lovers who admired me, but none could see past the famed ballerina. I knew they loved what I was, but not who I was. And pretty soon, I forgot who I was too … until him."
"You found him?" I asked, suddenly feeling cheerful.
"No," Marie replied. "He found me."
A light seemed to blur everything, then I found myself in the ballet studio like the one before. Marie was standing in the middle of the room, and she was alone and practicing. She looked very much like the little girl before, looking at the mirror and breathing deeply in preparation for the day's work. The sound of footsteps disturbed her concentration and looked toward the door.
"Guillaume!" she called out to the man. "What happened to your foot?" She was speaking in French, and I had no idea how I understood it.
"I fell through a flight of stairs yesterday, I'm terribly sorry Marie." Guillaume had a crutch on his right arm, and a nasty looking cast on his right foot.
She rushed over to him, hugged him soundly and smiled. "Don't worry about it, Guillaume. I know you didn't mean to, but we have a Pas de deux. How am I supposed to find a partner and teach him the steps in just a month?"
It was a dance for two people, Marie explained to me. Guillaume grinned cockingly. "What kind of man do you think I am to trouble you so? I've already brought you a solution." Then he moved aside to let in a stranger through the doorway. At the sight of the man, my heart tightened. It was him.
He was a tall man and had friendly eyes and an easy smile, but something about his face told me that he was just being polite.
"Marie," Guillaume began. "This is my older brother, Antoine, and he will be your practice partner until this bloody cast is removed. A month is more than enough time for this thing to heal. So you are not to worry. Okay? Well, that's it. Gotta go see you then!" He rushed out before Marie could say another word.
I looked at Marie and thought that she didn't seem like she felt what I did which was strange because I always knew it when I saw him and so did my incarnates … at some level. But with Marie there was nothing. And now the two were alone in a room surrounded by mirrors, and the sunlight slanting from the windows.
She gave him a stunning smile. "How much did he pay you to do this?"
"One thousand Francs," he replied, grinning. "I don't go cheap."
She laughed. "Marie Cotillard." She bowed the way ballerinas do. "Ballerina for twenty years."
"Wow." Then he bowed as well, the bow of a gentleman. "Antoine Janvier. Musician and ballet neophyte."
"A musician?" Surprised. "What instrument do you play?"
"Call me Marie."
"Marie." He bowed again, but lazily this time.
"Well, Antoine, have you ever been in love?" she asked him. Kind of too forward, I thought. I wouldn't have been able to say that.
Antoine looked confused at her question then grinned knowingly. Maybe he thought that she was flirting. "Yes, of course I have. This is France."
"And you have no idea about dancing, right? Let alone ballet?"
He nodded, now unsure where the conversation was headed. "Pretty much, yes."
"Then a logical ballerina would think, this-" She turned and did an Arabesques position, similar to the picture of the girl in the locket. "Is not something you can learn in a month if you're going to practice with me. I could probably get professional dancers to practice with, but that's going to take time and money. And Guillaume has already spent enough. So I'm going to work with you."
"I don't feel any confidence in my skills," he interrupted as she turned and walked across the room to start the music. "But I guess that's reasonable." She faced him now, her eyes misty as the melody of a waltz filled the room. Then, with such ethereal grace, she walked - almost glided - toward him. Her lavender skirt flowed dreamily with every step. And her hair was wavy against the still air, her eyes focused on him.
"The reason why I asked if you have ever been in love is because-" she was in front of him now, only inches away. She could smell his scent as he did hers. Her hand went to his left arm and wrapped it around her waist, and upped it to her shoulder blades. Then she linked her right hand with his and raised it to the level of their shoulders. She looked up at him. "I don't care if it's a lie," she whispered softly. "But when we're dancing, love me."
And they danced the waltz. It was in the way he looked at her, I thought, that told me his heart was lost to her.
