Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ruth Long Week 3: Heart & Sole

Picture 1

Picture 2

Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Heart & Sole

Two years. That’s what the doctor gave him.

He spends the first year on her and its final hours are bittersweet. As he chats with a group of company benefactors, he watches her flitting through the elite crowds, a cluster of besotted paparazzi and journalists dancing in her wake.

He tunes out the conversations of finance and technique and prospects, and rehearses, again, the tidy speech that succinctly outlines his agenda for his second year. It’s become his mantra during these last weeks, something to keep him on his toes when his strength flagged.

His eyes turn to her again, the graceful figure swathed in satin and tulle, so svelte she appears waifish and childlike, but he knows differently. She is composed of curves, subtle and sinful and straight lines, long and lovely.

He’s restless and though the champagne is tempting, he grabs a bottle of water and heads for the courtyard. It’s cool out under the canopy of stars, cooler still when he toes off his shoes and socks, and the granite welcomes the pads of his feet.

Her voice behind him does not surprise him. “You’re missing our photo op.”

Without turning, he says, “They aren’t ours anymore, kitten. It’s all yours now.”

Her skirts swish as she moves closer, each purposeful step echoing through the granite tiles and up into his bones. “Ours. We just spent a year making sure of that.”

Time now for that speech but when he turns to face her, the sentences become ashes on his tongue. “Katarina, the company has terminated our partnership. Tonight was our final performance. Tomorrow, they’ll be handing you over to Arkadi and I’ll be moving out to the warehouse.”

She stamps a tiny foot. “Ridiculous. The Russian isn’t half as strong as you. He dropped me twice when he was filling in for you during rehearsals.”

“He’s young, Rina. He’ll improve. You’ll be able to mold him into a wonderful performer.”

“Bah! I’ll have no part in it. He’s not like us. Besides, the company doesn’t own me. Not yet. So it can hardly tell me what to do or who to do it with.”

He stares at her, brow furrowed. “You don’t dance for them without a contract. That’s rule number one.”

She smiles. “Sure, if you’re one of those uptight Barbie doll types. But I came off the street and they weren’t too sure I was going to be able to hang with them, so I negotiated a very open-ended agreement. For example, I said I wouldn’t consent to train or dance with anyone but you, Noah.”

“What?!” He loses his balance and stumbles against the stone balustrade.

“The day we met at the youth center, you didn’t treat me like a misfit and when we danced, your heart was in your feet. So when they brought me here and we started discussing my options, my first stipulation was that I wouldn’t work with anyone but you.”

He yanks off the bow tie and shrugs out of his tux jacket. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?! Do you know what I’ve been through?! Augustin and Barclay terminated me two days before you arrived. I had already been removed from the facility.”

She moves in close, eyes fastened on him. “Terminated?! Those bastards!”

“Yes, but forty-eight hours later, I got an urgent memo from Barclay saying that I could have my position back for two years if I agreed to train you for the first year, and they sweetened the deal by promising that I could choreograph the second year, which they’d been refusing to let me do.”

She unties the long satin laces of her pink toe shoes and tosses them into the garden below. “That is what the company can do with their contracts. I won’t take another step for them. We can start our own company, Noah! Think of it! We can open it to dancers of all - - ”

“No!”His voice is harsh and loud. “I don’t have enough time left to build a company. I have this one chance to choreograph a ballet.”

“Time? Enough time?! What are you saying?”

“I had two years, Rina. Two. And I spent the first training you. This coming year is my last chance to make something of myself. So, we can’t build a company together because in another year my feet will be shot. After that, I won’t be able to -” He doesn’t finish the sentence.

Direct as always, Katarina says, “Then don’t waste that year on the company, Noah. Just because Barclay said he’d let you choreograph, doesn’t mean he’ll let you produce it.”

His laughter surprises them both. “In all my scheduling and planning, I forgot to factor in Barclay’s penchant for deceit. So, if you mean it, Rina, I’ll dance for you and for our company, until I can’t -”

She kisses him. “Don’t say it out loud, Noah. We’ll face it when it happens, together. But until then, we’re going to scuff up as many toe shoes and stages as we can!”

Two years. That’s what the doctor gave him.

Two feet. That’s what nature gave him.

Two loves. That’s what she gave him. Heart and sole.


A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink. #DailyPicspiration


  1. This is really good. I think your having to recreate your story on the run gave it a certain frenetic quality that works with the nature of the action, with the idea of a clock winding down. And you tug the heart strings just the right amount.

  2. Thank you so much, Jeff, for your kind comments and for all your support this week (and always)!

    Losing the original of this story when my travel drive crashed on Thursday was devastating.

    Two things saved me.

    1) Knowing that I had already decided to rewrite the story and change the POV.

    2) The support of my twitter writing community!!

  3. I don't know if this was intentional but I started out believing the guy was going to die...then finding out that the two years was about the company...and THEN finding out that there WAS a physical issue, at least for a ballet dancer that was limiting his time to do what he loves. That was just a brilliant set of subtle twists in a VERY short amount of words. Well done madam...well done.

  4. Thank you, Bliss! And yes, twisting the two years throughout the story was intentional. Death is different for everyone (says the mortuary employee!!) and when I saw the photo of feet as my prompt, I knew what I was going to write. The death of a dream, of a career, of an entire way of life. But I gave him a bit of hope in the form of an angel in toe shoes! :)

  5. How beautiful. His pain was so clear, and I too thought that perhaps he was dying. However, when the story progressed and read that he is a dancer, or was a dancer, the truth is revealed.

    1. I know you and Kim probably chuckled that I chose the feet over the beautiful face, but those darn toes spoke to me! Glad you enjoyed the read!!

  6. Yes, your twists worked perfectly to make us question and learn more. Many of us have experienced the loss of a dream and our lost dream's importance to us is pivotal in your story! A story about loss, but also incorporating hope right at the end...

    1. Yeah, I can torture a character mercilessly but only if I know I'm going to reward him at the end!! Darn soft heart!! :)

  7. Your words are pure magic. LOVELY. I love what you came up with for that prompt. Well done. I thought he was dying, I enjoyed the twist much better. :)

    1. Thank you! The photo of those feet channeled my inner dancer and the story seemed to write itself!! So happy you enjoyed it!! :)

  8. I'm late to the party, Ruth, but what a party! This was exquisite. I loved the twists and turns and the emotions. Best of all, I felt like I was there. Awesome.

    Sorry to hear you lost the first version of this--I've come close to throwing up when I lose any written words. It's devastating! Just a little trick I do sometimes if I'm not at my main computer is to email myself the doc. That way if something goes off kilter, I at least have a backup.


  9. Like Sarah, I'm late. Luckily, good words never get old. And I don't know what the first version of this looked like, but this version is touching. From the very beginning, you handled this with such a deft and delicate hand. I felt like the rhythm of this was like a ballet. The title is such a perfect fit. My favorite part was her insistence and his inability to resist it. And their disrobing as they spoke.

    I'm so glad you got past the total ick of losing work. It was worth it.