Running in Heels

Free Running in Heels by Anna Maxted

Book: Running in Heels by Anna Maxted Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anna Maxted
spring onion, her thighs looked pappy. Suddenly she blurts, “Oskar is holding me back! He’s just not there on the lifts! He’s dancing like a plank with rigor mortis!”
    I am not about to skewer my baby friendship with a principal dancer by disagreeing. I present a consolation prize.
    â€œPoor you,” I say, “but guess what?” I cross my fingers. “I’ve spoken to The Sun and they want to do a feature on you!”
    Mel does a bunny hop of joy. “When?” she gasps, squeezing a lifetime of hope into one short word.
    Even as I smile, my heart flips uneasily. But I ignore it. That’s what you get for selling your professional soul to the devil. Anyhow, it’s worth it to see the look of gratitude on Mel’s face. In her world right now I am number one. I tell her it will be this Sunday, and it’s for their Health and Beauty section. “They’re going to compare your fitness with a rugby player’s. So that should be a laugh, and they’ll take gorgeous pictures of you in a tutu, with the hunk, and there’ll be a shoot, with a hair stylist and a makeup artist, and The Sun has so many readers you’ll be even more famous than you already are!”
    Mel’s toothy grin lights up her face. We sit in the café and she buys a Mars Bar and a Coke.
    â€œThis is the first thing I’ve had to eat in two days,” she announces.
    â€œOh!” I say. “How do you feel?”
    Mel smiles again. “High as a kite.”
    I think of when a visiting nutritionist told a junior soloist to eat more or reap the whirlwind aged forty. “Forty!” she scoffed. “Who cares about forty? I’m not going to live that long!”
    I smile tightly and try not to wonder if my Sun story is actually a good idea. I should have okayed it with the AD, but I haven’t and I know that Matt assumes I have.
    â€œYou know,” I say softly, “you should eat.”
    Mel frowns. “Natalie, my thighs are enormous. And my legs are short, and I’ve got no neck—I can’t afford to eat like a horse!”
    I didn’t say, “eat like a horse,” I said “eat.”
    â€œI want to see bone!” she adds, quoting a late revered choreographer who married four of his ballerinas. (In this industry there’s a quick turnover.) I sigh. Mel’s insecurity is exhaustive. Last year, one of the GL Ballet guest artists was a twenty-three-year-old Serb, a wonderful lyrical dancer, though a tad stocky compared to, say, a bamboo stick. Mel watched her dance Odilein Swan Lake in a black tutu and scoffed, “I bet she thinks black is slimming. You might as well ink in the white bits on a killer whale.” I know that makes her sound mean, but she isn’t—just scared. Mel reminds me of a dog that’s been ill-treated—everyone is a threat until they prove they can be trusted, and then she becomes sweetly, irrevocably fond. I see the café owner glance at us, and foolishly, I feel proud to be seen with her. When I was small I confused ballerinas with fairies—beautiful, mystical creatures in pink and white and able to fly—the breathless sum of my little girl dreams. I’ve never outgrown that awe.
    Mel grips my hand. Her mood has bounced from stormy to sunny. As we chat she darts from this to that like a tiny tropical fish, confiding that she is bored with Oskar and wants to have a fling with a civilian, that the new ballet mistress is a total bitch and once made a senior soloist dance with a broom tied to her back so she’d stand up straight, and that—dramatic pause here and hoarse whisper to maximize impact—while Anastasia seemed pleased with Julietta today, yesterday she was overheard saying, “There’s nothing wrong with your dancing, have you tried not eating?”
    â€œReally?” I gasp. Julietta has a Formula One metabolism. Her “problem”—if you

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