Chapter 7

 

Turn Out Your Toes

 

 

“My name is Miss Tinker,” said the first grade teacher on the first day of school, “and yes—I’ve heard all the funny ways to say it: ‘Miss Tinkerbell,’ and ‘Miss Stinker,’ and ‘Miss Tinkle’—”

 

(Shocked laughter from those pupils who used that word instead of piddle, wee-wee, or go-number-one.)

 

Miss Tinker was a regular comedienne, with a facetious beak of a nose like Biddy on Here Come the Brides, and Vicki’s trio felt deep relief at being assigned to her class rather than split up.  Reulbach had shuffled last year’s Morning and Afternoon Kindergartens and cut the deck anew.  So Noisy Nancy Knopf went over to Mrs. Jantz’s class next door (you could still hear her through the wall) as did Short Mark and Dumb Mark and Gretchen Digresso (whose family used the oddest-odor’d soaps and detergents) plus Brainwashed Larry (who couldn’t or wouldn’t remember anything from one day to another) and the girl known only as Where’s Wanda, who’d spent kindergarten playing solo hide-and-seek.

 

Vicki, Hayley, and Kris decided theirs must be the “smart” class.  Miss Tinker allowed them to pick their own desks that first day; Mrs. Jantz, it was rumored, told her kids where to sit.  The trio clustered together by the cloakroom, Hayl and Vicki side by side, Kris in front of Hayl and able to swivel around for whispered conversation.

 

Stephanie Lipperman was against the opposite wall, over by the windows.  Even at that distance her eyes glistened with interest at the sight of Hayley’s arm, still in its cast and sling; fortunately she was busy sounding out her front-row neighbor, an earnest-looking little girl who already wore glasses.

 

Jimmy Maxwell was also in Miss Tinker’s room, as were Wernie Ball and Tall Mark.  To keep the latter company, a fourth Mark had been added: one so unremarkable heightwise, speechwise, or behaviorwise that he had to be called Ordinary Mark.  With him from Afternoon Kindergarten came skinny Billy Goldfarb, who could make up all kinds of songs right inside his head.  He, Jimmy, and Tall Mark formed a trio of their own in the back row, from which they’d serenade the class and offer humorous commentary.

 

They let out a collective wolf whistle when April Tober entered.  Cuter than ever in a wine-colored jumper and cotton-candy tights, she gave the boys a disgusted grimace and said, “I told you they were gonna act stew-pid!” to the girl following her in.

 

Who was no less than Mean Melissa.

 

Whose back-to-school outfit outshone even April’s: a sky-blue double-knit turtleneck dress with a gold-colored chain at the waist, and white vinyl boots.

 

Which got devoured by Vicki in her dirndl skirt, Perma-Prest blouse-slip, and new but dowdy brown slip-ons.

 

Melissa’s frigid gaze raked the class and came to a halt when they saw Spiteful Stephanie.  Who visibly stiffened when Melissa sauntered past and sat directly behind her.  April took the next desk, behind the earnest girl in glasses.  Melissa leaned over to murmur in April’s ear; they both snortled; and Vicki’s trio nudged each other, knowing Stephanie wouldn’t put up with this forever.

 

After Miss Tinker introduced herself, she went around the room asking each first-grader to say his or her name and answer an Interesting Question.  The bespectacled girl specified that she should be addressed as “Sarah-Jill”—both names, every time, with a dash between them.

 

“And what was the most fun you had this summer, Sarah-Jill?”

 

“I got my library card and read lots of books.”

 

(Unadmiring rustle from the rest of the class.  Snortle from Stephanie, beating April and Melissa to the punch.)

 

“And what is your name?” Miss Tinker inquired.

 

“Stephanie Lipperman.”

 

“‘Scuse me,” said Melissa, with a raised hand and reproving tone.  “Did she say Stuffy Lipperman?”

 

(More nudges by Vicki and Hayley and swiveled-sideways Kris.)

 

“No—I said Steph-ah-nee.”  (Each syllable dagger-edged.)

