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Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the lord God might dwell among them.
Monica was asleep when I came in. I shoved Zac out into the yard and ordered pizza from some place called Papa John’s. The advertisement promised me “Better ingredients. Better pizza.” I doubted that, but it was the best looking ad I could see. I didn’t bother ordering anything for Monica.
I just had to know what they were saying about me on the four o’clock news. If Lila had her way—which I was pretty sure she did—it was going to be all over every channel from Australia to Alaska.
Heather Greenfield came on, did the weather—which I thought was pretty useless, living in Dan Cae—and then she turned it over to Veronica Marh for the Celebrity Inside Scoop. They went on about Selena Gomez and her new movie, Robert Pattinson’s new girlfriend, and Paris Hilton’s Save the Whales enterprise. Then it was my turn.
“And after missing two shows and a photo shoot for Kiss! Magazine and being labelled as disappeared, supermodel-on-the-rise Hanuara Fei-Ling has been found again.” A picture of me kissing David flashed on screen. “By Cupid! We’ll have more details, along with a startling discovery on Monica Fei-Ling’s drinking habit, right after this break.”
I groaned. “Come on.” The doorbell rang.
The delivery girl sure appreciated my tip. I shoved a bunch of bills in her hand and rushed back to the living room. I didn’t have time to get a plate for my pizza because the news was starting again. “…could this be the start of a summer romance for little Miss Hanuara? She wouldn’t give any details yet, but I think it might be one of those wink-wink-hush-hush kind of situations.” They showed me in a sleuth’s hat, a picture from a fashion show I did a while back. I was walking beside a blacked out figure with a question mark on his head. It zoomed in and then faded to black.
I didn’t have any time to catch my breath before they slipped right into Monica’s story. Sad music came on and Cody from Carol’s party was on screen. I didn’t want to relive that again. I switched off the TV.
“That bad, huh?”
Without looking at her, I shoved passed to toss my pizza box. “Do you actually care or something?” I snarled at her.
“Mary, I do care. I—I’m really sorry, okay? Sometimes these things happen.” She looked at me pleadingly.
So patronizing. “Yeah,” I sneered. “Sure.” I paused to give her a venomous look before I walked out the door. “Whatever.”
I ran a little faster than I should have been to conserve my energy, but I had so much pent-up frustration that I figured it would make up. And anyway, its not like I had a destination in mind. Monica tried to call me back, but I was too far gone. The palm trees blew by as if they were the ones moving, not me. I jogged in place at a street light. Though the buildings varied in colour, for the most part they were all tall, towering copies of each other. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care. I would just run till I ran out of road. Or breath. Maybe I could even run home. Even though that wasn’t going to happen, I turned toward Wedding Island anyway. But I was concentrating so much on running that soon I wasn’t looking where I was even going. The buildings became older looking, the streets became more deserted, and I soon realized I had no I idea where I was.
Halting, I took in my unfamiliar surroundings. There was no one on the street but me. The pavement was cracked and even gaping in places. Buildings surrounded me on all sides. Old, decrepit buildings with washed out bricks and boarded up windows. I had never seen buildings so old since I did a commercial at the Museum of Historical Society in Kesha.
I wasn’t heading to Wedding Island anymore.
There was a broken road sign just ahead. I tiptoed as though it would bite me. Virginia Avenue. What did that mean? I didn’t recognize the name. Virginia Avenue seemed to be a long road. The only apparent way out was forward. Behind me was another building, with two roads leading on either side. I tried not to panic. If I had gotten lost in Edmonton or Calgary or even Red Deer in Alberta, that would be bad. But nobody would hurt me here. Swallowing my unnecessary panic, I started forward.
The buildings got older the farther I went. The sun couldn’t reach Virginia Avenue; it was dark and cool and musty. There was the smell of really old gasoline and stale…something. Many of the buildings seemed to be part of some sort of ancient strip mall, with floor to ceiling windows facing the crumbling street. Broken signs hung from rusting hinges. There was a deserted feel to the place. Some people might have considered old downtown Dan Cae a historical monument or something, but I was all alone and I just wanted to get back to civilization. There was a corner, another building that could have been a shop.
