A few days later I had to stay a bit late at the theatre, getting my part down right. I’d been heading to the dressing rooms when I heard the sound of vomiting.
It was coming from the bathrooms. I opened the door a sliver and could see Vera’s red hair hunched over the sink.
I wasn’t sure what to do, for a moment. She hated me, I almost hated her back. I’d be intruding...
I made up my resolve and went in, walking up to her and holding her hair back for her.
She coughed the rest of her stomach’s contents out and splashed water on her face, talking to me without looking at me.
“You can leave. No need to play the angel, it’s only the two of us here.”
“Are you okay?” I asked, watching as the water gushed out of the tap.
“Yeah. I ate a bad hotdog. Now leave me alone.”
I caught sight of the pencil on the counter and felt my stomach twist.
“You made yourself throw up, didn’t you?” I asked quietly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
Vera took the pencil and threw it in the trashcan beside her, narrowing her eyes.
“It’s none of your business.”
“I don’t get it.” I said slowly, “You’re...pretty.”
“That’s easy for you to say, isn’t it?” she yelled, before touching her forehead and leaning against the sink for support.
Her features contorted in anguish and I watched, speechless, as she broke down and cried.
“You know what it’s like?” she sobbed, “Knowing that you’re going to be replaced eventually, and then watching as younger and thinner girls get into the Ballet? Watching and waiting for the day you’re going to...going to lose everything you’ve worked for! Lose another ten pounds, get another nose job, pay one executive off, sleep with another.”
I felt myself gaping, a sickening feeling spreading inside of me.
“It never ends!” she continued, “I’m never good enough, never pretty enough! There’s always a thousand other ballerinas waiting to take my place!”
Vera pulled a flask out of her bag and drained about half of it before I came to my senses and pulled it away from her.
“You have to stop.” I said firmly, even though my voice was shaking, “You can’t go hurting yourself. It’s not worth it.”
“I can’t!” she replied, “Once you get into my world, there’s no going back! You’re an outsider, you wouldn’t know. It’s a power struggle, and to give up my position would ruin me!”
She took the flask back and finished it, wiping her mouth off.
“Eventually you’ll understand.” She said with sobriety, “You’ll see. You reach a point where the money doesn’t matter anymore. Where it would be better to die than to let someone else take your place.”
Vera studied me and shook her head disapprovingly.
“You should leave the Ballet. You don’t know what you’ve signed up for.”
“I can’t.” I replied, my mouth dry, “I’m not exactly rich.”
“You’ve caught Raphael’s eye.” She said dryly, “That doesn’t happen very often. Just don’t fuck it up and you’ll have enough money to swim in for the rest of your life.”
“But...you and him?”
“I dated him maybe a week.” Vera chuckled, “And it was because of a bet. I was hoping he would be good in bed, but...”
“He wouldn’t sleep with me.” She sighed, “And believe me, that doesn’t happen very often. I tried everything.”
I blinked in surprise. That was a twist I hadn’t seen coming.
Vera wiped at her face and set about reapplying her makeup, gesturing for me to leave.
“I know. Don’t you have somewhere to be, Katnernina?”
She didn’t seem to be in any immediate trouble so I left, my mind reeling. The world was a strange one.