Dani could feel the sweat dripping down every inch of her body. She was so very tired, but knew she couldn’t stop. Didn’t dare stop. Her body screamed at her until finally Dani had no choice. Exhausted she dropped down to the floor in a puddle of limp muscles. Her breathing was labored, she had been practicing for 2 hours straight. No breaks, and she just couldn’t do another minute.
“Get up!” she heard a voice yell. “Get up this instant! Dani!!”
She raised her head to glance at her least favorite relative. Dani came from five generations of dancers. Her family was world renown, the most famous dancing troupe in the world. And Dani hated it. She loved dancing, but she hated dancing too. The endless training, the constant traveling, the different towns and cities. Faceless audiences that always demanded more and more. Down through the years dancing had been a way of life for her family. They married other dancers, had babies that grew up to be great dancers. Their whole world was dancing and practicing and routines. She hated it all!
“Dani! You will never be a great dancer if you don’t continue practicing!” Dani winced at the loud voice in her ear. Her great-Aunt Claudia nudged her with her cane. It was a bit more forceful than necessary. But Dani has always known Great Aunt Claudia disliked her. She never knew why, but she certainly knew it was true.
“I cannot go another second, Madame,” Dani told her. “My body refuses to do it.”
“Don’t be stupid child! It is not your body that is weak, it is your mind! Now get up and continue with the practice!” scolded Great Aunt Claudia.
Sighing, Dani pushed herself up to stand. She knew her Great Aunt would not give in, and so once again Dani would. Even though her body ached and her feet were bleeding she would continue with the practice she hated so much. One day I will leave this, I will run away and become what and who I want to be. I will be ME! Thought Dani as she pushed through the pain and danced in front of the mirrored wall, with the critical eyes of Great Aunt Claudia following her.
“Again Dani! Do it again but with more grace!” yelled out Great Aunt Claudia. “You are moving like a clumsy elephant! Pick those feet up! Jump higher!”
Dani could hear the thumping of Madame’s cane as it hit the floor behind her. She always referred to her Great Aunt as Madame, like the other students. She had never felt close to her Great Aunt even though she was brought up by her. Madame taught dance to young men and women, because Madame could not dance herself. When she was 19 she fell down a flight of cement steps and broke her leg and back. That was 40 years ago, since then she has had to walk with a cane and was never able to dance again. So she taught. Having generations of dancers behind her, Dani knew Madame was a great teacher, very sought after. But Madame was always tougher on Dani.
“I swear you are not Edward’s child! Edward was a fantastic dancer! The best in the family! Even that woman he married was a passable dancer.” commented Madame. “I often wonder if that woman did not cheat on Edward and have some other man’s baby. For you are nothing compared to Edward!”
Dani sighed inwardly. This was not a new dialog with Madame. Dani had heard it many times before. But it never stopped hurting to listen to it. Madame never liked her mother and it was well-known in the family that Edward had always been Madame’s favorite person. Dani remembered her parents as loving parents. To her and to each other. She was ten years old when they died in a terrible car accident. Dani’s parents and an older cousin named Amelia was in the car when it was hit by a truck. They all died that terrible day. Amelia was another one of Madame’s favorites. Something else Dani was never able to forget.
“Why did Amelia have to die too!” Madame cried. “Such a talent that girl was. So beautiful and graceful. She was born to dance just like Edward! To die at the young age of 15 was too cruel!”
Dani stopped dancing and watched Madame work herself up remembering that tragic accident. She wiped her face of sweat and waited for what she knew was coming next. “Why was it not you in that car! Why were you left behind and Amelia wasn’t?!” Madame asked. “I will tell you why! It is because you were a sickly child, and your mother did not want to take care of you! So she left you with your nanny and took Amelia and my Edward for that fateful drive!” Dani remembered that day also. She had caught a terrible cold. They were suppose to go Christmas shopping, but she was too sick to go. So her parents and Amelia went, without her. They never returned.
“It just isn’t fair to take such talented and loved people and leave me with you!” Madame cruelly stated.
That was all Dani could listen to. She had heard the same things spew out of Madame’s mouth for years. The hateful words that stung so sharp. Dani had always tried to be what Madame wanted, but it was never enough. She could never be her father or her cousin Amelia. And she was reminded of that fact in every possible way. She had twelve years of being told this again and again. It gave her nightmares at night. It echoed in her heart every single day. She was tired of hearing it! She might not be a great dancer but she didn’t want to be! She had never wanted to be.
Dani wanted to be an artist, a painter. Every moment she could she painted her beautiful pictures. That was the only time she felt at peace. She loved the feel of a paintbrush in her hand, the colors flowing over canvas. Watching those colors become something beautiful, full of life.
Dani had enough. She could not listen to another hateful word. She ran to the door and opened it. As she ran down the hall and out the building she could still hear her Great Aunt’s words in her head.
“You should have died that day! You and that woman who gave birth to you! Not my beautiful Edward and Amelia!! YOU!!”