“Miss Spontagio. Thank
I open my eyes, surprised
to have been cut short. That’s it? All my hard work and determination had been
cut down to a mere eighty-six seconds? How could they possibly have seen my
capabilities from that?
My eyes drop and I nod,
sure my dream is over. As I walk over to my things, I’m already consoling
myself over not getting in. I try not to focus on the cold silence in the room
as I gather my bags. Finally, I’m ready to leave. I throw a smile at the panel
over my shoulder as I exit the studio, just as the next girl enters, a hopeful
smile on her face.
Outside, the reality of
what just happened hits me. Holy shit, I just auditioned for the New York
Ballet Company. Even if I don’t progress any further, the chance to be able to
dance behind those walls had been pure perfection.
I’m still dazed as I glance
down at my phone and realize I have ten minutes until my bus for the airport
leaves. Breaking into a sprint, I rush through the crowds of people heading
toward Grand Central Station, where I have only a few minutes to catch my bus.
I make it with only seconds
to spare, stepping onto the bus just as the doors begin to close. The bus is
nearly empty, with only an elderly couple occupying seats up near the front.
I choose a seat and sit
down, crossing my left leg over my right. I take my phone out of my bag and
stuff the bag between my feet and the wall of the bus before slinking back in
the seat and closing my eyes. Shivering, I reach down and retrieve my gloves,
sliding them onto my hands. Even though spring has officially started, the
weather remains unpredictable and, at the moment, cold.
My mind replays the audition
on a loop. I keep going over things I could’ve done better. I jump as my phone
vibrates in my lap. Picking it up, I see that it’s my father. Wincing, I let it
ring out, then switch it over to silent. I hate lying to him, but there was no
way he would’ve let me go to the audition if I’d asked. I might be twenty-one,
but in his eyes, I’ll always be his helpless little girl.
He’s always been
overprotective, but things got worse after Mom died. The pain of losing her and
not being able to protect her made him anxious about my safety. I couldn’t even
walk to school or go shopping with friends without a mountain of security
tagging along behind me. It’s only the last year or so that he’s allowed me to
go out with Bella without an entourage, though I’m sure he still has them
follow me. Thank God for my trust fund that I’d had access to since I turned
eighteen. I’d been transferring small, unnoticeable amounts over to another
bank account over the last three years, building myself up a nice little nest
egg that my father had no idea about. I knew my father well enough to know he
probably scrutinized my bank statements for any suspicious purchases. This way
I had access to money that he couldn’t trace— which was perfect for secret
phone accounts and trips to New York.
My flight home is
uneventful, and on time. Bella waits for me in the parking lot at the airport
in Chicago. I cross the street and walk over to her, sliding into the front
seat of her cramped red sports car. Not one for practicality, that’s Bella to a
T, and I’m constantly making fun of her ability to choose the world’s
most impractical car. She smiles at me, her eyes wide with anticipation as she
waits for me to spill details on my day. When all I offer her is a smirk, she
reaches over and punches my arm. I laugh, rubbing it.
“Tell me how it went,” she
exclaims, her lips forming a pout. “I never hold out on you.”
“It was okay.” I laugh.
“And for the record, your stories always have way too
much information. I’d
appreciate you holding back occasionally.”
“Lucia Spontagio, you have
to give me more than ‘It was okay,’” she mimics, her pretty face screwing up
into a frown. “And we’ve been friends for ten years. Now you decide I
share too much?”
“It went okay,” I repeat,
not sure what else to say. “I danced. They thanked me, and then I left. That
“That’s it?” she repeats, a
frown on her lips.
“What were you excepting,
them to run after me, begging me to join their company?” I laugh.
“Well, kinda. Yeah.” She
shrugs, and then starts the car, pulling out onto the street with little regard
for other drivers. I hold on to my seat as she goes flying around a corner
without signaling. “So, what’s the plan if you actually get accepted?” Bella
asks, throwing me a look.
“I’m not going to get in,”
I say, then laugh. I rest my head against the window and sigh. I know what
she’s getting at. Even if I were lucky enough to be accepted, there was no way
in hell my father would let me move so far away from him.
“You’re an adult, Luce.
Remember that. You need to decide what’s right for you and not take no for an
answer. Your dad has kept you sheltered for way too long. He won’t even let you
go to parties, for God’s sake.”
“He’s just protective,” I
say, feeling the need to defend him. I know he loves me more than life itself.
I’m his only daughter. All we have is each other.
“Yeah, well, there’s
protective and then there’s Giovanni.” She giggles, nudging me. “C’mon, Luce.
You’re twenty-one and you haven’t even kissed a guy! I was hitting third base
when I was fourteen.”
“And you wonder why my
father thinks you’re a bad influence on me,” I reply, rolling my eyes. “And how
did we get from my dancing to guys?”
“Because it always comes
back to guys.” She laughs, slapping the steering wheel. “Speaking of which, I
have no idea how you’ve never hit on that brother of yours.”
“Could you sound any more
creepy? And he’s not my brother,” I growl, my face heating up.
She’s always going on about
Pietro. I’m not blind. Of course I see how ridiculously hot he is. I also
realize that he’s two years older than me and so totally out of my reach that
even thinking about him like that should be off-limits. I wasn’t about
to make a fool of myself over any guy, let alone the one who would never let me
hear the end of it.