milk & honey ✖︎ self para
WHO: Julie Spencer
WHEN: August - October 2017
WHERE: New York City Ballet
SUMMARY: In an attempt to finally make her parents proud of her, Julie goes to extreme lengths to secure a part as Odette in the NYCB’s production of Swan Lake.
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“Hey, mom...” It had been a few months since Julie tried to reach out to her parents, but with possibly the biggest role she could ever have at the New York City Ballet coming up, she hoped that maybe they’d finally come out and support her. She stood in a hallway backstage; her back against a wall with her phone up to her ear. “I know you’re probably surprised to hear from me, but I just wanted to tell you that I’m gonna be Odette in Swan Lake this year and-” She paused, glancing over at the bulletin board and drawing in a sharp breath as she saw the cast list being posted.
“-listen, I’d really like to see you there - both of you. This is going to be huge for me, so...I really hope I see you there. Okay. Bye.” Her eyes watched the group of girls that swarmed the bulletin board as she hung up her phone.
There had been plenty of talk about Julie being the one to take the lead role. It had been everything she had worked so hard for since Juilliard; since landing at the NYCB. Her best friend, Colette, and fellow dancers had shown nothing but support, so she was so sure she had the part in the bag.
Taking a deep breath and tucking her phone down into her bag, Julie made her way over to the bulletin board and pushed through the small crowd. The faces of her castmates as she passed them, however, suggested that disappointment awaited her.
She furrowed her brow as she finally made it to the front and quickly scanned over the cast list.
Julie Spencer - Understudy
Julie felt her heart sink down to her stomach. She wanted to feel nothing but pride for her best friend landing the lead role, but all she could feel was disappointment and betrayal. Why didn’t she tell her that she was also trying out for the lead role? Had the countless conversations they had about it being Julie’s dream role been all for naught? They were the questions that plagued her mind.
“Oh my god, Julie!” Julie immediately recognized the extremely excited voice to be that of Colette’s. “I can’t believe I got Odette! This is amazing!”
A lump had formed in Julie’s throat as she slowly turned around to face her best friend. “Yeah, it’s- it’s amazing.” She tried so hard to share in her excitement. “Why didn’t you tell me you were also auditioning for Odette?”
Colette furrowed her brow. “I mean, wasn’t everyone auditioning for her? You’d be crazy to not. It’s the biggest show of the season.”
“I mean, I realize that, but you knew how much this meant to me.” Julie paused, feeling herself become more heated. “You knew how much I needed this.”
“I’m sorry, Julie, truly, but-” Colette stopped.
“But, what?” Julie’s eyes narrowed on the other girl as she adjusted her bag on her shoulder.
“-you aren’t the only person in the world that needs something like this or anything for that matter.” Colette crossed her arms across her chest. “I’m sorry, but I really wanted this part, too. I know how much you wanted it and I didn’t expect to actually get it, but here we are. At least you’re my understudy.”
Guilt was starting to settle in for Julie the more Colette spoke. “I never said I was the only person, I just-” She drew in another sharp breath. “I really think this could be the one thing that really makes my parents understand and support me.”
Colette rolled her eyes and a small scoff passed her lips. “Why do they even matter still? Julie, your parents didn’t you support you then and they’re not gonna support you now. Nothing’s going to change.”
Julie couldn’t find the proper words for a response, so she bit the inside of her cheek and nodded before pushing past Colette to leave and go home.
Things between Julie and Colette were strained for a while to say the least. The only times they saw each other after the cast posting was at rehearsals. She knew that she needed to be more supportive of Colette. After all, she was the one who took her in when her parent’s tried to prevent her from going to Juilliard. She gave her support when they didn’t and now it was time for her to return the favor.
But whatever it was, Julie couldn’t shake the possibility of things finally being good with her parents. No matter how much she wanted to hate them and move on from them, she still wanted to make them proud - just once.
It was the last big, group rehearsal before opening night and Julie was still playing the waiting game. It was all she could really do as an understudy. Colette had just finished a run-through of her final dance and the cast had an hour to get food and relax before running through it one last time.
As the cast flooded into the dressing room, Julie sat in front of one of the mirrors and went through her duffle bag to find the snack she had packed. Colette sat a couple chairs away, taking off her shoes. “Are you not coming to dinner with everyone?”
Julie’s head shot up at Colette’s voice, surprised that she was speaking to her. “No, I’m not that hungry and I brought food.” Her eyes fell to the other girl’s shoes as she took them off, noticing how old and tattered they were.
“Well, we’re just gonna be down the street if you change your mind.” Colette noted before getting up and slinging her purse on her shoulder. “Right, well, see you later I guess.” She headed off with a couple of others, making small talk as they left. “Man, I really need to get new shoes, but I always hate breaking them in.” The conversation disappeared into muffles the further they got.
Julie looked back to Colette’s shoes that sat with her other stuff on the chair, hating herself for what she was about to do. She got up from her chair and made her way to Colette’s things, picking up the girl’s shoes.
They were falling apart. The seams were stressed and on the verge of breaking. Julie glanced over at a small pair of scissors on the dressing table next to her, chewing on her bottom lip in thought before picking them up.
All Julie needed was something to put Colette out long enough for her to perform as Odette in the opening show so her parents could see. Sure, she didn’t know for certain if her parents would come, but there was always a chance.
Scissors ready to cut half the seams at the base of the ribbons, her hand was shaking with regret even though she hadn’t done anything yet. Weakening the ribbons would cause them to snap and Colette would lose crucial support for her ankle. Julie tried to tell herself the most that would happen would be a sprained ankle. Colette would be fine.
And that was how she justified her actions as the scissors cut through the seams like butter. It wasn’t a noticeable change, but from the moment Julie put the shoes back in their place, she felt sick to her stomach.
1 HOUR LATER
The cast returned to the auditorium. Most of them took a seat in the audience to watch Colette’s dance, but Julie remained in the wings. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen - if anything at all, but she couldn’t face her castmates, her friends.
Julie’s heart had been beating noticeably faster, sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead. Colette took her position for the start of the dance, waiting for the music to begin.
The first half of the dance went without a hitch - that was until she went on pointe. Colette went into a pirouette, but the repetitive motion of going up and down from pointe to flat foot is what caused the seams of the ribbons to finally snap. There was only a brief moment where everything seemed fine before shrill screams of pain could be heard over the music.
Colette had collapsed to the stage floor and Julie’s mouth was agape with terror as she realized how much worse this actually was. “I- I think my ankle is broken.” Colette cried as people huddled around her to help her. Julie
The week that followed only caused Julie to spiral even more. Opening night had rolled around and her parents weren’t anywhere to be seen. They never called her or texted her to say congratulations. Things were still the same.
Colette’s injury wasn’t a clean break and news broke that it wasn’t going to heal properly. Therefore, she was forced to retire from ballet at the age of twenty-three.
Julie ended up getting the role that she wanted at the cost of her best friend’s career and never got the support she wanted from her parents.
She hasn’t seen Colette since.