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The Legend of L'EspritDance Legacy Series
By Doris Greenberg Pandré Shandley
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Doris Greenberg and Pandré Shandley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRiverfield, Wisconsin
Buried beneath the covers, I shiver when a floorboard creaks in the dark. The whistling wind howls, and branches like an evil witch's long black fingernails, scratch at the window. Barney's deep rumbling growl churns my stomach, and I struggle to keep my wild imagination in check. When I dare to peek, only innocent moonlight dances across my bedroom wall casting the eerie, black shadows that harmlessly stalk us. I squint as they slowly morph into menacing shapes. Maybe Barney watches them, too. Stroking his thick fury coat—more for my reassurance than his—I wonder why after fifteen years of mostly sweet dreams, these awful visions suddenly invade my sleep.
Dad's endless snore drones from the end of the hallway while I review choreography in my mind; a trick that's always worked before on the occasional restless night. The neon green glow of my digital clock taunts 3:33 a.m. Tossing and turning with each passing minute, Porté (pawr-TAY) Carried. This ballet movement travels a dancer's step in the air from one spot to another. I wrestle with my bed-hogging dog. Eventually, I give in to the heaviness of my eyelids, strangely lulled by the scent of lilacs that gently wafts into my room. Like a dancer's porté, my dream carries me to the one place I am most desperate to avoid.
... I drift into a brightly lit room where an unfamiliar teenage girl dances weightlessly with a hazy feminine figure. Mesmerized by the duet, I long to join them but unseen and uninvited, I cannot. The girl reflects joyously in a sparkling mirror that flows like a silvery waterfall, yet her partner's image remains wispy and blurred. A piano's lingering melody accompanies the pair as they perform an unearthly pas de deux. When the ghostly ballerina releases her grasp of the young dancer, it turns to notice me. With an outstretched arm and a slow roll of her skeletal fingers, she beckons. Trembling, I step forward. Her face instantly distorts and solidifies into rock. In one gravity-defying leap, the apparition performs the perfect, seamless grand jeté and disappears. The abandoned girl moves to follow but instead sinks into the darkness of a bottomless pit, her bloodcurdling screams echo cruelly in my head. In the grayness of fog, my world spins. I see the young dancer again. This time, she lies deathly ill on a sterile hospital bed surrounded by grieving mourners; the painful scene is crushingly sad.
I want to cry with the onlookers but the encircling haze pulls me against my will along a peculiar corridor of an old turn of the century building. A chandelier dancing with the soft glow of a thousand crystals briefly illuminates a magnificent foyer. Through the dreary mist, a winding staircase and trickling fountain fade in and out of view. Two ornately framed portraits of women glide mysteriously in the ominous cloud. In one, the face at first beautiful and serene, horrifically melts like dripping wax before it erupts into a searing ball of flames. In the other, a woman stands rigidly. Her eyes reflect an underlying wickedness as she reaches beyond the canvas for a heart-shaped locket that hypnotically floats towards me. She snatches the necklace and clutches it to her chest scowling as though I were a thief in the night. Within seconds, her face ages grotesquely like a decaying corpse. I cringe at the morbid scene and breathe in sharply. Out of thin air, the dancing ghost reappears. She resembles a weathered statue with cold marbled eyes that lack comfort. If only I could wake up right now, but I've been here before and know the worst is yet to come.
A screeching iron gate imprisons me, and I beg for this ride to end. From above and below, scalding flames attack. A disturbing voice whispers, "Li ... bee." I kick and claw, frantic to escape. Without warning, I drop in a sickening "tower of terror" plunge. The disembodied voice whose very breath now brushes the back of my neck again whispers my name. From beyond the shadows, the chilling voice declares, "She deserves to die."
Chapter TwoMy flailing arms bat away the unknown hands that grab and shake me.
"Libby, Libby! Wake up! You're having another nightmare."
Dad rips the bedcovers from my head. My eyes fly open, darting wildly until they land on my mother's concerned face. She presses me tightly against her. "Will, her heart is racing. She's drenched in sweat again." When dad opens my window, I suck in the cool air in huge gulps, thankful to be alive. Can a person die of fright? God, I hope not.
"Honey, it's over now, you're okay!" mom says looking directly into my eyes. Barney slathers me with warm golden retriever kisses, and dad's promises steady the pounding in my chest. Their faces crumble when I describe the dream in vivid detail. I deliberately leave out the part about someone deserving to die. Some things are just too upsetting to share, especially with my overprotective parents.
After they hug me a dozen times more, mom fully opens the bedroom blinds. Morning light floods my nearly empty room but does not dispel the weight of the dream. I worry that the nightmare's emotional residue will stay with me for hours if not days.
