Chapter 1: Charm in the Changing Room
The man on the dance floor just below her where she was standing in the gallery was turning on one leg as if his life depended on it. He turned so many times on one foot that Marielle lost count. He had an excitement in his eyes which showed that he lived to dance. This was his one true passion in life, apparently.
The female dancers on the opposite side of the hall were taking turns performing intricate leaps and spins which left her mouth open in awe.
“How will I ever achieve that?" she asked herself.
The international dancers did everything so effortlessly. It did not seem as if they were never amateurs at any point.
Clifford had brought her to the city so that she could meet these dancers and experience the joy of being at an international dance studio. The dancers here were all professionals. She was still a student. But, she had prepared herself to be impressed and entertained, not intimidated.
The Russian music was spellbinding though and so she listened to it for a while longer before she began to look around the theatre itself. She had to try and feel more at ease here. Her cheeks were heating up in embarrassment already. She was not ready for this level of exposure to high standard dancing.
Way over on stage, there was the piano where an actual pianist sat playing. Then there were artworks on the walls which portrayed Irish, Spanish, ballet, and contemporary dancers. The paintings were large and colorful. They looked life-like.
There was a long mirror opposite the wall of paintings. This was where dancers could study their movements themselves as well.
“Two three, two three!" the dance instructor shouted, counting certain steps at the top of his voice.
“At least I'm not under his instruction today," Marielle muttered below her breath. The instructor strutted around with a very fierce expression on his face, clapping his hands in tune to the dance steps.
Marielle averted her eyes from him and looked towards the rear of the hall.
Right at the end of it was a sign in black and white which read: “Change Rooms".
“That could be interesting," Marielle thought to herself excitedly. She then rose from her chair and walked on her toes towards the end of the dance hall.
When she reached the change rooms sign, she noticed an arrow below it pointing downward.
“So, that means that it's downstairs," she told herself.
Marielle then walked around the corner in the direction of the flight of stairs. She glanced over her shoulder to see whether Clifford was anywhere around.
“No, he's still out," she announced to herself before she began to descend the stairs. Clifford had left her with the dance class after introducing her to some of the dancers. He then left to pick up someone else who was also interested in meeting international dancers.
The music grew fainter as Marielle neared the bottom of the stairs.
At the bottom, she looked around and then noticed a sign pointing to the dressing room further down a passage.
She walked down this passage with closed doors on each side, until she reached one which was standing ajar.
“Hello, is anyone in there?" she called in a voice which sounded confident. She didn't want anyone in there to know that she was entirely unfamiliar with the place.
She waited, but nobody answered, so she pushed the door open and stepped forward slowly.
Marielle peeped around the door as she entered.
“Wow, what amazing costumes!" she exclaimed at once.
She walked towards a rail which carried more than twenty brilliantly colored dance costumes.
“Not only stunning material but amazing beads as well," she murmured to herself as she fingered the dresses and two piece sets.
She looked across the room to the opposite end and noticed a wooden stand with various shelves on which crowns, tiaras and necklaces were stacked.
Marielle walked over to the stand, past an engraved, white mirror, and picked up a tiara from one of the shelves.
“It looks so genuine," she gasped as she held it up to the light. “I wonder why there's a light on?" she asked into the empty room.
“Perhaps someone was here earlier," she decided. “But what if they come back again soon? I'd better try this on before they do, then. I've never tried on an actual tiara before," she continued with an excited glint in her eyes. So, she took a few quick steps towards the mirror while she held the tiara up to the light.
“It's glinting as if the jewels in here are real," she commented as she stood in front of the mirror. She felt like a little girl in a life-size dollhouse.
Marielle then placed the tiara on her head and closed her eyes briefly.
“What's that sound?" she asked when she heard a rustling sound behind her. She opened her eyes and turned around to look behind herself.
“Can there be mice here?" she whispered with her hand in front of her mouth. “No, those dresses would not be so unscathed if there was…" she continued.
After a few seconds of listening intently, she faced the mirror again and looked at herself.
“There seems to be nothing there," she whispered. “It must have been my imagination. Wow! I look like a queen even without a glamorous gown!" she exclaimed out loud. She then remembered the noise from a short while ago and covered her mouth, her eyes wide in shock at herself.
“Why am I shouting?" she asked herself irritably. She listened for a reaction to her noise for a few seconds. There was none, so she walked towards the rail on which the row of gowns was hanging so invitingly.
“I don't have to actually wear a gown to see how it matches with the tiara," she thought. “I just have to hold the right gown against me and see the effect of the tiara and gown combined, isn't that so?" she murmured into the empty room.
Marielle flicked through some clothes hangers quickly until she spotted an emerald color silk gown which was decorated with diamante beads.
“This will match the fake emeralds in the tiara," she said smugly as she returned to the dressing table.
She held the gown against her chest in front of the mirror. The tiara was still on her head.
“Amazing!" she exclaimed excitedly. “I resemble a queen, but will I be able to perform the kind of dance required for one to be dressed in something like this?" she asked herself.
Marielle recalled the spectacular standard of dancing which she had witnessed a few moments ago and looked down at her feet in despair.
When she looked up and into the mirror again, she gasped in shock. There was a woman standing next to her in front of the mirror.
“Oh, goodness!" Marielle exclaimed. “Where did you come from? Sorry, I thought that nobody was coming back here for a while, so…"
Marielle did not complete her sentence because the woman who was dressed in a black and white two piece was touching her neck in an uncomfortable manner. She did not say anything in response, so Marielle continued to stare at her in the mirror.
“Uhm…I," Marielle began again, but then the woman removed her hand from her throat and Marielle stared in shock at the trail of blood which drizzled down the woman's neck, onto the bodice of the blouse that she was wearing. It stained the white material, turning it red slowly.
“What…why, you're injured!" Marielle exclaimed loudly. She then turned around and gaped at the space next to her. There was no one there. Everything went black then.