"Bella," Marie called me. I looked at her. "I put all my love to my parents and they didn't give it back genuinely. Since then, I never allowed anything or anyone to get close enough to hurt me that way again. I didn't allow myself to love something as precarious as people. I loved only things I could count on, and that was ballet. I didn't count on anybody but myself.
"I'm going to teach you what is essential in every relationship, Bella." Her green eyes sliced through mine. "I'm going to teach you how to trust yourself and your heart especially. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own misery that we draw a line between us and other people, and we don't allow them to get in. We simply stop caring about things because we're afraid that it'll disappear, of the pain that comes after."
The next thing I knew I was midair, surrounded by the city lights of France. Marie and Antoine were in a hot air balloon, overlooking the city. It was a magical sight, enveloped in stars. Her eyes were filled with astonishment and his with love. They were drinking champagne, and I saw Antoine offer a bouquet of roses to her. She accepted.
A second passed, we were standing in the brightly lit streets of Paris. It was night time, and a couple were crossing the lane. It was Marie and Antoine. He looked charming, combing his sand-colored hair with his fingers. Something he was saying made Marie, walking beside him, laugh. And then, they stopped in front of what I guessed is Marie's apartment.
"Parting is such sweet sorrow…" Antoine started saying as he reached out to hold her hand, to which she rolled her eyes.
"Good night." She smiled demurely. "I'll see you tomorrow." She turned, walked up the stairs and went through the door with just one quick backward glance.
When she was gone, Antoine didn't move. He simply watched the door, as if contemplating that he had just spent the best night of his life. And said, "Good night to you too, Marie. Dream happy dreams. You have touched my heart like no one else has, sleep mon amour." Then, he shook his head and laughed at himself. "I've gone mad."
Inside the apartment, Marie had just closed the door. She leaned her back against the door and tried hard not to smile, but failed. "This is madness," was the only thing she said and went on.
"The minute I admitted that I felt something for him," Marie told me. "I distanced myself like I always have when things become serious. My relationships before were casual at most. But I knew it was different with Antoine. He saw through me. He saw through the always-smiling girl, the perfect girl everyone thought she was, and into a sad lonely woman."
"Marie, what's wrong?" Antoine kept asking. We standing inside Marie's dress room just after the performance. She was wearing a silky tutu skirt with a color that mirrored her eyes. Her hair was loosely pinned, and it framed her heart-shaped face. She looked like a fairy, but her eyes were cold and reserved.
Sitting on a chair and removing her earrings, she replied, "Nothing. Why are you asking me this?"
"Because you're suddenly avoiding me," he demanded. His gray coat twisted heavily as he flicked off his gloves. The scarf around his neck swung wildly when he forcefully removed it. "We've spent hours practicing your dance and getting to know each other, getting closer. I ask you out one night, you accept. I thought it was mutual. I believed it was mutual after that night. And then, you change. It got worse when Guillaume finally gets back, and you had no need for me. I left you a dozen messages, Marie."
"Antoine, it was just one night. It was a friendly date. And I didn't have time to return your messages because opening night was coming and everybody was so busy. I was so busy. Don't worry, we'll go out again. I'll bring my friends, you bring yours and we'll have a party, okay?"
"How about just the two of us?"
She sighed. "It can't be just the two of us, Antoine. It won't be any fun."
"Are you saying you didn't have fun with me that night?"
"No," she spat. It was the best night of her life. "I just think that if we sink in any deeper, we won't be able to climb out," she murmured. There was a hint of despair in her voice.
"And what's so wrong with that?"
She faced him now, her eyes welling. "Everything! I'm at the prime of my career and I don't need you or anyone or anything getting in the way. I need to focus, Antoine, can't you see that? I can't give you what you want. My time and attention will always be divided, and it will never be enough for you just as I know that it will never be enough for me. I'm sorry it has to be this way for both of us. I'm not ready for a serious relationship. All I can offer are occasional nights, and I know you won't settle for less. Now, please just go."
Antoine remained silent and stared back at her with his dark eyes. He was about to say something, but stopped himself. A few seconds later, he tried again. "Before I leave, will you do me a favor?"