But then I did a double-take and skidded to a halt. Not wanting to disturb even the dust on the ground, I crept to the floor-to-ceiling window. Through a peep hole cleared in the long-accumulated dust, I peered in.
There was a person in there.
She had long, light red hair that streamed out around her. She was wearing a green wrap dress with a long corrugated train that whipped around her as she twirled. Her arms were up, eyes closed, and she was spinning so fast she all but blurred. She spun on an axis; I could have inserted a straight pole through the top of her head to the toe she was spinning on. Still balancing on that one toe, she brought her other leg up so that it was above her head. The dress seemed to be a part of her body. It moved in correspondence with her movements. If she hadn’t raised her leg I might have mistaken her for some life-sized doll on a music box.
Suddenly the sun broke from behind the building. The girl exploded in light. I remembered that I was lost and needed to find my way back before dark. Eyes wide from the magic I had just witnessed, I took my nose off the window and slowly made my way inside. Opening the glass door, I noticed a large overlooked light up sign. Virginia’s School of Fine Arts.
Instead of the wooden walls and cracked paved floors I had expected, the interior was bright and airy, painted a cheerful deep red. I was standing on a floor laid with mosaic tiles. There were framed photos and paintings and sketches distributed evenly along each wall. I was in a long hall with lockers, where there were no frames. Strains of one of Mozart’s sonata’s floated out form behind a wall. If I ever had to go to a public school in my life, I wanted it to look just like this one. But what was it doing here on this dilapidated street?
I must have been gaping longer than I thought, because a door opened to the right and out came the girl I had seen through the window. She had just showered, changed into sweats, and her hair was in a stringy bun. Her gum popped loudly. She somehow still looked like the graceful doll-like woman I had seen just minutes before. She stuffed her bag into a locker, and was in the process of slamming the door shut when the door opened again and out came a slightly heavy-set woman with sunglasses perched on her head. She strode toward the girl, screeching at her as she went.
“Wild!” she screamed emphatically. “I want fire! Virginia is watching!” I raised my eyebrows. Someone needed a lavender petal message.
The girl turned to put her things in the locker, but really she was rolling her eyes without being detected. “I know, Loraligh,” she said as though she had said it about a hundred times.
“Then put that knowing from your head to your feet!” with a huff the woman stormed back down the hall.
Shaking her head with a half-amused smile, the girl shut her locker and turned around. That’s when she saw me. Like a lot of girls in Dan Cae, she was wearing a cross at her throat. It lit up her grey eyes. She looked at me curiously and stepped into the light cast by a window behind her and snapped her gum.
I stepped forward too. “I saw you dancing. That was amazing.”
“Thanks. I’m Jada Allens. You a dancer too?”
I flinched. Yes, said a little voice in the back of my head. Or at least you used to be. “No. I can’t dance.” It wasn’t a lie. The thought of dancing made me want to throw up. Dancing at a party was completely different. That was mindless.
Jada tilted her head to the side. “Why do you say that?”
“Because I just can’t.” I waited for the waves of pain to subside. “I stopped four years ago,” I lamented. There came a look of dawning realization in her eyes.
She smiled sadly, still popping her gum. “That’s fine. But you have to see this okay? Come on.” I hesitated. “Come on.” I shrugged mentally. Why not? It wasn’t like I had anywhere to go anyway.
As we walked, the Mozart piece got louder and louder. We climbed a long metal staircase and then emerged in a room with glass walls. Through them I could see empty rooms. I looked to the south, where there were big white stone columns like you see in those old Greek buildings, and a fancy white three-step staircase that led down to a big, flat wooden floor. Jada took a seat on the steps, motioning for me to do the same. It gave us a perfect view of the couple on the dance floor.
The woman had curly, flame-red hair that fell to the middle of her back, and eyes the colour of ice. She was slender and light boned and she moved easily across the floor with him. The young man was muscular, with white-blond hair and eyes a friendlier sky blue. I could see every muscle ripple with strength as he danced. Sweat shimmered all over him like jewels. They were both wearing grey sweatpants, but he wasn’t wearing a shirt and she had a short white tank top that showed her belly. When she laid her head backward on her leg while in the splits, the music made a decrescendo. He was in the splits beside her, leaning over her with his arm around her back. they twisted once, and in a move that only took a half second, they were standing ramrod straight. Her back was to his chest, his hand on her stomach, and their hands were clasped above his head. His lips trailed along her neck, and she pulled away quickly, only to get pulled back in. She aimed a kick at his head, but he caught her foot. She spun slowly, with her body perpendicular to her legs. I was held mesmerized.
