This is the final part. Thanks for indulging me. Thanks Patricia Allen for proofing. And hopefully it starts on the right chapter!
There were times when Kyle wished for a little normalcy.
But he had forgotten really what normal was. It seemed like everything was moving way to fast.
His mother filed for divorce from his father. He had no objections.
He still hoped his father would change, but he knew his parents would never get back together.
“I still care for him because he is your father,” his mother told him. “I hope one day he’ll be the kind of father you and your sisters will be proud of. But I don’t love him anymore, at least not the way I used to.”
He was actually proud she was trying to put her life back together. She and Olivia’s mother both started dating again, Olivia’s mother for the first time since her father died.
“There was a time I’d have a problem with mom dating,” Olivia told Kyle. “I didn’t want her to forget dad. But really, it’s time she got on with her life and had some fun.”
Their mothers double dated a lot. Olivia liked the idea that Kyle’s mom was dating her uncle.
“You know, if they got married, then we really would be family,” Olivia said.
Kyle and Olivia were also a little perplexed. Kyle’s mom stopped house hunting, even with his dad back in jail.
Instead, she and Olivia’s mother talked about adding on to the house. They talked about converting the garage into a bedroom and building a room over the patio. They even talked converting the attic into a “ballet” room, with barres and all.
“All of our children dance,” Olivia’s mother said. “We might as well make it a room they all can enjoy.”
Kyle and Olivia both like the idea.
As much as things were changing at their house, things were really changing at Claire’s.
Her father was transferred from Germany to Walter Reed Hospital. After another surgery and rehab, he finally came home.
Olivia and Kyle came over the day they built a wheelchair ramp for Claire’s father. Other parts of the house were modified.
“There’s still a chance he may walk again,” Claire said in tears as she locked arms with her friends.
It was hard on her. Her father was a “jack-of-all-trades.” If there was anything in the house that needed repairing, he would fix it. It was the same with the cars his family owned.
He also loved the outdoors.
He did his best to keep upbeat, but Claire noticed his depression.
“I feel helpless,” he told his daughter.
He took joy in his children.
He watched from his wheelchair at the fence while Claire’s brother Ben played baseball.
Kyle was amazed how supportive he was when Ben announced he wanted to take ballet and ended up in class the final few weeks at Madame Kathryn’s with Kyle’s and Olivia’s sisters.
“I may be a soldier, like to hunt and fish,” Claire’s father said with a laugh. “I’m not Cro-Magnon Man. He sees you doing it and wants to try. I try to support my kids in everything they want to try.”
Claire devoted herself to both her art and dance. Her “Dancers Within” painting won first prize in the school’s art contest.
Her father was the guest of honor at the school when she received her blue ribbon.
The painting took its place in the living room.
“She really captured you two,” he told Olivia and Kyle. “She saw your passion.”
“It’s also her passion,” Kyle said.
“I know,” her father said. “And Kyle, I appreciate you suggesting the pas de deux you two are doing at the school performance and the recital. I know how much it means to her.”
Kyle also knew it meant a lot to him. He admired Claire’s father. Her father was everything his father wasn’t: a war hero and a very supportive father for his children regardless of what they chose to pursue or what other people thought.
“How is your father doing?” Claire’s father asked Kyle.
“I really don’t know a whole lot,” Kyle said. “Mom’s gotten a restraining order. I’m not allowed to see him in jail.”
“That’s understandable,” Claire’s father said. “I would be the same way, if I were her.”
“He’s supposed to go to rehab after he gets out,” Kyle said.
“Hopefully, that will be good for him,” Claire’s father said. “Kyle, would you mind if I go visit him?”
“I don’t mind,” Kyle said. “Don’t know if it will do any good.”
“You never know, it might,” Claire’s father said. “Never cease to pray for him.”
“I won’t,” Kyle said. “I pray for him just like I pray for you.”
“Then there is hope for him,” Claire’s father said. “I’ve felt your prayers, the prayers of my family and friends. Felt them the entire time I was in Iraq. It helped get me back home alive.”
“Sir…if you don’t mind…,” Kyle said.
“What is it, Kyle?” Claire’s father said.
“I’m still praying that you’ll be able to walk again,” Kyle said.
“I appreciate that,” he said. “I still haven’t given up hope of walking again. You shouldn’t give up hope that your father will change.”
“Hand me that piece of tape,” Olivia told Kyle as they worked on the bulletin board at school.
