As the music played, Arya danced with grace, elegance, and passion. The light melody of her teachers' playing threw all of the girls into frenzies of motion. A twirl, a leap, a sashay, the old New York dance room was filled with young energy and possibility. "Enough for today ladies", Ms. Roman said as she briskly shut the piano cover. "We resume early Tuesday morning. Arya, stay for a minute, stand here". Arya turned around, her thick, black braid swung around with her head. A pretty blue eyed girl of fourteen, she breathed dance and worshipped Ms. Roman's acclaimed talent. She leapt to the front of the piano where she was told to stand, awaiting instruction. Ms. Roman lifted the piano cover with her brittle, beautiful hands. She narrowed her eyes and spoke to Arya, "Try the first leap, followed by the second turn and then into the second leap. I want it clean. Go". Arya leapt into the air with eagerness and speed, turning the minute she felt the floor beneath her feet, and then swept into the second leap with undeniable grace. Returning to first position, she awaited her response breathlessly. Ms. Roman arose from the piano bench with a stern face, "Thank you Arya, but you may not dance in the show. Goodnight".
"How many places were left?" asked Arya's mother, Dana, a rather large woman with the same thick, black braid and clear blue eyes as her daughter. Arya sobbed at the kitchen table of the apartment, her head in her hands as she spoke, "Just three! I thought for sure when she asked if I would stay after class and dance for her, she would tell me I had a part!". Dana sighed and looked at her feet. She had known what rejection in the world of ballet had felt like, she herself had not had what it took. She was puzzled at the same time as well, she had seen Arya dance, and thought it was the most beautiful and precious sight in the world. "She just hates me! She hates me and my dancing!" sobbed Arya, tugging at her braid, voice trembling. "She doesn't hate you my love. She just doesn't know what beauty is", Dana whispered, handkerchief in hand. She touched the handkerchief to Arya's porcelain skin, Arya turned away. "You are saying that Danielle Roman, daughter of a principle dancer in the russian ballet, can't see beauty? You're wrong, I am horrible, I want to die!" Arya grabbed her dance bag and ran into the hall and into her tiny room.
When Tuesday morning came, Dana could not get Arya to get out of bed. "My love, I have breakfast waiting for you in the kitchen, your favorite" coaxed the worried mother. Arya would usually be the one to wake Dana on the day of her dance class. Arya grumbled in a whisper, "I am not hungry, and I am most certainly not going to ballet". Dana sighed, "You must go Arya, you will grace the class with your presence. You are a beautiful dancer, it is a shame to stay in this bed all day". Dana tugged on her thick, black, braid with one hand as she petted her daughters head with the other. She always felt great joy in feeling the same hair on her head as Arya's, she loved that it was a trait they both would always share. "If you will not go, I will go down to the ballet class myself and have a word with Ms. Roman" she announced to the pretty girl, half asleep. "I don't care" mumbled Arya, as she pulled the soft, white, blanket over her head. Dana turned to leave, blowing her daughter a kiss as she went.
Dana arrived at the old ballet studio just as the little ballerinas were leaving for school. Her subway ride had been delayed, so it had taken longer to get to the class than she had predicted, but it worked out perfectly. As now she would be able to speak to Ms. Roman alone, as opposed to speaking to her with young, gossip loving girls listening in. The soles of her old shoes made funny noises on the waxed wooden floors, and as she approached the old ballet room she saw the teacher standing at her piano. A slender woman with a large grey bun, beautiful. Dana was insecure, this woman looked as if she had seen the entire world, and Dana hadn't left New York since she immigrated from Iran with Arya in her arms. She walked into the room full of light, and smelled of pine trees. The teacher turned in Dana's direction, "May I help you?", her words were kind, but her tone was filled with impatience. Dana blushed, and was stern "Oh yes please. I'm sorry to bother you but I would like to talk to you about my daughter, Arya." Ms. Roman smiled a little, "Ah yes, Arya. She is very talented, very beautiful. She will go far in the dance world if she keeps coming to my lessons. I did not see her today". Dana moved closer to the piano, " She did not come today because she feels so sad. She told me that she did not receive a place in your recital". Ms. Roman narrowed her large brown eyes at Dana. "I did not give Arya a place in my show not because of her abilities. She is a wonderful dancer. I did not give her a place because I will not be putting any of the girls in the show anymore. I have cancer, and my doctor says it will kill me very soon". Dana's eyes filled with tears instantly. she hardly knew this woman, but she knew immediately that she was too lovely to leave the world in such a way. Ms. Roman put her hand on Dana's shoulder, "Please do not cry for me, I have done something wonderful for myself. I am happy. On the day of the show, I will be dancing. It will be my last, and I held Arya after class the other day because I wanted to see her leap just once more. She is so beautiful when she does". Dana used the sleeve of her brown sweater to wipe her tear stained cheeks, "Ms. Roman may I bring Arya to watch you dance? I think it will be a wonderful thing for me to share with her". Ms. Roman smiled, "Of course. I would love that".
The night of the performance, Arya and her mother wore their hair in neat, stylish buns. Their identical, blue eyes filled with tears as they watched Ms. Roman dance for the last time. As they watched, Arya imagined that it was she who was up on the stage, dancing for love and for life. She imagined that one day, she would be able to fly through the air and land on her feet as beautifully and weightlessly as her teacher. She imagined having a show, packed with people, but always with an empty chair left in the front row for Ms. Roman's memory and spirit. Dana too, was imagining a packed show with Arya dancing onstage, and thought how wonderful it is that Arya has something that she truly loves. And then she smiled, and turned to her daughter. Her lovely thick, black, bun. Her beautiful sad blue eyes. Arya's love will always be Dana's love. And Dana's love, would always be Arya.