I cannot believe that it is Sunday already. I know that in my last post I promised I would post the ‘ballet, rooftop, flashback’ story today but I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked to but I will be posting a snippet. Instead of writing I’ve been reading.
I finished Seraphina by Rachel Hartman a couple of days ago. I will admit that I struggled to get past the first few chapters; all of those dreams and visions felt like a major information dump. However, Hartman pulls it all together quite well, her prose for the most part is quite beautiful, though her dialogue can be a little problematic at times. Overall a good read, I mean I found myself needing to recover from that emotional roller-coaster afterwards. A story that moves you is a story worth your time. I am definitely keen to get my hands on the second and final installment, Shadow Scale but I doubt that I would read Seraphina a second time.
Next book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Besides reading I’ve been researching the topic of diversity in Speculative Fiction. Being South African and coming from an extremely diverse background I find it rather alarming that subconsciously, both while reading and writing, I always assume that the main characters are of European decent. We have to acknowledge that SF – while it is finally on the rise in Africa – has a very Eurocentric history. And I realised that I can’t complain about the lack of diversity if I, a person of colour, am not actively introducing PoC characters in my own stories. So that is something I would like to do more in my own stories.
Anyway, here is a sneak-peak of the story I am currently busy with. This one is completely out of my comfort zone, so I apoligise with regard to ballet and such. All comments and advice welcome!
Passi Di Danza
Deep breath. With her left hand on the barre Hana unfurled into a standing second-position stretch, she exhaled, holding the position as she counted under her breath. Lowering her arabesque leg she settled into first position. Inhale, plie. Exhale, pointe. Inhale, plie. Exhale, pointe. She moved into second position and repeated the mantra. Inhale, plie. Exhale, pointe. Ending in fifth position she realised that her eyes were shut tight. She blinked, trying to adjust to the harsh stage lighting. Across the stage Lula glared at her while tying the ribbons of her flat creme ballet shoes – shoes that had been Hana’s just a few month ago. Hana knew what Lula must be thinking; to Lula she was a treacherous impostor who had stolen a career changing role while Lula was in recovery. And she felt like an impostor too, landing the lead role had been a pure stroke of luck. When Lula crash landed Hana was just a back-up dance and one of the two understudies. Not for a moment did she think that the director Andrea would name her as Lula’s replacement, she was a newbie unworthy of centre stage and all the pressure that came with filling Lula’s shoes.
She gazed down at her feet. Her pearlescent pointe shoes hugged her feet tightly, the ribbon almost cutting into her ankles. She liked them that way, it made her hyper-aware of the precision – or lack thereof – in each movement. For her it was a constant reminder that perfection was a unegotiable standard of a ballerina.
She had literally stepped into Lula’s shoes, and Lula was not ashamed to show her resentment. The poor woman was stuck somewhere in the back row because Andrea had thought it not wise for her to jump back into such a challenging role so soon after an ankle injury. Hana agreed with Andrea’s reasoning, though she dared not say it out loud; permanently losing a ballerina of Lula’s calibre to an injury would be devastating. Lula was young and talented enough, Andrea had said, there was no doubt that she would get her chance again.
Hana moved back into first position, raised into pointe and counted, “One, plie; two, coupe; three, plie; four, coupe,” and then went onto second. She always did the same warm-up, whether it was before rehearsal or a show. It helped her clear her mind and find her centre, but tonight it didn’t seem to be working at all. His face kept appearing, as vivid as if he had been standing before her. She took another deep breath, trying to focus on her movements; but he was still there. She wondered what he was doing at this moment. Was he at his apartment? Was he still packing? Or was he already boarding for Paris? What time was his flight? She couldn’t remember.
She had been so surprised when Alec had shown up at the apartment they had shared for over a year. He stood at her door, hand in his pocket shuffling his feet like a nervous school boy.
“Hi,” he muttered awkwardly. “Do you think I could come in?”
Hana, unsure of what to make of the situation nodded.
“I thought I should come and get the last of my stuff.”
“Uhm… It’s all in the study,” she said. He followed her into the loft and up the spiral staircase to the makeshift study area before the bedroom.
“So, how have things been?” asked Hana, trying to make small talk while he went through the boxes and gathered his things.
“I’ve been okay. Things have been quiet at work, it’s kind of surreal. My internship is ending soon,” he sighed in disappointment.
“And then what?” she asked, hoping that perhaps he had decided that he would stay in Cape Town a while longer.
“I’m not entirely sure. Probably go back to Paris for a while. It’s been hard, making a decision without -”
“Do you want a smoke,” she interrupted him almost shoving the box of Marlboro at him in her haste. She knew exactly what he wanted to say – that it was difficult for him to envision a future that did not include her, a future in which they were not together – and she didn’t want to hear. She feared that if he said it out loud she would begin question her own decision in accepting the role and staying in Cape Town in hope that she might get offered a place in one of the Ballet Companies.
“I never did open that bottle of champagne,” she shrugged. She wanted him to stay. She was glad that he had shown up at her door when he did. Before, she had not allowed herself to linger on her aching heart; instead she had submerged herself in dance, exhausting both mind and body so that she could collapse on her bed and fall asleep the moment her cheek touched her pillow. Now that he was here all she wanted was to savour the way he smelt – of vanilla rolling tobacco and that cinnamon chewing gum he loved so much. She wanted to listen to the rumble of his voice as he chatted away in his layered French accent, she wanted to hear him laugh that hearty laugh that sounded more like a cough than anything else. She had simply missed him. And though of him being anywhere else – let alone Paris – made her feel anxious and vulnerable. He was comfortable and safe. “I was gonna go up to the roof anyway,” she insisted.
“Okay, a drink and a smoke wouldn’t be half bad right now,” he smiled.