||Once upon a time there was a magic boy, not because girls don't have stories. People just don't always want to focus on the feet, the part that gets you from one point to another in the story. When she could lose her shoes, her fingers or how she might look at something. Boys don't have tougher feet, but sometimes they don't notice when they're walking through the glass. Or that's how it seems, sometimes.|
As previously stated, once upon a time, there was a magic boy. And he was worth walking for, through the rain and the mud, the sharp parts of the road where the gravel is torn up and pebbled. And perhaps, perhaps that was more her fault than anything else - but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
A very long time ago there were things that fell to earth. They were hidden in the cold, in the pale perfect light that made everything look clean at first glance. Magic things that turned things, people and time to become warm again. Unfortunately, no one (not the birds, not the squirrels, not the wind or the stars) knew what to do with time once it heated back up again. It became fluid, it weaved and flowed around the wind and the stars and the water like it never stopped at all in the first place. And no matter how warm or welcoming it was or tried to be - it terrified the moon. The moon that was never romantic, that hung in the sky like it needed to watch and cry to keep mermaids in the seas happy so they wouldn't beach sailors when they were homesick.
One of the magic things fell into the ocean, pearls that would never be claimed again. They would help bring the tide back and forth when the Moon wasn't looking. Another had been pieces of stars that landed inside eyes when the people who owned them were asleep. They would be walking wishes, they were things people were too afraid to talk about just before they went to sleep - they were these wonderful things that made the world worth while. These were few and far between, these people didn't exist on every street. If they had, wishes wouldn't mean as much as they should. The last, because all magical things come in odd numbers - generally threes because arguably three is the best of all the numbers, were captive moon beams that filtered down through a window where silkworms worked in China.
It took them, them being the worms, the men who worked the loom, the woman who held her feet in molds, the cobblers - it took all of these people and the sky itself two years before the silk was turned in to what it was meant for. And it was the finest anyone had ever seen - better than anything under lights, in stories that were passed around, better than the colors on the wall murals in the churches - the paintings in the state houses that lived on the hills. The places that were older than people wanted to count or remember. It wasn't any one color, the fabric shone and glimmered in the right light, finally fitting across and around in ribbons on the nimble feet of a young woman who wasn't the lead in the touring company, she wasn't the center right or left, she'd been regulated to the back right corner near one of the trees. It was a funny old tree, all covered in stage moss that looked like fairy hair. The silk made the shoes bind tighter to her feet, they forced her up taller. Her breaths were steady and every once in a while, there would be eyes that would stray from one of the first two sets of rows - not to the lead, not to her partner and not to the villain of the piece. But to the ridiculous girl in the back row to the right. The troupe took her across the country, over the mountains in the cold and through the summer across the sea, the sea that had been the deepest blue that she had ever hoped to see.
Through hours and many black nights and grey days she passed her thoughts in her bunk, one of the girls from a conservatory that she never had any hope to getting to shared the room with her. Her voice was too high, his fingers were too long and there was something just awful about the way She sang. She liked asking her impossible questions as the waves rocked the boat at night. About the stars, about the sea, about where they were going. She told her stories about how the sun ate the buildings and how the trees didn't have leaves, just flowers, inside the mazes of branches there were birds that knew full songs that would make people fall in love. This was all fantastic, she knew better. But what a nice thing to dream about when the rain came down so even and so hard and rocked her to sleep.
Eventually they made their way - they docked, they went through what was left of the winding roads and to the cities where there were trees full of flowers (though not made of), where the birds sang full songs (no one fell in love) and the sun beat down warm and sweet on the tops of their pale noses. Never in any of her dreams had the sun been so bright or so happy to see anyone.
There was a cafe, there is always a cafe. There's always a little shop, there are always deals. There are always going to be those chance encounters where lives are altered and the world smiles or burns beautifully for a few seconds. And at this cafe there were hands and a half finished cup of coffee that had long since gone cold. It was absolutely a glance - lasting no more than a few seconds but what else could it have been? She wouldn't remember the outline of the face, the strong jaw or the stupidly slumped shoulders that were trying to compensate for the rest of the size. The slant of the arms and how they were just as delicate as the boy who played the part of the prince who never remembered her name. But she would waste days behind walls forever after trying to erase the vivid color of the eyes that spent a few lost seconds looking at her - just as deep as the ocean that had brought her over, just as dark as the sky that kept the stars.
There were nights where her feet bled, there were nights she went on the hard scuffed floor of the studio - just below the ground, just cold enough to notice. Her toes arched and pressed and pointed, the bones in her ankles and her hips turned and molded into the places where she was told they belonged, the way her body was supposed to bend to be beautiful. To be noticed again as a part of the whole, to be anything more than she was by herself. Alone, alone there was nothing - but if you could connect, if you moved in the right direction with the rest, there was a light that you could fix to your skin, sometimes there was a left over glow - just in the streets behind the old brick building where it seemed to rain more than she'd ever seen. More than at home, more than in London. More than across the ocean when the waves rocked them awake and kept trying to tell the secrets of all the men that died along the way.
