Chapter 1 : Prologue: Unable to Smile
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What do you do when you meet pressure everywhere and all you want to do is just stop up and scream at the top of your lungs? When your days are so stressed and stretched you go from manipulating your brain in the morning to manipulating the limbs of your body in the afternoon?
Because that’s what I feel at this particular moment. Expectations everywhere, from everyone. Friends, family, teachers. Why can’t anyone see I’m about to collapse in the middle of it all? I can’t stand it anymore!
Lily this, Lily that.. It’s like I don’t have the time to be me. Right now, I just want to run away.
From dancing lessons.
From Head Girl duties.
From everybody around me.
From being perfect.
From my solo.
Lindsay Oliver, my ballet teacher, has been so hard on me lately. I feel guilty every time my feet fall from underneath me and she comes over, pulling me up for the umpteenth time.
“You can do it, Evans! Let me see my Lily bloom..”
And I try doing a triple pirouette again.. and again.. and again.. But every time I end up on the floor, or looking like a drunk thirteen-year-old trying to find the way home after a particularly heavy night of partying.
I know she means well, but I just want to let the tears bursting to run down my cheeks let go every time I do something wrong in ballet. I don’t want to disappoint Lindsay … but I do. Over and over again.
All this work doesn’t give me many minutes off. Of course, ballet is a part of my leisure time, but nowadays it feels like anything but that. I have been watching friend after friend fade away from me since fifth year, when everything intensified with O.W.L.s and all. Seen the sadness in their eyes when I whispered,
“Sorry.. I have a ballet class that day.. and homework.”
And then they started hanging out with someone else. And they became good friends after a while ... and I became the fifth wheel. And they forgot most of the busy, clever Lily Evans.
I'm glad the few friends I have are people I know will stick with me till the end. They are friends I can rely on … trust. Thank God for them. If they hadn’t been there, I don’t even dare to thing of what would happen. I would probably be even more of a wretch than I am now.
Lately, I have been trying to avoid McGonagall’s looks. Avoid Flitwick’s glances, Slughorn’s praise. Even Frogley’s look of scepticism. I’ve tried not to be so keen in class. I don’t want to be flawless. I don’t want to be so clever. I just want people to see me for who I am, not who they think I am, not who they want me to be.
They know I’m here, but if I happened to disappear, or left … I know they wouldn’t miss me. Perhaps they would talk about me for a short while, and whisper amongst themselves about the ballet girl, the Head Girl, the Gryffindor girl. But I’d be nothing more than that. I wouldn’t be Lily in their minds.
I used to smile, I used to laugh. I found it easy to reply in a funny way or generally be a happy human being. But at some point that suddenly became very hard. Of course I smile when dancing, but it’s just thirty-two muscles in use in my face. I can’t put my finger on when that happened, but it probably had to do with all the major changes in my body when I became a teenager. Have you heard about that sort of thing? I suddenly lost control when dancing … my body just wouldn’t co-operate, the technique became impossible. My balance played tricks on me. It took years to get back to where I was … and all of it because my body decided it was time to turn into a woman. Of course everybody goes through this process, more or less, but I felt it was extra heavy on me.
My heart doesn’t smile anymore, either.
If you take a closer look, I’d bet anything my eyes don’t smile either. I don’t know what can really make me smile any more.
Another word familiar to me is confusion. I feel like I have never been able to be completely sure about something of importance. Never. I feel like I’m just drifting around, living life in a routine. I can buzz around, not really knowing what I am doing unless it has to do with ballet or school. That’s the only hags I can put anything on. Ballet and school.
Boyfriends and love have ended up the same way as my friends. I remember some temporary crushes I’ve had through the years, but never something serious. I had one boyfriend once, and that lasted for three weeks. I remember our last words so clearly..
“I’m so sorry, Bryn, but I don’t have time. You know what I mean.. I’m too busy for this relationship to continue.”
“Too busy, Lily? When will you stop being busy? How will you ever be able to live life when you’re so dedicated to everything but me? I thought I would be your number one priority... But the way it looks now, I don't think you'll be able to put any future boyfriends first either...”
I had stormed out of the dancing studio, still having dancewear on. He was so right. A part of me had turned him down because I knew I wasn’t really in love. My feelings for him had been too ‘friend-like’ when it came down to it. I had fooled myself, thought I was in love when I was really just longing for somebody’s arms around me, somebody who could understand me and love me. When he pointed out the busy-part to me I felt a whip of pain soar through my body. He was so right I was almost afraid to admit it..
I was so glad we only had one night of kissing and cuddling. I think it was then I found out it wasn't supposed to be us after all..
That is another one of my invisible mistakes. I hate taking risks. I never want to do something if I’m not sure exactly how it will turn out. I don’t even dare to fall in love any more. It's too risky. Getting hurt by a bloke I think is right for me is something that definitely won’t do my self-image a favour. Everything makes me feel less valuable. Even when I received top marks in most of my exams last year did I feel the jolt of joy inside me I ought to have felt. Horace Slughorn didn’t stop bragging around about the result of my Potions exam, as I was one of his three favourite students who received ‘Outstanding’. I didn’t exactly feel proud, I just breathed out in relief because now nobody had anything to put their finger on.
The mirror is my worst enemy these days. When I look onto the blank surface that shows me my reflection.. I don’t see anything worth being proud of. I have always despised the way I look. No matter how many times mother told me I had a beautiful face did I look any different in my own eyes.
I started taking dancing-lessons at five. It's been with me all the way and been a great help to clear my head and focus on other things. As I grew older and went to Hogwarts, my mother begged Dumbledore to let me continue to dance. I still don’t know how she did it, but Dumbledore didn’t hesitate to start a class. Doesn’t miss a thing, Dumbledore. At the school plays we started having little performances, and everybody loved it. That is one of the few things making me happy; to stand on a stage in front of an audience.
Soon we had three ballet classes at Hogwarts. Lindsay came along, and turned out to be a great teacher for all three of them. She always knows how to encourage her students. I was in the first class during my first, second and third year, then changed to the second class.
Now I’ve been in the third and best class for a year, with five lessons a week. I loved it. It used to be the one thing that cleared my head off everything else. But Bryn changed that. Now I know ballet can also be a burden..
“You can do it, Lily! Try once more!”
My eyes filled with silent tears as I sat down on the matt floor. I buried my head in my hands, feeling the blood rushing through my feet in the hard pointe shoes.
“I can’t do it, Lindsay. I can’t.”
She sat down next to me and stroked my back.
“I know you will be able to. Just have confidence!”
All the other girls in my class figured there was something wrong that day. When I sat down and gave up on that exercise. When Lindsay escorted me to the changing room and had a long, nice chat with me about confidence.
Now the delayed autumn-show is coming up. I have been practising all summer. Lindsay has given me another ballet solo. And I know it will turn out disastrous. With my mood and my lack of determination, I’m bound to collapse on stage and turn as red as a tomato in front of a thousand students.
I’m going to be remembered as the failure of the year.