Content Warning: Some light swearing.
Dear Diary, I apologize for continuing now what I was writing in another entry but you have to sleep sometime. Right after Fletcher and I made up, I had to get to the studio to see if my name made the list for the dance company. Hopefully, it would be there and Julie’s would be, too.
Other hopefuls gathered around, peering at the sheet tacked to the wall, so I stood behind them, waiting my turn. All around me were people shrieking with delight, jumping up and down because they were in. There were plenty of sobbers, too, quickly gathering their gear and hurrying out.
After a moment, I sensed Julie standing next to me. Giving her a side-eyed glance, I took her hand and said, “This is it.”
She merely nodded and it seemed to me, she was holding her breath. I squeezed her little fingers, rubbing them with my thumb.
“Don’t worry, Jules.”
I wasn’t worried which sounds strange, I know, because I was nervous at the audition. Feeling your nerves is good before a performance, I’ve been told. And I do seem to do better when those butterflies enter my stomach. Something happens to me, though, when the curtain rises and the spotlight follows my movement. I’m confident and sure. I know my body is going to do what I want it to. I’ve worked my entire life to be flexible, strong and fast. This is what I do. And I know I’m good at it. I would kill to get into this company but if I don’t make it, there are others I can audition for.
“I can’t look,” Julie said with a wince when it was our turn.
As she turned away, I ran my finger down the list pausing when I saw her name:
“Julie Graves, corps de ballet”
Instead of telling her the good news right away, I skimmed the rest of the sheet until, finally, I saw my name, too:
“Holden Sprague, corps de ballet”
We were junior dancers in the company, but we were in and getting that initial foot in the door was the hardest part. To move up and become a principal, I would have to work hard and prove my stuff. Meanwhile, I had the job of my dreams and a paycheck.
I pulled Julie away from the list so the people behind us could get a look and gave her a big hug.
“We both made it!” I announced triumphantly into her ear.
She squealed and grasped me tightly before letting go.
“I have to call Brent and let him know,” she said with a wide smile. “Are you going to call anyone?”
The first person who came to mind was Fletch but he could only be reached for emergencies. He has some kind of corporate job at PDS (Pollard Data Systems). I have no idea what he does exactly, something with computers and technical writing, or was he a technical lead? Regardless, I don’t know what any of that even means. He’s explained it to me countless times but it’s never stuck. Don’t judge.
“I’ll tell everybody later,” I decided.
She smiled a little but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I’ve got new pointes I have to work on.”
What she meant was that her pointe shoes needed to have ribbons and elastic sewed on. Julie also had this whole routine when she got new pointes that included coating the insides of them with shellac, then bending them and hitting them until they were less stiff and loud. She may even cut a lot of the outer sole off to get better contact with the floor. It was quite a lengthy ordeal. She usually rotated three pairs of pointes at a time so they would last longer.
The more I talked to her today, the less I liked how mousy she seemed. Normally, she was vibrant, confident, and… alive. The past couple weeks, she seemed exhausted and her expression never lit up her eyes like it used to.
“Are you okay?”
She managed another tight smile and a little nervous laugh. “Of course. I have a baby, you know. She keeps me up all night.”
Granted I didn’t know a lot about babies, so what could I do but believe her? Still, something in the back of my mind wondered if this was more to do with her husband Brent than her daughter Paisley.
“Holden Sprague,” said a male voice, interrupting my thoughts.
Turning toward the voice, I came face to face with the artistic director, the guy in charge of it all. Wait… he knew my name? There were over a hundred dancers in the company.
“Hello, Mr. Minton,” I said as we shook hands. “Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
“It’s my pleasure. I saw you dance when you were in school and I was hoping you would join our company.”
Suddenly, it was hard to swallow around the growing lump in my throat. “Really?”
“Yes, really,” he said with a genuine smile. “I think you have a bright future ahead of you.”
“Thank you,” I said with a smile back at him.
Julie cleared her throat and Aiden Minton glanced at her.
“I’m Julie Graves,” she said.
“Pleased to meet you, Julie.”
Almost as if she hadn’t said anything, he turned back to me. “I understand you ride a scooter?”
How did he know that? I wanted to ask him who he’d been talking to. Instead, I answered his question. That seemed the wiser thing to do, anyway. “Yeah, sometimes. It actually belongs to my boyfriend.”
He waved his hand in the air. “No more of that. No biking, rollerblading, horseback riding, skateboarding… you get the picture. I don’t want you taking any chances of getting an injury that might prevent you from dancing. Understand?”
