Part 2: FOLLOWING CHRISTINE
The central lights are off now and a security guard is doing rounds, making sure the Wakefield Center is empty. But Christine is holed up in the main lobby restroom. Curiosity is killing me. I am dying to know what she is up to. Not that I am afraid she’ll venture down to the basement and find my shelter, she has no reason to, but it’s the adorable way she struggled with her decision to stay behind before descending to the lobby where she secreted away to hide in the lady’s room. She had chewed her lip, fumbled with her handbag, and wiped her hands on her dress a half dozen times. Her inquisitive nature intrigues me. I doubt it’s a side of her that her classmates or instructors ever see.
From behind one of the vestibule’s massive wooden columns, I notice a female usher stroll to the restroom door and shove it open. “Anyone here? Closing time. Lights out.” A few seconds pass and the usher turns off the restroom lights and walks away, tapping her black flashlight on her hip and whistling a tune from the ballet as she goes.
With my functioning eye, I peer around the column and count to myself. One, two, three… …twenty. Twenty seconds is all Christine can wait before opening the door and poking her head out. Not sure why, but I find her impatience cute. I ease back a bit when her gaze sweeps the grand room. Angling sideways, I can still look around but remain unseen.
When she is sure no one is near, Christine pulls the door ajar and it moans with a metallic grind. A worried frown creases her brow and she freezes in place, midway out of the exit. I draw in a breath, surprised by how amazing she looks paused there with one leg jutting through the half-open door. My gaze travels from her stiletto-clad foot up that long, slender leg to where the hem of her dress drapes across her powerfully strong thigh.
“Daaamn,” I murmur then snap my mouth shut and whip my head back. Did she hear me? Surely she caught my crude outburst. Barely breathing, I strain to hear footsteps crossing the carpet or the velvet timbre of Christine’s voice calling out. When neither happens, I take a chance and slip my head out an inch or two and release a soft sigh. She is outside the restroom but not moving toward me.
I allow myself one last look at her heavenly legs before she turns and practically skips down the hall to the passage that connects to the dressing rooms. I grin. Sneaky thing. She wants to prowl through the dance troupe’s dressing rooms.
Hauling up my jacket hood, I tug it low over my forehead. It’s too big so it fits like a shroud—which is why I wear it. Then I take out the mirrored aviators from the jacket pocket and slide them onto my face. I am taking no chances. If she should double back and catch me behind her, I don’t want her to see my fused and fibrous flesh. Or worse, she might try to look me in the face and get lost in the dead opaque orb that used to be my left eye. With the sunglasses on she’d simply see her own beautiful face reflected back at her. Once the shades are on, I fall in behind her with light, silent steps.
A couple of times I have to dip into an adjoining hall when she slows as if listening for someone. Behind her like I am, I have an excellent view of her shapely, tight bottom swishing daintily under her swaying skirt. A thrilling sensation surges through me. It’s the first time I’ve felt this alive since the fire, since I’d last danced.
When she halts in front of Claudette Sunderland’s dressing room door, I slip quietly into the broom closet across the corridor a few doors down. It comes as no surprise that she goes to Claudette’s room rather than the corps de ballets’. The corps is a stepping stone to the lead. Christine will be a principal dancer. She stands before the door, takes a deep breath, and raises her hand to tap her knuckles on the wood. She looks to her left and to her right, but I know she doesn’t see me. She’s not really expecting anyone to be here, especially in a utility closet. Her scrutiny is a sign of her excitement, her nerves.
After a second unanswered knock she lays a hand on the doorknob, caressing it gently she gives it a twist. This door is even louder than the lobby restroom door. It screeches like something from a horror flick. I can see Christine shiver, but the creepy wail doesn’t stop her from moving forward and into the room.
“Mrs. Sunderland, are you there?” Christine’s voice floats out of the room into the hallway.
Several moments pass and I decide to leave the security of my lookout. A few wall sconces bathe the passage in an eerie gray light, making my own shadow appear ominous.
As I near the open dressing room, I tilt my head to catch any sound coming from inside. I plaster myself against the wall and chance a quick look. The chamber is like every other principal dancer’s dressing room with its dressing table and racks of costumes, vases of flowers and boxes of candy from devoted fans. It brings back memories of my childhood when my mother was…when she danced.
I swallow old memories, sad memories that threaten to rise up and possess me. Then I catch sight of Christine admiring the abundance of expensive costumes hanging on a garment rack, and the memories fade. Her hand rustles softly like butterfly wings over the chiffons and silks, while the crystals and rhinestones shimmer a muted light from the hallway onto her creamy skin, causing her to twinkle.
Christine abandons the costumes and walks over to the dressing table. A couple of rose-filled vases sit on one side of the table, while Claudette’s makeup, hair accessories, and perfumes are on the other. Christine’s fingers twitch at her side. She wants to touch Claudette’s things. My own fingers twitch and burn with a growing desire to touch Christine.
She starts to back away and my stomach jumps to my throat. If I don’t pull out now she may catch me. Then all of a sudden there is a silence-splitting crash from inside the room. I pitch about and bolt down the passageway without looking back.