Everyone looks around at me when the big toenail on my right foot snaps. I grin sheepishly, though I am in a lot of pain. I don't want to seem weak. It happens to everyone, once in a while.
My dance teacher orders me to sit out. I unlace my pointe shoes and examine the damage. Oooh, nasty. There is blood all over my dance tights, staining them crimson. I try to put my shoe back on but the swelling is too large.
Embarassed, I pull at the tights to get to the injury. It is a bad one, even by pointe-shoe standards. The toenail has snapped off, so that all that is left is a millimetre or two of nail. The soft flesh underneath is exposed, although half-hidden by the blood.
Why do I do this? That's a difficult question. It's a lot of pain. It's a lot of work: hard work. So why do I carry on? Sometimes I hate it, after all. Sometimes I don't want to go to class. I would much rather go to the cinema with my friends, or stay at home and sleep. Sometimes I don't want to get up at seven on a Saturday morning for early morning training.
But I think that there is something in the fact that as I stand in the room full of mirrors I can see a little bit of my future. As though I'm destined to be a dancer. Almost as though...as though it's what I'm meant to be.
And as I wobble there, trying out new, complicated pointe shoe routines, or normal shoe dances, I see a real ballerina in that mirror. One that's taken away ordinary Kat and given me a new identity:
Katerina. Prima Ballerina.