Cory spotted Kevyn in the auditorium foyer, along with Douglas and Bucky, standing in line at the bar. They made a strange trio: Kevyn in his best outfit, his black jeans with white oxford shirt untucked, of course. Douglas wearing his customary uniform of French cuffs, subtle-patterned jacket, and pressed flannel slacks. Bucky who had donned what Cory surmised was his “dress-up” belt buckle—a large silver-plated monstrosity, paired with a leather vest and pointy snakeskin boots. His hair was slicked back so you could see the comb marks in it. Kevyn turned to hand Cory a plastic cup of soda. Bucky had a beer in one hand and wine in the other. Cory couldn’t avoid him entirely, but she’d at least gotten pretty good at ignoring him.
“A double for your mother,” he explained. “She says she needs to load up before the show.”
Cory turned her back without response. Great.
She followed the men to their seats. Not long afterwards, Aunt Liv and her mom squeezed past their sideways-tilted knees to their seats as the lights dimmed and the orchestra started up. In spite of the stupid ballet story, Cory felt a small thrill as the curtain opened on a Victorian Christmas scene.
Kevyn leaned over and slipped his warm, rough hand into hers. It fit like a love letter tucked into a scented envelope. Cory leaned closer to him and let herself be lifted out of the here and now by the kaleidoscope of colors and movement on the stage. In the darkness of the theater, she saw Aunt Livia, in her proper Chanel black dress, press her leg against Douglas’s creased trousers. She smiled. It was Christmas, after all.
A moment later the scene on stage changed. All of the color disappeared, replaced by shimmering white. The little girl playing Clara wandered into a blank landscape of shadowy trees. Jess appeared and dominated the stage. She was silvery, tall, and so achingly delicate she made you want to protect her and at the same time stand back and revere her as a magical spirit or royalty. She moved in front of a corps of dancers dressed as snowflakes, but Cory couldn’t take her eyes off her sister. Jess leapt as if there were no gravity and floated across the stage. Her legs and arms were inhumanly long, agile, and capable of moving with grace in any direction she commanded.
A male dancer entered the stage. He, too, was entirely in white, dressed in a military-looking top with epaulettes. Cory sat forward. Jess had been especially worried about the partnering, the lifts, and hitting her turns just right. As they came together, the Snow Queen was lifted up as if she weighed nothing into a pose with her back arched and arms flung backwards, then swooped down facing the floor in a pose like a swan. The partner then placed her so gently back on her tiny pointed foot where she spun and spun until she was a blindingly white sparkling whirl. From the skywalk above, a dusting of fake snow started to fall. Soapflakes. Cory relaxed. Jess was wonderful. She was more than wonderful. She was fulfilling her calling.
After the performance, the wind had picked up. Trash flew down the sidewalk, hitting Cory on her legs before she brushed it aside and watched it flutter along the ground. The back of her coat was plastered against her legs as she pulled the front closer around her.
“Hurry up, I’m freezing,” she called to Kevyn over the howling wind.
Kevyn struggled with the keys in the lock, then pulled the door open for Cory. It nearly ripped out of his hands as it ground against its hinges. She jumped into the truck, and the two of them pushed and pulled the door shut. She leaned over and unlocked his door, the freezing air swirling around her legs before he slammed it shut.
“Let’s get the heater going.” Kevyn started the truck and leaned over, fiddling with the dials. “Unfortunately, it takes a little while to warm up.”
“That’s okay,” Cory said. “I have you to keep me warm.”
Kevyn smiled and pulled her across the bench seat. The motor hummed, and the vent blew cool air in their faces.
“That was really something tonight,” he said. “Your sister’s really good.”
Cory nodded. She recalled the snowy scene of the silvery queen and her snowflakes. It reminded her of something—the deer in the glen, their delicate gracefulness and how they moved on long, thin legs.
Kevyn leaned over her and grabbed a small box out of the glove compartment.
“I wanted to wait until Christmas, but I thought maybe tonight would be a better time. Besides, I want you to have it for your next show.” He held the gift-wrapped box out to her.
Cory inched closer. It felt like a small bird was trapped inside her chest, beating its wings to get out. The box was bigger than a ring box. Okay, not that. She tugged at the ribbon, tore the paper off, and lifted the lid. Inside on a white satin cushion sat a perfect replica of a miniature gold horseshoe on a chain, a small diamond at the base of the shoe. She didn’t know what to say.
“I thought it would bring you luck,” Kevyn said, studying her face.
“It has already.” Cory pulled him to her and kissed his lips. They felt cold and chapped. She ran her tongue across, then separated them. The heater was starting to work.
Kevyn’s arms wrapped around her more tightly as the wind rocked the truck. Cory had always thought the stories in ballets were dull—princesses, love, and enchantment—but now she wasn’t so sure they were that dumb after all.
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