The Boy in Ballet Shoes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is just the first part of a short story I am writing-it is NOT final. I am just posting this to see what you guys think and if you want me to write more. I could turn this into a novel if you guys want. I chose to write this story for many reasons, with the biggest being to promote anti-bullying. Hope you guys enjoy! Let me know if there are any mistakes!

When a city kid is bullied for the things he loves and can't help...

Submitted: February 10, 2015

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Submitted: February 10, 2015

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Music swirled around me, flowing through the air on a breeze. It enveloped me, wrapping itself snugly around my body as I danced. The notes bounced through the air, forming a melodious harmony as my feet glided across the polished wooden floor. It controlled me in a way, like a spell, blocking out all that was around, and forcing my mind on the only two things that mattered: The music, and me.

I had this routine down by now, but a little sliver of doubt entered my mind as I approached the last step. But my limbs ignored it, and spun right into the last three pirouettes, landing perfectly at the end. The music stopped, and slowly the rest of the world came back to me, allowing my eyes to recognize the tiny figure of a girl clapping before me in awe. I smiled.

“That was great Miles!” the girl replied, grinning from ear to ear.

“Really? You think so, Abby?” I asked, tugging off my worn shoes.

“Definitely” she replied, brown eyes sparkling. “You are sure to win that contest now. Even Mozart wouldn't object!”

I tossed my shoes in my duffel bag. “I wouldn’t count on it yet, Gabby,” I replied. “Madame O’Connor still says I need to work on my turns.”

She stood from the chair she was sitting in and crossed her arms, pouty. “Don’t call me that.”

I shrugged, and slung my bag across my shoulder. “You do talk a lot, sis.”

She huffed, tossing her dark brown hair over her back. “Whatever. Let’s just go home.”

“Okay,” I smirked, finding her small faced and crossed arms somewhat hilarious. I glanced up at the mirrors lining the back wall of the almost-empty studio.  My eyes rose to my reflection, and stared at my scrawny limbs, bruised and scraped in several places, surrounded by dark, chestnut skin. My smile faded.

“Miles?” Abby asked, staring at my brown eyes in the mirror. “What’s wrong?”

Shit. “Nothing.”

I tried to keep my voice even to calm her and myself, but realization dawned on Abby’s face.

“Oh. It’s Monday.”

And Monday means Raymond, I thought bitterly. I sighed. “Whatever. Let’s just leave.”

I turned around quickly and walked briskly to the door, angry at something I had yet to find out. The door slammed with a furious crack behind me, and I locked it tight, smoldering. My feet were halfway up the sidewalk before I realized that I had left something.

I turned around, ashamed, and briskly unlocked the door for Abby. “Sorry,” I mumbled.

She said nothing, and just strode up the sidewalk, back turned to me. We walked for a few blocks in silence, passing apartments after apartments, and the occasional homeless that dominated the poorer areas of Los Angeles.

We were halfway to the alley when she spoke. “You can avoid them you know.”

I shook my head although she couldn’t see. “No. It’s complicated.” I replied, hopeless. “But you know the drill. Turn right at Midsummer Street. Don’t let them see you. I’ll meet you at home.”

As we neared the intersection, I became more and more antsy as the figure of a brawny teenage boy appeared in the distance, leaning against the wall of an abandoned gas station. I knew what I had coming, but each time I saw the alley my fears always seemed to rise up again. I also knew that I might have more in store, for I had missed the last Monday, and who knew what punishment I was to receive.

“Now,” I whispered to Abby, who nodded solemnly. With one last sad look into my eyes, she turned right at the end of the block and bounded down the street. A quick sigh of relief escaped from me. I stayed put until she rounded the corner on the other side, and then continued on my way, ashamed it had to be this way.

But what was I supposed to do? It's not like I could avoid them, they could hunt me down like a pack of bloodhounds, always hungry for more.  I couldn’t tell anyone either, my family was in a bad enough situation already, and if I caused a big scene, Raymond would surely find a way to exact his revenge. I also knew that it was my fault that I had to go through this anyway, most likely being the only boy ballet dancer in the whole city. And a minor race to make it worse, I thought.

By now I could was halfway up the block to the alley. I could see the figure of the boy clear as day, clad in a dark black hoodie and a purple Laker’s cap that shadowed his face. He showed no sign of recognizing my presence, but I knew he was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

I walked toward him slowly as I neared the gas station, the way a bullfighter would greet his opponent. But I was no bullfighter.

He glanced up at me, and then at the old street clock joining the road. “You're late Negro,”

I looked down at my feet, suddenly finding them particularly interesting. Run, they urged. Run. But I stayed put.

“By one minute,” I mumbled, checking the small watch on my wrist.

“No,” Raymond repeated. “You're late. By a week.”

I felt queasy, knowing what I had coming. “Whatever. Let’s just get this over with.”

