Ruby: Rules Have Reasons

Ruby: Rules Have Reasons

Opaque midnight blue drapes swished as the backdrop for the Portland City Ballet performance of Cinderella fell into place. Bright lights popped on behind them, creating a dreamy night sky. Standing beyond the edge of the stage curtains, Ruby Gallagher felt the familiar grip of fear in the pit of her gut. She might be a prima ballerina now, but always, for a simple moment, when that first note sounded, she became a girl waiting for her first chance on stage – the one that almost ruined her career before it had begun. As the younger dancers rushed out to take their places before the curtain rose, she saw her seven-year-old self among them.

Memories swept her back twenty years.

three long years

Ruby Gallagher had waited through three years of ballet lessons before she finally had her chance. The school was putting together an end-of-the-year performance in June. She was ready and excited because the studio was performing Cinderella.

One night, Ruby swirled around the sofa on tiptoe. Then she leaped onto the coffee table, flinging her arms in the air, she swung in a full circle. From behind came her dad’s low chuckle. “I believe we have a dancer on our hands.”

In the corner where she sat by the fireplace, Mom looked up from the Sudoku puzzle she was doing. “Maybe we should look into ballet lessons.”

Ruby had felt her body lift with joy, and she had pirouetted off the table. She landed in front of Mom, twirled again, and said, “Oh, yes, please, please, please.”

Ruby could barely sleep the night before her first lesson. She lay in bed, envisioning herself in layers of toile and satin ballet slippers, bending gracefully as applause roared through a giant auditorium.

By the next afternoon, Ruby jumped and bounced until her mom gently lowered Ruby’s arms to the sides and said, “You’ll have to be quieter than this in class, you know. The teacher will expect you to pay very close attention and do just as he asks.”

“I will, Mom. I promise.” Ruby meant it with all her heart.

Her mom needn’t have worried. The minute Master Terrence stepped into the studio, his upright, tall presence and stern face commanded attention. More than that, though, practicing the movements and steps which he modeled for them, felt so good. It was as if her body was meant to move in exactly this way.

That Christmas, Ruby’s dad took her to the mall to see Santa. Ruby climbed right up on Santa’s lap and said, “What I want more than anything is a mirror on my basement wall.” Santa’s eyes opened wide and his belly shook as he laughed. “And,” Ruby continued, “It needs to have a bar. You know -attached.” Santa gave her a big smile. “That’s the first time anyone has asked for those things. I’ll see what I can do.”

She slid off Santa’s lap and ran to her Dad, “I asked Santa for a mirror and a practice bar!”

As they walked back to the car, Dad said, “Those things you asked Santa for – they’d be pretty hard to get down a chimney.”

Ruby’s shoulders slumped.

“But,” Dad continued, “Maybe those could be your gifts from Mom and me this year.”

“Oh, Daddy, that would be stupendous!”

He chuckled, “Where did you learn that word?”

“Oh, Patti and I do the New York crossword when we’re waiting our turn to practice at the studio.”

“Well, Lady with the big vocabulary, keep on practicing on practicing every day the way you have this last month and I’ll have the mirror and bar installed by Christmas.”

“I promise,” she said.

“Just don’t get smarter than me doing those puzzles, okay?”

That made her giggle. Dad was the smartest guy in the world.

In her third year at ballet school, Ruby turned seven and was chosen to perform in the end-of-the-year performance.

almost the big day

She and the others in her class, the youngest members of the troupe, would perform only two brief dances. Master Terrence presided over the practice. They constantly repeated duplicate step patterns.

“Any misstep in any part of the ballet,” Master Terrence insisted, “can ruin the entire production.”

Ruby didn’t complain. She recognized when she practiced to the point of boredom; she improved. A step, a movement, a pose, or a way of holding her arms felt a little more natural each time until it felt like she could glide through the whole routine as easily as walking down the street. Her body knew exactly what to do.

Master Terrence hardly ever corrected her or pulled her out of line. But then he never told her she was doing well either. True, he never expressed admiration for any of the students. Ruby, often praised by her parents, found that hard.

Master Terrence only responded to students’ mistakes. Ruby had learned that if he said nothing, it might mean he was pleased. When she saw a certain look on his face, instead of expecting it from him, she told herself “Good job, Ruby.”

