Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dancer

‘Sean. Wake up. She’s out there again.’

Lucy’s husband rolled over under the duvet and moaned.

‘Do you think we should go out to her?’ she whispered, peaking through the flimsy curtains into the garden next door.

‘What’s she doing this time?’ he asked sleepily, more interested in his return to dreams than the latest antics of their aged neighbour.

‘She’s in her nighty and she’s twirling around on the grass. I think… I think she’s dancing.’

‘Just leave her to it. She’s as mad as a box of frogs Lucy’.

‘I feel bad for her though. She looks so frail and graceful out there in the darkness all alone’.

Lucy continued to watch her neighbour’s movements. She opened the window a little and heard the old woman with the long grey hair and white flowing nightdress calling to the non-existent birds around her.

‘Rodolfo! Rodolfo! It’s time now! Are you there Bernard?’

Lydia tied up her ballet shoes and stretched out on the barre. The feeling was magical. Every day could be a good day after pulling your body to life. She studied herself in the mirror. Long limbs, and golden hair stretched back in a tight bun. The other girls in the room bent and leapt beside her. Each one as graceful as the next. Beautiful creatures.

Bernard would be coming to see the show tonight. After every performance he brought her flowers with a note nestled in them - ‘To my darling Lydia. I couldn’t be prouder. All my love forever, Bernard.’ She smiled as she thought of him. It wouldn’t be long now until he officially asked her.

When the dancers took their afternoon break, Lydia walked quickly down to the café on the corner to meet him. She still got a thrill walking through the streets of London. She had thought she was a big city girl before she moved here, but within a day she had realised how parochial Dublin was. She looked up at the sky and felt the warmth of the sun on her face.

A collision sent her back-stepping into the path of busy shoppers.

‘Oh! Are you alright miss?’ His deep brown eyes looked into hers, and for a moment she was lost. 
‘My fault, my fault, I am so sorry. You are ok?’

She thought the accent was Italian, but couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she wanted to hear more.

‘I’m fine. I think it may have been my fault actually’. She looked up to the sky in explanation and was surprised to see him smiling warmly at her when her gaze returned.

Within minutes they were settled into a booth in an American style diner, and he was telling her how he had ended up in England after the war. She told him about how her parents had used all their savings to send her to London to become a ballet star, and how she was already making it after less than a year here. Of course she was still only in the chorus, but she was getting closer every day.  He was enthralled and begged her to let him come to watch. It was only then that she thought of Bernard. Poor, sweet, loyal Bernard, who must be wondering what had happened to her.

‘I’ll leave a ticket for you at the door. I suppose you better tell me your name, hadn’t you?’

‘It’s Rodolfo. After my great, great grandfather. Family is numero uno for true Italians.’ He held up one index finger to make the point, then gently leaned forward and stroked her cheek with it.

As she skipped back to the theatre she wondered why she had never felt that same thrill when Bernard touched her. The pull was undeniable, all she wanted was to reach out and touch him back. Rodolfo. She said it to herself again, rolling it off her tongue in delight.

After the show, amid the flurried footsteps and laughter of other dancers, she received the flowers.

‘You were amazing. I must see you again. Meet me tomorrow night. I will wait for you. Rodolfo.’

Bernard didn’t understand why she was spending less and less time with him. When he asked in desperation if she would marry him, she could do no more than shake her head and give him a soft kiss on the cheek. Poor Bernard.

Their romance was the thing of movies. Long kisses and passionate embraces that sometimes went too far. But it didn’t matter because they were so in love. Rodolfo was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait for her to meet his Mama and sisters. Did she know it was all girls in his family? His father had left when they were young, and his five sisters had helped raise him. And Italy! Wait until she saw Italy! They would go to Florence on their honeymoon. It was like nowhere else on earth. Too beautiful to describe. As beautiful as her even! They would have - what? Four? Five children? They would all have his brown skin and her cheekbones. Bellisima!

Her family had all come over from Ireland for the wedding. Excited and impressed by the suddenness of it all. Her mother wore the biggest hat Clery’s had available, and her father the proudest smile in the church.

Lydia stood at the bottom of the aisle in the prettiest three-quarter length white dress, flared at the waist to show off her still-perfect figure. ‘Bellisima!’ he would whisper when he leaned in to kiss her neck.

It was only when she saw the worried glances fly between the guests that she thought something might be wrong. Had the rings been forgotten? Was somebody ill? Her father looked at his watch again.

Lydia sat without moving, staring at the crucifix ahead as chaos echoed around her. They said her father and brother had to pull her from the pew. White flowers scattered in the aisle as they dragged her out.

She never did hear from him again.

Lucy closed the curtains and got back into bed. ‘Poor old thing’, she sighed, as she nestled into her husband’s warm back, 'I wonder what happened to her to make her so crazy'.

This story is fictional. Inspired by an old neighbour and the need to take a break from the novel writing.

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