 

“Ohhhhhhh.  Well, my name is Melissa Denise Chiese and when I grow up I’m going to be a United States Senator like Margaret Chiese Smith from Maine—oh ‘scuse me Miss Tinker, I meant to say ‘Chase’—Margaret ‘Chase’ Smith—from Maine.”

 

“Well... good for you, dear,” said Miss Tinker.

 

The girl sitting in front of Vicki kept her right index fingernail permanently attached to her teeth.  She identified herself as “—mmmmEileen Agnew.”

 

“Agnew?  That’s a name in the news, Eileen.”

 

“—mmmmIdunno.”

 

“Is the Governor of Maryland a part of your family, I wonder?”

 

“—mmmmIdunno.”

 

“Well, if he is, you can be extra proud, because he’s running for Vice President.”

 

“—mmmmIdunno.”

 

(Jimmy Maxwell would soon dub Eileen “Myda-No,” and Billy Goldfarb would compose a Music Man takeoff that he, Jimmy, and Tall Mark would croon: “Myda‑No, I’m home again though /without a FINGer in my mouth...”)

 

Kris and Vicki answered their Interesting Questions without any fuss or muss, Vicki mentioning her trip to Tempest Lake and Kris that she had an older sister in seventh grade.  But then came Hayley’s turn, and the trio tensed up: they knew Miss Tinker was bound to ask how her arm had been broken.  They also knew Hayl couldn’t utter a believable fib to save her life—meaning the whole pony ride debacle was about to get blurted, and oh! how the mean girls would snortle then!

 

“We see you hurt your arm, Hayley.  Does it feel like it’s getting better?”

 

“Yes’m,” Hayl smiled.  “Doctor says the cast can come off in a couple weeks.”

 

What a nice teacher Miss Tinker was!  How lucky the girls were to have her and not Mrs. Jantz, who probably would’ve made a Safety Example out of Hayley’s arm.

 

At 10:30 they had their first official Reulbach recess, out on the playground where they could glance up pityingly at the baby balcony and its new crop of Morning Kindergarteners.  (Who at least got to play, while the first graders had to hear a lecture about recess regulations.)

 

Trooping back indoors and upstairs, Stephanie suddenly appeared at Hayley’s elbow.  “So,” she said, eyeing the cast, “what did happen?”

 

“I fell is all.”

 

“What, down the stairs?  You can get crippled doing that.”

 

“No, it was at the Zoo,” Hayley mumbled.

 

“Aw c’mon,” interjected Tall Mark, “you can tell us, Hayl—you were one of them hippies that got beat up by the cops, werntcha?”

 

“HEY!” went Kris on behalf of The City PD; but her indignation was overridden by Melissa Chiese.  Sweeping past with April Tober, the future Senator said: “Hippie?  You mean hippo.  Fell down and broke her own arm trying to pick herself up.”

 

(Snortles from April, from Stephanie—grudgingly—and from Eileen Agnew, trailing behind with her nail in her teeth.)

 

“You leave her alone!” demanded Kris.  At whom Melissa cast one narrow blue-gray ice cube without breaking stride.  “Didn’t know one face could have that many freckles on it,” they heard her tell April.

 

“Why dontcha keep your big mouth shut, Melissa Kee-razy??” Vicki was about to shout, when her dowdy brown slip-ons slipped on the top step to the second floor.  Causing her to sprawl on the landing with her rear in the air, and an uncomfortable idea that her dirndl skirt wasn’t doing its job behind.

 

Mercifully, none of the mean girls saw this happen.  Kris came back to help Vicki stand up, while Hayley offered a hanky for wiping off her hands.  But then Wernie Ball brushed by, the last to come upstairs, with his pallid pinkish eyes so carefully averted Vicki had to figure he’d seen a lot more than the tops of her kneesocks.

 

First day of first grade.  Not even 11 a.m. yet, and life might as well be over.

 

Yet more carnage was in store.