Dress rehearsals would run all day Wednesday before the weekend of the performance. After her dad dropped her at the door of the auditorium, Ruby walked backstage. The ceiling was so high she could hardly see it. It had all kinds of pulleys and ladder-like contraptions. At the very back, there were hundreds of painted sets sitting in runners ready to glide on and off the stage. She had never realized before how little of the stage the audience could see from their seats.

After the stage, she and some other students entered a narrow hall with lots of doors off either side that ended in a palatial room. She couldn’t see the ceiling because the dozen vanity mirrors sparkled with the reflection of hundreds of light bulbs. Cases of make-up were piled in front of each mirror. Dancers waiting in this room wore only robes over their underwear.

A group of her ballet-school friends was already there. She ran over to them. “No, running,” said Ms. Gladys who managed the front office at the ballet school. She had to make sure the youngest performers knew where to be at various times during the day. “Come,” she gestured to a doorway, “Bring your lunches into the green room.”

When they followed her, Ruby got into a fit of giggles because the room was lavender. Her friend Andrea caught the giggles from her.

Ms. Gladys’ stern looks made them clamp their hands over their mouths. But Ruby was so keyed up that getting serious was hard. Ms. Gladys showed them the schedule for make-up and for costumes. “While you wait, keep quiet,” she said. “You mustn’t disrupt the rehearsal.” With that, she left the room.

The dress rehearsal took forever. Twice, Ms. Gladys allowed the younger students to sit quietly in the auditorium and watch as the older, primary dancers repeated their parts over and over. During the morning, no one wore costumes. The dance leader stopped the performance many times and the same part of the ballet would be gone through again and again. Even Ruby got bored with ballet. Next to her, Andrea kicked at the velvet seat in front of her.

Finally, Ms. Gladys arrived and told them it was their turn to rehearse. They scrambled from their seats to follow her backstage. With a happy heart, flew through the steps of her dragonfly as he turned into a footman to accompany Cinderella’s carriage to the ball. Even though this was the first time she was on stage with Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, Ruby knew her movements coordinated perfectly. She was the dragonfly. She didn’t mind at all that they repeated the scene a dozen times before Master Terrence announced it was ready for dress rehearsal.

the day drags on

He dismissed the youngest troupe members who followed Ms. Gladys one by one like ducklings into the “green” room for lunch. Ruby was ravenous and ate everything in her lunch box, even the sliced celery. As they finished eating, Ms. Gladys said, “Your make-up is scheduled for three o’clock. In the meantime, you need to stay in this room and keep quietly busy. I’ll be in to check on you. There are board games, crayons, and coloring books in the cabinet. Read a book. I’ll check on you from time to time.” She sailed out the door, long scarves drifting behind her.

Ruby checked the clock on the wall. Two hours before make-up. And nothing to do. She was too keyed up to play a board game.  Instead, the older dancers, drifting in and out of the Green Room, captured her attention.

“Let’s go watch them get their make-up on,” Ruby suggested.

They tiptoed over to the doorway and peered into the dressing room. They watched the artists transform the students into fairytale characters. Ms. Gladys saw them and shooed them back into the Green Room. Still, when older students started appearing in their costumes, the dressing room drew the younger girls like a magnet.

“You simply cannot hang in the doorway,” Ms. Gladys screeched. “Go. Do as you were told.”

Back in the green room, Ruby pulled a crossword puzzle she had been working on from her backpack, but the words swam in front of her eyes. She was too restless to work out the answers.

“Hey, want to go see the lobby?” asked Henry, a boy in their class. “It’s got some really cool statues and water fountains.”

“Aren’t we supposed to stay right here?” asked Andrea.

“Nah, we’re just supposed to be quiet until it’s time for our makeup” he replied.

Ruby thought if she sat still for one more minute, she’d go crazy. “Come on, Andrea, let’s see what he’s talking about.”

She, Andrea, and two other girls quietly followed Henry out the side door of the room, into a side aisle, and up to the lobby. Henry had been right. Three sparkling fountains stood in the middle of a large, glass-domed space. Each fountain held a statue at its center. In the first one, a marble woman held a large urn on her shoulder. It tipped slightly forward, and water poured from it. In the middle one, four dolphins leaned against each other with water spouting from their mouths that formed an arc over their bodies and into a pool without an edge, and in the third fountain, a multi-colored stone rainbow sprayed water over sculpted figures of naked children.

a little bit of fun

Ruby knew there really was no excuse for what happened next.

She wasn’t even sure who’d been the first kid to do it. Kids began daring each other to run into the fountains. The fountains had no side and cupped upward to keep the water from leaking onto the lobby floor. They looked sort of like the splash pads in the city parks.

