Author's Note: Most abstract I've written in a while, and it feels good. Reviews are very much appreciated. :)
When I was young I took ballet lessons in a room full of mirrors. Other little girls bent and spun around me, twisting like the lean stems of flowers, the pink gauzy petals bobbing. I did so too, and I was not then as clumsy as I am now. I learned the grace that every mother wants for her daughter, learned Swan Lake and the Nutcracker diluted for children. That mirror-room was like a Degas panorama. Every girl in that room dreamed herself a ballerina. I think I did too. Either that or a princess.
One girl I knew was the closest I will ever get to knowing what a real live ballerina is like. Not a girl from that class so many years ago, though. I am confusing my past with my present.
She moved like fluid. I can think of no other word, no other thought, no other being but fluid. I recall raindrops racing down a windshield, and once again recall being a child; the way those runnels of water twisted and soared down the slanted glass, how I in the passenger's seat would watch their races. I also recall not from my childhood – as I do quite a bit now, and as I will stop – oil, no, gasoline surging through a pump. The control of holding the nozzle like reins. And aside from association to cars, I recall another fluid. Blood in veins. Perhaps the most volatile fluid, definitely more flammable than gasoline, the most pertinent fluid besides that which I was getting to in the first place.
Her movements. This and the movement of blood do have more to do with each other than one would think. In my case, at least; that's the instance where it's not obvious. It's rather like the surprise ending of a novel, isn't it?
But no one has read that far yet. I won't give it away.
One thing I never got the knack of when I took ballet lessons was fluidity. We were all too young, still too novice to learn that. The basics were learned, all of the steps and the synchrony, but half of the little girls dropped the class before they could unlock the secret to making this dance a breathtaking beauty.
It was all about making the human body into water. All of the sinew, muscle, bone: it had to become a series of raindrops, blending together from one particle to two to an entire stream tinier than a straw, bleeding down a window. That's really what it all was, but most of the girls in the mirror-room got bored and wanted to try something new, and Degas packed up his canvas and his oils and left that room.
Not only did she move like fluid, she was also a figure that matched a painting. I say this and it occurs to me how I do gush so.
-no, not even a trickle-
I'm on the verge of gushing over her, I realize. Gushing like gasoline through a nozzle
-hold it firmly-
or like blood.
It's hard not to do so, though. I took ballet lessons for less than one year, as a child, and even since I have always been less-than-average when it comes to grace. It is, as fate would have it, one of my most defining qualities. Is it? Was it? It at least was, and that's all that really matters because the was, the past, that's what is relevant. The plot of the novel, yes?
But still, with my clumsiness I found myself nothing short of in awe of her. It was like when I was younger, watching demonstrations of my ballet teachers and marveling open-mouthed at how they could be so swanlike, so much more than I ever dreamed I could be. Even though I was a Swan since birth. Was? Am. Am still.
She was a ballet every time I laid eyes upon her. I was sure she was what Tchaikovsky had in mind when he composed his masterpiece. I was sure she would have drawn Degas away from his fascination with novices. That was where my certainty would have ended, though, because in regards to her I don't believe I was sure of anything else.
She tended to have that effect on people.
Most children grow out of it, but I don't think I ever grew out of staring. Another childlike tendency to me, I suppose, in addition to clumsiness. Strange, though, because when I was younger I was not nearly so ungainly as I am now, and I was far too shy to ever stare at a person. Something changed it all, though, since still I am embarrassingly shy; and I believe it was probably her.
I might stop and wonder now at the repetition of my thoughts, how it seems to be nothing but her and my childhood on an endless cycle. But what else would be my reflection be at a time like this?
Time like what?
It goes without saying, I think, that someone as graceful as her would be beautiful. She was. More so than I could have fathomed to ever meet. And I actually continued to think so months after I'd met her; that no one like that could ever be real. She was just a dreamlike figure onstage, because the characters in opera or ballet are never actually real people. Not just the character, the figure itself, the tangible that you can see. Not real. It was either that or that she really wasn't made of flesh and bone; she was really one hundred percent water, not the eighty percent that made me. If I was ever to touch her, she would piece away into thousands of droplets. She was the kind of graceful I could just imagine coiling and curling down a windshield.
Once, in a fit of bravery, I'd told her she was beautiful. I'd lowered my head and blushed and admitted it, this I remember clearly like it was yesterday. She'd smiled benevolently and thanked me in a soft voice like rose petals; I'd worn something like them once when I was a skinny dandelion of a child in a room full of mirrors. And I'd smiled in return, shyly and not staring as I was prone to do, wondering why I'd said it – besides the fact that it was the truth.
And then she'd kissed me. That's why I remember the scene so well, why the memory seems to be resurfacing so often; because it was perfect. Because she hadn't melted away into water against my skin. Or perhaps she did.
Or perhaps it was me who did.
That younger part of me, the shelf of my life when I'd wanted to learn ballet, wanted to be a princess – that part of me had always envisioned Prince Charming. As all little girls do, I envisioned Him with his feather-soft lips and sable eyes, bending down to bestow a kiss upon me. I hadn't known who He was, who He would become or who I would become once I was old enough to fall in love (those millions of years in the future, it had seemed). But it was Him, I knew it. I had known it deep in my incandescent little heart.
