It feels so weird to post stuff I've written without even looking over it again. ^_^; Oh well. Here goes! My outline's changed quite a bit since I first updated...
Balance. That was the basis of Maria's life. It was what let her dance. It was what let her control her thoughts and desires. It was what let her live properly, carefully allotting excess and novelty which would otherwise overrun her carefully balanced life.
Not to say that Maria was unhappy. On the contrary, she had a life of doing what she most wanted to do: dance. If some other desires things got pushed to the wayside, it was all right. You only get so much time to dance, even barring injury. It was a carefully balanced profession that you had to take every minute of and put away like a precious gift that you'll never be able to open again. Enjoy it. Maria knew she could never get those minutes back. And she knew that each minute added was a minute taken away from an eventual retirement.
Maria made herself focus before Rosa could get a chance to find out. Barre work was so ingrained that it was easy for her mind to wander. The sounds of the music started to penetrate moore deeply into her now-focused mind and she worked through the barre steps with a renewed concentration.
"Welcome back," she heard a quiet voice behind her say. Maria rolled her eyes. Jennifer, her best friend in the Bergstrom Ballet Company of New York.
"Shut up," she shot back without vehemence, grinning slightly.
"Miss DeSantis, you are not paid to chat," Rosa called over. Maria sighed, turning with the rest of the group to touch her right hand lightly on the barre. Her feet went automatically to first position, and she bent her knees to bring herself down into a grand plié. She was a good dancer. She knew that, at least. She should be, with the amount of work she had put into it over the years. If she got occassional feelings of frustration from what felt like a permanent position in the corps de ballet...well, it shouldn't be about that. It was about the art. She knew that and she loved that. They were only occassional feelings, after all.
The company class was over before she bring herself back to thinking about it again and she found herself walking down the block with Jennifer to their favorite lunchspot: Corner of Saigon, a small Vietnamese restaurant.
"So how would you like a date?" Jennifer asked as they waited for their meals.
Maria put on a dramatically apologetic expression. "Oh, Jen, I'm awfully sorry, but I just don't like you like that." She grinned, taking a bite of a spring roll. Jennifer rolled her eyes.
"Seriously. I was talking to my sister--Lizzie, not Cassandra--and she knows this really cute photographer her magazine uses for some freelance work sometimes. Lives in Greenwich. Single. And apparently she thinks he'd be perfect for you."
Maria cringed inwardly. She had too much experience with blind dates to have any other reaction. "I don't know, Jen--" she began.
"C'mon, Marie," her friend pleaded. "He's an artsy guy. We could give him a ticket to the show tomorrow and then he could go with you to the dinner. I'd sit with you; you wouldn't have to be all on your own with him." She put on a puppy face. "Pleeeease? For me? Lizzie's really nagging me to get this guy a date, what with all the girls I'm around."
Maria chewed on her lip, eyeing Jennifer suspiciously. She really didn't want to accept spending her opening night dinner with a stranger, but this was her best friend. And if she needed a favor, she needed a favor.
"All right," she gave in with a sigh. "But only because you asked so nicely."
"ThankyouthankyouTHANKYOU. I knew I could count on you and your single self. Don't worry, he sounds perfectly fine. I really grilled Liz on him. I'll give her a comp to give to him and...we'll see what happens, I guess!"
Maria rose to pointe on her right foot gracefully, lifting her left leg in a perfect attitude. She dropped from pointe slowly and went into a tour de promenade, her arms held impeccably as she turned on her foot. The performance was almost over; it had gone well, from what she knew of her own work and what she had seen from the others of the company. Her leg lowered smoothly and then glided forward to a pointe tendu. It brushed in a wide arc to complete a rond de jambe. Everything went perfectly, and she knew that it was that perfection that would cause no one to see her. And soon it was all over and she was taking her bow with the rest of the corps. The same emotions struggled within her as did at every performance. She loved her work, but always yearned for more from it. She was fighting hard to advance but was just beginning to think that it wasn't going to ever help.
The party afterwards was the same impeccable affair. Despite telling herself that the date really didn't matter, Maria found herself rather nervous as she touched up the last of her makeup. She let her hair down, long, ebony, and with a wave that she was rather fond of, to brush delicately against her back. A stray lock fell in her face and she brushed it back with the rest, taking one last moment to examine the shapely red evening gown she had brought. Satisfied, she followed the trickling of dancers to the party.
Jennifer took her arm affectionately as she entered the party hall, leaning close to Maria in a playfully secretive manner. "Well, I met him, and he seems perfectly nice. Really enjoyed the performance, too, which shows he has good taste," the redhead informed her friend. Relaxing a little with this news, Maria allowed herself to be led to their table where a young, attractive man stood at their approach. He smiled, looking a little nervous, which Maria found comforting. They shook hands while Jen made introductions.
