn’t necessarily mean he was gay.
Several girls in the circle were testing the water, the flirting so obvious. He seemed friendly, but I didn’t get any sense he was gravitating toward anyone. I tried to be stealthy with my glances. I’d never make it as a spy. One time, I looked over at him to find him smiling right at me. Nice teeth. The corners of his lips curled up nicely so that he always looked happy, even when not smiling. I offered him a weak smile in return and quickly turned my head. My face was hot, and I prayed it didn’t show.
Once the introductions were finished and Professor Williams got done telling us how important he was in the local theatre community, he had us stand up and pick a partner for some silly acting exercises. Tyler passed up three girls that were headed his way and came straight to me.
“Wanna dance?” he asked, putting out his hand.
Through a bunch of uncontrollable giggles, I said, “I think we’re going to do Mirror Pantomime.”
“That’s fun, too.” He faced me as we were given instructions everyone already knew about mimicking your partner as if looking into a mirror. “You want me to take the lead or you?”
That’s when I noticed that Tyler wasn’t terribly tall. Couldn’t be more than five-nine, as I was almost eye to eye with him wearing my wedges. He winked at me, and I winked right back. Slowly, he moved his right arm up and down, and I did the same with my left. He lifted a leg. So did I. Just when I thought he was going too easy on me, he snapped his head to the right. I did it, but a beat behind. He started his slow movements again. Then snap. I was closer that time, but not perfect.
“Come on,” he teased through clenched teeth. “Follow me.”
Slow, slow, slow, snap. I got it. There was a rhythm to it.
We switched, and I led him. I made my movements wiggly and loose. They were hard to get exact, but he matched me well. I’d frown, then smile. He did the same, but bigger, sillier. We finally ended up laughing and collapsed to the ground.
“I’m Tyler. Not sure I caught your name.”
“Grace. Grace Fuller.”
“Graceful? I’m not so sure about that.”
I shook my head. My old elementary school nickname that the bullies favored sounded kind of cute coming out of his mouth. I allowed it.
“Nice to meet you, Grace.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
Tyler tugged my arm to help me back to my feet. I popped up so fast, it felt like I could keep flying. The strength in his body was clear, and I imagined in that split second of contact that he could raise me up over his head with little effort for a beautiful lift like we were starring in a ballet. Before we could continue with the exercise, the T.A. returned from the administration office with an updated class roll. My stomach clenched. Tyler had made me forget about my nerves for a bit, but they returned with a vengeance. Six students were cut, and to my relief, I wasn’t one of them. I let out a long exhale, as if I’d squeaked through a round of auditions.
“Were you worried?” Tyler asked. I nodded. “Aw, you should never worry about not making it. I can already tell you’re super talented.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Really? From my mad mirror pantomime skills?”
Tyler shrugged. “You have a certain poise about you. It’s different. You stand out.”
I studied his face carefully. There were plenty of girls in the room better looking than me. I was thin and fairly flat-chested. Perfect body for a dancer, I’d often been told. Only, I wasn’t a great dancer. I’d cut my red hair short for Sweet Charity, so I could look more like Shirley MacLaine from the movie. It was growing out and kind of a mess. If I stood out from the others, it wasn’t for my beauty.
“Well, I’m not sure what drugs you’re taking, but I appreciate the compliment.”
We were told to switch partners then and started a new improv game about making sounds and movements louder and softer. Someone tapped me on the back. The girl who had been standing closest to me while I worked with Tyler tilted her head as if to ask, “How about me?” I agreed without speaking, and we faced each other. Well, sort of. She couldn’t have been much more than five-feet-tall, because I looked right over the top of her head. Her frizzy brown hair was so wild her small face nearly disappeared beneath it all, and she wore oversized denim overalls with a tight faded T-shirt underneath. I could barely make out the tips of some purple Vans on her feet. I recalled that her name was Kei. She had made a point that it was spelled with an i not an ay because everyone gets that wrong. Also, her big senior showcase had been a drama, not a musical. The Crucible. She played Abigail.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” she repeated in exactly the same tone like we’d started the game.
“Oh, no. I just meant hi. I’m Grace.”
She memorized everyone’s names already? I doubted that.
“Where are you from?” I continued trying to be friendly, already missing Tyler’s congeniality.
I peeked over at him a few times, hoping to catch his eye again. Every time, Tyler was busy talking it up and smiling like crazy at the new girl in front of him. Ah, so it was like that.
Clearly, she didn’t care for that question. Or any others.
I thought about saying something about having never been to Fresno. Or asking what it was like. Kei gave me no chance. She did a big tiger growl, throwing her arms in the air like massive paws. Without skipping a beat, I copied her and did it back even louder. That finally got a tiny smirk out of her and a raised eyebrow of approval. We challenged each other back and forth until Professor Williams told us to stop.
“That was fun...” Kei had already wandered away from me. I ran a hand through my hair. “Well, all right.”
Another girl in the class leaned toward me and said, “Don’t worry about her. She’s on my floor in the dorm, and she hasn’t spoken to anyone since move-in day.”
“Maybe she’s shy?” I offered.
“I heard she hates people who do musical theatre.”
At the end of class, I gathered up my backpack and headed out the door. On the wall right outside the building was a corkboard covered with flyers announcing show auditions both on campus and in nearby community theaters. I stopped to study them, not familiar with any of the titles of the plays being produced this semester. Someone tapped my shoulder. I looked over to find Tyler standing behind me.
“You should try for that one,” he said, pointing to a flyer for The Miss Firecracker Contest.
“You think?” I asked. “I prefer musicals to plays and was planning on auditioning for Pippin.”
“Me too,” he said. He pulled out a pad of paper and a pen and wrote down the audition info and handed the sheet to me. Then he copied the info again for himself. “Do you have another class now?”
“Not until ten.”
“Want to get a coffee to celebrate our first day of school and you not getting dropped from acting class?”
Any final remnants of my nervous nausea vanished. I didn’t even like coffee much, but at that moment it sounded delicious. “Absolutely.”
We headed toward the student center while he sang “Magic to Do” from Pippin. He wasn’t reserved about it, and he wasn’t bad. He had a high tenor voice with a pleasant vibrato at the end of his long notes. Several heads turned to check him out as we made our way across campus. Looked like this guy was turning out to be a triple threat. Tyler was going somewhere at this school. I knew it. I hoped he’d take me along with him.
* * *
At home, I peel off my dance clothes and shower. I check my mail. I turn on the TV for a bit while I simultaneously scroll through my phone. My eyes drift to the pictures I have framed on the wall from that photoshoot with Spencer. I rarely like pictures of me, but I love these. My smiles in those shots were genuine. That’s what made all the difference. It had been one of the best afternoons in recent memory. I loved being in front of the camera and showing off.
Could I realistically still have a chance at acting? At dancing professionally? There was once a time when I was certain I could do it. That confidence, that drive, it had vanished with my youth. My eyes drift to the phone in my hand. I notice how visible the veins are on the back of my hands. The skin is loose. I drop the phone into my lap and curl my fingers into a perfect ballet hand, like a princess getting ready to wave at her adoring subjects. It’s pretty. I can make my hands very pretty.
Crumpling my fingers into a tight fist, forces and end to my stupid daydreaming. I’ve missed my turn. I’m behind the beat. With a sigh, I remind myself that I am anything but Graceful.