An Elephante Dancer’s Lament
For the longest time, ever since she could remember, Emily had dreamed of being a dancer.
In her mind’s eye, she was a sleek and graceful figure, gliding through the stage with all eyes on her. Twisting and twirling, her legs would rise high into the air, and she’d turn so fast her head would spin, but she would never lose her balance. The stage lights would burn bright atop her, but she would be the brightest of them all, outshining all the other dancers around her, before her, and perhaps even long after her.
But then, Emily would wake up, and the dream would dissipate like mist, forever out of her reach. Because the reality of her life as this:
Large and clumsy, Emily the Green Elephante could barely take two steps without tripping over her own feet. Even as a baby, she’d been too big and bulky, far from the sleek and graceful forms she wished for. Though she’d been taking dance lessons for as long as she could remember, the Green Elephante was still barely better than a novice and forever at the bottom of the class. Their dance professor, Ms. Amelia, was an elderly Xweetok who’d been an incredible dancer back in her youth. There were trophies on the cabinet of her office that gleamed bright and tempting. She was a strict taskmaster, but one who was also kind and fair.
Once, after a particularly embarrassing class, where Emily had knocked into her classmates during an exercise and sent them all tumbling down, she’d asked her to stay behind after class. In the gentlest of tones, she’d suggested if perhaps dancing was not for her, after all.
That had been a terrible blow, even more embarrassing than the grumbles and laughter that had rung out after her latest clumsy fall. Immediately, Emily had refused, had stammeringly tried to explain how much dancing had meant to her, tears building up in the corners of her eyes. Ms. Amelia had looked on with an unreadable expression, before she’d calmly nodded and told her she would see her again for next week’s lesson.
The teacher never said anything about quitting again, but Emily could still hear the words ringing in her ears every time she failed to execute a move or one of her classmates laughed at her. But the worst part, was having to see the star student of the class, a Pink Xweetok named Thalia, constantly succeed. The two of them had joined Ms. Amelia’s dance class at the same time, but while Emily had never progressed beyond the basic lessons, still struggling through moves she’d practiced a hundred times over already, Thalia had mastered the moves with a startling ease. Now, she was so good that she was also Ms. Amelia’s dance assistant, who helped out newbies with their forms. Most embarrassingly, this group also contained Emily more often than not.
Thalia never said anything about it. No, she was far too nice and kind for that. But there was always a soft, pitying look in her eyes that made Emily feel even worse. She almost wished the Pink Xweetok would just insult her subpar abilities already! At least then, she could feel justified in hating her. Instead, the Green Elephante could only try to clamp down on the horrible poisonous feelings constantly trying to get to her. It was so hard, not to feel jealous or frustrated when Thalia could master a move that took Emily ages to do. It was hard not to get angry or hateful, when it seemed like life had gifted the Pink Xweetok with all the perfect parts needed to be great, thanks to her sleek form and beautifully feminine hair, while Emily had been born with a body so large and bulky, in a colour that stood out in the worst way when combined with their pretty pink tutus.
All too often, Emily could only look at Thalia, and wonder and wish, what her life might’ve been like if she could be like her. In desperation, the Pink Elephante had begun to search for morphing potions, thinking to herself that perhaps she might have a chance if she’d were a Xweetok like Thalia, or their teacher, Ms. Amelia. Intellectually, she knew, that it probably wouldn’t help as much as she hoped, that other species were just as perfectly capable of being incredible dancers. But Emily could only see her dream, and the reality that is was seemingly not meant to be.
According to her research, the cheapest morphing potions that could turn her into what she wanted was a Yellow Xweetok Morphing Potion. It was still over twenty thousand neopoints, but considering achieving her dream was priceless, Emily was perfectly ready to pay it. Of course, that was easier said than done. The thing was, the Green Elephante didn’t exactly have twenty thousand neopoints just lying around her house. Most of her money went to paying basic necessities, and then her dancing. Equipment was cheap, and Ms. Amelia’s dance studio had top notch prices for its top notch classes.
Emily barely had neopoints left over for a small cone of ice cream after classes, let alone an expensive morphing potion! But the Elephante didn’t want to give up, not when she could practically feel her dreams just a potion away from becoming reality. So, she started doing some slightly questionable things to help her quest.
She bought cheap items from the Igloo Garage Sale and sold them for far more than she got it, often more than it was actually worth, as she used all the sales talk she could to make her trinkets seem better than they were. She stalked the Money Tree at all hours of the day, waiting for good stuff to come and snatching it with a kind of ferocity that frankly scared other Neopets. She scrimped and saved, and on really bad days she may have even stolen a small item or two, heart hammering in her chest as she ran away.
But it still wasn’t enough.
Even after months of this, she was only halfway to her goal. Maybe that should have been encouraging, but Emily was just at her wit’s end. She was doing worse in her dance classes than ever, slipping up doing moves she could once do, thanks to the stress of it all. The pitying looks from Thalia got worse, and even Ms. Amelia’s frowns grew an edge of concern.
One day, it all came to a head during a dance class where they were practicing their jumps. Emily, too distracted by her thoughts of where to get more neopoints, was not focusing properly, and before she knew it, she’d jumped and crashed hard into the ground. Her world exploded in pain all around her, a startled scream erupted from her throat.
“Emily!” The worried voice of Ms. Amelia came quickly, followed soon by Thalia’s cry, “Oh Fyora! Are you alright?”