"Libby, I'm sorry," dad says. "I know you're having problems sleeping. This move to Chicago has seriously rattled you. The Tribune's offer to syndicate my column came out of the blue. We realize it's tough. None of us have had time to adjust, but we will."
"I hate this Dad! I feel like my whole world is being turned upside down. I don't want to move right now! I know you can't pass up this chance, but every night my dreams get worse. Nothing makes sense anymore. Why does this keep happening?"
"Change is always difficult, Libby, but everything's gonna be okay," mother soothes. "You'll see. These nightmares will stop soon, won't they Will?"
"Your mom's right, Libz. Give it time."
"I'm trying. I promise I am! I just never thought I'd have to leave Riverfield until I was older, much older! I told you before that I'm not ready!" My nerves a jangled mess, I bury my face in my pillow and cry.
"A big change like this is never easy," mom says, "but we can either focus on the ending as impossibly sad and scary like your dream, or we can look forward to the excitement of a new beginning."
She might mean well but I wish she'd stop lecturing me as she wipes the long dark tousled hair from my tear-filled eyes. "We understand; this is the only home you've ever known, Libby."
"Really? I don't think you guys understand anything! Haven't you been listening? I'm not going!"
"Calm down, Libby! We've had this argument too many times before and we can't turn back now," dad says.
I want to tell them to leave without me, but deep down, I know he's right. Our house is already sold and there's nothing I can do about it.
"It's always hard to say goodbye to the people and places we love. Your friends won't forget you, Libby." Mom hugs me close, and I sense she's struggling, too. I want to stay mad at her, but I know can't.
"Your mother and I brought you here the day you were born. We have so many happy memories. Right, Kate?"
"Yeah, like the day we brought this fella home," mom says rubbing Barney's ears.
Dad kneels next to my bed. "Don't you remember? He was such an adorable puppy. Mom and I thought you'd wind up killing him when you refused to let us take him from your arms. You carried him everywhere for weeks, and we swear he was bigger than you."
"And honey, remember the dance parties and talent shows you and your friends held in the backyard for the neighbors and grandma and grandpa? Those are the things our family will always hold dear, no matter where we live."
Like the wave a magic wand, dad reaches for my favorite dance book from an open box and places it in my hands. "Don't forget, Libz, we never leave love behind." My parents offer each other a consoling hug, and although I'm not thrilled to be going, at least I don't feel alone anymore. "Letting go is hard for us, too," dad admits.
"We have some time before the movers get here, Libby. Rest a while longer, but then we should finish packing your room." Mom softly closes the door—her trail of sentimental tears not hidden in time.
For weeks I've been bouncing around like an over inflated beach ball, one day flying high and the next crashing hard on the ground. Today, finally, the agonizing wait is over. No tantrums can change the inevitable, and God knows I've had plenty. My only choice is to tough it out and hope for the best. When this emotional seesaw is on the upswing, I have to confess that living near Chicago will get me one step closer to my dream. Everyone in my hometown of Riverfield knows I plan to audition for a professional dance company when I'm old enough. Even our neighbors gush, "Hey Miss Leggy Libby, you're destined for bigger and brighter places. We know you'll be a star someday. There's probably one dancing around the moon with your name on it right now."
When dance master, Bill West, saw me perform last summer and invited me to assist and tour with his national organization, I was convinced they might be right. I wanted to do it, but my parents said I was too young and because of grandpa's poor health, the timing wasn't good.
Reality hits hard this morning. Right now I'm scared. I've always been a big fish dancing in a small pond at Miss Dana's School of Dance. In the city, I'll be a minnow swallowed by sharks. Goodbye spotlight, hello back row. I can't even think about starting sophomore year at a different high school or finding my way through a new maze of hallways. What if everybody hates me? And worse yet, what if I never find another studio to love? My dog and I snuggle.
"Oh Barney, when you eat, sleep, and dream dance, it's sad to be a studio rat without a studio."
He nudges as though he wants me to read. Grateful for the distraction, I open the book A Dance Through Time, a birthday present from grandpa Marcus. It's always had a calming effect. He'd given it to me shortly before he died, and it pulled me through some of my dark days watching him suffer. Grandpa understood how important dance was in my life; I'll never forget his chirping bird whistle, pride filled hugs, or the flowers he joyfully delivered after every recital. I still recall our last conversation.
"Grandpa, I wish I could make you better. I wish I could fix you."
"Libby, sweetheart, don't you know that every time I see you dance I feel better. The dance of your soul is the medicine for mine."
I say a prayer hoping he knows how much he's loved and missed. Although my dancing couldn't save him, Miss Dana and I still believe in its healing power. I love how she says a truly inspirational piece of choreography combined with the ideal music, costumes, and lighting can lift the performer and audience to a higher place.
