Linda Ferguson






My new friend has clear white skin, a straight back and light brown hair that waves down to her narrow waist. Her name is Anna Marie, and she has a small, smooth nose that tips slightly toward the sky.

On weekends she sometimes comes to my house, but she despises my two older brothers, who mock her interest in ballet by chanting, “Point-your-toe, ar-a-besque,” in snotty sing-song voices. So we spend most of our time at her house, walking there after school while my mom is working at the bank and my dad is out selling insurance.

Her mother makes us plain tea, which I lace with three or four spoonfuls of honey before taking my first tentative sips. Then we go back to the sewing room, where stacks of fabric—stripes, solids, plaids, floral prints— and baskets of unfolded laundry are piled half-way to the ceiling, and I stand and watch as Anna Marie sits on the bench in front of her black upright piano and plays everything from the M*A*S*H theme to a piece by Beethoven called “Für Elise.”

At school I sit two rows behind my friend but we stand and talk at each recess. One morning she nods across the blacktop at her friend Debbie and says that Debbie would walk more gracefully if she studied ballet. I think of my size-eight oxfords and my slumped shoulders and my stick-thin legs, and I wonder what I look like when I’m walking.

Before I met Anna Marie, the only dancing I had seen was in movies like The Sound of Music, where the message boy and the oldest daughter glide around the gazebo during a rainstorm. Now my friend invites me to her dance recitals. I sit near the wall in a folding chair with the mothers and the younger siblings who came to watch, while Anna Marie and her fellow ballerinas stretch their arms in the air and leap across the room, their white net skirts floating around their knees.

Sometimes after dinner, when Mom is sound asleep on the couch, and Dad is on the phone calling potential customers, I close the door of my ten-by-ten-foot room, and I hop and spin about, my feet softly thudding on the green shag carpet, careful not to stub my toe on the bedpost, and careful not to arouse the curiosity of my brothers, whose room is right below mine.


Copyright © 2004 Linda Ferguson.  All Rights Reserved.


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