Chapter Three: The Red Shoes

 It’s been just under a month since I last wrote in here, and I’d like to say that it’s because our newly acquired rock’n’roll lifestyle has kept me far too busy to write, what with all the smoking crack and shagging actors from ‘Hollyoaks’, but I’d be lying.  The truth is far more mundane: Fliss and I have been flat hunting together, and the band has been rehearsing a lot.  Allow time for such necessities as eating, sleeping and, oh yeah, working, and there hasn’t been time to do anything.

  We haven’t heard anything from the guy I met at the gig at The Gates, and whilst I’m a little disappointed, I’m not entirely surprised.  We went to see The Girls From Mars last week at The Gates, and mentioned the guy to Violet, and she said The Girls From Mars have had people from record companies come to their gigs, and it never comes to anything.  “They promise all sorts of wonderful things,” she said, in her welsh lilt, “get you all keyed up and excited and then head back to London, promising to ‘Get in touch’, but never do.”  So I’m not holding my breath.

  Anyway, now that Fliss and I have finally found a flat, I’ve been far too busy packing to think about anything else.  Mum and I completed the task tonight, and it was such a strangely emotional process that I thought I’d write about it here.

  “I never realised how much stuff you’d accumulated over the years,” she shook her head as she opened my wardrobe and began pulling boxes out from inside.  “I’m amazed that you can even fit clothes in here anymore…”

  I watched her as she worked.  I’ve only been back living with her for a year, but I know that I’ll miss her now that I’m leaving home again.  It won’t be like last time, but I will still miss her.  Her pale red hair fell into her eyes as she leant forward and, distracted, she tucked it behind her ears, where it obediently stayed.  She was still in her work clothes – skirts, tights, shirt, having not very long returned from teaching an evening class Basic Aromatherapy.  Normally she wears jeans and a t-shirt, but skirts are better for work, as are one set of earrings, not four.  She picked up the first of the boxes, and carried it over to my bed.  It caught on her tights as she put it down, “Bugger,” she muttered as a ladder began to form.

  As she removed the ruined tights and sensible shoes, I gingerly unfolded the cardboard, “Oh,” I murmured, my heart sank slightly as I caught the first glimpse of what was inside.

  “What is it?” she hopped back over to the bed, her tights half on, half off.

  I lifted a white tutu from the box.

  “That’s the one you wore as ‘Giselle’.” She threw the ruined tights across the room.

  “I remember…” underneath were black lycra short sleeved leotards, shiny, and cold to the touch. They were accompanied by pale pink wool legwarmers, pale pink tights, and underneath… tapes, music that I danced to; ‘Giselle’, ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Coppalia’, ‘The Red Shoes’… it was the classics I remembered.  For tap it was ‘Wherever He Ain’t’, ‘One’, ‘Hello Dolly’, for modern, innumerable pop songs, most of which I hadn’t liked, but missed all the same, and ‘Cherry Bomb’, which I had choreographed myself.  There were pictures, clippings, and programs from various productions and performances I’d taken part in, starting with my first role as a cute child in a bear suit, aged five, right through to my last role, as Giselle, aged eighteen. It was all there.

  Mum gently lifted a pink, tissue thin, layered skirt from the box, “Fliss might like this,” she mused.

  I nodded.

  The next box had all my shoes in it, including my block shoes, some broken in, some still in their packaging.  There were spare ribbons, neatly folded, and in a range of colours, and there were my tap and jazz shoes, just two pairs of each of them.  I picked up a pair of red satin block shoes and cradled them silently.

  She knelt down in front of me, “We don’t have to do this now,” she said quietly, “not if you don’t want to, if it’s too soon, you only have to say,” she placed her hand over mine, and touched the shoes.

  “They were the last pair…” It’s over a year now since I gave up dancing, and it still hurts.

  “I know, love, I know… You can keep them if you want,” my mother had trained to be an actress when she was younger; she knows how hard it is to let a dream go.

  I reluctantly set the boxes aside, and turned my attention to the two familiar looking crates that I knew contained my records.  Well, mostly my records…

  “I was wondering where that had got to,” murmured mum as she retrieved X Ray Spex’s ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ from my stack of L.P’s.

  “You gave it to me.”

  “Only on extended loan I think…”

  A lot of my punk records once belonged to my mum.

  She smiled as she looked around my room.  Only the bare minimum was still in residence, what could already be packed had been packed.  “Do you know this is the third time I’ve seen your room like this?”  I nodded. “But it’ll be O.K this time, I can sense it.”  She must have realised that I wanted to be left alone for a while with my thoughts, for she quietly left the room and made her way downstairs.

  I find myself looking around my near-empty room as I write.  The first time I saw it like this was when we moved in, when I was seven.  The room seemed so much bigger then.  For a few minutes, I’ve been remembering that little girl, bursting into the sparse, light, back bedroom and commandeering it for herself as her mother staggered her way up the stairs with the suitcases.  We didn’t have many belongings then: we moved too often to accumulate too much, and we were never well off financially speaking.  I had a scholarship when I went to the ballet school.  I’ve been seeing the room as it was when I was seven, with all my toys, my ballet shoes on the floor, and my soft toys on my bed.  I was happy then.

  The second time I saw the room empty was different.  Now, as then, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in moving out.  Do I know Fliss well enough to live with her? I’ve known her and Flora for less than a year, and I don’t feel as though I know Katy at all.  Am I doing the right thing?

  Mum was in the living room when I finally went downstairs; she was sitting on the battered black leather sofa, a pensive expression on her face.  The room was as eerily quiet as it was fanatically tidy.  “How come you haven’t got the news on?” I asked.

  “I did have it on,” she replied, oddly, “but all they’re doing is showing those two planes flying into the World Trade Center, over and over again.  I watched it for about five minutes, then I couldn’t bear it, so I turned it off.”

  We had been drinking in companionable silence for a few minutes when she suddenly asked, “Have you told your father about the band?”

  “No,” I frowned, “why?”

  “Oh, no reason…” she seemed distracted.  It seemed best to leave her to her thoughts and go to bed.

  The red shoes were waiting for me.  I sat down on the bed and slowly stroked the satin, back and forth, back and forth… the emotion welled up inside me, the memories, the hours of practice, all at an end now.  I slowly got to my feet and walked back out to the landing.  The other boxes were waiting for me there, and I carefully added the red shoes to my other shoes.  Aside from the pink skirt, and a few other things that have been put on one side for Fliss, it is all going, although I know mum will salvage some of the photos, clippings and programs once I have moved out.  I turned my back on it all, and returned to my room and to my drums, packed up and ready to be moved in the far corner.  I can see them from my bed as I get ready to sign off and turn off the light.

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