“Why do we have to make signs about our performance?” Kyle asked. “I mean, it’s going to be a school assembly. Everybody has to come.”
“I can’t believe you’re treating this like an ordinary school assembly,” Olivia said. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
Kyle knew she wasn’t kidding. School board members were coming to the performance, as were members of the community arts guild.
Ms. Arceneaux was hoping to turn her exploratory class into a full-fledged P.E. class next year. She also wanted the school board to consider adding dance to the curriculum at the high school.
“Wow, those are very nice drawings on those posters,” Coach Tucker said as he inspected Olivia’s and Kyle’s work.
“Claire drew the pictures,” Kyle said.
“I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised,” Coach Tucker said. “Especially after seeing her work at the art competition. So I take it from this that Ms. Arceneaux is really going all out.”
“Yes, Madame Marie really is,” Olivia said.
“Well, more power to her,” Coach Tucker said. “My daughter really wants to take the class next year.”
“So she’ll be in sixth grade next year?” Olivia asked. “She was really cute in the Nutcracker.”
“Oh yes, and she’s very excited,” Coach Tucker said.
“Well, she’ll have very good leaders in the class in Kyle, Beth and Em,” Olivia said.
“How do you know I’ll be in the class next year?” Kyle said, just trying to see what kind of reaction he would get from Olivia.
“Oh stop it!” Olivia said. “You know you’ll be in there. You can’t stay away. I’m really envious. There won’t be a class like that at the high school.”
“Well, I will miss you guys,” Kyle said.
“It’s not like you won’t be seeing us anymore,” Olivia said with a laugh. “Last I checked, we still live in the same house, take the same classes at Madame Kathryn’s and are in junior company at Concordia. Or have you forgotten.”
“Well, you know what I mean,” Kyle said.
“Hey look, it’s the ballerinas!” a voice shouted down the hall.
“Oh…Paul,” Kyle said.
“And his little pal, Chuckie,” Olivia said.
“Gentlemen, aren’t you supposed to be in class?” Coach Tucker said.
The two boys didn’t see their coach when they came around the corner.
“Uh…yes sir,” Chuck replied.
“Well, just so you know, if you two were half the athlete Kyle is, you’d be starting,” Coach Tucker said. “Remember that, the next time you decide to make fun of him. Now get to class.”
“Coach, you didn’t have to do that,” Kyle said. “I’m sort of used to that by now.”
“I know,” Coach Tucker said. “You’re a brave soul Kyle. I still wished you could fit it into your busy schedule to come out for football in the fall…. You two have fun. I’ve got to go keep some more boys in line.”
* * * * *
“Michael Thornton, you have company,” the county jailer said as he unlocked Kyle’s father’s cell.
Kyle’s father walked into the visitors’ room, not knowing who to expect. The only person who came to see him was his attorney.
He was surprised to see Steve Thompson, Claire’s father, sitting on the other side of the glass.
“Steve Thompson, haven’t seen you in ages,” Michael Thornton said. “Sorry to hear about what happened to you in Iraq.”
“Well, it’s something you have to prepare for when you go,” Steve Thompson said.
“I’m glad to see you, but don’t know why you’ve come,” Michael Thornton said. He was actually glad to have any kind of company.
“I promised Kyle I’d come by to check on you,” Steve Thompson said.
At first, Kyle’s dad was quiet.
“So why did the little pansy ask you to come see me?” Michael Thornton.
“You know, I didn’t have to come,” Steve Thompson said. “I could leave right now. I’m not going to tolerate you putting your son down.”
“Okay, okay,” Michael Thornton said.
“Besides, the last I checked, that kid you call a pansy decked you pretty good during that little show you put on in front of Abby White’s house,” Steve Thompson said.
“Well, you would feel the same way if your son took ballet,” Michael Thornton said. “Judith really turned him into a sissy.”
Claire’s father was really stunned.
“Do you really know your son?” Steve Thompson said. “I think Judith has done a very good job with him. He is more of a man than you are, to be honest. He’s a brave kid. He is very loyal to his friends and looks out after his mother. If my son turns out to be just like him… then I would be a very proud father. As a matter of fact, my son just started dancing, and part of the reason was because of Kyle.”
What he said really stunned Kyle’s father.
He began to tear up.
“I’ve really screwed up my life, Steve,” Michael Thornton said. “With Judith, with Kyle. With Caitlyn and Katey.”
