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Copyright © 2016 by Blue Davis
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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She stared at him blankly. “Are you sure you have the right person? I’m Winter.”
He smiled. “Why wouldn’t you be the right person?”
She said nothing.
“I’ve spoken to your instructor and let her know that you will be getting back late.”
“Am I in trouble? What’s going on? I…I haven’t done anything,” she said, as her shoulders rose to her ears.
He smiled with one side of his mouth and shook his head. “All of your questions will be answered in my office.”
She dropped her hands by her side. “Okay,” she said, facing him.
They walked along the empty corridor until they passed the lounge on the right.
Anna and Petya glared at them from a dark blue cloth sofa. Petya’s eyes were swollen and red. Anna touched Petya’s arm, then whispered in her ear. They both narrowed their eyes on to Winter and the director.
Winter rolled her eyes and followed the director in to the administrative wing of the building.
The building was old and badly needed repair. The brown, wooden baseboards were chipped and the walls scuffed.
He unlocked the door and swung it open.
She stepped inside.
He closed it behind her. “Have a seat,” he said. “Would you prefer English?”
She sat on the edge of the striped orange and beige chair. “Yes, please.”
He smiled. “Good,” he said, walking around the edge of his desk. He sat down in a black leather chair, then opened a drawer. He brought out a small tin box. He opened it. “Would you like one?”
Inside were a bundle of white mints.
“No thank you.”
“I’m sure you’re anxious to know why I’ve brought you here.”
“I am,” she said. Sweat began to prod at her underarms. What the hell did I do wrong? Just tell me. Please.
“As you are aware, we’ve just made our decision on who will enter the Company this year. It was a difficult decision, as there are many fine and talented ballerinas here at the facility.”
“Yes, there are. But I’m sure the board as chosen the ones they think will fit in the best.”
“Uh…well, I actually don’t know, sir. I just…uh, I’m just presuming.”
His lips sprang into a smile. He grabbed his handkerchief from the table and patted his forehead.
“Winter, how would you like to be part of the Company?”
She broke into a smile. “Really?”
“Yes, really.” He cleared his throat.
“Oh…my goodness.” She leaned over on an armrest and fanned herself briefly. “Is this for real?”
He smiled. “Yes, of course. It is every bit real. We would like you to join the corps de ballet and be part of the Company. If you say yes, you will be given a contract with a few small details to work out.”
“Well, of course I say yes. Who wouldn’t? I’ve been dreaming about this day ever since I was a little girl. What I am wondering about is why a formal offer was not made earlier.”
“Does it matter?”
“We…use discretion when asking foreigners to come on board. Many of the Russian girls will take offense if they see that a formal offer is made to a non-native. We learned early on to sort of… ‘slide it through the back door,’ so to speak.”
Winter leaned forward. “When do I start?”
“Oh. Well, just tell me what I have to do. I’ll do anything.” What’s the catch?
“Good. That is the correct attitude we like to see here at Moskvina.” He leaned toward her. “So. All you will need to do in order to be part of our prestigious ballet company is to pay the sum of just 2 million rubles.”
Her smile faded. “2 million rubles?” She ran the numbers in her mind. “That’s 30,000 dollars!”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes, give or take. That’s about right.” He punched some numbers into his calculator and scribbled a dollar amount on a notepad.
“How am I going to come up with that kind of money? I just barely paid the regular 20,000-dollar tuition four months ago!” Her temples began to throb. A lump rose in her throat.
“That is a separate matter.”
“The other girls are not asked to pay all this.”
“You were given a handbook of academy procedures in the beginning of your attendance here, weren’t you, Ms. Monroe?”
“And did you sign the contract—the one that says that citizen tuition is free, but foreigners would be charged the annual rate?”
“Yes, I know—”
“Well, you cannot expect to use meager government funds to pay for a non-citizen, can you?”
“No. I understand the cost of tuition for the Academy. But this is the Company we are talking about here. The Company earns money from each ticket sold. Isn’t the Company then supposed to be paying me—the performer? I mean, it’s supposed to be a career, a job. I can’t live in the dorm and eat scraps forever.”
“Is that what you think of this as? A job?”
“Well, no. I didn’t mean it like that. I—”
“You’ll need to have more passion than that if you want to be part of the Company.” He turned the phone around and set it in front of her on the dark brown wooden desk. “Call your parents.”
“I can’t just call them out of the blue and ask for 30,000 dollars.”
“Hmmm. I seem to remember you mentioning on several occasions that money was not a problem for your family. Did you not say that? Am I mistaken?”
She smoothed some hair behind her ear. “You are not mistaken. My parents are very wealthy. It’s just that…I don’t know. I need some time to think about all this.”
“Oh. Hmm. Should I pass this one on to the next girl? Your roommate maybe?”
She looked up, startled. “No. I’ll call my parents right away.”
“You have until next Saturday. Should we not hear from you, we will rescind our offer. Another girl shall be granted the opportunity.”
“You are not the only talented foreigner here, Winter.”
“So it’s all about whoever gets the money in first?”
“Take from it what you’d like. You have ten days.”
