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Authors: Sarah Webb

Dancing Daze

BOOK: Dancing Daze
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I’m in my best friend Mills’s ultratidy bedroom when her mum, Sue, walks in, a huge grin on her face. “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” she says, handing the house phone to Mills.

“Hello?” Mills says into the receiver, and then her eyes light up. “Claire!” she squeals. “You haven’t rung for ages and ages. How’s your toe? Has the nail dropped off yet? Is there still loads of snow in Budapest?”

Claire is Mills’s big sister, and she moved to Budapest when she was fifteen to study ballet at the Budapest Ballet Academy. She’s now a soloist, and the company is dancing
Romeo and Juliet
in a big theater in Dublin just before Christmas, and Claire is playing Juliet! Dad’s bank is sponsoring the event, so he’s already booked us all tickets to see her.

“When will you be home for
Romeo and Juliet
?” Mills is asking now. (Claire may be a brilliant dancer, but she’s hopeless at keeping in touch with her family, and I know Mills misses her horribly.)

Mills’s eyes widen. “Holy Moly!” she shrieks, bouncing up and down on the bed with excitement. “That’s brilliant news. And I can’t believe you’ll be on the telly.” There’s a pause. “Oh, OK. I’ll tell Mum. Love you too!” Mills clicks the phone off and hands it back to Sue. “Claire said to say bye and that she’ll e-mail you her flight details. Did you know about the publicity trip, Mum?”

Sue shakes her head. “I had no idea. Isn’t it brilliant? I can’t wait to see her. Now, Amy looks like she’s about to explode with curiosity, so I’ll leave you to tell her the news.” She leans over and gives Mills a hug. “My two girls, back under the same roof.” Her eyes water and she waves a hand in front of her face. “Sorry, I just miss her so much.”

“Me too, Mum,” Mills says.

Sue was right. I am dying to know the news, so as soon as she’s out the door, I turn to Mills. “What’s happening? Sounds pretty exciting.”

“Claire’s coming home next Thursday to do some preshow publicity for
Romeo and Juliet.
She’ll be here for only a couple of days, but she’s going to be on the
Late Late Show
on Friday night with the Hungarian dancer who plays Romeo. She wants us to come to the airport to collect her. You too, if you like.”

“No way!” I say. “That’s fantastic. All the olds in Ireland watch that show. She’s going to be mega-famous after it. And yes, please. I do love a good airport reunion. Count me in.”

On the way to Dublin airport the following Thursday evening, Mills and I take one final look at
Ballet Barbie,
the book I helped Mills create for her sister. Mills wanted to make a special scrapbook to celebrate Claire’s homecoming, and with my aunt Clover’s assistance, I found this amazing website called
. Clover knows everything about everything, and at eighteen, with her long white-blond hair, rock-star boyfriend, and job at the
teen magazine, she’s the coolest aunt around.

The makeabook site allows you to pick a style, then scan in photos (and anything else you’d like to see on the pages), add text, and preview it carefully (checking for any spelling mistakes). You press “print”— and
two days later, a rather fabulous one-of-a-kind book arrives in the post. (Clover very sweetly paid for the book on her credit card and refused to let Mills pay her back.)

Mills carefully opens the ballet-shoe-pink hardcover. “‘To Ballet Barbie, Lots and lots of love, Mills,’” she reads. “Ballet Barbie” is Mills’s nickname for her big sis.

“‘Chapter One,’” she continues. “‘The Early Days. From the very beginning, Claire Starr was born to dance. Her mum, Sue, says Claire was bopping along to the radio as soon as she could stand. As a tiny tot, Claire especially loved dancing to the Spice Girls.’”

Sue laughs from the front passenger seat. “She certainly did. I used to call her ‘Dancing Spice.’”

“That’s true,” Mills’s dad agrees quietly. I like Allan Starr, but he is very, very normal. Some people may even call him boring. . . . I’ve only ever seen him in a checked shirt and beige chinos. Clover says the most exciting thing about him is the unusual spelling of his name.

Mills points to one of the photos in chapter one, an adorable image of Claire as a little girl wearing a tiny white tutu, both hands over her head, fingers touching, like a real ballerina.

“Already performing at three,” Mills says.

I smile. “That’s such a cute shot.”

“She started at Miss Smitten’s School of Dance just after that,” Sue says. “By the time she was five, she insisted on going to two classes a week. Remember, Allan?”

