Authors: Charis Marsh
This book is for â¦
My family, who read over my shoulder while I was writing (it's very flattering!)
Adrian, who poked me whenever I stopped making typing noises
Shannon, who made editing fun
Dundurn, because they were kind enough to want to hear more about Julian, Taylor, Kaitlyn, and Alexandra
You, because you were awesome enough to pick up this book!
Listening to Said the Whale, sewing pointe shoes, and done all my hmw. Life is good :)
There was a cool breeze blowing over English Bay. Alexandra stood at edge of the water, breathing in as she faced the wind.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
She could feel her heart rate slowing down as the wind whipped around her face, cooling down her hot face. There. It was going to be all right, she was not going to let Grace win this time. She turned around and walked back toward the park behind the docks. She could already see Tristan and Julian there on the grass, and Grace; they were attracting a crowd around them. Apparently it was unusual to see people wearing ballet costumes in a park.
“Lexi, hurry up!” Grace called. “I'm cold! What are you doing?!” Alexandra sped up a bit, and as soon as she reached them began to unzip her hoodie and pull off her loose knitted pants, revealing her costume underneath.
“Sorry, just wanted to look at something on the water.”
“Geez, can't you do that â I dunno, when I'm wearing clothes? I'm freezing here!”
Tristan silently reached out for her hand, and Alexandra stepped toward him on
, her foot on the makeshift wood sheet that had been placed on the grass for the occasion. She stepped into
, and slowly bent into a
as he reached for her other hand
“Good, good!” the photographer said, bouncing in his excitement. “This is really neat! Lots of interest here. You're really bendy, aren't you?”
Beside Alexandra and Tristan, Julian reached out for Grace's hand, but Grace didn't want to pose with him. She shoved his hands away.
“Alexandra!” she hissed.
Alexandra ignored her. “Let's do a lift next,” she suggested to Tristan. He nodded.
“Alexandra!” Grace said louder, loud enough that the photographer could hear.
“Is there a problem?” the photographer asked, putting his camera down for a second.
“Not really,” said Grace. “It's just Alexandra has forgotten that Tristan and I were supposed to be paired together, and
was supposed to go with
, since Tristan and I are the first cast.”
“Oh.” The photographer scratched his head. “Uh, does it really matter? Because I'm really liking the photos I'm getting of these two.” He looked at Alexandra and Tristan. “Hey, do you guys think it'd work if you could do something next to that tree over there? You boys grab that wood, and I'll start setting up the light. I think we could get something really mystical, really special, over here.”
“Sure.” Julian shrugged and started to help Tristan pick up the wood. Grace reached out and grabbed Alexandra's arm, gripping it so tight that it hurt. “Ow!” Alexandra said involuntarily. “Grace, let go of me.”
Grace glared at her. “I think that
and Tristan should do the tree pose,” she said loudly. “Since we are the first cast. And you and Julian are really only understudies.”
Alexandra ignored her and followed the boys. They set the wood floor down on the grass, and the photographer carried on behind them, setting everything up around the tree and muttering to himself. Grace stepped onto the floor on the other side of Tristan and crossed her arms. “Tristan,” she said sweetly: “I think we should do a lift. Want to do a fish?”
“No,” said Tristan. “Not really. I don't want my face to be all red in the photo.”
“Tristan!” Alexandra said suddenly, sounding excited. “Let's do that lift we were working on in
pas de deux
class yesterday, you know, the one where I'm in a backbend and you're holding me up? And then I can
port de bras
with my arms matching the trees, and it would look so sweet with the tree.”
The photographer's face lit up. “That sounds exciting. Show me?”
Tristan and Alexandra went into their lift while Grace pouted at the side of them and Julian stood awkwardly on the grass, watching them.
“Maybe we could have your hair down?” the photographer suggested. “That way you'd look a bit like those woodland fairy things, what's the name, Greek mythology â¦”
“Dryads?” Alexandra suggested, smiling at him.
