Coloured ribbons streamed from the flower garland in her auburn hair. Hazel eyes twinkled under the stage lights, glossed ruby lips parted in a dancer’s smile. Boot-clad yet dainty feet stepped, skipped and stomped as crisp cotton petticoats bounced beneath an embroidered skirt that lifted and swirled around her. Slender arms lifted gracefully as puffed sleeves cinched at the elbow with ribbon and lace framed her rosy cheeks. The dancer and the dance were as one.
The music swelled then stopped. A heartbeat of silence. Then, to thunderous applause that she took as her due, she smiled and bowed and blew kisses to the audience. From the wings, the deferential grey-haired MC came out to bestow a large bouquet of red roses. She curtsied, turned to blow a final dramatic kiss to the audience then glided off stage.
Janet stopped to admire herself in the large mirror on the wall as her sister Susan hurried toward her with a towel. She took it with a small sliver of a smile, her eyes never leaving the mirror. Dabbing gently at her forehead, under her eyes, above the lace collar at her neck, she asked “So, how was I, really? Did I keep the symmetry when I danced troika from stage left to right? It felt like I was a little off –”
Suppressing a sigh, Susan reassured her sister, “It was flawless, Jan. Perfect symmetry, even the arc from top left to bottom right and across. You were the dancing maiden personified”. Her sister tilted her head and frowned – Susan was sure she would pitch a fit and accuse her of sarcasm and jealousy – but Janet merely turned and walked to her dressing room.
Susan looked at the mirror that had just released her sister’s reflection and silently cursed the injustice of genetics and the cruelty of fate. What made it worse was that everyone could see they were sisters; it was unmistakable – the eyes, the shape of their mouths, even their hair colour was the same. So why was she pudgy and pasty-faced no matter what she wore or tried to do, while her sister always glowed with vitality and looked graceful even in sweats? It just was not fair!
Janet stepped carefully out of her skirt and petticoats, eased off her blouse and hung everything up before slipping into jeans and a red sweater. Every movement was a study in unconscious grace – except for the scowl that marred her face. As she sat down to brush her hair, her mind returned, unbidden, to the scene she had witnessed last night.
Carl and her sister sat at a tiny table at Izba, smiling, sipping wine, chatting. How could Susan do this to her?! Janet remembered the way Susan and Carl had huddled together at the cottage in July, supposedly talking about a book she was reading for her MBA. Carl had just earned his so Susan was eager to pick his brain, and Carl felt good helping his future Sis. But what was there to laugh about with an MBA, Janet wondered? And she’d seen them whispering together, too. Now this, this betrayal – at the very place where Carl had proposed!
Susan was jealous of her, Janet had always known it. After all, she was the pretty one, and she always packed the Hall when she danced. Susan could barely keep step in the group dances and she looked lumpy in her kroj. All Sue had going for her was her brain, which landed her a job with the Fortune 500 company that was paying for her MBA. Well, she’d need a career since she’d probably never snag a husband. But how dare she make a play for my fiance? And Carl! What on earth was he thinking?
“Do you really think we can pull it off?” Susan asked, frowning. “I think she suspects.”
“No you’re wrong, Sue,” Carl insisted, “I love her dearly, but you know Janet is always focused on her own – hmm…”
“What?” Susan wondered.
“Maybe you’re right, she could be suspecting something.”
“I think we should we have the party somewhere else. I want it to be a surprise – after all, she’s my sister.”