| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 22

“You can’t rush recovery. Try to take it one step at a time, alright?”

I

try to fall asleep, but whoever suggested counting sheep couldn’t have been too smart. I’m up to 86 before I realize that this is doing nothing for me. So, I decide to have a little fun. First, I dress all the sheep in different pastel colored ballet skirts. Then I have them begin to dance. They dance and dance their way over the little wooden fence they’d been jumping. “Jeté, jeté,” I murmur, and then finally, blissfully, I fall asleep.

Waking up on cast removal day, I have one goal in mind: Finalize with my doctor the best plan for getting back into ballet shoes ASAP.

I flash back to my conversation with Atara yesterday. If the doctor told me I could dance again in two weeks, would I take my solo back? The recital is still two months away.

Atara’s large, tear-filled eyes fill my mind, and I physically shake my head. I won’t, I wouldn’t. But then her voice begins to echo, “You know, and I know, that you’re a bit self-involved.”

Sheesh, with BFFs like that, who needs enemies?

I suppose I am a bit self- involved. But if there was ever a time I am entitled to some self-involvement, wouldn’t it be now?

***

“Ahhh,”  I exhale, as Dr. Frankel removes the last of the cast. I have questions I want to ask, but I’m too nervous as he examines the wound and begins to remove the stitches. Mommy squeezes my hand; I breathe in and out. I get so queasy from these things, but at least that itchy gross thing is going where it belongs — in the garbage.

“Okay, all done with that,” the doctor says, smiling at me sympathetically. I thank him, and he heads out to get my brand-new walking boot. Uh, yay.

He comes back in with a tall black thing. “Oh, that’s pretty,” I say sarcastically.

He chuckles. “Definitely not the point. The heel lift will keep your ankle and foot steadily in place, and your mom will tell you about the physical therapy sessions she’s scheduled, alright? In the meantime, I still want you to keep most of your weight on the crutches, okay?”

“I guess,” I say reluctantly. “What’s the point of rehab, though, If I still can’t use my leg?”

The doctor nods. “Yes, it does seem pointless, but you need to spend these weeks strengthening your upper body so your foot can have a stress-free recovery.”

I nod, but I’m not really listening. “And when can I dance again? There’s this solo in two months and—”

“Bella,” Dr. Frankel interrupts me. “You can’t rush recovery. Try to take it one step at a time, alright? You seem like a strong girl, isn’t that right, Mom?”

Mommy smiles weakly, but I know what she’s thinking: I’m strong until someone takes away my ballet shoes. Then I just become unbearable. Although, according to Atara, I’m pretty much always unbearable. Isn’t that fun?

***

Goldie calls us on our way out and invites us over for lunch.

“I know Ma took off from class to take you to the doctor,” she says cheerfully. “Can I tempt you guys? I made cheese rolls and feta cheese salad, and I can whip up some milkshakes.”

I look at Mommy, she’s smiling for the first time all day, and I’m suddenly jealous that Goldie is so easy and breezy, and I’m so dark and — what was it? Oh, right — self-involved.

“That sounds great, sweetie,” Mommy says cheerfully. “We’ll be there in 20.”

I shrug, but no one’s asking my opinion, so I guess we’re off to Goldie’s.

“Amazing. Oh, and Bella?”

“Mhhhm?”

“I have a surprise to show you.” Even the Bluetooth can’t mask how excited she sounds.

“Kay,” I say dully.

***

Goldie happens to be an amazing cook. I literally haven’t found a thing she’s bad at yet. I devour three cheese rolls; these doctor appointments make me ravenous.

Mommy sips her milkshake neatly and lets out a little sigh; Effie climbs onto her lap, and I see her whole face brighten.

Something inside of me softens, and I turn to Goldie. “So what’d you want to show me?” I ask, trying to infuse my voice with some pep.

She wrinkles her nose. “BRB,” she says and backs out of the kitchen.

Ma raises her eyebrows questioningly.

“Be right back,” I clarify, and we both laugh.

And then Goldie returns wearing the breathtaking blue gown she’d gotten for her brother’s wedding, but now the dress is next level, with the neckline filled in and a stiff peplum adding a haute couture quality to the whole piece.

“Oh, Goldie,” Mommy breathes. “That is truly spectacular.”

She blushes and twirls, and then she says, “You know the best part? This design was all Bella’s idea.”

Ma looks so shocked that I’m almost insulted, but I just wave it off.

“Eh, so not a big deal. I just told her a peplum would look great.”

Ma is staring at me like she’s never seen me before.

“How on earth,” she asks wonderingly, “did you know that?”

I shrug. “I honestly have no idea. I just looked at the dress, and I thought that’s what it needed.”

Ma is quiet, and we finish lunch in a swirl of conversation and compliments to Goldie.

But on the drive back home, Ma turns to me and says, “You know Bella, you seem to have a real gift for clothing design.”

I don’t answer, just stare out the window moodily. First Goldie, now her.

I don’t want a gift for clothing design. I just want to dance.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 798)

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Tagged: Out of Step