By Tracey Westacott
Her feet were beginning to bleed now. Every metatarsal was screaming at her. Just wait, wait a while. It was still only 6.30am, still dark. She had to get ready but wait – where were the shoes? Had they hidden them again? She listened at the door of the room. There was no sound outside, only the faint brushing of branches against the window panes. She looked again at her feet – crimson specks were dotted around the arches. How could she have been so stupid?
Today was the day – the shortest day of the year and the longest day of her life. Anna looked at the letter, the fine blue and green ink, the simple crest. In four hours, it would be over.
“Out of the darkness comes the light, liebling.” The voice warmed the room, as it always did.
Anna turned to look at her sister. She had a habit of appearing at the right time.
Anna pointed to the floor. “I’ve cut them on the broken glass. How can I do this now? It’s pointless.”
Her sister just laughed, as she always did.
“Oh stop feeling sorry for yourself. A bit of ointment and you’ll be fine in a few hours.”
“But how will I fit in my shoes? Where are my shoes?”
Anna scanned the room again.
“Here they are,” said Catrin. “You just weren’t trying hard enough. It’s 21st December, you know – the day when special things can happen”.
Catrin held the shoes by their delicate laces, allowing each shoe to rotate round and round. It was hypnotic – two little red shoes performing their own carefully choreographed display, suspended in mid air.
Anna marvelled at her sister. There were five years between them but Catrin had always been that much older. She sang; Anna danced. She spoke German; Anna liked Spanish. She liked to see the possible in everything; Anna ……… Anna could never see beyond obstacles and the darkness.
But now she had her chance – today would give her a new chance. Competition would be tough. She was lucky to be asked.
Catrin looked on, bewildered, biting on her bottom lip – a habit she honed since childhood.
“Anna, why do you always think you’re unworthy of good things. Look at you – guilt jumps out of every pore!”
Catrin studied the laced red shoes – perfect in every way.
“You know I could have danced like you, well maybe not as well but I could have tried,” continued Catrin, now cajoling her sister.
“You have your voice and I have my feet, my very bloody feet right now”.
The girls laughed at the irony. Slowly the light began to appear, a deep orange glow in the winter sky. It was 7.45am and now Anna could feel the sun’s energy pouring into her body and her mind.
She put on her white silk dress, edged with scarlet embroidery. Her chestnut hair was tied back in the perfect bun. Her feet continued to ache but wiggling her toes, she could feel the nerve endings again and sense the life force begin to flow through her veins. She gazed in the mirror. Hepburn perhaps? Or maybe Vivien Leigh. Her imagination was starting to take hold and her sister’s influence had once again pulled her onto the starting blocks. The audition was two hours away and she was ready. The door opened and her mother entered.
“Well just look at you. How are you feeling?”
“Oh I’m fine mum, just fine”. Anna looked out of the window and studied the orange glow building in the sky.
“It’s going to be a fine day.”
Her mother smiled at her and gazed at the picture of her and her sister, Catrin, on the bedside table.
“Well I think so,” replied her mother, “she would be proud of you Anna. You know that.”
Anna turned to look at the photo. She looked again at the sky.
“Yes I know. Today is a good day, mum. Out of the darkness comes the light”.