It rained in the mornings when she would leave, it rained when she came - it was all grey outside but still held the blue over in the sky. Longer, it lasted longer than at home. There were partial glimpses, lapses in time where you could see the color in the trees. In the ground, even if the pavement had been slate - if you had a second to look down, the different colors that made up the whole, sometimes she could see it - she could pick out the brown-red, she could pick out the black and the silver. Their opening night was on a Friday, the dress rehearsal was abysmal. Her costume was two sizes too small and no one cared, so long as it got around, so long as it didn't rip. If her feet could fit the holes - it would be fine. Willing her feet, her hips, her shoulders and her mouth all smaller the night before. Pale, bright and pretty as the lights hit the stage, all of them determined and graceful. Moving the way they remembered, moving the way that they hammered into their dreams at night. Dizzy and fast and unfettered from the attention, even if it was stiff it was appreciative. All of the eyes scanning and waiting with their breaths held tight in their vests for the faltering steps that never came.
This was not where she would see anyone, this is not where she thought she would. She hoped though, by some chance there would be a face that held it's shape outside of the bright stage lights that sent all their eyes small. Her body was twisted around and her ribs hurt, the boning on the costume tugged tight over her skin and when they'd all gone home, the single mirror and a music box that was shared between four other girls and a boy that had smelled just like what she thought summer time roses would smell, he was there too -- all out of place and pink. The mirror showed the red angry marks from the lacing, the way it bit at all the skin on anyone's back - leaving roads and rails that wouldn't be seen outside of that little room.
She kept old programs, they'd been there for half a month. Every other week, Thursday through Sunday with practice and lessons through out the rest. But the programs, she started writing silly things on the back, stealing red pencils out of pockets of the instructors who stumbled over their words. The teachers refusing to help them with the dialect, people getting more whacks on the back of their legs with canes than they could count - they should know, and eventually, they did. Anticipating before being told, eventually there was no thought needed. But her red pencils and programs, littered with stilted English that she'd heard back and forth at rehearsals, picking out the words with the actions, the arguments. She was learning, but it was slow. She practiced while everyone else slept, naturally. Trying to spell things phonetically while she corrected herself in the old tongue - just in case. The promise of hope was quite heady.
She got her eventually, the matron taking them out to get new coats and hats for the inevitable trip home. The season almost finished, Christmas and the New Year quickly approaching and there they were in the East of things, the older woman arguing with someone over the price of stockings and slips when she'd managed to wander off - pencil in hand and her gloves just as cold as the hands that were holding them when there, it happened all over again from a distance. And she thought for a moment that she'd wished it too hard - these things didn't happen, not really. These were in fact the things your older sister told you to make you cry at night when you weren't supposed to be awake, these were the things that kept you somber in the years that people tried to hold your hand back home. These were just - these things didn't happen.
But they had, and the winter sun in all of it's deceptive brightness showered around him like he was covered by the angels, halos and wings with eyes like stained glass - even from that far away. Maybe she was remembering it more, the small minutes before - and she counted her stars, she counted all her good luck because it was a big place to get lost in. And who would have thought, who could ever think. She stood there watching and waiting in the middle of a busy walkway, he'd been walking with a girl, with another boy - with people who no doubt were incredibly important. Who were beautiful in their own ways, olive skinned and one all white with blue hints like fine China.
One of her programs was wrinkled and stuffed in a pocket - her pencil almost used down to the nub, but there was enough. There would always be enough if she tried. Hurrying over to the brick wall of a building that a group of people were huddled around a corner to keep warm she scribbled, mostly illegibly - but there had to be a kind of hurry - you just never could tell when a person was going to turn, you know?
Over the printing, over all of the words and the little smudged ink drawing of the theatre - she wrote, she wrote broken and quickly.
Myself, I am Nikolayevna and I would very much like for you to have my heart. (Along with a few attempts at phonetically spelling a few things in English and several things in a lazy Cyrillic-y alphabet.)
This was stuffed into a ball, there was probably one chance, that was probably pushing it actually. Maybe half, maybe he wouldn't ever get it - and perhaps that would be for the best. But she looked confused and like she was late - which she was, running into the little group that he'd been walking in, shoving the wad of paper into him, into his hand, into his arm - she didn't look, but she felt how warm he was from the bump as she'd stuttered out a scared apology in the best accent she could manage given how her bones shaking from the thought and not the cold.
She had the right kind of mouth but the wrong kind of handwriting. All scratches and swirls, barely able to make any of the letters out - they were awfully silly letters in the first place. But the friend at his left saw the other side of the bill, the one with the real print. With the theatre, with the red ink on the yellow-y beige paper and knew just where to go - if they were bored that evening. And they had been. Settling in top balcony and they watched. And for a very brief moment, time melted and was fluid. The sun saw all of the things it colored in the bright cold of the winter and the moon didn't draw itself up into it's wide, silver circle over the ocean. The birds that knew all of the words to their songs sang, people fell in love - and that, that was worth every bruise, broken toe, every splinter and every cut on the bottom of her feet. The curtain came down and back up, and wouldn't you know, she went back home.