The lobby fountains were not splash pads. They all knew that. Still, they did it. Henry was first to run through a fountain, then Lucy, a tall thin girl from another class, ran right under the rainbow and over the statues of the naked children without getting a drop of water on her.

When Henry tried to duck past the dolphin spouts without getting wet, a stream of water doused his sleeve. “It’ll dry,” he said, laughing, and turned to try it again.

Soon they were all chasing in and out of the fountains. At first, they’d kept dry, but then water sprayed them here and there. It didn’t seem to matter after a while.

“We’re getting soaked,” Andrea giggled.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lucy shouted. “We’re going to change into our costumes soon.”

“Yeh,” Ruby said, “These clothes will be dry by the time we go home.”

Laughing and giggling, they forgot where they were.


It was Ms. Gladys.

“What are you doing? This is outrageous. Why did you leave the backstage area.”

They looked at each other. Clothes and hair dripping. What a mess. As shame washed over her, Ruby wished she could hide.

“Come with me.” Ms. Gladys hissed.

What would happen to them now? All the giggles and shouts vanished as the dripping children followed Ms. Gladys’ billowing scarves down the aisle, around the stage, and into the Green Room.

Ms. Gladys spun on her heels to glare at them. “Get out of those wet clothes. There are robes in the closet. Put those on.” Without another word, she stomped out the door. The robes, meant for older performers, were much too big for them. They had to roll up their sleeves. The hems tripped them with every step. Looking like Dopey from Snow White, they all stood around and silently stared at each other. Ruby counted ten children. She hadn’t realized so many had joined in.

Ms. Gladys stormed back in. “I should call your parents right now to come to get you. You have forfeited your right to be in this performance. But the show comes before the individual. Without your dance numbers, the story doesn’t work.” She narrowed her eyes. “My hands are tied. But don’t think this is the end.” She flung a hefty hand toward the make-up room. “Go get your make-up and your costumes. Do your absolute best this afternoon. And there will be no repeat of nonsense on Saturday or I’ll pull you from the performance no matter what.”

Ruby sat quietly through her make-up application and stayed frozen in place once she was in costume even though the skirt itched her like crazy. She knew she didn’t deserve to dance this afternoon or Saturday, but the troupe was depending on her. She needed to push down her shame and do her best.

When the call came for her group to come up to the sidelines of the stages, she took a deep breath and push her feelings of disgrace away. Smiling brightly, she joined hands with her dancing partner and stepped gracefully onto the stage in perfect time with the music. Her body floated on the music. She stepped with poise, the picture of a child that danced as she ran.

When Mom arrived to pick her up after rehearsal, Ruby’s voice bubbled out of her about how wonderful it felt to wear the costume and make-up and dance on an actual stage. In her excitement, she convince herself it wasn’t the right time to tell her parents about the fountain disaster.

Saturday’s performance was flawless. Not a single dancer had taken a single misstep, and Master Terrence glowed. Ruby danced with exhilaration, picturing her parents seated beyond the glare of the stage lights. In her head, she saw them follow her every step. The thrill enchanted her. She wished she could stay on stage for hours. But right on cue, she caught the music that signaled her exit. She danced backward, performing every step precisely the way Master Terrence taught her, even though this was the hardest part.

At the end of the show, the groups of performers came out one at a time to take their bows. The lights were low enough that she could see her parents beaming up at her. The roar of the audience washed over her like a great ocean wave. A half-hour later, when she met her parents at the stage door, Ruby danced and skipped all the way to her favorite Chinese restaurant. They joined Lucy and her family for a celebratory dinner.

It was the best night ever!

what going to happen?

Her buoyant mood lasted three days. Then on Wednesday as she helped her mom fold clothes, she tucked in the arms of the T-shirt she’d worn on Friday, and images of playing in the fountains crept into her head. Why hadn’t Ms. Gladys said anything? She should tell her parents. But then she didn’t want to get other kids in trouble. She wished she could talk to Lucy about it, but dance classes were over for the school year, and Lucy didn’t go to her grade school.

When she couldn’t keep it inside any longer, she told Karen, her best friend at school.

“Awesome,” said Karen, giggling, “and you didn’t even get into trouble?”

Ruby started to shake her head but stopped. “That’s it, Ms. Gladys was super mad, but nobody’s said anything about punishment. That’s weird, isn’t it?”

