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Children of the Dance (sample)
Tinney S. Heath
A long time ago, in a land not so different from our own, a young woman named Cinna had the misfortune to be orphaned, and the double misfortune to find herself under the guardianship of a stepmother who was petty and coarse and devoid of imagination. This tyrannical matriarch favored her own daughters—after all, someone had to—and gave them every advantage, while insisting that Cinna do all the household's work.
But Cinna danced as she worked. Dark and slender, supple and fluid, she resembled her late mother, who came from a land much different from our own, and who had been a Dancer. Cinna danced as she scrubbed, glided through the washing, shimmied her body parts in delicious isolation as she prepared mountains of food for her stout stepsisters to feast on. She danced the sinuous movements she had learned from her mother, and she danced the steps her body knew of its own wisdom. She was never still. Even her eyes danced, and her stepsisters could not stand it, for they only plodded.
When the call to the prince's ball arrived, the sisters fluttered in a shrill frenzy of hope and ambition. After all, one of them could become a princess, could she not?
And so they demanded that Cinna sew for them, to adorn their ample bodies so that one of them might ensnare the prince, who needed a mate. And Cinna sewed. She would have clothed them in the brilliant hues of her mother's land—not for love of her sisters, but for love of color itself. But the sisters chose instead the washed-out colors of their own land, bland and safe. They could not watch Cinna as she worked, because her hands danced over the fabrics, and they could not bear it. But she worked honorably and gave them her best, and they were happy, although not grateful. They had no knowledge of how to be grateful. And Cinna pitied them for that.
Cinna would have had no desire to go to an ordinary ball in that land not so different from our own, for she thought little of the dancing that would take place. To her dancing eyes, the steps that her sisters and their friends would stumble through were painfully awkward, and she did a little entrechat just thinking about it, to banish the image. But this ball was different. The prince had put it about that the musicians came from Cinna's mother's land, where the Dance was all. And Cinna burned to be there. She danced her yearning, for she craved that music.
On the day of the ball, while her sisters fussed with their hair—the arranging of the hair on their heads, and the removal of hair anywhere else—Cinna wept as she dug in the garden. It was wrong for her clumsy sisters to get to hear that music when she who could dance it did not. Cinna's body almost, for once, ceased to dance. Her torso grew still, her arms and hands only dug, and her eyes could not dance while weeping. Only her hips refused to give in, continuing to move ever so slightly, with a subtle rhythm, for she felt that if even that stopped, so would the drumming dance of her heart, and she would be no more.
"Tell me your need."
Startled, Cinna looked around for the source of the voice, which sounded like autumn leaves rustling just at the outside of hearing. Had she imagined it?
"Look up." She looked up. A dusky-skinned young man, lithe and muscular, lounged on a branch in the tree just behind the garden. He smiled a slow smile, and his body rippled. The ripple passed all up one side of his body, across his face, and down the other, and Cinna felt her own body start to move in response.
"I can help you," came the rustling whisper. He was speaking in her mother's tongue, which Cinna barely remembered. "Is that your need?"
Cinna gaped at him, but her body was undulating in spite of her confusion.
"If you would go to the ball, I can make it happen. Is that your need?"
Cinna gulped. "It is."
Cover design by Tim Heath, all rights reserved.
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This page created 13 December 2011
Last update 21 March 2014