June 2018 Llama Pajama Story
June 2018 Prompt:
“Can I punch him in the face?”
“Can I just break his nose a little?”
June 2018 Word : Scrumdiddlyumptious
Full of Grace
Jack: I remember hearing the screams from the house next door. The little girl’s voice, begging for mercy. My stomach would twist and I would ask my momma why the girl’s daddy was so mean. Momma told me to mind my own business. There was a fence around their yard and I was too scared to look through the cracks. When I finally did see her, her bones jutted against her skin, as if trying to escape. Blossoms of purple and red and black decorated her body. Bruises, new and old. And still, she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.
Anya: I sit across from the boy. He is a man now, but I will always think of him as the boy. He has recovered from his initial shock at seeing my battered body. Or at least he has hidden any further reaction. I am nervous about this interview. Worried that the boy will see me as a monster. But this has to end. And the boy is the only one I feel I can trust to tell my story. I used to watch him through the cracks in our fence. I would talk to him, though he couldn’t hear me. He is what got me through the worst of the pain. And he sits across from me now, in my dressing room, having no idea who,…or what, I am.
Tonight, I danced better than ever before. I know this because as I left the stage, Uncle told me so. “Perfection”, he said. I am glad I could give him that, because, although he doesn’t know it yet, this was my last performance. I do not agree with the way Uncle raised me, but he made me what I am. And I suppose that entitles him to a “perfect” performance.
I smile at the boy. How fortunate that he became a journalist. “I want to tell you a story”, I begin.
Jack: As I got older, the screams became less frequent. But the whimpers and raspy pleas were no easier to bear.
I chose to study journalism in college, thinking I could use words to fight all the injustice of the world. But when I graduated, the only job was back in my home town, covering the entertainment pages.
My editor sent me here to interview Anya Lebedev, the prima ballerina for the Swan Ballet Company. Anya insisted that I be the one at this interview, though I know nothing of ballet.
This was the final performance of the season. All around me were whispers of “flawless” and “unbelievable”. After, a stage hand, wearing a t-shirt that inexplicably read ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’, led me to Anya’s dressing room.
I pull out my notebook, prepared to start asking generic questions. Anya sits stiff in her seat, in a halter top, shorts and a dressing gown. She looks uncomfortable but she smiles at me and says, “I want to tell you a story.”
Anya: I tell the boy about another boy, born in Russia, whose family ran a ballet company. The boy loved watching the ballet. Especially Swan Lake. He studied the music and the dancers. He gave ideas to his parents for how the dance could improve. The older he got, the more he watched and studied the ballet, he had more and more ideas of how it could improve. But his parents were not interested in all his ideas. They didn’t believe the things the boy dreamed were possible. This led to a fight and the boy packed his things and left. He told them to wait and see. That he would start his own company and it would be everything he believed it could be.
The boy, now a man, began collecting people for his perfect ballet. But, like his parents, most people did not believe in the man’s vision. The man saw now, that he would have to take matters into his own hands. So he adopted a toddler who showed athletic promise and moved to America, the land of dreams.
The man began teaching the girl dance. He made her practice hours and hours each day, through pain and tears. The man would tell her, ” I know this is hard. But you will be the best.” And the girl would press on.
But when the girl was 7, things started to change. The man was getting frantic. He told her being a good dancer was not enough. That there were many good dancers in the world. He told her that he was going to make her into the perfect Odette.
I tell the boy that the man was a genius, that he had figured out how to create the perfect Odette. I tell the boy that the man did create the perfect Odette. I tell the boy that the man was mad.
I tell the boy how the girl screamed and cried and begged the man to stop. I tell the boy that the girl would sit on her side of the fence and talk to the boy next door. That the boy never heard her but that it helped the girl survive.
I see a variety of emotion crossing the boy’s face as I talk. Confusion, concern, disgust, pain, and I think, recognition. I stand and drop my dressing gown. As I turn to show him my wings, I lift my arms, and my wings lift too. I hear a gasp and a whispered “How?”
I tell the boy how the man used metal and bolts and screws and knives. I tell the boy how I had to learn how to walk again, to move again after the man gave me wings. I tell the boy that no one knows the wings are a part of me. Everyone believes they are a part of a elaborate costume. That I wear a full body unitard to cover the bruises and scars.
The boy stands and takes a slow step toward me. “May I?”
Jack: It’s her. The girl from next door. What did he do to her? I cannot wrap my head around this. I stand and my notebook falls to the floor. “May I?” I ask, reaching toward the wings. I have to take a closer look. To see if they are real. She nods. I reach out, hesitant, and run my finger around the spot where cold metal protrudes from her warm back. It is real. He did this to her. I stumbled back into my chair, feeling overwhelmed with guilt. He did this to her but we didn’t stop it. I didn’t stop it. “I am so sorry.” I rasp. “I am so sorry I didn’t help you. I am so sorry that I didn’t stop him. I am so sorry you had to suffer this.” My words fail miserably at expressing what I am feeling.
Anya turns to me, her expression soft and kind. “You did help me. Every day when my training was over, when the cutting and adjusting was over, I would sit beside the fence. I would watch you play and I would tell you about my life. You helped me through the pain. And now, I need you to help again.”
Anya: The boy’s guilt makes me sad. I never wanted to see him hurt. I walk toward where he sits, slowly, so as not to overwhelm him. When he looks up at me, I do not see disgust, only sadness and anger. “Why now?” He asks. “After all these years, why are you coming forward now?”
I swallow hard. “Because, he has informed me he is going to start again, with another girl. He has been making arrangements to adopt another girl from Russia.”
Jack: Another girl. Another girl’s screams and cries. I am livid with anger. I pull out my cell phone. “You trust me to deal with this for you?” I ask. “It won’t be easy. People won’t know how to deal with this, with you.”
She smiles again, so soft and sweet. “I trust you, Jack. You have been there for me all along.”
As we wait for the police to arrive, Kolya Lebedev comes into the dressing room. Shocked at seeing me there, he whirls on Anya. “What have you done?” He hisses. “He will see you as a monster!”
I growl deep in my throat but Anya answers, “No, Uncle. He knows it is you who are the monster.”
Kolya tries to slap Anya, but I catch his arm and slam him against the wall.
“Can I punch him in the face?” I ask Anya.
She shakes her head. “No.”
“Can I just break his nose a little?”
And I do.