“Yes, those! I like you. Now, just take that elaborate hair watchimacallit out of your hair â I bet that took you a long time to do! Yes, now â don't bother brushing it, just a moment.” He reached out and expertly separated the thick coil left over from Alexandra's bun into many little coiling strands and smoothed it off her face. “Perfect. I like how pale you are, it really works with the setting. Now, Tristan, if you could just do that thing you were doing before â yes, perfect, I love the expression on your face!” The photographer clicked around them as Tristan struggled to hold Alexandra in place. She could feel his wrist shaking slightly under her back as he held her. They dropped out of the lift far before the photographer had tired of taking shots of them, Alexandra bending forward to counteract the strain on her back and Tristan frantically shaking his wrist.
“My wrist's still sore from
pas de deux
class,” he muttered to Alexandra.
“Aw, muffin,” she answered flippantly, straightening up and cracking her back.
“Aw, love you, too.”
“Do you think you could go up and do that thing again?” the photographer asked. “I feel like we've got something really special here. I'm really liking this.” He stepped away from the tree and looked out toward the ocean, trying to judge the light. “The light's going to start to go soon, so I'll try and hurry up.”
Alexandra and Tristan nodded. “One, two, three,” Tristan said quietly, and on the count, Alexandra jumped and Tristan lifted, and she was in the air again. Her dark brown hair flowed down her back, creating an archway over Tristan's head under the canopy of the willow tree.
“I think I have it,” the photographer said, his voice hushed so as not to jinx it. He stared at the screen on his camera. “I think I've got exactly what I want here. Thanks, guys. You can put your clothes back on now.” Tristan and Alexandra gratefully began to pull on their clothes. Alexandra began to shiver as she pulled on her sweatshirt, her cold body reacting with relief to its warmth. “You guys can go now,” the photographer said, turning to Julian and Grace. “Sorry for having you come out for nothing.”
Grace glared at him. He bent down and began putting his camera away, pretending that he couldn't see.
“Thanks,” Alexandra said, smiling down at the photographer. “Want me to help you put the stuff away?”
“I got it,” he said, looking up and smiling. “Thanks for making my job so easy. I love doing a shoot with dancers. You guys already know about positive and negative space, you create interesting shapes right away without me having to say anything. And don't get me started on that crazy stuff you can do with your body â” He let out a low whistle and turned back to his equipment.
“Thanks, that's so sweet of you to say!” Alexandra said. She walked over to Tristan and linked her arm through his. “Bye-bye, Jules, bye, Grace. See you at rehearsal tomorrow morning.” They began to walk down the Seawall, a long stretch of winding pavement with park on one side and the ocean on the other.
“Brrr, so cold,” Tristan said, shivering spastically to emphasize his point.
“Yeah.” Alexandra was busy thinking. “Do you think Mr. Demidovski will be upset with me that I was in the photo instead of Grace? I mean, they haven't even decided yet if they are going to let me have a cast of Swanhilda.”
Tristan shrugged. He had gotten the role of Franz, and that was as far as his concern extended. “I dunno. Guess you'll find out.”
Alexandra stepped away from his arm and onto the thick cement barrier between the ocean and the path.
Step, arabesque, step, arabesque.
She reached out suddenly for Tristan's hand, grabbing it as she almost fell in the water. She hopped off the barrier.
“Tristan,” she said, as they continued along the path, “when we're old and married, do you want to live in a house around here? Of course, we'll be absolutely loaded then, too, so everything will work out perfectly. We won't be here very often, because we'll always be away guesting for all the top companies, and I will work for the Royal Ballet and you can work for ABT, so we won't see much of each other, but â”
Tristan stopped in the path and shoved his hands in his pockets. To Alexandra's surprise he looked upset. “What's wrong?”
“I don't think it's funny when you talk like that.”
Alexandra stared at him, even more confused and getting mad about her confusion. “What do you mean? Talk like what?”
“Like â all the us getting married jokes and stuff.”
“Why? It's just a joke. Obviously.”
“I know. It just makes me upset, okay?” He kept his hands in his pockets and they carried on walking down the path.