“Uh, sure,” I said, wondering how much this was going to curb my lifestyle. I wasn’t a daredevil by any means but this was cutting out a lot of fun. “The subway’s good enough for me.”
He smiled and nodded. “That’s the right attitude. Oh, do take advantage of our free gym membership, especially during the off-season. Do you do yoga? They have some excellent classes.”
“Pilates,” I mumbled.
“They have that, too.”
From the corner of my eye, I could see Julie’s downcast face. I wanted to sling my arm around her shoulders and act like the artistic director’s attention meant nothing, but I didn’t have the chance.
“Are you Holden?” a girl asked. When I nodded, she said, “I’m Ella Dean, one of the principals. I was thinking we should get to know each other.”
This had me baffled. Why would one of the company’s top dancers want to know who I was?
As if reading my mind, she looked me up and down unabashedly, then said, “I love seeing new male talent come in. And believe me, I saw your audition and you are talented.”
I got the unpleasant feeling there was more to her words than she was saying outright. Was she coming on to me? I couldn’t tell. I could only see Julie shift her weight to her other foot and roll her eyes.
“Uh, I work hard,” I said.
“I’ll bet you do.”
Aiden Minton snorted and took Ella Dean’s arm. As he dragged her away, I heard him say, “Why do you always have to act so shamefully? You’re going to scare him.”
Puzzled, I rubbed my chin. I wasn’t scared, just uncomfortable.
“Can you believe that?” Julie huffed beside me. “All they care about is you.”
“Jules, I – ”
” – All right, everyone! I am Myung Li and I’m your dance mistress. See these bags under my eyes? You’re going to have them, too, before long. If you’re not in the appropriate attire for rehearsal, get that way, and meet back here in ten! We have a lot to do.”
As if my day wasn’t long enough, when I got home, there were dirty glasses all over the bar from the night before. I’m a certified “neatnick” and so a mess is really the only thing that gets me uptight, even a little. I mean, first it’s dirty glasses, then, before you know it, you’ve got ants looking for more. I can’t handle it.
Chris got home not long after I washed the dishes that were lying around. He saw me as he made a beeline for the fridge.
“Oh, hey.” He dug through the fruit bin, then closed the door, apparently unsatisfied with what he saw. “Someone ate my grapes, man. I label every damn thing that’s mine and some dumb asshat goes and eats all my stuff.”
“Bad day?” I asked as I opened the fridge, moved a few things and found his grapes, setting them on the counter.
“Oh,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Well, seeing as how Rosetta and I are the only other people living here, you mean one of us dumb asshats?”
“I’m glad you smiled when you said that,” he grinned. “Besides, I was talking about Fletcher.”
I took a deep breath before I spoke which is something my dad taught me, thankfully for Chris.
“You know, Fletch changed years ago. He doesn’t have anything more to prove to you or Rosie.”
Christopher’s back visibly stiffened and his chin tilted forward. “We just can’t figure out why you like the guy so much after everything he put you through. We care about you, Holden, but you don’t seem to care about yourself where this is concerned.”
Things generally roll off of me because I make a choice not to get bothered by every little thing. I can see the big picture most of the time, so the here and now doesn’t concern me. But this had gone on long enough.
“You two really need to lay off of him. Do you know he has nightmares all the time because of how he grew up? And he’s got you and my sister treating him like shit on top of it. I don’t really care what you think about either of us, to be honest. I don’t answer to you or anyone, neither does he, but on the surface, you can at least be nice to the guy. Because guess what? I love him, he’s good to me and he’s not going anywhere.”
I think that’s the most I’d ever said in one breath before and Chris stood there like a deer caught in headlights. He probably didn’t think I had this reaming in me.
After a moment, he said, “You love him?”
I shrugged but looked him in the eye. “Yeah, I do. So if you care about me like you say, you can at least respect me by showing him some decency. It doesn’t take that much to be kind.”
Christopher’s eyes teared up even though he wasn’t crying. “I’m sorry, man.”
Relief washed over me like a wave and I nodded slightly. “Thanks.”
Chris brought his grapes to the sink and began rinsing them off.
“Can I ask you a question?”
He turned toward me. “Sure.”
“Why have you held out for so long, acting like Fletch is still that bully he was when he was a kid?”
It was his turn to shrug. “It’s how Rosetta felt.” Then he sighed and threw up his hands. “I’ve been in love with Rosetta since I can remember. She’s smart and beautiful, and quirky.”
He could say that again about the quirkiness, I mean. “Dude, you’re in love with Rosie?”