 

They spent the rest of that morning getting reacquainted with Our Friend the Alphabet, while Sarah-Jill Shapiro strained her hand-raising arm trying to answer every question.  She compounded this by smuggling her arithmetic workbook into the Cafeteria to get a head start during lunch.  She compounded that by plunking down at the lunch table staked out by Melissa, April, and nail-nibbling Eileen.

 

“Uh—‘scuse you?” went Melissa.

 

“About what?”

 

“You’re at the wrong table.  Go sit at that one.”

 

“Yeah, Sarah,” chirped April.

 

“It’s Sarah-Jill.  With a dash.”

 

“Well then, whyncha just dash over there?”

 

The flustered Sarah-Jill got up to go, and Stephanie boldly took her vacated stool.  “Don’t forget your book, Brainiac,” she said.  “Oh I’m sorry: Brainy-dash-Ack.”

 

(Involuntary snortle from Melissa Chiese.)

 

“And you’re wrong if you think those glasses don’t make you look stew-pid,” added April Tober.

 

Sarah-Jill peered bewilderedly around the Cafeteria till Hayley beckoned her to the trio’s table.

 

“Am I supposed to eat here?  When did Miss Tinker tell us where to sit?  I didn’t hear her!”

 

“That’s ‘cause she didn’t tell,” explained Kris.  “Melissa’s making up dumb rules.”

 

“Just like she did in nursery school,” said Hayley.

 

“And if you got in her way, she’d stomp all over you,” said Vicki.

 

“Well, that’s not very nice,” Sarah-Jill observed.

 

“You know what’s even less nice?” mourned Hayley.  “I bet she and Stephanie are gonna be friends now.”

 

“You know they are,” said Kris.  “And I was hoping they might have a fight.”

 

Furtive peeks at Stephanie and Melissa having a guarded parley over Eileen’s head.

 

“They still might fight,” Vicki predicted.  “But I bet that won’t stop them acting mean to us.  They’re not happy till they make you cry—”

 

—on which note Vicki spilled her miniature milk carton, dousing her sandwich and apple and Perma-Prest blouse-front.  At the exact moment when everyone at the other table happened to be glancing her way.

 

“That isn’t Vicki Volester,” declared Melissa in a voice like a snowplow.  “Her real name’s Klumsy Klutzer.

 

Followed by the cruelest group snortle ever heard in the Reulbach Cafeteria—during that particular lunchtime.

 

*

 

Four weeks later, Melissa Chiese bestrode the first grade like a pint-sized titan.  All of Miss Tinker’s students and most of Mrs. Jantz’s knew her repute.  They’d heard about her fancy kulda-sack house off Bohnsetter Avenue, and her brother Chad who was assistant drum major of the Pfiester High School marching band, and their mother who core-donated the ticket office down at the Friendly Confines baseball stadium.  It was thanks to Mrs. Chiese’s guidance (so said Melissa) that the Boys in Blue won their last five games in a row, finishing way up in third place rather than back in the cellar.

 

(Jimmy Maxwell’s trio claimed they’d heard Mr. Sunshine, the superstar infielder, personally thank heaven for Carmel Sanborn Chiese.)

 

Melissa’s gang acknowledged themselves as the coolest, grooviest, with-it-est in class.  Certainly they stood out in their colorful minidresses and go-go boots, like the Sour Grapes Messenger Girls on The Banana Splits.   Yet just as certainly, they didn’t act like each other’s friends; and that made no sense to Vicki’s trio, struggling to understand as they played croqminton in Kris’s back yard.

 

“I mean, why do they pick on Eileen?

 

“‘—mmmmIdunno—’”

 

(Giggles.)

 

“Well, she acts like she wants to be Melissa’s slave.  That’s why Melissa picks on her.”  (Thunk.)  “OH, so close!”

 

“You’re miles ‘n’ miles away!”

 

“Am not!”

 

(Thunk.)  “Are now!  Anyway, Eileen thinks Melissa’s her friend.”

 

“April Tober thinks so too.  That’s why April picks on her.”  (Thunk.)

 

“Miles ‘n’ miles ‘n’ miles—

 

“Inches!  Inches!”