Raymond nodded, then entered the gap between the station and a brick building, gesturing for me to follow. Immediately, two of his friends emerged from the shadows rimmed with dumpsters, flanking me on either side. They led my down the alley until we neared a dead end, out of sight of anyone who might pass by. Not that anyone ever would.

They herded me so that my back faced the end wall, giving me full view of their ugly, twisted faces. “Money,” Raymond barked, holding out his hand. “Now.”

I sighed and dropped my duffel bag to the cement ground. My hands fished around in my sweat pants pockets for the 20 I had stashed there earlier. They came out with a crumpled bill covered in lint that I placed in his hand. “Here.”

Raymond looked at it, disgusted. “More.”

My jaw dropped. “More?! But that’s all I got from working!”

He then shook his head, clicking his tongue. “That won’t pay, Muchacho.” He nodded to his friends at my sides. “I guess we will have to teach this Fag a lesson.”

“I’m not a Fag!” I protested.

But he ignored me, and immediately his friends had gripped my arms with such a ferocity, I knew that I would have more bruises tomorrow. I tried to wriggle out of their grasp, scream, do anything. But they just increased their grip. I opened my mouth to shout.

“Shut up!” they hissed.

“Sock ‘im,” Raymond said, and I soon felt a fist to the eye. I tried to stagger backwards, but they had me pinned. Pain exploded in my head, and I found that a hand was clamped to my mouth. My eye throbbed, and I didn't need a mirror to know what color it most likely was. I stopped squirming, but fear and adrenaline still coursed through me.

Raymond smiled, and darted around me to where my duffel bag was lying. He picked it up, and turned to face me. Slowly, he began to open it, somehow managing to keep the zipper moving it in tune with the pulsing of my eye.

I stood frozen, panicked. He knew I danced ballet, but he had never discovered my shoes. What he was going to do to my only pair, I didn’t know. But I did know that if he destroyed them, I could never earn enough to get another pair, and I wouldn’t be able to dance anymore.

Raymond had now opened the bag, and his hands were reaching inside, soon producing a pair of my tattered black ballet shoes. “Nice girl shoes, TwinkleToes.”

The guy on my left snorted, causing the other on my right to burst out laughing. “What do we do with ‘em?”

Raymond glanced at me, portraying a smile so cruel and dastardly, it was evil. His green eyes were glowing like a cat’s in the shadows, and his black hair and baseball cap made his face look even more dark. “Burn them.”

“No!” I shouted through clenched teeth. In a flash, I had bitten the hand covering my mouth, giving me a brief freedom to escape the guy’s grasp. He screamed, and I wrenched myself free, only to be grabbed by them again.

“Now, Now,” Raymond said as if talking to a little kid. “Let’s not get testy.”

He smirked again, then reached into his pocket for something. His tanned hand soon came back holding a pack of cigarettes, from which he grabbed one and promptly lit. Dropping the shoes to the ground, he placed the cigar in his mouth, and walked up to me, stopping only inches from my face.

The smoke was unbearable, and the reeking stench burned my nostrils. My good eye watered. “Ain't that smell good Negro?”

I shook my head, and he laughed, backing up. I had no options left. My eyes floated down to where my shoes lay in their final resting place. They were never the best, but  they always did their job. A final salute.

Ceremoniously, Raymond dropped the cigarette from his hand and into the inside of one of my shoes. I stared aimlessly down at them as the seconds passed, waiting for the fire to catch.

When it finally did, a small tower of black smoked appeared in the air. I coughed, trying not to cry as the flame slowly crept from one shoe to the next. It enclosed them, like a flaming golden wreath, and it would had been pretty had it not been my shoes. But they were.

Sadness and anger flooded my head as we stood there for minutes, silent, watching them burn. Realization hit me like a truck. I can never dance again.

And to be honest, I didn’t feel like doing it anyway anymore. Raymond and his goons were right, I was just a poor black kid, and a boy at that. I could never dance ballet, never be good at it, and, besides, I would just get made fun of anyway. I stifled a sob.

For how many minutes we stood there, I will never know. But when Raymond finally dropped a bottle of water on them, there was only a small pile of ash and a blackened patch of ground where my shoes once stood. I wanted to run, far away from here, from L.A., from the world.

I was relieved when he gave the command. “Let him go.”

His buddies released their grasps, throwing me to the floor. With hoots and hollers, the three of them kicked my ribs until I was writhing in pain. They stopped for a moment, and I stood up, grabbing my duffel, only to trip again on my shoelace. This was followed by more laughs.

I hoisted myself up, face burning, and ran out of that alley. “And bring me triple next time!” Raymond cackled after me.

I ran faster than I had ever run before. Ran until I was blocks away, until my lungs burned and my feet felt like weights. Ran until I was out of earshot, far from their terrible laughs.

And only when I was certain they weren't following me, and only when I knew no one could hear me, did I let the tears I had been holding back be free.

 


© Copyright 2020 APurpleHeart. All rights reserved.

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