Chapter 2 : The dancing copy-cat (I- lilt copui-miog)

3041 Words
Ladies and Gentlemen! Presenting the results of the Solo round of the Circle of Gold Dance competition! And- The winner is- "Wake up, Diana! You're going to be late!" Diana snuggled deeper into her covers. A wet nose touched her cheek - a warning - and Alex proceeded to lick every inch of her face. "I'm up! I'm up! Stop Alex!" He jumped off the bed and threw a patronizing glance towards Grace as if to say 'That's how it's done, lady'. Diana opened her eyes blearily and was greeted with the sight of Grace standing over her bed with her hands on her hips. "This is the last warning, young lady! Get up now or you'll miss practice." "The practice!" Diana exclaimed, throwing off her covers and jumping off the bed. She rushed through her morning routine and was downstairs in time for breakfast. She started to scarf down the scrambled eggs and toast, trying to chew quickly. Grace walked out with a pan and added juicy, sizzling bacon to her plate. "Slow down, kid! You'll choke at this rate," she chuckled. "Can't", said Diana between mouthfuls of bacon. "There's only time for one practice before the show." "I know, dear," she smiled maternally. Diana couldn't remember a time without Grace. She was more a mother to her than a housekeeper of the family. Grace Wilson was short and stout with an ever-smiling face that hid the strict, no-nonsense side of her personality. With her brown hair pulled back into a bun and her trademark flowery apron, she was a ubiquitous entity of this tiny family. "Dad's gone early again," observed Diana. "Yes. Something important came up and he was called away. Though in his line of work, everything seems to be important." She shook her head and wiped her hands on her apron. "He won't miss the show, will he?" Diana asked anxiously. "No, dear. He wouldn't miss your performance no matter what. He's always made it, hasn't he?" Diana nodded, smiling slightly. The plate was cleared in minutes and she dashed upstairs to pack. Her room was exactly the way she liked it – clean to the point of being sterile. Every object had its own designated place, every surface was shiny enough to see your reflection in it. Though neat as a pin, the room could not be termed 'boring' in any sense. The light-coloured walls, mahogany bed, wardrobe and desk were offset by the brightly coloured glass paintings, artworks and family pictures on the wall. She packed makeup, clothes, pins and all the essentials for the show into her bag. Right on cue, she heard the sound of tires turning onto the bricks of the driveway. "Bye Grace!" she yelled before running to the car with Alex in tow. Born to a police dog, Alex had suffered as the runt of his litter. While his brothers and sisters had quickly been adopted, nobody wanted him. Diana's father took pity on the tiny creature and brought him home to the enormous delight of his little daughter. 'Alexander', she had named him, the longest name she could pronounce at the time. Little Alex had grown into a large nine-year-old German Shepherd with a shiny coat, sharp canines and an affinity for hugs that knocked the wind out of adults. He was deadly and friendly wrapped in one large furry body. "Have fun, Diana!" Grace hollered from the doorway. "Hi, Mrs Jones." Diana greeted the pretty blonde woman in the driver's seat of the silver convertible. "Thanks for picking me up." She opened the back door and allowed Alex to jump in before clambering in herself. Diana's dance partner, Ethan was in the front passenger seat trying to muss his blonde hair out of a flattened schoolboy style. "Trying out for Goldilocks?" Diana snickered. "Or is it Alice in Wonderland?" "Not you too." He rolled his eyes and turned to his mom. "Do you see why this was a bad idea?" "Oh stop messing it up, Ethan. Your hair looks absolutely perfect." Mrs. Jones beamed at the flat-as-a-pancake hairstyle of her son. Diana had to disguise her laughter as coughing. "All set for today?" Mrs. Jones asked before the children could start bickering. "Yeah", said the children in unison - a little too quickly, breathlessly. "It's all right. Don't you worry. You two are meant for the stage," she encouraged. "Thanks, Mrs. Jones." Diana tried to distract herself from all thoughts of the performance. They'd been swirling around inside her head continuously for the past few days. She stared out the window but the gloomy weather of London did nothing to dispel her anxiety. The clouds hung low, screening the sun and dulling the colours of the shops flying past. Though born and bred in London, Diana could never get used to the ever-present cloud cover. She detested rain the way people detest Monday mornings. She missed the sun the way people miss a childhood friend.  I don't belong here. She thought, almost absently. This idea often punctuated her reverie, a consistent companion through the wanderings of her mind. She pushed it away......... There was nothing to cheer her outside so she gave up. "What about you? Everything set for the show." "Oh yes. I've had my best people working on this. I'm sure we'll pull it off." Mrs. Jones, a successful event planner in London, was in-charge of all the details of the show. The Circle of Gold dance competition was part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Lions club. It consisted of several rich, snooty personalities– uh, I mean – upper-class, wealthy patrons who would not take kindly to the slightest blunder at their prestigious event.  