Maira had a knack for seeing things people missed. For instance she saw the stealthy way Mr. Banyan, her English teacher looked at the senior girls. She could see how the man who owned the café, tricked students into thinking that he was putting money into their pockets while the coins actually slipped down his sleeve. She could even see that beneath the crisp ironed saris that Mrs. Sidhwa wore and the welcoming smile that warmed her face was a battered woman. She could see the bruises inconspicuously hidden beneath mounds of foundation on her waist. Her husband never did her face. If only Mrs. Sidhwa retaliated instead of covering up his ghastliness! Love, she thought, made women blind. And then there was her Maman…
In her dining room was a painting of a ballerina. Every time she looked at it, it became alive to her. She breathed, cried and told her how her feet ached. How behind the stage her body was out of her control. How people never realized that at the root of every perfect, flawless performance were night-long rehearsals, a sinking feeling when things seemed to go all wrong, tears that came anyway and most of all the fear. What if she slipped and the world she had carefully woven around her audience came crashing down? What if the cards she had placed one above the other to build a castle of dreams collapsed just by a waft of air flowing from the wrong direction?
They saw the pretty ballerina, she told her. But they never saw her barren heart, her fearful dreams and her forlorn life. They never saw that throughout her performance she has held her breath without going blue. The sacrifices that she had made to get here, half of which she never intended to make. Their praise was never enough for what she did.
Maira was brought back to the real world as her parents entered the room. She didn’t know her father as much as she should, being his child and all. He looked happy for some reason. He smiled at her mother, a smile that never reached his eyes, apart from those occasions when he spoke about his achievements and his political career. He took out a velvet pouch from his pocket and conjured a diamond necklace studded with sapphire. He carefully clipped it at the back of her mother’s neck and kissed behind her ear. “Thanks for tonight, darling! You play an excellent host to my guests. You’ll make a great first lady, one day. G’night!”
Maira went up to her mother and slowly kissed the place where the necklace had left a cold patch on her skin. She knew these little tokens of gratitude stung her like venom. They weren’t half a price for her sacrifices. She took a step back and looked sadly at her mother, the real life ballerina.
©2013. Habiba Danyal ———————————————————————————————————————————— For Write at the Merge, Week 8. This week’s prompt combines an Ayn Rand quote with an image of one of Edgar Degas’ famous ballerinas. Remember, you can use either — or both — portions of the prompt in your response and your word limit is 500.
It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.