"Kiss me," he said simply. "Just one kiss, and I'll go."
She didn't say anything. It was something she also wanted to do. So she stood up and closed the distance between them. Her misty eyes looked up to him as he looked down to her. And she lifted her lips against his.
And it was as if I could feel it. It was a slow, deep kiss that stirred the depths of my soul. Marie wanted it to last longer, but their lips parted. And left the room, leaving something hard caged in her hands. She looked down at it and opened her hands. It was a necklace and its pendant was a locket. She unclasped it and saw a picture of her the first time he saw her, beautiful as a goddess. On the other side was an inscription. It wasn't an 'I love you' as other men might have written. It was too cliché, especially for Antoine. It said, 'more than my own life' which, Marie thought, was more affecting.
At that moment, she started to cry.
"I realized that I had just let something so beautiful pass," Marie told me. "And I even pointed him to the door."
"What did you do?" I asked her. She looked at me intently.
"Don't you remember?"
"I…" And then, suddenly did. "You ran after him."
She smiled. "I did."
Now I was seeing Marie run out of her dress room. "Antoine!" she called out. But he was nowhere to be found. So she ran down the stairs eagerly but just as she started to take a step down, someone called her name. She lost her balance and fell down the stairs.
Then, I was surrounded by the unyielding, unending dark.
"What happened?" I asked Marie when I saw her standing beside me in a hospital wing. She lead me to a room where Marie was standing beside a window. She was wearing a hospital gown and her hair was messy, but otherwise still beautiful. She was looking at the setting sun.
"How do you feel, miss Cotillard?" The doctor came in, although the first thought that came into my mind was a movie star. He had golden hair that matched his topaz eyes. His skin was so pale I thought he needed a sun bath.
Marie faced him. But her eyes were looking at something else when she answered, "I'm fine, Carlisle. I feel better thanks to you." She lifted her arms like she was feeling her way. When she found the shoulder of a chair, she grabbed onto it and started walking toward the bed.
She was blind.
"It wasn't Antoine who called out to me that time. It was the stage manager calling me for an encore or something. But, destiny is kind of funny this way, no?" Marie, who was standing beside me, said. "When I could see, I blinded myself. And when I went blind, I could see clearly."
She continued her story. "I disappeared in the ballet scene for about a year. I was locked in one of my houses in Russia, brooding. At first, I felt empty. Like I was nobody. Dancing was my life, and now I could dance anymore. I couldn't even get through my own room without falling down."
I could see it now. We were in a dark room, the curtains were thick enough to cover the sunlight. And she was there sitting in a lavish chair surrounded by lavish things, staring at nothing.
"Only my closest friends - and I only had a few - and the servants knew what had happened to me. The rest of the world thought I'd retired or something. I didn't follow the news. I was busy… brooding. But there was something inside me, probably the Eliza part of me, that was brave. So I picked myself up and taught myself to walk as if I could see.
"For a year, I trained myself. I started with memorizing the layout of my home until I could go around without any assistance. I always wore sun glasses, but I learned how to follow voices and soon enough I could converse with people and they'd have no idea I couldn't see them. I felt better doing this for myself. Because, in some strange way, I felt alive.
"I tried to dance again too," she explained. "But I could only do it in a large space where I couldn't hit anything or anyone. I knew then, I would never be able to dance with my company again, or on a stage. Still, I went back to France. The news of my return spread like wildfire. Naturally, I announced that I wouldn't be able to dance anymore, that I was retiring. But in honor of my legacy, I was going to build a school.
"When I got to my house, though, I was greeted by a nervous servant."
"Madam," her chirpy voice rang. "There is a gentleman in the gazebo waiting for you. I told him you would be a while but he said he would wait. He's been here for hours."
"Describe him to me."
Marie's heart drummed loudly because she knew exactly who it was when the girl described him. She waited a couple of minutes to calm herself before walking toward the garden where the gazebo was. She would have worn her sun glasses, but it would have been irrational to wear them at night.
