A/N: So here it is, world...my very first fic. I really don't know what else to say.
When you're done, I'll be the one hiding in the corner with my blankie over my head...
Disclamier: Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I own a comfy pair of fake Uggs and my laptop.
As I stepped out of the cab, the wind of the city tore across me, threatening to rip my hair from the carefully arranged bun atop my head. At least it wasn't raining. I knew that Chicago was going to be different from my home in Forks, Washington; and for a moment, I considered hailing the next cab to the airport and taking the next plane home – wondering if I would be there in time to cook dinner for my father. But this is what I had dreamed of since I was a child. This was my new home. This was my destiny.
"Please," I whispered under my breath as I headed for the revolving glass door, "don't let me trip before the music starts."
For as long as I could remember, I had dreamed of being a dancer.
When I was three, my mother had taken me to the local community college to see a production of Swan Lake. I had sat for almost three hours, mesmerized by the dancers on the stage. I begged for Renee to let me take lessons at the school down the street from our home. She scoffed at the idea at first.
"Oh Bella, honey, you can't take ballet! You can barely walk across the kitchen without tripping over your own feet!"
But, my three-year-old persistence, coupled with Renee's immature idea that children know what's best for them, paid off. The month before I turned four years old, we walked hand in hand to Mimi's Dance Studio. I tripped four times on the way.
I surprised everyone, including myself, when I found that I was a natural at ballet. Miss Mimi told me that I had wonderful lines, and a natural grace – as long as the music was playing. As long as I had a beat to work with, my body seemed to just know how to stay in an upright position. I loved the dance studio – mostly because it was the only place in the world that I felt I was good at something. I loved my teacher, Miss Mimi, because she was so calm, so reassuring, and so…constant.
My own Mom was flighty at best - always looking for the next great adventure, the next "big thing." She was a young soul in an old body and I was completely the opposite. I craved continuity in my days. I relished in routine. It was with that fact in mind that she sent me to live with my father, Charlie when I was in middle school. Charlie was a typical dad – a man's man who really couldn't relate to his little girl, although I knew he loved me with all his heart. At my request, he had already enrolled me in the local dance school in Forks when I arrived. For the next five years, outside of school and sleep, I practically lived at the studio.
I found peace like no other when I was at the barre, carefully practicing and perfecting my technique. Never changing, always constant – demi plie, grand plie, releve, battement tendu, rond de jambe – each exercise in a particular order. These were the minutes that turned into hours that had turned into the days of my life.
I walked toward the desk in the lobby, praying to the gods of mercy that I wouldn't fall flat on my face. The woman behind the counter looked up at me with kind eyes – I was sure she had seen a thousand others just like me in the last two weeks – and asked if I was here for orientation. I acknowledged that I was, and gave her my name. She told me to have a seat; she would call on my mentor to come greet me momentarily. I did as I was told, nervously fidgeting with the envelope I had clutched in my hand as if it were a rope I was hanging on to for dear life.
I didn't need to look down at it to know what it said. I had read the letter so many times since I received it that I had it memorized a month ago. I closed my eyes and envisioned the letterhead:
Academy of Dance
Official School of the Joffrey Ballet – Chicago
When I read those words back in August, my heart had done a grand jete' right out of my chest – my dream was coming true. After my best friend, and long time dance partner, Jake, had been accepted into Joffrey's pre-professional program the year before he had encouraged me to send in my audition tape. I immediately told him he was insane. After all, what world-renowned company would want klutzy little Bella Swan to train under them? Jake continued to push – and by push, I mean called every day begging - for me to send in an audition tape. Reluctantly, I took my recital DVD's to my friend Eric's house and had him compile everything onto one disc. I recorded my interview portion, stammering and blushing my way through the entire two minutes. I mailed the envelope and expected my rejection letter to arrive in four to six weeks. Instead, I had received a thick manila folder full of scholarship materials to sign and a list of required attire – I was in – and I had no idea how.
"Bella!" the familiar voice pulled me from my reminiscing.
I looked up to see Jake, smiling his signature billboard smile and looking thinner and more graceful than I had ever seen him.
"Jacob!" I squeaked, running to him.
He opened his arms and I quickly leapt into them, wrapping my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist.
"It's so good to see you, Jake! I was just about to leave and help these nice people find the right Bella Swan. You know, the one who deserves all this."
"Bells, you've gotta stop that," he said as he put me down, his eyes becoming intense. "I know better than anyone that you deserve to be here. And besides, I can't dance my best without the best partner I've ever had."
"Oh, please. Would you stop? You'd make any girl look good. So, what's going on with you? I'm just waiting here for my mentor to come greet me. Do you have classes right now, or are you on a break?"
"Actually, I came down to greet my protégé," he grinned. "I hear she's a hot chick from Washington state. Have you seen her? Maybe I can wait here with you until she gets here."
"Are you serious?" I asked, "you're my mentor? They really do hate me!"
"Be fair, Bells. Come on, I'll show you around."
And with that, we were off to the elevators. I quickly caught Jake up on all the gossip from our home studio, letting him know that Jessica and Angela were teaching the younger kids while going to community college. I told him of Charlie and Billy's latest fishing adventure, and he laughed loudly at the thought of our fathers tipping over Charlie's small boat.
