by Elodie Nowodazkij
Publication date: June 26th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
When seventeen-year-old Natalya’s dreams of being a ballerina are killed in a car accident along with her father, she must choose: shut down—like her mother—or open up to love.
Last year, Natalya was attending the School of Performing Arts in New York City. Last year, she was well on her way to becoming a professional ballerina. Last year, her father was still alive.
But a car crash changed all that—and Natalya can’t stop blaming herself. Now, she goes to a regular high school in New Jersey; lives with her onetime prima ballerina, now alcoholic mother; and has no hope of a dance career.
At her new school, however, sexy soccer player Antonio sees a brighter future for Natalya, or at least a more pleasant present, and his patient charms eventually draw her out of her shell.
But when upsetting secrets come to light and Tonio’s own problems draw her in, Natalya shuts down again, this time turning to alcohol herself.
Can Natalya learn to trust Antonio before she loses him—and destroys herself?
The shortcut to the lake from our home is a dirt road that isn’t well lit, but I know the way by heart. I hurry down the path, tuning my iPod to Chopin’s happier music. But I can’t drown out Mama’s voice. It resonates in my head. It’s my fault! I know she’s wrong because she’s not the one who killed him. I did. If only I didn’t get into an argument with him in the car. If only I had warned him about the truck. I bite back a sob and rip off my knee brace to walk even faster. At first, my knee is stiff, but at least I can extend my leg much better now.
Seeing the lake calms me down, soothes me. This place is always crowded in the summer, but on this crisp September night, there’s no one. The lights surrounding the area flicker, the tall trees leave interesting shadows on the ground, and a discarded pink umbrella stands next to the bench by the grilling area. I turn up the volume of my iPod even more, settle on the bench, and search through my backpack. My pointes show the wear and tear of the last years, and no matter how much I scrub, there’s one smudge that doesn’t want to go away.
Memories flash back when I slip them on: my father handing me a bouquet of lilies after each of my recitals, the crew from the School of Performing Arts sneaking out to get ice cream, the summers I spent on the raft at the lake with Becca and my babushka, the hours at the barre.
Dancing’s always been my escape from reality: from the fights my parents had more and more often, from my babushka passing away all alone at the hospital because no one told me she was sick, from my fears of letting anyone get really close.
Dancing’s always been my future.
Dancing’s always been who I am. So even if I can’t dance like I used to, even if I can’t put too much pressure on my knee, I’m convinced I’ll train my way back to the top, that I’ll show Dr. Gibson and the rest of them that they got it wrong, when they said it was very unlikely I would ever go back on stage. Juilliard postponed my audition and the director of the School of Performing Arts said he was holding a spot for me if I wanted to come back. If I could come back.
I use the bench as my own personal barre, slowly bend my knees, keeping them over my toes. Grounding my heels on the ground, I stretch down as much as I can, but I don’t make it past a demi-plié. I warm up for ten minutes, losing myself in the familiar movements. The stars reflect on the water; it could be the perfect backdrop for a production of Swan Lake. I wish I could position myself for a grand jeté, feel the wind surround me as I fly into the air, but I know better than to jeopardize the progress I’ve made. The last time I tried, my kneecap almost snapped again. Both my knees were smashed in the car crash, but my pivot leg suffered the most.
I angle my feet for some small pas de bourrée. I go faster and faster, until I bump into a rock. Fear steals my breath away. I avoid landing on my leg and instead fall on my ass.
Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she’d never lose her French accent. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Language & Linguistics, and later earned master’s degrees in German Cultural Studies and European Studies. Unbeknownst to her professors, she sometimes drafted stories in class. Now she lives in Germany with her husband and their cat (who doesn’t seem to realize he’s not human), and uses her commuting time to write the stories swirling in her head. She’s also a serial smiley user.