Aches And Pains

Charlie had known that the intensive two hours would catch up with her in the morning, and she also knew that it would make it hard to get up and go to her orchestra. But she never expected not even to be able to walk without her mother's supporting, if slightly disapproving, arm, and the strength of the wooden railing along the stairs.

"You can't sustain this if it's going to make you like this," her mother warned. "I'm not having you limping all week." Charlie just smiled, and rubbed her muscles. When she returned home last night the first thing she had done was take a long bath, rubbing healing oils into her legs. The second was to have a snack and go to bed. Well, after a few arguments ... but they didn't last; they were just ordinary Friday night squabbles, and it was a weekly occurrence.

At orchestra, when she eventually arrived, people noticed the new rings under her eyes and the lack of excitement with which she played her violin; they noticed her pallor and the way she walked with difficulty, and asked about it. "Are you okay? You look a little worn out."

"I've never been better," she would reply, because that was how she felt. "Never felt better." They didn't understand, because with blisters that made wearing even flip flops unbearable, how could she be feeling good? Only Charlie felt the music still humming through her body and the way the dancing was holding her in its grasp.

Time passed too quickly: her mind was still far away with the fairies, and she didn't know what she could do that would help her concentration. Still, it stopped her getting bored that morning, and when she arrived home for lunch it was with flushed cheeks and bright eyes, like stars. "I'm hungry," she announced, sitting down at the table where her parents were already gathered. "Can I have some of this bread?"

"Sure, go ahead..." They were wary. She wasn't her normal, quiet, hardworking self. That dancing had opened up something inside her.

During the afternoon she tried to work on her homework, with her feet tapping under the table and loud accordion music blasting from her speakers on the desk. At one point her brother lodged a complaint. Her parents, too, said that she couldn't possibly concentrate with that 'noise' going on.

And then the evening came, and it was time for training. She grabbed her bike, her dance clothes and shoes stuffed hurriedly into a bag, and raced down the road, making it to the traffic lights in record time. From there she was zooming towards the roundabout, the shortcut she always took, the hill where she got off and walked -- only this time she didn't, because that would take too long, and she wanted to dance. This power in her legs meant she arrived almost twenty minutes early, and the studio was deserted.

When Ben arrived carrying the laptop and the speakers, he was surprised to hear the rhythmic thumpings of a hornpipe coming from the studio. Peering through the glass in the window, he saw Charlie -- the door must have been unlocked, or she couldn't have got in -- running through her dances, stopping, going over the steps again and again and again. The dedication and determination on her face was humbling.

"I wish they all worked like that," he said to his brother, pointing at her. He agreed, and they went in to set up. Immediately, she stopped dancing and looked at them, suddenly embarrassed. "Don't stop!" said her teachers. "We were enjoying watching you."

But Charlie left the room, took off her shoes and started to massage her feet, for the moment she stopped dancing the pains came back.

The End

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