“Let’s ask my sister about it,” Karen said. “She’s one of the major ballerinas at the studio and takes lessons over the summer. She probably heard something.”

Ruby hugged Karen right there in the schoolyard, which made her realize she had been much more worried about it than she was even letting herself know.

The two girls ran all the way to Karen’s house. Liz, her teenage sister, sat on the shady porch in a wicker swing that creaked as she pushed it back and forth with one toe. She was reading a book and nibbling on a cookie with the same intensity.

“We need to ask you something,” Karen blurted out.

“The answer is no.” Liz pushed her glasses more firmly on her nose and buried herself in the book again.

“You to give me anything, just information,” Karen wheedled.

Liz huffed and closed the book. “What?”

Karen told her about Ruby and the fountains.

“So that’s what all the hush-hush meetings are about,” Liz said. “Master Terrence and Ms. Gladys have been holed up for hours in the office this week. Lots of hot words coming out.”

“What are they saying?”

“I don’t know, but I bet you’re in trouble, all right? Master Terrence doesn’t tolerate anyone getting out of step. Your parents will hear from him. I’m sure of it.”

Liz’s words made Ruby know she had to tell her parents. She didn’t want them to hear it from the school.

That night, after Mom cleared her place at the table, Ruby said, “I have to tell you something.” Then she burst into tears.

Her dad jumped up from his seat and bent over to hug her. “There, there,” he said like she was a baby. “Let’s go into the family room.” Peg, leave the dishes.”

Ruby sat close to Dad on their cushy red leather couch. Her hands clenched so tightly that her fingernails cut into her palm. Mom sat on the floor and put her soft hands over Ruby’s. “What happened?”

“There were these fountains . . .” Ruby hung her head and stared at her lap. She spoke so softly that her parents needed her to repeat, which made it worse.

How could anything so fun turn out so awful?

“Ruby,” Mom said “You could have told us right away. It must have been awful keeping quiet about anything so dangerous. What you did was unacceptable. We’re not happy about it, but I’m relieved no one got hurt.”

“Yeah,” said Dad, “You’re lucky that the worst was everyone got soaking wet. Why weren’t you wet when Mom picked you up?”

“There’s a dryer at the theater. Ms. Gladys did them for us while we were rehearsing.”

“You’re lucky she didn’t send you home dripping wet.”

Ruby looked down at her mom and then up into her dad’s deep brown eyes. “Am I punished?”

“You’ve punished yourself enough,” Dad said, I’m certain, however, that the dance academy will impose a penalty.”

Ruby shook, “I’m scared they’ll kick me out.”

The bad news

Ruby had been right to worry.

Two days later, Mom sat at the kitchen table, an envelope in her hand. Ruby studied the way her mother bit her lip and drew her brows together, and she felt queasy everywhere inside. “What wrong?”

Mom held up the envelope. “It’s a letter from the dance studio.”

Bitter bile crept up Ruby’s throat. “What’s it say?”

“Read it yourself.” Mom held a single sheet of paper across the table, holding Ruby’s gaze with her own.

“I’m too scared.”

“How about a glass of milk?” Mom suggested.

Ruby pulled open the fridge door and the frigid air cooled her fiery face, but her hands trembled as she reached for the ice-cold bottle. Wet with condensation, it almost slipped from her grip. She set it on the table. From the cabinet, she took down a pink mug. Her favorite. A ballerina flitted over the words, “Why walk when you can dance?”

After she poured the milk, sat down and gripped the mug. Her throat was so tight she couldn’t swallow.

“Ready?” Mom asked.

She nodded.

Mom read, “From Master Terrence. Dear Parents, with great consternation I write to you regarding the behavior of certain members of the B-troupe dance core.”

B-troupe was Ruby’s group. She gulped over the hard lump in her throat.

Mom continued, “I had believed that these young people were mature enough to join their senior colleagues in the studio’s year-end performance. But their reckless conduct has proven me wrong. They have shown that they are nothing more than wild, unruly children. They have no place in the Portland Dance Studio.”

Ruby gasped, “Oh, no,” and tears filled her eyes.

“Wait a minute,” Mom said. “There’s more.”

“Upon further thought, however, I realize it is possible that not all the students are equally culpable. I have also considered that these same students have worked hard and with dedication for four years. Although I cannot condone their incivility of this past Saturday, I know some have the potential, if they can discipline themselves, to become stellar dancers.”

