The Dancer

By Marie LeClaire

They all accompanied her to the train station. Not to send her off, but to continue to berate her right up until the bitter end. The duffel bag she held tightly to contained all of her belongings, at least all they would let her take. She glanced over her shoulder before stepping onto the deserted train platform. People rarely got on and off here. The railroad had threatened to close the stop more than once. Each time, the village sent out a cry to the legislature, who begrudgingly intervened on their behalf.

Was she doing the right thing? There was no going back. Her parents had made that very clear in their final conversation.

“This is an abomination against God and all that is holy,” her mother shrieked at her.
“How can something so beautiful offend God?” she screamed back.
“That is not for you to ask! The bible is clear on this.”
“Clear as mud! Show me the prohibition!” Rebecca demanded.
“Why are you doing this? You know this will shame our entire family!” Her mother had reverted to sobbing, which was the fallback strategy when sheer volume didn’t shift things in her favor.
“I’ve been trying to tell you, mother. You haven’t been listening. I can’t live this life anymore. I’m dying inside. Is that what you want for me? To be as dead as you are?” She regretted it as soon as she said it. It pushed her mother over the edge.
“Get out! Get out and never return! You are dead to us. And may God’s wrath be levied upon you.” The rest of her family stood in stunned silence, not even her twin brother came to her aid.

It felt like her insides were being pulled out. This was not how she imagined it going. But her decision was made. The passion that burned in her chest would not be denied. How could she make any other decision? Still, the pain of losing everything threatened to dislodge her resolve. What if she was wrong? What if she failed? She couldn’t. She wouldn’t. Dancing was the only thing that mattered to her. It was all she thought about, all she wanted to do. How could that be an affront to God? Her heart screamed in pain as she stepped onto the train.

The looming clouds cast an extra layer of gloom over the day. What was the weather in the City That Doesn’t Sleep? It didn’t matter. The die was cast, the ticket purchased. She found a seat by the window. By the time the train pulled away, a light snow had started to fall. She wondered if the wintery mix would delay her arrival? Reaching into her bag, she pulled out the letter that had changed her world forever. Clutching it tightly to her chest, remembering her joy at receiving it, she dozed off.


She’d taken lessons secretly online, memorizing all the YouTube classes she could find. Her father had installed a book shelf in her room, at her request, at just the exact height of a ballet bar. When she’d exhausted all her solo efforts, she convinced her only secular friend, Holly, to help her sneak off to dance class once a week under the guise of bible study to convert her. They’d managed to drag it out for years with the idea that once Holly was eighteen, she could join the community without her parents’ permission.
Rebecca’s father had taken the story at face value, believing his daughter would not lie to him. Her mother was looking forward to her position in the community going up by providing a new member to the flock.

Holly’s parents were a little more savvy. They knew something was up. When the girls finally came clean, Holly’s parents had agreed to go along, even financially supporting the effort with new toe shoes every year and class leotards. There was the occasional costume for recitals, but those events were a little trickier and often Rebecca had to pass.

The instructor at the dance school immediately recognized Rebecca’s extraordinary ability, and offered her classes at drastically reduced rates, banking on using the bragging rights when Rebecca made it into a professional company. She allowed Rebecca to film her application video at the studio providing she started with the studio sign out front. Still, it was difficult. With Holly operating the smart phone, she had to record it prior to dance class, with other students milling around. It had taken weeks to get it just right. When it was done, she had a lovely piece, three minutes long, of her own choreography. She sent it off, with a letter of explanation, to the New York City Ballet. Shockingly, they asked her to come in for a formal audition.

“I’ll never be able to do this,” she sobbed to Holly. “I give up.”
“No way,” Holly cried back. “You didn’t come this far to walk away.”
“I don’t know how I’ll ever do it.”
“I don’t either, but let’s figure it out, like we always do.”

When they put their heads together on it, they realized that, miraculously, the county-wide 4H show was the same weekend as the scheduled audition. This would allow her an excuse to be away from home. Rebecca entered several competitions based on what time they were judged, coordinating it with how long it would take to get the city and back. She claimed to be at the event all day, while Holly’s parents whisked her off to the audition.
The moment of truth came when she got her acceptance letter into the Company dance school. Her dream was coming true. Sort of.


The porter’s voice jostled her out of her nap. The train had stopped at the next station, Allentown, PA. It was a much larger station and the porter was hustling passengers onboard.

“Come on people. Let’s get moving. We have a snow storm to outrun.” He was literally herding people onto the train. “Find a seat. Let’s go. Let’s go.”

Rebecca looked out the window. The blizzard had whipped up to near zero visibility. She lost sight of the station as soon as they pulled away.


Bright florescent lights stabbed at her eyes as consciousness crept slowly into her brain. Where was she? Her first attempt to move sent stunning pain throughout her body. Something covered her nose and mouth. Beeping sounds echoed off the walls. She tried again to move, this time pushing through the pain enough to turn her head towards a voice.

“Hey there, Rebecca. It’s good to see you awake.” A woman touched her shoulder gently.

Rebecca tried to speak but only managed a groan.

“Don’t move, dear. You’ve been in an accident. Do you remember?” A woman in flowered hospital scrubs was coming into focus. Rebecca gently shook her head.

“You were on the train coming in from Kansas City. There was a bad storm and the train jumped the tracks south of Easton, Pennsylvania. You’re at University Hospital in Philadelphia.”

Rebecca could barely make sense of it. She finally managed a whisper.


“Two days ago.”

“Nooooo.” Rebecca remembered the letter. She was on her way to New York.

“You’re very lucky,” the woman continued. “It was a bad accident. A lot of people died. It looks like you’ll recover almost as good as new.”

“Almost?” Rebecca’s voice was soft and raspy through the oxygen mask.

“The doctor will be in shortly. She’ll tell you everything.”

Rebecca lay there, eyes closed, catching her breath. Even this slight effort left her tired. If she had the energy, she’d be frightened, but as it was, she struggled to remain conscious. Pain emanated from everywhere. She started to take a physical inventory, moving what she could. First fingers, then arms, shoulders and head, all moved slightly. The pain got progressively worse as she continued down her torso. The main source seemed to be her legs. Panic fueled her brain. What was happening?

When she opened her eyes again, a white-coated woman stood by her bed, stethoscope hanging from her neck.

“Hello. I’m Doctor Blevens. I was here when they brought you in. You’re very lucky.”

“It doesn’t feel like it,” she whispered, the words catching in her dry throat.

“You only sustained one major injury, but I’m afraid it’s a serious one. One of your legs was severely injured in the crash. We managed to save it, but recovery will be a long road.” The doctor paused to let the information sink in.

“Do you have any family we can call?”

The words of her mother rang in her head. “May God’s wrath be levied upon you.” Was this it? Was this punishment for her transgression?

She looked at the doctor and shook her head slowly. She was on her own. She had nothing and no one. Suddenly, a voice from deep inside her broke through the drug-induced haze. You are not going down like this, Rebecca! Not without a fight!

“Wait.” Her voice was stronger now. “Call the New York City School of Ballet.”