 

“INCHES?  You don’t know your medgerments!”

 

“I don’t have any medgerments, I’m only six!”

 

(Time out called so three of the players could shriek with hilarity, while the fourth drooled calmly on the grass.)

 

Croqminton was a lawn game invented by Kate Rawberry.  Clotheslines served as baselines and jump ropes denoted goals.  Kris and Vicki took turns whacking the ball with their mallets—not too hard, since you forfeited if the ball touched the house or fence.  (Especially the house: a rule added by Mrs. Rawberry.)  Hayley, her arm out of its cast at last, was Vicki’s goalie, while Ness the bulldog served as Kris’s.  (Ness took no interest in the ball, but effectively blocked shots.)  First one to score a goal won the game, which sometimes took several days.

 

“We do so have medgerments.  They medger us at the shoe store, don’t they?”

 

“Oh don’t talk about shoes, I hate mine.  I wish I was big enough to wear Tricia’s.”

 

“You want big feet?”  (Thunk.)

 

“Okay, I wish Tricia’s shoes were little enough to fit me.”  (Thunk.)

 

“‘But then your mommy won’t buy you any boo-oots,’” sangsong Kris and Hayley, causing another giggle-filled time out.

 

Stephanie Lipperman, while accepting the dictum to wear Sour Grapes minidresses, drew the line at donning go-go footwear—and held out regardless of April’s teasing and Melissa’s half-curled upper lip.  Then Hayley overheard Melissa telling Eileen that “Stuffy’s mommy won’t buy her any boo-oots” (“mmmMine will, Melissa!” Eileen replied).  Vicki’s trio made sure these words reached Stephanie’s ears—along with exactly how Melissa’d rolled her bright cold eyes, and the face that Eileen made around her nibbled fingernail.

 

Since then, Stephanie had outspited herself trying to undermine Melissa’s booted footing.  She backbit, insinuated, spread rumors—and gained considerable headway with April, who was annoyed at Eileen’s overeager cozying-up.  Any day now the trio expected April to aim a stew-pid at Melissa’s glossy, bouncy, Breck Shampood noggin.

 

“You guys, let’s never act like them,” begged Hayley on the croqminton lawn.  “Say we’ll always be best friends.”

 

“Well,” said Vicki, “I hope Kris’ll still be our friend after I score this goal—

 

It was against the rules for Kris to push or drag her teammate around the yard, so she could only try using her voice.  “Block her, Nessie!  Block that shot, Ness!”

 

“No, Nessie, stay where you are!” yelled Hayl.  “Sit!  Lie down!  Roll over!”

 

Ness, unwilling to roll, rambled over to flop in front of Vicki and lay an affectionate paw on her mallet.  Vicki tried to claim interference, but was laughing so hard she couldn’t be understood (according to Kris) so the match got called on account of slobber instead.

 

*

 

Shortly thereafter, Cathy Rigby won the Little Darling competition at the Mexico City Olympics, and juvenile gymnastics became all the rage.  Demand for lessons led the Pfiester Park Y to announce a course for girls starting in January, which sent Kris into lunar orbit before any of the Apollo astronauts.  She could hardly wait to get her hands and feet on a real-life balance beam or parallel bars, and talked of almost nothing else even during Christmas vacation.

 

Naturally her best friends were expected to join her.  Hayley, who still couldn’t stand on her head unaided, wasn’t so sure about this.

 

“You need gymnastics,” Kris insisted.  “They’ll help build up your arm.”

 

“What about my other arm?  I don’t want them to not match!”

 

“They’ll build up both your arms, silly.  Can’t you just see yourself swinging on a trapeze?”

 

No, Hayl couldn’t, unless she was granted superpowers beforehand.

 

As for Vicki, she found her mother suspicious of the Y and what Felicia called its “underlying motives,” which sounded like they took place in the basement.  So the trio agreed that Kris should scout out the first gymnastics session, and report to Vicki and Hayley how it (and anything underlying) went.  If the class proved to be as much fun as Kris knew it’d be, the other girls could then lobby their parents for a belated sign-up.

