They're difficult to get on.

The silky fabric covers up the pain they cause, the pretty laces more like a pretty noose. The box is clunky, but she knows she will be able to make it look graceful. Because they are perfect, just like she wants to be perfect.

The shoes are so clean and new and she doesn't want to scoff them up like the older girls have.

But it doesn't matter as she ties the last ribbon. She stands up, her feet rocking uncomfortably. Momentarily, she stands up on en pointe and falls to her knees. The bruises encourage her to try again, and she does. She stands up time after time, over and over.

She can't do it.

But she knows she can do it. God, she must.

She makes it onto pointe and looks in the mirror breathlessly. She raises her posture perfectly, holding her arms out in front of her. Oh, it's such a beautiful sight. She can hear the music in her head, and starts to spin around in a circle, one foot out.

She spins again and again, then with both feet on the studio floor. The spin goes on and on until she is well past dizzy, and her feet feels as though they have been torn open.

She sits down after those few minutes and can feel the excruciating pain. But it is the pain of perfection, the agony of victory. Her hands slip down to the ribbons and untie them, pulling them off of her feet.

Her toes are bleeding, torn and blistered. But she doesn't care.

Then she sees the shoes. They are stained with blood, the beautiful light pink ruined.

She begins to cry.