A special gift

Paint

They stand on the sidewalk in a patch lit by the afternoon sun. The sky is harsh blue. The mother digs into her torn cotton bag and pulls out a  bag of raisins with a hint of nuts. The six years old daughter Pearl takes a small handful of raisins and glances sideways to the posters of ballet dancers. In their city Ballet dancers are celebrities. Their faces gaze out from bus stops and from billboards next to diamonds. Their limpid eyes meet the barren concrete. Pearl turns to her mother. “ Mom, do you think I can learn ballet?” Her mother seals the left over raisins in the plastic bag for the evening snack,adjusts the chipped sun-glass on her small nose . Her forehead pinches together.Then she smiles. “ Sure, you can. I will ask around to find a school. Do not you worry.” Her mother does not want to discuss too much on that topic. The important word is Survival. She takes out the faded straw hat from her own head and adjusts it on her daughter’s small head. “ It is too hot, this hat will protect your head.”  The bus arrives.

Ballet is a big thing in this city .Throughout the bus ride Pearl could hear the impassioned discussions about which dancer’s Swan Lake is  most powerful or whose jumps achieve the greatest poll. The ballet dancer’s names spring from grown-up’s lips in excited whispers. Pearl leans against the seat with a big smile and closes her eyes.

Her mother never complained. She worked in two different jobs to color her daughter’s dream.

One early morning in August, Pearl pulls on a cotton dress and gets ready for her first audition. The hallways are packed with girls in leotards and tights, Mother’s stiff-backed sitting on long wooden benches. Each girl wears a number pinned to her leotard. One mother with a grey vest, striped grey pant, small heels leans towards Pearl. “ Do you know that I have to drive one and half hour to reach here? If my daughter gets in, we have to move closer to the school. She needs a chaperone. I mean her mother, right?” Her red lips part in a smile. For a moment Pearl wishes that this woman is her mother. Her motherly love overflows.

“ Where is your mother?” She asks adjusting her necklace on her white neck.

A small airless silence. “ She is not here. If you will excuse me, I hear my number.” Pearl gets up from the seat and walks into the room across the hall.

One evening after school Pearl sits on a chair, dangles her feet, listening to Don Giovanni. She braces herself against the thundering orchestra and the thrills and vibrato of expelled emotions. Then she could not stop herself. She starts slowly, just her head side to side, swaying her hands back and forth. The music grows and so do her swaying arms. She lifts herself up as if floating. She crosses the small floor in quick footwork. As the music slows down the front door opens in a soft click. Her  mother returns. She looks exhausted.Pearl runs to the kitchen to bring a glass of water in a small cup for her mom. “ How was your day mom?” She asks as her mother takes the cup from her hand sitting down heavily on a chair.

“ Excellent! Have you finished all the homework?” Pearl shakes her head leaning towards her mother. Her mother looks around and clears her throat. “ I am hoping that in a year I will have enough money to send you to a Ballet school. Also I will inquire for a scholarship which will be a great help.” She takes another sip from the cold water and rolls the cup between her palms. “ Future is like a cup board full of lights and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door. Then it is all yours.” She smiles her shiny penny smile. Pearl has faith on her mother.

Even if they are poor, they laugh, play games, read together in spare times. Each day they could help to be lucky, the hope is their only joy.

On a clear sunny day the letter arrives to Pearl’s mailbox. An invitation for the Ballet audition.

Pearl shows the twists, turns, jumps, two allegro parts.The lady instructor smiles. “ I like your neat and fast footwork, your graceful moves. Congratulations and welcome to the school of Ballet.” She hands a paper to her. Ask your parents to give us a call. Pearl leaves the building.

Tonight Pearl could not sleep. She lays back with her eyes closed. A few soft tears escape from beneath her eyelids. Pearl wants to share her happiness, her achievement with her best friend, her mother. Exactly six months back her mother died of heart attack.She rushed to the emergency but the doctor could not save her mother.Pearl dreams that she could fly. She has sprouted strong  white wings on her shoulder blades and flying high in the air with her mother on her side. They soar high up in the blue sky wheeling through the air, gliding and turning.Their giggle and laugh fill the endless sky.

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