Allan laughs heartily and slaps the steering wheel. “Do I ever. When I told her it was too expensive, she said it could be her birthday present
her Christmas present. I nearly fell off my chair. Imagine being that smart and determined at five!” He shakes his head. “But I guess all that determination has paid off.”

We flick through the rest of the book: Claire, age six, dressed in rags as the Little Match Girl for one of her ballet school’s shows; Claire, age eleven, doing an elegant arabesque in a plain pink cross-backed leotard.

We also added her ballet exam reports, all glowing, and some old cuttings from the Irish newspapers, including the front-page photograph of Claire in a full-length white tutu just after she’d been accepted at the Budapest Ballet Academy. Her dark brown eyes are staring proud and strong at the camera.

After we’ve studied the final page, an
Irish Times
piece about her upcoming starring role as Juliet in Dublin that calls her the “Irish Ballerina,” Mills closes the book carefully and runs her hands over the front cover. “Do you think she’ll like it?” she asks, biting her lower lip nervously.

“She’ll adore it,” I say. “I promise.”

Mills smiles at me gratefully. She seems mega-nervous about seeing Claire again. Claire’s been home only once since she left for Budapest two years ago, and I know Mills and her parents find it hard to see her so rarely. Sue and Allan weren’t at all keen on her going in the first place, but Claire dug her heels in. She was determined to go, and that was that.

As soon as we get to Dublin airport, Allan heads for the huge flight-information board with its flickering yellow numbers and letters. He sighs. “Sheesh, that’s just typical. Delayed by twenty minutes. The parking’s going to cost me a fortune.”

Sue pats his arm. “Not to worry, dear. Let’s get a coffee and then we can all wait in the arrivals area. It won’t be long now.”

Mills and I have a mooch around the shop, checking out the magazines, before joining the older Starrs again. Sue has brought her knitting and is clicking away while Mr. Starr sits slumped in his seat, his arms crossed, scowling up at the arrivals board.

Our bums are almost numb from the plastic seats when Mills jumps to her feet half an hour later. “There she is, Ames. It’s Claire! Look!” She grabs my arm and pulls me toward the metal barrier to greet her. Claire is bumping shoulders with a boy who looks about nineteen or twenty years old. He has a mop of dark-blond curly hair, chestnut eyes, full, pouty lips, and the cheekiest expression I’ve ever seen. He must be the boy playing Romeo. Lucky Claire!

“Claire!” Mills waves her arm frantically at her sister. “Over here.”

Claire’s head whips around. She looks different from how I remember her — taller and more angular. Her face is definitely thinner. Her cheekbones are more pronounced, making her stunning eyes look like two huge pools of chocolate. Her hair is pulled back into a high, swishy ponytail, and she’s wearing a pearl-gray crewneck sweater, black-leather jacket, black skinny jeans, and black biker boots. She looks impossibly cool, like a movie star.

Claire beams at Mills, drops her silver wheelie bag at her feet, and runs toward her sister. She swings herself over the barrier and throws herself into Mills’s arms.

“Mills!” she says, jumping up and down on the spot and hugging her close. “It’s so good to see you. I’ve missed you so much, baby sis.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Mills’s eyes are sparkling with happy tears, and from the wobble in her voice, I can tell she’s choking up.

Claire puts her hands on Mills’s shoulders and takes a good look at her. She sighs and shakes her head. “Look at you, all grown up. You look amazing. That boyfriend you’ve been telling me about in your e-mails is one lucky boy.”

Mills’s cheeks go pink. “Claire! Stop embarrassing me.”

“Embarrassing you is my job, sis. And hiya, Amy.” Claire smiles at me. “Good to see you. . . . And there you are, Mum,” she says to Sue, who has been waiting patiently beside Mills. “Looking gorgeous, as always.” Claire gives her mum a warm hug.

“Gosh, you’re very bony,” Sue says as she draws away. She touches Claire’s cheek. “Have you been eating enough? Are you taking those supplements I sent over? And you look a little . . . tired. Is everything all right?”

For a second a shadow passes over Claire’s face. Then she says, “Stop fretting, Mum. I’ve only just got here.” She smiles again. “I know you’re dying to feed me, and I can’t wait. I’ve seriously missed your cooking. And Dad. Hello.” She gives him a hug too. “Thanks for coming to collect me.”

“My pleasure, pet,” Allan says. “We’re all delighted to have you home. But I think you may be forgetting something. Or someone.” He nods at Romeo.

BOOK: Dancing Daze
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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