Rites of Spring

Melanie springs forward on the balls of her feet, her slender spine arched back as she leaps through the air towards the open arms of Adrian. He catches her gracefully in his strong arms and twirls slowly on the spot, whilst at the same time lifting her body higher into the air.

‘No, no, no.’

Adrian and Melanie share a belated sigh and disentangle themselves from each other, as a tall, willowy man with curly ringlets of hair storms over to them from the other side of the room, a look of extreme agitation etched in his face.

‘What are you doing?’

Melanie and Adrian both exchange looks of mild confusion, under the impression that their last attempt was pretty much spot on.

‘…did I leap too quickly?’ Melanie stammers, in a halfhearted attempt to diffuse the tight-lipped choreographer.

He shakes his head fervently and massages his forehead with his fingers, contemplating how best to phrase his response.

‘Melanie my dear, you’re moves are flawless.’

‘…so why…’

‘Where is the passion? I need to see the chemistry between you too. This dance is supposed to represent the mating season of spring.’

‘Okay.’ Melanie replies slowly, her cheeks blushing red ever so slightly.

The willowy choreographer moves round behind her and places his hands very lightly on her shoulders. A shiver runs through her spine, as his long fingernails scrape her skin.

‘You are a very good dancer. In fact maybe a little too good.’

Melanie gives a shaky laugh and glances at Adrian who rolls his eyes dramatically.

‘But you need to loosen up. This is not a controlled dance. I want you to lunge for Adrian and take his face in your hands.’ He moves over to Adrian and places his long hands either side of Adrian’s smooth, pale face. ‘Entice him with your eyes and then once he is drawn in push him away.’ He tosses Adrian’s head to one side and shoves him hard in the chest. ‘Okay?’

Melanie nods and casts a sideways glance at Adrian, who is trying hard to conceal a mischievous grin. The other dancers dotted around the room are watching the three of them impatiently, a couple tapping their ballet shoes loudly on the varnished floorboards.

‘From the top people.’ The willowy choreographer announces with a flourish of his hand and the dancers resumes their starting positions.

A heavily hungover musician sits behind a large piano, trying to fight back a wave of nausea. On the willowy choreographer’s signal, he ceases his nose massage and begins playing the keys in front of him, in an experienced nonchalant manner.

Melanie rises up onto the tips of her toes and takes a deep breath. She nods along ever so slightly in time with the music, waiting for her mark. Then suddenly, she takes three long strides and leaps gracefully into the air, her long legs spread out beneath her. She lands lightly in Adrian’s arms and grabs hold of his face tightly, forcing him to look into eyes.

‘STOP.’ The willowy choreographer howls in anguish and the music ceases immediately, much to the musician’s relief, who returns to cradling his leaden head.

Melanie huffs loudly and lets her arms fall to her side defeated. As Adrian lowers her carefully to the floor, she bows her head, realizing it is going to be a long session.

Melanie sits in front of the dressing room mirror, applying the charcoal black massacre to her long eyelashes. She occasionally glances in the corner of the mirror at the blur of costumed dancers hurrying to and fro about the room. A scatter of makeup artists are attending to most of the other girls. Melanie could allow someone else to do her makeup for her but in all honesty she prefers doing it herself. It is the one area of her life that is not regimented or organized by an outside force. It is also highly therapeutic for Melanie, something that is sorely needed when you are just about to perform on stage for a theatre full of people. She has to concentrate as she applies the makeup carefully and this goes some way to distracting her from the cluster of butterflies fluttering around in her gut.

‘Five minutes girls.’

The willowy choreographer stands at the far side of the room, surveying the dancers with a scrutinized air. Melanie deliberately avoids his stare. She knows he is most likely looking right at her, still assessing Melanie’s slightly shaky rehearsals from this morning. There is a loud rustling as a dancer adorned with leaves and a face painted green, shuffles behind her. Melanie gazes at her reflection in the mirror. Her face has been powdered a shade of yellowy gold and her eyes, which are normally blue, are now green flecked with brown. The corner of her eyes itch irritably from the contacts and the powder applied above her lip tickles her nostrils playfully.

‘Melanie?’

Melanie glances to her left, at a young woman who has a pair of large wings attached to her back.

‘You coming out tonight? Me and the girls are going to that new club in town.’

Melanie sucks her teeth pondering for a moment before shaking her head ever so slightly.

‘Oh come on.’ The bird woman insists.

‘Thanks ‘Chelle but I think I’m going to have a quiet one. Besides I’m going to be knackered after the performance.’

‘Fair enough, well the offer still stands if you change your mind.’ Michelle says with a warm smile and alights from her seat.