 

But Kris left that first session in furious tears, telling her mother the Y was full of horrible people who did horrible things and she never, ever intended to return there.  Mrs. Rawberry wanted Officer Sam to raid the place and close it down; but Kate, a veteran Y‑goer, ascertained the fault lay with Kris’s fellow minigymnasts.

 

One above all.

 

“That Me-lis-sa Chi-e-se!” Kris grated.  “I was sure I was gonna be first in line an’ everything, but She was there already with April and Eileen!  And They—bossed—everything.

 

“April and Eileen too?” asked Hayley.

 

“Bet they just stood beside Her while She did the bossing,” said Vicki.

 

“Zackly!  An’, an’ She said all the usual stuff about me” (Kris was “Fern the Freckly Farmgirl” in Melissaspeak) “an’, an’ they made fun of my turquoise leotard!”

 

(Hayley hugged Kris while Vicki stroked her braids.)

 

“She said only She could wear blue.  An’ I said ‘It’s a free country’ an’ She said ‘Not for orange-heads it’s not,’ an’ then April laughed an’ Eileen laughed an’ I wanted to, to—I dunno, SLAP their dumb old faces, Hers first and most!  But I just stood there an’ couldn’t think what to say, while They just stood there waiting for me to cry, an’ I hadda hold my breath to keep from starting before Mom came to take me home!”

 

(This time Vicki did the hugging and Hayl the braid-stroking.)

 

“She spoiled it,” Kris moaned.  “I was looking forward to gymnastics for always an’ She ruined it.  Like stealing from me.  And for NO reason.”

 

“‘Cept being the Meanest Girl in the World,” said Vicki.  “We gotta find some way to get even—”

 

“Oh, what can we do?” went Hayley.  “We’re just Hippie Hippo and Klumsy Klutzer to Her!”

 

“An’ Fern Farmgirl,” Kris whispered communally.

 

“Well it’s not fair!  SHE gets away with everything—”

 

“—if any of us said anything mean about anybody, Miss Tinker’d make us ‘pologize in front of the whole class—”

 

“—like she made Stephanie do last week.  ‘We’re waiting, young lady’—”

 

“—never thought I’d feel sorry for ‘Stuffy.’  But she hadda do it—”

 

“—with Me-lis-sa sitting there, grinning at her—”

 

“Eww!” went Kris, wiping her eyes.  “That was like a million times worse than what happened at the Y!  Thanks, you guys, I feel a lot better...  And Dad said he’d buy me a trampoline for my birthday.  A big one, that he and Kate can use too.  We can have all sorts of fun on a big trampoline.”

 

“Where you gonna put it?”

 

“Well, that’s the problem—we’ll prob’ly have to wait till spring.  Can’t leave a big trampoline out in all this snow, and indoors the ceilings aren’t high enough.”

 

“That’s it!” said Vicki.  “We’ll get Her on a trampoline inside a house, and first time she jumps on it—”

 

“—She’ll bonk Her stupid head!!”

 

“Stew-pid,” added Hayley, à la April Tober; and the trio regained their ability to giggle-shriek.

 

*

 

In February Vicki had one of those adventures that take permanent residence in your heart and soul.  Aunt Fritzi invited the “Schmelzettes,” Vicki and Tricia and Mom and Gran, to the Civic Opera House for a performance by Ruth Page’s International Ballet.

 

There was “Romeo and Juliet,” and there was “Bolero,” and there was “Carmina Burana,” and there were Vicki’s eyes drinking it all in from first note to last.

 

Kick.  Twirl.  Leap.  Dive.

 

Hop.  Spin.  Pounce.  Sway.

 

Skim.  Glide.  Float.  Soar.

 

And the backdrops.  And the costumes.  And the music...

 

Lights up for intermission.  Her hand clutching Gran’s beside her.

 

“You find it entzzantzzing, Victoria?”

 

Entrancing?  Enchanting?  Both true, so nod yes.

