Sunday, January 22, 2006

Lorinda Chooses an Instrument

Lorinda ran down the wide hallway. Her bare feet slapped the marble floor with an eager rhythm. Her long, pale hair fluttered in her wake. She held her arms back like rigid wings, thrusting her chest and chin forward. With self-consciously light movements, she pivoted quickly into her bedroom, flitted about briefly, and padded out again.

Lorinda ran.

At eleven years of age, Lorinda’s legs were already longer and stronger than those of her classmates. Her body wanted to move quickly, to move prettily. She had known it ever since her mother took her to the ballet the previous month, and she had been adopting the role ever since. It was the only thing she had ever wanted to do. The previous ten years were a blur of aimlessness to her. Now she knew: Some day she would take the stage.

Lorinda ran.

She took a small leap—a sauté, she thought—across the threshold of her mother’s bedroom and pranced over to where Ingrid sat at her vanity table, applying makeup in preparation for a date. Lorinda stopped dramatically a few feet from where her mother sat. She rolled her delicate shoulders forward, curled her torso inward, and then thrust her hands forward, fluttering her fingertips gently.

Ingrid slid her eyes toward her daughter’s reflection. She hoped the sigh that had just forced its way out of her chest was inaudible. She didn’t want Lorinda to know that she was exasperated, but this had been going on for weeks.

“Dear, all I asked you to do was check to see if your blue dress was clean for the party tomorrow,” she said. She went back to lengthening her thin eyebrows.

Lorinda peered up at her mother. Her young face showed disappointment. Ingrid had been less than encouraging about Lorinda’s dance ambitions. Most of her comments about them had been warnings against injuries, accidents, and unladylike contortions. Plus, she obviously didn’t care about her own daughter’s feelings if she was going to go sighing like that.

Lorinda unfolded herself and stood rigidly before her mother. She tried very hard not to stand in one of the five positions. “It’s clean, Mother,” she said. She gave a curtsy. “May I go? I’ll be sure to tell you when he gets here.”

Ingrid turned her face toward her daughter and arched one freshly painted eyebrow. “When who gets here, dear?”

Lorinda shrugged. “He, your date,” she said in a slightly less defiant tone. “You didn’t tell me his name.”

Ingrid smiled and rolled her eyes upward in a sheepish expression. “Actually, I was hoping I had.” She dropped her voice to a loud, conspiratorial whisper. “I can’t remember!”

Lorinda smiled in spite of herself, and without realizing it, she relaxed her rigid posture. “Somebody new?” she asked. “Have I met him?”

Ingrid frowned slightly as she tried to remember. “Nobody new. I swear, I just can’t remember. Werner is out of the country, so it’s not him. Michael has a business something-or-other this week. Maybe Patrick? David?”

“Troy?” Lorinda asked helpfully and hopefully. Troy was always very nice to her. And he had perfect teeth.

Ingrid shook her head and turned back to her vanity. “I just can’t remember. Isn’t that silly?”

“Well, they’re the ones who keep asking you,” Lorinda said. “As long as you remember his name when he shows up, that’s okay.” Lorinda cocked her head thoughtfully and imagined a future series of suitors for herself. She smiled inwardly at the idea of that unknown parade of earnest, flattering men arriving at her doorstep to take her out and do their best to impress her. The age difference didn’t work out at all, but Troy was definitely standing at the head of that line.

Ingrid nodded slightly while she checked the blending of her blush and started to consider the array of lipstick shades that might best match her evening’s palette. “I suppose you’re right, dear,” she said. “Thank you for keeping my escort company while I finish getting ready. I expect he’ll be here any minute.”

Lorinda had one final concern. “Did you see the dress?” she asked. It had been Lorinda’s favorite tradition of her mother’s date nights that she got to choose one outfit she thought appropriate for the evening. Tonight it had been a fitted, navy-blue number. The neckline was modestly immodest, the sleeves mere suggestions, and the skirt comfortably mid-calf. Lorinda had been attracted to the light linen, its faint pleating, and the delicate peacock motif embroidered across the left shoulder. To her, there was something alluringly balletic about it.

Ingrid nodded. “A perfect choice, dear.”

Lorinda beamed. “Thank you, Mother!” she said, louder than she intended. I’ll go wait for Mr. Man.”

Ingrid turned to suggest to Lorinda that she choose some shoes before she went downstairs, but with a plié and pirouette, the girl ran from the room. Her steps down the stone stairway sounded like a distant, rapid heartbeat.

Lorinda ran.