It did not take long to reach Tiffany's dance studio which was just around the corner from St. Xavier's School. Mrs. Jones dropped them off promising to pick them up for the show later. Alex bounded off to rest at his usual place in the lobby of the dance hall. Ethan always wondered how Diana had gotten them to agree on letting Alex inside the building. Pets were a strict no-no as the notice on the door proclaimed. But then, Diana always had a way with getting people to do what she wanted. They'd just entered the dance hall after changing when Sally bounded towards them, her short blonde hair swinging. "Hi, Ethan!" she called even before she reached them. "Hey, Diana. I can hardly wait for the program tonight, can you Ethan?" she slipped her hand under the crook of his elbow. Ethan looked positively alarmed at this. Diana bit her lip to keep from laughing out loud. "Yeah, It's-it's going to be a lot of f-fun." he stammered as he discreetly tried to take his arm out of her vice-like grip. "Oh Ethan, you're going to be fantastic!!" she squealed, turning misty eyes towards him. "Oh, there you are! Sally, didn't I tell you to practice the pirouette?" Sally jumped at the sharp voice belonging to their instructor and scampered away. "You two. Do you need a special invitation? We'll start with the Copa first. Rapidez!" Her voice rang like a whip. Miss Dana Martinez would've made a brilliant career in the army but her first love was dance. Her tall, thin stature, straight black hair and dark eyes left no doubt about her Spanish roots. She was a child prodigy and had lived the career Latin dancers would kill for. Her excellence eventually earned her a position at Tiffany's and she'd quickly become the most sought-after instructor for amateur dancers. She'd discovered her star pupils quite by accident. When Diana showed interest in dance, Grace urged Mr Drew to enroll her in ballet – 'the kind of dance a proper Englishwoman should know.' 'Disaster' would be a very mild word to describe her first class. She'd constantly complained of her aching toes and her stiff fingers till, to the horror of her instructor, she'd fallen asleep while watching said instructor perform a demo routine of Swan Lake. "It is clear that she has no talent whatsoever", her instructor had furiously informed her father. "Please find someone else to inflict her on. Good day Mr. Drew. I hope to never see your daughter again. Hmph!" Miss Martinez had watched the little girl dancing to the salsa music playing in the neighbouring hall during break. She approached Mr. Drew as they were leaving and asked for Diana to be sent for one salsa class. The rest, as they say, was history. That first class was where she'd met her partner, Ethan, who was currently whispering to her in a voice that people used in a nuclear war room. "She's freaking me out." They were warming up in the corner of the hall, away from everyone. "Relax. She likes you, that's all." Diana giggled. "Well, if she'd just like me from far away, I'd be very grateful." He threw a disparaging look towards the subject of his statement. "She's your best friend Diana. Can't you do something about this?" "I've tried. But it's impossible to get more than a few syllables in after I've mention your name. You should hear her gush!" She laughed. "It's not funny!" "It is........... to me," she laughed again. He was irritated now and she endeavoured to mollify him. "It's okay, Ethan. You know Sally. She has these episodes of undying love often enough. Earlier they would be movie stars and now, it's you. She'll get over it soon. Let's start now or Miss Hitler'll have our heads." ******************************************** "You look fabulous!" exclaimed the make-up artist as she swung Diana's chair towards the full-length mirror. She wore a black one-sleeved dress that contrasted wonderfully against her fair skin. Deep red ruffles flowed from her waist ending at the uneven hem-line. Her long jet-black hair was pulled into a chignon at the nape of her neck. Bold make-up and red lips completed the look. Diana smiled at her reflection. My life is perfect now, she told herself for the millionth time. But the haunted look in her eyes disagreed. The look she permanently wore after the incidents. The accidents. She shuddered involuntarily. Shelby Thompson fell from the swing as the seat disappeared from under her. She'd needed six stitches on her forehead. Ben Whitter's red teddy bear turned old and black in his hands. He swore that it had smiled at him – a creepy, terrifying smile. Mrs. Crockett's potted plant withered away before her eyes. It was supposed to be the first one in her planned garden. Anger, Diana had found, was the strongest emotion, the most difficult to control. Sometimes, impossible. They had angered her, knowingly. And she had punished them - unknowingly. Or so she tried to tell herself. The constant whispers had shadowed her ever since she could remember. Nobody said it aloud but she knew the truth. They were all afraid of her. Children would be openly hostile, but she could handle that. It was the suspicious stares of the adults that really got under her skin. She would often catch her father and Grace speaking in hushed tones and stopping abruptly when she entered the room. Alex was the only one who didn't treat her differently. Alex had stayed by her side.... Soon, she'd begun to consciously feel her curse......... 'ability'. It had taken months of mental and emotional effort to gain some semblance of control. But the painstaking attempt had paid off. She'd been without incident for years and they had all forgotten the past. How could they not forget? I....... convinced them. Persuasion was something she'd seen her father use to his advantage. Like him, she excelled at it. Unlike him, she had help. She could sense her....ability, guiding her on what to speak, when to speak and more importantly, when to stop speaking. She had gradually won the hearts of all, climbing the social ladder to emerge right at the top. Now, she was the popular girl, the queen bee among her friends, the darling of the adults, the life and soul of every party. No one remembered the lonely girl on the playground who refused to smile. She had everything she'd wished for but ...... she couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling that something was wrong; something was missing in