Barney and I study the book's awesome photos of famous dancers from the past. Even my mom, a professional photographer, raves about the pictures. I flip through the pages innately drawn to my favorite. For some reason, I'm obsessed with the dancer in this old black and white photo. Maybe it's her physical beauty or the extension of her legs and perfectly placed pointe shoes in the height of her seemingly effortless leap. It might be her naturally arched back and gracefully extended arms. I don't know. I gently run my fingers across the small print at the bottom of the page. "Daniella Devereaux performing Giselle, Paris Opera House, 1913."
I've always dreamt of the day my mother will take my picture in this exact pose. I wonder about the great prima's life. Am I anything like her? Did she love dance as much as I do? Did she bounce from once place to another or care about where her life's path would lead her next? I gaze at her picture daydreaming until my eyes grow heavy, and I dance with her in my dreams.
Chapter ThreeI jump at the sound of mom's voice, "Rise and shine, Libby. We'll have to pack you in your bed sheets if you don't get moving."
"Aw mom, I was just about to get a standing ovation."
"Would that be your first or second, sweetie?"
I send my bedcovers flying with one strong kick, and she nimbly dodges the pink satin pillow I sail across the room.
We finish packing while tears stream. Our Victorian style home looks sadly barren, void of all the memories that until recent weeks lined its charming walls. Gone are my framed school pictures and dozens more from past recitals. Placing the last one in a box, the little girl I used to be looks back at me. I stand defiantly and technically correct in first position unlike other equally adorable young dancers who appear slightly awkward with raised shoulders, bent knees, and parallel feet.
"Libby, that's always been one of my favorites. I never get tired of your dance pictures. Even at the age of three, the intensity in your eyes is obvious."
I laugh when mom tells me for the hundredth time how I turned pirouettes inside her womb and how her doctor always joked, "I'm going to call this one my tiny Rockette." I roll my eyes and join in knowing the last line by heart. "She must be rehearsing for her Radio City
Music Hall debut." I guess I was born to dance. From the bottom of the stairs, my dad's voice booms, "The trucks are here! Are you ready, Libz?"
I wipe my tears and fake enthusiasm. "You bet, Dad! I just hope the windy city is ready for me!" I perform a chassé into three split leaps across the wooden hallway. "Well Kate, at least we don't have to straighten the picture frames anymore after her prancing around."
"At least mom doesn't have to pick up any broken lamps like the last time you tried a leap, Dad. Besides, it's a small price to pay for the privilege of having a dance diva in your midst!"
"Will, she's your daughter! I hope there's enough room in the moving van for her extra-large head." My playful swats at mom and dad send Barney whirling and
barking. After the neighbors gather for an emotional farewell, we walk through our empty house taking a quiet moment to imprint its image in our minds. Even Barney hangs his head and whimpers. The instant the fully loaded truck leaves the curb; I know our old life is gone. We swing by my dance studio for the last time and I'm surprised by a wonderful send off. Sometimes I think Miss Dana is the only person in life who understands me. Friends often tease that the world doesn't dance, people do. But Miss Dana and I hold fast to the belief that the earth is in constant choreographed motion and everything in it, part of an exquisite dance.
Miss Dana pulls me aside. "Libby, you've been my favorite studio rat for 12 years. Certainly, you're one of the most gifted students I've ever had the privilege to teach. I know dance is your passion, and I have no doubt you'll find success. Your talented toes are firmly grounded by your strong spiritual sense of the world. I'll miss you." Her eyes water, and I fall into her arms and cry. Miss Dana continues, "I've always known this day would come. Trust this move is right for you. As I told your parents, I've already called a friend of mine. I'm sure her studio, L'Esprit, will be an excellent fit."
"I love that word. It's pronounced "le spree" and means "the spirit." I learned it in French class," I say trying to regain my composure.
"Let's face it, Libby; no one possesses the true spirit of a dancer more than you."
The business card she places in my hand reads, "Esprit Dance Studios, Miss Aimée Harris, Owner and Director." I can barely read it through the prism of my tears. "Miss D, someday I hope to follow in your footsteps. I promise I'll never forget you." Before I leave she hands me a gift. After more hugs, kisses, and laughter, we vow never to lose touch with each other.
As our family slowly drives away, we pass the cemetery where my grandparents rest. Avoiding eye contact, we privately grapple with our emotions. Once merged onto the busy southbound interstate, I open Miss D's ribbon bound poster and breathe in its meaning.
Excerpted from The Legend of L'Esprit by Doris Greenberg Pandré Shandley Copyright © 2011 by Doris Greenberg and Pandré Shandley. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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