 

“Not bad,” Gran allowed; as if this were a courtesy due to the directors being, like Gran, a Ruth.  “But I hevv seen denncing that this kennot compare to.  My sister Raytzzel—”

 

Babble rising on Vicki’s other side.  Fritzi and Tricia discussing how they would’ve choreographed things.  Mommy wanting to hear more about the insurance salesman Fritzi’d started dating.

 

“Kvailas,” sighed Gran: unintentionally à la April Tober.

 

Darkness again.  And there was “O Fortuna!” experienced for the first time, crashing like waves on the Lake As Big As An Ocean.  Turning great wheels and vibrating great strings that could vanquish winter under the changeable moon: making us merry, making us joyful, carrying us unchained to be reborn—

 

I want to dance.  I want to be a dancer.

 

Then you must learn how, Miss.

 

Springtime then, melting away The City’s ice and snow.  Rejoice at turning seven, despite temporarily having no front teeth; you can keep your lips locked (with many nods and smiles) as you’re finally enrolled in the Beginners class at the Massena Dance Studio above the Joe E. Lewis Dinner Playhouse.

 

No front teeth but two best friends.  Hayley was initially uncertain about ballet, till the Tamworths said how Precious their Puddin’ would look in a tutu, so why be left out?  No chance whatsoever of Melissa & Co. being “caught dead at Klutzy’s old aunt’s dancing school.”

 

That inaugural Saturday: Hayl precious in pink, Kris triumphant in turquoise, and Vicki in lucky-V violet.  Surprised to find the Beginners superintended not by Aunt Fritzi but Miss Sandy, whom the trio recognized as the Miss Steinfeldt who taught third grade at Reulbach.

 

“How can you be two kinds of teacher?” Kris wanted to know.

 

“Sometimes I wonder, dear.”

 

Miss Sandy was equally recognizable as the heroine of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.  She lacked the big-lump-of-magic on her back, but had the same sparkling eyes and sugar-cookie aura and ingenuity at behavior modification.

 

“Some of you girls may have dressed up like witches on Halloween.  You may have put on a scary mask and tall pointed hat, and carried a broomstick.  But suppose you didn’t have a mask or hat or broomstick, and still wanted everyone to know you’re a witch.  How would you stand, and walk, and hold yourself?  What would make people know you’re a witch, if you had no mask or hat or broom?”

 

“Cackle?” suggested a Beginner.

 

“You could cackle,” Miss Sandy agreed, “or say ‘I’ll get you, my pretty!’  But we’re going to do it without saying a word or even making a sound.  We’re going to use shapes and movement.  First we’ll find our witch’s shape; then we’ll need to keep that shape no matter how we move.  Whether we’re stirring up some witchy brew in a pot over a fire, or inviting Hansel and Gretel into our gingerbread house, or even if we’re melting! melting! after Dorothy throws a bucket of water over us.  No matter what, we mustn’t forget the shape our witch starts out in.”

 

Hayley thought this was delightful roleplay; she quickly excelled at it and got singled out as an Example to Admire.  Kris took on the shape and movements of an athletic witch, mincing across an invisible balance beam with twisted claw-hands and freckle-squints.

 

Vicki, trying to comply, felt puzzlement that verged on dissatisfaction.  If not alarm that this couldn’t be the way to learn how to Dance.  But she trusted Miss Sandy, enough to seek a private conference and ask, “Is this really how ballerinas get started?”

 

“Some of them, yes.  And all of them have to know how to tell us stories using just their bodies.  Even when they wear fine costumes, the body does the real work.  And it has to show us in so many different ways—quick and slow, large and small, thick and thin.  Always based on shapes and movement.”

 

“Bending and stretching?” Vicki ventured.

 

“That’s right, dear.”

 

“Yes!  When Tricia that’s my sister was a Beginner she all the time practiced these plee-ays and reh-luh-vays and day-gah-zhays and still does so how soon will we get to start them?”

 

Sparkle-cookie smile from Miss Sandy.  “Why, now that you’re an official dance student, you can certainly try those exercises—IF (and hear how big an ‘if’ that is) you have your sister keep an eye on you, at first.  Would she do that?”

