|My body was glistening with sweat as the heavy, addictive beat of the bass rippled through my pulse and dictated my movements. My hair, cropped and layered, bounced with every step and movement I made.
The spotlight shone on me, making it hotter than dancing already made me, making it harder and harder to breath smoothly. But I didn’t care, all I wanted was to dance. Because when I did, I heard her footsteps, light and smooth, treading right alongside mine. I heard her infectious laugh, as her small feet, too small for someone her age, stepped on my toes or made her trip. But she never cried or whined, she just got right back up and continued on, as if nothing had happened.
Elysia was her name. She had wild, tawny hair the shade of the rich earth after a shower of rain, and eyes the color of cinnamon stirred into milk, filled with the essence of life; the world around her seemed so vapid and listless, as if all the energy and excitement in the air had been transmodulated into a new form and given a new home, as her eyes.
She was the miracle child. Anything she touched seemed to brighten instantly, and whatever she did earned the praise and admiration of her elders and peers alike. Nothing she did was perfect; but everything she did was wonderful in its own, flawed, beautiful way. When she danced, she stumbled and missed steps but somehow made it seem like she hadn’t made a mistake and was simply improvising; the various canvases decorating our humble abode had been pieces of her whimsy and imagination, one day adding flowers, the next covering over them with a lion. Such was her unique behavior and insanely efficient method of endearing everyone she met to her.
I used to dance with her in our garden, just practicing our moves or jumping around with each other, laughing and giggling like the silly schoolgirls we were. More often than not, she fell down due to the petite size of her feet that were unable to contribute in any way to her already horrendous balance (Although I get the feeling that she had done that to goof around with me). Even then, I just pulled her back up and we continued fooling around until Mother yelled at us for being out so late, and to get in before dinner got cold.
Despite that, I never really had much interest in formal dance or performance. All I cared about was bonding with my big sister and having fun. Though Elysia was a medal-winning ballerina and gymnast, I held no such accolades, preferring to just take the less strenuous route of casual dance.
Until an entire decade ago, when she just turned 15.
We had been returning from school, and she had been chattering excitedly about the concert she had just been invited to perform in at her ballet academy. I had nodded, smiled, and told her how proud I was that she was my sister, which made her smile her megawatt smile that charmed everyone. Everything was normal. Everything was fine.
And out of nowhere, we heard a screeching sound of rubber on tarmac. The dreadful thought of the drive-bys and kidnappings you see in the movies shoved its way roughly into my head and adrenaline spiked through my system.
Instantly, Elysia shoved me out of the way and into the nearby cafe. “Run, Therese!” she screamed. I had never seen her so terrified in my life, until I looked through the glass window of the café and saw three men climb out of the grey van that jerked to a stop right in front of the café.
My heart stopped as I saw one draw a gun.
“RUN!” Elysia screamed, almost as she had know this was coming…
In the next instant, I felt glass shards raining down on me, piercing my exposed skin and leaving bloody trails. The pricking pain was nothing compared to what I saw next, which made my veins run cold and my body freeze.
“YOU LIED TO ME!” I screamed inside my head as I made a sweeping gesture with my feet and spun around once on the spot. “Elysia, you knew it was coming that day! Why didn’t you tell me what had been going on?!” I yelled mentally at her.
“I’m sorry, Therese… You were so young, still in primary school… You didn’t need to know what went on in my school—“
“THEY KILLED YOU, ELLY! THEY HIRED PEOPLE TO SHOOT YOU DEAD!” I snapped back angrily as I threw my hands into the air and dropped down low. “You should have said something about the secret! Told someone!” I continued.
“It was my own fault I saw the gangsters in the next class trading drugs.”
“ Maybe not.” she admitted. “But I do know that you shouldn’t still be angry after all these years.”
“It’s so stupid.” I said, stomping to the beat and swiveling around slowly, using my right heel as the piviot. “You shouldn’t have been hurt for their stupidity.”
“Like you said, they were stupid, which is precisely why they hurt me.”
“Shh, the song’s ending.”
And she was right. As the song drew to a crescendo, I dropped to my knees and bowed my head low, hands on the floor beneath me. The roaring applause joined the crashing of the blood in my ears, as I panted for breath.
“Thank you, Miss Therese Sterling, for that wonderful performance…” I could hear above my thundering heartbeat.
I could almost see Elysia’s wonderful smile, clapping and laughing in joy and glee after one of my freestyle performances in the garden, so many years ago. I reached back out to her, and said: “Elysia… I finally did what you always wanted to do… Dance professionally…” I said softly.
Her apparition stood before me, glowing with ephemeral light. “No, you learnt how to forgive and move on.” She said tenderly. “This was the greatest lesson I could ever teach you.”
I shook my head. “No… teach me how to dance again, just like when we were kids.”
She smiled warmly and reached out a hand to me. “Then, my dear professional, may I have this dance?”