“I...I’m f-fine,” Emily managed to wheeze, between gritted it. But it was an obvious lie, as tears streamed down her eyes and she clutched desperately at her leg. When a jolt of terrible pain flashed through as she tried to move, she quickly admitted defeat. “...N-no, I’m not. I think… I think it’s broken?”
Ms. Amelia nodded her head quickly, “We’ll need to get you to the Neopian Hospital.”
But Emily could barely hear it, the pain taking over her. The darkness was starting to come over her, and soon, it was all she knew.
When Emily opened her eyes again, it was to a blindingly white hospital room. Blinking groggily, the Green Elephante tried to figure out what had happened. There was a large and bulky white cast on her left leg.
“Oh, you’re awake! That’s great.” An Elephante nurse spoke up, as soon as Emily had turned. “You broke your leg during dance class, dear.” She added, after seeing the confused expression on her face.
Just like that, Emily remembered everything. The pain, the practice, all the months of trying to gather enough neopoints to become a Xweetok, all the years of watching Thalia get better so quickly while she struggled to improve her basics. Like a bubble bursting, Emily started to cry, wet tears and loud sniffles that made the Elephante nurse rush over to try and calm her.
But nothing could calm her, not until there was the familiar voice cutting through all the noise. “Excuse me, miss, but I’d like to try talking to her.”
Still sniffling, Emily raised her watery eyes to look at the Pink Xweetok who had just come in, carrying an equally familiar bag with her. It was hers, the one she always used for dance class.
“Hello, Emily. I’m glad to see you’re awake, at least, if not necessarily fine.” Thalia said ruefully. The Elephante nurse looked between the two of them and decided to give them some privacy, getting up and heading for the door. Emily almost wanted to call her back, not quite sure if she wanted to talk to Thalia alone, even though the Pink Xweetok had never been anything but nice to her (maybe that was the problem).
The tears had stopped now, but Emily could no longer look at Thalia, too ashamed and embarrassed by what happened. “Thanks.” She mumbled vaguely, knowing it was Thalia who had no doubt helped her, along with Ms. Amelia.
There was a moment of awkward silence, before Thalia finally broke it. “Emily… I saw what was in your bag.”
That made her look up, into a pair of pink eyes that were staring so confusedly at her.
“There were books and notes, on morphing potions, earning neopoints. You wanted to buy a Yellow Xweetok Morphing Potion… Why?”
If Emily though she’d been embarrassed and ashamed about falling while performing a simple move, it was nothing compared to how she felt now. But most of all, she could only think, how could she even ask? Shaking her head, Emily found all the words she had always kept inside her flowing out, “Why do you think? Because I want to be like you! Like Ms. Amelia! I want to be sleek and graceful and good at dancing!”
Tears started falling again, as she thought of her dreams. “I want to be on stage, the star of the show, with everyone’s eyes on me. Not laughing at me for doing a move wrong, but in admiration for my abilities!” Head hanging, she went on. “We started studying dance at the same time, but while you’ve improved by leaps and bounds, I’m still barely better than the newbies!”
“Emily… I never realized..” Thalia shook her head. “No, I guess I did realize that you were unhappy with your progress, and that you loved dance and wanted more. But… why didn’t you ever say anything?”
Looking sad, Thalia continued on, “I remember when we first started too, you know. We were friends then. We always practiced together… But then we stopped.”
“Because you got too good! I couldn’t keep up anymore.”
“No! I always tried to include you, but you kept refusing, and you stopped talking to me in class. We stopped… being friends.”
Thalia looked so far away from the graceful, perfect figure she had become. Now, she only looked small and uncertain, so much like a young Xweetok that she had first started lessons with. Emily felt a pang, of regret and wistfulness.
“I… I guess we did. I was just, jealous of you,” The Elephante finally spoke. “But also, I felt… betrayed. It felt like you were leaving me behind. And whenever you tried to talk to me or invite me after, it just seemed like you were pitying me.”
“I just want us to be friends again, like we used to be. I want us to be able to talk, about our fears, our problems, our dreams.” Thalia admitted, before she gestured towards the bag filled with books on morphing potions. “If I’d known you were thinking about this, I would have told you to stop being silly!”
“Emily, you are an amazing dancer just the way you are. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as passionate as you are about dancing, and that’s including myself and Ms. Amelia!” Thalia exclaimed, and Emily felt a small blush on her cheeks. “Dancing is so much more than just about doing moves properly, it’s about emotion. Every time I see you dance, I see how happy you are to do it. Even if you trip or fall, you always get back up and do it again! That’s so incredible.”
The Xweetok moved closer, grabbing her hands. “That’s what I’ve missed about you these past few months. You didn’t seem the same. Your dancing was distracted, without your usual passion.”
“I… I never thought of it that way.” It was all Emily could think to say. Suddenly, it was like her whole world had been tilted on its axis. She realized that she’d been going about things all wrong. “I… I missed dancing that way too.” And she really did. Maybe she’d never been the greatest at dancing before, but she’d always been the happiest.
Thalia smiled and squeezed her hand. Emily found herself returning it. Soon, the two were talking and chatting away like they once did.
Emily had to take a break from dancing thanks to her leg, but she still visited the studio as often as she could, and Thalia was always there for her, too. Slowly, they became the best of friends again, finding that it was easier than they had both thought, thanks to their shared passion for dance. As soon as she was able, Emily started dancing again, Thalia helping her along. She found that, slowly, she got a bit better, with a friend to help her practice after hours. Finally, she threw away her notes and books, deciding that she didn’t need it after all. If she was going to be a famous dancer, she wanted to do it as she’d always dreamed of doing, as herself.