Amazing Kids! Magazine


By: Natalie Sopyla, age 13, Kansas

The box was coated in a thin layer of dust, the result of years of waiting. Waiting to be found, waiting to be opened, waiting for its contents to be explored. It was a shoebox; that much was certain, but I couldn’t read the brand name on the lid. The name had faded from both the box and my memory. I lifted the lid, sending a cloud of dust into my face. Coughing, I removed the lid completely. There was a flash of pink leather, and I slammed the lid shut, sending another cloud of dust into my eyes. No, I thought, it can’t be… I tentatively lifted the lid again, and glimpsed that same flash of powdery pink leather. I slammed the lid shut again, breaking into a cold sweat. My breathing became short gasps as the memory came flooding back to me, almost as painful as it was the day it occurred, the year I was twelve…

The murmurs of excitement backstage float through the air as the curtain rises. My dance teacher, Kim, nods once. This is my cue. I take my place at center stage, and a single spotlight falls on my lithe figure. My first solo. The music begins, I move gracefully, keeping time. Leaping, twirling, jumping, spinning… and then pain, excruciating pain. The ground below the stage comes rushing up to meet me. The shouts of alarm, the worried faces… and then the noise subsides and darkness creeps in all around me.

I shook my head, clearing my mind of that horrifying memory. That fall had destroyed me, and every chance I had of becoming a world renowned dancer. And now the memory of it had come back to haunt me.

I shoved the box back under my bed and scooted backwards, as far as I could go, until my back hit the pale blue wall of my bedroom.

I couldn’t go back, couldn’t show my face at that studio again.

“Are you sure about this? Are you sure you want to quit?” my mom asked one day when I made my request.

“Mom, I’ll be in this cast for six months,” I pointed out, “and I can’t exactly dance with this on.” The truth of the matter was, I couldn’t bear the staring and whispering that would follow me if I went back. I couldn’t bear to be “The girl who fell.”

My mother reluctantly agreed, and went to the telephone to make the call.

Six months later, though, I still couldn’t bring myself to go back, to dance again. So my shoes, my leotard, and my tights were packed away in a box beneath my bed, and forgotten within the course of a few weeks. That was five years ago.

I lifted my head from where it was rested in my hands and looked around my bare, empty room. My walls, stripped of the countless posters I had hung there over the years. My bed, lacking the blue polka dotted comforter and sheets that had comforted me on many a cold, winter night. My belongings, stacked and squeezed into cardboard boxes that would accompany me to college in a few days. A tear slid down my cheek as I gazed around the room. It seemed cold, unfamiliar, and hostile. Not like my room at all.
I turned my gaze back to the bed, where a corner of the box peeked out from beneath. Slowly but surely, I leaned forward, grabbing the box and pulling it toward where I sat. Slowly, painstakingly, I opened the box again, bracing myself against that sorrowful memory that threatened to elbow its way into my mind. But I wasn’t going to let it this time.

I reached in and pulled out the shoes, my shoes. They were scuffed from hours upon hours of use, and stiff from having been neglected all these years. I loved the familiar feeling of the leather upon my skin. They felt right in my hands. I had a sudden thought then. I leaned forward, and slipped one of the shoes onto my right foot. I wiggled my toes; they fit perfectly. With a growing excitement, I put the other one on, feeling like Cinderella trying on the glass slipper. Only this was better. This was real.
I pulled out my black leotard, feeling the soft cloth in my hands. I checked the tag; too small. Upon pulling out my tights, I met with the same problem. Well, I thought, how could I have expected not to grow in five years? I gazed at the shoes on my feet, and felt a sudden longing to dance in them again, feel them move with me. The doctor had said that I would never be able to dance again, but maybe…
I ran to the suitcase containing my clothes, and pulled out a pink tank top and black spandex volleyball shorts. Pulling them on, I grabbed my shoes and hurried downstairs.

Hearing the commotion I was making, my mother called, “Autumn, are you ready to pack up the car now?”

“Not yet, mom!” I replied. There was something I had to do first, before I left to begin the next chapter in my life.

The dance studio was empty, as I had expected. I pulled out a bobby pin and quickly picked the lock on the back door, then went in. I didn’t care that I was probably breaking about ten different laws. I had to do this, and I had to do it now. I felt around on the wall for the light switch, and flicked it on. The studio was exactly as I remembered it. Same shiny wood floors, same creaky wooden ballet barres leaning against the wall, same floor to ceiling mirror on one wall. The same stereo with the same CDs and even the same stereo remote that my teacher, Kim, was always losing. Nothing had changed, and frankly, I liked it that way. I sat down in one of the cushy red chairs at one end of the room, just like I had so many times before, and slipped off my sandals, exchanging them for my ballet shoes. I padded over to the stereo, enjoying the soundlessness of the shoes against the wood floors, and chose a CD. It was the music for the performance, for my solo, the day I fell. I pressed play, and then took my place at center stage, just as I had all those years ago. Except this time, it was different.

I was back for my reprise.

The music started, and all thoughts I had of the fall flew out of my head as the music took over. My feet seemed to move automatically, and suddenly I was there, back on the stage, with the lights shining brilliantly upon me, and the audience sitting, spellbound, below me. The music flowed through me, penetrating my soul, and moving me with it. I was back, back where I belonged. Then again, I realized, I never really left at all. This realization stunned me, but in a good way. The kind of good that brought tears to your eyes – which is exactly what it did to me.

All too soon, I realized that the song was over, but I didn’t want it to be. I wanted it to go on forever and ever, and I wanted to keep dancing to it, forever and ever. I didn’t want it to end.
The tears that had been threatening to spill from my eyes did, freely. I sank to the ground, crying. Crying for what I had lost, crying (happily) for the fact that I found it after all these years, and crying for the fact that I was about to lose it again.

Suddenly, I felt loving arms wrap themselves around me, and I looked up through my tears into the face of Kim. I didn’t have time to be worried that I would be in trouble for breaking in, because what Kim said next made me cry even harder (if that is even remotely possible).

“Don’t worry,” she soothed, “the music’s not over yet.”

Two Weeks Later

Opal Underwood, my advisor, leaned back in her chair, staring out the window absentmindedly. “So what you’re saying is,” she began thoughtfully, “you want to change your major?”

“Yes,” I replied, “that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Opal cast a skeptical glance at me before asking, “Well, what exactly do you want to change your major to?”

I didn’t hesitate. “Dance,” I replied. “I want to change my major to dance.”

The music wasn’t over for me yet.