The Pink Ribbons

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young ballerina learns the true meaning of sacrificing for your art

Submitted: April 03, 2008

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Submitted: April 03, 2008

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The Pink Ribbons

She could hear them before they slipped into her line of vision. Two beautiful girls, each carrying a ballet bag over one shoulder. They carried their pointe shoes in their hands swinging them with careless grace, the pink ribbons fluttering. There was, however, no grace at all in the tone of their voices. They spoke with cutting viciousness, which made the hairs on the nape of the younger girl’s neck stand on end.

"One less, and then there were two," snickered the first girl .Her blonde hair was done up in the required ballet bun, and her piercing blue eyes narrowed in malicious delight. Her voice was lowered lest she be overheard. "She has no chance now," answered the other, another blonde beauty with brown eyes , "let’s hurry, we’ve only about 20 minutes to warm up before the exam starts."

The two girls were so involved in their nasty conversation, that neither of them noticed the younger ballerina who was pressed tightly against the wall, half hidden in the shadows at the end of a row of lockers shivering with fright as they passed lest she be discovered.

The girl who had first spoken, dropped something casually into a nearby trash can. They turned a corner and were gone. The younger girl, who hadn’t realized she’d been gripping her own ballet bag so hard, loosened her grip and visibly let go of her breath. Carefully she made her way over to the trash can and peeked in. There, lying on top of a mound of garbage were two sets of silk ribbons. She knew immediately that they had been slashed from someone’s pointe shoes. The other set looked brand new. The young ballerina picked up the unused ribbons. If she could find the owner maybe she could quickly sew on the good ribbons before the exam she reasoned. As she picked them up and looked them over, she gave a small gasp. The extra ribbons had also been damaged enough so that they would be of no use to anyone.

She took a sideways glance at the clock across the hall. She set down her ballet bag and began to dig desperately among all her items. I know I have extra pairs. She could almost hear the tick of the clock. She knew from experience if you were late for your exam, your chance was gone. The door would be shut and no one could enter. Her mother’s voice sounded in her head. Mary, why don’t you organize that bag. Oh, why didn’t I listen she admonished herself. She rummaged down deep and then she touched them. The extra pairs of soft silken ribbons that she always carried for emergencies.

Now, if I can only find the girl, maybe she can tack the ribbons in her pointe shoes in time to make her exam.

Mary pelted down the hallway. Her footsteps echoed through the old building. As she dashed down one hallway and then another she realized how much she loved the old building. The walls were cracked and the floors were uneven, but the woodwork was magnificent. Usually she had time to admire the old architecture, but not today.

Suddenly she heard muffled sobs coming from a washroom. She barged in and found her. She was sitting, dejected on the washroom floor, her head in her hands. Her black silky hair was all Mary could see. Her delicate hands were shaking. She was holding her pointe shoes and sobbing piteously. Mary could see the where the ribbons had been crudely hacked off. There was no time for niceties. "Here," she said thrusting the ribbons at her. " You haven’t much time and I don’t either. My exam is starting in a couple of minutes."

" It’s too late," the girl whimpered, as she looked up. Even through the older dancer’s tears Mary could see that the other girls might have been beautiful, but this girl was different. Her eyes, though tear-filled, were doe-shaped and a brilliant green. She had a perfectly symmetrical face, high cheek bones and even crumpled on the floor, Mary could tell she had the grace of a deer.

Mary gave her no sympathy. The worst thing you could give a dancer. You needed strength and discipline. No room for tears. "You can make it," Mary said harshly. "Be quick about it." She turned to leave. The last bit advice Mary gave before leaving was "For gosh sake fix your face. Now hurry."

As Mary turned to leave, she gave a momentary glance in the mirror. Good .ballet bun still in proper place. Mary gave it a pat to flatten it slightly. She was hoping to someday be a ballet teacher. She knew she would never make a professional ballerina. Her height, her shorter neck and even her nose would not be right. Although she could dance as well as anyone, her body make-up just wouldn’t cut it. She smiled ruefully to herself. Her hazel eyes were alright and she did have a nice smile. The braces had come off the previous year. She could admit she wasn’t bad looking, but she would never be considered a girl that stood out among the crowd. In a way she liked that. It made her work even harder on her dancing techniques. It had always been that way. Always working harder to make the grade because she wasn’t what they would term a natural dancer, which included physical attributes.