But in all of those dreams, the recipient of the kiss was always the princess. That was me. Never would I have predicted the one bending to press to me would be the princess; that left me just me.
I'm getting ahead of myself now. Princes and princesses don't matter now that I'm older.
She moved like fluid, and that I will never get over. I never could. Often she would ask, What are you staring at, little swan? I would blush and smile at my feet like a mute, and she twisted and coiled down the pane of glass – no, she laughed like falling rain and came forward to put a delicate hand upon my skin. I was completely in awe of her, and I loved – love – her. Again, I believe I am confusing my past with my present. Though in this case, they are one in the same. There was nothing I wouldn't do, didn't do, am not doing.
I can recall it like yesterday, though it may be just yesterday; no, it would have been longer than that. And actually, rather, I can recall it like it's just happened half a minute ago. The memory billows like a sheet in the wind, but that too is to be expected, just like my train of thought. I mean the memory of pulling over to the side of the road. This I will never forget, even if it's muddled a bit in my mind because of what happened, that surprise ending. This I will never forget.
It would be a day when the rain was low and close overhead, hanging in the sky like heavy wool. Everything in her seemed so like rain, and like ballet, too – but that isn't relevant. We pulled over on that deserted country road, out of gas. And she pulled a heavy red canister from the trunk, full of gasoline. The scent was sharp, tangy; mesmerizing. We filled the tank back up. She watched closely as I guided the nozzle, her vivid amber eyes affixed on me curiously.
When I imagine gasoline, I think of it the same slightly-opaque amber color. I have actually never seen it, though, so it's just a guess.
I was put against the car, and she kissed me. It was beautiful, I thought, like opera or ballet. The rolling silence and geese flying overhead, like an overture. Her locks of white-yellow hair curtained us, tangled in, and it was like an aria. She asked me, low murmuring lips against my ear, and I consented. I didn't need words, I think I was always a mute with her.
It wasn't really her, though, so it's understandable that I would not see it like fluid. Part of her, I mean. She handled it with such delicacy though, that I almost could. Still, it had never been like this before. Never before so still and calm, so far beyond her kiss like velvet. No one, nothing had ever been inside me before like she.
Hold it firmly, she whispered, eyes and hands upon the plastic as she guided it. My hands joined hers, and I gripped like that nozzle as she had watched me. I could almost feel the same like the surge of fuel, I think, maybe. And we joined like particles of rain conjoining in their journey trickling down glass.
Never before had I. I loved her.
The memory flutters here, and all around, as does with the last seconds before unconsciousness. In most cases. I'd fainted a few times in my life, so I have something to compare it to. But I think I know what happened to me, to us. I can't go back and read the last few pages and be sure. But you never forget the surprise ending.
Remember, never before had I. There was blood.
There was blood.
She smelled copper, or the diesel of gasoline. And in an instant she was gone; gone from lips to my neck, to lips to my center and one more thing she asked me. Her eyes burned up to me, searching mine from between my knees. They echoed blackly, dark like that corner of a mirror that seems to reflect nothing.
What are you staring at, little swan?
I heard it like a breeze upon my ear. But no, that was not what she said, and perhaps she probably didn't say anything. I was swimming in the inability to breathe properly. I throbbed. It was still good, it was still like a high, and something else had happened. I can't explain it, I can only go by the mingled and patched memory I have.
And where am I now? I am, I think, drifting and waiting for the epilogue.
Some part of me wonders if it's not the voice of Degas, beckoning me over to pose for him for a few minutes. How strange.
I open my eyes. Bending over me is pale hair and a pair of equally pale yellow eyes, knit in kind concern. I'm in a library.
"Bella, can you hear me?" asks Carlisle. It's his study, actually, I now realize. I'm lying on his leather divan.
"Yes," I mumble thickly. Everything is becoming terribly lucid, though. Not terribly, though, in the sense that it's terrible; it feels good to be awake. Awake from what, sleep? My wandering mind picks up the idea of Snow White and turns it over curiously. Then Swan Lake, the Nutcracker. Ballet. Grace. Fluid. Rosalie.
"How do you feel?" Carlisle asks gently. He looks tired; older, somehow.
"I'm fine. Where's Rosalie?"
"Bella, look at me," he interrupts. I do so. He regards me carefully. "Do you know what has happened to you?"
I do know. I think I had all along, the entire time in purgatory.
She is still surprised that there was no pain. The way she can't get over that is almost parallel to the way I could never get over her, could never stop staring – strangely enough, I still can't. But that's just the way she is, still fascinating to me with her grace and fluidity. She stares at me now, though. Part of it is somewhat a haunted look, guilt, perhaps. There's relief to assuage it, though, relief at the fact that there was no pain. She chews the inside of her lip enough over it all as it is.
But I don't blame her. I had, after all, said yes in some way. In my mute way, I think. It doesn't come easily, the memory, and the ending still won't come at all. And if there was pain, I have forgotten.
I still smile shyly when she speaks softly to me. I still go mute and look down, until she gently tilts my chin with her white hand. The only difference is that now I don't blush. She tells me she misses it. Perhaps I do too.
I tell her that now I feel like a ballerina, somewhat. My words are small as I speak into her neck, lying beside her. Her cold, colorless skin slowly traces mine as she gives my musings some thought. She murmurs, You always were, little swan.