Like a fluttering butterfly, Hope stirred in Ruby’s heart. Her throat eased. “Go on,” she told her mother.

Mom read to herself for a minute and then shook her head. Her mouth tightened as she read, “The academy has decided that the B-troupe students may remain in the school. To develop discipline and show dedication, however, I will expect them to repeat the B-level classes the following autumn term.”

“But that’s not fair,” Ruby yelled.

“What’s not fair?” asked Dad, walking in from the living room.

Mom handed him the letter while Ruby said, “Master Terrence is being unfair. He thinks we should repeat the B-levels. That’s silly. We know all those moves and steps and everything. He’s being mean.”

Dad caught Mom’s eyes from the doorway. Ruby watched as he nodded and pulled out a chair.

Dad skimmed through the note. “I’m surprised you’re yelling this is unfair. It scared two nights ago you that they might kick you out.”

“But that’ll put me in a class with younger kids who can’t dance as well as I do. I won’t learn anything new. I won’t get any better. How can that be fair?”

Dad caught Mom’s eyes from the doorway. Ruby watched as he nodded and pulled out a chair. “Why do you think this is the punishment Master Terrence chose?”

“He’s really mad.”

“What do you suppose is making him so angry?”

“He thinks we acted like babies so he’s treating us like little kids.”

“I wouldn’t say that. This is a pretty dire consequence, the kind that adults have to deal with in their lives. Master Terrence is demanding that you grow up, and show the discipline needed to be a ballet dancer.”

“You don’t have to go back if you don’t want to,” Mom said. “if you think this policy is so unfair, maybe the strict discipline of ballet isn’t right for you. Ballet will only get harder and demand more and more of you as you get older.”

“But I love ballet,” Ruby argued. “I don’t mind, that’s it hard.”

Dad put his big hand over hers. She felt the warm security of his touch but didn’t like it when he said, “Then you shouldn’t mind repeating the B-level class for four months. It’s a small sacrifice for something you love.”

hard choices

The thought of walking into the studio in September, getting into her practice clothes, and walking into the “little-kid” classroom made Ruby shrink inside. “Maybe I could go to a different school.”

“Oh, Honey,” Mom said. “The only other ballet school of the same caliber is in the far southwest suburbs. You’ve already chosen the best school for you. You can’t change because you misbehaved.”

“Dad put in, “You can’t solve a problem by walking away from it. It is always best to stay and confront trouble and get it straightened out.”

“So, you’re saying it’s the Portland Dance Studio or no ballet?” Ruby couldn’t believe her parents would do that to her.

Her father nodded. “You don’t have to decide right now. Give it a couple of days. See what feels like the best decision deep inside?”

Ruby pushed back from the table, her milk still untouched, and fled upstairs to her bedroom. She flung herself onto the blue-lace coverlet, grabbed a hold of the squishy unicorn that Gramma had sent her for her birthday, and buried her face in the velvet pillow with “Ballet Star” embroidered in fancy script. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks. Why did her parents agree with that meany, Master Terrence? Dancing should be fun, not work! Where was the joy? Instead, she felt miserable.

Repeating a class and practicing the same dumb baby routine would hold her back. She was ready for a proper role. She knew she was. Master Terrence was a stupid bully! Visions of the costume she would have worn if she could have danced in Peter Pan next year spun through her mind’s eye. She had hoped to be a mermaid. But now that dream was gone. Her tears came faster.

Whatever happened, she wasn’t going back to that dumb studio. Maybe she’d learn to play the violin like her friend Fiona. Then they could practice together. Or she could sign up to take art classes with Karen after school. Now there’d be time to join the soccer team. It would be a relief not to have to practice all the time.

She slid off the bed, walked to the bathroom, and splashed her face with cold water. Her reflection stared at her. “You don’t have to go back to ballet school and be punished,” the Ruby in the mirror said. But her entire face drooped. She couldn’t smile.

At dinner that night, she waited until they were all seated, and Dad had picked up the bowl of mashed potatoes to scoop a large helping onto his plate. Then, she said, “I don’t want to go back to ballet school. I think it’s time I did something else. Something more fun.”

Dad paused before passing the bowl to her. “What would ‘something more fun’ be?”

“I’d like to sign up for after-school art classes,” she told him.

Mom looked at her with a soft smile. “Well, fall is a long way off.” And then she changed the conversation. “Did we tell you that Grandma is planning to spend the Fourth of July with us?”

