(1963 – Paris)
I deliver yards of tulle and organza to the seamstress. When she asks, I unwrap the bundles upon her table, careful not to smudge the satin with the brush of my fingertips. I scour the shops for the perfect cockerel feathers with which to adorn the swans and collect the ones which flutter away at the end of rehearsal so they can be sewn in again. I stitch torn ribbons to the angry lips of pointe shoes with the perfect tension and cut swaths of lambswool for wrappings. I do not flinch when ballerinas half my age call me “boy”.
I surrender bouquets in the Prima's dressing room and arrange them in wide-throated vases at her request. I refuse the pourboire she offers for my trouble. I lower my eyes when the danseur passes in the hall outside her door. I fetch water and viennoiserie which often go down and right back up again.
I don the dusty suit and cap for opening night. I stack programs on the velvet-covered tables and take tickets in silence with unmatched proficiency. I pass through the throng without notice, weaving and dodging so as not to brush rudely against the guests or spill a drop of champagne. I slip into the folds of curtain along the wing and forget to breathe for the entire Pas de trois.
All of this I would do each day for the rest of my life without complaint. For once the lights go down, when the patrons have all gone home, and the company is spent, when the grease-paint is a pile of smeared tissues on the floor and the ribbons have been unlaced, when the little birds have flown off and even Margot Fonteyn is whisked away in a taxi, I'll find him with his gnarled feet soaking in Epsom salts and his mouth, generous with wine.
“Ça s'arrose! We shall celebrate!” he says, drawing me in. And for this moment alone, I would wait and fetch and serve unnoticed and unappreciated without a care because when the swan has perished and the curtain falls, the danseur, he is mine.
[Written for Anna Meade's "Behind The Curtain" challenge and just to prove to myself that I can still conjure up a little fiction now and then. Challenge details below the fold.]