- 9 -

     “5, 6, 7, 8” Chloe called out over the music.  Her neon green fingertips clapped out the rhythm as if we needed her assistance in recognizing it.  Although doing well in rehearsals was extremely pertinent to my future I couldn’t seem to shake my indifference towards dancing. 

     I really enjoyed dancing.  The exertion, the adrenaline, the thrill of performing was all immensely gratifying.  Having an egotistical task master disguised by a trendy choppy haircut and seemingly sweet petite face clap you into submission didn’t factor into dancing’s appeal.  I often think about why I joined the Dark Dancer’s in the first place or if it had been my decision at all. 

     Many girls joined erotic dance companies because they had few other options.  Young dancers were often runaways or simply children finding a quick route to emancipation.  I had seen mothers escort their daughters to auditions and recruiting offices thinking the company was an opportunity for a better life.

     Dancing was a better option than many others out there.  In a company we had a degree of protection, we had food and shelter.  There wasn’t much else that could have provided all those things for an underage and underprivileged girl.

     During rehearsal I wasn’t thinking about why I had joined the company though.  Aside from vaguely irritated thoughts towards Chloe I wasn’t thinking much about the company at all.  My thoughts were filled with images of Daniel.  I only had a few. 

     Having seen his full form in the photograph from Hong Kong I was able to reconstruct his face into my memory.  His strong arm held me back protectively.  His thin lips displayed an amiable smile that pronounced the roundness of his cheeks, a strong jaw line.  Those dark eyes like pools of ink when you stared into them.

     I mused at the nature of our relationship.  We must have been more than acquaintances.  Had we been more than friends?   The way he held my hand, a part of me hoped so.  I wondered how long we had known each other.  How we had departed.  The girlish amorous vestiges of my emotion tenderly wished that we had kissed.

     After finding the picture on the internet I had realized that it along with other photo’s from the trip to Hong Kong would likely be stored on the company computer.  The ancient machine served little purpose aside from being a giant photo album for the company members. 

     It had taken a lot of searching and patience waiting for each file folder to load but I had found the one containing images from the trip.  Random photos of crowded streets and shopping malls were interspersed with performance shots of girls in glittering costumes.  There were quite a few backstage scenes.  Girls applying makeup, girls practicing routines or squeezing each other in excited exhibitions of friendship with large lipsticked smiles could be seen.

     There were a few of the chorus all seated around the table on a restaurant patio.  I found myself in a few.  There were even a few that I had found Daniel in.  Never far away if not holding my hand.  If we had been so close then something must have happened to tear us apart.  Perhaps that was as simple as the company leaving the country.  It was possible that he we had parted on less than affable terms.

     It didn’t really matter what the circumstances were I realized.  If I was in danger on account of seeing that crime than he undoubtedly was too.  If Vera was after me I had no way of knowing that she hadn’t already found Daniel.  He could be next.  My life wasn’t really worth fighting for but his was.  I didn’t even now his last name but I was going to help him if I could.

     Finding him and solving this mystery would be a lot easier if I had a date to go off of; the year that the incident had occurred, days that I knew Daniel had been in Hong Kong with the company.  Luckily whoever uploaded the Hong Kong pictures onto the company computer was an organized individual.  The folder that contained the images was labeled with the location and year of the trip. 

     It had been three years ago.  A lot could have changed since then but information regarding three years ago would certainly be easier to find than from six.  There was an element of excitement to conducting my own personal investigation.  There was an increased blood flow and rapidity of forming thoughts that I had only ever previously experienced after performing.

     “You little S***!” A shout brought my attention back to the rehearsal.  The girls of the chorus were no longer dancing.  The music was no longer playing.  Some forms slouched and others had taken a more defensive pose.  They were protecting themselves in case the attack would be turned towards them later.

     I stood in the middle of the floor open to the coming assault.  My thoughts had led me to be unprepared.  Stunned I made no effort to deflect the barrage of abuses.  I hurled no excuses in defense of my behavior.  I hadn’t been paying attention I deserved to be punished.  “If you don’t want to be here than get out of my rehearsal!” Chloe yelled accosting me.  “I’m beginning to think that you really are just stupid.  If you’re not good enough to get the routine then the least you could do is pay attention.”

     I didn’t answer the assistant choreographer.  I nodded my head in agreement with downcast eyes.  I tried to keep my thoughts from wandering through the rest of rehearsal.  I begged my brain to remember the movements.  After so many mistakes all I could really do was try not to care that everyone was glancing at me disdainfully.  I endeavored to ignore the raised eyebrow and malicious smile that Chloe assumed when she looked in my direction.

     When we were dismissed from the practice Chloe beckoned me to stay with one of her long poison panted fingers.  Silently I told myself that if I had had more strength of character I would simply quit the company.  If I had somewhere else to go I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.

     The raised eyebrow flattened its shape somewhat as I approached her.    Her gaze held more than annoyance, her smile hinted that she was going to enjoy what she was about to say.  “I’ve spoken with Delaney” The assistant invoked the head choreographer’s name as if it imbued her with some sort of supreme power.  I didn’t know what I had done to make Chloe hate me so much. 

     “You’ve been really messing up in practice.  Honestly we’re afraid to let you onto the stage for this weekend’s performance.  But we can’t suspend you; it will ruin all our formations.  You have until the performance to prove to us that you deserve to be here and if we don’t like what we see up on that stage then you’re out of here.  Okay sweetie?” She didn’t wait for my agreement but turned and walked towards the complex leaving me with an ultimatum that I had little room to worry about.

The End

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