Reasonable Doubt: Volume 3
Page 6

 Whitney G.

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When she pressed my face with the last puff of powder, she spun me around to face the mirror on the other side of the room.
“Wow…” I whispered. “Seriously, wow…”
I didn’t look like I’d been crying at all. Although my eyelids were covered in dark eye shadow, and she’d dabbed a fake tear trail past my right eye, I looked as if I was the happiest woman on earth.
“Miss Everhart?” Mr. Petrova asked, stepping behind me. “May I borrow you for a second?”
“Yes, sir.” I followed him through the backstage doors and outside to the empty stretching area.
“Have a seat on the bench, Miss Everhart.” He took a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it.
The smoke unfurled in spirals between us and he looked me up and down. For some odd reason, he looked more upset than usual, like he was about to yell at me.
“Mr. Petrova…” I said softly. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I brought you out here alone because I want you to know that you looked fat during practice yesterday. Too fat.”
“Even though you danced the part of the black swan beautifully, capturing the right degree of anger and sadness, you failed—fucking failed, with the white swan.” He coughed. “You looked like your mind was elsewhere. Like it was killing you to be happy for five minutes, and to top it off, you’ve gotten fat.”
I rolled my eyes and tuned him out, focusing on the cars whirring down the street. I wasn’t disturbed by his insults anymore. Him calling me fat was nothing compared to the things he said to me last week.
“Miss Everhart?” His voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
“I need you to open that later,” he said, patting me on my shoulder. “It’s very important.”
“Open what?”
“Do you not see the envelope I just placed on your lap?” He put out his cigarette. “Do I need to tell your understudy that she needs to get ready to dance?”
“No.” I picked up the envelope, running my fingers along the crease. “You don’t need to do that, sir.”
“Good.” He walked toward the building and held the door open. “Now, make me believe that I picked the right girl to be my swan.”
“The Walters will be over for dinner next Sunday at six and we need you to make an appearance,” my mother said to me over the phone that night. “I think they’re going to write us a very nice check for the campaign.”
“How exciting.”
“It is exciting, isn’t it?” She practically squealed. “Everything is happening so fast and falling into place quite perfectly. We’re gathering funding, planning the advertising, and…”

I set my phone on the table and made myself a bucket of ice water, wincing with every step I took. I was sure that I would have a new set of blisters at the end of this week, but after the way I danced at today’s run-through, they would be well-worth it.
I completed every jump with ease, matched my peers step for step, and at the end—when the final number called for ten pirouettes, I did fifteen. Everyone in the audience gave me a standing ovation, but Mr. Petrova sat silently rubbing his chin.
He stared at me, tilted his head to the side, and simply said, “Today’s practice is over.” That was the biggest compliment he’d ever given.
Smiling at the memory, I carried the ice bucket over to the couch and set it down. I slipped my feet inside and held the phone up to my ear again.
“Oh, and the Yarboroughs…” My mother was still talking. “They’re considering throwing a small benefit in your father’s honor next month at the country club. You’ll need to be present for that and it won’t be casual, so I’d really prefer if you wore your hair in curls please. There will be a photographer from the local paper there.”
“Are you going to ask how my day went?”
“In a minute. Did you receive the dress I sent yesterday?”
I looked at the plastic bag draped over my door. “There was a rough run through of Swan Lake today. It was for the costume designers, to see if everything looked right under the new lights. It was the best run through we’ve had so far.”
“Have you tried on that dress yet? Do you think you’ll be able to do it tonight?”
“I need to have it tailored for Sunday’s dinner ASAP if it doesn’t fit.”
“Could you just say, I honestly don’t give a f**k about your life, Aubrey?” I groaned as my toes finally felt the effect of the ice. “That would make me feel ten times better right now.”
“Aubrey Nicole Everhart…” She enunciated every syllable of my name. “Have you lost your mind?”
“No, but I’m starting to lose my tolerance for talking to you on the phone. Why bother calling if you only want to hear yourself talk?”
She didn’t get a chance to answer.
There was a call on my other line, so I clicked over without mentioning it.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Is this Aubrey Everhart?” It was a male’s voice.
“Yes. This is she.”
“Great! This is Greg Houston. I’m the student enrollment chair, and I was just calling to let you know that your withdrawal from the university has been approved! It’ll be official once you come in and personally sign off on the forms. I personally think it’s great that you’re taking time off to help out with your father’s campaign.”
“That’s a very selfless thing of you to do, Miss Everhart,” he said. “I’m sure whenever you decide to come back, the academic committee will offer you credit for your real world experience. Anyway, I noticed you filled out the electronic forms, but since you live within a fifty mile radius of the school, its policy that you have to sign them manually as well. Also, regarding the credits you’ve earned at the university thus far…”
Everything around me went black.
I couldn’t believe this shit.
I wanted to click over and shout at my mother, to ask how dare she and my father pull me out of college without even telling me, but I couldn’t. I simply hung up and sat still—stone-faced and lost.
There were tears falling down my face, but I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel a damn thing.
I pressed the power button on my phone to prevent anyone else from calling me and pulled out the envelope Mr. Petrova gave me earlier. I assumed it was a long list of insults, or a new diet, but it was a letter:
Miss Everhart,
I just received notice that you were leaving the university at the end of this term. While I am disappointed in your failure to alert me to this news in advance, I am impressed with the growth you have shown while being in my program.
You are still an average dancer, but considering the fact that your peers are all terrible dancers, I guess you can be somewhat proud of that status.
Behind this letter is a recommendation for the New York City Ballet Company. Due to a few unfortunate circumstances, several spots have opened for their current class. This does not happen often, and you would be quite stupid not to audition.