Oh, no, telling Granma she wasn’t taking ballet anymore would be awful.

The next morning, Ruby set about making new plans. “Guess what, Karen?” she blurted out when she saw her friend at their lockers. “Next year, I’ll be taking art classes like you.”

“Super,” Karen said. “Then we can walk home together. We might even plan some joint projects. It’ll be fun.”

Ruby wanted to be as happy as Karen about the idea, but as she walked home, eyes on the sidewalk, a jarring, out-of-kilter feeling hovered over her. When she went up to her room to change into play clothes, the posters of ballet performances from around the world that covered the walls seemed to accuse her of abandonment. Should she take them down and put up some new posters? What posters did Karen have? Oh, yeah, pictures of kittens and puppies. Ruby liked cats and dogs, but she loved her colorful posters of famous ballet stars. The photos suspended them in breathtaking poses wearing glittering costumes. She couldn’t give them away.

Before school ended on Thursday, Ms. Winterbrook announced that their last unit of study for the school year would be the world of work. During the last week of classes, each student would report describing a career they might pursue someday.

who do I want to be?

Ruby stared at her teacher as a cloud of misery descended on her. All I ever wanted was to be a ballerina, she thought. What could I choose for career day? she wondered. As she caught up with Karen at the door to the schoolyard, she asked her, “Are you going to do your career presentation about being an artist?”

“No,” said Karen. “That’s not an actual career.”

“But you’re so good at it. I’ve seen the vases you’ve made for your mom and the pictures you’ve painted at school. They look like something from a museum, not like a kid’s work.

“Why don’t you want to be an artist?”

Karen stopped, plucked a deep purple hydrangea blossom off a bush, and held it out for Ruby to admire. “I especially love painting whatever flower is in season. Hydrangeas are my favorite because they bloom for so long and in so many colors. But even if you’re good, it’s hard to sell a painting.”

“So, you don’t want to be an artist because it’s too hard to make a living?”

“It’s way more than hard; it’s impossible. I want to keep my art as something I love. For a career, I’m going to go to law school and become a lawyer like my mom.”

Ruby understood Karen. Even so, it sounded all wrong to her.

Mom was standing at the sink slicing cucumbers when Ruby tossed her backpack on a kitchen chair. “Did you want to be a nutritionist when you were growing up?”

Mom put the knife down and wiped her hands with a bright blue kitchen towel. “I didn’t even know there were such people when I was your age. In the eighth grade, I thought I wanted to be a journalist.”

“So how come you became a nutritionist?”

“It started with my love of cooking and wanting to write about food, but the more college courses I took, the more interested I became in the relationship between food and health. That drew me to working more directly with people than I could have as a writer.”

“Do you ever wish you had stuck with journalism?”

“Not for a minute. I love seeing firsthand how good nutrition makes a big difference in people’s lives.”

Alone in her room, Ruby watched her old baby mobile, the one with the stars and moon that she wouldn’t let her parents discard when they redecorated her room. Its gentle swaying calmed her as she thought about the differences between Karen’s choices and her mom’s. Did she have a good reason for wanting to be a ballerina? She loved to dance. Karen loved to paint but didn’t think that love alone was reason enough to choose a career.

Her reasons for wanting to be a dancer sounded more like Mom’s reasons. Unlike Karen, she had never considered whether she could make a lot of money being a ballerina. She didn’t expect to be a star. Even the beautiful costumes by themselves weren’t enough. Being able to be on the stage, moving to the music, making people happy by watching her–that was her dream.

only one real possibility

Her career-day report could only be about becoming a ballerina. That meant accepting Master Terrence’s decision about class placement. No one could convince her that his decision was fair. Her punishment should be something that would make her a better dancer, not something that would hold her back. She couldn’t really say what that might be, and Master Terrence ran the studio. To continue as a student, she had to accept that. It would be hard, but hard didn’t scare her.  She was a ballerina.

Deciding to stay with the studio was the best decision Ruby ever made. In the fall, Ruby enjoyed her lessons with the younger students because her teacher, Ms. Andrea, often asked her to help the little girls learn their movements. Ruby loved modeling the dances for them. By the end of the fall, her own dancing had also improved. Hard work and consistency paved the way to a lifetime of dancing, and Ruby was never happier than when she was dancing. That something she loved so much gave so much pleasure to so many people seemed miraculous to her.

Ruby let the curtain fall from her hand, thanked her seven-year-old self in her heart, and twirled onto the stage.