Melanie takes a deep breath and stands up. She glances around the dressing room. The other dancers are filing towards the stage in a long line. She slips in behind Adrian, who has three black stripes on either cheek. He gives her a reassuring wink. Melanie tries to focus on the monumentis task ahead but her thoughts keep returning to Michelle’s words. Maybe she should go out with the girls. She was always under the impression that the girls didn’t really like her but Michelle was friendly enough and surely they must tolerate her enough to even consider inviting her. These thoughts are momentarily battered away when she feels Adrian’s large hand slip into her own. He gives her hand a tight squeeze and leads her out on stage. A bright wall of light bursts into her line of sight, blinding her.

Melanie clatters down the fag-encrusted pavement, paying close attention so as not to trap her heel in one of the many large cracks and gaps in her path. She cuts quite a different figure in her short, tight skirt and thin leather jacket. A small leather handbag hangs loosely from her shoulder and knocks against her ribcage, as she echoes down the street. She feels completely and utterly out of her comfort zone. Melanie has been a ballet dancer since the age of six. She has no problem standing on the tips of her toes for hours on end and its highly adept at many complicated and difficult dance routines. Despite all this, Melanie has about as much grace walking in her high heels then a penguin does on rollerblades. And yet she persists. The dull throb of bassy music floods her ears and turning the corner she spots ‘Spring Time’, the newly opened nightclub, a few doors down. Two bouncers stand either side of the open door, one short and stout, the other tall and impassible. A long queue of eager yet impatient partygoers snake along the pavement. Melanie joins the back of the queue and snatches a glance at her phone. It is already half ten. Michelle said to meet her here by ten, which means she must already be inside. Melanie hops and clops from foot to foot, unsure what to do. The line is incredibly long. Is it really worth it? By the time she gets in there it will probably be too late. She sidesteps out of the queue and turns to leave but a shout makes her stop.

‘Melanie!’

Michelle is sitting on the other side of the pavement, sharing a cigarette with a lanky looking lad wearing a baseball cap at least three times too large for his head. She beckons to Melanie enigmatically. Melanie gives a weak smile and clatters over to her, her skinny legs wobbling like jelly.

‘You came.’ She says elated and jumping to her feet gives Melanie and fierce hug.

Michelle feels heavy in her arms and it takes Melanie a few seconds to understand why. The realizations dawn when Michelle opens her mouth a second time. Her breath reeks of spirits. So much so Melanie feels her eyes water a little.

‘This is Drizzle.’ Michelle slurs, touching the lanky lads arm gently with her fingers.

‘Ite.’ Drizzle says with a small jut of his head.

Melanie’s mouth curls into a grin.

‘Drizzle? As in lemon?’

Both Drizzle and Michelle frown at Melanie. Her smile fades.

‘Never mind, anyway ‘Chelle I don’t think I’m going to bother. I mean look at that queue. There is no way I’m getting in anytime soon.’

‘Don’t worry ‘bout dat. I get choo in girl.’

Melanie gaps at Drizzle. He is white with blonde hair and looks about fifteen.

‘Drizzle here is DJing tonight. He will get you in no probs. Come on.’ Michelle explains and before Melanie can protest Michelle has linked arms with her and is whisking her towards the entrance.

The club is dingy and dark and it takes a while for Melanie’s eyes to adjust to the gloomy interior. She and Michelle stand at one end of the bar, fighting hard against the thick crowd of bodies waiting to get served. Drizzle is busy setting up his discs for his set, much to Melanie’s relief. She was getting fed up with his ridiculous attempts to chat her up whilst Michelle was in the bathroom.

‘Its kicking in here.’ Michelle blasts in Melanie’s ear. Melanie nods with a strained smile and glances round at the dance floor.

It is heaving with sweaty bodies. Skinny, heavily made up girls grind and slide up against extremely well groomed men with more muscles then brain cells, bathed in harsh purple and blue light, that highlights all their imperfections and wrinkles. A gap appears in the wall of clubbers and Melanie tries to dart forwards but finds her heels glued to the floor. It is sticky and crackles underfoot. She shudders and changes her mind about the drink. Without realizing she finds her attention once again drawn back to the fluctuating dance floor. It reminds her of something but it is too hard to recall. A short, heavily muscled man detaches himself from the throng and strides confidentially towards her. He is so bulked up that he looks like a human Geodude and Melanie suddenly regrets leaving her poke balls at home. It is as he is drawing nearer, his finely plucked eyebrows arched in intrigue that she realizes what she is reminded of, the spring dance where Melanie and Adrian performed they’re mating routine. It is the same here. The women in their low cut tops and belt like skirts are just the same as the enticing creatures of spring with their attracting plumage and fanciful feathers and the men with their hungry eyes and prowling strides. The comparison is startlingly accurate and it makes Melanie feel sick. The human geodude emblazoned in pink opens his mouth to speak but is met with an empty space. Melanie has gone.

© [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales], [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Daniel Ashby] and [Ashby Tales] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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