“Yes, you have, Mike,” Steve Thompson said. “It’s too late for you and Judith. But you can change. You can still be a good father to Kyle and the girls. But you’ve got to want to change. You’ve got to want to get help. It’s not going to be very easy. But you’ve got to want to do it.”
* * * * *
“Ouch!” Kyle said.
“I told you not to move,” his mother said.
Kyle, Olivia and Claire were standing in the middle of Claire’s living room in their school performance and recital costumes.
Their mothers were at working hard to make sure everything looked perfect. The performance was only a week away. The recital was two weeks away.
Claire’s father sat in his wheelchair watching the women at work. He was really amused.
“We’re three former dancers,” his wife said. “We take our work very seriously.”
“So Kyle, you’re really looking forward to this?” Steve Thompson said.
“Well everything, except one thing,” Kyle replied.
“The makeup” Claire and Olivia both shouted at the same time.
No one saw that he had makeup during Nutcracker. They were too far away. No one was allowed on stage.
That would not be the case at school. But still, it was worth it. Kyle had to admit, he really looked forward to performing, even if it were in front of a lot of people he knew at school.
“Hopefully, they’ll look past that,” Steve Thompson said.
“If you’re going to be a dancer, you’ve got to get used to the makeup,” Olivia said. “You’ve got to get used to the silly clothes.”
“Speaking of silly clothes, Bennie, what’s happened to you?” Steve Thompson said as his son and Kyle and Olivia’s sisters came into the living room.
They had their recital costumes on.
“I’m supposed to be a tree,” Ben said, wearing a long brown tunic over green tights, a green turtle neck and wearing a headpiece with branches and leaves.
“Welcome to ballet my friend,” Kyle said with a laugh and giving him a high five.
“You’re going to be a very cute tree, little bro!” Claire said.
“Bennie, girls step up, it’s your turn,” Gayle Thompson.
“Thank goodness, we’re done!” Claire said as she Olivia and Kyle went to change clothes.
It was hard for them to believe all of their hard work was almost over.
It was an amazing transformation.
Backstage at the school auditorium was transformed.
There was a makeup area, a costume area and a changing area. Bed sheets partitioned the changing area where Kyle would dress and the girls would dress. There would be at least three costume changes.
Ordinary parents suddenly became stage parents. Claire’s mom and Olivia’s mom directed everything. They were the veterans of countless recitals and helped behind the scenes at the Nutcracker for several years.
Claire’s mother was the makeup artist. She did her best to apply her craft on Kyle’s face after Ms. Arceneaux led her 14 dancers through warm-ups on stage.
“Oh my gosh! There are so many people out there,” Beth said after she peeked through the curtains.
“Calm down, you won’t even know they are there,” Kyle said, trying to reassure his friend.
He understood the butterflies. He went through the same thing in December with the Nutcracker. But after going through six performances of the Nutcracker, he felt like an old pro.
“Don’t you look nice,” Olivia said with a laugh. “You should wear makeup all the time.”
It was her turn to take get “all dolled up.”
Kyle played along singing “I feel pretty, I feel pretty.”
That brought laughter from Beth and Emilee. It helped to calm her nerves.
“Oh wow! You look incredible,” Kyle said as Claire emerged from the girls’ changing area.
While Kyle hated the makeup part and to a degree the costume part, he liked the transformation the girls went through. To him, they looked incredibly gorgeous. To him, that was one advantage to being the only boy in a ballet class in middle school.
“You better hurry and get dressed, there is not much time,” Ms. Arceneaux said.
She was like a mother hen making sure her chicks were ready for their big debut.
One year of class and several weeks of rehearsal came down to this.
Kyle felt the butterflies again when the middle school concert band began to play. They were to be the “orchestra” for the performance. It was Ms. Arceneaux’s idea to get more students involved.
She gave them the music to practice in January. Her dancers performed for the first time with the “orchestra” during dress rehearsal.
It wasn’t the community orchestra that played during the Nutcracker, Kyle thought. There were a few clunkers here and there, but overall, they did a good a job. The kids in the orchestra seemed to be just as excited to play as the dancers were to perform.
Suddenly, the curtain rose.
“It’s showtime,” Claire whispered to Olivia.
Ms. Arceneaux kept things pretty simple. The steps in the dances were ones they had gone over in class it seemed like a hundred times.