 

“Um.  I can ask.”

 

“You’ll need a little watching-over till you get the hang of it.  Even then you’ll want to take each step with care, just like you do on an icy sidewalk.  It’s so very easy to hurt yourself if you go too fast.  Always remember to warm up your muscles before you start, then cool them back down when you finish.  Do that every time, Vicki, and your muscles will be your buddies.”

 

“I will, Miss Sandy,” she vowed, and threw her warmed-up buddy-muscles into showing both shape-sizes from Land of the Giants.

 

*

 

Tricia stalked into their bedroom, kicked the door shut, yanked off her sweater-vest and bellbottoms, marched over to the mirror, and gave her undie’d self the emerald glare.

 

“I cannot believe that Patty Kuchenesser’s started growing boobs.  She’s only eleven!  I’m almost eleven!”

 

Yeah sure, you will be next August.  “Tricia?  Will you tell me if I’m doing this right?”

 

“What?” went Tricia, not looking.

 

“This.”  Humbly holding onto the sille: plee-ay.  plee-ay.  plee-ay.

 

Eye-jab from the reflection.  Moment of suspense.

 

“Stand up straighter.  Feet together.  Turn out your toes—and remember to use Ben‑Gay.  Believe me, you’ll need it.”  Green glare switched back to reflection as Tricia went up on extreme tippytoe.  “I cannot believe Aunt Fritzi doesn’t think I’m ready yet for pointe class.”

 

Now to practice practice practice, a little every day.  Mommy demonstrated how to pin her hair back into the proper bun, while trying unsuccessfully not to show how “darling” she thought Vicki was acting.

 

But this was serious stuff, truly requiring the Ben-Gay Tricia hadn’t joked about.  All the warm-ups and cool-downs didn’t make Vicki’s muscles feel the least bit buddylike.  Even her hairbun ached sometimes.

 

Infinitely worse than the ache was the fear that she wasn’t getting it.

 

The delicacy.  The grace.

 

Every bend she made, every step she took, had some obstinate wobble.

 

You could practice till you walked like a duck with your toes turned out, toes about to blister on your poor sore feet.  Idiotic feet.  Enormous stumblebumming Godzillafeet that could never do anything right—just trip and lurch and stagger till you wobbled into bed and cried yourself to sleep—

 

Except that she wouldn’t.

 

‘Cause They would know it if she did.

 

Kris could hold her tears back; Hayley had a knack of transforming hers into a runny nose.  Vicki couldn’t let the trio down.

 

So lie tearlessly awake in the dark, clutching an old stuffed cat.  Several of whose fluorescent teeth had flaked off over the years.  (Welcome to the toothless club.)  But its grin—no, its smile—still gleamed at her beneath the covers.

 

You are not a Klumsy Klutzer.

 

And your best chance of proving that was like Miss Sandy said: you had to show Them.

 

Return to the sille.

 

Plee-ay.  Reh-luh-vay.  Day-gah-zhay.

 

Arms in front—arms straight out—one arm up—both arms up—and turn; and turn; and turn.  Taller.  Straighter.  Shoulders leveler.  Tummy innier.  Toes pointy-outier.  Lift and stretch.  Lengthen and loosen.  With a will; with a way.  And, one fine day—

 

—each step Vicki took was wobble-free.

 

Her feet hardly feeling like they touched the carpet.

 

Tricia was with her in the bedroom at that moment, doing some sort of exercise that required muttering fuss and muss—or was it “must” and “bust”?  But she glanced over long enough to notice Vicki hovering giddily by the sille.

 

“Good,” said Tricia.

 

No bouquet could have been better.

 

Except the slow clapping Tricia did when Miss Future Ballerina gave her an unwobbly reh-ver-ahnce.

 

“My sister, Vicki Volester.  ‘A star is born.’”

 

 

    

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
   

 

Return to Chapter 6                          Proceed to Chapter 8

 

 

A Split Infinitive Production
Copyright © 2010-2011 by P. S. Ehrlich

 

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