She ran through the motions as if reciting the alphabet: arabesque, brise, couru, demi-plie, each tinged with the grace of more than fifteen years of experience. Auburn hair, red lips, and yellow dresses sparked her into fire, alchemy on center stage. Now she sunk to the stage floor alone. She planted her feet wide on either side of her and crossed her wrists so her arms hung in front like a protective charm.
Inhalation – she took a sharp breath of sweet oxygen against the ascending sourness in her stomach.
His breath had burned her ear like acid searing her skin as he’d pushed her against the side wall of an unmarked building and pulled at the silver sequins of her dress. One hand had forced her arms above her head in a perverse fifth position, though the struggle had ruined the alignment of her feet. He’d lifted her leg, gripped the other, and she watched them, herself and her dinner date, thinking this was the strangest pas de deux she had ever seen – where was the slowness, the fluidity? Her crucible was all wrong, all overheated, and she collapsed, tarnished, leaden.
Retention – the second step in controlling her breath, quelling the combustion.
She was glad she had crossed her arms at the memory, so she couldn’t be tempted to look again at the purple spreading across her inner thighs. The ventilation tugged some wisps of hair from her tight bun, and she flinched as the tulle of her tutu lifted at the knees. Dancing in front of hundreds had never left her as exposed and raw and gasping for breath as tonight had. She crawled backstage to open her black bag. There were her silver dress and heels, with bits of dirt and brick dust caked on the fabric. She reached inside to pull them out and throw them away.
Exhalation – to purge her body of the fear bubbling inside.
But she paused at the sight of her arms riddled with red marks, the same color as the rubedo signaling the end of a successful transmutation. She rose and followed along the wall to a panel of switches hidden by the heavy curtain, using her long, graceful fingers, defenseless against his rough hands earlier that night, to illuminate the stage. The energy, her defiance, raced through her body, unsettling her for a moment before she found her equilibrium.
Then she stepped into the spotlight, pure gold melting into movement. She thought to herself, avant – forward – and never again would she be anything but gold.