She stared at him.
He looked at his gold watch. “I believe lunch break is over,” he said.
The nerve of him. She rose from her seat.
He lowered his eyelids and frowned. “Inga will be expecting you. Oh and one more thing, Ms. Monroe.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes?”
“Keep it confidential.”
She sighed and snatched the notepad from his desk, tore the paper off and threw it back on his desk.
“You will hear from me,” she said, opening the door.
“Good. I’m glad we were able to reach an understanding Ms. Monroe.”
She said nothing as she shut the door and stormed down the hallway.
How in the world am I going to come up with the money? She ran down the hallway and stormed up the stairs.
Everybody turned and looked at her when she entered the studio.
“Sorry I’m late Inga.”
“Oh. We thought the toilet swallowed you,” she said, looking to the others for a reaction of laughter.
“No, I’m sorry. Just a late lunch.”
Anna and Petya glared at her.
“Well, get your shoes on. We have a lot to do before the winter performance next Saturday. Try to get yourself in gear, Winter. Don’t be late again.”
The instructor looked up and commanded the rest of the class in Russian.
Winter’s thoughts drowned out her voice for the rest of the practice. She could barely concentrate. Her mind broke into chaos. What the hell am I going to do? She made it through the rest of the class, moving through the motions, her thoughts in a whirlwind of panic. At the end, she plopped down and began to unlace her pointe shoes.
Petya sat down beside her and raised her eyebrows. She smiled. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, everything’s fine. I’m very happy for Anna.”
“I actually wanted to invite you to go to a party tomorrow night. We will toast tomorrow night to celebrate Anna’s success. So you can tell her yourself.”
Winter broke into a smile. “Really?”
“Yes, absolutely. We would love to have you there. I’m very sorry about this morning. Sometimes we girls like to make a little fun, but we don’t mean anything by it.”
“Oh. Okay, then. Apology accepted. And I would love to go out with you girls.”
“Great. I will tell Anna. She will be so excited!”
“One thing though,” Winter said, holding a finger up.
She looked at Song who was sitting alone, tying her tennis shoes in the corner. “Can Song come?”
“Um…well it’s just a thing for us, you know?”
“Oh, well, I don’t think I can go then. I’d hate to leave her alone in the room on a Saturday night.”
Petya gritted her teeth into a smile. “The more the merrier, right?”
“Right. Great. I’ll let her know,” Winter said.
“Perfect, we’ll meet you at 7 in the front. Wear something nice. Some heels. It is a nice place.”
Winter tilted her head to the side. “Heels in the snow?”
“You do not want to be the only one in boots, do you?”
“Uh. Yeah, I think I have some ones I can go out in.”
“Good. See you then.”
Winter rushed over to Song. “Guess what!”
She wasn’t smiling. She turned to Winter. Her eyes were still sad and red.
“They just invited us out with them,” Winter said, motioning to the girls.
“Really?” Her face perked up.
“Yes. They said to dress up. It’s for Anna,” she said, beaming.
Song’s eyes lit up. “Wow. Maybe they like us. Or do they only like you?”
“They like both of us, silly. It’ll be fun. And like you say, maybe some of her success will rub off on us,” she said, chuckling.
“Exactly. I am going to the theater tonight to watch the Company performance. Want to go?”
Winter swallowed. “I can’t. I’m due to give my parents a call. They’ve been waiting for me.”
“Ah. But you never call this late in the day,” Song said, her eyebrows crinkling as she tilted her head to the side.
“I know. But they’re dying to hear if I was accepted.” She tightened her lips and floated her eyes downward. “I guess I’ll have to disappoint them yet again this year.”
“Yes. I told my mother. She is not happy,” Song said, her shoulders creeping to her ears.
“Yes, well. I need to run, so I can make the call,” Winter said.
“Yes. I am excited about tomorrow. Thank you for invitation.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Petya,” she said, running off toward the door. Great. I got a party date, but I still need the money to dance. Her eyes widened as she reached for her cell phone and ran down the hall into the bathroom.
“Hello?” She heard her voice echo onto the tiles.
No one answered back.
She thumbed through to her mother’s last call and pressed the dial button.
Good. She’s up.
Winter drew in a breath. “Hi Mom,” she said. “I’m sorry it’s late. Were you sleeping?”
“No, I’m awake. Hi,” she said. Her voice sounded warm. It sounded like home.
She sighed. “He’s…not here.”
She crinkled her eyebrow and tilted her head toward the blue bathroom stall. “Mom, it’s one o’clock in the morning. How could he not be there?”
“He’s been out…a lot lately.”
“I thought he stopped drinking.”
“He did for a while, but he uh…started back up again. He’s been complaining about the promotion going to someone else,” she said.
“And that started it?”
“Not exactly. Well, when he found out the promotion went to a woman in the office, he accused her of having an affair with the boss to get the raise.”
“So then the woman filed a sexual harassment case against your father,” her mother said.
“What?” Oh no. Winter pressed the phone harder into her ear.
Her mother paused. “And…we had to hire a lawyer.”
“Okay?” She felt her temples beginning to throb.