The laces of her slippers have lost their color and the ends are frayed. She’s almost ashamed to be seen in them, but as soon as the music starts, as soon as she gives her first jeté, she forgets about the state of her laces or the hole in her tutu. She’s only aware of the music as it enters her toes and drifts up to her raised arms. When the coda swells up, she executes it flawlessly and when she strikes the ending pose, applause erupts in the seats.

“Excellent, Evans!” He turns to the owners of the theatre, who have funded the performance. “Gentlemen, we’ve found our Esmeralda.”

He always calls her Evans, never her Christian name. Even when he’s playing with her hair or tracing the freckles on her back.

“Happy Birthday, Evans,” he says, handing her a wrapped parcel. She unwraps a music box, its lid etched in an arabesque pattern. A small ballerina turns inside, performing endless fouettés en tournant to her favorite Chopin.

“Do you like it, Evans?”

“It’s beautiful,” she says.

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