Once a Day by Kristi Rose

“This will help you dance,” Mother said as she bound Rosalette’s knees and ankles with sparkling pink silk wraps. The long silks from her knees attached to the table underneath her, the same table she’d lay on when Dr. Richter had visited the home to check on her health. Although it had been sometime since Mother asked him to come.

“But I already know how to dance, you’ve even said so yourself, Mother.” The silks at her ankles bound her feet together so closely she could hardly wiggle them, and lifting her legs proved impossible. “Aren’t the stretching straps enough?”

Mother stopped adjusting the silks. “Hush now. You’re still a child,” she said. Her voice was shrill and cold. “You can always improve yourself.” She retracted her head like a llama ready to spit. “And how dare you assume you’re at your peak, child. You’ll never become a star if you continue with this brainless muttering.” Mother knotted the silks tighter on Rosalette’s right knee, prompting her to wince as her leg bent toward the table’s edge. The thick straps normally stretched her legs and pointed her toes upward, but these silks turned her lower half into the hind legs of a frog. She glanced at Mother in confusion before hastily turning away to avoid seeing the swallowing blackness of her beady eyes.

Rosalette grazed her hands along her ivory tutu. The skirt normally puffed out and fell just shy of her knees, but Mother recently pruned the inner layers of tulle, as it made it easier to tie the silks. Rosalette almost never took her ballerina outfit off, not even when Mother taught her school lessons during the weekdays. The only time she would remove her dancing uniform, aside for a thorough bleaching every Saturday, was when Mother tore them off her before bedtime.

Rosalette bit her tongue as Mother tightened the silks around the left knee now. She then waddled away from the table. Helplessly staring at the ceiling of wooden boards covered in cobwebs, Rosalette heard Mother fumbling with the record player. The score from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring sounded throughout the house, its fierce, beguiling melodies clinging to the air.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” Mother muttered as if she was leaving Rosalette to practice arabesques, as if her lower half was not still strapped to a table. “Your pliés and pirouettes will improve soon enough. You’ll be the prima ballerina assoluta of a ballet as delightful as La Bayadère. At least one of us will be.” Mother glowered above her now. “I better hear you humming along to the music from downstairs.” She turned the lamp off before she left, leaving the little sunshine pouring from the small attic window as Rosalette’s only source of light.

Once a day, for an hour, Rosalette believed Mother’s certitude as she tied silks around Rosalette’s swollen, purple knees. Once a day, for an hour, Rosalette hummed the melodies of The Rite of Spring as if she composed it herself. Once a day, for an hour, Rosalette trusted her gradually bowing legs meant the spotlight would soon paint upon her the colors of fame.

It had been a year’s time, perhaps longer, and Rosalette could no longer stand straight, let alone jump or pirouette or plié. “It hurts, Mother. I think my legs are breaking,” Rosalette cried from the table. Soon she heard the floorboards creak as Mother trudged toward her.

“They aren’t breaking fast enough, truth be told.” Her mother’s monstrous shape momentarily blocked the light coming in from the window and Rosalette trembled. 

Mother then pulled the glimmering pink silks more forceful than ever. Rosalette shut her eyes and smiled as she dreamt of jealous girls watching in awe as she took a grande jeté toward the center stage.

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