She thought of all the scenes she imagined the past year when she confronted him. All the things she wanted to say, but the only thing she could think to say when she stepped out into the grass and in his presence was "Hi."
"Hi," he replied. His voice was like velvet. She never really thought about his voice, Marie was telling me. But according to her, this was the first time she'd actually thought of it. It occurred to me that the last thing she remembered of him was his sad face, asking her to kiss him. And now, she was only left with a voice.
Marie couldn't see it, but I did. It was a dreamy scene. Marie's garden was filled with beautiful flowers, and there was a pond on the left wing where there was a miniature waterfall. The sound of rushing water accompanied with the song of the crickets added to the serene scene. And there he was standing in the gazebo, looking his best. And there she was, wearing a periwinkle blue dress with a smile on her face. She would never know how perfect the scene looked, with the mist surrounding them and the candles lit.
"You're wearing the locket I gave you."
She smiled warmly. Hearing his voice told her where to look. "Of course I wear it." Her hand went to grab the locket and her eyes followed the movement. "It's one of my most treasured possessions."
She didn't see the frown on his face. "I would thought you didn't want to see me the last time, then you disappeared. I looked for you, but I couldn't find you. I thought you really didn't want to see me. But now you're back, Marie, and I -"
"Stop," she said cuttingly. And he did.
"Is there something wro --"
"Say it again," she pleaded.
"My name," she whispered. "Say my name again… please."
She smiled. He smiled as well, but she wasn't able to see that. "There are so many things I want --Oh!" The second she put her foot forward to walk toward him, she tripped over a stone and fell on her face. But before Antoine could get to her, he stopped when he saw her staring at nothing and her hands went on to feel their way around the ground. And when they touched the leg of a chair, she grabbed it with both her hands and picked herself up.
"Oh, Maire," was the only thing he said.
She smiled guiltily. "This is why I went away." Her eyes were welling, and tears suddenly raced over her cheeks. "It wasn't because of you that I left. I… I can't dance anymore, Antoine. It's not a ballerina who's standing in front of you, it's a blind girl. And it's a blind girl who's loved you, who's asking for your forgiveness and it's a blind girl who's asking you to love her too. Will you take me as I am?"
The seconds passed like years. She couldn't see his face, so she couldn't tell whether she was going to be rejected.
"It was the biggest leap of my life," Marie whispered to me. "Standing there in silence, with only the sound of the crickets to console me."
Then I heard his chuckle. "Only a mad man can say no to that." And then he ran towards her, wrapped his arms around her waist, carried her and circled her in joy. They were both laughing at their reunion.
Then, he brought her to the gazebo. "Where am I?" she asked.
"Dance with me, mon amour, my only love?"
She smiled shyly. "I…I can't. I'll trip and fall over."
"I'll worry about that," he said as he tightened his hold on her waist and pulled her closer. "Do you remember what you said to me when you taught me how to dance?" He didn't let her answer. "When you're dancing, love me," he whispered those last words. She rested her head on his shoulder as he moved her side to side. Then he murmured in her ear, "Aimes-moi, love me, Marie. Dance with me."
And before she knew it, she was dancing again.
* * *
August 14, 1918 - Chicago, United States
"Miss. Isabelle?" the woman said. "Miss. Isabelle, are you in there?"
- The locket that Bella bought for Renesmee in BD (Ch.34 - Declared)
- When Bella attended ballet lessons as a child. Remember the ballet studio where James tortured her in Twilight?
- Shakespeare's 'parting is such sweet sorrow' line was a reference to the Elizabethan era in Chapter 4
- "Sleep my Bella. Dream happy dreams. You are the only one who has ever touched my heart. It'll always be yours. Sleep my only love."
- When Bella says in NM "Kiss me." But in this chapter, it was Antoine who said this.
- The break-up scene in NM, only it was Marie who was burning bridges.
- And the prom scene in the movie. So the beautiful gazebo scene with the romantic candles.