“That’s Lee Palener and Sophia Bendi,” I barely heard Jada explain. “Lee didn’t think he could dance, either, but Gray”—she motioned to a man sitting on a chair in the corner whom I hadn’t noticed—“just put on some music and they danced.” She sighed like she had been there, watching the magic being born.
“But I already tried dancing. I know I can’t do it.” I ripped my gaze from them to look at Jada. Hadn’t we been over this before?
“Everybody can dance,” she countered. “It’s art; it’s something we’re all born with.”
Though I remember every move that they did, it would take much too long for me to explain it all. They were as graceful as butterflies, as powerful as the falls of Niagara, yet as delicate as a desert flower. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sorrowful when Mozart ended his song, she on his shoulders with her arms stretched toward heaven. They held their position for about three seconds and then she hopped down, light as a bird. She had a smile like the sun that didn’t quite melt her icy eyes. He threw his arms around her and kissed her exultantly.
“Wonderful.” The man in the corner—Gray, as Jada had called him—stood up with a smile. “I knew you’d get it right eventually. Just remember not to have such concentrated looks on your faces. You need to make it look easy.” He slapped Lee on the back and kissed Sophia’s forehead. “That was great.”
She beamed at him and then brought Lee’s head down and gave him a big kiss. in a little alcove off to the side where Lee wiped his face with a towel and Sophia took a long swig of water.
“Sophia’s the ice queen here.” Jada murmured. “She and Lee have been together for a year. I don’t know what he sees in her, personally. She only thaws out when she dances, and even then she’s still hard on the inside.”
I nudged her. “Do we have a little crush?” I teased half-heartedly.
She sniffed. “On Lee? No. but we are friends, and Sophi’s just…well, herself. Stick around and you’ll find out.” She stood up as Gray started to walk toward us, Sophia and Lee on either sides of him. They all looked curious. “Hello, Gray,” Jada said pleasantly. “Good job, you two. It only took you a couple weeks.” She grinned as Lee mussed her hair. Gray looked at me.
“Hello,” he said with mild surprise. He had grey eyes and dark brown hair that was almost black. I guessed him to be about thirty. He had a gentle smile that he probably used to coax little children out from behind their mothers to come and dance. I recognized the look he had as the “Is that—but no, it couldn’t be. Or is it?” look.
“Hi. I’m Hanuara. Pleased to meet you.” I stood up and offered him a big smile.
He shook my hand. “Gray Inglefield. What brings you here?” he asked kindly.
“I got lost. Then I saw Jada dancing and I just had to come in.” I turned to Sophia and Lee. “I saw you guys, too. That was beyond words. So beautiful.” I blinked back tears.
Lee smiled back, but Sophia just looked at me through narrowed ice-diamond eyes. “Thank you,” he said. His voice lilted with a heart-breaking Spanish accent. Absently, he took Sophia’s hand. “Are you a new student? Aside from modeling, I mean.”
I shook my head, sending Jada a quick “Please don’t start” look. “I don’t dance.”
“They don’t just offer dance. It’s an art school.”
“I’m not an artist. And I have no time, anyway. I’m a model, remember?” Supermodel-on-the-rise, to be politically correct.
He smiled crookedly. “Right. Please forgive me for even suggesting such a thing.”
I tried to ignore the fact that he was mocking me, but I blushed anyway. Jada could only just hide her grin, but Sophia was outright laughing at me. “Anyway, you did great. But like I said, I’m lost. Do you know how to get back to the Henderson Trail?”
“Certainly.” Jada stepped around Gray and Lee and mounted the steps with me. “Just turn left when you get out of here, and then…” she gave me the directions as we descended the long staircase. Just before the sunroom disappeared from my sight, I looked back. Gray, with his kind eyes and gentle smile, watched me as I left.
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