her life. The sensation was exacerbated by the strange feelings she sometimes experienced - happiness, sorrow, guilt, fury – feelings that were detached from her, feelings that were not completely her own. Peculiar thoughts would swim under her consciousness, just out of reach, no matter how hard she tried to listen to them. Her eyes travelled down to her wrist where the violently pink bracelet threatened to undo her look. It relentlessly chipped away at her conviction that the night had been a dream. That he had been a dream. The boy with the emerald green eyes. "Five minutes, dancers!" rang the shrill voice of Miss Martinez snapping Diana out of her reverie. She walked up to Ethan and offered her hand which he gracefully accepted. He could feel the nervousness rolling off her in waves. "With me, partner? Or are you chicken?" She rolled her eyes but her face broke into a smile. "Oh shut up, Goldilocks." They touched the stage floor reverentially - a tradition taught by their instructor - and walked forward together. **************************************************************** A hush fell over the hall after their dance ended. Then the applause began. The stage was one of the few places where Diana felt a sense of belonging. It felt exactly right. Like she was born to be here, standing hand-in-hand with Ethan, bowing to the appreciative audience. He twirled her to his other side and they both bowed again in unison. The Joneses were on the second row clapping the loudest but Diana only had eyes for one face – her father was cheering on from the back, with a huge smile on his face. Diana turned to Ethan, grinning. "Still think I'm chicken?" He threw his head back and laughed. **************************************** Diana's duet with Ethan had been a smooth salsa number but her solo was going to be a contemporary routine that required a completely different look. She rushed through changing - a flowy pink dress with wisps of cloth that created the illusion of movement even in stillness, open hair and nude lips - reaching backstage just as Sally's performance was about to begin. She grinned and gave her a thumbs up just as the curtain rose. Her grin faded as soon as the music began. It was her song. Sally was performing her routine. She stared at her best friend, bewildered, the truth not sinking in at first. Had they played the wrong song? But then .........why isn't Sally saying anything? Why isn't she telling them that this is not her song? Why is she .........dancing? Ethan turned Diana around by her shoulders. "What's happening? Why's she performing your routine?" "I – I don't k-know." Miss Martinez marched towards Diana and held her by her arm roughly. "Did you give her the recording?" Diana was still in shock. The instructor's words did not completely register in her mind. "Diana, despierta! Did you give her the recording of your rehearsal?!" "Y-Yes. I-I did." The horrible truth struck her as she saw her instructor's face twist in anger. Sally had copied her routine. But.....................Why? The instructor was saying something but Diana was lost in the fierce sense of betrayal that gripped her heart. Grief and anger and confusion. Why did she do this? " way. We'll have to pull out-" were the first words her mind comprehended. "What?? No! I'm not pulling out!" "Diana, you cannot perform the same routine. You will be disqualified. No permitiré que mi alumno enfrente semejante desgracia." Miss Dana's words cut her like a knife. No, she couldn't perform the same routine. But pulling out would be almost like giving up. Like ........running away. Like a coward. A sobbing woman's voice echoed in her mind. "Laisse-moi! Laisse-moi! Ahhh!  Her grief was replaced with blazing determination. I am not a coward. "I'm going to perform the new routine. The one you'd started to teach before the gala rehearsals began." "Have you lost your mind? That routine is unfinished." Ethan's incredulity did not affect her. "I'll improvise." "The representatives of the biggest dance academies are right there in the audience. You want to make a fool of yourself in front of them?" He turned to his instructor hoping she could talk Diana out of this hare-brained plan. Miss Martinez was watching the little girl's face. She'd wiped away her tears smudging her kohl in the process. There was no trace of sadness in her eyes anymore. Her jaw was set. "Bring the pendrive from my bag, Ethan." Both the children stared at her, speechless. "¿No me escuchaste? Bring the pendrive from my bag." ************************************* Sally had exited into the audience after her performance. This was good for Diana. She needed to focus. On dancing......not punching Sally in the face. Performing flawlessly was absolutely essential and absolutely impossible. Our next contestant is ...... Miss Diana Drew. Ethan watched her anxiously as she took a deep breath, touched the dance floor with her fingertips and walked on-stage smiling broadly for the audience - a practiced smile. She took her position and the lights dimmed. Music filled the hall, seeming to come in from a distance, slow and mellow. Diana moved with the unhurried notes, arching her body, stretching her hands and feet effortlessly. The tempo increased gradually and so did her movement. Her jumps and flips wove through the rhythm of the beats, synchronizing perfectly with the music. The theme of the song was familiar. Betrayal. Her expressions, her movements, every pore of her body portrayed the angst, the rage, the grief she felt. As the music reached a crescendo, she jumped high into the air and fell to her knees. The music ended and the audience froze transfixed ........and then........... applause broke through the silence. The curtain fell. "Diana..." Miss Martinez's hand was on her shoulder and she looked up. Her face was tear-stained. "That......... was a brilliant performance."  
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