Short Short Story 2/3/11: La Danseuse

This story is inspired by yesterday's picture. The painting is of a real 18th-century dancer, but the character and situation in my story are fictional.
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On the stage side of the curtain workers were making last-minute adjustments to the props. Colette smoothed the golden tissue of her gown. It was by far the finest costume she had ever worn. Garlands of real flowers looped around the skirt and up the bodice. And the shoes! So comfortable, yet so delicate.

"Like 'em, princess?" Richard, the drummer, was grinning at her. "Not bad for a girl from the slums, eh?"

If anyone other than Richard had brought up her past, she would have been furious. Very few people new that Colette de Mont-Marie was actually Colette Bartioli, the daughter of an Italian-born prostitute. The official story was that she was the daughter of a modestly wealthy widow from the country. The director of the opera had discovered her dancing talent when he vacationed in the area.

The real story was very different. Most of the money her mother made had immediately disappeared into dingy taverns. Little Colette had to earn her own money or starve. She danced and sang on street corners, and people threw coins at her feet. Six months ago, Richard had seen her as he entered a wine shop. He couldn't persuade Colette to come with him to the opera--she'd received offers like that before and thought he meant to take advantage of her. But he did persuade the director to come see her. That had convinced her.

And now, she was about to give her first performance at the Paris Opera.

"No, not bad," she said, grinning.

"Quiet!" the director hissed from the wings. "It's time to start."

The red velvet curtain rose. She looked out on the crowd. Lords and ladies glittered and shone with jewels and lace and fine silk. Down on the floor were the common people in their shabby finest. Her people.

She held herself taut, waiting for the music to start. As it spilled out and she flowed into motion along with it, she suppressed a smile. Not bad at all.

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