Authors: J.P. Grider
by J.P. Grider
Fated Hearts Publishing
Edited by Sue Toth
Proofread by Indie Solutions by Murphy Rae
Cover Design by Niina Cord 2015
Cover Photography by Heather LaViola
at Heather Lyn Photos
Cover Models – Isabella Freda and Joey Roccasanta
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to any person, place, thing, or event is purely coincidental and a result of the author’s imagination. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2015 by J.P. Grider
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
There are five words for which I hold the greatest contempt. On endless replay, a needle stuck in the same damaged groove, these words run through my mind. Each night before I fall asleep. Every morning as I wake. And every nightmarish moment in between.
Five words that scream at me in a silent room. Five words that have become my constant companion these past two months. Five words I'd never have fathomed would be my fate.
In my dreams, I am whole.
In my dreams, I am airborne. In the midst of my grand jeté.
In my dreams, no one has ripped my heart from my chest by telling me,
"You will never dance again."
THREE MONTHS EARLIER
"Pinch me," I tell Jordan. "Because I can't believe this is real."
"Oh. It's real. And it's happening." Both her hands land on my forearm. "And it's happening to us."
I toss my head back and laugh and scream at the same time. "Holy cow, Jordan. We're dancing on Broadway.
," I exclaim in grateful disbelief.
"Broadway," she yells back at me, whirling around on her toes then gracefully transforming her joy into a perfect pirouette.
Opening day is still three weeks away, but that doesn't deter the adrenaline from rushing through my veins every time I'm up here on stage rehearsing. No. Way.
It is a literal dream come true for me to be performing in a Broadway musical. And to be working with the greatest choreographer this decade is the icing on the proverbial cake. Neil Trumondi is a genius.
"Rose," Gianna calls from behind me. "Wanna go get dinner with us?" By us, I know she means Camille, Ryan, and herself. "You too, Jordan."
I look at Jordan, who shrugs and then nods.
"Okay," I say for the both of us.
Jordan and I grab our bags from our lockers, and I swipe a makeup wipe over my face to get the sweat off. I redo my bun and wait for Jordan while she does the same.
I take out my phone to check my messages, and I see that Holly texted me four hours ago.
HOLLY: Hey, BFF. Where you been? Met this really cute guy at registration. He's in my psych class. I get the feeling Ben's wholesome and apple-pie-like, like you. Anyway, call me. Text me. Miss you.
When I start to type back how much I miss her too, Gianna comes in singing loudly, "Are we gonna go to dinner?" to the tune of "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" from
. Not wanting to be one to make anyone wait, I slip my phone into my backpack and leave with my dancing friends to go have dinner.
"I'm telling you," Gianna says, inside the restaurant and sipping her diet soda slowly before she finishes her thought. "This has been the best. Week. Ever."
We all ardently agree with her. We've only been rehearsing for one solid week, but Gianna is right; this
been the most exciting week of any of our lives. Dancing in the background, along with one hundred or so other dancers, may dampen a more seasoned dancer's spirits, but to the five of us, who haven't even graduated college yet, it's a huge foot into the Broadway door. We are not off-Broadway background dancers. We are
. And that is so very, very cool.
"Ready, ladies?" Sal, the waiter at Giovanni's, who is also one of our fellow dancers, asks.
"How do you do it, Sal?" Jordan asks. "How do you work fourteen-hour days and then come here and work four nights a week?"
"Got no choice. Nobody's paying my rent but me."
"You don't have a roommate, Sal?" I ask. Jordan and I share a very tiny one-room apartment. We can barely call it a studio, because it's literally one room with a small refrigerator, a microwave oven, a sink, and a toilet. We sleep on a pull-out couch, and we wash ourselves using the "kitchen" sink. Every chance we get, we shower at the dance studio. But it's all worth it to be living here in New York City for the summer and dancing on Broadway.
"I do, but it's still so goddamned expensive."
"It is," I agree. "I used up all my savings from working on my parents’ farm just to stay here for the summer."
"Thank goodness your boss treats us well," Camille says to Sal, referring to the specially-priced menu Giovanni's has for Broadway interns and background dancers.
"Cheers to that," Ryan says, lifting his glass of cheap red wine.
"'Kay," Sal says, "It's time to order."
"Ravioli for me," I say, sipping my lemon water while the rest of my new friends order. And this is when I remember that I started to text Holly and never got to finish. I make a mental note to call my best friend when I get home later. It's been almost two weeks since I said goodbye to her at school. The last week and a half have been such a whirlwind that every time I’ve thought of giving her a call or shooting her a text, something has come up and I’ve had to slip my phone into my bag.
Holly is going to kill me
. But she'll forgive me. She's cool like that.
"You know," Gianna says. "If the director asks me to stay on after the summer, I am so going to take it. Fuck college. I can always go back. And hey, maybe I won't have to if this Broadway thing works out."
"Shit, me too," says Ryan. "My only reason for going to college is to get more dance experience. What about you, Rose?"
"Oh...no, I have to finish college. I mean, I have to have some other type of background for when I'm too old to dance, no? I mean...we can't dance forever."
"Sure we can," Camille says.
"Rose is right," Jordan adds. "What if, God forbid, we got injured and could never dance again? We'd need something to..."
