Sweat beads on her brow.
She dabs it away with a scrap of towel, tight chest heaving beneath the shining white leotard. Her feet flex, bringing her to her toes, then back to the ground.
Green eyes are forest moss in the dimness, but no tears glint at me although I feel them in my own, pushing at the corners of my eyes, jostling to fall.
Her makeup is as garish as mine. Deep red cheeks, white, white skin, fresh pink lips parted as she catches her breath. Beneath the macabre mask is something that stretches her skin tight.
We’re silent except for the long, slow inhales. Her fingers seek out the hem of her skirt, following it around. She looks down, waiting for me to speak.
When I don’t, she does.
“Mikhail, try to understand. I have to go.”
I feel the countdown begin, each ebb of the orchestra tugs this moment toward memory and away from the present.
“But you do not have to leave.” My emphasis on the final word shatters the tightness of her face, and I see it now. Pity pulls her eyes downcast.
Heat surges in my chest with each measured breath.
A stage hand shuffles over. “Act two, scene two. Fifteen.”
With a rustle, she’s gone to meet her cue, leaving me standing stage right with the crackle of the stage hand’s headset in my ears.
She’s high on her perch as red velvet parts to the swelling hum of strings, and the silent, famed words tumble from her movements. Her hands clasp at her breast, a smile flitting across her lips.
She raises her fingertips to brush her cheek, running them from corner to corner of her mouth. One short leap, and she spins to the collective catch of breath from the crowd.
I miss my cue.
She looks down, eyes searching, seeking me among the columns. A smile parts her lips, a sharp breath elates her chest, a sigh escapes.
A tiny sigh I’ve heard a thousand times. My feet unfreeze. Drawn to her far above. Our eyes meet, and one hand flies to her chest.
She runs into my arms, and together we soar through the dance.
I drink in her beauty, the curves of her body against my hands. The floodlights mute her garish makeup into the dew of new love.
They turn my tears to diamonds and lies.
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