Alexandra searched for the right words, but she didn't know what she had done wrong, and the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like Tristan was to blame. “Tris, you're being a butt. What's wrong?”
“It's just, okay, we make a good ballet partnership, well, now, right? But it's just weird to talk about us getting married and stuff. I know it's a joke, and I don't know why it feels weird now, but it does. So can you just stop it?”
“Uh, fine. Whatever. You could have just told me that instead of getting all upset.”
“I did just tell you that.”
They walked in silence for a while, Alexandra waging a war within herself between curiosity and the need to make Tristan feel bad for being rude. Curiosity won. “Tristan, what happened?”
Tristan had been waiting for that question, and his thoughts flew out in a series of violently emotional scraps. “I told Julian I like him.”
“No! He's stupid. I met this guy. On the Internet.”
“On the Internet? Tristan, wtf?”
“No, like, I know him sort of from before. But we didn't really â like, I still liked Julian, right? But, I don't know, I started following his blog, and then he added me on Facebook and we've been talking a lot and stuff. He's so smart, Lexi. The stuff he says, it's just really helping me right now.”
“Wait, do I know this guy?”
“No.” Tristan spoke far too fast, and a deep red blush rose from under his skin.
“Tristan Patel, tell me who it is! Right now!”
“No! You don't know him.”
“I totally do, you are a horrible liar! Come onnn, Tris, I won't tell anyone, I swear.” Tristan shook his head, and Alexandra sulked. “You suck.”
They began to walk across the green grass of the park, cutting a wide swath around a group of young adults playing frisbee. Alexandra felt self-conscious in her knit pants, the skirt of her costume hanging over it, and her thick blue academy hoodie over top. The bus stop was empty, and Alexandra sat down on the bench, tucking her legs up and sitting cross-legged. Tristan sat down next to her and pulled out his Thermos of green tea, using it to warm his hands. “Your parents still bugging you about stuff?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Alexandra said, grimacing. She'd gone to her family dentist and then he'd had a talk with her mom afterwards, saying that he had suspected that she was throwing up.
How was I supposed to know that dentists could tell that from your teeth?
She'd accidentally told Tristan that her parents were upset about something, and now he wouldn't let it go.
“So, what was it? What did the perfect Miss Alexandra Dunstan of the perfect homework and dedication to ballet do to piss her parents off?”
“Tristan! Stop it, okay?”
“No, seriously, tell me, I can't picture it. Wait, I know, you didn't do enough homework, that's it, right?”
“Tristan, I'm this close to slapping you.”
The bus came, and they got on, making their way to the back. “You going home now?” Tristan asked, holding on to the bus bar, his slim body swaying back and forth with the movement of the vehicle.
“Yeah. I've got so much homework. I'm afraid that I'm going to be doing what Andrew did in his last year next year.”
“Andrew Lui? San Francisco Ballet Andrew? Why, what'd he do?”
“You don't remember? When he was in grade twelve. He'd come for one day, hand all of his homework in and get the homework he'd missed, then he couldn't show up for the next day because he'd have to finish the homework he got from the day before, and he just repeated that all year.”
Tristan shrugged. “He graduated, it's all good.”
“Yeah, but I'd like to graduate with an average a little better than his.”
“Why? Even if you do go to university or something it won't be for, like, a long time.”
Alexandra shrugged. “I don't know. It's like a comfort thing for me. Homework, it's this constant, and if I'm getting good grades it's like even if dance or something isn't going well, at least I have good grades and I can be happy about that, you know?”
“Not really,” Tristan said. “But okay.” The bus stopped downtown and they transferred, heading over to the North Shore.
“Are we friends?” Tristan asked suddenly.
Alexandra frowned at him, confused. “What is wrong with you, Tristan? Of course we are.”
“Just checking.” Tristan shrugged. “I don't know, sometimes I feel like we are so close and we talk so much, but I don't actually know anything about you. That's what I like about â¦ that guy. We talk, and it's like we're having this really open, real conversation.”