“Mia dear, wake up,” whispered a sweet sounding voice over top of me.
I opened my eyes and the sunset on the horizon was no longer visible. I could not see any beach houses and Tony no longer embraced me in his arms. Instead, I awoke to Janice leaning over me. Her large baby blue eyes peered down at me, while her pin straight black hair sharply framed her face. Her vibrant red lips held back, waiting to see if another gentle alarm would be needed. Since my first day in Paris, Janice had stuck by my side and had helped me with nearly every aspect of my life to the point where she became my assistant. It was thanks to her that I was on time to anything and prepared for everything.
I laid on the chase for a moment more, processing, within seconds, all that was around me. To my left against the wall was a large mirror surrounded by lights that was the source of any brightness in sight. A vanity table and bench sat just in front of it, anticipating my arrival with an array of make-up for me to choose from. In the far corner of the room stood a wardrobe that was not even fully shut due to the overflow of embroidered corset-like tops and perfectly shaped tutus. Hanging on the back of the door, directly ahead, was a schedule of the show, including everything from wardrobe changes and intermission to every stage direction.
My eyes blinked in confusion and a bit of grogginess, so Janice’s lips took the cue to a second warning, “Darling, if you don’t wake up soon you won’t be ready in time for your performance.”
I, then, came to the realization that everything I felt a few moments ago was just a memory from the past that came to life in only my dreams. In reality, I was backstage in my dressing room and I had a show in fifteen minutes that I hadn’t even begun to get dressed for.
I left Long Island for Europe just after my summer with Tony to study ballet and pursue a career as a true ballerina. I never spoke to Tony after our short time together, though I recently began seeing his photos in publications all over Europe. I saw everything from his modern photos to pictures that I recognized of the beach that saw our love flourish. I always noticed them and I always saved them, keeping them tucked away to avoid too much nostalgia.
Although throughout the few years that had passed I had entertained a few prospects, they never felt as rich and pure as my love with Tony. I was sure it would be a while till I got that feeling back, but now I could only be happy for Tony. He was doing what he loved as was I. Upon graduating from the academy, I began to get offers on roles in the latest ballet productions. My most recent job was as the lead in “Giselle,” a revival Paris had been waiting for.
As I got up, I looked to my side and noticed a bouquet of white irises, my favorite flowers, sitting on the vanity. Ever since I had begun performing in real productions, I received one bouquet each night of a show. There was never a note, leaving no hint as to who they were from. Although I couldn’t be sure, those flowers always brought me back to that summer with Tony. I could smell the garden on the side of my parents’ beach house and I could feel Tony delicately placing a freshly picked white iris into my hand. Since that day, the white iris was my preferred flower without a doubt.
As usual, I admired the flowers, softly touching the edge of each petal and taking in the subtle scent that filled the air. They were perfect as always, though this time the bouquet was not the same as its past brothers. This time the bouquet carried a note. I quickly opened the small, gold envelope and it read “I told you so” and nothing else. An array of fantasies and ideas rapidly took over my thoughts and I was left in utter confusion. What did this mean? Were they from Tony? Had he been my secret admirer this whole time? How could they be from Tony? Did he even still remember me?
But, suddenly, a tender reminder from Janice swiftly interrupted my solitary interrogation, “Ten minutes, my dear.”
I was then forced to forget my deepest wishes and I came back to reality. I changed into my costume, stretched as much as I could, and before I knew it I was center stage dancing out my excitement. The music soon ended and the curtains were closing before my eyes. That’s how it always happened. My performance came and left, faster than a snapshot. At least, that’s how I always felt it happened. The wardrobe changes, the applause, the rush all became a blur during and after each performance.
Once my mind began to think clearly again, I was back in my dressing room, recollecting my energy, when I heard Janice’s voice again.
“My dear, don’t bother changing. You’re needed on stage again.”
“Why?” I asked with confusion masking my face.
“Oh, I haven’t the slightest idea, but, by the looks of it, it’s only more good news for you,” she quickly responded with a sneaky smile over her lips.
As I walked back on stage, I could see the audience giving me a standing ovation through the blinding spotlights of the theatre. I smiled and waved out of common courtesy. On the stage, there was a man, Harold Grulier to be exact, the owner of the extraordinary venue. From what I could see, the burly, blonde man was holding a plaque and some roses. There was also a photographer just to his right with his face hidden behind every flash.
I stood next to Mr. Grulier with a combination of excitement, anticipation, and even hesitation. I had no idea what this was all about, but I only wanted to get back to my newest bouquet of white irises and the mysterious golden note. Harold began to speak in his deep, soothing voice. I continued to smile and from time to time looked around out of pure boredom.
“It is with great pleasure that I stand before you all and speak to you of Mia Cartagena, the talented young dancer who has entertained us all. Not long ago, she was unknown to perhaps all who stand before me, but in a matter…” he began.
As I zoned out from Mr. Grulier’s speech, it was then that I saw him. I looked straight into his glistening green eyes and it was unmistakably him. The photographer standing on stage was my Tony, whom I had lost track of so long ago. My eyes traveled across his face and skin, examining his similarities and differences. He looked the same, yet very different. I could look into his eyes and still see my teenaged companion, but I could take one glance and tell that he was a man. His jaw was much more defined, his stare much stronger, and his frame had grown with muscle, but I could still see his pure smirk and bashful blink through his definite transformations.
Tony moved toward me without saying a word. For a brief moment, I thought he was going to take a picture, but instead he slipped an envelope into my hands that hung at my sides. Confused, I accepted it, but did not dare to open it on stage. I barely even looked down to see the white paper closing. Tony stepped back and I was hurt that, after so much time, all I got was a silent envelope. So many fantasies and dreams had been shattered by a reality that didn’t even resemble the closeness that the summer of 1903 was filled with. Shortly after, Mr. Grulier gave me my plaque and I said my thanks. I rushed back to my dressing room as I noticed Tony taking the opposite wing exit. I had no interest in being in the spotlight any longer.
In my dressing room, I closed my door and clutched the envelope close to my chest. I observed the envelope and it simply said my name, Mia. Inside there was a note that said: “I told you that you would make it as a prima ballerina. I promised that I would never forget you just as I promised myself to never forget that summer. I hope you liked the flowers. I remembered they were your favorites.” There was also something else in the envelope. I took it out and there I was. It was a picture of me dancing on the beach. He had taken it the very same day I had just dreamt about.
By this point, my eyes were misty and my chest was pounding. I felt like my heart had somehow doubled in weight as I leaned my head down into my body. I could see the picture and the note. I could feel the paper, but there was still doubt in my mind. I’m not sure what exactly I was feeling, but I know I was overwhelmed. Perhaps, I was just so happy to know that I was not the only one who lingered on such distant memories. Perhaps, I bawled out of anger, wondering what took him so long. The only fact I was sure of is that I soon heard a hesitant, but firm, knock on my door.
I opened it to find Tony standing right in front of me. His eyes, a few inches above mine, were on the verge of tears, his hands trembled, and his lips longed for the strength to say something. We were both in awe. Within a few moments, we both reacted and took part in a long-awaited embrace, which followed with a kiss that I wish could’ve lasted an eternity.
I looked into his eyes and all I could utter was, “I loved the flowers.”
He stared back with a grin on his face and responded, “I’m glad you did.”