All 14 students were in the first dance, doing steps very much in sync and in time with the music. Ms. Arceneaux beamed as each of her students performed the combinations in the dance very well, which brought applause from the audience.
Olivia, Kyle and Claire went to change as Beth, Emilee and three other girls performed another dance.
“I saw your dad out there in the audience,” Olivia said. “He seemed like he was enjoying himself.”
That brought a small smile from Claire.
“Good luck,” she whispered back as Olivia took the stage for a solo that led up to her pas de deux with Kyle.
To no one’s surprise, Olivia wowed the crowd. She was the best dancer in class and Ms. Arceneaux gave her the most difficult combination to do in her solo.
Kyle entered the stage for their pas de deux. It was a simple, beautiful combination.
“Oh my gosh, Judith, it’s so beautiful,” Olivia’s mother said to Kyle’s mom.
It brought a few bravos from the audience.
Kyle’s heart was pounding. Next came his solo. It was to be the transition from his pas de deux with Olivia to his one with Claire.
It included a couple of grand jetes. He wanted to impress the crowd with his elevation.
He was successful. He then turned a triple pirouette.
Kyle didn’t know his father stood watching in the back of the auditorium. He was released from jail earlier in the day. Claire’s father invited him to the performance.
He knew he had to stand far off because of the restraining order. Even though he was not a ballet fan, he had to admit his son was quite good. He couldn’t help but be proud when Kyle’s solo brought large applause.
“Bravo Kyle!” he heard a man shout. It was Coach Tucker.
“It’s hard to believe he has only been dancing a year,” Kyle's father heard a woman said. “Ms. Arceneaux is right. He is a very gifted young man.”
Finally, things grew quiet. Claire gingerly made her way to the center of the stage. She performed her solo with grace, Kyle thought.
Then it was time for their pas de deux. He knew he had to hold her just right. Just like with Olivia, they seemed to dance very well together. It was a simple piece, one Ms. Arceneaux called very romantic.
The pas de deux brought tears to Claire’s father’s eyes. It was the best he thought she’d ever danced.
As with the other pieces, the dance ended with applause. Suddenly, the crowd grew very quiet again. Everyone noticed that Claire’s father stood from his wheelchair to applaud his daughter.
That brought even more applause from the crowd. It was the one time Claire ever noticed the audience at the end of a dance.
“He’s standing! He’s standing,” she whispered to Kyle as they exited the stage. She then gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you so much for doing this!” she said.
“You two hurry up and get changed,” Ms. Arceneaux said. “It’s almost time for the grand finale. And good job both of you! I’m so proud.”
The grand finale included the entire class. Other than Olivia’s solo, it was the most complicated dance of the night. It was also the most fun.
Again, the crowd roared with approval. A group of fifth graders who danced at Madame Kathryn’s studio brought each of the dancers flowers during final bows.
“That was incredible,” one of the school board members told Ms. Arceneaux when the performance was over. “I’ve been talking with some of the members of the art guild. They like your ideas about adding dance to the curriculum at the high school. They want to help raise money to provide funding. You did such a great job putting this together.”
“Thank you, but the credit really goes to my dancers. They’ve worked really hard over the last several weeks.”
Olivia’s and Kyle’s mothers were waiting when Kyle and Olivia emerged from their dressing rooms.
“We are so proud of both of you,” Kyle’s mother said.
“Your pas de deux brought us to tears,” Olivia’s mother said.
“Everything we do brings you to tears,” Olivia said, halfway laughing and halfway crying.
“Claire, look,” Kyle said when Claire emerged from the girls’ dressing room.
Her mother was helping her father walk down the hall to the backstage area.
“Dad!” Claire shouted. “Look at you!”
“I’ve been working up to this,” he said. “I tried moving my legs a little during rehab. Your performance was so beautiful. I wanted to try to see if I could stand. I wanted to do it for you.”
She gave her father a hug.
“I’ve still got a long way to go before I can really walk,” he said.
“I’m going to help you every step of the way, dad,” Claire said.
A woman approached Kyle with a note.
Kyle opened it. He tried to fight back tears.
“What is it?” his mother asked.
He handed it to her.
“Kyle, I’m not a fan of ballet, but you were amazing. I’m sorry I didn’t support you. I’m sorry for what I did to your mom and you. I’m going to do my best to change. I want to be the father you and your sisters can be proud of. Don’t give up hope.
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