“Yeah, and no one’s ever noticed, especially her! I thought maybe if I agreed with her on stuff, she’d appreciate that. What should I do?”
My eyes must have been the size of saucers as I processed what he was telling me. He was right about one thing, I was pretty sure Rosetta hadn’t noticed a thing.
“Well?” he asked.
“Dude, you’ve gotta stop agreeing with her! She’ll never be attracted to a guy who goes along with whatever she says. You have to be your own man.”
“Like, be tough and lift more weights and stuff?”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I mean, have your own mind. If you don’t agree with her, tell her. Have you never noticed how she thrives on debate? A good heated discussion will turn her on, trust me.”
It felt weird giving him advice on wooing my sister but there was a plus side in that maybe if she was occupied by Chris, she would remove her nose from my business. It seemed like a good trade-off to me and I can’t help but grin as I write this down…
…it was early evening and I was supposed to meet my dad downtown for dinner. Once in a while, he would call and ask if we could spend some time together. I didn’t get a whole lot of time with him growing up so I generally worked my schedule however I had to when he was free.
As was typical, he was already waiting for me even though I was on time. I’d ridden the subway and had three minutes to spare. Dad was compulsively early.
As soon as he saw me, his face lit up and he gave me one of those bear hugs. I guess other people might be annoyed that their dad still hugs them like that but I’ll never get tired of it. I’m one of those touchy-feely people and embracing my father feels safe and gives me an assurance.
“How are you?” he asked. “You seem thin.”
After I assured him I was a normal weight, we exchanged niceties and ate at this little diner. I’m basically hungry all the time and can eat anywhere. This diner has an okay salmon fillet with veggies. Later, I would be snacking at home on a power bar, yogurt or green juice. It was necessary to replenish often with all of the pilates, dancing, and strength training I did.
After dinner, Dad said he had time to spare, so we walked to the park to sit by the fountain.
“I am very happy you are part of the dance company,” he said.
This made me smile a little. We weren’t always close but had cultivated a friendship in the past few years so I cherished the fact that he seemed proud of me. I’d always wanted that so badly.
There was something I’d wanted to ask him for a long time, though. It was hard to find the right words. How did you start this conversation, anyway?
I guess you just started it by asking plainly. “Are you bothered that I didn’t turn out like you?”
His jaw dropped slightly and he seemed taken aback. After gathering himself, he said, “I do not understand why you are asking this.”
“I’ve just wondered, I guess. Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t be more different and maybe we would’ve been closer when I was young if I wasn’t like… me.”
Dad paused for a long while, staring at the fountain. When he spoke, there was a conviction in his voice that I hadn’t heard in a long time. “Son, you are exactly who you were meant to be. And I accept that.” When I didn’t say anything, he went on. I could tell it was hard for him. “When you were born, I thought, there he is! The boy that will take my place one day as the head of The Inheritance. Instead, you enjoyed things I never had the chance to try when I was a child. Your mother and I… we did not always agree on your upbringing. But I am thankful for her and what she has taught me.”
“What was that?”
He smiled slightly and patted my knee. “She taught me that I am not always right.”
I was able to hide my snicker by coughing and then clearing my throat.
“It is true,” he said. “Holden, in the end, I did not need another ‘me’ to take over the empire. Why would I want you to be just like me? I have a lot of faults, you know. Most of the time, I cannot express myself, especially if it involves emotional things. You may not have noticed, but I am a little bit uptight.”
This is where I couldn’t hide anything. I burst out laughing, bending forward and holding my stomach.
Dad watched me the entire time, his face somber, but his eyes twinkling.
“Yes,” he said, “the apple fell far from the tree but in this case, it is a good thing.”
Late that night, after I did some stretching, icing, and showering, I slipped into bed next to Fletch. He was lying on his side, his breathing steadily rising from his chest. I leaned over, trying to see his face but could only see his profile. His porcelain skin was exquisitely intoxicating as I slid my arm around him and brushed my lips against his shoulder.
“No nightmares tonight,” I whispered into his ear.
He stirred only slightly, his mouth falling open a little. If I was feeling cruel, I would kiss those soft lips but I knew he had to work early in the morning. So, I contented myself by stretching out next to him, still holding him with my arm, and listening to the comforting repetition of his breathing.
This was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
Author’s Note: You can see a Noble Doubt Blooper here of Holden “washing” the dishes! 😀 And if you like that blooper, would you also mind liking the FB page, too? Thank you so much! <3
Thank you for reading and for your support,