"Bite your tongue," Gianna snaps, knocking on the table to unjinx what Jordan just said.
"Rose, you're majoring in education, right?" Camille asks.
"Yeah. K through 8."
"That's cool. I guess teaching is as good a field as any if dancing doesn't work out," she says.
"Yeah. I was hoping to open a dance academy one day too."
"Oh my God, Rose, that's awesome. But...you mean after you make it big in New York, right?"
"Well, yeah, kind of. I mean, dancing's my life, but sometimes I think I'd like to do it on my terms as well. Like ten years from now, won't I be tired of fourteen-hour days? I also have dreams of getting married and having a family, and well, teaching school and owning a dance academy will allow me to do both. You know?"
I notice the smirks on Gianna, Camille, and Ryan's faces, but Jordan nods. She gets it. We've talked about this on the rare times we weren't dead tired and sleeping in our little room.
"I think that's a great idea," Jordan says, shooting me a wink from across the table.
"Why do you go to school in Jersey, Rose?" Camille asks.
"It's fairly close to home, and I need to be nearby in case my father's farm help calls out sick. Then he calls me to come up."
"And you just
?" Gianna asks, the disbelief and disapproval much too evident in her snide tone.
"Of course. It's a family business. I'm family," I say as a statement of fact and truth.
"What kind of farm?" Ryan asks.
"A farm farm. We raise cows and chickens and pigs. Sheep for my mother's knitting. We even have some horses."
"In Jersey?" Camille asks.
"Sure." I shrug.
Camille nods her approval. Gianna just rolls her eyes and smirks. I guess the more Gianna gets to know me, the more she realizes she doesn't like me. She must not think I'm hip enough, but I never claimed to be hip. Or fashionable. Or anything else I suppose she associates with a New York dancer. But I don't dance for the prestige. I do it because it's an extension of me. When I dance, my soul shines and my heart smiles. When I dance, the whole world disappears and I float in the darkness. Whether it's tap, jazz, ballet, or lyrical, I am immersed in nothing but the dance when I am on the dance floor. The only other thing that comes close is horseback riding. Bareback. But in the case of riding a horse, I let the horse become my soul, and
becomes the extension of me.
The jibber-jabbering at our table is lost on me for a bit while I sink into homesickness. I miss my family and my farm. I miss Holly and my friends at school. And though I love this experience I'm getting being here in New York City and on Broadway, I am looking forward to the fall when I'm back at school and back in the routine of my university classes, dance classes, and farm work. At this very moment in my life, I have everything I could ever ask for. I am happy. Content. Grateful. Life couldn't get any better than it is right now.
Thank you, God
, I say in my head, as I'm usually in a constant state of prayer anyway, because God is my number one friend. I talk to Him all day long. Sometimes silently. Sometimes, when I'm alone, not so silently.
My own thoughts are broken through when Sal brings our dinners. "Thank you, Sal," I say when he puts my plate of ravioli in front of me.
"You're very welcome, Miss Rose," he says with a wink. Sal is sweet. He's one of the nicer guys I dance with.
By the time all of us are finished with our dinner, it is almost ten o'clock. That means in less than eight hours, we have to be standing on that stage to begin rehearsing all over again. Normally, ten o'clock is not such a late night, but the dance schedule is so exhausting that our feet, our legs, practically our entire bodies, are on fire. So when Jordan turns the key to walk inside, both of us head right for our pull-out couch, already pulled out from this morning, and crash almost immediately.
The alarm on my phone blares in my ear at exactly 4:45am. I hit the snooze button once, like I've been doing every morning for the past week and a half, and get up at precisely 4:54am to wash myself with barely warm sink water, pull my hair into a tight bun, and brush my teeth. Breakfast for Jordan and me is a packaged coffee cake that we keep on our counter, and a latte from the corner coffee house. There's no way we skimp on our coffee in the morning.
"Here's your vanilla latte, Rose," Charlie, the barista, says as she hands me my morning lifeline.
"Thanks, Charlie. You have a good day. See ya tomorrow?"
"No. Not tomorrow. Got the day off. But I'm here on Friday."
"Great. See you then."
"Crap, Rose," Jordan says, patting her pockets. "I forgot my phone. I'm going to run back to the room real quick. Don't wait. No need for both of us to rush."
"I can wait. I'll just..."
"No. Really. Neil will get mad if we both run in late. Just go."
"You really need your phone? You can use mine."
"My mom'll have a conniption if she texts me during lunch and I don't answer. I'll be five minutes. You go on ahead."
"'Kay. If you're sure. See ya in five."
I take my latte and sip on it as I wait for the do-not-walk signal to change.
When it does, my whole life changes with it.
When it does, I'm gently, or not so gently, shoved to the side while a group of eager wage-earners hastily crosses Broadway. Because I'm not one of the pushier types, I take my time, falling in step behind the crowd. I'm running through dance steps in my mind when I hear a loud horn. Not an unusual sound, I'm learning, for the streets of Manhattan.
It's in the next second that time seems to stand still and rush by in the same instant.
A disturbing screeching sound is the last thing I hear before I feel a crushing pain along my left side.
And then I feel nothing at all before my world goes black.