He began to tell me about how much he loved it here in Chicago. He went on about his friends in and out of the program, and how he loved the nightlife here. My eyes wandered to his lips as he spoke, and my mind quickly followed. It had been two years since Jake had kissed me with those lips. Two years since he told me that he loved me and that he knew we could be more than just partners in our dance lives. I had tried, I had given it all that I had, but I had never felt that…spark. There was a comfort level that I had with Jake that I didn't have with anyone else. I trusted him – he was my partner, I had to – more than anyone else I'd ever known. But, romantically, I didn't have any desire for him.
Maybe I was silly, and chances are I was a little crazy - but I wanted something electric, a relationship that felt like magic – not something that felt forced or awkward.
"Earth to Bella! Hello? Where are you Swan?" Jake's voice pulled me from my fog.
"Huh? Oh! Right here. Sorry! I, um, I guess I got…uh, sidetracked."
" Huh. You're the only ballerina I know trips over everything – including her own thoughts."
His laugh rang bounced around the elevator and calmed me – I knew that I could do this. I knew Jake wouldn't let me fall.
"…And one, two, and three and four…Miss Swan! Chin up!" shouted Ms. Kate.
I snapped my head into proper posture and continued my barre work. At home, I could do this with my eyes closed, but Joffrey was a challenge in every aspect; even my warm-up was new. I focused solely on each pattern of my foot on the floor, taking great care to stretch the muscles that needed it the most.
I had stumbled over the door jamb on my way into class this morning, and much to my dismay I was the first student in the room. Ms. Kate was already at the piano, talking with Elezar, our accompanist, when she heard my fall. She turned her head and peered down her nose at me as I turned five shades of scarlet and scurried to the corner to remove my leg warmers. I didn't need any more mistakes today.
The class schedule was grueling. In a matter of a week I had already pushed my body beyond any limit it had ever known. My only reprieve came for an hour each day in partnering class, where, by some miracle, Jake had managed to secure his place as my partner. For sixty minutes we worked together, and I felt normal, lighter, and somewhat worthy of the honor of studying at the Academy.
At the end of the week, Jake invited me to hang out with him and few of his buddies at a club on Halsted Street. I had some theory homework to catch up on, so I had Jake write down the directions and told him I'd meet him there around ten.
I finished up my work and took my time in the shower, allowing the hot water to soothe my aching muscles – some of which I wasn't aware that I had until this week. I wrapped myself in my robe and walked through the kitchen to grab a water before I started getting ready. I noticed that my roommate had left a note on our dry-erase board before she left.
Becca – the fruit in the freezer is MINE. Don't touch it. I think there's an apple in the fridge if you want it. You need to either go buy your own food or start giving me grocery money. – Victoria
Great, it's been a week and my roommate still hadn't bothered to learn my name. I decided not to worry about it tonight – I was excited to see more of the city and have some time outside of class with Jake.
I dressed quickly in dark jeans and a black top. I threw my wallet and chap-stick in a small purse that I could carry across my body, and slipped my feet into my favorite red Converse.
Dancing was easy – walking was difficult – so heels were not in my style vocabulary. I giggled to myself as I remembered trying to wear them once in high school, and how I ended up in the emergency room with a sprained ankle as a result. I'd thrown them away before I left the hospital, and vowed not to make that mistake again. As far as shoes go, they don't get much flatter than Chuck Taylors – and that's why I owned six pairs.
Outside the loft building, I pulled out the slip of paper with Jake's directions on it. I was going to hail a cab and just hand off the paper to the driver, but decided that the walk would do me good. Besides, I hadn't been able to really see the city since I arrived. I headed north and tried to take in as much of the scenery as I could while still focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. The sights, sounds, and smells of the city were all around me. I could hear the laughing voices of a couple behind me, and the high-pitched wait of a siren in the distance.
The wind rushed through my hair and tangled it in my face. I paused to uncover my eyes and I could hear the sound of a piano, somewhere high above me. At first I thought it was coming from the pub on the corner, but when I looked at the sign above the door, I doubted that The Wild Warthog would have a piano player on staff. The notes swirled through the air – it was a melody I'd never heard – and I looked up at the windows in the tower next to me, imagining who could be playing such beautiful music.
I began to sway as the music filled my mind. It was dripping with intensity as it grew louder, faster. I did a little pirouette, followed by a tiny assemble'. I wondered who on earth could be playing such a haunting piece, and I envisioned a crazed conductor – hair askew, eyes wild, pounding on the keys in an effort to release some demon he thought to be trapped inside his soul.
I realized just how silly I looked standing in the middle of the sidewalk - my mouth hung open, staring at nothing. I really needed to reign in my imagination. Was I seriously just standing on the street, dancing to music I wasn't sure if anyone else heard?
I quickly collected myself and continued my walk, trying to let the wind of the city clear my head. I was desperately in need of a night out with my best friend. Though we'd only been apart for less than a year, I felt like I hadn't had any quality time with him away from our fathers. I craved the silly talks, the inside jokes, and the heart-to-heart conversations that we used to have.
We were in this crazy city, attending this insane school with these ridiculous people – but we were going through it together. I hoped that tonight I could regain some sense of normalcy with Jake.