Then Mary raced from the bathroom. She had to find her own exam room. This was one of her most important exams. Unlike the other exam where girls were vying for coveted spaces at a prestigious ballet school, she was taking her own exams.

Her exam room was on the next floor. She ran like she had never run before. It wasn’t enough. She was within feet of the door. It shut. Momentarily stunned she stopped dead in her tracks. This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening. The words were pounding over and over inside her head. She had worked so hard all year to get here. Tears started to well up in her eyes. No, she screamed to herself, I will not cry, I will not cry and all the while tears were streaming uncontrollably down her cheeks. It was over. At least for this year. She knew she would be able to take the exam again, but all that work for naught. I should have left well enough alone. Wasn’t my fault. That girl should have taken better care of her ballet bag. I shouldn’t have gotten involved....she didn’t know how long she stood there frozen in time watching the closed door as if it would magically open and let her in. She could hear the faint music from the piano playing the now memorized syllabus she had practiced endlessly and knew by heart. The syllabus she had practiced in her pointe shoes ,working her technique to as close perfection as she could. She had wrapped blistered and bleeding toes all year for this moment, and now, it was gone. All gone. Her moment, lost...

A tap on her shoulder. It was the girl she had helped. Mary looked at her. She was so perfect, so willowy, so pretty and all Mary could think to herself was I want to slap you. It was cruel she knew, but at that moment she was wounded beyond caring.

When the other girl spoke her voice was soft with a hint of french accent. "I must thank you" she said.

"There is only room for one more student. It is between myself and the other two girls. I do not know if I will be chosen, but I will never forget your kindness." Her emerald eyes hardened a little as she spoke next. "Those other girls I do not know well. They are very good dancers, but not very nice people. On the outside, beautiful, on the inside ugly. A hard business this dance, oui?"

Mary nodded numbly. She didn’t want to tell the girl that she missed her own exam, but

something in her face must have given her away. The eyes of the raven-headed girl seemed to see through to Mary’s very soul.

" Alor, little one, you missed your exam! How awful for you. What is your name?" "Mary," Mary replied.

"I will never forget you Mary. You are what dance is. All sacrifice and much pain with little praise. But we love it, non?" She smiled at Mary. Mary smiled back.

Suddenly she was glad she had helped.. Her cruel angry thoughts melted like snow in the Spring rain She would take the exam again next year.

Years passed swiftly. Mary was running her own ballet studio now, nurturing youngsters to appreciate the ballet that she herself loved. Two things she drove into her students, be on time for class and exams ,but first and foremost be a responsible, helpful person. There was no room at her studio for petty jealousies. If she caught any of her students showing such signs they would be dismissed immediately.

Recital time at her studio was one of great excitement for the children. Special dances to be taught. Costumes, picture taking. Always an air of mixed exhilaration and anxiety to remember dance steps. Miss Mary ,as they called her, would often have to restore order during this time of the year among her eager students. To the younger ones it was all soft reminders. To the older seasoned students she could be stern almost to harshness.

One day during recital rehearsals for her oldest group a knock came at the door. Mary was calling back instructions over her shoulder even as she answered it. As the door opened a beautiful woman with dazzling emerald eyes stepped inside. Her long black hair swinging loosely down her back. The students gasped. Before them stood the world famous ballerina Claire Cerf. Everyone involved in the ballet world knew of her. One of the principle dancers with the National Ballet, she had performed ballets in Russia, Europe and North America.

Mary’s jaw dropped along with her students. Claire laughed. " Mary, I believe I owe you these." She held out two pairs of silk pointe shoe ribbons. Dumbfounded Mary took them. Claire stayed for the class and related to the students the story of Mary’s "sacrifice" for her. She couldn’t come for their recital, but every year she would send money in the form of a scholarship to help send a promising student further their career in the world of ballet.

She and Mary remained in touch even after Claire’s retirement from the Company. Claire was still young, still beautiful, but a ballerina’s career is short. She too, started teaching young ballet prodigies.

If you went to Mary’s ballet school today you would see two pair of pointe shoe silk ribbons framed and hanging in proudly on the wall of the studio. A plaque below reads simply : "we sacrifice for the love of dance"


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