"David, this is Maria DeSantis. Maria, David Miller."
"It's a pleasure, Maria. I really enjoyed the performance. I don't get the chance to go see ballet a lot," David said as the three seated themselves.
"Well, thanks. I'm glad we could break that streak," Maria replied, smiling, as she glanced curiously at the man next to Jennifer. He was tall and looked to be in his early forties, with thick black hair that was beginning to grey at the temples. As she watched him, he looked over from his conversation with another man she didn't know, revealing strangely intense blue eyes. They seemed to look straight through her for a moment before returning to his conversation, at which point Maria was forced to return to her own.
"I did manage to match up your picture in the program with you on stage," David was saying. "I thought you did wonderfully."
Maria grinned a bit in pleasurable surprise, unused to the idea of someone other than her parents and close friends coming to a performance and picking her out in the corps. "Thank you," she said sincerely. "I don't get that a lot, being in the corps and all. Most people watch us as being kind've a unit. Unless one of us messes up. But that's not a reason you'd want someone to watch you."
"No, I wouldn't think so," David said with a pleasant grin. Jen was right. He did seem like a nice guy. "Hey, would you like a drink?"
"Sure," Maria said. He gave her a quick smile and left the table. Jen leaned over from the seat next to his.
"Sorry to abandon you, but I've got to go like no other. Don't worry, I'll be right back."
"Yeah, abandon your best friend, why don't ya," her friend said, but without malice. She was only minimally uncomfortable with being left on her own for a few minutes. She searched in her purse and took out a compact, opening it to check her face to pass the time.
"You look fine," she heard a deep, unfamiliar voice say. She lowered the compact to see the man next to Jennifer's seat watching her with a slightly amused expression. "First date?"
She smiled, feeling a strange sensation of simultaneous relaxation and tension in her body. "Yeah. Friend of mine made me." She paused, unsure why she was excusing David, who had been a perfect gentleman so far.
"I'm Jonathan Wagner," the man said, not noticing her inner confusion. "I'm a cellist in the orchestra."
"That's why you look familiar," she epiphanied with a smile. "I knew I'd seen you somewhere. Maria DeSantis." She shifted a seat closer to shake his hand. "Wagner. Good name for a classical musician."
"I guess I didn't have much choice in my career," Jonathan said with a subdued smile.
"Should I call you Jonathan or Jon?"
He paused for a moment, then decided, "Whichever you like, really."
She leaned her elbows on the table, brushing back some stray wisps of hair. "Which do your friends call you?"
"Jonathan. But that doesn't mean no one's allowed to call me Jon. I just don't get it a lot." He watched her with that same quiet intensity that both exhilerated her and left her nervous. It was an intoxicating effect that left her flushed and bubbly.
"Jon, then. I like to be unique." She found herself flirting with this man without even thinking about it. But she was cut short when he lifted his left hand to brush back his hair and she saw the glint of gold on his ring finger.
"Does your wife disapprove of your musical pursuits?" she questioned with playful seriousness, trying to cover up her past flirting. He raised his eyebrows, then smiled slightly, twisting the ring on his finger for a moment.
"No, she's just out of town with my son visiting some family. As you can see, I had to work." Something in his face made her think that he wasn't too unhappy to be missing whatever it was that he was missing.
"Well, I'm sure you did very well. I don't exactly get to listen to the orchestra--not in the way that an audience does--but I couldn't pick out any screw-ups from the cello section."
His small smile widened only slightly, and she got the feeling that it didn't get very big. He seemed about to reply when his eyes shifted up and his smile shifted to a polite greeting. She looked over to see David returned with two glasses of champagne, one of which he handed her. He only hesitated a moment before taking the seat that was previously hers, giving Jonathan a tight smile.
"Hope you didn't get too bored. I didn't know Jennifer abandoned you, too." He took a sip of champagne, not looking at Jonathan.
"No, I was just..." But Jonathan was already engaged elsewhere when Maria looked over, so she returned her attention to David. "I managed."
David was an easy conversationalist, but Maria found him a little emotionally unsatisfying after the intensity of Jonathan. She kept trying to look over at him, which became easier after Jennifer sat back down in the seat between them, but didn't exchange any more words with him for the rest of the night. Maria did try her best to focus on her conversation with David, especially as he was being very interesting and a very nice a guy, but her thoughts kept on wandering back to Jonathan's slight smile, to that look behind his eyes...
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