Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Everything was just as she had practiced one hundred times in the safety of her own bathroom, with extensive guidance from Miss Julie Rocket on YouTube. Her mascara doubled her lashes, without clumps. Her blush and highlighter made the apples of her cheeks shiny and bright and bubbly, even when her perfectly lined and glossed lips were not stretched into a full and genuine smile, though she expected they would be this whole night, despite her nerves. Her hair rose almost a foot off the crown of her head in a beehive any 1950s housewife would be envious of, and was anchored by an entire packet’s worth of bobby pins. A scarf printed with little anchors was prettily tied around her neck, a display of false modesty with a more practical purpose.
That was it. She was ready for her moment, except for one last thing. She swiveled her knees to the side of her chair and leaned down to take the clear lucite platform heels out from beneath the vanity. They weren’t new; they were hand-me-downs from Susabelle, who had been a mentor to Danielle during these last few months. Danielle had practiced at home with a different pair, but for her debut, she needed to wear these. These heels were experienced, not only on the stage but also in guiding the wearer through such an important transformation. Susabelle was such a professional that it was impossible to believe she had ever been anyone else, but she had, just like Danielle. She had gone through the same fears and the same derision, both self-inflicted and from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand. But she had emerged from those initial dark months beautiful, successful, and happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this night forward.
She worked the buckles closed, stood up, adjusted her navy blue bustier, and walked toward the door. But after three steps, she heard something snap, felt her ankle twist sideways, and then she fell over. The pain was sharp, and when Danielle managed to move into a seated position, she carefully pulled the injured ankle in close. She saw the heel of the shoe had broken. It had come detached from the sole.
No, this couldn’t be. No. Everything had to be perfect. She didn’t have the courage to do this without all the details exactly as she had planned. She wasn’t superstitious. She simply didn’t feel equipped to manage any change of plans. There was too much else to worry about. Remembering the dance moves, gauging the reaction of the audience, becoming someone else. She couldn’t do it in a pair of shoes that didn’t know the moves. She glanced around the room wondering if there might be a tube of superglue somewhere, but quickly dismissed that idea. She knew she wouldn’t trust it to hold. She wouldn’t be able to think about anything except that heel and the performance would be a disaster. It was going to be a disaster no matter what. What was she doing here anyway? Why did she think that she had the talent to go through with this? This wasn’t her life. She couldn’t be like the others. For all the encouragement they gave her and all the hours she had prepared and even for how unhappy she was with her existing life, she suddenly felt wholly incapable of taking this plunge. She began to sob, the tar black mascara drawing lines down her face until the tears slid off her cheeks and splashed on her white skirt, ruining it too. After several moments, she got up onto her knees and was appalled by what she saw in the mirror.
Fifteen minutes later when the stage manager burst into the room, furious that Deckhand Danielle was not entertaining the full house when her time slot had started five minutes ago, all he found was a balding man in his late forties who was wearing a button up shirt and khakis. When asked who he was, the man only identified himself as Daniel.
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