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.
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