I drummed my fingers against the crisp white surface of the table top. I knew I should have been nervous but I felt nothing but boredom. Mona had notified me of the meeting earlier. Her kind face tinted with the tone of concern. I should have been expecting this. If I had been more cognoscente; my mind not always drifting. I would have been prepared.
My naked knee banged against the cold metal support of the chair an unconscious effort to entertain myself. Later I would find a small greenish bruise forming on top of the bone. Loraine wanted to talk with me. Despite my issues at rehearsal the only reason’s I could think of why aside from the strange man and woman who had crossed my path over the last few days.
The rhythm with which my knee hit the chair increased speed. Mona poked her head through the door. A slim rectangle of light entered the room with her broad face. She seemed to have taken an interest in me. Her official duties within the company must have been regarding new recruits. I had seen her giving Sue a new set of clothes and showing her to her room the other week. A thick arm across the girls shoulders as she listed off the pertinent company policies from memory.
I wondered if she had done that for me whenever my first day was here. “The directors will be here in a minute.” She informed with a reassuring smile. Then a duck of her graying ponytail and she was gone.
Being called into a meeting with the directors normally meant one of two things. You were being promoted or you were in a lot of trouble. The situation with the menacing woman and suspicious man could potentially put me into a different category. Or it could put me in a heap of trouble. I certainly wasn’t getting a promotion. Not with the trouble I’d been having learning new routines and stage directions.
With this realization I quickly thought of how to defend myself. If the directors were going to blame me for getting involved with those people I could simply explain I had no idea what was going on. Maybe they wouldn’t believe me but they couldn’t punish me for it. I wasn’t involved in any of it. Not willingly.
I heard the door open wide this time as three women walked in. The chatter of girls in the common room drifted in before being stifled by the door firmly shutting. The women walked the short distance from the door to the table and sat down opposite me. Manicured nails rested on the table.
Delany, the choreographer sat on the right and Chloe the assistant to the left. Lorraine sat in the middle back straight and whitened teeth smiling all underneath freshly dyed hair. I gave a small friendly smile to Delany. I had worked with her every day the last week; we were nothing if not familiar. Yet she did not return the kind gesture. Her mouth straightened into a stern line amidst her faux tanned face.
I instead looked to Chloe. She was a dancer like me who had worked her way up the ranks to become an assistant director. She showed no sign of solidarity either. A jagged short hair cut poked out at me as she examined the state of her neon green fingernails. It seemed I would be blamed for the recent incidents after all.
I moved my gaze to Lorraine. She was the director of the company. Everyone took orders from her. Every performance schedule and costume design was decided or approved by this thirty-something year old woman in front of me. Sighting her in the past she always had a smile on. She was kind in her interactions with the performers. Yet there was something incredibly insincere about the woman.
She spread her long pink nailed hands over the white surface between us and took a short inhalation of breath before beginning the dialogue. “Delany here tells me that you have been having trouble at rehearsal. Why is that?” Her voice smooth and sticky melted over me and glued me to my seat, knees pressing against the chair legs.
I hadn’t thought of this scenario. I hadn’t been prepared to answer that question. “I know, I’m sorry” I faltered I had no real excuse to provide. “We don’t ask for much you know. We provide you with housing and food with no other expenses. All we ask for is that you do your job. You show up to rehearsals and performances and you do your best. Have you not been practicing? Are the new routines difficult for you?” She continued.
“No” I protested. “I have been practicing it’s just, I don’t know, the new material, I have trouble remembering. My head remembers, I could write it down for you but my muscles just want to keep doing the same old thing.” “I see” Lorraine didn’t seem convinced.
“I’ve given you chances” chimed in Delany brushing a strand of fair hair behind her left ear. “It doesn’t seem like you are putting in enough effort to prove to us that you deserve to stay here.” I looked from Delany to Lorraine and Chloe and then back again before resting my eyes on my lap. I should have been afraid because I knew what Lorraine would be saying next.
Logically the fear registered but emotionally I remained unaffected. “I know that when you’ve been doing something for a long time you can get burned out. I also understand that when you’ve been performing a routine for a long time a certain way changes can take longer to sink in. However if you’re putting in the effort and trying a little harder than usual this shouldn’t be an issue. You’re a good dancer I’ve seen you perform and you’ve been with the company for a while now. I would hate to lose you. But if you don’t shape up and begin performing up to standards you know what we’ll have to do.” She explained.
I knew exactly what she’d have to do. I would be kicked out of the company. I would be completely on my own with no family or support and no real marketable skills. The reality of the situation began to actuate as I was asked to leave the room. I formulated the game plan in my mind walking up all four flights of stairs to my floor.
I would spend every free hour rehearsing. I would train my muscles to remember the changes. I would write them down. I would practice. But that’s what I had been doing and it wasn’t enough. I had been distracted by the strange goings on. Yet that wasn’t a viable excuse.
Maybe there was something wrong with me or maybe I really just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I couldn’t get better then I would be kicked out and I would have to face that reality. That’s just the way it was going to be. Still I knew that even if I could handle being out on my own I didn’t want to be. I needed to remember.
Reaching my room I closed the door. Another flower, a blue one, floated down to the floor dislodged by the reverberation of the door slamming. I scooped it up and put it into the top drawer of my closet hidden dresser. All my meager personal affects rested there. The flower rested next to the photograph of past me, young and chubby with too short of hair. My smile looked back at me challengingly. The man and boys with me must have been my family, although I couldn’t remember them either.