From the age of four she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. A pair of pink satin toe shoes lured her, but they were so big she could fit both of her feet into one of them.
She went to dance classes and hefted her foot to the barre and stretched her muscles till they cried in agony and cramped in her sleep.
At night she sat on her bed and stretched her arms over head in an arc like a rainbow. She bent from side to side in a slow dance, her pale skin lit by the moon.
She watched her shadow move gracefully to the music hat played in her head. Then went to sleep trying to remember her multiplication tables and the spelling words she was supposed to study for school.
In class she was distracted by the ruffle of tulle and the smoothness of leotards that floated through her imagination. She could hear the swell of the orchestra that would signal her, the prima ballerina, to make her entrance.
Then one night she packed her ballet slippers and a bag of fruit and snuck out of the house. In a black silk bag she carried all the money she had saved from not eating lunch in school. She was rich and thin and knew she could make it.
She sat at the bus depot, a scarf covering her face except for her eyes and made sure no one saw her. Finally she got on the bus and rode to the airport. In the dark night, lit by twinkling stars, she flew to France. Through a cold gray afternoon, with rain moisturizing her skin, she made her way to the dance studio.
The Directress was tall and thin as a willow branch, her back was stick straight and her long gray hair was tucked into a bun. She held in her hand a long reed that punctuated each step she took closer to the girl who waited anxiously at the door.
“In there,” the woman said and pointed her stick toward a door at the back of the room. The girl obeyed and found herself in a dressing room with other ballerinas all warming up to the music of a tinny piano. She changed into her dance clothes and went back out to the studio with its mirrored walls and the Directress who held court there.
With a whack of her stick the Directress silenced the piano player. She went to a phonograph and set the needle on an old record. Through the speaker came the sounds of an orchestra centuries old, the music scratched with age.
The girl began to dance and the Directress of the studio and all the ballerinas who came to watch drifted away. She felt she was in a forest dancing with fairies. Fireflies and stars lit the night. She danced until she fell to the floor unable to dance no more.
The next night she took center stage and danced till her toes bled through her pink satin toe shoes. She collected applause and bouquets of red roses that she held against her heart to keep it from beating right out of her body with sheer joy.
Then she went back stage and collected all her clothes and the last of her money. She found her way back to the airport and flew home where she tucked herself into bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.
The next day she went back to school and tried to concentrate on arithmetic and spelling and the exactness of science. But even then she kept her dream tucked into a corner of her mind where she would go every now and then to remember.